Kepakemapa 24: D. Kalauokalani – Māhele 3

September 24, 1897: David Kalauokalani – Part 3

In our previous blog posting, we examined a petition submitted by residents of Kalaupapa and Kalawao requesting to retain David Kalauokalani as their district judge. That particular petition, which was buried in the Numbered Files of the Foreign Office and Executive department, was found in close proximity (i.e., the next folder) to a report that had been issued to the Chairman of the Executive and Advisory Councils of the Republic of Hawaiʻi.  This report provides some insight as to how pro-annexationists sought to examine the loyalty of government employees–an issue that Kalauokalani probably encountered given his ardent support of sovereign independence.

A copy of this report, followed by a brief transcription, may be found below.

Available in Foreign Office and Executive Numbered Documents 1-12.

[A] detailed and exhaustive examination has been made as to the loyalty of the employees of the government named in the petition. Loyalty to the Govt. is the first, essential and indispensable qualification which every holder of office under the government must possess. Efficiency and faithfulness in the performance of the duty are essential, but loyalty to the government must always be regarded as a quality of supreme importance. By this is meant loyalty to the Republic.

In other words, while being qualified for the job was essential, LOYALTY was of “supreme importance.” However, loyalty was not only expected of government workers–it was also a prerequisite for voting. See Ronald Williams Jr., Race, Power and the Dilemma of Democracy: Hawaiʻi’s First Territorial Legislature, 1901, 49 Haw. J. Hist. 1, 43 n.54 (2015). Such draconian measures were deemed necessary by the Republic of Hawaiʻi to not only squash all dangerous opposing viewpoints, but to also get rid of all those who stood in the way of  annexation. Thus, loyalty was key.

Such stark statements from our past (i.e. demands for loyalty) perhaps sound somewhat familiar to Americans today. As recently reported in the Washington Post by Kimber Quinney, “President Trump is obsessed with loyalty. Trump is constantly on guard against disloyal subordinates, viewing such behavior as deeply damaging not just to him, but to the United States.” Kimber Quinney, “Trump’s Obsession with Loyalty Threatens Our Democratic Values,” Wash. Post (Sept. 16, 2018). Quinney goes on to explain: “This idea that loyalty, whether to political leaders or policies, is crucial to national security has a deeply problematic history in the United States.” Her article explores the idea that while such measures seemed justifiable at the time, in actuality, they historically endangered democracy.

Punawaiola, which is translated as “spring water of life,” thematically represents how our past nourishes and sustains us today. It is our hope that this series about Kalauokalani demonstrates why history matters. And perhaps more importantly, whether we can learn from our past.