MARCH 21, 1887


After the British took control of Fiji in 1874, only 3 major island groups remained independent in the Pacific: Tonga, Hawai‘i, and Sāmoa. The Euro/American powers had marked off these groups as falling under their own spheres of interest–Americans claiming Hawai‘i. Kalākaua, seeing inaction leading to possible American annexation, sought to unite independent Polynesian groups in an anti-colonial confederacy. In 1886, Kalākaua appointed John E. Bush, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, as Envoy Extraordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary to Sāmoa, Tonga, and elsewhere to inquire into the possibility of a confederation. Sāmoa’s nominal king, Malietoa Laupepa, immediately signed a treaty of confederacy. However, in June of 1887, the European & American community in Honolulu forced Kalākaua, through threat of armed revolt, to sign the infamous “Bayonet Constitution” giving control of the government to white settlers. The coup leaders recalled Bush and ended plans for the confederacy.

Source: Kealani Cook, “Kalākaua's Polynesian Confederacy: Teaching World History in Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i in World History,” World History Connected.  Retrieved 6/15/2021, World History Connected | Vol. 8 No. 3 | Kealani Cook: Kalakaua's Polynesian Confederacy: Teaching World History in Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i in World History (
Photo: Joseph Dwight Strong (1853-1899), 6/1887. Photograph of a ceremony aboard the former British steamship Kaimiloa marking the short-lived 1887 alliance between the Kingdoms of Samoa and Hawaii. From right to left: secretary Henry F. Poor, Hawaiian envoy John Edward Bush (1843–1906), Samoan King Malietoa Laupepa, (1841-1898) and other Samoan delegates: Moli, Ainuu Tatopau and Ainuu Aisake. Public Domain. Source: Hawaii State Archives, reprinted in 1965 report of the Hawaiian Historical Society, page 12

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