John Leavitt Stevens (August 1, 1820 – February 8, 1895) was the United States Minister to the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 when he was accused of conspiring to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani in association with the Committee of Safety, led by Lorrin A. Thurston and Sanford B. Dole – the first Americans attempting to overthrow a foreign government under the auspices of a United States government officer. John L. Stevens, journalist, author, minister, newspaper publisher and diplomat, was also a Maine State Senator who was a founder of the Republican Party in Maine.
John L. Stevens
|Minister to the Kingdom of Hawaii|
|Preceded by||George W. Merrill|
|Succeeded by||James H. Blount|
John Leavitt Stevens
August 1, 1820
Mount Vernon, Kennebec County, Maine, United States
|Died||February 8, 1895 (aged 74)|
Augusta, Maine, United States
Mary Lowell Smith
(m. 1845; his death 1895)
Charlotte Lyford Stevens
John Leavitt Stevens was born in 1820 in the town of Mount Vernon, Kennebec County, Maine, to Capt. John Stevens  and Charlotte (Lyford) Stevens. He was a lifelong resident of Augusta in the same county, except for his time away at school and his later diplomatic service. Stevens attended Maine Wesleyan Seminary to prepare for a minister's career in the Universalist church, which he served as pastor for a decade, becoming a leader in the anti-slavery movement. (Stevens later became a firm opponent of capital punishment, and as a Maine State Senator urged the legislature to abolish the death penalty).
After a decade as an activist Universalist minister, Stevens was persuaded by his lifelong friend Maine Governor Anson P. Morrill to give up the pulpit and become a newspaper publisher and politician. Stevens took his friend Morrill's advice, left the ministry and became a newspaper editor and publisher before becoming a Maine delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention.
Six years prior, in 1854, Stevens and his partner James G. Blaine had purchased the newspaper The Kennebec Journal in Augusta, where the pair collaborated for 14 years on editing their publication and pushing the development of Maine's Republican Party. Stevens also played a large role in the 1876 Presidential campaign when he served as Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Maine. He stumped in the states of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania for the Republican Presidential ticket that year, which won him an appointment as a minister representing the United States government.
Stevens joined the United States Department of State and was appointed successively minister to Paraguay, Uruguay, Sweden and Norway, and finally to Hawaii, an appointment pushed by his old partner Blaine, who had risen to United States Secretary of State. When Stevens was named to the Hawaiian post, his title was changed to Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary, indicating his rise within the State Department.
Soon after his installation in Hawaii, Stevens began writing about the islands, in a steady stream of pamphlets and speeches, including his December 19, 1891, speech delivered at Founder's Day celebrations of the Kamehameha School, entitled Advice to Young Hawaiians, and his later The Hawaiian Situation tract, written with Eugene Chamberlain and William Springer.
Envoy Stevens had gone on-the-record about his Manifest Destiny views concerning close allies of the United States. Presumably his views reflected those of his former partner, friend, sponsor and now boss at the State Department. In 1881, James G. Blaine had written of the necessity of "drawing the ties of intimate relationship between us and the Hawaiian Islands so as to make them practically a part of the American system without derogation of their absolute independence."
Constitutional reforms in Hawaii in 1887 had widened the gulf between foreign businessmen and native Hawaiian nationalists. In January 1891 the Hawaiian King, who had been sympathetic to the interests of the foreign businessmen, died while on a visit to the United States. He was succeeded by his sister, the Princess, who was crowned Queen Lili'uokalani. The new Queen was known to dislike the restrictive constitution of 1887, and envoy Stevens suspected the Queen's nationalist sympathies. He asked that a United States warship, the USS Boston be stationed indefinitely in Honolulu harbor.
In March 1892 envoy Stevens wrote to United States Secretary of State James G. Blaine, his old newspaper partner, asking how far he might deviate from standard State Department rules if a native revolutionary movement emerged. "The golden hour is near at hand," Stevens later wrote his old partner and friend Blaine. "So long as the islands retain their own independent government there remains the possibility that England or the Canadian Dominion might secure one of the Hawaiian harbors for a coaling station." Added Stevens: "Annexation excludes all dangers of this kind."
The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe, and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it.— John Leavitt Stevens
The question had taken on significance after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886. Seeking to capitalize on the new transcontinental link in Canada, British capitalists were said to welcome the addition of the Hawaiian Islands as an English protectorate. For aggressive Manifest Destiny advocates like Stevens, the telegraphing of English intentions – even by diplomatic innuendo – signaled the need for a preemptive American response.
