United States law commision
Beginning in 1819, the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions, founded by New England Congregationalists, sent 11
groups of missionaries to Hawaii. The Americans imposed their life-style, morality, and religion
throughout the islands, teaching the Hawaiians that their traditional way of life was sinful. During
the first half of the 19th century, foreign whaling ships wintered at Honolulu and Lahaina,
bringing additional influences that threatened the indigenous culture.
Two developments determined the kingdom's fate—the decline of the native population and the
increasing importance of sugar as an export crop. The first sustained sugar plantation was begun
at Koloa, Kauai, in 1835. Missionaries and their sons acquired large landholdings, founding
companies that still dominate the Hawaiian sugar industry. The need for large numbers of field
and mill hands led the planters to import Chinese and Japanese workers.
Although the Kamehameha dynasty had generally been friendly to settlers from the U.S., King
Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani strove to reverse American influence in the government and
economy, hoping to return Hawaii to the Hawaiians. At the same time, the islands experienced
economic hardship when the 1890 McKinley Tariff levied a duty on sugar. A Committee on
Safety, supported by U.S. Consul John L. Stevens, seized control of the kingdom on January 17,
1893, and established a provisional government, headed by Sanford B. Dole, the son of an
American missionary. Dole pressed for U.S. annexation of the islands, but President Grover
Cleveland's administration rejected the proposal. The provisional government then created the
Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894, with Dole as president.

In 1898, when Cleveland's successor, William McKinley, called for annexation, Congress agreed,
and Hawaii was annexed by the United States on August 12, 1898. The territorial government
was organized in 1900, and Dole was the first governor. The territory was allowed one delegate
who could speak, but not vote, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Although U.S. leaders wanted to Americanize the islands as quickly as possible, U.S. laws did
not always fit local conditions. The Homestead Act of 1862 was but one example. Several
presidents hoped that mainland settlers would help in the Americanization process, but no vast
areas of unoccupied and usable public land were available for newcomers as had been the case
in the American West.
Both the economy and the government were dominated by five companies, known as the Big
Five, that had served as agents for sugar plantations since the 19th century. The Big Five also
controlled banking and merchandising, were represented on one another's boards of directors,
and were in charge of most public commissions.
Pearl Harbor, the keystone to America's Pacific defense after World War I, was attacked on
December 7, 1941, by the Japanese, bringing the United States into World War II. The next day
Hawaii was placed under martial law, and the army governed the territory until October 1944.
Statehood .