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The Nation Expands

Hawaii, 1898

Throughout the 19th century, Britain, France, and the United States all showed special interest in the independent island nation of Hawaii. The three nations competed with each other to gain special trading privileges there. Towards the end of the century, however, American sugar plantation owners came to increasingly dominate the Hawaiian economy. These wealthy planters wanted Hawaii to become a part of the United States, so that they could sell the sugar that they raised to Americans without worrying about the U.S. government imposing a tariff (or tax on imported goods). A tariff would have made their sugar more expensive for American consumers, and thus would have decreased the planters' profits.

When the Hawaiian leader, Queen Liliuokalani, sensed a threat from the increasing power held by the American planters, she tried to strengthen the monarchical government. In response, in 1893 a group of American planters led by Samuel Dole organized a coup and deposed her. In 1894, Dole sent a delegation to Washington, D.C., to ask the United States to annex Hawaii, but President Grover Cleveland opposed annexation and argued that the queen should be restored. Dole then declared Hawaii an independent republic. In 1898, a new president, William McKinley, came to office and agreed to annex the islands. Hawaii became the 50th state of the union in 1959.

Map of Hawaii
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