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King of the Hawaiian Islands (more ...)
Reign February 13, 1874 — January 20, 1891
February 13, 1874, Kīnaʻu Hale
February 12, 1883, ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu.
Predecessor Lunalilo
Successor Liliʻuokalani
Born (1836-11-16)November 16, 1836
Honolulu, Oʻahu, Kingdom of Hawai'i
Died January 20, 1891(1891-01-20) (aged 54)
Palace Hotel, San Francisco, California, United States of America
Burial February 15, 1891[1]
Mauna ʻAla Royal Mausoleum
Spouse Kapiʻolani
Full name
David Laʻamea Kamananakapu Mahinulani Naloiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua
House House of Kalākaua
Father Caesar Kapaʻakea
Mother Analea Keohokālole
Religion Church of Hawaii, Protestant Episcopal

Kalākaua (November 16, 1836 – January 20, 1891), born David Laʻamea Kamananakapu Mahinulani Naloiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua[2] and sometimes called The Merrie Monarch, was the last king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. He reigned from February 12, 1874 until his death in San Francisco, California, on January 20, 1891.

During his reign hula was revived, after having been banned in 1830 by Queen Ka'ahumanu, who had converted to Christianity. He is also known for having revived surfing and the Hawaiian martial art, Kapu Kuialua.

Early life[edit]

Kalākaua in his youth, c. 1850.

Kalākaua was the second surviving son of his father High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea and his mother High Chiefess Analea Keohokālole. He was the brother of James Kaliokalani, Lydia Kamakaʻeha, Anna Kaʻiulani, Kaʻiminaʻauao, Miriam Likelike, and William Pitt Leleiohoku II. His name Kalākaua translates into "The Day [of] Battle" and refers to the unequal treaty imposed by British Captain Lord Edward Russell of the Actaeon on Kamehameha III on the day of his birth.[3][4] Although he was promised in hānai (informal adoption) to Kuini Liliha, Kaʻahumanu II gave him to the High Chiefess Haʻaheo Kaniu and her husband Keaweamahi Kinimaka instead.[5]

When Haʻaheo died in 1843 she bequeathed all her properties to him.[6] His guardianship was entrusted in his hānai father, who was a chief of lesser rank; he took Kalākaua to live in Lāhainā. Kinimaka would later marry Pai, a subordinate Tahitian chiefess, who treated Kalākaua as her own until the birth of her own son.[5][7]

At the age of four, Kalākaua returned to Oʻahu to live with his biological parents and to begin his education at the Chiefs' Children's School. At the school, Kalākaua became fluent in English and the Hawaiian language.

On December 8, 1863, Kalākaua married Kapiʻolani in a quiet ceremony conducted by an Episcopal minister. The timing of the wedding was heavily criticized since it fell during the mourning period for King Kamehameha IV.[8]

Political ascendancy[edit]

He began studying law at the age of sixteen. His various government positions, however, prevented him from fully completing his legal training. In 1853, Crown Prince Liholiho, who would later reign as Kamehameha IV, commissioned Kalākaua as Brevet Captain of the Infantry.[9] He was promoted to Major by 1856. Kalākaua served as 3rd Chief Clerk of the Department of the Interior in 1859.[10] In 1863,he was appointed Postmaster General.[11] He was also appointed to the House of Nobles of the Legislature of the Kingdom of Hawaii that same year, serving there until 1873.[12][13]

He was a personal associate and friend of Prince Lot, the future Kamehameha V, who instill his mission of "Hawaii for Hawaiian" in the young Kalākaua. In 1860, he accompanied Prince Lot on his trip to California and Canada.[14]

1873 election[edit]

King Kamehameha V, the last monarch of the Kamehameha dynasty, died on December 12, 1872 without naming a successor to the throne. Under the 1864 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, if the king did not appoint a successor, a new king would be appointed by the legislature to start a new royal line of succession.[15]

There were several candidates for the Hawaiian throne. However, the contest was centered on the two high-ranking aliʻi, or chiefs: William C. Lunalilo and Kalākaua. Lunalilo was more popular, partially because he was a higher-ranking chief than Kalākaua and was the immediate cousin of Kamehameha V. Lunalilo was also the more liberal of the two—he promised to amend the constitution to give the people a greater voice in the government. According to historial Ralph S. Kuykendall, there was an enthusiasm among Lunalilo's supporters to have Lunalilo declared king without having an election. In response, Lunalilo issued a proclamation stating that, even though he believed himself to be the rightful heir to the throne, he would submit to an election for the good of the kingdom.[16] On January 1, 1873, a popular election was held for the office of King of Hawaii. The unmarried Lunalilo won with an overwhelming majority while Kalākaua performed extremely poorly receiving 12 votes out of the more than 11,000 votes casted.[17] The next day, the legislature confirmed the popular vote and elected Lunalilo unanimously. Kalākaua conceded.[18]

