Order of Kalākaua at the Istana Besar, Malaysia

This is from the collection of the Sultan of Johor and is kept at the Royal Abu Bakar Museum within the Istana Besar complex in Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia. The blue medals in the corner of the pictures are breast star and sash star of the the Knights Grand Cross of Royal Order of Kalākaua I.

King Kalākaua I had visited Singapore and Malaysia during his world tour in 1881. He had met with Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor (then known as Maharajah Abu Bakar of Johore) and awarded him the Order of Kalākaua in the same year. Sultan Abu Bakar described the meeting as a meeting “long lost brothers” as Malays and Polynesians were known to be related.

King Kalākaua was awarded Dato’ Sri Paduka Mahkota Johor class of the Darjah Mahkota Johor Yang Amat Mulia (Order of the Crown of Johor) by Sultan Abu Bakar in 1887. That particular medal from Johor used to be hung on the walls of the Throne Room of ʻIolani Palace along with other orders and decorations but today remains missing as the medals were all sold off when the Monarchy was deposed in a coup in 1893 by a minority of the foreign population with the help of the United States.

The exchange of medals and decorations from monarchs was seen in that era as a sign of friendship and recognition.

Image result for orders royal abu bakar museum

King Kalākaua, Pacific Self-Determination and Walter Gibson

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This is one of several protests sent by King Kalākauaʻs Foreign Minister, W. M. Gibson, to Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States throughout the 1880s. This specific protest was against the “Declaration between the Governments of Great Britain and the German Empire relating to the Demarcation of the British and German Spheres of Influence in the Western Pacific” of April 6, 1886. This declaration divided the Pacific between the Germans and the British paving the way for the political divide of Samoa, Micronesia, and Papua-New Guinea while recognizing the existing Dutch colonies of the East Indies (Indonesia) and West Papua, the French occupied Polynesia, and the Spanish colonies of the Philippines and the Marianas.

What is important about this protest is that it articulates for the first time that all peoples of the Pacific have the right to self determination. Itʻs the first time that the words “self-determination” was used in the context of the Pacific and it justified that Hawaiian independence had already showed that Pacific peoples, whether they were Javanese or Gilbertese or Samoans, were capable of establishing for themselves a “civilized government without foreign interference”. This type of protest began in 1883 and was repeatedly sent out to various European and American governments for several years. One may not today think much of this, but at the time, for a Pacific Island country to be protesting on behalf of other Pacific peoples, it was seen by particularly the US, the UK and Germany as almost revolutionary. The protests also made it clear that the annexations of nations in the Pacific was being made without the consent of the governed and that the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom considered itself the chief advocate of Polynesian self-determination. It also believed that Polynesia was from Easter Island to Malaya. This helps to explain one of the motivation for the 1887 constitution and the 1893 coup–Hawaiian independence and the Monarchyʻs stance against colonialism highlighted the struggle of other Pacific Island nations.

The King and Urban Planning in Honolulu

I’ve been doing research on Honolulu urban planning and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been looking at the histories of Queen Square, Thomas Square, Queen Kapi’olani Park and other historical sites in Metropolitan Honolulu. Thomas Square was officially the first public park on O’ahu and was declared a national historical site by Kamehameha III. But urban planning was pretty much left to its own devices after Honolulu became the new royal capital in 1845 (or two years after the British take-over) except for some renaming of streets. For example, in 1850, Beretania (the Hawaiian transliteration of “Britania”) was renamed to Kamehameha St. Under Kamehameha V, it was renamed Kamehameha III Avenue. He found it to be a matter of poetic justice to rename “Beretania” in honor Kamehameha III who had so much difficulty with the British. Lunalilo upon his elections renamed the street back to Beretania where it has remained known today. 

King Kalākaua upon his election to the throne had dreamed a new Honolulu and one of his ambitions was to break up the ethnic ghettos. He disliked that Americans lived in one district (usually Manoa), the British in another (usually Nu’uanu), the Chinese in another and Hawaiians and everywhere else. The king believed that purely ethnic neighbors–he saw them as “reservations”– would be dangerous to long term national stability. The Homestead Act that was passed in 1886 allowed to King to use the Crownlands resettle both Hawaiians and indigent Asian populations and essentially allowed him to shift district populations. Chinese It was also around that time that a Parks Commission with John Bush, Archibald Clerghorn, and Robert Stirling was created under the Department of the Interior where Honolulu, Lahaina, Waimea (Kaua’i), and Kailua-Kona would have a series of public city parks and public nurseries where people could buy seedlings from edible plants from all over the world. In addition, the king had planed to remodel Honolulu to look less like Liverpool or San Francisco but more of its own unique Pacific identity. The king had plans to call in architects from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Italy, and Japan to help with a new city commission. The king also wanted to introduce replica of the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui of Tonga to mark his hope of a Polynesian confederation of nations. 

Unfortunately for Honolulu, the king’s ideas were stopped with Bayonet Constitution and with the restrictions of the national budget. In addition, it was clear to the American business community that the King was trying to dramatically re-orient Hawai’i policy-wise and psychologically away from the US and into Asia and Europe. That was probably true. By a 1876 law sponsored by Walter Murray Gibson, the Hawaiian Kingdom was an “Asiatic” and “Oceanic”, country that held the “Primacy of the Pacific” (primacy meaning first among equals not supremacy) among Polynesian nations and peoples. By the same law, Hawai’i was duty-bound to help other Asia-Pacific nations retain or regain their independence. The king emphasized this with his world tour in 1881 and upon his return wanted to showcase this national policy starting with its capital. 
The king understood the power that architecture and art had psychologically to a people and his shifting his policies could be dramatically emphasized in buildings and parks. Hale ʻĀkala, the pink Bengali and Moroccan private residence behind the newly built ‘Iolani Palace was once such example. ‘Iolani Palace itself with its Hawaiian motifs intertwined Italian, Chinese, and Greek architectural elements was another. 

Thomas Square, famous for its connection to “Restoration Day”, was also another project of the king. For more than thirty years, the park was neglected until the King appointed a Parks Commission which included John E. Bush and Archibald Cleghorn, father of Princess Ka’iulani, to rejuvenate the park. One of the things that the Parks Commission did was improve the layout of the park (which is where the Union Jack shape of its side walks), bring in water irrigation, build a bandstand, and plant palms and trees mostly from other  countries including from Indonesia as a tribute to the nations that Hawai’i had fraternal ties to. The park was well known for its durian trees planted by Archibald Cleghorn. The park’s southern banyan trees are descendants of Princess Ka’iulani’s famed banyan tree and may have been planted by the Princess and/or her father in 1887 according to Privay Council Acts 6, 7, 8, and 9 of April 1887. The Department of the Interior would later chastise Cleghorn and others for excessive use of funds. The “Union Jack” shape of the park, the water system, and the banyan trees are the few memories of that time that still remain. 

Even today, when you hear the words “the Hawaiian Kingdom” people normally instantly associate images of ‘Iolani Palace, the Kamehameha Statue, etc—all things built under the reign of Kalākaua–in their minds. Emphasizing power and memory are some of the powers that architecture holds But that was also one of the reasons why many in the American business community hated the king so passionately. He threatened the cultural, political, and economic hegemony that the US held over the Hawaiian Kingdom for over half a century with his form of “Iwikauikaua Nationalism”:  anti-colonialism; volunteerism, equality among peoples and genders; Hawaiian nationalism and internationalism This was notably expressed in the king’s urban planning ideas. 

