Sometime between 1000 and 1500 years ago, Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands using only the stars as navigational aid.
Tradition says around the year 1200, a Tahitian priest named Pā’ao brought a new order which included new laws and a new social structure that separated the people into classes.
In 1778, British Captain James Cook landed on the island of Kauai. Cook named the islands the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich. A year later, during a dispute over the theft of a launching boat, Cook was killed.
After many years of conflict, the great warrior leader, King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom in 1810. Kamehameha named his new realm "Kingdom of Hawai'i”.
In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid-19th century had become well established. In 1840, a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority.
By the 1850s, a shortage of labor on sugar plantations encouraged immigration from Japan, the Philippines and Korea. In 1887 a U.S. naval base was established at Pearl Harbor as part of a new Hawaiian constitution.
A coup d'état against Queen Liliʻuokalani occurred on January 17, 1893. The coup, backed by American businessmen and sugar plantation owners, was led by Sanford Dole (cousin of James Dole, founder of the Dole Food Co). To buttress their rebellion, the group convinced American minister John Stevens to call in the U.S. Marines to “protect United States interests." In the short-term, the revolutionaries established a king-less country. However, their ultimate goal was the annexation of the islands by the United States, something that would occur before the end of the century.
Then President Grover Cleveland was not supportive of the rebels. He sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution. However, Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the Republic of Hawaii.
Cleveland then appointed James Blount as special commissioner to investigate the situation. Blount’s report not only concluded that the United States Hawaiian diplomatic delegation, along with United States Marines and Navy, were directly responsible for the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii government, but that the United States government violated international laws and the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Even with this report in hand, Cleveland decided to take no action because he did not wish to pit the U.S. military against U.S. citizens.
During the Spanish-American War, the United States decided to unilaterally take the Hawaiian Islands by enacting a Congressional resolution in 1898. This resolution allowed America to utilize the Hawaiian Islands as a military base to fight the Spanish in Guam and the Philippines.
In 1900, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory and 59 years later, Hawaii along with Alaska, become 49th and 50th states admitted to the union.
So, was Hawaii “stolen” by the United States. Under international “understandings” in effect at that time, it was not unusual for a larger country to take control of a smaller country. The only other powers in the Pacific at the time – Japan and Great Britain – gave their tacit approval of the U.S.’s annexation of Hawaii, Britain because it had done its own "annexations" many times in its past and Japan because it had aims of doing the same in the future.