Life in Hawaii, by Titus Coan
Copyright ©1882, 1997 (electronic edition by Edward J. Coan)

Chapter X.

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Hawaiian Kings The Kamehamehas Lunalilo Kalakaua, the Reigning King The Foreign Church in Hilo Organization of Native Churches under Native Pastors.

TRADITION and history alike tell us of Kamehameha I., the Caesar of Hawaii, the iron-framed warrior, the first legislator, and the first law-giver of the Hawaiian race. We are told how he warred and conquered, and how he united all the islands and al the petty principalities under one chief. There are men still living who have seen this stern old king. He died in 1819.

Liholiho, styled Kamehameha II., was the reigning sovereign when the first band of missionaries arrived in 1820. With his queen he visited England, where both died, their remains being returned to Honolulu in the British ship Blonde, commanded by Lord Byron, the cousin of the poet. Kamehameha III. son of Kamehameha I., was on the Hawaiian throne when I arrived at the Islands, having been proclaimed not long before.

He was then a young and mild prince, greatly honored and loved by the whole nation. The natives loved to style him "The Good King." Bad men, both foreigners and natives, beguiled him into some unworthy habits; but his disposition was kind and amiable, and he was the king who gave to the people a liberal constitution with all its attendant blessings.

During the great awakening which spread over the Islands in 1837 and onward, he was greatly impressed with the importance of spiritual things. He was not only an attendant on divine service on the Lordís day, but he was often in the prayer-meetings, apparently an earnest seeker after truth. He was also willing to listen to wise counsels; and during his reign his Government enacted a law forbidding the introduction and sale of intoxicating liquors in this kingdom. The nation became a great temperance society, with the king at its head; and it was reported that he said he would rather die than drink another glass of liquor.

During his year of abstinence he seemed like a new man. He was awake to all the interests of his kingdom, visited the different islands, addressed large assemblies, and greatly increased the love and homage of his people.

His visits to Hilo were like a benediction; the people flocked around him as they would around a father, and he seemed like a father to them. He visited our families, dined and supped with us, and gave us free opportunities to converse with him, not only on the interests of his kingdom, but also on his own spiritual interests and his personal relations to God and to the eternal future. He has gone with me into an upper chamber where we conversed together as brothers and knelt in humble prayer before the mercy-seat of the King Eternal. On one occasion when he attended our Sabbath service, I preached from Jer. xxiii. 24, "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord." The doctrine of Godís omnipresence and omniscience was the subject.

The king seemed one of the most earnest hearers in the congregation, often bowing his head in assent to what was said. For months he seemed nearly ready to unite with the visible church, and his true friends rejoiced over him.

But the spoiler came. He that "goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour," was lying in wait for him. The French came with their fire and thunder, threatening his crown and kingdom if the prohibition law on intoxicants was not repealed; and the British lion was ready to stand by the French eagle.

The king was called a fool for coming under the influence of Protestant missionaries. He was, as report said, advised to assert his royal prerogative of independence, and urged to drink with his official and distinguished friends. The poor man, through fear and flattery, yielded. and his doom from that hour was sealed. The old thirst was rekindled within him. A despair of reformation seemed to come over him. The fiery dragon held him fast. He continued to yield to his appetite and to the solicitations of his false friends, and died December 15, 1854, in his forty-first year. On the same day Prince Alexander Liholiho, his adopted son, was proclaimed king, under the style of Kamehameha IV.

This young king was the youngest of three sons of Kekuanaoa and the high chiefess of the Kamehameha family. Kekuanaoa was one of natureís noblemen. He was not of the royal family, but he was of kingly bearing; tall, well formed, and courteous in manners. He was Governor of Oahu and Generalissimo of the royal troops. He was also a consistent member of the mission church in Honolulu. For his splendid physique, his noble bearing, and his mental and moral qualities, Kinau, who was daughter of Kamehameha I. and sister of Kamehameha III., chose him for her husband.

Alexander Liholiho in stature and bearing somewhat resembled his noble father. His reign was short but peaceful, and to some extent prosperous. He visited Hilo occasionally, and our social intercourse with him and his intelligent queen, Emma, was pleasant.

Up to this time all the kings were in the habit of inviting the missionaries and their families to an annual reception at the palace during the season of the general meeting in Honolulu.

