Reform Party (Hawaii)

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Reform Party
Leaders Hiram Bingham I
Hiram Bingham II
Lorrin A. Thurston
Sanford B. Dole
Founded 1840 (1840)
Dissolved 1902 (1902)
Merged into Hawaii Republican Party
Headquarters Honolulu
Ideology Modernization
Religion Protestantism

The Reform Party was a political party in the Kingdom of Hawaii, founded as Missionary Party by descendants of Protestant missionaries that came to Hawaii from New England. The Reform/Missionary Party merged with native Hawaiian members of the Home Rule Party led by Prince Kuhio in 1902 to form the Hawaii Republican Party. The fused Republican Party would lead the so-called Haole-Hawaiian Alliance with uninterrupted Legislative majorities until Democrats took control of the Legislature in 1954.


[[Image:Hiram Bingham I.jpg|thumb|right|Hiram Bingham was the leader of the first group of Protestant missionaries to Hawaii and advised Ka'ahumanu, Kamehameha II, and Kamehameha III.] He and his wife left Hawaii in 1840 and never returned.]

In 1820 the first Protestant missionaries arrived in Hawaii, sent a year earlier by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Under King Kamehameha II missionaries became integrated into the government becoming the predecessor to the Missionary Party. The missionaries urged Hawaiian rulers to adopt Christianity. The monarchs were suspicious but agreed to some of their advice.

After the death of Kamehameha, Queen Ka'ahumanu came to power under Liholiho, a fundamentalist Christian she banned the old Hawaiian religions in the islands. A later ban on Catholicism would lead to repercussions with France when French, Roman Catholic Missionaries were deported.

Political party[edit]

In the 1840s the missionaries believed that their mission was accomplished in building a Christian nation. In light of this, missionaries stayed in Hawaii, left to establish missions elsewhere, or returned home. The families of several missionaries became wealthy and their descendants were able to launch businesses and establish plantations in the islands. Several of these descendants formed a political party which became known as the Missionary Party. The Missionary Party had similar goals to the missionaries that came before them. They advocated Globalism, Modernism, and Americanism. Under Kamehameha III the Missionary Party prompted him to modernize Hawaii. A constitution was written, making Hawaii a constitutional monarchy in 1840, and he also approved with suspicion the Great Mahele of 1848 that ended the Hawaiian feudal system by the privatization of land, but allowed plantation oligopolies to form. He also formed relationships with foreign powers like Great Britain, France, the United States and other nations to become recognized as a sovereign nation.


Kamehameha Statue that stands today in front of Aliʻiolani Hale

By the time of King Kamehameha IV the Missionary Party began to undermine the monarchy using American affiliates to intimidate the monarchs. Prior to his coming to power on 11 January 1855, he went on a world tour to make diplomatic alliances with European and other powers. On his return trip to Hawaii, he traveled by train across the United States. During this trip he was mistaken as a servant by a conductor, called a “nigger” and kicked off the train. This brush with America Racism would shape his views of America and Americans during his rule. He remarked about the incident as “The first time that I have ever received such treatment, not in England or France or anywhere else.” He began his reign distrusting the ethnically Euro-American Missionary Party and began a Pro-British trend to fight Americanization, both movements were carried out by him and his successors until the end of the monarchy. During his reign, his wife, Queen Emma opened the Queen's Medical Center in 1859 because of the lack of medical care to the public. The hospital provided affordable healthcare to the general public. The Missionary Party opposed this, arguing that the hospital would promote prostitution, give care to "sinners", and the public would become more reckless.

King David Kalākaua, after being elected in 1875, took drastic steps toward nationalizing Hawaii in what is known as the First Hawaiian Renaissance (1875-1887) which promoted Hawaiian culture in dance, architecture, music, surfing and other forms, even commissioning the statue of Kamehameha the Great in front of Aliʻiolani Hale. Politically he tried to restore the old monarch system in giving more power to the Hawaiian Nobles, in the process diminishing the Missionary Party’s power. The Missionary Party was outraged by what they said to be a regression to heathen ways. The Reform Party formed the Hawaiian League made of over 400 businessmen, merchants, and planters with the intent to take power away from the monarchy and annex Hawaii to the United States. On July 6, 1887, the Hawaiian League, with the Honolulu Rifles on the streets, pressured Kalākaua into signing the Bayonet Constitution in the 1887 Rebellion.

