Friday, November 28, 2014


Revisiting the British occupation of Hawaii and restoration of the Kingdom

by Larry Geller

This seems appropriate to a time of thanksgiving.

The short mention of the restoration of Hawaiian sovereignty in today’s paper set me off looking for a newspaper article, but to find one, there would have had to be newspapers. Or at least, newspapers I can read (in English) and findable by Google. Sure, I could go to the library. But besides newspapers, there are books (remember books?) and some of them have been digitized (by Google, sigh).

So I downloaded the History of the Sandwich Islands by Sheldon Dibble. I have that book somewhere on a hard drive, but you know, it’s easier to just get another copy. (I can’t believe I used to spend almost every free day at the library on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn at one stage of my public school life, which required real effort to go there and look things up in an actual card catalog…) (I would park my bicycle outside and leave it, without a lock, for hours… I guess times have really changed.)

The book is contemporaneous to the events described.

An extract from the book is here, covering just the brief British occupation of Hawaii and the restoration of the Kingdom.

If you haven’t much patience for the details, skip ahead to p. 19 of the extract, when an American ship arrives in Honolulu and foils plans of the British commander, the Right Hon. Lord George Paulet, who was running the show in Hawaii:

A few days after, July 7th,. very unexpectedly, the American frigate Constellation arrived from China, commanded by Commodore Kearney. With surprise the commander beholds the English flag flying at the fort and on board of all the native vessels…

Yes, it was America to the rescue. Things were at last looking up.

By page 21, Rear Admiral Thomas arrives on the Dublin from Valparaiso, and then

At anchor and her sails furled, the first note of communication from the Dublin was that of the Admiral, requesting in very kind and respectful terms, an interview with the king.

The request was readily granted, and on the next day, the 27th, the Admiral spent several hours in conference with the king, and also on the following day, the 28th. At these interviews, very kind and friendly feelings were manifested by the Admiral toward the king, and he soon expressed a desire that the Hawaiian flag should be restored, and made arrangements for the formal act to take place on the Monday following, July 31st.

The events of the day set apart for restoring the flag were to the king and friends of the nation, of the most exciting nature. A conspicuous spot on the plain of Honolulu was measured off and two tents were erected; one on the upper side for the accommodation of foreigners and their ladies, the other on the lower side for the king and his suit and the Admiral. Brass field-pieces and a line of marines, about 400 in number, reached across the center of the square. A flagstaff with the national ensign furled, was planted near to the lower tent, by the side of which, the king and Admiral Thomas took their stand. Simultaneously the folds of the national flag and the smoke of the field-pieces are floating in the wind, and the roar of the cannon announces that the king is free and his flag restored. This is followed by the raising of the flag at the forts, and a national salute from the guns of each, and from the armed vessels in port, viz: Dublin, Carysfort and Hazard, English ; and the frigate Constellation, American. After the close of the salutes, marching and various evolutions were performed by the marines, exhibiting the manner of attack and defense, with discharges of the field-pieces and musketry. These evolutions being finished, the king was escorted to his house, where he was met by the officers of "the Queen's Regiment," tendering their submission and suing for pardon ; for by swearing allegiance to another sovereign they had forfeited their heads. Their pardon was graciously granted by the king, who seemed to feel as David did on a similar occasion : " Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel ? For do not I know that I am this day king over Israel ?"


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