Pre-Cook Foreigners in Hawai’i

In King Kalakaua’s Legends and Myths of Hawai’i, he devotes a several passages and an entire chapter (“The Iron Knife”) about possible foreigners who had visited or lived in Hawai’i before the arrival of Captain Cook.  The late king lists, for example, oral traditions recounting foreigners–Japanese and Spanish–who were shipwrecked in Hawai’i. Although this does not constitute “discovery” in the traditional sense–after all Hawai’i had been populated for more than a thousand years prior to those events and it was only under Captain Cook that the Hawaiian Islands became known to the world–the king had good reasons for believing in the possibility that those traditions might be true.  Japanese junks periodically did get shipwrecked in Hawai’i on their way to the Philippines and the island of Java. The king’s childhood friend, Denzo (伝蔵), was among five brothers and survivors of a Japanese fishing junk that was hit by a typhoon somewhere near Okinawa and ended up shipwrecked on Kaua’i in 1841. Denzo eventually moved to Honolulu  where he eventually became friends with a young David La’amea Kalakaua. Denzo’s friendship with the young Kalakaua would later influence the king’s very favorable views about the Japanese and to which Emperor Meiji would help to cultivate. Denzo would eventually adopt a Hawaiian name, marry a Hawaiian woman, and though never returning to Japan while his oldest brother . 
The Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century had for many years issued “red seal” permits allowing Japanese to trade directly with Java, the Philippines, Thailand and Mexico. Japanese traders and diplomats were known to have also traveled on Spanish Galleon ships that crisscrossed the Pacific including the famous Christopher and Cosmas, Tanaka Shosuke, and Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga in that same time period. So the Japanese had experienced trans-Pacific voyages and there were Japanese traders all over the Pacific during that early time period. That began to change slowly as the Tokugawa began to experience problems with Christian converts and Portuguese and Spanish priests until the Tokugawa finally began to issue the Sakoku (鎖国) laws forbading Japanese subjects to have direct contact or trade with the outside world because of those issues. The Tokugawa eventually permitted the Dutch to trade directly with Japan through a special leased port. The Tokugawa also allowed Japanese to trade with the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) which Japan considered their king a vassal of the feudal lords of Satsuma who in turn were vassals of the Tokugawa though China, Thailand, and other Asian kingdoms consider the Ryukyu Kingdom as independent. Thus, with Japan closing itself to the outside world it created a illicit but profitable black market for foreign goods and spices to which Japanese adventurers and traders were happy to tap into. These traders would use ambiguous political status of Okinawa as a base of such operations. So despite the Tokugawa ban and the possibility of death, there was a lot of trade activity occurring in southern Japan and Okinawa. Okinawa, like Taiwan and the Philippines, lies in the Western Pacific Typhoon Zone making situations where traders might get lost due to a typhoon and be swept by strong trade winds to Micronesia or to Hawai’i–as what happened to Denzo–not so remote.  It is therefore possible that Japanese or other Asian traders could have reached Hawai’i by accident, been shipwrecked, and survived as Denzo and his five siblings had. 

Spanish/Portuguese Morion Helmet of the 16th Century
Hawaiian mahi’ole or feather helmet from the late 18th century

Kalakaua: An International Perspective

Reposting this important article from the Journal of the Hawai’i Historical Society

King Kalakaua in Japan, 1881

King Kalakaua: An International Perspective

NIKLAUS R. SCHWEIZER, former Swiss Consul to Hawai’i 

This year marks the 100th year of the death in San Francisco, on January 20, 1891, of David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last king.

T H E KING KALAKAUA JUBILEE Centennial Celebration, organized by the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace in November of 1986, presented an opportunity to reassess the achievements of this seventh monarch of the Hawaiian Islands. For an entire week, from November 9 until November 16, the most impressive events staged 100 years earlier were reenacted, such as the firemen’s torchlight parade, the first public illumination of the Palace with electric lights, the royal ball, the military drill, the grand lu’au. Nothing of importance was omitted, and when on the last day the traditional 21-gun salute reserved for a head of state thundered across the palace grounds, those who had the good fortune to be present witnessed a scene they would not easily forget.

Kalakaua, of course, did not always enjoy such popularity.

Most historians present this sovereign, who was born in 1836 and who reigned from 1874 until his death in 1891 as a fairly controversial figure. They generally leave us with the impression of an unpredictable leader and lighthearted spendthrift who, above all, liked parties, drank inordinate amounts of champagne, and most certainly deserved the epithet of “the Merry Monarch.” A good part of this criticism is the legacy of Kalakaua’s enemies, who in 1887 imposed the “Bayonet Constitution” upon him and in early 1893 proceeded to detrone his sister Lili’uokalani.

In recent years, attempts have been made to evaluate Kalakaua and other leading Hawaiian figures in a more sympathetic vein. In addition, the long-neglected Native point of view is now reinterpreting the colonial experience in the strongly accentuated theses, articles, and speeches delivered by young Hawaiians like Haunani-Kay Trask, Mililani Trask, and Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa

While not everyone applauds this trend, it nevertheless constitutes an important part of a process which is as necessary as it is inevitable and which ultimately will enrich our understanding of these Islands and their fascinating history. A central aspect of Kalakaua’s reign has so far not been given the attention it deserves, however, and that is his foreign policy. It is precisely from a closer examination of his respective efforts that we gain important insights into the character and the goals of a king who shaped the future of his realm to a greater extent than is generally recognized.

When High Chief David La ‘ amea Kamanakapu’u Mahinulani Naloia’ehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua ascended the throne on February 12, 1874, the outlook for his small kingdom located in the central Pacific was not particularly propitious. The second age of colonialism, dominated by England and France and influenced towards the end of the 19th century by the German Empire and the United States, cast a growing shadow onto the world’s largest ocean. To the southwest of Hawa i ‘ i, Fiji had shortly before
yielded her sovereignty to Great Britain, while Samoa barely held her own. In 1880, the king of Samoa would have to submit to the collective wisdom of a council formed by the consuls of England, Germany, and the United States; and in 1900, his archipelago would be carved up by the latter two, while London would be given carte blanche in the Solomons and Tonga. The Tongan sovereign, Tupou I, would manage to cling to his throne but would also have to consider foreign “advice,” in his case the guidance of a British agent and consul with headquarters conveniently located next to the royal palace. As to Australia and New Zealand, they had been British colonies from the beginning of British exploration.

To the south, Kalakaua and his advisors were confronted with the tragedy of the valiant Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti, who in 1843 had been obliged to submit to a French protectorate, nothwithstanding strong Native opposition against the intruders. In 1874, she was still the sovereign, nominally at least, but, just as in Tonga, a foreign governor, French in this case, resided next door. In 1880, her son Pomare V would ignominously sign his kingdom over to Paris as a co-called “gift.”

To the northwest, the ancient Empire of Japan had been “opened” in 1853 by Commodore Matthew Perry and his “black ships,” and the even older Empire of China was under great pressure to grant trading concessions to an assortment of Western nations including Germany and the United States. To the north, the icy wastes of Alaska, known also as Russian America, had been purchased in 1867 by Washington from Tsar Alexander II.

To the northeast, the United States, having overcome the ravages of the Civil War, oscillated between a policy of expansionism advocated by the Republican Party and one of self-restraint championed by the Democrats.

Far-reaching minds were discussing the feasibility of digging a canal through the isthmus of Nicaragua. They reasoned that such a waterway, built in a similar manner to Ferdinand de Lesseps’ Suez Canal, which had opened in 1869, would enable Washington to guard the Pacific as well as the Atlantic coasts with only one fleet instead of two. In such a case, control of the Hawaiian Islands would help to defend the western approaches to the envisioned canal. The international situation was, therefore, not promising. To make matters worse, the dubious notion that might makes right had of late received a strong if unintended impulse from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). This work, which at first glance appeared to be limited to the fields of biology and geology, was swifty applied by social scientists to politics as the doctrine of “the survival of the fittest.”

At home in Hawai’i there was not much cause for optimism, either. It was true that the Hawaiians still represented the majority of the population, and it was equally true that they were deeply loyal to the throne, regardless of the fact that many would have preferred the unhesitatingly pro-British attitude displayed by Emma, the dowager queen, to Kalakaua’s friendly overtures towards Washington. The mortality rate of the Native people exceeded the birth rate with depressing regularity, however, and the small but vigorous Caucasian population kept growing just as steadily as the Native ranks were thinning. Prominent among the Caucasians were the children of the missionaries. Their parents had undertaken the dangerous voyage to the Islands, inspired by noble dreams of doing God’s work in a remote land. They had displayed much courage and resolve, but they had also been driven by convictions which elsewhere were considered rather excessive. They cherished their Calvinist faith and thus occupied a position not far removed from the radical fringes of Protestantism. As the lineal descendants of those Puritans, who in 17th century England had executed the unfortunate Charles I and had established a short-lived republic, they were by nature opposed to pomp and circumstance in general and monarchy in particular, unless it served their own purposes. They had a tendency to be self-righteous, and, in accordance with their Calvinist creed, money played a considerable role, because in a curiously roundabout way the possession of wealth was supposed to prove that a man was reckoned by God among the saved and would thus be spared everlasting damnation. As a matter of course, they did not much value the cultural achievements of indigenous peoples.

