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The Sacramento Daily Union, July 16, 1866

Honolulu, June 22, 1866.


I have just got back from a three weeks' cruise on the island of Hawaii and an eventful sojourn of several days at the great volcano. But of that trip I will speak hereafter. I am too badly used up to do it now. I only want to write a few lines at present by the Live Yankee, merely to keep my communications open, as the soldiers say.


I find Hawaiian politics in a state of unusual stir on account of the death of the King's sister. Her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria Kamamalu Kaahumanu, heir presumptive to the crown. She was something over twenty-seven years old, and had never been married, although she was formally betrothed to Prince William and the marriage day appointed more than once, but circumstances interfered and the nuptials were never consummated.

The Princess was a granddaughter of old Kamehameha the Conqueror, and like all of that stock, was talented. She was the last female descendant of the old warrior.

The care of her infancy was confided to Dr. A. F. [correctly G. P.] Judd (afterward so honorably distinguished in Hawaiian history). Subsequently Hon. John Ii was appointed her guardian by the King. She was carefully educated in the Royal Chief School, which was at that time presided over by the earliest friends of the Hawaiians, the American Missionaries. (It is now in the hands of the gentlemen of the Royal Hawaiian Church, otherwise the "Reformed Catholic Church," a sort of nondescript wild cat religion imported here from England.) She became an accomplished pianist and vocalist, and for many years sat at the melodeon and led the choir in the great stone church here. From her infancy it was expected that she would one day fill the throne, and therefore great importance was attached to her acts, and they were duly observed and noted as straws calculated to show how the wind would be likely to set in her ultimate official life. Consequently the strong friendship she manifested for the missionaries was regarded with jealous eye in certain quarters, and frequent attempts were made to diminish her partiality for them. The late Mr. Wyllie, Minister of Foreign Affairs (a native of Scotland), once sent for Hon. Mr. Ii, and endeavored to get him to use his influence in dissuading the Princess and Mrs. Bishop (a high chiefess) who visited California in the Ajax lately, from further attendance upon the church choirs. He said it was very improper and out of character for Princesses to sing in a choir, and that such personages in England would not do such a thing. The effort was fruitless, however; Victoria continued her former course, and remained faithful to her early friends. She was urged to desert them and go over to the Reformed Catholic Church, but she steadfastly refused.

The Princess was distinguished as the founder and Perpetual President of a benevolent association called "Aha Hui Kaahumanu" - an organization partaking of the benevolent character of Freemasonry, but without its secrecy. It was composed of her countrywomen, and supported by their subscriptions; its membership was exceedingly numerous, and its ramifications extended all over the several islands of the group. Its objects were to secure careful nursing of its members when sick, and their decent burial after death. The society always formed in procession and followed deceased members to the grave, arrayed in a uniform composed of a white robe and a scarf, which indicated the official rank of the wearer by its color.

The Princess was possessed of immense landed estates, and formerly kept up considerable state. She rode in a fine carriage, and had her guards and sentries about her several residences, in European fashion.

The natives have always been remarkable for the extravagant love and devotion they show toward their Chiefs - it almost amounts to worship. When Victoria was a girl of fifteen she made an excursion through the island of Hawaii (the realm of the ancient founders of her race), with her guardian and a retinue of servants, and was everywhere received with a wild enthusiasm by her people. In Hilo, they came in multitudes to the house of the reverend missionary, where she was stopping, and brought with them all manner of offerings - poi, taro, bananas, pigs, fowls - anything they [could] get hold of which was valuable in their eyes - and many of them stinted and starved themselves for the time being, no doubt, to do this honor to a Princess who could not use or carry away the hundredth part of what they lavished upon her. And for hours and even days together the people thronged around the place and wept and chanted their distressing songs, and wailed their agonizing wails; for joy at the return of a loved one and sorrow at his death are expressed in precisely the same way with this curious people.


The Princess died on Tuesday, May 29th, and on Wednesday the body was conveyed to the King's palace, there to lie in state about four weeks, which is royal custom here. The chamber is still darkened, and its walls and ceilings draped and festooned with solemn black. The corpse is attired in white satin, trimmed with lace and ruche, and reposes upon the famous yellow-feather war-cloak of the kings of Hawaii; a simple coronet of orange blossoms, interwoven with white feathers, adorns the head that was promised a regal diadem, six kahili beaters stand upon each side, and these are surrounded by a guard of honor in command of one of the High Chiefs; a party of Chief women are in constant attendance, and officers of the household troops and of the volunteer forces are on duty about the palace; the old Queen Dowager sleeps in the chamber every night. Candelabras burn day and night at the head and feet of the corpse, and shed a funereal twilight over it, and over the silent attendants and the dark and dismal symbols of woe. Every evening a new chant, composed by some Chief woman several days before, and carefully rehearsed, is sung. All this in the death chamber.

Outside, on the broad verandahs and in the ample palace yard, a multitude of common natives howl and wail, and weep and chant the dreary funeral songs of ancient Hawaii, and dance the strange dance for the dead. Numbers of these people remain there day after day and night after night, sleeping in the open air in the intervals of their mourning ceremonies.

I am told these things. I have not seen them. The King has ordered that no foreigner shall be permitted to enter the palace gates before the last night previous to the funeral. The reason why this order was issued is, I am told, that the performances at the palace at the time the corpse of the late King lay there in state were criticised and commented upon too freely. These performances were considerably toned down while the missionaries were in power, but under the more liberal regime of the new Reformed Catholic dispensation they fell back toward their old-time barbarous character. The gates were thrown open and everybody went in and saw and heard what may be termed the funeral orgies of the dead King. The term is coarse, but perhaps it is a better one than a milder one would be. And then scribblers like myself wrote column after column about the matter in the public prints, and the subject was discussed and criticised in private circles and inveighed against in the pulpits. All this was harassing and disagreeable to the parties nearest concerned, and hence the present order forbidding any but Hawaiian citizens and lenient friends from witnessing the ceremonies. So strong is some people's curiosity, however, that the law has already been violated several times within the past week by strangers, who entered the tabooed grounds in disguise. They were discovered, however, and quietly turned out.

The deceased Princess has lain in state now for more than three weeks - yet still the nightly wailing goes on in the palace yard, and the crowds of natives who conduct it increases steadily by influx from the other islands, and the lamentations grow more extravagant all the time. The missionary efforts to discourage and break up this weird custom, inherited from the old pagan days, are quietly rebuked in a little advertisement which appears over the signature of the King's Chamberlain in the public papers to day, wherein he invites all natives to come to the palace grounds and stay there night and day and take part in the wailing for the departed. That looks like a disposition on the part of the authorities not only to check the progress of civilization, but to go backward a little.


The Legislature have appropriated $6,000 to defray the funeral expenses of the Princess. The obsequies will take place the latter part of next week. I have seen the coffin (it is not quite finished yet), and certainly it is the most elegant piece of burial furniture I ever saw. It is made of those two superb species of native wood, kou and koa. The former is nearly as dark as ebony; the latter is like fine California laurel, richly grained and clouded with mahogany. Both woods have an iron-like hardness, and are exceedingly close in grain, and when highly polished and varnished nothing in the shape of wood can be more brilliant, more lustrous, more beautiful. It produces a sort of ecstasy in me to look at it, and holds me like a mesmeric fascination. There is nothing extraordinary about the fashioning - the planning and construction - of this coffin, but still it is beautiful. The wood is so splendidly burnished, and so gracefully grained and clouded.

The silver tablet upon the coffin, upon which is to be inscribed the name and title of the deceased, is to cost $500. I go into these minor details to show you that royal state in the Sandwich Islands approaches as near to its European models as the circumstances of the case will admit.


If a Sandwich Islands missionary comes across a stranger, I think he weighs him and measures him and judges him (in defiance of the injunction to "Judge not, etc.") by an ideal which he has created in his own mind - and if that stranger falls short of that ideal in any particular, the good missionary thinks he falls just that much short of what he ought to be in order to stand a chance for salvation; and with a tranquil simplicity of self conceit, which is marvelous to a modest man, he honestly believes that the Almighty, of a necessity, thinks exactly as he does. I violate the injunction to judge not, also. I judge that missionary, but, with a modesty which is entitled to some credit, I freely confess that my judgment may err. Now, therefore, when I say that the Sandwich Islands missionaries are pious; hard-working; hard-praying; self-sacrificing; hospitable; devoted to the well-being of this people and the interests of Protestantism; bigoted; puritanical; slow; ignorant of all white human nature and natural ways of men, except the remnant of these things that are left in their own class or profession; old fogy - fifty years behind the age; uncharitable toward the weaknesses of the flesh; considering all shortcomings, faults and failings in the light of crimes, and having no mercy and no forgiveness for such - when I say this about the missionaries, I do it with the explicit understanding that it is only my estimate of them - nor that of a Higher Intelligence - not that of even other sinners like myself. It is only my estimate, and it may fall far short of being a just one.

Now, after the above free confession of my creed, I think I ought to be allowed to print a word of defense of these missionaries without having that eternal charge of ''partiality and prejudice" launched at me that is generally sure to be discharged at any man here who ventures - in certain quarters - to give them any credit or offer to defend them from ill-natured aspersions.

Mr. Staley, my Lord Bishop of Honolulu - who was built into a Lord by the English Bishop of Oxford and shipped over here with a fully equipped "Established Church" in his pocket - has frequently said that the natives of these islands are morally and religiously in a worse condition to-day than they were before the American missionaries ever came here. Now that is not true - and in that respect the statement bears a very strong family likeness to many other of the Bishop's remarks about our missionaries. Our missionaries are our missionaries - and even if they were our devils I would not want any English prelate to slander them. I will not go into an argument to prove that the natives have been improved by missionary labor - because facts are stronger than argument. Above I have stated how the natives are now singing and wailing every night - queerly enough, but innocently and harmlessly - out yonder in the palace yard, for the dead Princess. Following is some account of the style of conducting this sort of thing shortly before the traduced missionaries came. I quote from Jarves' History of the Sandwich Islands:

"The ceremonies observed on the death of any important personage were exceedingly barbarous. The hair was shaved or cut close, teeth knocked out and sometimes the ears were mangled. Some tattooed their tongues in a corresponding manner to the other parts of their bodies. Frequently the flesh was cut or burnt, eyes scooped out, and other even more painful personal outrages inflicted. But these usages, however shocking they may appear were innocent compared with the horrid saturnalia which immediately followed the death of a chief of the highest rank. Then the most unbounded license prevailed; law and restraint were cast aside, and the whole people appeared more like demons than human beings. Every vice and crime was allowed. Property was destroyed, houses fired and old feuds revived and avenged. Gambling, theft and murder were as open as the day; clothing was cast aside as a useless incumbrance; drunkenness and promiscuous prostitution prevailed through out the land, no women, excepting the widows of the deceased, being exempt from the grossest violation. There was no passion however lewd, or desire however wicked, but could be gratified with impunity during the continuance of this period which, happily, from its own violence soon spent itself. No other nation was ever witness to a custom which so entirely threw off all moral and legal restraints and incited the evil passions to unresisted riot and wanton debauchery."

It is easy to see, now, that the missionaries have made a better people of this race than they formerly were; and I am satisfied that if that old time national spree were still a custom of the country, my Lord Bishop would not be in this town to-day saying hard things about the missionaries. No; his excellent judgment would have impelled him to take to the woods when the Princess died.


The great bulk of the wealth, the commerce, the enterprise and the Spirit of progress in the Sandwich Islands centers in the Americans. Americans own the whaling fleet; they own the great sugar plantations; they own the cattle ranches; they own their share of the mercantile depots and the lines of packet ships. Whatever of commercial and agricultural greatness the country can boast of it owes to them. Consequently the question of who is likely to succeed to the crown in case of the death of the present King, is an interesting one to American residents, and therefore to their countrymen at home. The incumbent of the throne has it in his power to help or hinder them a good deal. The King is not married; and if he dies without leaving an heir of his own body or appointing a successor, the crown will be likely to fall upon either His Highness Prince William C. Lunalilo or David Kalakaua. The former is of the highest blood in the kingdom - higher than the King himself, it is said - and Kalakaua is descended from the ancient Kings of the island of Hawaii. King Keoua (father of Kamehameha the Great), great-great grandfather of the present King, was also the great-great-grandfather of Prince William; but from Kamehameha the lines diverge, and if there is any kinship between William and Kamehameha V it is distant. They both had a common ancestor in King Umi, however, a gentleman who flourished several hundred years ago. Prince William is called eleventh in descent from Umi, and the present King only fourteenth, which confers seniority of birth and rank upon the former. But this subject is tanglesome.


