Almost from the moment the first non-natives set foot in Hawaii, the competing interests of these new arrivals versus those of native Hawaiians shaped governance and control of the islands. Long valued for its natural resources and strategic location, Hawaii became an attractive potential acquisition for the United States.When Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii assumed the throne in 1891, she inherited a constitution that had stripped the monarchy of its authority and placed executive power in the hands of a cabinet composed of non-native politicians and businessmen. After surrendering the throne under duress in 1893, Queen Liliuokalani struggled for the next several years to reinstate the monarchy and to restore the rights and customs of native Hawaiians. When, in 1897, President William McKinley
signed a treaty to annex Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani and her fellow citizens successfully protested via petition to Congress. Despite this victory, when the United States entered the Spanish-American War in early 1898, Congress recognized Hawaii’s value as a naval station and voted to annex the islands by joint resolution. Hawaii was formally annexed in July 1898 and became an official U.S. territory in 1900. This memorial, signed by Queen Liliuokalani on December 19, 1898, was her last attempt to return control of her homeland to native Hawaiians.