At the time of the Bayonet Constitution of 1887 Grover Cleveland was president, and his secretary of state Thomas F. Bayard sent written instructions to the American minister George W. Merrill that in the event of another revolution in Hawaii, it was a priority to protect American commerce, lives and property. Bayard specified, "the assistance of the officers of our Government vessels, if found necessary, will therefore be promptly afforded to promote the reign of law and respect for orderly government in Hawaii." In July 1889, there was a small scale rebellion, and Minister Merrill landed Marines to protect Americans; the State Department explicitly approved his action. Merrill's replacement, minister John L. Stevens, read those official instructions, and followed them in his controversial actions of 1893.
On January 14, 1893, envoy Stevens met with two other men concerned about American territorial interests in the Pacific. That night, Stevens and American-Hawaiian businessmen Sanford Dole and Lorrin Thurston met to hatch "an audacious plot to overthrow Hawaii's Queen and bring her country into the United States," writes New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer in his book Overthrow.
The immediate event which precipitated the meeting was Queen Lili'uokalani's attempt to promulgate a new constitution which would have restored many of the powers of the monarchy that existed prior to the forced promulgation of the "Bayonet Constitution" in 1887 that reduced the power of the Hawaiian monarch and rescinded voting rights to much of the population. The Queen's cabinet refused to go along with the planned new constitution, and Queen Liliʻuokalani temporarily yielded. But to the ardent Annexationists the volatile situation provided an opportunity that they seized. The Annexation Club morphed into a Committee of Safety; it shepherded documents drafted to establish a provisional government.
The Committee of Safety expressed concern for the safety and property of American residents in Honolulu. Minister Stevens, advised about these supposed threats to non-combatant American lives and property by the Committee of Safety, obliged their request and summoned a company of uniformed U.S. Marines from the Boston and two companies of U.S. sailors to land on the Kingdom and take up positions in strategic locations in Honolulu on the afternoon of January 16, 1893. 162 sailors and Marines aboard the Boston came ashore well-armed but under orders of neutrality. They were positioned around Royal residences and Hawaiian government installations, not around United States citizens' quarters. Having observed the troops' march up the street, the Queen was heard to remark that the Marines were finishing what the "missionaries" started. The presence of the Marines 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.
Minister Stevens recognized the new government, giving his blessing on behalf of the United States Department of State, and commissioners were immediately dispatched to Washington to request that Hawaii be annexed by the United States. On February 9, 1893, Stevens acted preemptively, establishing a protectorate pending negotiations for annexation. On February 16, President Harrison sent a message to the Senate, formally requesting annexation of the Hawaiian kingdom.
But President Cleveland, immediately following his inauguration, sent a message to the Senate, canceling all further talk of annexation. He then sent a commissioner to the Islands to assess the situation, who reported that the newly established protectorate be withdrawn as unnecessary. Envoy Stevens immediately resigned and returned to Maine, where he spent his time in public denunciation of the new administration's Hawaiian policy.
The Blount Report commissioned by President Grover Cleveland was submitted on July 17, 1893 and found Stevens guilty of inappropriate conduct in support of the conspiracy to overthrow Hawaii's Queen. Answering the charges from his Augusta, Maine, home, Stevens supplied his rationale: the Queen was immoral, and so needed to be dethroned. The later Morgan investigation conducted by the U.S. Congress, which led to the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894 found Stevens and other U.S. agents not guilty, after which Cleveland abandoned the matter because of lack of Congressional support. Both the Blount and Morgan Reports are cited by partisans on both sides to support their claims about the legitimacy or lack thereof of the overthrow.
In 1993, Congress passed and the President signed an Apology Resolution apologizing for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii a century before. Based on the Blount Report and other historical analyses, the Resolution subsequently became a touchstone in the cultural and political identification of many native Hawaiians.
Following his forced retirement in 1893 because of the overthrow of Hawaii, Stevens spent his time lecturing and writing and working in Republican Party circles. He died two years later. During his retirement, Stevens worked to rehabilitate his image following his humiliating firing by the new President. In 1894, the former preacher and newspaper editor published Picturesque Hawaii: A Charming Description of Her Unique History, Strange People, Exquisite Climate, Wondrous Volcanoes, Luxurious Productions, Beautiful Cities, Corrupt Monarchy, Recent Revolution and Provisional Government, a strange volume of part memoir, part travelogue and part political tract meant to provide a rationale for his actions in the Islands.
