Yesterday, I took my Intro to Political Science students to the Hawaiʻi State Capitol district for a tour of the legislature. A press conference started up while we were there celebrating the falling through of the deal for NextEra to buy HECO. While we were waiting, I finally got a chance to see with my own eyes what Iʻd heard about: the changing of the dates on the statue of Queen Liliʻuokalani. The plaque on the statue reads “Queen of Hawaiʻi” and used to read “1891-1893” but now reads “1891 – 1917!” Letʻs think this through: the new dates are certainly not her birth and death, she was born in 1838, and definitely became Queen in 1891. So the new dates can only signify her reign – after all theyʻre preceded by “Queen of Hawaiʻi…”
This means that while State legislators in the press conference waxed on about the future of energy in “our state”,the statue they were facing clearly implies that no such state exists. There was no overthrow in 1917. The death of a monarch does not signify the death of sovereignty – thatʻs what the phrase “the King is dead, long live the king” is about – the continuation of sovereignty despite the death of “the sovereign.” So the only possible interpretation is that the overthrow was a non-event, and therefore did not legally take place. Hawaiʻi’s recognition of Japan on January 18th, 1893 also suggests this interpretation, as does Liliʻuokalani’s claim in her autobiography that “In December, 1893 the United States still regarded me as the head of state.”
According to a reliable source
– I havenʻt verified this yet – Governor Ige Abercrombie presided over the ceremony in 2013 to change the dates on the statue. A strict interpretation of this fact (if, indeed it is a fact) is that the State of Hawaiʻi formally recognizes the overthrow as invalid. Iʻll be back when I get this last bit verified.