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Bust length photo of a man in a black suit. His hair is brown with muttonchop sideburns and a large moustache.

Lorrin Thurston (1858–1931)

The grandson of missionaries who had arrived in Hawai‘i in 1820, Lorrin Thurston aggressively asserted himself in Hawaiian politics. In 1886, he was elected to the Hawaiian legislature as a representative of the islands of Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i. In early 1887, Thurston formed the Hawaiian League, banding it together with a white male militia, the Honolulu Rifles, to undermine King Kalākaua. 

Threatening force, these men coerced Kalākaua to sign an amendment to the 1864 Constitution of Hawai‘i, known as the Bayonet Constitution (1887). Essentially, the new constitution shifted power from Kānaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiians, to the U.S., British, and German colonists, who totaled less than five percent of Hawai‘i’s population. The Bayonet Constitution gave the cabinet more power than the king, and Thurston was named minister of the interior in the king’s new cabinet. He used the power of this position to mastermind the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.


Unidentified photographer
Albumen silver print
14 × 8.9 cm (5 1/2 × 3 1/2 in.)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution