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King Kamehameha V, Lot Kapuāiwa


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Mar-11-19 1 Reflection Journal

DMU Timestamp: March 07, 2019 02:52

Added March 11, 2019 at 4:22pm by Bryan Pope
Reason: 1 Reflection Journal

Kuykendall, R. S. (1957). The Hawaiian kingdom, Vol. II: 1854− 1874, twenty critical years.

Chapter 7

The Reign of Kamehameha V

Foreign Relations

ʻAoʻao 196

THE ACCESSION of Lot Kamehameha to the throne as fifth of his dynasty did not cause any great alteration in the foreign policy of the government, although the focus of attention may have shifted a little. Continuity of policy was assured by the retention in office of the veteran minister of foreign affairs, R. C. Wyllie. After his death in October, 1865, there was some change. Always, however, the main purpose of foreign policy was to safeguard the independence of the kingdom. Since economic stability was believed to be a prerequisite of political independence, the details of policy were closely related to the economic development of the country. That development highlighted relations with the United States.


Relations with the United States were not cordial. Formal diplomatic intercourse between the two governments was kept on a friendly plane, although irritating disputes arose from time to time. But there existed in the minds of many Americans a belief that Hawaiian official sentiment was anti-American. The two diplomatic agents, Thomas J. Dryer and James McBride, who represented the United States in Hawaii during the Civil War period were imbued with this idea and wrote of it in many of their dispatches to the secretary of state in Washington. Newspapers in the United States and the Pacific Commercial Advertiser in Honolulu frequently expressed the same view. On the other side, many Hawaiians, official and nonofficial, were distrustful of American intentions with respect to Hawaii. This feeling found apparent justification in the recurrent talk about the possibility or probability of annexation at some indefinite time in the future.

Reasons for this mutual suspicion during the reign of Kamehameha


ʻAoʻao 197

IV were noted in the second chapter. Kamehameha V, at the outset of his reign, added to them by appointing Charles de Varigny to a post in his cabinet. This Frenchman had been a resident of Hawaii since 1855, first as secretary to the French consul-commissioner and after the death of Perrin as acting consul. His views were well known. At a later time he wrote, "I had by no means concealed, on many occasions, the uneasiness which the covetousness and the ambition of the United States inspired in me. Being convinced of the necessity of rallying against them and of grouping together all the European interests in the Islands in order to make a force capable of resistance, I had cultivated with Mr. Synge, then Consul General for England, intimate relations, which were based upon a perfect harmony of views." 1

In another part of the same book, Varigny wrote, "I considered . . . that the only danger which Hawaiian independence could run into would come from the United States, and that the agent of France [in Hawaii] ought to unite himself closely with the agent of England in order to ward off that danger. That is what I did and with such success as to attract to myself the violent animosity of the annexationist party." 2

The British agent with whom Varigny allied himself was W. W. F. Synge, who came to Hawaii in 1862 and remained until 1865. During that period he was a close friend and practically a confidential adviser of the kings, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V, and of Minister Wyllie.3 Wyllie, Synge, and Varigny were in perfect accord in the belief that the only serious threat to Hawaiian independence would come from the United States or from Americans.* They composed a smoothly working team whose purpose was to save Hawaii from the "manifest destiny" American annexationists. In Europe they had an able assistant in the roving ambassador, Sir John Bowring, whose mission was described in the second chapter.

There was another side to this picture. Many Americans firmly believed that both Great Britain and France looked at the Hawaiian Islands with covetous eyes and only needed an opportunity to seize the group. They frequently quoted verse and line to document the grounds for this belief. The unfriendly attitude of France and Great Britain toward the United States during the Civil War strengthened this feeling of distrust. Under


* Synge's title was commissioner and consul general. His American colleague in Honolulu once described him in these words: "Mr. Synge is an Irishman, and his wife is an American lady, with strong British sympathies, I should think, and he is five or six quarters pure unalloyed John Bull." McBride to Seward, March 24, 1865, USDS, Dispatches, Hawaii, Vol. XI.

DMU Timestamp: March 07, 2019 02:52

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