Kamehameha And His Foreign Advisers

I read a comment of someone on Facebook diminishing King Kamehameha’s accomplishments because of his use of foreign advisers. Every country of that era utilized denizens (foreign nationals) as advisers, teachers, and bureaucrats. Mary Queen of Scots had an Italian advisory. Catherine the Great Empress of all the Russias had French and English advisers. The Wanli Emperor of China had Father Matteo Ricci, an Italian, as an advisor. In Polynesia, the Royal Families of Tonga, Samoa, and Tahiti all had foreign advisers in the 19th century. Race and nationality itself in those days was much more fluid than it is in modern times with border controls, passports and immigration check points. Furthermore, many rulers had foreign advisers because foreign advisers could be dismissed easily and owed their allegiance to the king himself rather than an inherited position or long standing wealth. Today, it’s somehow a big deal. Kamehameha’s use of foreign advisers, which was pretty normal for it’s day in most parts of the world, yet it is used to attack Kamehameha but also to imply a certain negative racial undertone about Hawaiians in general. There is also an assumption that these foreign “advisers” merely were involved with warfare. Some were. But most were involved in economic and agricultural activities. Some also served as teachers, land managers, merchants of government monopolies and translators. Hawai’i’s economy had drastically changed after Captain Cook and there was a need to acquire new skills, new perspectives, and new technologies from the outside world and Kamehameha was not afraid of change and listening to the ideas of others. Kamehameha also knew that Hawai’i could either be overwhelmed with the new changes from the outside world or Hawai’i could try to manage and direct it. He chose the latter.
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Jacques Arago: The Baptism of Kalanimoku aboard the Uranie
Between the years 1778 to 1820, on average over 72 foreign ships annually had docked in Hawai’i and that number doubled between the years 1820 to 1850. The esteem Papa I’i had noted that commoners had acquired guns from these foreign ships and the chiefs were acquiring canons and other foreign weaponry. If commoners were acquiring guns, how much more a Hawaiian chief? If one imagines King Kalaniopu’u’s troops marching against Kamehameha’s troops with spears, one would be mistaken. Kalanaiopu’u’s troops had muskets and canons. Some of the canon marks can be seen even till this day at the Nu’uanu Pali. But these weapons were no match for Kamehameha’s innovative use of the floating canons–English canons mounted on Hawaiian lava sleds known as hōlua. Kamehameha often is remembered as a warrior but the islands ultimately were united simply by warfare, but by diplomacy and marriage. King Kaumuali’i ceded Kaua’i twice to Kamehameha (1810 and 1816) and he would eventually enter into a conjugal union with Ka’ahumanu I.
We also know that Kings Kaumuali’i and King Kalaniopu’u also had their own foreign advisors. We know more about Kamehameha’s advisers because Kamehameha ultimately won the war and specifically we know a great deal about John Young and Isaac Davis. We know about Davis and Young because they married ranking Hawaiian ali’i women and their hapa descendants would be history makers in their own right such as Queen Emma. But there were others. There was Francisco de Paula Marin, who served primarily as an agricultural advisor to King Kamehameha. We also know that Kamehameha’s court included at least 8 Japanese who had been shipwrecked in 1806 and served the king. We also know that by 1790 there were also a few Chinese who had originally served under Kalaniopu’u (hence why they left on O’ahu) but then ended up serving under Kamehameha the Great after the later was defeated. They probably were other nationalities who had also served under Kamehameha such as Mexicans and South Americans who were part of the Spanish Empire at that time and hence the Hawaiian name “Paniolo” (likely from the words “La Española” and Español) for cowboy. But as our history books privileges English language primary sources, especially those written by American writers, in Hawaiian history, we don’t know a lot about these other peoples. But the roots of the multi-ethnic society that Hawai’i enjoys today goes back to Kamehameha’s times.
I also would add that Kamehameha also ensured that the foreign advisors and teachers knew their place and respected both Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture–which is different from what happened later on in the 19th century when a few foreign advisers (and their grandchildren) would eventually impose their own culture, poltiical system, legal system, etc.

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