The 1874 Riots: The Emmaite Storming of the Legislature

#166 in the Moʻolelo series

After the events of January 6th, 2021 – the attempted (and initially successful) insurrection and occupation of the US Capitol – I thought about what similar event may have happened in Hawaiʻi. The 1874 riot of the Emmaites, supporters of Queen Emma against Kalākaua, immediately came to mind. I’d already written about the 1874 events, so here I try to add depth to that account. As I wrote in “The Riot of the Queenites:”

In 1874, the second election for monarch took place, barely more than a year after the first: Lunalilo vs. Kalākaua. This time it was Kalākaua vs. Queen Emma. So why was Queen Emma running in an election to become Queen Emma? Because she was Queen by virtue of having been married to Kamehameha IV, she was called Dowager Queen Emma, that is, widow of the former King (and once a Queen, always a Queen – this is why the statue of Queen Liliʻuokalani has her dates of rule as 1891-1917).

The first political party in Hawaiʻi was comprised of the supporters of Queen Emma: the “Emmaites,” or, as the Advertiser called them, the “Queenites.” 

Dowager Queen Emma Kaleleonālani

Peter Young wrote of the riots in one of his last blog posts:

When the vote was tallied, Kalākaua won by a count of 39 – 6.

Emma’s supporters (referred to as the “Queenites,” “Emmaites” or the “Queen Emma party”) were unhappy with the decision – an angry mob of about 100 of the Queen’s followers gathered.

No outbreak occurred … until the Committee of five representatives, which had been appointed to notify the King of his election, attempted to leave the building and enter a carriage waiting to convey them to the Palace.

“The crowd surrounded the carriage and laid hands on them, and they attempted to defend themselves, as best they could without weapons, two of them were badly wounded before they effected entrance into the building to which they retreated.” (Hawaiian Gazette – March 4, 1874)

A riot ensued and many of the legislators were attacked, with one subsequently dying from his injuries (Mr. Lonoaea, representative from Wailuku, Maui.)

Peter Young, “Election Riot of 1874,” Images of Old Hawaiʻi, Feb. 12, 2020
Image of the riot at the Hawaiʻi Legislature, 1874

Hawaiian legislators who had voted for Kalākaua were targeted, even thrown from the second storey window of the legislature building. Jon Osorio’s book Dismembering Lāhui includes pictures of legislators with bandages around their heads. Queen Emma immediately accepted the outcome of the election.

The blog Hawaiian History Time Machine gives an account of the event immediately following the riot:

After calm had been restored, Emma acknowledged her opponent as the rightful king and retired from public life. The opposing ideologies of the two candidates, however, persisted in the political discourse and the Emmaites, though comparatively few in numbers, unorganized and lacking an effective leader, continued to attract those who espoused Emma’s pro-British and nativist views and resented Kalākaua’s dependence on American industry. They maintained a grudging opposition to the king and were a threat to the stability of his throne for many years to come.

Not long after the 1874 election, a handful of Emmaites circulated a petition to the French consul-commisioner asking for a French warship to help place Emma on the throne. When a new movement was launched in 1874 and 1875 for a reciprocity treaty with the United States, the Emmaite faction declared strongly against it and Kalākaua’s support of the treaty provided new grounds for opposition to him and his administration.

“The Emmaites: Rise and Fall of the Queen’s Party,” Hawaiian History time Machine, by Island Expat

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