1874 election[edit]

Kalākaua was appointed as Colonel on the military staff of Lunalilo.[19] He kept politically active during Lunalilo's reign, including leadership involvement with a political organization known as the Young Hawaiians; the group's motto was "Hawaii for the Hawaiians."[19] He had gained political capital with his staunch opposition to ceding any part of the Hawaiian islands to foreign interests.[20][21] Queen Dowager Emma, the widow of Kamehameha IV, was considered to be Lunalilo's favorite choice as his presumptive heir.[22] Among the candidates considered viable as Lunalilo's successor was Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who had strong ties to the United States through her marriage to wealthy American businessman Charles Reed Bishop. When Lunalilo, who never married, became ill several months after his election, Native Hawaiians counseled with him to appoint a successor to avoid another election. However he may have personally felt about Emma, he never put it in writing. He failed to act on the issue of a successor, and died on February 3, 1874, setting in motion a bitter election.[23]

Bishop chose not to run. Kalākaua's political platform was that he would reign in strict accordance with the kingdom's constitution. Emma campaigned on her assurance that Lunalilo had personally told her he wanted her to succeed him, backed publicly by several individuals who claimed first-hand knowledge of Lunalilo's wishes. With Lunalilo's privy counsel issuing a public denial of that, the kingdom was divided on the issue.[24] British Commissioner James Hay Wodehouse put the British and American forces docked at Honolulu on the alert to possible violence.[25]

The election was held on February 12, and Kalākaua was elected by the Legislative Assembly, with a margin of 39 to 6. His election provoked the Honolulu Courthouse riot in which supporters of Queen Emma targeted legislators who supported Kalākaua; thirteen legislators were injured. Unable to control the mob, Kalākaua and Lunalilo's former ministers had to request the military aid of American and British forces docked in the harbor to land and quell the uprising.[25][21] Given the unfavorable political climate, Kalākaua was quickly sworn in the following day, in a ceremony witnessed by government officials, family members, foreign representatives and some spectators. This inauguration ceremony was held at Kīnaʻu Hale, the residence of the Royal Chamberlain, instead of Kawaiahaʻo Church, as was custom, and the hastiness of the affair would prompt him to hold a coronation ceremony in 1883.[26] Upon ascending to the throne, Kalākaua named his brother, William Pitt Leleiohoku, as his heir.[27] From March to May of 1874, he toured the main Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Molokai and Oahu and visited the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement.[28]


Reciprocity Treaty of 1875[edit]

Illustration of Kalākaua's state dinner at the White House, meeting with President Ulysses S. Grant.

For decades, the sugar planters in Hawaii had been economically hampered by United States import taxes placed upon their product, and consequently has been attempting negotiations for a free trade agreement. Two previous efforts at reaching an agreement with the United States failed, for many reasons. The planters wanted a treaty, but Hawaiians feared it would lead to annexation by the United States. Sugar refineries in San Francisco lobbied for a clause protecting their interests. The most recent effort before Kalākaua's reign died in the United States Senate.[29]

Within a year of Kalākaua's election, the treaty would become a reality, although the treaty was not supported by all Hawaiians. There were concerns over American ambitions to annex the islands, with many in the business community willing to cede the exclusive use of Pearl Harbor to the United States in exchange for the treaty. Part of Kalākaua's election platform, as "Hawaii for Hawaiians", had been to oppose the ceding of any sovereign land. Hawaii legislator Joseph Nāwahī predicted the treaty would be "a nation snatching treaty".[30]

At the urging of Hawaii's businessmen and the kingdom's newspapers, Kalākaua agreed to head a Reciprocity Commission consisting of sugar planter Henry A. P. Carter of C. Brewer & Co., Hawaii Chief Justice Elisha Hunt Allen, and Minister of Foreign Affairs William Lowthian Green. He was the first reigning monarch to visit America during his 1874 visit to Washington, D.C. for negotiations of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. The state dinner in his honor hosted by President Ulysses S. Grant was the first White House state dinner ever given.[31] After several months of negotiations, the treaty was signed on January 30, 1875, without giving away any Hawaiian land.[32] It allowed certain Hawaiian goods, mainly sugar and rice, to be admitted into the United States tax-free.[33]

