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The late 19th ccentury was still a time of expansion for the United States, and Hawaii was seen as a possible candidate. Many American and European businessmen were already living there, and sugar cane plantations were proving to be prosperous. When a world-wide shortage of sugar developed in 1899, many nations looked to Hawaii for its sugarcane. Riots in the 1870s following a change in the royal ruling families had been put down by U.S. troops, so an American presence was already evident. The island's Constitution of 1887 restricted the powers of the king/queen, giving white landowners more dominance. When Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown in 1893, the white-led Provisional Government took over, establishing the Republic of Hawaii. The islands were later annexed and became a U.S. territory in 1898. No doubt the islands' strategic location between Asia and the U.S. Pacific Coast was an important reason for America's interest.
There were at least three major reasons for wanting to take control of the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1800s.
First, there was the desire for military power. This was the age of Alfred Thayer Mahan and the idea that naval bases were the way to project power over long distances. Many Americans felt that a base in the Hawaiian Islands would help give the US control of the central Pacific.
Second, there was the desire for economic power. There were many Americans who wanted the resources of the Hawaiian Islands. At this time, sugar was the major product of the islands and Americans wanted control of that resource.
Finally, there was competition with other powers. There was concern, for example, that the British would take the islands if the US did not. This would give the British the sugar as well as a base for their navy. This would enlarge the power of the British Empire instead of helping the US gain power.
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