Alexander Liholiho – Kamehameha IV

This post is for my students: 

The parents of the brothers Alexander Liholiho and Lot Kapuaiwa were of high rank. Their mother was Kïna‘u, who was a daughter of Kamehameha by Kalakua (aka Kaheiheimālie), who was also known as Kaheiheimalie. Kina’u was regent [administrator] of the Hawaiian Kingdom from the time of Ka’ahumanu’s death, 1832, until 1839, when Kauikeaouli came of age to rule.

The elder of the two brothers was Lot Kapuäiwa. Alexander Liholiho was king before his elder brother because he was hānai by Kauikeaouli and was Kauikeaouli’s heir.

Both brothers were educated at the Chiefs Children’s School or Royal School under Amos Starr Cooke and Juliet Montague Cooke (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. xiv), along with their generation of Aliʻi: Bernice Pauahi Bishop, David Kalakaua, and others.

Important influences on the brothers included pressures from sugar growers and other foreigners, Emma, the wife of Alexander Liholiho, who was an influential ali‘i of the time, and a trip to US with Dr. Gerrit Judd.

When Alexander Liholiho became King in 1854, he was 20 years old. In his inaugeral address to the Hawai’I legislature, he said that one of the goals of his reign was to “stay the wasting hand that is destroying our people” – he was referring to disease. The Hawaiian population had decreased by 11,000 between 1850 and 1853 (Kuykendall, 1956, 37).

Sugar growers during this time were pushing for either annexation to the US which would end the tariffs they were paying at the time (about 2¢/lb) for importing sugar to the US, or a reciprocity treaty with the US that would achieve the same result.

Many foreigners starting to voice a desire for ending the monarchy, and establishing a republic (i.e., a government led by an elected head of state, typically a president).

Emma was the granddaughter of John Young, who was from Britain. She was Hänai by her aunt Grace Kama‘iku‘i, and her husband, Thomas Rooke, a British doctor living in Hawai‘i. She was also raised as an Anglican. All of these traits added to her positive views of Britain, and had a significant effect on Hawaiian foreign policy.

In 1849 – 1850, the brothers accompanied Gerrit Judd on a trip to Europe and the United States (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. x). Judd arrived with the third company of missionaries in 1828 and left the mission to become a “full time adviser to the King” (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. ix).  He was charged with gaining a $100,000 indemnity payment from France, and guaranties of independence from France, Britain and the United States (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. ix). The teenage brothers were sent to accompany Judd on the trip in order to expose the future monarchs to international affairs. On their diplomatic trip to the US, Alexander Liholiho and Lot Kapuäiwa were treated as if they were African American. This was during the era of slavery. The brothers visited the White House, in Washington D.C. (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. xii), where slavery still existed only a few miles away. In New York, Alexander was asked by the conductor to leave his first-class seat on the train. He demanded an explanation, and when the conductor was told who Alexander was, he told him to keep his seat (Alexander Liholiho, 1967, p. 108). Alexander had never been treated this way, and held anti-American sentiments long after:

“He probably [had] taken me for somebody’s servant, just because I had darker skin than he had. Confounded fool. In this country I must be treated like a dog to go and come at an American?s bidding. I am disappointed in the Americans. They have no manners, no politeness, not even common civilities to a stranger.

Both Alexander and Lot were concerned about the Constitution, and its division of powers. Specifically, they were concerned that there was not a proper balance of powers with the Kuhina nui position and the virtual veto power of the privy council. These powers gave the executive branch of government too much power. While Liholiho dissolved the legislature in 1855 for not managing its spending (Osorio, 2002, p. 105), he was unable to seriously deal with these problems. Lot Kapuaiwa later wrote a new constitution that addressed these problems. This created feelings of antipathy and skepticism toward the US.

Politically, there were continued concerns about maintaining independence in an era of worldwide imperialism. There were calls from foreigners to establish a republic and end the monarchy, and sugar growers push for   annexation to the US or reciprocity treaty with US. The resulting goals of Alexander Liholiho and Lot Kapuäiwa were to strengthen sovereignty, Strengthen monarchy, and the establishment of a reciprocity treaty with the US.

The stipulations of the reciprocity treaty included mutual free trade between the US and Hawai’i. US businesses could import US products to Hawai‘i free of tariffs, and Hawai‘i businesses could export Hawai‘i products to the US free of tariffs.

Reciprocity treaty negotiations failed because some in the US felt the US would lose important tax revenue needed for the post Civil War reconstruction.

The Reciprocity Treaty would increase competition for Louisiana sugar growers. This continued desire of sugar growers to achieve annexation to the US.

The means used by the monarchs to strengthen monarchy and national independence was to achieve closer ties with Great Britain. This was because Britain was a constitutional monarchy (as was Hawaiʻi) and would thus support the same government in Hawai‘i. increased ties with Britain would diminish the possibility of annexation to the US.

Increased ties with Britain included personal, religious and personal ties. Personal ties:  Queen Victoria was asked and agreed to be the godmother of Prince Edward Albert Leiopapa A. Kamehameha, son of Kamehameha IV and Emma.  The royal couple invited the Anglican Church to Hawai‘i and gave that church much support. Politically, they nurtured ongoing friendly relations with Britain.

The Royal couple’s support of Anglican Church included giving land to church and helping to build the first church on this land


St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu

Alexander Liholiho also translated the Book of Common Prayer, an Anglican prayer book, into Hawaiian.The royal couple made Saint Andrew’s the      official place of worship of the ruling family.

Evidence of high regard given to the Hawaiian Kingdom by Great Britain is seen in the fact that when asked to send an Anglican church official here to establish the Anglican faith in Hawai‘i, the British sent a Bishop (rather than a parish priest) – Bishop Thomas Staley.

Tragic events of the time

Alexander Liholiho’s personal secretary was Henry Neilson. Neilson was also a close friend of the king. A rumor spread that Neison was having an affair with Queen Emma. Alexander, who had been given a pistol for his birthday, shot Henry Neilson in a rage. Neilson did not die immediately, however. He forgave Alexander and lived another two years. Though prosecution was never suggested, Alexander was beset with grief (Kuykendall, 1953, 86).

Another event contributed to Alexander’s demise. The young prince Albert Edward Leiopapa had a temper tantrum after playing with his friends. In order to calm his son down, Alexander gave him a cold water bath. The prince came down with a fever and died.


Prince Albert Edward Leiopapa a Kamehameha

Alexander Liholiho himself, full of grief over the deaths of his friend and son, died at age 29. The leadership of Emma continued. She further supported the Anglican Church, establishing an Anglican girls’ school, Saint Andrew’s Priory. She also founded and later endowed Queen’s Hospital. She lived into the 1880s, her grief causing her to be called “Ka lele o na lani,” – the flight of the chiefs.

Queen Dowager Emma, “Kaleleonalani”


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2 responses to “Alexander Liholiho – Kamehameha IV

  1. It is very imformational.


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