It was difficult for Hawaiians to forget various threats to their autonomy. In 1854, for example, missionary advisors had suggested to a hard-pressed Kamehameha III, who had seen his country’s independence challenged first by Great Britain, then by France, and finally by the possible arrivals of filibusters from California, that as a last resort he could cede his realm to the United States. It was still harder to ignore the fact that many missionary families had kept American flags at the ready to be hoisted immediately over their houses, should the King have followed this advice. There resided more moderate Caucasians in Hawai’i, notably leading British and German citizens, as well as a number of Americans, but the Hawaiian patriots could hardly be blamed if they remained skeptical. Even earlier, in 1815, Georg Anton Schaffer of the Russian America Company had tried to first take over O’ ahu, and a year later Kaua ‘i and Ni’ihau. In 1843, Lord George Paulet had hoisted the Union Jack over the Islands, and it had flown for half a year. There followed several threatening appearances of French men-of-war, culminating in the so-called “War of the Calabashes” of 1847 when Admiral Legoarant de Tromelin fired the guns of the Poursuivante at the fort of Honolulu.

By the year of Kalakaua’s accession, these dangers of dominance had been overcome, however, and the new king was not willing to give in to the demands of some other power now. Thus, he set about to fashion his policies which essentially rested on three pillars: one, in order to placate the restless Caucasians who at that time were mostly interested in securing their struggling sugar plantations and related ventures, the King supported long-standing efforts to conclude a reciprocity treaty with the United States, the nearest market for the Kingdom’s exports; two, since close economic cooperation with a great state inherently carried the risk of political domination, Kalakaua at the same time set out to pursue a foreign policy designed to emphasize the status of Hawai’i as a fully independent nation; three, the King took measures to strengthen the viability of his own people and to support their rich heritage. He established the policy of ho’oulu i ka lahui, to make the nation grow, and initiated a revival of the hula, “the life-blood of his people,” as he called it.

Ultimately, Kalakaua’s actions can be understood in the light of these three principles. Although they were never officially formulated in any one particular government document or master plan, they were apparent in the strategies pursued, and little time was lost in implementing them.

In 1874, Kalakaua personally went to Washington, D . C ., and became the first head of state of any foreign nation to address a joint session of Congress. He successfully concluded the negotiations for the reciprocity treaty which eventually was ratified by both Hawai’i and the U. S. When the treaty became effective, it brought huge profits to the planters and to business in general. Kalakaua also stepped up the diplomatic and consular presence of his nation. By 1892, the monarchy maintained no fewer than 93 legations, consulates general, and consulates, a network which spanned the globe. In Great Britain alone, there were a legation and 13 consulates from Liverpool to Edinburgh. In the United States, there was the legation in Washington, D . C ., and there were eight consulates reaching from coast to coast. In the German empire, the Hawaiian colors were displayed in five cities. There was a consul in Vienna and one in Rome, and a Hawaiian consul even resided in Pape’ete, the capital of Tahiti. Most of these positions were honorary, but that was the general custom in those days, and the extent of Hawai’i’s presence abroad in any case was noteworthy.

In close conjunction with these diplomatic measures, the requirements of protocol and international etiquette were strictly observed in Honolulu. The King, the Queen, and the national flag were accorded a 21-gun salute, an ambassador extraordinary and plentipotentiary rated 19 guns, a governor or high commissioner 17, an admiral of the fleet 15, a minister resident 13, a charge d’affaires 11, a consul general nine, and a consul seven.

On the educational plane, a “studies abroad program,” as it would be called today, was designed to ensure a pool of gifted and highly schooled Hawaiians who would enable the government to fill important positions in the foreign ministry and other governmental branches. As Agnes Quigg states in “Kalakaua’s Hawaiian Studies Abroad Program,” a group of 17 promising young men and one young woman were sent on government funds to the four corners of the world: five to Italy, four to the U . S ., three to England, three to Scotland, two to J a p a n, and one to China. Several other students went abroad on funds of their own.

Royalty was not spared the pangs of homesickness and the challenges that had to be faced in foreign lands. Princess Ka’iulani, expected to become the next heir to the crown after Lili’uokalani, left the Islands for Great Britain to receive the education deemed necessary for a sovereign destined to reign in the 20th century. The three princes, David Kawananakoa, Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, and Edward Keli’iahonui, who ranked directly after Ka’iulani in the line of succession, attended a private school in San Mateo, California.

Kalakaua himself decided to see the world firsthand and circumnavigated the globe in 1881, a feat never before achieved by any ruling monarch in history. This unique royal progress added greatly to the prestige of the small mid-Pacific nation, notwithstanding the fact that it was carried out with a minimum of means. The King was accompanied by two officials and one valet. Kalakaua’s erudition, his excellent command of English, and his charm left a lasting impression in many places. He is still remembered in Vienna and in Berlin, and it was while he was traveling in the German empire that he was presented with a resplendent Schellenbaum, an ornamental instrument characterized by a boom.

Other missions on the highest level followed. In the spring of 1883, Kalakaua was invited by Tsar Alexander III of Russia to send an envoy to his coronation. This interesting invitation came about as a direct consequence of Kalakaua’s own coronation on February 12 of the same year, which had attracted international attention. The Hawaiian sovereign dispatched Colonel Curtis Pi’ehu I’aukea as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Moscow and St. Petersburg. I’aukea, who was not yet 28 years old, had at his disposal the services of a single secretary, part-Hawaiian Henry Poor. The United States, on the other hand, dispatched a warship to accomodate the large American delegation headed by Minister William Henry Hunt.

Notwithstanding the miniscule size of his party, I’aukea made a most favorable impression with the potentates of Europe and the brilliant society gathered at the Kremlin. He was received by the tsar and tsarina, met with a great number of dignitaries, and conversed no fewer than five times with Count Nikholai Karlovich von Giers, Russia’s foreign minister. Deeply moved by the importance of the mission entrusted to him, I’aukea later wrote of his first evening in Moscow that “the sight of my country’s flag floating over the entrance to the Hotel Duseaux besides those of the United States and Japan, gave me an added incentive to meet the responsibilities that lay ahead and discharge them with honor.”

From Russia, I’aukea traveled to Berlin, Vienna, Belgrade, London, Rome, and then by way of the Suez Canal to India and Japan. There he was received by Emperor Meiji and proved instrumental in the plans that established full scale immigration from Japan to Hawai’i after an initial attempt in 1868 had ended in failure.

In 1887, Queen Kapi’olani and Crown Princess Lili’uokalani attended Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in London, the capital of what then was the most powerful nation in the world.

In the meantime, on January, 1882, Hawai’i had joined the World Postal Union, one of the first truly international organizations. The Union had been established in Berne, Switzerland, in 1874, the year of the King’s accession. Kalakaua, who once had served as Hawai’i’s postmaster general, understood the importance of worldwide cooperation, and thus Hawai’i became an early member of this global institution. In addition to the increased prestige which membership conferred upon the Kingdom, the practical benefits were lower postal rates and unimpeded service to Europe.

No effort was spared to place the independence of Hawai’i on a solid basis. All governments occasionally make mistakes and commit blunders, and Kalakaua’s administration was no exception. Walter Murray Gibson, premier from 1882 until 1887, came under particularly heavy attack by his opponents, the sugar planters, lawyers, and businessmen led by the sons and grandsons of the Calvinist missionaries. A complex personality, he was a dreamer and a visionary pursuing goals which were not entirely free from self-interest. He was eminently practical as well, contributing in substantial ways to the welfare of the Kingdom and in particular the indigenous Hawaiians. Recent reassessments of this controversial figure, to whom we owe ‘Iolani Palace and the statue of Kamehameha I, have rebalanced his legacy which was erased by his opponents.

Gibson’s greatest mistake, which led to his downfall in 1887, was the attempt to forge an alliance of the Polynesian archipelagos which had eluded outright colonization, an effort culminating in the deployment of the Kaimiloa, the only vessel of the short-lived navy of Kalakaua. In 1887, Gibson’s grand scheme ended in a hasty retreat. The debacle embarrassed the King and triggered the rebellion on the part of the Caucasian opposition who imposed a new constitution at gunpoint, which quickly came to be known as the “Bayonet Constitution.” The mercurial premier and foreign minister was unceremoniously dismissed and banished from Hawai’i. He was lucky to escape alive.

