The Queen’s Cabinet

#121 in the Moʻolelo series

In her autobiography, Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen, Liliʻuokalani writes with some palpable despair that she spent much of her two-year administration, “thanks” to the legislature, “in the making and unmaking of cabinets.” Hawaiʻi had three political parties at this time; the Reform Party (sugar growers), the Liberal Party (Wilcox’s pro-democracy party) and the Queen’s National Reform Party (as if to say: “we want reform too, but in the national framework of the monarchy, not through treasonous annexation).

This was a period when the Queen was still under the Bayonet Constitution, so the cabinet had all the power, but she had the ability to nominate members. Those members had to be approve by the legislature – you can see the problem. So it was difficult for the Queen to select cabinet members who would satisfy all three parties. She would nominate a cabinet member and the legislature would reject them. One who was selected and rejected was Joseph Nawahī, who had given up his legislative seat to serve the Queen. In this post, I go through the cabinet members and how they may have shaped the period immediately prior to the overthrow.

John Francis Colburn IV – I had as a student at Kamehameha John Francis Colburn IX, who descended in a direct line from this member of Liliʻu’s cabinet. Colburn himself was a descendant of Don Francisco de Paula Marin who had assisted Kamehameha I, so their loyal pedigree was unquestionable. His maternal grandfather was harbormaster of Honolulu. The reason this Colburn was acceptable to the legislature for confirmation, was that he was an Independent – he ran for office as such on Maui. Colburn was the Minister of Interior, but was only on the cabinet a short period, as he was the victim of the politics of the time.

John Francis Colburn IV, Minister of Interior

Samuel Parker – Kamaoli Kuwada’s translation in nupepa-hawaii.com notes:

During the reign of Queen Liliuokalani, Colonel Samuel Parker held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and when Hawaii was put under the jurisdiction of the federal government, he was the first candidate for delegate to congress that the Republicans put before the voters, to go to Washington, but he lost to Robert Wilcox, the Home Rule candidate for delegate.

Samuel Parker

Parker’s association with the Queen stems from his being classmates with her brother David Kalākaua. Many know that the Parker family are descendants of Kamehameha I, because John Palmer Parker (founder of Parker ranch) married Kipikane, Kamehameha’s granddaughter (through Kanekapolei).

Samuel Damon – if there was a spy in their midst, it was probably Damon. We can say this because later, as a Kamehameha Schools-Bishop Estate trustee, Damon said “if we are to have peace and annexation, the first thing is to obliterate the past.” Damon was the son of Samuel Chenery Damon, who was the minister to the haole drunken sailors in Honolulu.

Arthur F. Peterson – Attorney General at the time of the overthrow, Peterson came to Hawaiʻi from Massachusetts while very young and graduated from Punahou. At his death, a San Francisco newspaper had this to say:

Sources: Maui News, March 19, 1920.

San Francisco Call, Mar, 17, 1895.

Kuokoa, 3/26/1920, p. 1, trans. Kuwada in nupepa-hawaii.org.

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