Lorrin Thurston led an overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii with the American flag first raised over ‘Iolani Palace today in 1893. Now WE know em


Lorrin Andrews Thurston was born July 31, 1858 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

His paternal grandparents were American Christian Missionaries that had came to Hawaii in 1820.

His father had become speaker of the house of representatives of the Kingdom of Hawaii before he died in December of 1859.

His mother then moved with her infant son Lorrin to Maui.

He grew up speaking the Hawaiian language as well as English, and even had the Hawaiian nicknmae “Kakina.”

Lorrin grew up playing baseball with the sons of Alexander Cartwright (the inventor of the modern game of baseball).

Then after being expelled from college, he began working as a translator for a law firm.

This peaked his interest in law which led him to attend law school at Columbia University in New York City.

Upon returning to Hawaii in 1881, Lorrin became a law partner in a firm with William Owen Smith.

He married Margaret Clarissa Shipman in February of 1884.

Lorrin then followed his father and became a member of the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1886.

Thurston inherited the conservative thinking of the missionaries, which put him at odds with Hawaiian royalty as well as immigrants such as Greek hotelier George Lycurgus who enjoyed lifestyles filled with gambling and liquor.

Committee of Thirteen

Late in 1886, Lorrin helped form a secret society they first called the Committee of Thirteen.

This group consisted of thirteen mostly American businessmen and lawyers who wanted to become part of the United States.

Then in January of 1887, he helped draft a “Bayonet Constitution” and officially named the group the Hawaiian League.

Membership grew through the year, including some German and British citizens, and a few part-Hawaiians.

Inside the group however, the original Committee of Thirteen tended to refer to themselves as the Annexation Club.

The Annexation Club soon came into control of another group named the Honolulu Rifles.

This group was made up of about 200 armed local (non-native) men, who fought under the command of enthusiastic annexationist Volney V. Ashford.

By June of 1887, the Annexation Club used the Honolulu Rifles to force Hawaiian King Kalākaua to enact the Bayonet Constitution which limited his power.

Lorrin Thurston became the powerful Interior Minister, with Englishman William Lowthian Green as minister of finance, as the old cabinet of Walter M. Gibson was ousted.

Voting rights and membership of the legislature were based on property ownership, resulting in effective control by wealthy Americans and Europeans.

Lorrin and his wife had a son, Robert Shipman Thurston on February 1, 1888.

Then his wife Margaret died in childbirth on May 5, 1891 (as did the infant).

After Hawaiian Queen Liliʻuokalani came to power in 1891, she attempted to restore power to the throne with a new constitution.

By 1892, Lorrin had become head of the Annexation Club, later adopting the more dramatic title Committee of Safety, which planned for making Hawaii a territory of the United States.

This caused the Annexation Club, the Hawaiian League and Rifles group to act again, this time with a planned coup.

In early January of 1893, the Marshal of the Kingdom Charles B. Wilson was tipped off.

Charles Wilson requested warrants to arrest the 13 member Committee of the Annexation Club, and put the Kingdom under martial law.

Because the members had strong political ties with United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, the requests were repeatedly denied, fearing if approved, the arrests would escalate the situation.

After a failed negotiation with Lorrin Thurston, Charles Wilson began to collect his men for a confrontation.

Wilson and Captain of the Royal Household Guard, Samuel Nowlein, had rallied a force of 496 men who were kept at hand to protect the Queen.

The Revolution

On January 15, 1893, a policeman was shot and wounded while trying to stop a wagon carrying weapons to the Honolulu Rifles.

The Annexation Cub feared the shooting would bring government forces to rout out the conspirators and stop the coup before it could begin.

The Rifles garrisoned Ali’iolani Hale across the street from ʻIolani Palace and waited for the queen’s response.

As these events were unfolding, the Annexation Club expressed concern for the safety and property of American residents in Honolulu.

United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, advised about these supposed threats to non-combatant American lives and property by the Annexation Club, obliged their request and summoned a company of uniformed U.S. Marines from the USS Boston and two companies of U.S. sailors to land on the Kingdom and take up positions at the U.S. Legation, Consulate, and Arion Hall on the afternoon of January 16, 1893.

162 sailors and Marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore well-armed but under orders of neutrality.

The sailors and Marines did not enter the Palace grounds or take over any buildings, and never fired a shot, but their presence served effectively in intimidating royalist defenders.

Historian William Russ states, “the injunction to prevent fighting of any kind made it impossible for the monarchy to protect itself.”

Due to the Queen’s desire “to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life” for her subjects and after some deliberation, at the urging of advisers and friends, the Queen ordered her forces to surrender.

The Honolulu Rifles took over government buildings, disarmed the Royal Guard, and declared a Provisional Government.

The Annexation Club issued the following proclamation:

“First – The Hawaiian monarchial system of government is hereby abrogated.

Second – A Provisional Government for the control and management of public affairs and the protection of public peace is hereby established, to exist until terms of union with the United States of America have been negotiated and agreed upon”.

The Hawaiian League unofficially adopted the American Flag to appeal to the US and promote annexation.

The flag was raised over ʻIolani Palace by John L. Stevens on January 17, 1893.


The flag was eventually lowered by James H. Blount that April for spreading a false presumption that the US had taken control.

Lorrin Thurston became instrumental in the establishment of the Republic of Hawaii, dominated by American interests.

He even headed the commission sent to Washington, DC to negotiate with Benjamin Harrison for American annexation.

Lorrin went on to publish the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (forerunner of the present-day Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

On April 5, 1894, Lorrin Thurston married Harriet Potter of Saint Joseph, Michigan. They had a daughter Margaret Charter (the mother of Thurston Twigg-Smith) in 1895, and a son Lorrin Potter Thurston in 1900.

He then helped draft another constitution, and the Republic of Hawaiʻi was declared on July 4, 1894.

The Spanish American War in April of 1898 increased American interest in the Pacific, due to battles in the Philippines.

By July of 1898, the annexation had formed the Territory of Hawaii and Lorrin Thurston retired from political office to run his business affairs.

From 1906 to 1916, Lorrin and his friends lobbied with national politicians to create a National Park to preserve the Hawaiian Volcanoes.

Lorrin Andrews Thurston died on May 11, 1931.

A century later in the Apology Resolution of 1993, the U.S. Congress apologized for the involvement of the United States Marine Corps in the overthrow, and the controversy continues to modern times.


Now WE know em



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