The country at large was indifferent, however, until 1893, when a revolution, headed by Americans, broke out, ending in the overthrow of the native government, the abolition of the primitive monarchy, and the retirement of Queen Liliuokalani to private life. This crisis, a repetition of the Texas affair in a small theater, was immediately followed by a demand from the new Hawaiian government for annexation to the United States. President Harrison looked with favor on the proposal, negotiated the treaty of annexation, and laid it before the Senate for approval. There it still rested when his term of office was brought to a close.
Harrison’s successor, Cleveland, it was well known, had doubts about the propriety of American action in Hawaii. For the purpose of making an inquiry into the matter, he sent a special commissioner to the islands. On the basis of the report of his agent, Cleveland came to the conclusion that “the revolution in the island kingdom had been accomplished by the improper use of the armed forces of the United States and that the wrong should be righted by a restoration of the queen to her throne.” Such being his matured conviction, though the facts upon which he rested it were warmly controverted, he could do nothing but withdraw the treaty from the Senate and close the incident.
To the Republicans this sharp and cavalier disposal of their plans, carried out in a way that impugned the motives of a Republican President, was nothing less than “a betrayal of American interests.” In their platform of 1896 they made clear their position: “Our foreign policy should be at all times firm, vigorous, and dignified and all our interests in the Western hemisphere carefully watched and guarded. The Hawaiian Islands should be controlled by the United States and no foreign power should be permitted to interfere with them.” There was no mistaking this view of the issue. As the vote in the election gave popular sanction to Republican policies, Congress by a joint resolution, passed on July 6, 1898, annexed the islands to the United States and later conferred upon them the ordinary territorial form of government.
CUBA AND THE SPANISH WAR
=Early American Relations with Cuba.=—The year that brought Hawaii finally under the American flag likewise drew to a conclusion another long controversy over a similar outpost in the Atlantic, one of the last remnants of the once glorious Spanish empire—the island of Cuba.
For a century the Department of State had kept an anxious eye upon this base of power, knowing full well that both France and England, already well established in the West Indies, had their attention also fixed upon Cuba. In the administration of President Fillmore they had united in proposing to the United States a tripartite treaty guaranteeing Spain in her none too certain ownership. This proposal, squarely rejected, furnished the occasion for a statement of American policy which stood the test of all the years that followed; namely, that the affair was one between Spain and the United States alone.