One hundred years later, the political climate presents itself in a very different light, however. Regional cooperation has become the order of the day, and what was once considered an act of extreme recklessness suggests now statesmanship and foresight. It is interesting to note that King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga has recently revived Gibson’s idea in a modified form on a strictly economic and cultural plane. The last Polynesian sovereign envisions a Polynesian Economic and Cultural Community which would embrace not only independent states, but would also recognize those islanders whose territories belong to metropolitan Western nations, such as the inhabitants of French Polynesia, the Maori of New Zealand, and the Hawaiians. It shall be interesting to see whether anything concrete will emerge from the plan advanced by the King of Tonga.

In any case, it was symptomatic of the state of affairs in the second half of the 19th century  th at Kalakaua’s achievements were more readily noticed by temporary residents and visitors from Europe than by the local Caucasian establishment. For example, Marie Gabriel Bosseront d ‘Anglade, first secretary in the French legation from 1889 to 1892, described the severely restricted role to which Kalakaua had been reduced by the ” Bayonet Constitution “:

Despite his precarious mandate and legacy, Kalakaua remains a most outstanding example of the kind of devotion a sovereign can present to his people. He was sincere, he realized the impossibility of restraining the revolutionary process, he comprehended the larger interests at work, and then he submitted with good grace. Identifying immediately with the new political situation, however painful to him, he became the most proficient of constitutional kings. He presided at the opening of the legislature and read his speeches from the throne. In solemn audience he received foreign diplomats and representatives. He officiated at endless ceremonies etc.

Frederich Richter, the first pastor (1833-1887) of the German Lutheran Church at L i h u ‘ e, on Kaua ‘i, happened to be in Honolulu on October 29, 1881, when Kalakaua returned from his voyage around the world. In his rare diary entitled In feme Welt, Richter described vividly and with admiration the jubilation and the pomp and circumstance with which the home coming of the King on October 29, 1881 was greet ed by his people:

Um 2 Urh ertonte plotzlich Kanonendonner von Punchbowl und ein endloses Pfeifen vom Hafen her. Eine Fahne nach der andern flog hoch, und im Nuwufite man uberall, dafi der erst morgen oder ubermorgen erwartete Steamer von San Francisco schonjetzt ankam, und dafi der Konig an Bord war. Ichging hinunter, um den Einzug anzusehen. Auf den Strafien jagten in wilder Hast Wagen und Reiter in Uniform und Zivil hin und her und erregten einen entsetzlichen Staub. Alles drangte dem Landungsplatze und den von dort nach dem Palaste fuhrenden Strafien zu, die in wirklich uberraschendem Schmucke prangten. Ein gru’ner Ehrenbogen reihte sich an den andern, Fahnen und Guirlanden in den Landesfarben und mit hawaiischen, englischen and chinesischen Bewillkommnungsschriften zogen sich in reicher Fu’lle an den Hausern entlang und uber die Strafiven weg. Besonders phantastisch und schon waren die chinesischen Baldachine, die sich an zwei Kreuzungspunkten der Strafien im Quadrat iiber den ganzen Strafienknoten spannten, iiber und iiber beladen mit wortbedecktem chinesischen Flitter, Lampions etc. in gluhenden Farben. . . . Endlich war der Zug geordnet und setzte sich in Bewegung. Der Musik-Kapelle folgte das Militar, zwei Kompagnien Infanterie in ihren neuen preu ischen Uniformen, die eine mit roten, die andere mit blauen Federbuschen, und eine Schwadron blauer Dragoner, alles Eingeborne, von denen sich besonder die Dragoner auf ihren prdchtigen Gaulen recht stattlich ausnahmen, wenn auch die Haltung viel zu wunschen ubrig liefi. Dann kem der Konig selbst in einem prdchtigen Wagen, begleitet von den Hofchargen in godbetrefiter Uniform zu Pferde und uberall mitfreudigem Zuruf empfangen. Er trug einen dunklen Anzug und schwarzen Zylinder und sieht in seinem schwarzen Vollbart sehr gut aus. Es folgte wieder Musik, und dann die verschiedenen Schulen und Korporationen, Feuerwehr, etc. in Uniform oder reich bekranzt und mit zahlreichen Fagnen und sonstigen Emblemen. 

At 2 o’clock there suddenly resounded the thunder of cannons from Punchbowl and an endless whistling emerged from the harbor. One flag after the other shot up and in no time it was known everywhere that the steamer from San Francisco, expected only tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, was arriving already now, and that the King was abroad. I went down there to observe the entry. In the streets carriages and horsemen in uniform and civilian dress were rushing to and fro and created an awful dust.
Everyone pushed towards the landing place and towards the streets leading from there to the Palace, which were decorated in a truly magnificent way. One green triumphal arch after the other had been erected; flags and garlands in the national colors and with messages of welcome in Hawaiian, English, and Chinese were strung in rich profusion along the houses and across the streets.
Particularly fantastic and beautiful were the Chinese canopies extending above two intersections in a quadrangle across the entire square, covered completely with Chinese tinsel bearing inscriptions, lanterns etc. in glowing colors. . . . At long last the procession was organized and began to move. The band was followed by the military, two companies of infantry in their new Prussian uniforms, the one with red, the other with blue feather bushes, and a squadron of blue dragoons, all natives, among whom particularly the dragoons on their superb mounts looked rather imposing, even though their posture left much to be desired. Then came the King himself in a magnificent carriage, accompanied by courtiers on horseback in gold-embroidered uniforms, and everywhere received with joyous shouts. He wore a dark suit and a black top-hat and he looked very well with his black beard. There followed again a band, and then the various schools, associations and societies, the fire brigade, etc. in uniforms or richly bedecked with wreaths and carrying innumerable flags and other emblems.

If one takes a wider view of Kalakaua’s endeavors and achievements, it becomes increasingly clear that this Hawaiian monarch was more far-sighted than is usually granted. Hawai’i under his leaderhsip brought about a measure of good will around the globe that was without precedent. Kalakaua and his people enjoyed the friendship of Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander I I I, the emperor of Germany, and even the sympathy of Japan, that mysterious Asian nation which in consequence of Perry’s “black ships” created modern industry and built a formidable army and navy.

With a time lag of some 30 years, the wave of decolonization, which had engulfed first Asia in the late 1940s and 1950s, and then Africa in the late 1950s and the 1960s, finally reached the Pacific. Ripples of this epochal pnemonenon are now being felt even in Ko Hawai’i Pae ‘Aina, ” The Hawaiian Archipelago,” a poetic way of referring to the Islands frequently used in the indigenous language. As Hawaiians are reasserting their right to autonomy after having gone the colonization route for a hundred years, Kalakaua’s attempts to maintain his political and cultural sovereignty in the face of the highwater mark of the colonial tide serves them as a powerful inspiration.


1 Historians have frequently drawn from:
William D. Alexander, History of the Later Years of the Hawaiian Monarchy and Revolution of 1893 (Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette, 1896);  Lucien Young, The Boston at Hawaii, or The Observations and Impressions of a Naval Officer . . . (Washington, D. C .: Gibson Brothers, 1898), a work expanded into The Real Hawaii: Its History and Present Condition (1899. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1970);  John Leavitt Stevens and W. B. Olson, Riches and Marvels of Hawaii: A Charming Description of Her Unique History . . . (Philadelphia: Edgewood Publishing, 1900); Sanford Ballard Dole, Memories of the Hawaiian Revolution (Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing, 1936); and Lorrin Thurston, Memories of the Hawaiian Revolution (Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing, 1936).
But there are other works:
See Albertine Loomis, For Whom Are the Stars? Revolution and Counterrevolution in Hawaii, 1893-1895 (Honolulu: U P of Hawaii and Friends of the Library of Hawaii, 1976); Helena G. Allen, The Betrayal of Liliuokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii 1838-1917 (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1982); John Dominis Holt, On Being Hawaiian (Honolulu: Topgallant, 1974); George Hu ‘ eu Kanahele, Pauahi: The Kamehameha Legacy (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools, 1986); Pauline Nawahineokalai King, The Legacy of Prince Kuhio: Aloha, Aloha Kamaaina (Honolulu: Alu Like, 1979).

