Humehume and the “Kidnapping” of Kaumualiʻi

#83 in the Moʻolelo series, mahalo to Mooolelo: Hawaiian History member John Wehrheim for reminding me of this epic sequence in Hawaiian history

Like Kamehameha, Kaumualiʻi, the King of Kauaʻi, saw that foreigners were going to have more and more influence in the islands as time passed. He sent his young son Humehume on a ship to be raised in Massachusetts so as to be familiar with Western ways. I came to know about this fascinating sequence of events because I reviewed a book, prepublication, by Douglas Warne, which came out under the title Humehume of Kauaʻi.

“Four Owhyhean [Hawaiian] Youths” Humehume is on the top right under the name George Tamoree (Kaumualiʻi), source: Pacific Worlds.

Humehume learned English onboard ship (we all know what kind of language sailors use!) during the eighteen month journey to the US East Coast. He was raised in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, but the money ran out and his guardian felt put upon and set Humehume to work. This eventually led Humehume to run away and join the military – the US military! He fought in the War of 1812 in at least two battles – one as a sailor in the navy and one as a soldier in the army.

Eventually, he came to the attention of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), which was just then planning to send missionaries to Hawaiʻi. They had in their Foreign Mission School a small number of Hawaiians who had boarded ships early on: “Henry” Opukahaʻia (Obookiah), Thomas Hopu, William Kanui and John Honoliʻi. Opukahaʻia died in Connecticut in 1818 and so never made the trip back to Hawaiʻi, but the others did, along with Humehume. to emphasize that he was a prince (son of the King of Kauaʻi), he went by other names, but the main one was George Prince Kaumualiʻi.

In April, 1820, Humehume arrived in Hawaiʻi and reunited with his father Kaumualiʻi, who had been governing Kauaʻi as a “vassal” of sorts under Kamehameha (and now Liholiho). When Kamehameha accepted Kaumualiʻi’s allegiance in 1810, he had given the provision “accept my son when he comes to visit you.” While Humehume was on Kauaʻi, Liholiho did visit Kaumualiʻi and the chief fulfilled his promise, accepting Liholiho with hospitality. Liholiho had purchased a luxury yacht called “Cleopatra’s Barge” and offered Kaumualiʻi a sail, which Kaumualiʻi accepted. They sailed to Lahaina never to return. Kaumualiʻi was made to marry Kaʻahumanu (“keep your friends close and your enemies closer” – she kept her enemy in her bed!).

Meanwhile, Humehume, who felt he was the heir to the Kauaʻi Kingdom, staged a revolt, attempting to take over the Russian fort in Waimea as a way of controlling the island. His rebellion was put down, but Kalanimoku, Liholiho’s deputy, said “Humehume – live!” Humehume was thus not put to death but shown mercy. He was sent to Lahaina and also married to Kaʻahumanu – so she was married to father and son at the same time! Humehume died soon after, his potential unfulfilled – he considered himself the heir not only to Kauaʻi, but to his grandfather Kaʻeokūlani’s kingdom, which included Oʻahu.

Source: Douglas Warne, Humehume of Kauaʻi, Kamehameha Publishing.

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