David Kalakau, the last king of Hawaii, was born in Honolulu in 1836. He was the son of a high chief, and was educated at the Chiefs’ Children’s School in Honolulu. He took little part in public affairs until 1873, when he was a candidate for election to the throne, left vacant by the death of King Kamehameha V. He was defeated by William C. Lunalilo, who died one year later. Kalakaua was then elected king by the legislature in February 1874.
Kalakaua largely owed his election to the influence of powerful Americans in Honolulu, and he visited the United States in 1874-1875 to secure support for a pending reciprocity treaty. The treaty was ratified and began a period of unprecedented prosperity in the Hawaiian sugar industry.
Kalakaua’s primary objective, however, was to preserve ‘Hawaii for the Hawaiians,’ a policy that led to his estrangement from many of his non-Hawaiian supporters. In 1887 his political opponents imposed a new constitution, called the Bayonet Constitution, designed to greatly limit the power of Kalakaua’s government which led to the end of the monarchy. Even with this new constitution there was little relaxation of the political tension between the monarchy and its opponents.
Kalakaua died in 1891 and was succeeded by his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.
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