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Historical Era

Thinking Skill


Petition Against Annexation of ???

Launch Lesson

National Archives Education Team
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Historical Era:
The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
Primary Historical Thinking Skill:
Historical Analysis & Interpretation
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Bloom's Taxonomy:

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Petition Against Annexation of ???


This activity explores a petition signed by over 21,000 native Hawaiians against a treaty that would have annexed Hawaii to the United States.

This activity is adapted from an article by Wynell Schamel and Charles E. Schamel.

Author’s Notes

This activity is designed for a unit concerning American Imperialism. Grades 6-12. Approximate time needed is 10-15 minutes.

Ask the students to examine the document and answer the following questions:

  • What type of document is it?
  • Who wrote the document?
  • To whom was it written?
  • What is the date of the document?
  • Why do you suppose it was written in two languages?
  • What was the purpose of the document?

Based on the evidence, ask students to offer hypotheses about which annexation in US history this petition is about. After discussing their educated guesses, inform students that this is a petition against the US annexation of Hawaii. Tell students that this is just one of 516 pages in this Hawaiian Patriotic League petition that was signed by 21,000 native Hawaiians (out of a population of under 40,000).

Inform students that this petition contributed to a defeat of a proposed treaty to annex Hawaii. As a result of the petition, only 46 Senators in favor of the resolution to annex, less than the 2/3 majority needed for approval of a treaty.

The victory was shortlived, however as unfolding world events soon forced the annexation issue to the fore again. With the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in February 1898 signaling the start of the Spanish American War, establishing a mid-Pacific fueling station and naval base became important to the United States. The Hawaiian islands were the clear choice, and this time Congress moved to annex the Hawaiian islands by Joint Resolution, a process requiring only a simple majority in both houses of Congress. On July 12, 1898, the Joint Resolution passed and the Hawaiian islands were officially annexed by the United States.

Documents in this activity: