In London on the Moon of Lāʻaukūkahi: Liholiho’s Voyage to England

#95 in the Moʻolelo series

Keanu Sai notes in the video Ua Mau ke Ea that monarchs were often not inclined to travel for fear that they may be overthrown in their absence. That Liholiho left Hawaiʻi for a year suggests he was secure in his grip over the kingdom, which was precisely then entering world affairs. Liholiho named Kauikeaouli regent (ruler in the absence of the king) and his replacement should he fail to return from his voyage.

Prince Kauikeaouli, regent

Beamer (2014, 97) asserts that King George would constitute “a powerful international ally” should their negotiations go smoothly. This is likely because Hawaiʻi’s status internationally was unclear. Hawaiʻi had not yet negotiated any of the many treaties it would later come to have with foreign powers. It did not yet have a constitution, was not yet fully Christian but only beginning this process. These were the traits that foreign countries, and more importantly, foreign ship captains, would look for in order to determine whether they were dealing with a “civilized” country or not.

As mentioned in the previous post, Liholiho and his entourage left Hawaiʻi in November of 1823. Beamer notes that Liholiho, who could write in Hawaiian, was keeping track of dates by the Hawaiian moon calendar, and thus was “in London on the moon of Lāʻaukūkahi on the eighteenth day of Kaʻaona (May 18, 1824)” (Beamer, 2014, 90).

King George IV in 1821

The entourage were attended by “the Honorable Fredrick Gerald Byng,” who dispatched his duty exceedingly well, but was apparently conflicted in private about attending a “Black family” who outranked him. As Beamer (2014, 93) puts it: “race and class collide in Byng’s sentiments”

Liholiho died of measles on July 14th, 1824 a week after Kamāmalu. Boki, Liliha, James Young Kanehoa, Mataio Kekūanaoʻa and Kapihe met with King George for “about twenty minutes” on September 11th, 1824 (Beamer, 2014, 97). As the ranking male aliʻi, Boki, through James Young’s translation, answered King George’s question of what their business was in visiting England. Boki replied:

We have come to confirm the words of Kamehameha I which he gave to Vancouver thus – go back and tell King George to watch over me and my Kingdom. I acknowledge him as my landlord and myself as tenant (or him as superior and I as inferior) should the foreigners of any other nation come to take possession of my lands then let him help me.

Beamer, 2014, 98

The parentheses in the above account are in Beamer, and Kuykendall, and presumably in the original. But the account of this meeting was given many years later by Kekūanaoʻa, who by then was one of the only surviving members of the expedition. The quote also lends support to the notion that Hawaiʻi was under British sovereignty, or at the very least was a protectorate of Britain.

James Young Kanehoa (in Kuykendall, 1938, 79) claimed that this issue of the protectorate “formed the chief topic of the interview.” A previous arrangement after the death of Liholiho had been made for the king’s body and retinue to be taken back to Hawaiʻi by a British Ship of War (Kuykendall, 1938, 79). On the matter of Hawaiʻi’s status, Lord Byron noted that:

the position of these Islands stand with regard to the crown of Great Britain, and … His Majesty [King George IV] might claim over them a right of sovereignty not only by discovery, but by direct and formal Cession by the natives.

Kuykendall (quoting Byron), 1938, 81

“Cession” is a transfer of sovereignty by treaty – incidentally, it is the type of transfer that is alleged to have occurred in 1898, only there is no treaty in that case.

Sources: Kamanamaikalani Beamer, No Mākou ka Mana: Liberating the Nation, Honolulu: Kamehameha Publishing, 2014.

Ralph Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, vol. 1, Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1938.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s