The most immediate result of the treaty was the boom in new sugar plantations. San Francisco sugar refiner Claus Spreckels became a major investor in Hawaii's sugar industry, initially buying half of the first year's production, and ultimately being the major shareholder in the plantations. Claus and his son John D. Spreckels became part owners of the Waihee plantation on the island of Maui. Within 5 years, it was estimated that he owned one-third of the sugar production in Hawaii. By 1882, the year he exported 24 million tons of raw sugar from the islands,[34] he claimed to have a monopoly on the Hawaiian sugar production. Spreckels became one of Kalākaua's close associates, and by extension, tied in with the king's cabinet minister Walter Murray Gibson.[35]

Over the term of Kalākaua's reign, the treaty had a major effect on the kingdom's income. In 1874, Hawaii exported $1,839,620.27 in products. The value of exported products for 1890, the last full year of his reign, was $13,282,729.48, an increase of 722%. The exportation of sugar during that time period went from 24,566,611 pounds to 330,822,879 pounds.[36]

Walter Murray Gibson[edit]

Walter Murray Gibson had a background as a military filibuster prior to his arriving in Hawaii. After a brief stint as an envoy of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Hawaii, he was ex-communicated from the church over financial practices. He became fluent in the Hawaiian language and started the Nuhou newspaper, editing under the name Kipikona and frequently aligning himself with the Native Hawaiians against the white population. In particular, he opposed a growing political movement to cede Pearl Harbor to the United States. During the 1874 election, he became a supporter of Kalākaua.[37] Gibson was elected to the legislature in 1878 and became Chairman of the Finance Committee.[38] Like Kalākaua, Gibson was concerned about the dwindling population of Native Hawaiians. He believed the government should be doing more to protect that population against disease. One Gibson's first achievements as Finance chair was the appropriation of $75,000 to assist Father Damien's work with the leper colony on Molokai.[39][40]

In 1880, he purchased the Pacific Commercial Advertiser.[41] Author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was a personal friend of Kalākaua's, summed up the Kalākaua-Gibson relationship as one of mutually dependent ambitions, "...in politics...he was careful to consult the character of the late king, Kalākaua. That amiable, far from unaccomplished, but too convivial sovereign, had a continued use for money: Gibson was observant to keep him well supplied."[42] Kalākaua appointed Gibson as his Minister of Foreign Affairs on May 20, 1882, and again on October 13, 1886. He became Minister of the Interior and Prime Minister of Hawaii on June 30, 1886.[43]

Trip around the world[edit]

Journey of King Kalākaua in 1881

King Kalākaua and his boyhood friends William Nevins Armstrong and Charles Hasting Judd, along with personal cook Robert von Oelhoffen, circumnavigated the globe in a 281-day trip that set a world's record for the first monarch to achieve the feat.[44] There was no protection force accompanying them. Except for land transportation in cities, and two loaned ships in China and the US, their means of travel was mostly public transport on ships and railways.

As much of a travel adventure as it sometimes was, the 1881 world tour had two purposes. The first was to encourage the importation of contract labor for plantations. The second was to put the emphasis on Asia-Pacific nations that shared common cultures with Hawaii, in order to eventually increase the Native Hawaiian population that had been decimated by diseases brought to the islands by whalers and missionaries.[45][46] He appointed his sister and heir-apparent Liliuokalani to act as Regent during his absence.[47] Setting sail on January 20, they first spent a week in California with politicians and civic organizations, and were accompanied by Claus Spreckels.[48]

From California, they sailed to Asia where they spent four months. They arrived in Japan on March 4. Emperor Meiji welcomed Kalākaua as a friendly monarch and arranged for the king to visit sites of cultural or military importance, in between their contract labor discussions. An arranged marriage between Kalākaua's niece Kaiulani and a Japanese prince to unite the two countries was offered in hopes of forestalling American ambitions in Hawaii, but was ultimately rejected by both the prince and Japan.[49] March 25 through April 21 was spent in China and British Hong Kong. Tientsin viceroy Li Hung Chang agreed to work with his government to supplement the existing Chinese contract labor already in Hawaii.[50]

They spent the last week of April as the guest of King Chulalongkorn in Bangkok, carried on silk chairs to the palace. Chulalongkorn shared his country's hospitality with the royal group, but no labor negotiations occurred.[51] Singapore's governor Frederick Weld held a formal reception and state dinner for him on May 6.[52] He played billiards with Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor on May 10. At the end of May, they sailed for India, arriving in Calcutta on May 28. Negotiations for Indian contract labor had to be done with the British government in London, so India was only a week's sightseeing trip.[53] They spent a week on a ship crossing the Red Sea, and in Cairo stayed at the palace of Khedive Tewfik Pasha. The Khedive gave them a tour of the Pyramid complex and the Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau.[54]

