United States Hawaii Territory Ratifies A State Constitution

Voters in the United States Hawaii Territory ratified a state constitution on November 7, 1950.

The event was a major step toward becoming a state. Not until August 21, 1959, however, did Hawai`i join the Union as the fiftieth state.

The Crossroads of the Pacific, as this group of volcanic islands are often called, was originally inhabited by Polynesians from the Marquesa Islands. In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook spotted the tropical lands and named them the Sandwich Islands. In the early 1800s, the Hawaiian Islands were ruled by a monarchy under the control of Kamehameha I. Missionaries from New England arrived soon after leading the way for Western influences which culminated in the United States' annexation of the Hawaiian Territory on June 14, 1900.

In 1900, Hawaii was granted self-governance and retained ʻIolani Palace as the territorial capitol building. Though several attempts were made to achieve statehood, Hawaii remained a territory for sixty years. Plantation owners and key capitalists, who maintained control through financial institutions, or "factors," known as the Big Five, found territorial status convenient, enabling them to continue importing cheap foreign labor; such immigration was prohibited in various states of the U.S.

The power of the plantation owners was finally broken by activist descendants of original immigrant laborers. Because they were born in a U.S. territory, they were legal U.S. citizens. Expecting to gain full voting rights, they actively campaigned for statehood for the Hawaiian Islands.

Presently vagrant white clouds came drifting along, high over the sea and the valley; then they came in couples and groups; then in imposing squadrons; gradually joining their forces, they banked themselves solidly together, a thousand feet under us, and totally shut out land and ocean—not a vestige of anything was left in view but just a little of the rim of the crater, circling away from the pinnacle whereon we sat…Thus banked, motion ceased, and silence reigned. Clear to the horizon, league on league, the snowy floor stretched without a break…There was little conversation, for the impressive scene overawed speech. I felt like the Last Man, neglected of the judgment, and left pinnacled in mid-heaven, a forgotten relic of a vanished world.”

— Roughing It, Chapter 76, p. 549, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1891