What was the Bayonet Constitution?

The Bayonet Constitution is the act of signing a new Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom by King David Kalakaua. The terms of the rebellion of 1887 were the transfer of power to local elites and joining the United States. In summary, the monarchy ended in 1893 due to the overturn. This event was named due to the use of weapons in the course of the establishment of the document.


In the summer of 1887, an uprising of opposition forces called the Honolulu Rifles took place in Hawaii. The initiator and leader of these forces were the Hawaiian League, which mostly consisted of various American, English, and Hawaiian entrepreneurs. Most of their businesses were related to sugar and fruit extraction on the islands. During the meeting, between the conflicting parties, demands were put forward on the transfer of a significant part of the authority and the writing of a constitution. Also, these demands of the rebels were supported by the then leading world powers. The king signed the Constitution on July 6 of 1887, forever predetermining the history of Hawaii in relation to the United States.

The main goal of the creation of the Bayonet Constitution was to change Hawaii by introducing legislative innovations of those times. The major one was the transfer of legal power from the ruler to the circle of ministers at the head of the legislature. A voting qualification was also introduced, which implied the possibility of taking part in the elections only to individuals with a specific financial income and national origin. American, British, and Hawaiian natives, and resident foreigners were considered capable of voting. A considerable percentage of the population represented by Asians was astonished in their rights because, by law, they were denied the right to vote. Also, the new constitution introduced strict censorship about any criticism of the new government.

One of the few rights that the king remained was the opportunity to appoint a finance minister. The new government of Hawaii’s kingdom was much like a dictatorial regime. Capturing the institutes of parliamentary elections and putting their people into it, the new leaders have spotted every attempt to create an opposition movement. Many residents, in particular, those who could not vote under the new laws, supported the king, and demanded to write a new constitution. Under the fear of brutal reprisal, the king did not dare to speak out against the ruling elite. Later, during the survey among the voters, the Queen decided to write a new constitution. This decision led to the overthrow of the monarchy by the Nobles in 1893 entirely. The United States later captured Hawaii in 1898, and after half a century, joined them.

The Bayonet Constitution’s significance was that this was the first and irrevocable step towards the disappearance of the monarchy in Hawaii. Along with the Western monarchies, business people came to power at some point and changed the form of government during the riot. Their main motives were reducing the tax burden, expanding the number of rights for entrepreneurs, and the desire to join the fast-growing United States. The society initially negatively met the new laws due to the separation of most of the public from the political life of the country. But the presence in the legislation of a multitude of opinions and views subsequently allowed this system to evolve and become more flexible when taking into account the country’s population.

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