June 29 through September 13 was spent in Europe, bringing Hawaii's immigration situation to heads of state. In Italy, he had an audience with Pope Leo XIII and met with King Umberto I and Queen Margherita.[55] The grandeur of European monarchies left a lasting impression on him. He was most impressed with Queen Victoria.[56] While in England, he connected with Abraham Hoffnung of the Hawaiian Board of Immigration in London.[57] Among the royal figures he met with elsewhere in Europe were Belgium's King Leopold II, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany, and Prince Charles of Prussia.[58] Five days in Paris brought many well-wishers as they toured the sites.[59]

Their most productive immigration talks were in Portugal, where Armstrong stayed behind to negotiate an expansion of Hawaii's existing treaty with the government.[60] In the winding down of the tour, they revisited Paris and London, and left Europe through Scotland.[44] President James A. Garfield in Washington, D.C. had been assassinated in their absence, and on their return trip, Kalākaua paid a courtesy call on Garafield's successor President Chester A. Arthur.[61][62] Before embarking on a train ride across the United States, Kalākaua visited Thomas Edison for a demonstration of electric lighting, discussing its potential use in Honolulu.[63]

They departed for Hawaii from San Francisco on October 22, arriving in Honolulu on October 31. His homecoming celebration went on for days. He had brought the small island nation to the attention of world leaders, but the trip had sparked rumors that the kingdom was for sale. In Hawaii there were critics who believed the labor negotiations were just his excuse to see the world. Eventually his efforts bore fruit in increased contract labor for Hawaii.[64][65][66] Kalākaua returned with ambitions of raising the Hawaiian monarchy up to the grandeur of his European counterparts, and his spending in pursuit of that spiraled out of control.

Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1883 reported Kalākaua's tour expense appropriated by the government as $22,500,[67] although his personal correspondence indicates he exceeded that early on,[68] and exact tallies of the trip are not known. Any non-government private expenses or debts would not necessarily have become public.

Statue of Kamehameha[edit]

Statue of Kamehameha in front of Aliiolani Hale

The Kamehameha statue was the brainchild of Gibson, at that time Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Legislature of the Kingdom of Hawaii. [69] Through his efforts in 1878, the legislature established a Commemorative Monument Committee and allocated $10,000.[70] Thomas Ridgeway Gould was selected as the sculptor. As Gould and Gibson worked to create an acceptable likeness of Kamehameha, Kalākaua commissioned photographs of John Timoteo Baker and his brother Robert Hoapili Baker posing in Kamehameha's actual garments.[71]

The statue was cast at the Barbedienne foundry in Paris, insured for $12,000. It was shipped to Honolulu from Bremen, Germany aboard the George F. Haendel, which wrecked off the Faulkland Islands.[72] A second statue was cast with the addition, at Gibson's request, of four bas relief panels depicting historic moments during Kamehamena's reign. Gould died before completing the second statue, and the task was undertaken by his son Marshall.[73]

The second cast with the four bas reliefs on the pedestal was unveiled at Kalākaua's 1883 coronation. This is the statue that today stands in front of Aliiolani Hale, the government building.[74] Meanwhile, the original statue had been salvaged, and arrived in damaged condition at Honolulu on the Earl of Dalhousie on March 27, 1882.[75] After restoration, the original statue was sent to Kohala, Hawaii.[76]

ʻIolani Palace[edit]

ʻIolani Palace is the only royal palace that exists on American soil today. Governor of Oʻahu Kekūanāoʻa built the first coral and wood palace on the grounds. It served primarily as office space for the kingdom's monarchs beginning with Kamehameha III in 1845. By the time Kalākaua became king, the structure had decayed, and he ordered it destroyed to be replaced with a new building.[77] During the same 1878 session of the legislature that approved the statue of Kamehamena, under Gibson's chairmanship, the legislature appropriated $50,000 for the new palace.[78]

Construction was begun in 1879, with an additional $80,000 later to furnish it and complete the construction.[79][80] Three architects worked on the design, Thomas J. Baker, Charles J. Wall and Issac Moore. December 31, 1879, the 45th birthday of Queen Kapiolani, was the date Kalākaua chose for the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone. Minister of Foreign Relations John Makini Kapena delivered the formal address for the ceremony in the Hawaiian language.[81] As Master of the Freemason Lodge Le Progres de L'Oceanie, Kalākaua charged the freemasons with orchestrating the ceremonies. The parade preceding the laying of the cornerstone involved every civilian and military organization in Hawaii, and noted by The Pacific Commercial Advertiser as "one of the largest seen in Honolulu for some years."[82] A copper time capsule containing photographs, documents, currency, and the Hawaiian census were sealed inside the cornerstone. After speeches were made, the freemasons presented the king with "the working tools of a mason", a plumb bob, level, square tool, and a trowel.[82]

