55 Years of Hawaiʻi Statehood

According to Bell (1984, 38), American statehood for Hawaiʻi was discussed as early as the 1850s. The incorporation of Hawaiʻi into the United States through the 1900 Organic Act, Bell argues, included an tacit, or unspoken “assurance of ultimate statehood” (Bell, 1984, 40). Supreme Court decisions pointed to the idea that territorial status was “an intermediate step to eventual statehood” (1984, 41).

According to AhQuon McElrath: “the issue of communism was a smoke screen … They had to figure out a was of getting rid of the ILWU. So they raised the issue of communism. Of course, the anti-statehood people, most of them were anti-statehood because of the Oriental [Asian] population, jumped onto the anti-Communist issue too … it was popular … during the days of Senator McCarthy to worry about Communism” (PHS, 1986, 109).

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.56.51 PM

John Burns recognized opposition to statehood. He stated:

The reasons why Hawaii did not achieve statehood, say, ten years ago … [or even] sixty years ago—lie not in the Congress but in Hawaii. The most effective opposition to statehood has always originated in Hawaiʻi itself. For the most part it has remained under cover and has marched under other banners. Such opposition could not afford to disclose itself, since it was so decidedly against the interests and desires of Hawaii’s people generally (Whitehead, 1993, 44).

Governor John A. Burns

Opposition to statehood for Hawaiʻi fell into two camps – those who opposed it because they preferred the Territorial arrangement, and those who held on to the idea of a more independent Hawaiʻi. The first position was represented by a group called IMUA, or the Hawaii Residents’ Association, which the mainstream dismissed as “lunatic fringe conservatives” (Whitehead, 1993, 45).

The most outspoken voice of the second group was Alice Kamokila Campbell, who testified:
I do not feel … we should forfeit the traditional rights and privileges of the natives of our islands for a mere thimbleful of votes in Congress, that we, the lovers of Hawaii from long association with it should sacrifice our birthrights for the greed of alien desires to remain on our shores, that we should satisfy the thirst for power and control of some inflated industrialists and politicians who hide under the guise of friends of Hawaii, yet still keeping an eagle eye on the financial and political pressure button of subjugation over the people in general of these islands (Whitehead, 1993, 50).

The January 17, 1946 headline of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin read “Kamokila Opposes Island Statehood.” Campbell also created an Anti-Statehood Clearinghouse, which received testimony from members of the community, especially Hawaiians, and expressed those opinions that ordinary people could not, under fear of losing jobs or other forms of retribution. Her precise goal for Hawaiʻi is not entirely clear. At times she asked that Hawaiʻi be “left alone,” and at others she said she favored “an independent form of government, but one in which ʻthe Congress of the United States would have a slight hold on us, so that we could not go absolutely haywire.’”


Alice Kamokila Campbell

Kamokila Campbell was the daughter of sugar grower and financier James Campbell and Abigail Maʻipinepine Parker, who was “descended from HawaiʻI’s ruling chiefs” (Whitehead, 1993, 47). Kamokila Campbell’s sister, Abigail Wahiikaʻahuʻula Campbell, married prince David Kawānanakoa. The Campbell children were beneficiaries of the Campbell Estate, worth approximately $20 million in the post-war period (Whitehead, 1993, 47).

George Lehlightner worked for statehood because he perceived inequalities in the Territory:
So we [the United States] were actually saying out of one side of our mouths that we were fighting a war to assure the maintenance of our own freedom and restore it to others and, yet, out of the other side of the mouth we were telling 500,000 Americans [residents of Hawaiʻi], all of whom were good and loyal citizens, that we were going to impose taxation without representation and even worse on them, and we did (Lehleitner, 1986, 12).
Lehleitner (1986, 13) also felt that the charge of anti-American sentiment in HawaiʻI was exaggerated and false:

…there was not a single case on record of any citizen [of Hawaiʻi] having done anything that could be even remotely called treasonable. And then, when you add on top of that, the fact that HawaiʻI’s population was about 40 percent of Japanese descent, 40 percent AJAs, that in itself, it seemed to me, and I so presented it to the members of Congress I spoke with, was a strong case.

