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Missionaries and Hawaiian Flag

 

 

In 1812 US President Madison decided it would be a good idea to take advantage of Britain's war with Napoleon and attack the remaining British presence in North America.  Read more...

An American in Hawaii attempted to haul down the Union Jack and replace it with the Stars and Stripes.  Kamehameha decided to have a bet each way and designed a new flag with the Union Jack and eight stripes representing the eight Hawaiian islands, just as the US flag has thirteen stripes representing the founding states.  That flag remains the State flag of Hawaii to this day.

 

 


The State flag of Hawaii flying on the Battleship Missouri  

 

After Kamehameha's death in 1819 it was Queen Kaahumanu who anointed both his successors: Kamehameha II then Kamehameha III. 

In addition to their discovery by Captain Cook there were connections to eastern Australia from the earliest days of both territories.  The first western style dwelling or 'royal palace' was built by two men from Sydney.  Queen Kaahumanu didn't like it, preferring her traditional woven grass upper-class dwelling.

In 1819, the year that Kamehameha I died, the first American whaling ships arrived. Rich whaling grounds had been discovered near Japan and whale oil was in high demand in America, particularly for oil lamps as people spread out across the country.

 

 


Hurricane (oil) Lamps of the type that once lit isolated homes and farms across the American plains and the world.
As a child in Australia we had a couple against 'blackouts' but they were most commonly used of 'bonfire night'  Read more...

 

Elsewhere the oil was used to lubricate machinery in the developing 'age of steam' and until recently ambergris from sperm whales was used in cosmetics.  Whale bone was used in corsets, skirt hoops, umbrellas and buggy whips.

By 1824 over 100 whaling ships were arriving annually.  By 1846 this had risen to 736.  Each whaler had a crew of 20 to 30 and would be at sea for months on end.  Bigger farms were needed to provision all these ships. New crops and livestock were introduced to meet the whaler's food preferences.

Many whalers were ungodly men and thought to be in need of Christ's Grace so together with its 'heathen' natives Hawaii presented a rich fishing ground of another kind. Thus close on the heels of the whalers came the missionaries.

Queen Kaahumanu was fertile ground for new ideas. She had already upset several of the earlier traditions of 'kapu'.  Now women and men could eat together and women were even allowed to eat bananas.  Soon she would reject the old gods too.

The Church of England had been quick to establish two bishops and six supporting ministers/priests and the Methodists followed suit with a local bishop. From 1820 until 1854 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent over 80 Protestant missionaries together with their wives to save the heathen souls of Hawaii.  The Catholics arrived from France in 1827 and soon the Mormons and even the Russian Orthodox were in on the quest for souls.

A new trinity of divinity was not the only gift the white men brought. Hard on the heels of the whalers had come rampant venereal disease, resulting in: sterility; miscarriages; and death. Now the missionaries brought outbreaks of small pox, measles, whooping cough and influenza. To the islanders, who had no natural immunity, these diseases were often fatal.  To decimate means to kill one in ten.  These diseases were killing six in ten.  Demographers estimate that over the next century the native population on Hawaii fell by over 80% - from over 300,000 to less than 40,000 in 1896 (source).

Kamehameha II and his wife also lacked the necessary immunity. On a State Visit to Britain in 1824 both of them contracted measles and died before leaving London.  Queen Kaahumanu replaced him with the ten year old Kamehameha III and installed herself as Regent. By this time she'd converted to Protestant Christianity and soon expelled the French Catholic missionaries and locked up their Catholic converts.  The French responded by sending a gunboat and forcing Kamehameha III to reconsider. An Edict of Toleration was issued, allowing the Catholics to worship, but they were still unhappy with preferences given to Protestants.

Meanwhile the great love of the young King's life had been his sister, Narienaena.  Prior to the arrival of Christianity Polynesians had no concept of incest and as in Ancient Egypt it was perfectly normal to form a marriage-like partnership with one's sibling. But Narienaena converted to Christianity and is said to have become deeply depressed after discovering that she had been living ignorantly but happily in sin.  She died when she was just 21, it is said: 'of a broken heart'.  The broken hearted King visited her grave regularly for the rest of his life.

Queen Kaahumanu died in 1832 leaving Kamehameha III to reign in his own right. 

 

 


A commissioned portrait in oils of King Kamehameha III - from a daguerreotype (Wikipedia commons)
By the second generation the monarchy was already adopting European norms and customs - and employing the latest technology

 

Lawlessness broke out, always a preliminary to engineering a revolution, and a new generation of native-born whites, predominantly from American missionary families, demanded increased 'public safety' pushing Hawaii towards constitutional monarchy.

In 1840 Hawaii's first constitution enshrined the Legislature of the Kingdom of Hawaii a bicameral parliament on Westminster lines with a House of Nobles, replacing the earlier Council of Chiefs, consisting of the King (or Queen) plus five women and ten men, and an elected House of Representatives. The Missionary Party now represented native-born white interests in the Legislature.  The Hawaiian women, who reflected the traditional matriarchal culture, were a thorn in the side of some more patriarchal Europeans. This was 80 years before women even got a vote in the US, let alone a place in Congress.   Henceforth the Legislature would make laws and present them for the monarch's ascent.

At the beginning of 1843, just as the new Legislature was getting under way,  the Royal Navy warship HMS Carysfort arrived in Honolulu Harbor and her commander Lord George Paulet demanded that King Kamehameha III cede the islands to the British Crown. This the King did and Paulet installed himself as Governor and began restructuring the administration. But then it transpired that Paulet had exceeded his authority. Six months later the Hawaiian Crown was restored with an official apology from Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria. In his restoration speech, Kamehameha III declared: "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono" (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness), this remains the motto of the State of Hawaii to this day.

Arising from these incidents Kamehameha III extended his overseas diplomatic efforts.  By the end of 1843 the British and the French had agreed that Hawaii was indeed a sovereign state:

Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty the King of the French, taking into consideration the existence in the Sandwich Islands of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations, have thought it right to engage, reciprocally, to consider the Sandwich Islands as an Independent State, and never to take possession, neither directly or under the title of Protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.

 

Not so the native-born whites of the Missionary Party.  For the next 50 years they would continue to plot with soon to arrive American business interests to make Hawaii a new territory of the USA, often seeding unrest, and in one case a mutiny, to advance their goals, culminating in a military coup against the popular Monarchy in 1893.

 

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