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Robert W. Wilcox, delegate for the Territory of Hawaii, photograph, n.d.

Robert W. Wilcox’s father was from Rhode Island, and his mother was a Native Hawaiian from Maui. Educated in Italy, Wilcox returned to Hawaii determined to restore the monarchy, but was imprisoned in the attempt. He later entered politics to work for the rights of Hawaiians. Wilcox was Hawaii’s first territorial delegate and the first Native Hawaiian to serve in Congress.

State Archives of Hawaii

Robert W. Wilcox, delegate for the Territory of Hawaii, photograph, n.d.

Hawaii’s First Delegate to Congress

The Hawaiian Islands were an independent kingdom until American businessmen, supported by a diplomat and U.S. Marines, overthrew Queen Liliuokalani in 1893. Forming a provisional government, the victors requested annexation to the United States. After initial annexation efforts failed, Congress passed the Newlands Resolution to annex Hawaii in 1898. Congress approved an Organic Act in 1900 to give Hawaii territorial status and provide a territorial government. The Organic Act permitted Hawaii one nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Hawaii’s first delegate, Robert W. Wilcox, served from 1900 to 1903.

My great idea is to get this land system so all people––native, white, and every American citizen of this country—can have land, and not as it is now, in the hands of a few men.

Robert W. Wilcox, Hawaiian Investigation, 1902