“(T)he heirs of Kaahumanu – whoever they may happen to be in the year of our Lord 2125 – will come into the reversion of a very pretty property – if the world stands …” (Saturday Press, October 22, 1881)
Whoa … let’s look back …
April 25, 1825, Richard Charlton arrived in the Islands to serve as the first British consul. A former sea captain and trader, he was already familiar with the islands of the Pacific and had promoted them in England for their commercial potential (he worked for the East India Company in the Pacific as early as 1821.)
Charlton had been in London during Kamehameha II’s visit in 1824 and secured an introduction to the king and his entourage. By the time he arrived in Hawai‘i in 1825, instructions had already arrived from Kamehameha II …
… that Charlton was to be allowed to build a house, or houses, any place he wished and should be made comfortable. This apparently was due to favors Charlton had done for the royal party. (Hawaiʻi State Archives)
Charlton didn’t play well with others. A report by Thrum noted, “July 13th (1827) – Last evening the English consul, in conversation with Boki told him he would cut Kaahumanu’s head off and all the residents were ready to join in it.”
“Guards were ordered out in all parts of the village. Mr. Charlton may be ready to take up arms against the chief but few, if any, I believe would follow or join with him.” (Thrum)
In spite of that, Charlton did receive land for his home and for Consular offices. The records suggest that the land under the present Washington Place premises were part of a grant from the chiefs to Charlton in 1825-26 to provide a permanent location for a British Consulate. (HABS)
(Charlton later sold that property to Captain John Dominis (December 26, 1840,) who later built Washington Place. … By the way, Beretania Street was so named because of the British Consulate there.)
Charlton claimed this and other lands as his personal property. He also claimed land down by the waterfront. There was no disagreement over a small parcel, Wailele, but the larger adjoining parcel he claimed (Pūlaholaho) had been occupied since 1826 by retainers and heirs of Kaʻahumanu.
The Pūlaholaho/Charlton Square block is bounded by Nu‘uanu, Merchant, Ka‘ahumanu (now the breezeway in the Harbor Court condo building) and Queen Streets, and “comprises a large portion of the most valuable business sites of the city” (Bennett, 1869:36)
In making his claim for Pūlaholaho, Charlton showed a 299-lease dated October 5, 1826 issued to him by Kalanimōku. That claim, made in 1840, however, was made after Kalanimōku and Kaʻahumanu had died.
Following Charlton’s presentation of his claim to rights of the entire land section of Pūlaholaho, Kamehameha III sought a means of providing security for the native residents on the land, and claimed that Pūlaholaho belonged to the crown. (Maly)
In rejecting Charlton’s claim, Kamehameha III cited the fact that Kalanimōku did not have the authority to grant the lease. At the time the lease was made, Kaʻahumanu was Kuhina Nui, and only she and the king could make such grants. The land was Kaʻahumanu’s in the first place, and Kalanimōku certainly could not give it away. (Hawaiʻi State Archives) The dispute dragged on for years.
This, and other grievances purported by Charlton and the British community in Hawai‘i, led to the landing of George Paulet on February 11, 1843 “for the purpose of affording protection to British subjects, as likewise to support the position of Her Britannic Majesty’s representative here”.
Following this, King Kamehameha III ceded the Islands and Paulet took control. After five months of British rule, Queen Victoria, on learning the injustice done, immediately sent Rear Admiral Richard Darton Thomas to the islands to restore sovereignty to its rightful rulers.
“On the 25th [July] the King arrived at Honolulu, and on the 26th, H.B. M’s line-of-battle Ship, the Dublin, Rear Admiral Thomas, arrived from Valparaiso…”
“Shortly after the Dublin had anchored, a note was dispatched from the Admiral to the King, requesting an interview, and on the 27th and 28th, long conferences were held, in which the Admiral manifested very kindly and friendly feelings towards the King, and no demands were made that the latter could not cheerfully comply with.”
“The conferences terminated by the expression of desire on the part of the Admiral, that the Hawaiian flag should be restored, and Monday, July 31st, was appointed for the formal and public act of restoration…” (Bennett)
The 31st of July was a great day for the Hawaiians. On the plain of Waikiki, tents were erected for the accommodation of the King and the Admiral and their suites, and the foreigners and their ladies…
On July 31, 1843 the Hawaiian flag was raised. The ceremony was held in area known as Kulaokahuʻa; the site of the ceremony was turned into a park, Thomas Square.
The settlement of this issue and return of rule to Kamehameha III resolved most issues between the kingdom and Great Britain, but the matter of Charlton’s claim to the 299 year leasehold rights at Pūlaholaho remained.
Following Admiral Thomas’ actions Charlton remained on the land, and in 1845, Carlton evicted the native Hawaiian tenants — many of whom had been tied to Ka‘ahumanu’s household — from the land of Pūlaholaho. (Maly)
“Difficulties with England continued for several years, mostly because of the demands of Mr. Charlton and the British consul. The law advisors of the crown of Great Britain decided in favor of the Hawaiian government on every point except the Charlton land claim.”
“In regard to this last they required that Mr. Charlton, having first produced the original deed and shown it to be genuine, should be put in possession of the land by the government.”
“Previously Charlton had leased a small portion of this land for consular offices. The king wrote Charlton that the proper time for presenting the large claim was past. Those who had contracted the business and the witnesses were all dead. Thirteen years had elapsed. Twenty-three persons had built houses and were living on the land.”
“Moreover the king stated only Kaahumanu had the right to lease the crown land. In 1845 Charlton, nevertheless, razed the twenty-three houses on the land, homes of 156 Hawaiians, and took possession.”
“A long “Palace Investigation” convened in October 1845, at which almost without exception the evidence of chiefs and missionaries questioned was that the signatures of Kalanimoku and the witnesses, John Ii and Don Marin, were not genuine.” (Alexander; Maly)
“The British Consul General and British Naval Commanders had made this claim a subject of demand on the Hawaiian Government, and it was one of the principal ones urged by Lord George Paulet at the time of the forced cession of the sovereignty of the Islands in 1843.”
“In 1847, after a long correspondence with the British Consul, and repeated and protracted investigations, the particulars of which with the voluminous correspondence were all printed, the whole matter was submitted to the decision of the Law Officer of the British Government.”
“In so doing the King and his Government testified both the confidence they reposed in the justice of their own case and their reliance upon the fairness of the Queen’s Government.”
“The particulars of the investigation in London were never known here, but no little surprise was felt when the decision was received confirming the claim of Charlton – or rather of his representatives, for he had long since sold out his rights in the land.”
“It was very generally believed here at that time that the claim was a fraudulent one – the late R. C. Wyllie, who was quite familiar with the subject from beginning to end, was outspoken in his opinion”. (Saturday Press, October 22, 1881)
“General Miller, acting consul for Great Britain, had limited the question to the genuineness of the handwriting. But he evidently considered it a mere matter of form. Charlton kept the land.” (Alexander; Maly)
“(It) has come to my knowledge on these island; and in this case the heirs of Kaahumanu – whoever they may happen to be in the year of our Lord 2125 – will come into the reversion of a very pretty property – if the world stands…” (Sheldon; Saturday Press, October 22, 1881)