Even though it was not fully completed until December 1882, the king was living there prior to his leaving for his world tour.[FN 1] In between the laying of the cornerstone and the finishing of the new palace, Kalākaua had seen how other monarchies lived, and he wanted ʻIolani to measure up to the standards of the rest of the world. The furnishing and interiors of the finished palace were reflective of that. Immediately upon completion, the king invited all 120 members of Lodge Le Progres de L'Oceanie to the palace for a lodge meeting.[83]

Kalākaua had also seen during his visit to Edison's studio how effective electric lighting could be for the kingdom. In 1886, ʻIolani Palace led the way with the first electric lights in the kingdom, and showcased the technology. The monarchy invited the public to attend the first-night lighting ceremonies, and 5,000 people showed up. The Royal Hawaiian Band entertained, refreshments were served, and the king on horseback paraded his troops around the grounds.[84]

The total cost of building and furnishing the new palace was $343.595.[77]

Kalākaua coinage[edit]

Hawaii had previously minted 100,000 1-cent copper coins under Kamehameha III, put into circulation in 1847. The obverse side had the image of Kamehameha III and "KA MOI" (the King). The reverse side was a wreath of laurel boughs and "AUPUNI HAWAII" (Kingdom of Hawaii). There were multiple flaws with the design, and the population refused to use the coin.[85][86]

Kalākaua 1883 dime

The minting of the Kalākaua coins began with good intentions of the king and Gibson, to boost Hawaiian pride by giving the kingdom its own coinage. Up to that point, currency from several nations was used in Hawaii, but it was primarily the United States gold coins in circulation for any debt over $50, "the gold coins of the United States of America shall be the standard and a legal tender in this Kingdom in all payments of debts, at their nominal value"[87] Any debt under $50 was payable by American silver coins.

Gold and silver-backed paper currency was in circulation, when Finance chair Gibson, supported by Minister of the Interior Samuel G. Wilder, pushed a new currency law through the 1880 legislature.[85] It allowed the kingdom to purchase the gold and silver for the United States mint to produce Hawaii's own coins. The design would have the king's image on the obverse side, with Hawaii's coat of arms and motto Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono on the reverse. When Gibson was appointed to Kalākaua's cabinet in 1882, he began to implement that plan by offering business man Claus Spreckels a deal to provide $1,000,000 of the silver coins, for which he would in turn receive $1,000,000 worth of 6% gold bonds. Although on the surface, Spreckels stood to profit from the 6% interest, he also made a profit when the coins were minted with less silver content than US coins.[88]

The first coins began circulating in December 1883. Hawaii's business community was leery of saturating the market with silver coins. Many debts in both the US and Hawaii were payable only in gold. Local business men unsuccessfully tried to get an injunction in 1884 to prevent the circulation of the gold coins. Spreckels and his partners William G. Irwin, and F. F. Low formed the Spreckels & Company Bank in Hawaii in 1884, for the specific purpose of circulating the silver coins.[89]

Because of the threat of economic inflation, and the fear that the silver coins would drive the gold coins out of circulation, the business community lost faith in the government. This triggered a situation whereby the business community started refusing to take the silver coins. Foreign governments also lacked faith in the Hawaiian government's business acumen. Political fallout of the coinage was the 1884 election-year shift towards the Kuokoa (independent) Party in the legislature. The Currency Act of 1884 restricted acceptance of silver coin as payment for debts under $10, and limited the exchange of silver for gold at the treasury to $150,000 a month. In spite of that, within a year, the public debt on the budget increased by 20%. In 1903. by act of Congress, the silver coins were redeemed for US silver and melted down at the San Francisco Mint. [90]

Some unredeemed coins in private hands were refashioned and sold as enameled (and unenameled) jewelry: pins, watch fobs, cuff links, belt buckles, hat bands and hat pins.[91] A few Kalākaua coins still remain in the hands of collectors. An 1881 prototype for the nickel was auctioned in 2010 for $25,300, while an uncirculated proof the 1883 Hawaiian 1/8 dollar (hapawalu) brought $43,125.[92]

1883 Coronation[edit]

Kalākaua and Kapiolani had been denied a coronation ceremony in 1874, due to the civil unrest that happened after the election. Under Finance Chairman Gibson, the 1880 legislature appropriated $10,000 for a coronation.[93] Gibson was believed to be the main proponent behind the event, and on October 10, 1882, the Saturday Press indicated that not all of the public was in favor of the coronation. By this point in time, Gibson's role in the kingdom's finances and his influence on Kalākaua were beginning to come under scrutiny, "Our versatile Premier...is pulling another string in this puppet farce." At the same time, the newspaper rebuked many of the recent actions and policies of not only Gibson, but also of the king's cabinet in general.[94]

