Queen Liliʻuokalani was arrested on January 16, 1895, several days after a failed attempt to restore the Kingdom of Hawaii led by Robert William Wilcox, when firearms were found at the base of Diamond Head Crater. She denied any knowledge at her trial, defended by former attorney general Paul Neumann. She was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison by a military tribunal and fined $5,000, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of ʻIolani Palace, where she composed songs including The Queen’s Prayer (Ke Aloha o Ka Haku) and began work on her memoirs.
I could not but be reminded every instant that I was a prisoner…
Outside of the rooms occupied by myself and my companion there were guards stationed by day and by night, whose duty it was to pace backward and forward through the hall, before my door, and up and down the front veranda. The sound of their never-ceasing footsteps as they tramped on their beat fell incessantly on my ears. One officer was in charge, and two soldiers were always detailed to watch our rooms. I could not but be reminded every instant that I was a prisoner, and did not fail to realize my position. My companion could not have slept at all that night; her sighs were audible to me without cessation; so I told her the morning following that, as her husband was in prison, it was her duty to return to her children. Mr. Wilson came in after I had breakfasted, accompanied by the Attorney-general, Mr. W. O. Smith; and in conference it was agreed between us that Mrs. Clark could return home, and that Mrs. Wilson should remain as my attendant; that Mr. Wilson would be the person to inform the government of any request to be made by me, and that any business transactions might be made through him.
On the morning after my arrest all my retainers residing on my estates were arrested, and to the number of about forty persons were taken to the station-house, and then committed to jail. Amongst these was the agent and manager of my property, Mr. Joseph Heleluhe. As Mr. Charles B. Wilson had been at one time in a similar position, and was well acquainted with all my surroundings, and knew the people about me, it was but natural that he should be chosen by me for this office.
Mr. Heleluhe was taken by the government officers, stripped of all clothing, placed in a dark cell without light, food, air, or water, and was kept there for hours in hopes that the discomfort of his position would induce him to disclose something of my affairs. After this was found to be fruitless, he was imprisoned for about six weeks; when, finding their efforts in vain, his tormentors released him. No charge was ever brought against him in any way, which is true of about two hundred persons who were similarly confined.
On the very day I left the house, so I was informed by Mr. Wilson, Mr. A. F. Judd had gone to my private residence without search-warrant; and that all the papers in my desk, or in my safe, my diaries, the petitions I had received from my people, – all things of that nature which could be found were swept into a bag, and carried off by the chief justice in person. My husband’s private papers were also included in those taken from me.
To this day, the only document which has been returned to me is my will. Never since have I been able to find the private papers of my husband nor of mine that had been kept by me for use or reference, and which had no relation to political events. The most important historical note lost was in my diary. This was the record made by me at the time of my conversations with Minister Willis, and would be especially valuable now as confirming what I have stated of our first interview.