During his life, Stevens authored several other books, including a two-volume biography  of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus and his involvement in the Thirty Years War, praised by The New York Times as showing "extensive research and much patient reading." The prolific Stevens also authored assorted letters, speeches and tracts, many of them advocating his Manifest Destiny views on American foreign policy. Stevens was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Tufts College in 1882. American author and orientalist William Elliot Griffis dedicated his book America in the East to Stevens, who, Griffis wrote, "believing that the lives and property of American citizens abroad ought to be as well protected as if they were at home, acting according to his faith."
John L. Stevens was married to the former Mary Lowell Smith of Hallowell, Maine, on May 10, 1845. The couple had one son and three daughters, one of whom drowned on January 20, 1893 – three days after the Hawaiian overthrow Stevens helped engineer – and an event said to have sent the diplomat into crippling depression.
Hon. John L. Stevens died at his home in Augusta, Maine, at 4 a.m. on February 8, 1895, of heart disease.
In 1898 the United States government officially annexed Hawaii. A seven-piece silver service made of melted silver dollars and given to Stevens after his Hawaiian tenure by pro-Annexation forces in Hawaii is still owned by Stevens's descendants. The tea service, and the career of its controversial owner, were the subject of a Public Broadcasting Service documentary in 1998 entitled The Nation Within. A one-act play entitled "Cry for the Gods" was written by Judge Paul Handy which presents a dramatized, fictional meeting between Stevens and the Queen on the night of January 16, 1893. It has been performed in Maryland and as part of the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC.
Robert C. Kirk (Uruguay)
Martin T. McMahon (Paraguay)
| United States Minister Resident, Uruguay
6 July 1870–19 May 1873
John C. Caldwell
| United States Minister Resident, Paraguay|
26 August 1870–19 May 1873
George W. Merrill
| United States Minister Resident and Envoy Extraordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary, Hawaii
23 September 1889–18 May 1893
James H. Blount
The Blount Report is the popular name given to the part of the 1893 United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Report regarding the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The report was conducted by U.S. Commissioner James H. Blount, appointed by U.S. President Grover Cleveland to investigate the events surrounding the January 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The Blount Report "first provided evidence that officially identified the United States' complicity in the lawless overthrow of the lawful, peaceful government of Hawaii." Blount concluded that U.S. Minister to Hawaii John L. Stevens had carried out unauthorized partisan activities, including the landing of U.S. Marines under a false or exaggerated pretext, to support the anti-royalist conspirators; that these actions were instrumental to the success of the revolution; and that the revolution was carried out against the wishes of a majority of the population of Hawaii.The Blount Report was followed in 1894 by the Morgan Report, which contradicted Blount's report by concluding that all participants except for Queen Liliʻuokalani were "not guilty".Committee of Safety (Hawaii)
The Committee of Safety, formally the Citizen's Committee of Public Safety, was a 13-member group of the Annexation Club. The group was composed of mostly Hawaiian subjects and American citizens who were members of the Missionary Party, as well as foreign residents in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi that planned and carried out the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi on January 17, 1893. The goal of this group was to achieve annexation of Hawaiʻi by the United States. The new independent Republic of Hawaiʻi government was thwarted in this goal by the administration of President Grover Cleveland, and it was not until 1898 that the United States Congress approved a joint resolution of annexation creating the U.S. Territory of Hawaiʻi.George W. Merrill
George W. Merrill (June 26, 1837 – January 10, 1914) was an American politician of the 19th century. He was born in Turner, Maine.Merrill was District Attorney of Nye County, Nevada from 1864 to 1868.
On April 2, 1885 Merrill was appointed U.S. Minister Resident (similar to modern-day ambassador) to the Kingdom of Hawaii. He presented his credentials on June 12, 1885, and was recalled on September 23, 1889.
