Three months after Kamehameha’s death, Captain Louis de Freycinet aboard the French ship Uranie, arrived at Kailua. After a stay of only four days, the vessel proceeded to Kawaihae, where Liholiho had gone to consecrate a heiau.
The day after their arrival, several chiefs came on board, among whom were Kalanimōku. Kalanimōku was a grandson of Kekaulike, the king of Maui – he was of the same rank as Kaʻahumanu, Kamehameha’s favorite wife, and Kuakini, the governor of Hawaiʻi (his first cousins.)
In his youth, he had fought in the army of Kiwalaʻo against Kamehameha, but afterwards served under Kamehameha, finally becoming his trusted advisor. And, although at the death of Kamehameha, his widowed wife Kaʻahumanu shared the government with Liholiho, Kalanimōku remained a powerful person. (Yzendoorn)
Kalanimōku had been Kamehameha’s prime minister and treasurer, the adviser on whom the king leaned most heavily. He was a man of great natural ability, both in purely governmental and in business matters. He was liked and respected by foreigners, who learned from experience that they could rely on his word. (Kuykendall)
In 1819, when Captain de Freycinet sailed in, Mde Rose de Saulces de Freycinet, the captain’s wife, described Kalanimōku as “going on board dressed in loin cloth and a European shirt, more dirty than clean.” (Del Piano)
“In a visit which Karaimoku had made the evening before on board of the “Uranie”, the costume of our chaplain attracted his attention; on being informed of the functions of this ecclesiastic …”
“… he told him that for a long time he had desired to be a Christian, and that he prayed him therefore to be pleased to baptize him; that his mother on her death-bed had received this sacrament, and had recommended him to submit himself to this ceremony as soon as he should find opportunity.” (Freycinet; The Friend)
“As the ceremony of his baptism took place on board, with considerable pomp (August 14, 1819,) I must give you some account of it. The King wished to be present, and was accompanied by the Queen (Kaahumanu.) Mr. Jeanneret was ordered to convey their Majesties and the rest of the Royal family on board, in the Captain’s own boat.”
“The King was saluted by eleven guns; his Majesty went below to see them fired. The altar had already been prepared. Mr. Pitt (Kalanimōku) had been above two hours on board;”
“(T)he Abbe de Quelen, our excellent chaplain, not being able to make himself understood by his audience, officiated with the utmost simplicity. Our commander was the godfather, while M Gabert, his secretary, represented the godmother”. (Arago; The Friend)
Chairs were offered to the Princesses, most of whom sat on the deck. The drawing by Arago of the baptism ceremony shows the gathering on the quarter deck.
The quarter deck had been decorated with flags from several countries, and some had been placed over the deck in order that the princesses might find themselves comfortably seated; Kaʻahumanu (and apparently Keōpūolani) was seated on chairs in front of the altar. (There is no apparent symbolism to the flags used of their placement.)
Following the baptism there was a celebration party, “It was truly wonderful to see with what rapidity the bottles of wine and brandy disappeared, so that I had reason to fear that his Majesty would render himself unable to go ashore.”
“Fortunately night was approaching, and Rihoriho expressed a desire to return; but before leaving I had to make him a present of two bottles of brandy, to drink to my health and prosperous voyage; the queen dowager also received some; and each of the assistants following their master’s example, believed himself obliged to ask for some also.” (Freycinet; The Friend)
The following year the American Protestant missionaries arrived, he showed them favor from the very beginning. On December 5, 1826, Kalanimōku with seven others, was admitted by the American missionaries to the full communion of the Christian church.
The American missionaries did not rebaptize him, as they regarded the baptism imparted by the French chaplain a valid one. However, Kalanimōku brought his son to be baptized.
Kalanimōku developed an immediate and sincere liking for the New Englanders. Throughout his life, they turned to him for assistance and their requests invariably met with positive results.
He helped them acquire land, build homes and establish schools; he worked to smooth relations between the missionaries and foreigners. (Del Piano)
Kalanimōku became an ardent student of the missionaries, expressing a strong interest in learning to read and write, as well as acquiring more knowledge of the Protestant religion. Both he and Kaʻahumanu attended the mission school regularly.
“We honored the king, but we loved the cultivated manhood of Kalanimōku. He was the only individual Hawaiian that appeared before us with a full civilized dress.” (Lucy Thurston)
“Kalanimōku was prime minister of the king, and the most powerful executive man in the nation. … Now the great warrior was among us, learning the English alphabet with the docility of a child.”
“He often turned to it, and as often his favorite teacher, Daniel Chamberlain, a son five years of age.” Six years after this Kalanimōku was called into the spirit land. He lived to receive and to love the ‘glad tidings of great joy.’” (Lucy Thurston) (Kalanimōku died February 7, 1827 at Kamakahonu, at Kailua-Kona.)