Prince William is a man of fine large build; is thirty-one years of age, is affable, gentlemanly, open, frank manly; is as independent as a lord and has a spirit and a will like the old Conqueror himself. He is intelligent, shrewd, sensible - is a man of first rate abilities, in fact. He has a right hand some face, and the best nose in the Hawaiian kingdom, white or other wise; it is a splendid beak, and worth being proud of. He has one most unfortunate fault - he drinks constantly; and it is a great pity, for if he would moderate this appetite, or break it off altogether, he could become a credit to himself and his nation. I like this man, and I like his bold independence, and his friendship for and appreciation of the American residents; and I take no pleasure in mentioning this failing of his. If I could print a sermon that would reform him, I would cheerfully do it.


Hon. David Kalakaua, who at present holds the office of King's Chamberlain, is a man of fine presence, is an educated gentleman and a man of good abilities. He is approaching forty, I should judge - is thirty-five, at any rate. He is conservative, politic and calculating, makes little display, and does not talk much in the Legislature. He is a quiet, dignified, sensible man, and would do no discredit to the kingly office.

The King has power to appoint his successor. If he does such a thing, his choice will probably fall on Kalakaua. In case the King should die without making provision for a successor, it would be the duty of the Legislature to select a King from among the dozen high Chiefs, male and female, who are eligible under the Hawaiian Constitution. Under these circumstances, if Prince William were thoroughly redeemed from his besetting sin, his chances would be about even with Kalakaua's.


It is two o'clock in the morning and I have just been up toward the palace to hear some of the singing of the numerous well-born watchers (of both sexes) who are standing guard in the chamber of death. The voices were very pure and rich, and blended together without harshness or discord and the music was exceedingly plaintive and beautiful. I would have been glad enough to get closer. When the plebeians outside the building resumed their distressing noise I came away. In the distance I hear them at if yet, poor, simple, loving, faithful, Christian savages.


The Swallow arrived here on Monday morning, with Anson Burlingame, United States Minister to China, and General Van Valkenburgh, United States Minister to Japan. Their stay is limited to fourteen days, but a strong effort will be made to persuade them to break that limit and pass the Fourth of July here. They are paying and receiving visits constantly, of course, and are cordially welcomed. Burlingame is a man who would be esteemed, respected and popular anywhere, no matter whether he were among Christians or cannibals.

The people are expecting McCook, our new Minister to these islands, every day.

Whartenby and Mackie, of Nevada (Cal.), arrived here in the last vessel, and will start back in a week or two. They came merely for recreation.

Several San Franciscans have come to Honolulu to locate permanently. Among them Dr. A. C. Buffum; he has a fair and growing practice. Judge Jones is another; he has already more law practice on his hands than he can well attend to. And lastly, J. J. Ayers, late one of the proprietors of the Morning Call, has arrived, with material for starting a newspaper and job office. He has not made up his mind yet, however, to try the experiment of a newspaper here. Sanford, last Chief Engineer of the Ajax, came in the last vessel, and proposes to settle in the islands - perhaps in the sugar line. He has gone to Maui to see what the chances are in that deservedly famous sugar-producing region.

A letter arrived here yesterday morning giving a meager account of the arrival on the island of Hawaii of nineteen poor starving wretches, who had been buffeting a stormy sea in an open boat for forty-three days! Their ship, the Hornet, from New York, with a quantity of kerosene on board, had taken fire and burned in lat. 2 degrees north and long. 135 degrees west. Think of their sufferings for forty-three days and nights, exposed to the scorching heat of the center of the torrid zone, and at the mercy of a ceaseless storm! When they had been entirely out of provisions for a day or two and the cravings of hunger became insupportable, they yielded to the shipwrecked mariner's final and fearful alternative, and solemnly drew lots to determine who of their number should die to furnish food for his comrades - and then the morning mists lifted and they saw land. They are being cared for at Sanpohoihoi [Laupahoehoe], a little seaside station I spent a night at two weeks ago. This boat-load was in charge of the Captain of the Hornet. He reports that the remainder of the persons in his ship (twenty in number) left her in two boats, under command of the first and second mates and the three boats kept company until the night of the nineteenth day, when they got separated. No further particulars have arrived here yet, and no confirmation of the above sad story.


The American citizens of Honolulu, anxious to show to their distinguished visitors the honor and respect due them, have invited them to partake of a dinner upon some occasion before their departure. Burlingame and General Van Valkenburgh have accepted the invitation and will inform the Committee this evening what Day will best suit their convenience.


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