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A column to inspire and enlighten Hawaiian subjects at home and abroad.

The Polynesian
November 2000
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In honor of the memory of Timoteo Kamalehua Ha'alilio

This months Polynesian focuses on the events of 1843. In true patriotic fashion, we have chosen to dedicate this months "Subject Matters" column, to one of Hawai'i's truest patriots, Timoteo Kamalehua Ha'alilio. Whose contributions and sacrifice provided the cornerstone for Hawaiian independence.

"One of the most illustrious figures in the annuls of the Hawaiian people is Timothy Ha'alilio, who gained renown for himself in the service of Kamehameha III." Timothy Ha'alilio was born in 1808 on the island of O'ahu to Eseka Kipa and Koelele. His fate was sealed, when in his early teens Ha'alilio was chosen as companion to young Kauikeaouli. Both boys were schooled under the fine tutelage of Rev. Hiram Bingham, where they received an education befitting young ali'i's. The relationship between these two young chiefs would continue throughout their lives, and would blossom into an undeniable bond of loyalty and trust.

Upon the death of Liholiho, Kauikeaouli ascended to the Hawaiian throne, taking the name of King Kamehameha III, and Ha'alilio was always close at hand. A promising young chief, Ha'alilio served as the King's personal companion, advisor and private secretary for many years. He was also appointed as a member of the Hawaiian Treasury Board along with Geritt Judd and John Papa I'i. Ha'alilio's friendship with Kauikeaouli would span the entirety of his life, but it was his dedication to his country for which he is honored.

By 1842, the movement to obtain recognition of Hawai'i's independence had entered upon a new and much more promising phase. Sir George Simpson, governor of Hudson's Bay Company in North America, visited Hawai'i in February of 1842. Sir George indicated a friendly interest in the government and people, and acquainted himself with the steps already taken to secure the independence of Hawai'i. On his recommendation, a commissioner would be sent from the islands on this special business with authority to negotiate treaties with Great Britain, France and the United States. After the proposition had been thoroughly discussed, it was decided that Rev. William Richards and Timothy Ha'alilio, would be commissioned for this embassy, and Sir George Simpson agreed to act with them as a representative of the King of Hawai'i. These three men were assigned the formidable task of traveling to America and Europe to obtain formal recognition of the Independence of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Ha'alilio's loyalty to the King and his abilities as a statesman, made him the prime candidate for this mission, although it was not his desire to travel to foreign lands. His absence from the land of his birth was at times overwhelming. He admits this in the following letter to Dr. G.P. Judd and wife dated February 27, 1843:

Aloha Kauka & Mrs. Kauka,

I extend you greetings today. We are now in London. We are well and not sick, I was only sick in America. I am quite recovered now. I am seeing London, it is of immense size and of great majesty and wealth. Britain is a fine country, and from what I have seen, has no equal. We are agreeable to each other, loving and gracious. But, for the mind to forget the land of my birth, it cannot be forgotten, there is love for the land, and the Chiefs and the people. Say, these countries which I have seen are great, but, I do not want to stay here, not at all, because the love and desire is not more than what I have for my birthplace...

In a letter from Governor Mataio Kekłanao'a to Timothy Ha'alilio informing him of the Paulet incident he writes, "...we have borne it patiently, with the hope that protection will be granted through the mission of you two, and we have also informed this officer of the man-of-war, that when you two are successful, then, we will get our rights, as also our Rulers. Therefore you two must have no fear about the abuses, and about the king's having given the land with the intention of appealing to the rulers of Great two must strive very hard for that which you were sent to do, so that we may receive the benefit through the work of you two, so that our Rulers may receive peace of mind, be steadfast and be patient according to the instruction of our master, because, we are servants under oath, and we are only to obey the instructions, and should we die in carrying them out, we will be blessed if we die in obeying the voice of our master."

Upon hearing this distressing news, the Hawaiian envoys set to their task with renewed vigor, for it was now apparent that the very existence of Hawaiian sovereignty was dependent on their success. The envoys were indeed successful with their mission, and on November 28, 1843, Hawai'i received a formal agreement between Great Britain and France recognizing the Independence of Hawai'i. It would be another seven years before the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom would satisfactorily negotiate the terms for a treaty, which was ratified and then exchanged on August 24, 1850.

Having accomplished their mission to the great satisfaction of the King, Ha'alilio and Richards finally headed home for Hawai'i. However, having spent two harsh winters in the United States and Europe greatly affected Ha'alilio's health. By the fall of 1844 Ha'alilio had taken ill, and spent several weeks in a Massachusetts Hospital. On November 18, 1844 determined to reach Hawai'i, Ha'alilio and William Richards set sail for Hawai'i from Boston on the ship Montreal. But this great patriot and favorite son of Hawai'i would never see his beloved homeland again.

On December 3, 1844, Timoteo Kamalehua Ha'alilio drew his last breath and died at sea, without ever having caught a glimpse of the land which he so loved. Hawai'i wept upon learning of his passing. The people gathered by the thousands to honor this native son who sacrificed his life for the good of the country.

In an article dated March 23, 1845, from Thrum's Annuals, Timoteo Ha'alilio is remembered:

"This morning a large ship was seen off the harbor, with her flag half-masted. It proved to be the "Montreal", Captain Snow, from Boston. Mr. Richards came on shore alone, or unaccompanied by Ha'alilio, and we were soon informed that his corpse was on board, the noble spirit that animated it had long been fled to join the pleasures of another and better world. It has been a day of grief and sadness. Aloha ino ia Ha'alilio. On March 26th, the last earthly honors have been paid to Ha'alilio. The services have been solemn and impressive. The town has an aspect of mourning since the arrival of the remains. The flags have been at half mast, and the natives and Chiefs have assumed the sable colored garments. At noon the stores were voluntarily closed by the merchants as a token of respect to Ha'alilio, and at three P.M. the people being assembled, the procession was formed, a very large number of foreigners, coming to pay the last sad tribute to him on whom so many hopes were centered. There was considerable wailing around his coffin, which was covered with crimson velvet, studded with brass nails and devices of plate. The procession was headed by the band and soldiers, a guard being on either side to keep the very great crowd which lined both sides of the road for nearly a mile from pressing on the procession. After arriving at the chapel, Mr. Armstrong pronounced a very beautiful and impressive eulogy on the deceased, alluding to his infancy; his being a companion form boyhood to His Majesty; his high office of trust; his fulfillment of it, and his death as a Christian. From the church the procession re-formed and marched to the tomb where he was deposited under a salute, to rest till he shall be called before Him who is King of King's. His death has blasted many hopes, for he was a general favorite, and many a tear embalms his memory."

Measured by any standard, and in any era, Timothy Ha'alilio's life defines resolve, sacrifice and most of all, patriotism. Here is an unsung hero, a national treasure, which, not unlike our history, has somehow eluded us. His remains lie at Kawaiaha'o Cemetery in a grave depicting a pauper rather than a hero. It is marked by an obscure little name plate, bearing the wrong name of "Richard Ha'alilio." No one knows why, and no one seems to care. November 28th, 2000, marks our nations 157th anniversary of its independence. We have the privilege and honor to humbly walk in the footsteps of this great man. We ask that you join us in honoring, "Timoteo Kamalehua Ha'alilio." Pau.


Mahalo to Laurel "Ceeti" Douglas for her contribution to this article.

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Synopsis   History "Lance Paul Larsen vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom"
Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague
News   Arbitral Log