Today, the Hawaiian Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the visit of Princess Kaiulani to America and her meeting with President Cleveland on March 13, 1893.
As the daughter of a Scotsman, Archibald Scott Cleghorn, and Hawaiian royalty, Princess Miriam Likelike, the young princess was Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawēkiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn.
Some called her a “mock princess” while others noted she was the “daughter of a double race.”
Regardless, the Hawaiian people loved the young princess. Upon her birth, her aunt, Queen Liliuokalani, named Princess Kaiulani the heiress apparent to the throne.
However, the late 19th century saw the Hawaiian monarchy replaced by a republic.
In 1893, the young princess, just 18 years old, traveled to America with an informal request to have the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) returned to her people.
Her message read:
To the American People:
Unbidden I stand upon your shores today, where I thought so soon to receive from you a royal welcome on my way to my own kingdom. I come unattended except by the loving hearts that have come with me over the wintry seas. I hear that commissioners from my land have been for many days asking this great nation to take away my little vineyard. They speak no word to me and leave me to find out as I can from the rumors of the air that they would leave me without a home, or a name, or a nation.
Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii. They gave us the gospel and made us a nation, and we learned to love and trust America. Today three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capital asking you to undo their fathers’ work. Who sent them? Who gave them authority to break the constitution which they swore they would uphold?
Today I, a poor, weak girl, with not one of my people near me and all these Hawaiian statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart, and it gives me strength and courage, and I am strong—strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of 70,000,000 of people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine.
The exiting President Harrison had met with the commissioners and approved their plan for America to annex Hawaii. The plan had been sent to Congress for their approval.
However, after Princess Kaiulani met with the newly inaugurated President Cleveland, the new president appointed an emissary to study the situation. Afterwards, President Cleveland recommended the islands revert to the monarchy.
The provisional government of Hawaii retaliated to the president’s recommendation by establishing the Republic of Hawaii in 1894.
Sadly, the young princess never ascended the throne either as a ruler or a figurehead. She died in 1899 at the young age of 24.
The Hawaiian Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows against the portrait of the young Princess Kaiulani.