The coronation ceremony and related celebratory events, were spread out over a two-week period.[95] A special octagon-shaped pavilion and grandstand were built for the February 12, 1883 ceremony. Preparations were made for an anticipated crowd exceeding 5,000, with lawn chairs to accommodate any overflow. Prior the actual event, a procession of 630 adults and children paraded from downtown to the palace. Kalākaua and Kapiolani, accompanied by their royal retinue, came out of the palace onto the event grounds. The actual coronation was preceded by the singing of a choir and the formal recitation of all the king's official titles. The news coverage noted, "The King looked ill at ease." Chief Justice of Hawaii's Supreme Court Albert Francis Judd officiated and delivered the oath of office to the king. The crown was then handed to Kalākaua, and he placed it upon his head. The ceremony ended with the singing of the choir, and a prayer. A planned post-coronation reception by Kalākaua and Kapiolani was cancelled without advance notice.[2] Today, Kalākaua's coronation pavilion serves as the bandstand for the Royal Hawaiian Band.[77]

The statue of Kamehameha was unveiled on the palace grounds, with Gibson delivering the unveiling speech. That evening, the royal couple hosted a state dinner, and there was a luau at a later day. The hula was performed every night on palace grounds. Boat regattas, horse races and a number of events filled the celebration period.[95] Due to weather conditions, the planned illumination of the palace and grounds for the day of the coronation happened a week later, and the public was invited to attend. Fireworks displays lit up the sky at both the palace and at Punchbowl Crater. A grand ball was held the evening of February 20.[96]

Although exact figures are unknown, historian Kuykendall stated that the final cost of the coronation exceeded $50,000.[95]

Birthday Jubilee, November 15–29, 1886[edit]

Kalākaua's 50th birthday on November 16, 1886 was celebrated with a two-week jubilee. On September 20, Minister of the Interior Luther Aholo and Gibson who was by now Prime Minister of Hawaii, put forth a motion for the legislature to form a committee to oversee the birthday jubilee. The motion was approved, and upon Gibson's subsequent request, the legislature appropriated $15,000 for the jubilee.[97] An announcement was made on November 3 that all government schools would be closed the week of November 15.[98]

Gifts for the king began arriving on November 15. At midnight, the jubilee officially began with fireworks at the Punchbowl crater. At sunrise, the kingdom's police force arrived at ʻIolani Palace to pay tribute, followed by the king's Cabinet, Supreme Court justices, the kingdom diplomats, and officials of individual government departments. School student bodies and civic organizations also paid tribute. The Royal Hawaiian Band played throughout the day. In the afternoon, the doors of the palace were opened to all the officials and organizations, and the general public. In the evening, the palace was aglow with lanterns, candles and electric lighting, "The electric light at once threw in a flood of radiance over the Palace and grounds." [99] The evening ended with a Fireman's Parade and fireworks. Throughout the next two weeks, there was a regatta,[100] a luau[101] a Jubilee Ball,[102] athletic competitions, an historical painting the Hawaiian Opera House, and a state dinner. The Honolulu Rifles won in a marksmanship contest.[103]

Harper's Weekly reported in 1891 that the final cost of the jubilee was $75,000.[104]

Polynesian empire[edit]

Portrait of Kalakaua

The idea of Hawaii's involvement in the internal affairs of Polynesian nations had been around at least two decades before Kalākaua's election, when Australian Charles St Julian volunteered to be a political liaison to Hawaii in 1853. Nothing of any significance was accomplished by St Julian.[105] Kalākaua's interest in forming a Polynesian coalition, with him at the head, was influenced by both Walter M. Gibson and Italian soldier of fortune Celso Caesar Moreno. The latter urged the king in 1879 to create such a realm with Hawaii at the top of the empire, " ... uniting under your sceptre the whole Polynesian race and make Honolulu a monarchical Washington, where the representatives of all the islands would convene in Congress."[106]

In response to activities of Germany and Great Britain in Oceania, Gibson's Pacific Commercial Advertiser urged Hawaii's involvement in protecting the island nations from international aggression.[107] Gibson was appointed to Kalākaua's cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1882.[108] In 1883, he introduced the approved legislation to convey in writing to foreign governments that Hawaii fully supported the independence of Polynesian nations. The subsequent "Hawaiian protest" letter he drafted was mostly ignored by nations that received it,[109] and The Daily Bulletin in Honolulu issued its own response, "Hawaii's true policy is to confine her attention to herself, ...".[110]