Kamehameha IV. was a fair scholar in English literature, and he spoke and wrote the English language with ease and correctness, having enjoyed the advantages of an excellent training in the Royal School and Boarding Seminary under the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Amos Cooke, of the American Mission, and having also had the benefit of foreign travel with his brother Lot, under the care of Dr. Judd.

He was succeeded by this older and only surviving brother, who came to the throne as Kamehameha V.

Lot was a stern man, with an iron will, and a determination to rule his kingdom himself. He at once refused to take oath under the liberal constitution of 1852, that had been drawn up by our excellent Chief-Justice, William L. Lee. He called a convention of delegates from all the islands, and instructed them to frame a new constitution; and while they lingered and debated, and declared that they had no power to annul or amend the former constitution, because it had provided that all changes and amendments should come from a regular legislative body, he dissolved the convention on the 13th August, 1864, and declared that he would give them a costitution by his own royal authority. This he did on the 12th August, and the people, though complaining, submitted, as the high officers of the realm had bowed to his behest and took oath under this, as pronounced by high authority, unconstitutional constitution. The king was "master of the situation."

This king, so far as I know, had no concern in matters of religion, and did not attend any church. He spent his Sundays as he pleased, either in business, in sleeping, fishing, or in other recreations.

He visited Hilo occasionally, but never, I think, to call out his people and address them as a father on any subject affecting their present or future interests. I have known him to come to Hilo with his fishing tackle, spend a season here, and then pass on to Puna, where it was reported he had his nets drawn on Sunday, and, on his return, he entered our town with his animals loaded with nets and other luggage, and his train of attendants, during the time of service on the Lordís day.

At length he died, and was called before the high tribunal of the King of kings. With him ended the famous dynasty of the Kamehamehas.

Our sixth king, Lunalilo, was the son of a high chiefess. His father did not belong to the family of chiefs by blood; but descent by the maternal line ennobles in Hawaii.

On the death of Kamehameha V., without nominating a successor, Lunalilo sent out a proclamation over all the islands offering himself as the rightful heir to the throne, and calling on all the legalized voters to meet in their respective places and ballot for him. This was done promptly; and on the first day of January, 1873, he was elected by 12,000 votes. On the eighth of that month his election was confirmed by the Legislature then in session, and on the ninth he was proclaimed king.

This popular election introduced a new feature into our government.

Lunalilo was a bright, cheerful, and favorite prince. He had the habit of using liquors freely, but the people loved him for his wit when under the influence of intoxicants, and for his kindness and good sense when he was sober. He appointed good men for his cabinet ministers and for his privy counselors. He was pleased with the upright, and always took their side in argument.

He soon visited Hilo, where he was received with acclamation. He appointed a meeting for all, and men, women, and children came in crowds shouting with joy, "Ko makou alii keia," "This is our king," alluding to the fact that the people had elected him, a privilege never before awarded them. After a good speech to old and young, he shook hands with all the hundreds present, stooping down to the little ones and smiling upon them so kindly that he won all hearts. We conversed with him freely, and he took no offense when urged to abstain from all intoxicants. Had he resisted the evil counsels of boon companions and his own appetites, he might still have been our king, to the joy of all. But his reign was shorter than that of any who had gone before him. He died on the 3rd of February, 1874, having occupied the throne a little less than thirteen months.

David Kalakaua, our seventh and present king, was born in Honolulu on the 16th of November, 1836, and elected on the 12th of February, 1874. His parents were both chiefs of an ancient line. The family often spent a good deal of time in Hilo, and the mother died here. His queen, Kapiolani, was brought up in Hilo from childhood. Kalakaua is intelligent, having excellent command of the English language, and having also had the advantages of an unusually interesting tour around the world. We believe that he desires to rule well and see his little kingdom prosper and progress.

The reigns of our kings since Kamehameha I. have been short, and the cause is apparent. Little did I think when we came to these islands that I should live to see four kings buried and a fifth upon the throne. How striking the admonition in the 146th Psalm: "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man in whom is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish."

I have said something in regard to evangelical labors for seamen and for our English-speaking residents.

It was resolved at length to organize a church and seek a pastor for this class of our inhabitants; and on the 9th of February, 1868, a church was organized with fourteen foreign members. On the 6th of July the building was dedicated, and on this occasion the Lordís supper was administered, and three candidates were admitted to fellowship. The edifice will seat about one hundred and fifty. It is neat, and well kept within and without. Standing near the larger native church, it shines like a gem amidst our green foliage.