See Haunani-Kay Trask, “Colonization and De-Colonization in Hawa i ‘ i ,” in Class and Culture in the South Pacific, ed. Antony Hooper (Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, U South Pacific, 1987) 154-74; Haunani-Kay Trask, ” The Birth of the Modern Hawaiian Movement: Kalama Valley, O’ a h u, HJH 21 (1987): 126-53; Haunani-Kay Trask, “Hawaiians, American Colonization, and the Quest for Independence,” Social Process in Hawaii 31 (1984-85): 101-37; Lilikala Dorton [Kame’eleihiwa], “He Mo’olelo Ka’au 0 Kamapua’a: A Legendary Tradition of Kama p u a ‘ a, the Hawaiian Pig God,” master’s thesis, U of Hawaii Manoa, 1982; Lilikala Dorton [Kame’eleihiwa], “Land and the Promise of Capitalism: A Dilemma for the Hawaiian Chiefs of the 1848 Mahele,” diss., U Hawaii Manoa, 1986. Carl Schurz, “Manifest Destiny,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (European Edition), October 1893.

2. Winston Churchill wrote of the original pilgrims on the Mayflower: “as one of their number records, ‘The place they had thoughts on was some of the vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for habitation; being devoid of all civil inhabitants; where there are only savage and brutish men, which range up and down little otherwise than the wild beasts of the same’ “: A History of the English Speaking Peoples, 4 vols. (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1956) 2:167.

3. Ethel Mosely Damon, for example, wrote: ” It was during the middle years of 1850 that the little Malumalu colony kept a silk flag of stars and stripes ready in case the news of annexation to the United States should be suddenly announced by word from abroad. The patriotic ladies of Lihue had made the flag themselves, Mr s. Reynolds, Mrs. Marshall and Mr s. Rice, and held it ever in readiness against such a happy emergency. To those who lived through the thrills of actual annexation at the end of the century, 1853 and 1854 seem remote dates indeed for such excitement to have been at white heat. But so it was.” Damon, Koamalu, A Story of Pioneers on Kauai and of What They Built in That Island Garden, 2 vols. (Honolulu: privately printed, 1931) 1:441.

Kingmakers: The Coronation of King Kalakaua

In many textbooks and books it is often said that King Kalakaua crowned himself in the style of Napoleon. That is to say that he placed the Crown on his own head. The following illustration from the Illustrated London Daily News from Kristen Zambucka’s book, Kalakaua: Hawai’i’s Last King, elegantly depicts that occasion.
File:Kalakaua's Coronation from Illustrated London Daily News, 1883.jpg
Ralph Kuykendall’s work, The Hawaiian Kingdom Volume III, says the following:

The ceremony began about eleven o’clock in the morning. The official procession moved from the palace into the pavilion as the choir sang the hymn, “Almighty Father, Hear! The Isles do Wait on Thee.” The marshal of the kingdom declared Kalakaua’s accession to the throne, his style and titles, after which the Puloulou, Palaoa, and Kahili were presented to the king by the Princess Poomaikelani, sister of Queen Kapiolani. The chancellor, Chief Justice A. F. Judd, then administered the oath to the king, and placed in his hands the Sword of State, “Ensign of Justice and Mercy.” The chancellor received from Princess Kekaulike the Royal Mantle and placed it on the king’s shoulders “as the Ensign of Knowledge and Wisdom”; he placed the Ring, “Ensign of Kingly Dignity,” on the fourth finger of Kalakaua’s right hand, and delivered to him the Sceptre, “Ensign of Kingly Power and Justice.” The supreme moment had now come. Prince Kawananakoa advanced with the Crowns while the choir sang, “Almighty Father! We Do Bring Gold and Gems for the King.” President Godfrey Rhodes of the Legislative Assembly took the king’s crown, raised it up before the people, and handed it to the chancellor who in turn handed it to the king, saying, “Receive this Crown of pure gold to adorn the high station wherein thou hast been placed.” The king lifted the Crown and placed it on his head. The second Crown was handed to the king and he placed it on the queen’s head, saying, “I place this Crown upon your head, to share the honors of my throne.” As the royal couple knelt, the household chaplain, the Reverend Alexander Mackintosh, offered a prayer. The royal couple resumed their seats; a salvo of guns was fired from the battery on shore and from the warships in the harbor; the choir sang the anthem, “Cry Out O Isles with Joy!” The ceremony was over; the royal party returned to the palace as the Royal Hawaiian Band played Meyerbeer’s ‘Coronation March.’ (263)

A cursory look at various websites repeats the following:

Kalakaua’s coronation

Impressed with court ritual he witnessed on his 1881 world tour, King Kalakaua wished to imbue his own reign with a similar ceremonial presence. On the ninth anniversary of his election to the throne, he staged a coronation in front of the recently-completed ‘Iolani Palace. With no one of higher rank present in the Islands, Kalakaua placed a jeweled crown on his own head, then crowned his queen, Kapi’olani. In addition to assuming other Western-style insignia of the monarchy – a sword, ring and scepter – Kalakaua was presented with traditional items belonging to ruling Hawaiian chiefs: the feather cloak of Kamehameha I, the kahili (standard) of Pili, and the pulo’ulo’u (kapu stick) and lei palaoa (whale tooth pendant) of his ali’i ancestors.

But is this accurate? According to the coronation planners, it may not have been. The person who was put in charge of the overall coronation ceremony was the then Crown Princess Lili’uokalani who then created a committee which included Curtis ‘Iaukea, Princess Po’omaikelani, Princess Kekaulike, and Minister John Kapena. During the coronation itself, Minister John Kapena escorted several members of the Japanese Imperial Household Department who were sent as personal envoys of the Emperor to attend the coronation of his “dear friend”. As an interesting side note, the Japanese Emperor also asked if the Hawaiian ambassador in Tokyo who was actually an American, be replaced with a Native Hawaiian, as the Emperor desired to know more about Hawaiian culture.

According to Queen Lili’uokalani in Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, the coronation program actually went more like this:

Promptly at the appointed time His Majesty Kalakaua, King of the Hawaiian Islands, accompanied by Her Majesty, Kapiolani, his queen, made their appearance. I give the order of the procession to the royal pavilion. Princess Kekaulike, bearing the royal feather cloak, and with her the Princess Poomaikalani; then the Princess Likelike, with the child-princess Kaiulani, and her father, Hon. A. S. Cleghorn; Governor Dominis, and myself; we were all attended by our kahili bearers, and those ancient staffs of royalty were held aloft at our sides. Then followed Prince Kaiwananakoa, bearing one of the crowns, and Prince Kalaniaanole bearing the other crown, succeeded by two others of noble birth and lineage bearing insignia of royalty of either native or traditional usage, the tabu sticks, the sceptre, and ring. Then came Their Majesties the King and Queen, attended by their kahili bearers, who stationed themselves just inside the pavilion. As the royal party entered, the queen was immediately attended by her ladies in waiting, eight in number, all attired in black velvet trimmed with white satin. The long and handsome train of Her Majesty’s robe was carried by two ladies high rank and of noble lineage, Keano and Kekaulike. 

The Ceremonies were opened with prayer by Rev. Mr. Mackintosh; and then followed one of those coincidences which are so striking on any such occasion, and was certainly noticed as one of the most beautiful incidents of the day. In the very act of prayer, just as he put forth his hand to lift the crown, before placing it on the brow of the king; a mist, or cloud, such as may gather very quickly in our tropical climate, was seen to pass over the sun, obscuring its light for a few minutes; then at the moment when the king was crowned there appeared, shining so brilliantly as to attract general attention, a single star. It was noticed by the entire multitude assembled to witness the pageant, and a murmur of wonder and admiration passed over the throng. The ceremonies proceeded with due solemnity, and the whole scene was very impressive and not to be forgotten. At its close the company retired to the palace in the same order as that in which it had come forth; and the day ceremonies being over the crowd dispersed, retiring to rest from the fatigues and excitements of the day, so as to be able to enter with zest into the festivities of the evening, as a grand ball was to be given at the palace. Indeed, the entire grounds were given up to pleasure such as can only be fully imagined by those who have actually mingled with a happy people in the festivities of a tropical night.
Throughout the week one diversion followed another; until, with citizens and visitors almost surfeited with merrymaking, it came to an end, and Honolulu once more settled down to its every-day quiet and routine. Certainly the coronation celebration had been a great success. (102-103)

You will notice something in the two accounts. In the Kuykendall account (which is taken from solely from one newspaper account, the Lorrin Thurston owned Honolulu Advertiser), it is Caucasians who are playing king-maker and King Kalakaua is crowned  a la Napoleon. In the Queen’s account, it is a ceremony where Native Hawaiian members of the nobility (ali’i) are re-affirming the kingship of Kalakaua with the Reverend of the Hawaiian Anglican Church placing the crown on the king’s head who is kneeling in prayer. In the account of Special Imperial Envoy of the Emperor of Japan to the coronation and Vice-Minister of the Japanese Imperial Household, Mr. Sugi Magoshichiro, confirms the Queen’s account that the Crown was placed on the king’s head by who then stood up, turned around to the audience, and then crowned his consort, Queen Kapi’olani. Two accounts, same event.