He replaced Rollin M. Daggett, and was replaced by John L. Stevens. He later worked in San Francisco, California as a lawyer. He died there of an illness of seven weeks on January 10, 1914, aged 76.Governors of Oahu
The Governor of Oʻahu (Hawaiian: Kiaʻaina o Oʻahu) was the royal governor or viceroy of the island of Oʻahu in the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Governor of Oʻahu resided at Honolulu and was usually a Hawaiian chief or prince and could even be a woman. The governor had authority over the island of Oahu and Honolulu, the kingdom's capital, and it was up to the governor to appoint lieutenant governors to assist them. The governor had replaced the old alii aimokus of the islands, but sovereignty remained with the king. The island governors were under the jurisdiction of the Ministers of the Interiors. Either the governor or the monarch had the power to call in foreign assistance in time of troubles. This occurred a few times, including the uprising of the Emmaites in 1874 when John Owen Dominis called for British and American assistance. Neither the governor nor monarch called for foreign assistance in January 1893 when John L. Stevens sent American troops into Honolulu.Hawaiian rebellions (1887–1895)
The Hawaiian rebellions and revolutions took place in Hawaii between 1887 and 1895. Until annexation in 1898, Hawaii was an independent sovereign state, recognized by the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany with exchange of ambassadors. However, there were several challenges to the reigning governments of the Kingdom and Republic of Hawaii during the 8 1⁄2-year (1887–1895) period.History of Hawaii
The history of Hawaii describes the era of human settlements in the Hawaiian Islands. That history begins sometime between 124 and 1120 AD, when the islands were first settled by Polynesians. Hawaiian civilization was isolated from the rest of the world for at least 500 years.
Europeans led by British explorer named James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. However some researchers state the Spanish captain Ruy López de Villalobos was the first European to see the islands in 1542. Within five years after Cook's arrival, European military technology helped Kamehameha I conquer and unify the islands for the first time, establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii. The kingdom was prosperous and important for its agriculture and strategic location in the Pacific.
American immigration began almost immediately after Cook's arrival, led by Protestant missionaries. Americans set up plantations to grow sugar. Their methods of plantation farming required substantial labor. Waves of permanent immigrants came from Japan, China and the Philippines to work in the fields. The government of Japan organized and gave special protection to its people, who comprised about 25 percent of the Hawaiian population by 1896.The native population succumbed to disease brought by the Europeans (particularly smallpox), declining from 300,000 in the 1770s to over 60,000 in the 1850s to 24,000 in 1920. Americans within the kingdom government rewrote the constitution, severely curtailing the power of King "David" Kalākaua, and disenfranchising the rights of most Native Hawaiians and Asian citizens to vote, through excessively high property and income requirements. This gave a sizeable advantage to plantation owners. Queen Liliuokalani attempted to restore royal powers in 1893, but was placed under house arrest by businessmen with help from the US military. Against the Queen's wishes, the Republic of Hawaii was formed for a short time. This government agreed on behalf of Hawaii to join the US in 1898 as the Territory of Hawaii. In 1959, the islands became the state of Hawaii of the United States.James Henderson Blount
James Henderson Blount (September 12, 1837 – March 8, 1903) was an American statesman, soldier and congressman from Georgia. He opposed the annexation of Hawaii in 1893 in his investigation into the alleged American involvement in the political revolution in the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Blount was a prominent spokesman for white supremacy and strongly opposed adding a new non-white element to the American population.John C. Caldwell
John Curtis Caldwell (April 17, 1833 – August 31, 1912) was a teacher, a Union general in the American Civil War, and an American diplomat.LaMoille, Iowa
LaMoille is a rural unincorporated community in Marshall County, Iowa, United States, lying halfway between Marshalltown and State Center.List of ambassadors of the United States to Paraguay
The following is a list of United States Ambassadors, or other chiefs of mission, to Paraguay. The title given by the United States State Department to this position is currently Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.List of ambassadors of the United States to Uruguay
The following is a list of United States ambassadors, or other chiefs of mission, to Uruguay. The current title given by the United States State Department to this position is Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.Mount Vernon, Maine
Mount Vernon is a town in Kennebec County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,640 at the 2010 census. Mount Vernon is included in the Augusta, Maine micropolitan New England City and Town Area. A popular recreation spot in central Maine, the northern area of Mount Vernon is part of the Belgrade Lakes Region, while the southern area is part of the Winthrop Lakes Region.Opposition to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom
Opposition to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom took several forms. Following the overthrow of the monarchy on January 17, 1893, Hawaii's provisional government—under the leadership of Sanford B. Dole—attempted to annex the land to the United States under Republican Benjamin Harrison's administration. But the treaty of annexation came up for approval under the administration of Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, anti-expansionist, and friend of the deposed Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii. Cleveland retracted the treaty on March 4, 1893, and launched an investigation headed by James Henderson Blount; its report is known as the Blount Report.Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom
The overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom began on January 17, 1893, with a coup d'état against Queen Liliʻuokalani on the island of Oahu by subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom, United States citizens, and foreign residents residing in Honolulu. A majority of the insurgents were foreigners. They prevailed upon American minister John L. Stevens to call in the U.S. Marines to protect United States interests, an action that effectively buttressed the rebellion. The revolutionaries established the Republic of Hawaii, but their ultimate goal was the annexation of the islands to the United States, which occurred in 1898.Proposed 1893 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom
The proposed 1893 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom would have been a replacement of the Constitution of 1887, primarily based on the Constitution of 1864 put forth by Queen Lili'uokalani. While it never became anything more than a draft, the constitution had a profound impact on Hawaiʻi's history: it set off a chain of events that eventually resulted in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.Republic of Hawaii
The Republic of Hawaiʻi was a short-lived one-party state in Hawaiʻi between July 4, 1894, when the Provisional Government of Hawaii had ended, and August 12, 1898, when it became annexed by the United States as an organized incorporated territory of the United States. In 1893, U.S. Minister to Hawaii John L. Stevens and white native-born subjects of the Kingdom of Hawaii overthrew Queen Liliʻuokalani after she rejected the 1887 Bayonet Constitution which was forced on Hawaii. The perpetrators intended for Hawaii to be annexed by the United States but President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat opposed to imperialism, refused. A new constitution was subsequently written while Hawaii was being prepared for annexation.