The strategy pursued by John Burns and pro-Statehood Democrats was to allow Alaska to gain statehood first, rather than combining the two territories into one bill. This would split the opposition in Congress to statehood for either HawaiʻI or Alaska. This proved a successful strategy, as Hawaiʻi was made a state on August 21st, 1959.

Hawaiʻi had been on the United Nations list of Non-Self Governing territories since the 1940s. It’s removal from the list required there be three options on the plebiscite ballot: territory (commonwealth), state and independence. Because this third option was left out, the Statehood vote and Statehood itself could be seen as illegal.


Filed under Hawaiian history, Mooolelo, Uncategorized

11 responses to “55 Years of Hawaiʻi Statehood

  1. Noa Napoleon

    Most definitely it was illegal for that reason and much more right UMI! The book, Annexation Hawaii by Thomas Osbourn, shows a perspective on annexation that needs to be examined further imo. The perspective of those who opposed annexation gets at the heart of the moral problems with proposed intrusion into a foreign state they would say, while noting the dangers such expansionist approach would bring to the good people of America.. I always hoped this perspective would be come part of our dispute but somehow itʻs always ignored, downplayed etc. I wish someone would do a study on all the laws that were broken from the perspective of these types of Americans. There were many Americans like Grover Cleveland who understood Americaʻs intrusions and wanted to reverse what they predicted would pervert American foreign policy. “Next to the civil war no other subject took as much space in Congress than did the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. umi

    That last quote is very interesting to me – I worked on a curriculum project with the US History teachers this summer looking at the Pullman Strike in Illinois, which was going on immediately after the overthrow to get a sense of how much time and thought that was taking away from the Hawaiʻi situation. I even asked his grandson George Cleveland about it, and he said he couldnʻt tell from the journals – Pres Cleveland was a reserved kind of guy… mahalo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kamokila Campbell is featured in the #HawaiianPatriots project at http://www.kamakakoi.com/hawaiianpatriots/kamokila.html

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Umi says “Hawaiʻi had been on the United Nations list of Non-Self Governing territories since the 1940s. It’s removal from the list required there be three options on the plebiscite ballot: territory (commonwealth), state and independence. Because this third option was left out, the Statehood vote and Statehood itself could be seen as illegal.”

    In 1959 the U.N. had no such requirement for those three options to be on the ballot. That recommendation was sort of adopted by the General Assembly more than a year after Hawaii became a State, and about a year after the U.N. very correctly removed Hawaii from its list of non-self-governing territories in December 1959. The civilized world does not allow ex-post-facto laws to apply to situations that happened prior to their enactment. Reading the December 1960 resolutions still leaves some doubt whether those three options must be offered even after 1960. And there have been other votes regarding political status since 1960, even fairly recently, where all three options were not on the ballot.

    United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 1514 (XV), Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, December 14, 1960.

    United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 1541 (XV), Principles which should guide Members in determining whether or not an obligation exists to transmit the information called for under Article 73e of the Charter, December 15, 1960.


    • umi

      You could be right about this. I just tried to look up some of the docs on the UN site to verify this, but didnʻt find anything so far. My view though, is that as an occupied state, Hawaiʻi never should have been on the list in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • john h. mcfadden

        Mr. Conklin’s response seems wholly legalistic, meaning that the law is considered without regard to the morality/justice of it. The moral issue…the right of an annexed populace to vote for restoration of their nation…was prominent in the U.N.’s consideration of the rule obligating the inclusion of the third option.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. pomai

    2014 the famous question… does the hawaiian still exist???… the presumtion it does… the assumtion it doesn’t

    Hey umi have you seen uncle buzzy’ book… here’ a video of it… https://vimeo.com/104700096


    Liked by 1 person

  6. pomai

    E kala mai for the twin ss


Leave a Reply to pomai Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s