Treaty of Annexation is long-established law

Law Professor Williamson Chang, in a Guest Viewpoint published in The Garden Island on Jan. 12, claimed there is no Treaty of Annexation between Hawaii and the United States. He did what lawyers often do when they are on the losing side, creating convoluted arguments and quoting from an obscure letter.

As stated in my essay of Jan. 10, there are many occasions when courts have cited the Treaty of Annexation as established law when making rulings on important cases. Dear readers, will you accept the authority of a lawyer on the fringe who has spent decades championing the diehard deadenders of the Hawaiian Kingdom, trying to claim that Hawaii remains an independent nation? Or will you accept the rulings of actual judges in high-ranking courts who had no trouble citing the Treaty of Annexation as authoritative?

Perhaps the earliest and most important lawsuit where a high- ranking judge cited the Treaty of Annexation as authoritative was Lili‘uokalani v. United States, 45 Ct. Cl. 418 (1910).

Ex-queen Lili‘uokalani had filed a lawsuit against the United States in 1909 claiming that the U.S. owed her money for taking “her” crown lands when Hawaii ceded the crown and government lands to the U.S. as part of the annexation process.

But in 1910 the court ruled that under a Hawaiian law passed by the Kingdom legislature and signed by the king, the crown lands were owned by the government, not the monarch as personal property; and that the government of Hawaii had properly ceded those lands to the U.S.

In its official decision the court cited the Treaty of Annexation and quoted its full text, both as evidence that the court had jurisdiction to decide the case and as evidence that the lands had been ceded by the Hawaiian government under terms of the treaty. You can read full text of Lili‘uokalani’s complaint, and the court’s ruling including the treaty, at

By the way, Lili‘uokalani herself, in her lawsuit, never claimed that the treaty was invalid, nor that annexation had not occurred, nor that the ceded lands belonged to ethnic Hawaiians as a racial group — those are claims invented by modern-day history-twisters which Lili‘uokalani herself never asserted in this, her most important legal case.

Professor Chang quotes a small part of a single obscure letter to claim that the Republic of Hawaii was annexed against its will. But the facts contradict Chang’s interpretation of events.

The Republic had first offered annexation and was thrilled when the U.S. later accepted it. Sanford B. Dole, president of the Republic of Hawaii, was delighted to accept U.S. President McKinley’s appointment of him to become the first governor of the Territory of Hawaii, thus providing a seamless transition; and later Dole accepted appointment as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Territory.

Neither Dole nor any leader of the Republic protested that they were dragged into annexation kicking and screaming. Professor Chang loses credibility by trying to mislead readers when he ends by saying “Nobody takes the treaty claim seriously.”


Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D., is a resident of Kaneohe.


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