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Return to the year 1887

Bayonet Constitution

Unhappy with the rule of Kalakaua and his premier, Walter Murray Gibson, leaders of the Hawaiian League (the Committee of Thirteen) used threats to force the king to adopt a new constitution. On July 1, Kalakaua asked his entire cabinet, including Gibson, to resign and by July 6, his new cabinet - William Green, Godfrey Brown, Lorrin Thurston and Clarence Ashford - had a new constitution drawn up to their liking. After a day spent haggling and arguing over the changes, Kalakaua, under threat of force, signed the document which reduced him to a figurehead.

The Bayonet Constitution made important revisions to the constitution of 1864. Executive power was placed in the hands of the cabinet, appointed by the king but responsible only to the legislature. The king's personal influence over the legislature and legislation was reduced by limiting his government appointments and restricting his veto power. The House of Nobles, like representatives, became elective. Voting was extended to all males, not limited to subjects of the kingdom, but excluded Asians. Property qualifications effectively kept Hawaiians from voting for nobles, but awarded big gains to haole voters.

Lorrin A. Thurston, one of the perpetrators of the new constitution, admitted the document was signed by Kalakaua under shady circumstances. Writing later, he said, "Unquestionably the constitution was not in accordance with law; neither was the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Both were revolutionary documents, which had to be forcibly effected and forcibly maintained."

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