In 1885, Gibson dispatched Minister to the United States Henry A. P. Carter to Washington D. C. and Europe to convey Hawaii's intentions towards Polynesia. Carter made little headway for Gibson's instructions. Gibson pushed for direct intervention into a political upheaval in Samoa, where rebels under their leader Tamasese were backed by the German Empire in an attempt to overthrow King Malietoa Laupepa.[111] In an effort to keep Malietoa Laupepa in power, Gibson convinced the 1886 legislature to allocate $100,000 to purchase the steamship Zealandia, $50,000 for its operating expenses, and $35,000 for foreign missions. United States special commissioner to Samoa, George H. Bates advised Kalākaua that Hawaii should mind its own business and stay out of Samoan affairs. Instead, Hawaii sent a delgation to Samoa, where Samoan king Malietoa Laupepa signed a Samoan-Hawaiian confederation treaty on February 17, 1887.[112] The United States and Great Britain joined with Germany in expressing their disapproval of the treaty. Germany warned the United States and Great Britain, "In case Hawaii ... should try to interfere in favor of Malietoa, the King of the Sandwich Islands would thereby enter into [a] state of war with us." When German warships arrived in Samoan waters, Malietoa surrendered and was sent into exile.[113] Kalākaua's later explanation of Hawaii's interference in Samoa was, "Our Mission was simply a Mission of phylanthropy more than any thing, but the arogance [sic] of the Germans prevented our good intentions and . . . we had to withdraw the Mission."[114]

1887 Bayonet Constitution[edit]

In Memoirs of the Hawaiian Revolution, Sanford B. Dole devoted a chapter to the Bayonet constitution. He stated that King Kalākaua appointed cabinet members not for their ability to do the job, but for their ability to bend to his will. Consequently, according to Dole, appropriated funds were shifted from one account to another, "for fantastic enterprises and for the personal aggrandizement of the royal family."[115] Dole placed much of the blame on Gibson, and accused Kalākaua of taking a bribe of $71,000 to grant an opium license.[116]

The Hawaiian League was formed to change the status quo of government "by all means necessary",[117] and had joined forces with the Honolulu Rifles militia group. Kalākaua and Gibson anticipated a forced upheaval and reacted with the resignation of the entire cabinet on June 28.[117] The Hawaiian Gazette published the resignations as an unconfirmed report.[118] Fearing an assassination was not out of the question, Kalākaua barricaded himself inside the palace. The Hawaiian League on June 30 presented a Resolution to the king that not only demanded the resignation of Gibson, but also required the king's restitution for the alleged bribe. Appointed to present the Resolution to Kalākaua were the "committee of thirteen": Paul Isenberg, William W. Hall, James A. Kennedy, William Hyde Rice, Captain James A. King, E. B. Thomas, H. C. Reed, John Mark Vivas, W. P. A. Brewer, Rev. W. B. Oleson, Cecil Brown, Captain George Ross and Joseph Ballard Atherton.[119]

The new cabinet appointed were William Lowthian Green as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Clarence W. Ashford as Attorney General, Lorrin A. Thurston as Minister of the Interior, and Godfrey Brown as Minister of Foreign Affairs.[120]

A new constitution was immediately drafted by the Hawaiian Committee, and presented to Kalākaua for his signature on July 6. The next day he issued a proclamation of the abrogation of the 1864 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii.[121] The new constitution was nicknamed the Bayonet Constitution because of the duress under which it was signed. His sister Liliuokalani stated in Hawaii's Story that her brother was convinced that if he didn't sign, he would be assassinated. She wrote that he no longer knew who was friend or foe, felt betrayed by people he once trusted, and had told her that everywhere he went he was under constant surveillance.[122]

The Bayonet Constitution allowed the king to appoint his cabinet, but placed that cabinet under the authority of only the legislature. It required any executive actions of the monarch to be approved by the cabinet. Previous suffrage (voting rights) was restricted to male subjects of the kingdom. The new suffrage opened it to any Hawaiian, American or European male residing in Hawaii, as long as they were 21 years old, literate with no back unpaid taxes, and would take an oath to support the law of the land. By placing a new minimum qualifier of $3,000 in property ownership and a minimum income of $600, the new constitution disqualified many Native Hawaiians from voting.[123]

Gibson was arrested on July 1 and charged with embezzlement of public funds. The case was soon dropped for lack of evidence. Gibson fled to California on July 12, and died there 6 months later on January 21, 1888.[124]

