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A Meeting of the People, Lahaina, Maui, 150 years ago. 

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on March 29, 1873.

Politics was not something just reserved for the legislature, the nation’s policies were discussed and argued about in meetings held by makaʻāinana in the countryside as well.

The following is a record of a meeting held a 150 years ago on March 17, 1873, discussing the newly elected King Lunalilo; along with taxes and the financial situation of the nation; as well as the fate of Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor).

Image:  “Halawai Makaainana ma Lahaina.” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, March 29, 1873, p. 3.

A People’s Meeting in Lahaina.

The people of the district of Lahaina met at Halealoha on March 17, 1873 at 7:30 in the evening; G. W. Pehu was appointed as Chairman and D. Mamaki as Secretary; A. Makekau gave a prayer.

P. Kalaikini [Peter Kalaikini] clarified the agenda.—1. Pertaining to the good of agreeing with or perhaps disagreeing with the traveling of our dear King to America, as an “Envoy Extraodinary,” seeking a Treaty between these Nations. 2. The good or perhaps not, of transferring Puʻuloa to America under a lease, or by some other means.

It was motioned that the house receive and consider these matters, seconded, and carried.

D. Kahaulelio expressed his opinion to approve the going of the King; however not the King himself, but one of the aliʻi youths of Hawaiʻi nei.

S. Kamohakau [Samuel Kamohakau] clarified, this meeting should not receive and consider these matters at this time, whereas the thoughts of the King are not known. He did not consult with His Cabinet. And should it be only the ideas lacking truth which appear in the newspapers that this meeting hastily receive and consider? In my opinion, the intelligence of this King is greater than ours, and will He not first make known His thoughts before His people? When His thoughts are thus known, only then should we call meetings.

P. Kalaikini made clarifications on both sides, the good and not good of agreeing with the traveling of the King.—1 We should approve of the King going in search of our prosperity. For in His Royal Proclamation, He stated, “O My people, I will work for your benefit,” &c.—And perhaps this is the time he decided to seek our benefits. I have been wondering and question, “What will be the benefits that this King gives us that will be like those from Kamehameha III? And perhaps this action that we take now, that is the action He thought of to seek out good fortune for His people. 2. We should not approve, for just a few days prior, we elected him as King, and father for us. And is it right for us to approve the going of our father and leaving us? Also, I think if we agree to transfer Puʻuloa to America, our nation will benefit, just as long as it is by lease. He spoke on many thing, but forgive me for forgetting.

M. Kuaea clarified, “This is a matter which we must think much about with fear in our hearts. I am greatly puzzled by there being no reciprocity treaty in the old days, and still the haole built sugar mills knowing that they would receive profits, but these days they was a reciprocity treaty, and they are trying to send our King to America. Just two months ago we unanimously voted for Him as King, and father for us, and this newly born Child is whom we are putting this great task upon, and sending away? This is all very shocking, to have just become King and being soon sent away. I have no idea what the true intent of the traders, but I believe that they have a different purpose and are cloaking it with this idea of seeking a reciprocity treaty. Therefore we must be fearful, and not agree to our King going, seconded, and carried.

P. Kalaikini nominated the names of M. Kuaea, A. Makekau and D. Kahaulelio for the Committee; appointed and carried.

P. N. Makee reported—I have a document of this nature from Ulupalakua, but the gist of it pertains to have to do with doing away with the duty between these nations. Looking at the current situation, the haole traders are losing money. There was a huge increase in the duty on sugar, wool, cotton, &c. Because of this huge increase, the haole traders want to send our King to Washington to ask the President of the United States for this.

This is an idea that was first thought of during the time of the King who just died. The time to fetch him was set, and the train in San Francisco was waiting, but the news came that the King had died, so the plan failed. And when Lunalilo was chosen as King, the haole traders once again believe their plan will succeed should they make the request of this new King. One more thing, this nation is without money, and if this idea does not come to fruition, then the haole traders will leave this nation.

Here is anothert thing: there is only one haole who has benefited at Puʻuloa [Pearl Harbor], the nation has not, and should we approve the transferring of that place by way of a lease to America, then the Hawaiian nation will benefit, &c.

Eugin Bal [Eugene Bal] stated his opinion approving that the King go to Washington to seek a Treaty, &c.1

D. Mamaki.
Lahaina, March 21, 1873.

(Kuokoa, 3/29/1873, p. 3)

1This same account appears in Ke Au Okoa on March 27, 1873, with some differences. In the Ke Au Okoa version for instance, this paragraph is followed by: “P. Kalaikini motioned that the record of this meeting be sent to Ke Au Okoa and the Kuokoa, seconded, and carried. The meeting was adjourned.”

Image:  Signed studio portrait of William Charles Lunalilo; Hawaiʻi. Photo by Menzies Dickson, Bishop Museum Archives. SP 74018

Image:  Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor) from Waiʻanae Mountain range; Waiʻanae, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. ca. 1905. Bishop Museum Archives. SP 103428

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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