The Wall Street Journal has a nice little feature piece about the effort to restore the furnishings in Iolani Palace.Â As is so often the case with features, it’s heavy on the neat-o factor, and maybe not-so-rigorous on the historical fact checking.Â As a general rule, I like the Journal.Â And I like the whole historical restoration thing.Â I once spent an entire Saturday glued to an Antiques Roadshow marathon.Â So I get the whole Hawaiian-heirlooms-might-be-in-your-attic approach of the piece.Â But I also can’t let them slide on historical revisionism, and unfortunately, there’s a bit of inaccuracy to the piece, primarily this paragraph:
But much of the 19th-century palace’s custom-made furniture, oil paintings and other treasures disappeared after January 1893, when a small band of businessmen overthrew the monarchy.
The people of Hawaii need to take a little more pride in and responsibility for the democratic revolt that led to the end of the monarchy.Â Monarchies are lovely romantic things when you get the leisure of looking back on them, but most of us prefer the liberty and rights that flow from our representative democracy.Â Anyway, thanks to Ken Conklin, whose addition to the comments section clears up this slight inaccuracy:
Contrary to the article’s description, the Hawaiian revolution of 1893 was not done merely by a group of American businessmen. Â About 1500 men had met in the Armory a couple days earlier to rally for the revolution, and the largest contingent among them were Portuguese. Â Half of the members of the Committee of Safety, who led the revolution, were native-born subjects of the Kingdom.
It is certainly true that there was vandalism at the Palace, which is typical of every revolution worldwide. Â And later the revolutionary Provisional Government held an auction and sold off many of the treasures from the Palace — but the Palace and its contents were the property of the government both before and after the revolution, so the government had every right to sell them. Â The ex-queen’s private home a couple blocks away was never vandalized, and none of her private property was stolen.