When the new constitution went into effect, state-sponsored students studying abroad were recalled. One of those was Robert Wilcox who had been sent to Italy for military training. Wilcox's initial reaction to the turn of events was advocating Liliuokalani's being installed as Regent, but on July 30, 1889, he led a counter-revolution aimed at restoring the 1864 constitution, and, thereby, Kalākaua's power. Kalākaua was not in the palace when the insurrection happened, and the government's military defense led to the surrender of the Wilcox insurgents.[125]


Kalākaua (in white slacks) aboard the USS Charleston en route to San Francisco

Tired from years of politics, Kalākaua sailed for California aboard the USS Charleston on November 25, 1890. Accompanying him were his trusted friends George W. Macfarlane and Robert Hoapili Baker. There were uncertainness with the purpose of the king's trip. Minister of Foreign Affairs John Adams Cummins reported that the trip was solely for the king's health and would not extend beyond California while local newspapers and the British commission Wodehouse worried that the king may go further east to Washington, DC for negotiating a treaty and the cessation of Pearl Harbor or the annexation of the kingdom. His sister Liliʻuokalani, after unsuccessfully dissuading his departure, wrote that he meant to discuss the McKinley Tariff in Washington with the Hawaiian ambassador to the United States Henry A. P. Carter.[126]

Upon arriving in California, the party landed in San Francisco on December 5. Kalākaua, whose health had been declining, stayed in a suite at the Palace Hotel.[127][128] Traveling throughout Southern California and Northern Mexico, the monarch suffered a stroke in Santa Barbara and was rushed back to San Francisco. Kalākaua fell into a coma in his suite on January 18, and died two days later on January 20, 1891.[129] The official cause of death, listed by US Navy officials was that the king had died from Bright's Disease (inflammation of the kidneys).[127][130][131]

His final words were, "Aue, he kanaka au, eia i loko o ke kukonukonu o ka maʻi!," or "Alas, I am a man who is seriously ill." The more popular quote, "Tell my people I tried," attributed as his last words, was actually invented by novelist Eugene Burns in his 1952 biography of Kalākaua, The Last King of Paradise.[132] Shortly before his death his voice was recorded on a phonograph cylinder, which is now in the Bernice P. Bishop Museum.[133]

The news of Kalākaua's death did not reach Hawaii until January 29 when the Charleston returned to Honolulu with the remains of the king.[134] Because he and his wife, Queen Kapiʻolani, did not have children, Kalākaua's sister, Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him to the Hawaiian throne.

Legacy: The Merrie Monarch[edit]

Kalākaua's cultural legacy lives on in the Merrie Monarch Festival, a hula festival named in his honor. He is also known to have revived the Hawaiian martial art of Lua, and surfing. He and his brother and sisters are today known as the "Royal Four" because of their patronage of Hawaiian culture.

"Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī" was officially designated the Hawaii state anthem in 1967. Originally titled "Hymn to Kamehameha I", Henri Berger wrote it as an instrumental melody in 1872 . Kalākaua added the lyrics in 1874, and the Kawaiahaʻo Church Choir sang it on his birthday that year. In 1876, it became the official anthem of the Kingdom of Hawaii until the overthrow of the monarchy.[135][136]

King Kalākaua, Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, and "Kalākaua's Singing Boys", his own personal headed choir, c. 1889

The Ukulele was introduced to the Hawaiian islands during the reign of Kalākaua, by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde: Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias.[137] The king became proficient on the instrument. Hawaii resident Isobel Osbourne Strong, wife of artist Joseph Dwight Strong, recalled Kalākaua's Singing Boys (aka King's Singing Boys) vocal group as "the best singers and performers on the ukulele and guitar in the whole islands." Composer of "Sweet Lei Lehua",[138] Kalākaua would often play the ukulele and perform meles for his personal guests, according to American journalist Mary Hannah Krout.[139]

Kalākaua Avenue was created in March, 1905, by the House and Senate of the Hawaii Territorial Legislature renaming the highway known as Waikiki Road, "... to commemorate the name of his late Majesty Kalākaua, during whose reign Hawaii made great advancement in material prosperity".[140]

He is honored as "Patron of Hawaiian Music Culture" by the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame[141] and was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 1997.[142]

The King David Kalakaua Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 under its former name U.S. Post Office, Customhouse, and Courthouse. Located at 335 Merchant Street in Honolulu, it was once the official seat of administration for the Territory of Hawaii. The building was renamed for Kalākaua in 2003.[143]

A Hawaiian song about Kalākaua can be heard in the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. It is heard when Lilo is introduced in the movie. The mele was written as a mele inoa, its original title being He Inoa No Kalakaua. On the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack, it was retitled as "He Mele No Lilo".


See also[edit]



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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
King of Hawaiʻi
Succeeded by