10 Events in the Path of Manifest Destiny
10 Events in the Path of Manifest Destiny

10 Events in the Path of Manifest Destiny

Larry Holzwarth - May 30, 2018

10 Events in the Path of Manifest Destiny
A cartoon in Puck lampoons Uncle Sam and Columbia caring for the less enlightened of the world, a facet of manifest destiny. Wikimedia

Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii

The Kingdom of Hawaii was an independent nation, so recognized by the United States, which relied on trade with several nations for its economic survival. Sugar was a major product for export, and American sugar plantations owners developed increased influence in the Hawaiian government over time. Sugar tariffs between the United States and Hawaii were a longstanding source of friction between the sugar plantation owners, the government of the islands, and the US government. Between the 1860s and the 1890s Hawaii suffered numerous open rebellions and changes to its constitution and form of government, all of them with the active participation of American residents of the islands.

In January 1893 a group of conspirators overthrew the ruling dynasty of the Hawaiian Islands and created a provisional government with Sanford B. Dole as its president. The coup was supported by a detachment of US Marines under the orders of US Minister to Hawaii John Stevens. The presence of the Marines was explained as being necessary to protect property owned by Americans in the islands, and to ensure the safety of the Americans and Europeans present. A detachment of sailors from USS Boston also participated in the coup. The goal of the conspirators was the annexation of the islands by the United States.

Sanford Dole was a believer in manifest destiny who sought the westernization of Hawaii under the model of American democracy. He believed that the adoption of American culture would better the Hawaiians, at the same time improving relations with other nations. After the overthrow of the monarchy Dole attempted to have Hawaii annexed by the United States, but found his efforts blocked by President Grover Cleveland, an adherent to the belief that manifest destiny was little more than imperialist ambition. Dole’s efforts were supported by the sugar and coffee planters, mostly American, in the islands.

Lobbyists working for Dole’s provisional government labored in Washington for annexation, finding support from the advocates for America’s manifest destiny, which increased as tensions with Spain over the Philippines and Cuba were exaggerated by the yellow journalists of the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt argued for the annexation of the islands for use as a naval coaling station for the Pacific fleet. When William McKinley assumed the Presidency he moved to annex Hawaii as the Territory of Hawaii and appointed Dole as the territorial governor.

McKinley cited manifest destiny in his announcement of the annexation and in other circumstances later defending the act. As a US territory the tariffs on sugar and other products from the islands were no longer in effect, and those involved in trade with Hawaiian plantations prospered. Dole, who was a distant cousin of the founder of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (Dole Food Company today) became a federal judge after Theodore Roosevelt became President. Hawaii remained a territory until 1959, when it became the United States’ first and to date only overseas state.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire”, by Thomas R. Hietala, 2003

“United States expansionism and British North America, 1775-1871”, by Reginald C. Stuart, 1988

“Narrative History of Texas Annexation”, by Jean Carefoot, Texas State Library and Archives, online

“James K. Polk, Continentalist”, by Charles Sellers, 1966

“Agents of Manifest Destiny: The Lives and Times of the Filibusters”, by Charles H. Brown, 1980

“The great father: the United States government and the American Indians”, by Francis Paul Prucha, 1995

“The War with Spain in 1898”, by David F. Trask, 1996

“John O’Sullivan Declares America’s Manifest Destiny, 1845”, by John L. O’Sullivan, The American Yawp Reader.

“Blood, Class, and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship”, by Christopher Hitchens, 2004

“Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure”, by Julia Flynn Siler, 2012