Annexation of Hawaii

Start Free Trial

Why was Hawaii an ideal acquisition for the US?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hawaii was a good acquisition for the United States. A strong belief existed that world powers needed to protect their trade. This belief was based on Alfred Mahan’s book titled The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783. The United States was trying to become a world power at this time. Acquiring Hawaii would give us a presence in the Pacific Ocean. It would allow us to use Hawaii as a base from which we could station our navy and protect our trade. Hawaii could also be used as a military base in case of war.

The United States also had an economic interest in Hawaii. The sugar trade was very profitable for American sugar growers in Hawaii. When the Queen tried to reduce American influence in Hawaii, the sugar trade was threatened. The McKinley Tariff also hurt the Hawaiian sugar trade. After the Queen gave up power as a result of an uprising by the planters, American sugar growers in Hawaii wanted the United States to annex Hawaii so they could benefit from the favorable terms of the McKinley Tariff. This wouldn’t happen if the United States didn’t annex Hawaii.

Annexing Hawaii turned out to be a good move by the United States. Having a military base in the Pacific region helped us tremendously when we fought against Japan in World War II. The sugar trade also benefited the American economy.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Hawaiian Islands were an ideal piece of real estate for a number of reasons. First, it's mid-Pacific location gave the U.S. a strong position to influence the growth of that particular economic sphere. As Japan and a number of European counties began expanding into the Pacific region, the U.S. needed a place beyond the shores of California to act a naval base in order to establish some sort of dominance in this region. Hawaii would eventually become the headquarters of the navy's department of the pacific after it was aquired.

Hawaii's agricultural wealth was also an important incentive for U.S. aquisiotion. The sugar industry on the islands was extreamly lucrative, and with a 1899 hurricane destroying much of Puerto Rico's sugar industry infastructure, Hawaii was even more of a money making venture.

For these reasons, the U.S. officially annexed Hawaii as a territory in 1897.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why was Hawaii considered to be an ideal acquisition for the US?

The Hawaiian Islands were considered a stepping stone to the Asian markets that the entire world was trying to develop, especially China.  The United States understood that the Chinese market meant over one billion potential customers for America's growing industrial capacity.  Chinese demand would hopefully end the boom and bust cycles of American business.  Also, Alfred Thayer Mahan's History of Seapower was a very popular book in the 1890s--the book's premise was that any strong nation needed a strong navy in order to protect its shipping.  Mahan looked at the Dutch and English navy, and he said that America needed a powerful navy too.  In order to fuel this navy, one needed coaling stations all over the world.  Hawaii had excellent harbors and was halfway between America and China--it would be perfect.  

Of course, there was also a matter of sugar and pineapple plantation owners in the islands who wanted to sell their goods in America duty-free.  These plantation owners (one of whom was the founder of the Dole Pineapple company) overthrew the Queen and petitioned to join the United States. Grover Cleveland, America's president at the time, saw this as an unlawful land grab, so he refused.  The president after Cleveland, McKinley, accepted the annexation of Hawaii on the grounds that it would prevent the islands from falling into British hands.  

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why was Hawaii considered to be an ideal acquisition for the US?

The most important reason for this was military.  It was felt that annexing Hawaii would make the United States stronger.

Annexing Hawaii would make the US stronger in two ways.  First, it would give the US a naval base out in the middle of the Pacific.  At that time, it was felt that having a big navy with lots of bases was the way to be a major power in the world.  Second, it would prevent any other powerful nation from claiming Hawaii.  If another powerful country owned Hawaii, it could use it as its own base and potentially threaten the West Coast of the US.

Please note that sugar was not a real reason for annexation.  America did not need Hawaiian sugar and annexation was more of a boon to the sugar growers in Hawaii (who were of American descent) than to the US.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on