Such differences in the retelling of Hawaiian history may seem trivial for some, but they clue us on the perspective of the writer which in turn directly impacts how Hawaiian history is taught. 

The Opium Trade in Hawai’i

File:Opium smoking.jpg

When the British began to trade with China, they found that the Chinese had little desire for British products. So Queen Victoria’s Britain began to import opium into China. When the Chinese Emperor tried to stop the drug trade, the British declared war and ended up not only imposing the sale of opium on the Chinese but took Hong Kong as “compensation” for the war itself.

When Chinese migration began to come in massive numbers to Hawai’i beginning in the 1850s, British and American merchants began to sale opium.  Those selling opium included members of missionary families and many of the members of the “Honolulu Rifles” who in 1887 would impose the Bayonet Constitution.  In the Queen’s autobiography, Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, she names three prominent opium dealers: William  Fessenden Allen (cousin of Charles Reed Bishop), Henry Waterhouse, and George Parks (p241). In fact, some of the “Big Five” may have used opium money to start their businesses. Charles Reed Bishop through his partnership with William Aldrich, a known opium and “assorted dry goods” merchant, engaged in opium trade as well.   However, by the 1860s, it was not merely Chinese who were buying opium, but it was also Native Hawaiians including some prominent ali’i.

The National Legislature of 1873 (which has the distinction of being a legislature that was opened by one king–King Lunalilo–and prorogued by another–King Kalākaua) made the sale of opium illegal except for medicinal purposes (Kuykendall, the Hawaiian Kingdom, Vol.3 p192). The reason for the latter exception on opium for medicinal purposes was that opium, specifically opium mixed with citrus in a pill form, was commonly used for the treatment of insomnia, sexual problems, and for relieving pain during and after surgery. However, it was highly addicting and despite the ban, opium was still sold in pharmacies and smuggled in. Kaho’olawe was a notorious opium smuggling hub for opium and alcohol in the 19th century and certain Christian missions (particularly on the islands of Hawai’i and Maui) accepted donations from known opium smugglers and dealers.    

During the short ministry of Cesar Moreno, the opium issue was resurrected. According to Kuykendall’s Hawaiian Kingdom Volume 3:

Another subject in which Moreno was much interested, because of his Chinese connections, wasopium, the liberalization of Hawaii’s strict laws on that subject, and a plan to make Honolulu the opium processing and distribution center for the whole Pacific area. Early in the session a bill was introduced to authorize the importation and sale of opium to Chinese only; two licenses were to be sold at an upset price of $60,000 each. On July 9 this bill was passed on its third reading. In the last week of July, Moreno’s lobbying activities came to a climax. On the twenty-fourth, a bill was introduced to authorize the importation, manufacture, exportation, and sale of opium; there was to be one license, for two years, to Chinese only, at an upset price of $120,000. On the twenty-seventh, a motion was made to insert in the appropriation bill an item of $24,000 for a subsidy to the Chinese steamship company; it was defeated by a vote of 18 to 17. The next day a motion for reconsideration was adopted, and after a brief debate, the subsidy item was approved by a vote of 25 to 14.25 On this item, Minister of Finance Kaai deserted his ministerial colleagues. He had agreed to vote against it, but instead not only voted but spoke for the subsidy. Asked for an explanation, Kaai said he voted as he did at the direct command of the king, and he showed a letter from the king to justify his statement.26 Commenting on the legislature’s reversal of its earlier decision, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser charged that the result was procured “by open and wholesale bribery,” and said, “The indignation of the public at the part played by a certain impecunious adventurer in the case is great. . . . His boasted power to oust the Ministry, and his assumption of prescience in regard to Regal acts may satisfy his egotism, but will never enhance the brilliance of his fame, or add one tittle to his influence. He has been measured by a discriminating community, and their estimate of him is small . . . the public will be heartily glad at the opportunity to bid him an everlasting farewell.”27 On July 30 the opium bill, which had been introduced six days before, came up for third reading and was passed.28 In regard to this action and the passage of the subsidy for the Chinese steamship company, the American minister wrote, “It was at once charged and not disputed that Mr. Moreno had secured these results by the use of money in the lobby,” the money having been provided by certain Chinese merchants of Honolulu.29 To the credit of the king, he vetoed both of the opium bills here mentioned; but he signed a third bill which amended the existing law restricting the importation and sale of opium.30 (p210-211)

What Kuykendall does not discuss is that one of the major reasons why some had actually voted for the opium bill was because by legalizing the trade, it would take away income from certain prominent American and British businessmen similar to how Prohibition in the US made alcohol distributors (“bootleggers”) quite wealthy.

In 1886, the National Legislature passed the “Opium Act of 1886” to legalize the sale, importation, and production of opium providing that it were to be licensed (therefore taxed) and Native Hawaiians and Japanese were forbidden from buying any of it. The King and the Cabinet would be responsible for the public auctioning of two licenses per year starting at a minimal bid of $40,000. A Chinese sugar planter and merchant, T. Aki, offered a “gift” of $75,000 to King Kalākaua in exchange for a successful bidding on one of the licenses. Kalākaua accepted $71,000 with the additional $4,000 to be paid after the license was given. When Kalākaua awarded the bid to someone else, Aki sued Kalākaua and won. When the public found out about this scandal, there was a huge uproar. Even the heir-apparent, Princess Lili’uokalani was shocked with her brother. The bribery case of Kalākaua along with the missteps in Samoa and the other spending projects of the King were the basic excuses that the “Hawaiian League” (which had no Native Hawaiians in it) would use in forming the “Honolulu Rifles” to impose the Bayonet Constitution. In the aftermath, a new “reform” Legislature was elected and the Opium Act of 1886 was scrapped. 

However, the topic of opium did not die there. In 1892, Opposition Representatives Kaunamano, Ashford, and White all submitted bills to legalize opium and during the Committee hearings, it came out that members of the police, the Hawaiian League, and others were secretly involved in and profiting from the opium trade (Kuykendall, Volume 3, p545-546).  With that revelation, a consolidated opium bill was passed before the closing of the Legislature of 1892 (which ended in 1893). American and British businessmen would accuse the Queen of having lax morals and the passage of the new Opium Act of 1892 would be one of the excuses  the Committee of 13 (formerly the Hawaiian League) would use to depose her.

According to the Queen, however, whatever her personal feelings were towards opium, she had no choice in signing the law because she no longer had the veto power due to the Bayonet Constitution. In Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, she explains:

I proposed to issue licenses for the importation and sale of opium. I did think it would be wise to adopt measures for restricting and controlling a trade which it is impossible to suppress. With a Chinese population of over twenty thousand persons, it is absolutely impossible to prevent smuggling, unlawful trade, bribery, corruption, and every abuse. There were more scandals connected with the opium traffic than I have the time to notice here. Some of the most prominent citizens have been connected with these affairs, and frauds have been unearthed even in the custom-house itself. The names of Mr. Parks, of Mr. W. F. Allen, and more recently of Mr. Henry Waterhouse, have been associated with some very questionable dealings in this drug; and it may be doubted whether the practice of hushing up such matters is favorable to good morals in any community. The Provisional Government seems to have had no scruples in the matter; for the sons of the missionaries exported a large quantity of confiscated opium, and sold it for fifty thousand dollars in British Columbia.

The British government has long since adopted license instead of prohibition, and the statute proposed among the final acts of my government was drawn from one in use in the British colonies; yet I have still to learn that there has been any proposition on the part of the pious people of London to dethrone Her Majesty Queen Victoria for issuing such licenses.(241)

The Queen also forgot to mention that her brother-in-law, Archibald Cleghorn, the custom house chief and governor of O’ahu was also implicated in the opium trade but that is another story.

