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Imperialism And The Commodification Of Hawaii

1173 words - 5 pages

Imperialism and the Commodification of Hawaii
During the age of imperialism, the United States began to emerge as a rising imperial power in the nineteenth century. As a rising power, the United States was interested in expanding their territorial claims. The islands of Hawaii became appealing as a potential expansion target when business relations were established and the sugarcane plantations were created. As business relations with the sugarcane industry became successful, the United States wanted more control over the Hawaiian Kingdom. Inevitably, the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy led to annexation of Hawaii as an official territory of the United States. The motives for territory ...view middle of the document...

The material benefits of industrialization included great social changes. There were inexpensive and affordable manufactured goods, improvement in the standards of living and population growth (Bentley, Ziegler & Streets-Salter, 2010). With the improvement in the standard of living, the population growth also caused new waves of immigration.
However, consequences of such large-scale investments would be to create trusts and cartels. The intention of creating a trust was to obtain control of industries through vertical organization, by dominating all facets of a single industry (Bentley, Ziegler & Streets-Salter, 2010). This process thus corresponds with the justification of the United States for the establishment of the sugarcane plantations in Hawaii and later, absolute control of not only the sugarcane industry, but the entire Hawaiian Kingdom.
The sudden interest in the Hawaiian Islands was to pursue and manipulate potential business affairs with the sugarcane plantation industry. The first sugarcane plantation, Ladd & Co. was established on the island of Kauai in 1834. Shortly after, the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society was created in order to protect their investments including the plantation owners and their control of the supply and distribution of cheap labor. This subtle step in establishing control over agricultural production caused a wave of immigration in order to accommodate for the expansion of this industry. Immigrants from China, Japan, The Philippine Islands, Portugal, Korea, and many more countries were demanded for more labor. Action to gain more control over the sugarcane industry started when King Kalakaua signed the Reciprocity Act of 1876 with the United States, which allowed Hawaiian produced sugar to be sold tax-free to the United States. The sugarcane industry boomed. It was revered and expected to be, “the foundation upon which our material prosperity as a nation rests” (Sylvester, 86).
The continuing advancements for absolute control of the economic affairs, specifically regarding the sugarcane plantation industry was the miniscule step that triggered an inevitable series of events that cause the United States to push for imperialist expansion in Hawaii. Consequently, it would lead to annexation and ultimate acquisition of Hawaii as an official territory of the United States in 1898. In 1887, The Hawaiian League, organized by Lorrin A. Thurston, was secretly formed by a group of white American men with the intentions of taking over the Kingdom, in order to manage the political and economic policies. As a result, King Kalakaua was forced to sign the Bayonet Constitution, which merely demoted him to a figurehead, giving all executive power to the cabinet, members affiliated with Thurston: Mr. Godfrey Brown, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. W. I. Green, Minister of Finance; Mr. C....

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