Liliuokalani Meets U.S. President Cleveland Again

Part I of II: Meeting President Cleveland (Preceding Part II)

In 1897, Liliuokalani, no longer the queen of her country, rode the train through America to meet U.S. President Grover Cleveland at Washington D.C. During her last visit nine years ago, Liliuokalani was a princess accompanying the queen of Hawaii. Now, she was a deposed ex-queen trying to prevent the United States from annexing her native land. 

On the train from San Francisco, Liliuokalani traveled through the Crescent City as an ordinary passenger and did not occupy a special car. Accompanying her were her agent, Mr. Joe Holebute; Mrs. Graham, her personal companion, and a maid and two children of Mrs. Graham.

When Liliuokalani arrived in snowy Boston, the Boston Post notes this trip was "melancholy" compared to her last one nine years ago when she was a "royal highness" and was "dined, feted, toasted, smothered in flowers and entertained from the moment of waking to the one of sleeping." However, Liliuokalani reportedly enjoyed her visit to Boston, even if she thought the cold weather was "too much of a good thing."

Liliuokalani intended to attend church on Sunday morning, but after seeing the frosty panes, decided to go back to sleep. At noon, a sleigh sent by Mr. Armstrong of the Armstrong Transfer Company greeted Liliuokalani at her door. In two to three layers of clothes, she sat behind the jingling sleigh bells for the first time. Riding on the sleigh with Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and Mr. William Lee, Liliuokalani delighted in what she saw on the snow-covered boulevards, especially the ice skaters at the reservoir. The party rode to Mrs. Lee's home and then dined at the Parker House. At 8 p.m., they watched a concert at the Boston Theatre, occupying a box there.

During her month-long trip in Boston, Liliuokalani also visited her late husband's relative. She did not set a limit to how long she would stay, but before she knew it, a month has passed.

Afterwards, Liliuokalani and her entourage rode the train to Washington D.C. On her ride from the train station, Liliuokalani admired the city's beauty, with its colonial style and European buildings and monuments. She went straight to the hotel to rest. A reporter asked for her, but tired from her trip, she declined to the interview. However, Liliuokalani did attend service at the St. John's Episcopal Church.

The next day, in icy cold weather, a carriage took Liliuokalani, Miss Kia Nahaolelena, her companion-in-waiting, Mr. Helelule and Mr. Palmer through the capital city blanketed with snow. The day before, Liliuokalani's hand-delivered a handwritten note, asking for the president to see her informally. Arriving at the White House, the entourage was immediately taken to the Blue Room. The "tastefully dressed" Liliuokalani "walked with dignity" through the lobby with her step "slightly hesitating" and entered the French Empire-style chamber.
Entering the room, President Cleveland extended his hand to hold Liliuokalani's light brown hand, feeling its warmth. He "heartily" exclaimed, "I am very glad you thought of calling on me" and expressed regret that Liliuokalani did not visit him during a previous visit to Washington D.C. He invited the entourage to be seated.

The president and Liliuokalani spoke about the death of the Minister to Hawaii, Albert S. Willis, whom they praised. The president called him "a man of sterling honesty, never afraid to do his full duty."

Liliuokalani did not say anything about restoring the Hawaiian Monarchy, but did thank President Cleveland for withdrawing the treaty of annexation sent to the Senate by President Harrison four years ago.

The former queen also inquired about Mrs. Cleveland's health. The president called for her, but a messenger said she went out for a walk a few minutes earlier.

Afterwards, Liliuokalani and her entourage went back out to the icy outdoors into their carriage to Shoreham Hotel.

After Liliuokalani's 15-minute conversation with the President, Mrs. Cleveland sent a message to Liliuokalani, expressing her willingness to meet her informally. A week after meeting the president, Liliuokalani met Mrs. Cleveland at the White House on a Monday at 5 p.m.

A few days after Liliuokalani's visit to the President, in a Shoreham Hotel parlor, reporters crowded around Liliuokalani. They continuously peppered her with questions, and question topics included Hawaii's weather, whether she liked traveling in America, if people in Hawaii spoke English, and her jewelry:

"Won't you tell me how you live in Honolulu now?"

"I live in retirement, strictly. I have apartments in Washington Place ... and I have a residence on the beach ... called Waikiki. ... But I am not fond of going far out to sea. I love to bathe, however, I stay in the surf for hours and never feel any bad effects from it."

"Do you have anything like a court around you? You are said to have a large number of friends who delight to pay you royal homage."

"No; there is no royal homage; I do not allow that. Yes; I like company; I am fond of young people..."

The apparently nervous Liliuokalani, who kept moistening her lips throughout the reception, did not answer all the questions: "She replied pleasantly to general questions and avoided leading ones by turning her attention to some one else."

Even though Liliuokalani lost her royal title and status as a head of state, she was still a celebrity. American newspapers continued to report her business on the American continent from attending church services and visiting friends and relatives to meeting the President of the United States. In Part II, American newspapers chronicle Liliuokalani's attempt to prevent the annexation of Hawaii.

- Alice Kim


"The Dusky Ex-Queen"
The Cape Girardeau Democrat., January 02, 1897, Image 2

"Good Natured Badinage: The Boston Post on the Visit of Liliuokalani"
The Independent., January 16, 1897, Image 6

"Mrs. Dominis Here: The Former Queen of Hawaii Visits Washington"
Evening star., January 23, 1897, Image 1

"She Sighs for Her Crown: Ex-Queen Liliuokalani's Diplomatic Mission in Washington"
The morning times., January 25, 1897, Page 3, Image 3

"Her Great, Good Friend: Ex-Queen Liliuokalani Received by the President"
The morning times., January 26, 1897, Page 5, Image 5

"Queen Lil Received: An Unofficial Audience Given Her at the White House"
The Saint Paul globe., January 26, 1897, Page 4, Image 4

"She Met Mrs. Cleveland: Ex-Queen Lil Enjoyed the Honor of a Private Audience"
The morning times., February 02, 1897, Image 1

"Queen Lil's Reception: Her Parlors at the Shoreham Crowded All Afternoon"
The morning times., January 27, 1897, Image 1