Secularism, Kamehameha IV and Kalākaua

Throughout most of the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was not a secular government (aupuni kauhonua).  However, a secular (kauhonua) movement did begin during the reign of  Kamehameha III, as well as a few Hawaiian politicians (including the future King Kalākaua) who urged for laicism or a leaving affairs to the laity themselves–something that was discouraged by Kamehameha III who frequently appointed missionaries for every important government portfolio. Kamehameha IV can be credited as being one of the primary advocates of laicism, though he is best remembered for bringing the Anglican Church to Hawai’i. King Kalākaua on hand, can be credited for being instrumental in advocating for hard secularism within the Hawaiian government, which is why ‘Iolani Palace never hosted a Christmas Party or any religious holiday during most of his reign. Hard secularism calls for no display of any religion in government offices and that the separation of Church and State be strictly maintained. Laicism and soft secularism normally call for all religions to be respected and that the government should not privilege one religion over the next but may make official references to a deity. Indonesia may be an example of a laicist or soft secularist nation while France is an example of more hard secularist country. Tonga meanwhile is not technically a secularist or laicist country.

During the reign of Kamehameha III, Hawai`i was not a secular society. The Calvinist version of the Christian religion played a heavy part in the development of laws and constitutions. Both Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha III largely helped to impose Protestant practices on the Hawaiian population and would give sermons on salvation in their official capacity. Those that did not comply with the views of Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha III were fined, imprisoned, harassed, and in some cases exiled and burned alive. Such was the case of many of the kahuna who were burned alive between the First Hawaiian Civil War (1819). Native Hawaiians regardless of their own religious convictions were forced to attend Church or else be fined.  One of the roles of the public school system in Hawai`i during that time was not only to teach reading, writing, and arithmetical but also obedience to the Christian God, to the Kamehameha Dynasty, and to the Western values. This was further re-enforced in the Penal Code which made it illegal to conduct any business on a Sunday. One of the personal names of Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli (“placed in the dark cloud”), could have been Kauikeauuli (“placed in the dark time”) for the masses of Hawaiians. Despite the Act of Toleration, Hawaiian Roman Catholics and those of the Hawaiian indigenous religion were still be discriminated against. It is of little wonder that when Lord George Paulet seized control of Hawai`i in 1843 (which according to the British and Foreign State Papers, Volume 149, Part 3, page 1025, was actually largely due to the prejudicial actions of Minister Judd who among other reasons interfered in the trial of a Henry Skinner, a British subject and John Dominis, the father-in-law of the future Queen Lili’uokalani), there were many commoners who celebrated and the entire Fort Kamehameha in Honolulu (where Fort Street got its name) immediately gave their loyalty oaths to Lord Paulet. To the credit of Kamehameha III, when Hawaiian independence was restored he met every one of the soldiers of the Fort and forgave them without punishment acknowledging that he and his administration were not at times fair. This episode had a profound impact on the young Princes Alexander Liholiho Kamehameha and Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha as well as David Kaläkaua and the other children of the Chiefs’ Childrens’ School.

After the death of Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV began to undo much of the work of his uncle who he deemed was too much of a “friend of the foreigners”. This entailed removing Judd and the others from his cabinets and in establishing a new church. But in a very little written about episode in Hawaiian history, we have clearly the policies of Kamehameha IV in 1860 and the start of modern Hawaiian secularism. In 1860, the Japanese first embassy was making its way to Washington, D.C.  King Kamehameha IV was eager to conclude a Treaty of Friendship with Japan and so tasked his Foreign Minister R. C. Wylie to explain to the Japanese ambassador the nature of his government. Minister Wyllie wrote to Ambassador Lord Shinmi Masaoka on March 18th, a Sunday, the following:

“…His Majesty places them [all foreigners] all on the same friendly footing; and while he permits men of all religions to follow their own conscientious belief, he permits no priests of any religion to interfere in the political administration of His government.”

The following Monday, Prince Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha in the Privy Council explained that the policy of his brother in regards to the Japanese was in accordance “with enlightened governments and….with ancient practices”.  What the future Kamehameha V was probably referring to was the separation of the ali`i and the kahuna which symbolically had separated the government from religion until the time of Pa`ao (13th century) who made the ali`i paramount and justified it by the stories of Papa and Haumea and other mo`olelo.  Kamehameha IV saw no conflict in being religious while trying to keep the Church out of political affairs. In fact, in the same letter from Foreign Minister Wyllie to Lord Shinmi Masaoka, he states that:

“…when the Portuguese priests arrived, [the Emperor of Japan] was as liberal and kind to men of all religions as is the policy of King Kamehameha IV, and that their Imperial Majesties changed that policy and strictly prohibted the Roman Catholic religion, because some priests, the successors of Saint Francis Xavier, intermeddled in the political government of the Empire. If the priests did so, they did wrong, and violated the rules of their own Church….”

King Kamehameha IV therefore was an early advocate of laicism though he still enforced many of the laws he inherited from Kamehameha III because of the resistance of his kuhina nui and some of the higher tanking Christian Hawaiian ali’i themselves. Kamehameha V went further than his brother and began to bring back the hula (though privately), allowed the licensing of certain types of kahuna, as well as permitting the funeral of his sister to be conducted in the old Hawaiian pre-Christian manner. But in general, throughout the first half of the 19th century, laws based on Calvinist Christian values were codified into the emerging Hawaiian adaptation of the English Common Law system though theoretically Hawaiian practices were exempt unless they hampered health, sanitation (i.e. the excuse for banning kahuna la’au lapa’au), public morality (i.e. the banning of the hula) and political stability.

During the reign of Kalākaua, one saw the emergence of an assertive Hawaiian nationalism and a measure of kauhonua unknown until that time. During the King’s coronation in 1883, he placed the Crown over his own head rather than having it placed by the presiding Anglican bishop. This symbolized ideas from the French revolution via Napoléon that it is the laity (non-clerics) that governs and man is the maker of his own destiny. He further went on to use national days as a way to re-introduce Hawaiian legends and began to celebrate Christian holidays private in his own household. While it was the custom of Kamehameha III to have the clergy sit in among the high chiefs in the front pews during the opening of the National Legislature, King Kalākaua only allowed up to two representatives of each religious organization to have reserved seating. As a sign of respect for what the King was trying to accomplish, the Anglican Church bishop normally would not attend the opening but would simply attend the reception afterwords. The King also tried–alas in vain–to remove religious references from the Penal and Civil Code particularly the ones involving the Sabbath. “…Better to keep a proper Sunday than a wrong Sabbath….” as the King wrote to his sister, Princess Likelike in 1881. He failed in amending these laws because of political events such as the 1887 Constitution which was supported by influential preachers and missionary children of what is now the United Churches of Christ had no issue with using the pulpit to preach political issues and to “damn” members who opposed their narrow view of Christianity– as his sister, St. Damien, and Robert Louis Stevenson would all be victims to that same pulpit. 

Dollars or Dala?

Dollars or Dala?
Since the beginning of the 1840s, American currency had been the legal tender currency in the Hawaiian Kingdom. During the reign of Kamehameha V, he made the salaries and government payments strictly in dollars. While other currencies could be exchanged, it would be exchanged for dollars.  In essence, Hawai’i was a dollar economy. This shows the high level of trade between the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom, not to mention the economic clout Americans in Hawai’i already had. 

5 Keneta coin from 1881

In 1880, the then Representative Walter Murray Gibson pushed for a new Currency Law which would create a new Hawaiian currency called the new Hawaiian dollar, the dala. However, to make things confusing, the Hawaiian dollar could be also be called the Hawaiian dollar in English or may be called the kālā (₭). The kālā (₭) was the old monetary system that Kamehameha III tried to implement in the 1830s through the ports and plantations but which did not take off due to the lack of reserves not to mention interest. 

An example of a  5 bill from 1839

The new 1880 law stated that the new currency would on the same monetary basis as the US dollar and would be in silver and gold, as to not to upset the market which was already beginning to use the gold standard for external trade payments (i.e. debt payments) but silver for basic internal payments (i.e. buying clothes from a store). The law was also supported by the then Wilder Ministry.    