While leaders of the republic such as Sanford B. Dole and Lorrin A. Thurston were native-born subjects of the Hawaiian Islands and spoke the Hawaiian language, they had strong financial, political, and family ties to the United States. They intended the Republic to become a territory of the United States. Dole was a former member of the Royal Legislature from Koloa, Kauai, and Justice of the Kingdom's Supreme Court, and he appointed Thurston—who had served as Minister of Interior under King Kalākaua—to lead a lobbying effort in Washington, D.C. to secure Hawaii's annexation by the United States. The issue of overseas imperialism was controversial in the United States due to its colonial origins, but rising jingoism during the Spanish–American War led to anti-imperialism’s decline. The day before the end of the war, Hawaii was annexed under Republican President William McKinley. The Territory of Hawaii was formally established as part of the U.S. on June 14, 1900.
The Blount Report "first provided evidence that officially identified the United States' complicity in the lawless overthrow of the lawful, peaceful government of Hawaii." American officials immediately recognized the new government and U.S. Marines were sent by the US Ambassador to aid in the overthrow. The Queen's supporters charged the Marines' presence frightened the Queen and thus enabled the revolution. Blount concluded that the United States had carried out unauthorized partisan activities, including the landing of U.S. Marines under a false or exaggerated pretext, to support the anti-royalist conspirators; that these actions were instrumental to the success of the revolution; and that the revolution was carried out against the wishes of a majority of the population of Hawaii.Robert C. Kirk
Robert Crothers Kirk (February 26, 1821 – 1898) was an American politician who served as the fifth Lieutenant Governor of Ohio from 1860 to 1862 under Governor William Dennison.United States Minister to Hawaii
The United States Minister to Hawaii was an office of the United States Department of State to the Kingdom of Hawaii during the period of 1810 to 1898. Appointed by the President of the United States with the consent of Congress, the Minister to Hawaii was equivalent in rank to the present-day ambassador of the United States to foreign governments. As principal envoy of the United States government to the monarch of Hawaii, the Minister to Hawaii often dealt in affairs relating to economic, military and political matters affecting both nations. The Minister to Hawaii also represented the interests of American citizens residing and working in Hawaii, conveying their concerns over United States foreign policy to the President of the United States.
Two Ministers to Hawaii became paramount figures in the history of Hawaiian Islands. John L. Stevens, appointed by President Benjamin Harrison, was accused of being a conspirator in the overthrow of the monarchy of Queen Liliʻuokalani. James Henderson Blount, appointed by President Grover Cleveland, investigated the overthrow, submitting a report on July 17, 1893, resulting in the dismissal of Stevens from his foreign service career and the recommendation by Cleveland to restore the monarchy. Following Blount's report, and the refusal of the Provisional Government to abide by Cleveland's wishes, a Senate committee appointed by Cleveland to further investigate the matter exonerated Stevens and the U.S. peacekeepers from any role in the Hawaiian Revolution, submitting the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894. Following that final investigation on the matter, Cleveland rebuffed further requests from the queen for interference and engaged in normal diplomatic relations with both the Provisional Government and the Republic of Hawaii.
and Minister Plenipotentiary
|Envoy Extraordinary and|