HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii elected its first king via a legislative vote in 1873, but the king’s death led to a special election a year later, creating heat in Honolulu.
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A special legislative session was called to elect a new monarch in February of 1874, where legislators gathered at the Honolulu Courthouse.
The top runners in the election were then-Prince David Kalakaua and Queen Emma, the widow of King Kamehameha IV.
It took only nine days to start the session.
Legislators casted their secret ballots while hundreds of people gathered outside the building.
The queen lost the legislative vote, despite being more popular with the people. Queen Emma ended up receiving only six votes to Prince Kalakaua’s 39, winning him the election.
“Emma supporters were really upset and they started making trouble for the legislators,” says Zita Cup Choy, Iolani Palace Historian.
“Now, secret ballot. They didn’t know who voted for whom. I guess they could have suspected, but they started beating up on people,” Cup Choy said. They went into the building, they trashed parts of the building, they broke windows, they threw a legislator out of the window.”
Many people were injured, and a legislator died of his injuries.
The royal guard had been disbanded and the Honolulu police were of little to no help.
“So what happened was the Minister of Foreign Affairs contacted the British and American ships that were in ports and said ‘please help,’” said Cup Choy. “So, both captains of ships that were in port came into town to kind of quell the riot.”
After the chaos calmed, King David Kalakaua became the seventh monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom and received congratulatory letters from leaders around the world, including Great Britain, France, Russia, and Japan.
Queen Emma did congratulate His Majesty Kalakaua as the lawful king.
She also asked him for a royal prerogative to the 73 individuals arrested in the riot. Two-thirds of them were released without charge.
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