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Hawaii was first settled by Polynesian people. The process by which this took place is still a matter of debate among archaelogists, with some favoring in a theory of a single continuous migration, and others favoring a theory involving two separate waves of migration.
It is not certain when the Europeans first visited the islands, but it is possible that Spanish explorers may have reached the islands during the 16th century. When British navigator, Captain James Cook encountered the islands in 1778, he was surprised to find them, and named them the Sandwich Islands after the First Lord of the Admiralty, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu.
Hawaii was united under a single ruler, Kamehameha I, for the first time in 1810. Until 1816, the chiefs considered the islands under British protection and flew the Union Jack. Hawaii then adopted a similar flag to the present Hawaiistate flag with a Union Jack in the canton (the top corner nearest the flagpole) and eight horizontal stripes representing the eight islands. In 1820, missionaries from a New England Congregationalist group arrived. Gradually they converted first the leading chiefs, and later the commoners to Protestant Christianity.
In the 1870s, Hawaii gradually drew closer to the United States. An 1874 treaty granted Americans exclusive grading rights. The 1876 Reciprocity Treaty allowed duty free importation of Hawaiian grown sugar and rice into the United States. Following these treaties, the Hawaiian landscape was greatly altered by the irrigation requirements of new sugar cane plantations. Additionally, an influx of immigrants from Asia (initially Chinese and later Japanese) was encouraged, in order to work the plantations.
During the 19th century, there were several periods of instability. This culiminated in the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893 when the Queen was overthrown, with the wrongful involvement of (according to the then US President, Grover Cleveland), of US diplomatic and military representatives. Grover Cleveland was however unsuccessful in his attempts to get the Queen reinstated, and eventually accepted the legitimacy of her overthrow and the new government of the Republic of Hawaii. In 1896, William McKinley became President, and two years later he signed the Newlands Resolution which annexed Hawaii to the United States.
After annexation, Pearl Harbor became (and still is) an important US Navy base. The Empire of Japan's attack on this base on December 7th 1941 was the trigger for the entry of the US into World War II. The Japanese attack resulted in severe damage to the US fleet, including the sinking of nine ships, four of which were battleships.
In 1935 and 1937, US Congress deliberated on whether Hawaii should be admitted as a US state. However, southern states opposed the admission of non-white majority territory, and the question was put on hold. In 1950, Hawaii began a new campaign for statehood by putting the question on its ballots. In 1959 the goal of statehood was finally achieved, and Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the Union on August 21st.
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