Reform Party[edit]

The Missionary Party was reorganized into the Reform Party of the Hawaiian Kingdom, following the enactment of the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. In the election following the promulgation of the 1887 constitution, on September 12, 1887, the party came to power in the legislature.[1] In January, 1890, the National Reform Party was established in opposition to the Reform Party, drawing from Hui Kalai'aina and the Mechanics' and Workingmens' Political Protective Union.[2] In 1892, the National Liberal Party was established as a radical offshoot of the National Reform Party.[3] During this time squabbling broke out among the three parties.

Overthrowing the Monarchy[edit]

Committee of Safety members (Left to Right) James A. King, Sanford B. Dole, William O. Smith and Peter C. Jones. January 16th 1893, one day before overthrow

Lorrin A. Thurston, the author of the Bayonet Constitution organized a new government run by a 13-member council known as the Citizen's Committee of Public Safety and plotted to overthrow the Hawaiian Monarchy. On January 17, 1893 the Honolulu Rifles disarmed the Royal Guard and demanded Queen Lili'uokalani to relinquish her power as ruler. The victors proclaimed Hawaii the Provisional Government of Hawaii and appointed Sanford B. Dole as president.

In controlling the head of state and legislature the Reform Party were able to change Hawaii at will and proposed a treaty of annexation to the United States. But the administration of Benjamin Harrison had changed to Grover Cleveland who was a friend of the queen and retracted the treaty from congress to launch the Blount Report to delay annexation and conspired to restore the Lili'uokalani’s power. Part of the report expressed doubt about the government and believed that if annexation of Hawaii to the United States was put up to a free election the Hawaiian popular vote would be against it.

The testimony of leading annexationists is that if the question of annexation was submitted to a popular vote, excluding all persons who could not read and write except foreigners (under the Australian-ballot system, which is the law of the land), that annexation would be defeated.’’

(from page 599 of the Blount Report)

The Reform Party found this a danger and declared Hawaii the Republic of Hawaii to temporarily sever ties between the United States and Hawaii to prevent prosecution for the overthrow and misuse of the US military in addition to lack of public support in Hawaii for the government.


Sanford B. Dole, left, during celebrations of Hawaii’s annexation to the United States.

[[Image:Hawaii petition against annexation.jpg|thumb|A page of the Kūʻē Petitions that prevented Hawaii from being annexed by treaty.]]

In 1898 US president William McKinley signs the treaty of annexation but it fails in senate after the 38,000 signatures of the Kūʻē Petitions were submitted. After the failure Hawaii was annexed by means of joint resolution called the Newlands Resolution the same year and Hawaii became a territory. After annexation Dole became the first governor of Hawaii appointed by president William McKinley. Members of the Reformist Party entered the US Republican Party becoming the Hawaii Republican Party which they ran as in the first territorial election in 1900.

Honolulu Rifle Company[edit]

The Honolulu Rifle Company (also known as the Honolulu Rifles or more plainly the Rifles) was a paramilitary force loyal to the Missionary Party and the later Reform Party. It was created in 1857 by the Missionary Party and was the armed force in the 1887 Rebellion that made King David Kalākaua of Hawaii sign the Bayonet Constitution at gun point (with fixed bayonets, hence the name of the constitution). They would later defend the constitution in the Wilcox rebellion and were the main force in the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. After the overthrow, on January 27, 1893 the Provisional Government created a military. The Honolulu Rifles became the army’s D Company under commanded by Captain John Good and the national guard’s B Company commanded by Captain Hugh Gunn. The two companies were active under the Provisional Government of Hawaii and the Republic of Hawaii. After Hawaii was annexed becoming the Territory of Hawaii in 1898 the Rifles entered the Army National Guard system and became part of the present Hawaii Army National Guard.


  • Andrade Jr., Ernest (1996). Unconquerable Rebel: Robert W. Wilcox and Hawaiian Politics, 1880–1903. University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-417-6. 
  1. ^ Ernest Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel, p51
  2. ^ Ernest Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel, p69
  3. ^ Ernest Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel, p88
  • Kame’eleihiwa, Lilikala (1995). A synopsis of Traditional Hawaiian Culture, the Events Leading to the 1887 Bayonet Constitution and the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Government. (unpublished). 
  • Laenui, Poka (1984). East Wind, Vol. III, No. 1. East Wind, Vol. III, No. 1. 
  • Liliuokalani (1898). Hawaii's Story. Tothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.