October 23, 1837: Account of Captain Belcher’s Proceedings
The somewhat convoluted history surrounding the events leading up to and resulting in the expulsion of two Catholic priests in 1837 is fascinating. This blog posting provides a very cursory look at this incident in order to draw attention to an account, written in ʻōlelo, that summarizes some of the discussions between aliʻi and foreign representatives. Some context is necessary, however, in order to better understand this account, which was written on October 23, 1837.
On July 8, 1837, Captain Abel Du Petit-Thouars of the frigate La Venus (a heavily-armed ship loaded with 58 cannons and 470 men) arrived in Honolulu. See Colin Dyer, Polynesians in the Cross-Fire: The Hawaiians Caught Between French Captain Abel Du Petit-Thouars and American Missionary Hiram Bingham, Honolulu, 1837, 122 J. Polynesian Socʻy 69, 71 (2013). Captain Du Petit-Thouars was shocked to learn of the treatment of two Catholic priests, Alexis Bachelot and Patrick Short, who had been held for months on the Clémentine, a British registered ship owned by Jules Dudoit. King Kauikeaouli had sought to deport the priests by placing them on Dudoit’s ship. Dudoit, however, refused and all attempts at negotiation apparently failed.
On the same day, Captain Edward Belcher of the warship H.B.M.S. Sulphur, also came into port. He too had learned of the expulsion of the Catholic priests. After an unsuccessful meeting with Kīnaʻu, Kuhina Nui of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Captain Belcher sent a group of men to capture the Clémentine and bring Short and Bachelot to shore.
On July 22, 1837, Captain Du Petit-Thouars was joined by Captain Belcher in a meeting with Kauikeaouli. Id. At this meeting, both men formally requested that the Catholic priests be permitted to remain in Hawaiʻi. Id. Several long conferences followed. Ultimately, the priests were prohibited from staying in Hawaiʻi. The long-term impacts from this incident were dramatically displayed two years later in the Laplace Affair.
The letter written below was signed by “Kaahumanu 2” (Kīnaʻu, Kuhina Nui of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi), and “Kekuanaoa” (Kekūanaōʻa, Governor of Oʻahu). Another draft, with numerous edits, are contained in the same folder that houses this letter. The letter begins by noting that Captain Belcher did not immediately proceed to the chief’s residence. Instead, he spoke with foreigners who did not accurately convey the matter at hand. An excerpt of this letter is provided below. A transcription follows.
He mea Hoike i ka Kapena Beleker hana ana
I kona hiki ana mai, i ka malama o Iulai i ka 8 o ka la, 1837. Aole ia i hele koke mai ia la i kahi o naʻlii, aka hele ae la ia i kahi o na haole kamaaina, malaila oia i aoia mai ai i na olelo kue i ka naʻlii, aole hoi nalii i hana e like me ka na na haole kamaaina i hai ae ai ia Kapena Beleka; A hala na la elua o kona hiki ana mai, hele mai la ia me Kalekona e halawai me Kinau. I mai la ia: “I hele mai nei au e olelo aku ia ia nei; No ke aha la i hookukeiaʻi ke kanaka o Beritania, a noho maluna o ka moku o Kalemenekine.” I aku la o Kinau: No ka oihana Pope a laua, aole o makou makemake i ka laua oihana, nolaila makou i hoihoi aku ai ia laua maluna no o ko laua moku i holo mai ai. Alaila olelo mai la o Kapena Beleker; Aole loa e hana ia ko Beritania kanaka pela, no ka mea, ua kue oukou ia Beritania, aole i waiho maluhia, ko lakou waiwai maanei.” I akula o Kinau: Ua maluhia no ka noho ana o na kanaka o Beritania maanei, a me . . . .