Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Pacific Gibraltar

Back to Diplomats and Diplomacy

Pacific Gibraltar: U.S.-Japanese Rivalry over the Annexation of Hawai’i, 1885–1898

“Based on highly impressive research, William Morgan has written a lucid narrative in which he carefully examines the main actors and key events, offers pointed judgments on all disputed interpretations, and makes a persuasive case for the primacy of strategic and technological considerations in the U.S. decision to annex the Hawaiian Islands.”

JOSEPH A. FRY, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Nevada–Las Vegas

Based on a sweeping reevaluation of new and old sources in three countries, Pacific Gibraltar is the first detailed account of Hawaiian annexation in a generation and recounts how the United States and Japan tussled over the most valuable strategic position in the Pacific. Morgan makes a persuasive case for the primacy of strategic and technological considerations in this first episode of U.S. overseas imperialism.

Along the way, he fills in the gaps in the disputed story of annexation, such as the role of the U.S. minister during the overthrow of the queen, the mysterious return of the U.S.S. Boston just in time to land troops during the revolution, Secretary of State Walter Gresham’s attempt to restore Queen Lili`uokalani, and the growing threat to the white rebel government from Japan’s push to gain the vote for Japanese migrant laborers.

During the 1897 Japan-U.S. crisis, Morgan relates, the United States dealt with Hawai’i entirely as a military issue. Fearing Japanese intervention, it initiated the first U.S. war planning against Japan, accumulated intelligence on Japanese capabilities, signed an annexation treaty as a warning to Tokyo, rushed ships to Hawai’i, and issued contingency landing orders. The crisis of 1897 put annexation on the front burner and led to the final acquisition of the islands in 1898 as the culmination of growing appreciation for Hawaii’s strategic value to U.S. defenses.