Most Native Hawaiians were in favor of it as it would finally be another visible symbol of nationhood. One must also remember that in 1880, there were very few visible symbols of Hawaiian nationhood. The brick and stone ‘Iolani Palace we know today wasn’t built yet. The King at that time was living in one of his private residences as Ho’iho’i ‘Ea Palace (where the monarch lived) was in termite eaten. The Kamehameha Statue was also not built yet either. There was no Hawaiian army or navy.  

In addition, King Kalākaua at that time was desperately trying to garner support the legitimacy of his reign as many Native Hawaiians on O’ahu were still pro-Queen Emma and believed Wilder, Greene, and others had bribed the legislature in order to gain Kalākaua’s election as sovereign. On the other islands, King Kalākaua had support because he was known as being a nationalist but also as someone who was overall the type of guy you would want to have an Heineken with.  So the new currency idea was also popular with Kalākaua as a symbol of his legitimacy both as a monarch and as a nationalist.

Business people, mainly from the American community, did not see much harm in having a new currency providing that it was on par with the United States dollar.  So there was very little opposition. 

In 1882, Wilder was replaced by Walter Murray Gibson as Minister of the Interior.  Gibson pushed through a Loan Act to help implement the new currency. The Loan Act allowed Gibson to issue one million dollars worth of bonds at 6% percent interest in order to purchase the silver and gold from the San Francisco Mint necessary to create the new currency. Most governments at that time would simply contract the mint itself and offer the bonds directly to that mint.  However, Gibson authorized his friend Claus Spreckels to buy the entire bond amount and to personally arrange the payment and production of the new money by the San Francisco Mint as well as the right to re-sell the bonds on the government’s behalf.  John Kapena, then Minister of Finance, was told by the United States Treasury department that the whole arrangement was highly unusual and “rather queer” (Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, Vol 3, p89). What Spreckels did next was not highly unusual or queer but had shades of Bernard Madoff.          

Despite the fact that Loan Act of 1880 provided that the new currency would be on a bimetallic standard, Spreckels ordered one million Hawaiian dollars in silver coinage. Then for the coinage, he reduced the silver content of the coins to 83% of the silver content of US coins at that time. This had two effects economically and one effect to Spreckels. First, this forced the Hawaiian kingdom to be on a silver standard at a time when the world was transitioning to a gold standard and when loan and economic payments from the Hawaiian Kingdom to the United States was paid in gold. This would meant that with the new Hawaiian dollar, you had to buy gold in order to make a payment abroad in dollars instead of having to simply directly convert the ₭ into US$. This would make all future payments more expensive due to the fluctuating market price of silver to gold.  The second effect was that by reducing the silver content to 83%, it reduced the monetary value by 17%. The Hawaiian dollar was then in fact reduced in value by 17%, again adding additional costs and increasing inflation. The end result of all of this for Spreckels was that he gained the 6% interest on the one million dollar loan in addition to an extra $150,000 in profit by his devaluation of the silver as well as ensuring that in the future, the Hawaiian dollar would not be worth as much as the US dollar therefore making business more profitable for importers like himself.  The United States officials in San Francisco, businessmen in Honolulu, and even Finance Minister Kapena, warned both Spreckels and Gibson about the consequences of their actions, but were ignored. US officials believed that Gibson was more concerned about pleasing his friend than in sound economics. 

In late 1883, the new coins were introduced. This instantly created major issues of inflation as exporters (i.e. the sugar planters) had to buy gold on the open market to make their payments for tariffs and good abroad. William R. Castle, William O. Smith, and Sanford B. Dole sought an injunction at the Supreme Court against the new coins. What is interesting is that people  such as the Emmanites (pro-Queen Emma) supported this injunction as they not only feared the economic repercussion but just did not want to have to stare at Kalākaua’s profile everyday.  The Emmanite understanding was that the coins would have different profiles such as in the United States there were the profiles of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc. But the new coins had the same profile–that of the king.  So they were a bit annoyed. In addition, Hawaiians wondered why were the new coins and money only in English when government issued bonds and coins previously in the 1830s were issued in both Hawaiian and in English.          

On January 7, 1884, in order to prevent the injunction, the Privy Council held an emergency meeting and declared that the new coins were of the “same fineness” as US coins. They then decided to authorize to buy (with the silver coins) gold in order to save the country’s exporters further costs. So Spreckels went back to San Francisco to order the printing of gold certificates (i.e. paper bills) which could be exchanged for payment in gold using the silver coins as reserves. Hence the origin of bills such as this:

The Supreme Court rendered the injunction moot as the Privy Council was in the process of correcting the problem. When Spreckels then tried to re-sale the bonds he bought, no one would buy it. To make up for the additional costs, the Hawaiian government had to sell (though this time on its own) an additional US$100,000 worth of bonds.  However, due to the high demand of gold payments from the US and being that Hawaiian customs only accepted payments in gold, that amount was not enough.  

When the new coins and bills were finally circulated in 1884, the coins were seen as both quite beautiful but were becoming a Weimar Deutchmark as stores and even government officials did not want payments in the new silver as everyone by that time feared the upcoming inflation. The King and Minister Kapena then had to take the unusual move of having to directly negotiate with banks and Chambers of Commerce in Hawai’i, the United States, and London for them to accept gold certificates in the new currency in lieu of actual gold and to allow for the conversion of the silver coins into gold at a fixed rate of 6 to 8% in order to prevent heavy losses from exporters. In addition, they began to force stores and other places to accept the new currency at face value rather than at a discounted 17% which is what was going on.  This financial instability plunged Hawai’i into a deep recession as the new costs of importing and exporting were now felt by the consumers. 

Gibson accused the missionary families and other haoles of conspiring against him and the King and creating the recession. The business men shot back that Gibson had created the problem by allowing his friend to profit from the deal and by ordering too much of the new currency. To the businessmen, only ₭ or $2 to 400,000 were actually needed. But Gibson by doubling the amount of what was actually needed and doing so only in silver, created inflation and distrust.  In the middle of this, there was an election in the National Legislative Assembly. Due to Gibson’s handling of the economy, the missionary families began to unite politically. This would have repercussions in 1887.   Dole, Smith, and Castle–the three who filed the injunction–won seats in the Legislative Assembly. Gibson also retained his seat. 

Quickly after the opening of the new Legislature, a new Currency Act of 1884 was passed. Dole had submitted the first draft then this went back and forth in committee until a final draft emerged.  The government was order to take $550,000 worth of the silver coins and buy and maintain $550,000 in gold reserves plus an additional 16% margin to keep as an additional emergency reserve. The Bishop’s Bank (the future First Hawaiian Bank) then agreed to accept government issued “gold certificates” in lieu of actual gold coinage or bullion payment on a permanent basis providing that the government keep silver reserves at 25% of the number of certificates it issued. The Chamber of Commerce then agreed to help permanently accept gold certificates in silver providing that the government keep 16% of its silver in reserves. So the currency issue seemed to be stable but the mistrust continued.

The real value of the coins, however, would not be realized until 1893.  When the new Plutarchy (a government ran by an oligarchy of the wealthy) took over, they immediately began to seize the silver coinage and melted it down. US currency was back as the legal tender.  The possession of Hawaiian coinage became an act of rebellion against the Plutarchy (i.e. Provisional Government). So for many nationalists, the real value of the coin became that of an act of asserting Hawaiian nationality itself.

Therefore it was not unusual for Hawaiians to use the coins in the form of hand bands, belt buckles, belts, and baptismal gifts. This was particularly true of royalists who held the coins to one of the most tangible reminders of the Monarchy era. 

In 1894, the highly unpopular Republic of Hawai’i issued its own dollar notes.

The Republican money was on par with the US dollar and if one notices, it is also the similar shades of green and black that the US dollar was at the time. Again, it shows how the Republican government tried to show itself as being part of the United States already.

When the United States proclaimed that Hawai’i would be an incorporated territory of the United States in 1898, the Republican money was declared as voided. Unlike the coins of  King Kalākaua, they were not missed and many embraced seeing the US dollars over the Republican ones. 

As a side note, after 1898, the San Francisco mint could no longer mint all the needed money for the new American colonies of Hawai’i, Guam, American Samoa, and the Philippines.  So Bishop’s Bank was subcontracted to mint and produce US coins and dollars for the entire Pacific. The Philippines would eventually get permission to mint its own coins until the end of WWII, Bishop’s Bank printed US dollars.