Sanford Ballard Dole

The American statesman Sanford Ballard Dole (1844-1926) was president of the Republic of Hawaii and, after its annexation to the United States in 1898, first governor of the Territory of Hawaii.

Sanford Dole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 23, 1844, the son of Protestant missionaries from New England. He grew up on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Kauai and went to missionary schools run by his father. He left the islands to attend Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he spent a year. After another year in a Boston law office, he was admitted in 1868 to the Massachusetts bar. But that same year he returned to Honolulu to practice law. He showed a good deal of interest in community affairs and often wrote for newspapers. In 1873 he married Anna P. Cate of Maine.

Dole was elected to the Hawaiian Legislature in 1884 and 1886 as a Reform party member. In 1887 he became a leader in the movement that wrested a new constitution from King David Kalakaua, reducing his power. The King, under pressure from his ministers, appointed Dole associate justice of the Supreme Court. Dole's legal decisions were marked by clarity and grace of style, and his dissents were noted for their vigor.

Dole served as a justice until 1893, when he reluctantly accepted leadership of a revolutionary movement that overthrew Queen Liliuokalani, who had succeeded her brother Kalakaua. She had tried to proclaim a new constitution that would return personal power to the throne. Dole became president of a provisional government that sought annexation to the United States. When President Grover Cleveland tried to restore the Queen (after charges that the United States had helped overthrow her), Dole wrote one of his most important state papers eloquently denying Cleveland's right to interfere. With no prospect of quick annexation, the Republic of Hawaii was formed on July 4, 1894. The constitution named Dole president to serve until 1900.

Hawaii's support of the United States in the war with Spain in 1898 turned the balance in favor of renewed annexation efforts already under way. In 1898 President William McKinley signed a joint congressional resolution of annexation and appointed Dole a member of the commission to draft laws governing Hawaii. In 1900 McKinley appointed Dole as first governor under the Organic Act for the Territory of Hawaii. Dole served until 1903, when he resigned to become judge for the U.S. District Court for Hawaii. In 1916 he retired to private practice.

Dole is generally credited with a deep, sympathetic understanding of the native Hawaiians, although some persons might consider his attitude toward the Hawaiians slightly patronizing and paternalistic.

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Further Reading on Sanford Ballard Dole

E. M. Damon, Sanford Ballard Dole and His Hawaii (1957), based on primary sources, is sympathetic and uncritical. The account was undertaken at Dole's express wish. Dole tells his own story of the dramatic last years of the kingdom in his Memoirs of the Hawaiian Revolution (1936), edited by Andrew Farrell.

Additional Biography Sources

Allen, Helena G., Sanford Ballard Dole: Hawaii's only president, 1844-1926, Glendale, Calif.: A.H. Clark Co., 1988.