A call was sent to the Rev. Frank Thompson, who, having arrived with his wife early in 1869, was installed on the 15th of May of that year. Upon the resignation of Mr. Thompson, after a pastorate of a little more than five years, the Rev. A. O. Forbes, son of the late missionary, Cochran Forbes, was settled over this church, where he labored faithfully until he resigned to accept the secretaryship of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association.

The foreign church, though small and not wealthy, is active and generous. They pay a salary of $1,200 or $1,400, furnishing a parsonage to the pastor, and they give generous sums for missionary purposes and for other Christian and philanthropic objects.

During the year 1863 the Rev. Dr. Anderson, then corresponding secretary of the A. B. C. F. M., visited the Hawaiian Islands with a view of conferring with the missionaries on the subject of putting most of the churches under the care of native pastors. He urged the plan earnestly, and a full discussion followed. Some of the missionaries favored the new departure at once, others doubted its wisdom, and others still were willing to see the plan commenced on a small scale, and to watch its operations. Each pastor and church determined the time and manner for themselves. And so the experiment began.

At length I began a movement in that direction, and on the 16th of October, 1864, the first church was set off from the mother church, and a native was ordained and installed over it. Not long after, on Oct. 14, 1866, I organized another church in the district of Hilo, and a third in 1868; and pastors were ordained over them.

One was organized in Puna in 1868, and two more in 1869, so that there were now six churches set off from the old one. All these were provided with good and neat houses of worship under my direction, and with church bells. Most of these churches had one, two, or three chapels, or smaller meeting-houses, which served as places of meetings on secular days, and on Sabbaths near evening. For a great many years the natives were accustomed to hold morning prayer-meetings, and they might be seen assembling at early dawn every day in the week.

The original cost of these churches and chapels, with that of keeping them in repair and furnishing them with bells, would amount to about $10,000, and that of the central church and its chapels would be about $20,000.

The number of church members dismissed to organize the six new churches was in all 2,604.

They have had ten pastors. Of these, five are dead, two have been called to other places, one has resigned on account of age and infirmities, and two only remain at their posts. This would be nearly the record of our Hawaiian pastors over the whole group. They waste away rapidly by disease and death, and they change places often. Some wear out; some fall into sin; and some engage in other callings. A goodly number run well, being steadfast in the faith, diligent workers, and patient withal.

We are often asked how our native preachers wear, and whether we were not hasty in making them co-ordinate pastors with the missionaries. These questions may be answered differently by different observers. Some, perhaps many, of our number think it would have been better to have waited longer before giving them the full power of ordained pastors, that while they should have been trained to work with the missionaries, as they had been, with the most happy results, they should not have been so soon put upon a parity with them.

While subordinate, they are more docile and respectful; when on a parity, they sometimes show a disposition to be assuming and discourteous, an effect occasionally seen elsewhere in men on a sudden elevation.

The native ministers now outnumber us more than five to one, and when we meet in our evangelical associations they know, of course, their numerical power, and it requires great wisdom on the part of the foreign members to secure that influence which is necessary to good order and to harmonious action. In our Association for Eastern Hawaii we have never as yet had any difficulties of a serious kind, and yet we are liable to them, especially when some self-conceited stranger comes in as a disturbing element.

A Democratic or a Republican Government can never be strong, and pure, and permanent unless the people who create it and hold the power are intelligent and moral. And the same law holds true in church polity. From our point of view we think that we see clearly how the Episcopal and the Catholic church governments originated, as a matter of necessity, in the midst of peoples who were ignorant, unstable, and not to be trusted with responsible power. I do not find in the Bible, or in the wisdom of all commentators and expositors of the sacred Scriptures, any definite and fixed rules of church polity, but rather the elements of many.

Congregationalism is excellent where all or most of the members of a church are intelligent and virtuous, or where men know how to govern themselves and their children.

The Presbyterian government is strong, and when exercised wisely and in meekness it is good.

Prelacy might seem necessary in certain states of society, and the right of choice can hardly be disputed by wise, candid, and liberal minds.

Our Hawaiian churches are not called Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Congregational, or by any other name than that of the Great Head, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls. We call them Christian churches


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