Kalākaua’s Worldwide Voyage, Part 1: Siam

#84 in the Moʻolelo series, I will be looking at Kalākaua’s worldwide voyage but not in chronological order

In January, 1881, a state dinner was held at the Hawaiian Hotel by Kalākaua’s ministers to wish him well for his proposed voyage around the world. “Hon. W.L. Green” (who later was implicated in supporting the Bayonet Constitution) made the following remarks:

You are all aware of the reasons that we are assembled here this evening, and that it is the purpose of His Majesty the King to proceed on a tour round the world. I consider it my duty to state that my colleagues and myself have endeavored to dissuade the king from taking this step, but as it was evident that the king had come to a decision on the subject in spite of the dangers which were represented to him, the ministers considered it their duty to take the greatest advantage they could from the undertaking.

“General Enthusiasm for King Kalakaua at Honolulu on the Eve of His Departure for Foreign Lands,” The Hawaiian Gazette, January 19, 1881.

He proceeded to enumerate the advantages to the sugar planting class of Kalākaua’a facilitating immigration – “repopulation” he called it.

Arch welcoming Kalākaua back from his worldwide voyage (source: gallery.hawaii.gov)

During his 1881 worldwide voyage, Kalākaua helped to secure laborers from Portugal and Japan. Kalakaua’s trip around the world took him to San Francisco, Japan, where he met with the emperor and discussed a confederation, Siam (Thailand), Malaysia, Burma, India, Egypt, where he was inducted into the (Egyptian order of freemason)], Naples and Rome in Italy, where he had an audience with the pope, Portugal, London, New York, Boston, New Bedford, Chicago, Omaha, Ogden, and finally back to San Francisco and Hawai’i. The trip took about nine months.

In April, 1881, Kalākaua arrived in Siam (Thailand), was met by the King’s Aide-de-camp and taken on a yacht – “a beautiful boat” – to Bangkok. there he received from the King of Siam a “royal robe succeeded by an elephant of solid gold!” and a book, The History of Siam “woven in gold on a dark fabric.” He was also “installed as a knight of the Grand Cross of Siam.” The King of Siam was described thus:

a man of about 27 years of age, with a firm and resolute face, no beard, a keen eye and a massive forehead. He was dressed for the occasion in a tunic of gold brocade, and a silk garment, worn by all Siamese of rank, round his legs…

Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 2, 1881

The Siamese King expressed his regret that Kalākaua could not extend his stay and accompany him on a hunt and a tour of the country by yacht. Tiffany Lani Ing points out that only a few decades earlier, such a voyage would have been impossible to undertake so quickly – Hawaiʻi and the world were entering the steamship era. Lorenz Gonschor (2019) points out that Siam/Thailand was one of a handful of countries that avoided colonization (outside Europe, of course, which was doing the colonizing). Others included Japan, Ethiopia and Turkey. In 1881, Hawaiʻi would have been on this list, creating, I imagine, a bond of mutual resistance against European aggression.

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