“Honolulu, a town of dingy habitations, having a population of some five or six thousand, a harbor frequented by a hundred foreign ships a year, besides the vessels owned there, and a dusty plain on the east …”
“… and a well watered and cultivated valley on the north and north-west, and a sprinkling of exotics, restive in its warm temperature, has long been familiar with demonstrations of puerile excitement and folly, even in the full grown-and sometimes among foreign officials.” (Hiram Bingham)
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.)
Then, in October 1829, one of Charlton’s cows broke into Kaʻahumanu’s enclosure at Mānoa and began eating her crops. The Queen Regent’s konohiki (land steward) chased the errant cow out of the field and shot it. (Kashay)
“It appears that the cow had been mischievous – often – that in this instance she had been fired upon in the field – had escaped from the enclosure & was pursued and shot in the Common.”
“The consul was greatly enraged – went to the chiefs to complain & desired liberty to punish the man who had shot the cow. This permission he did not gain: but he went in pursuit of the man – found him and having thrown a rope around his neck undertook to bring him along.”
“The consul on horse back & the man on foot; the man not being able to keep up fell & the inhuman monster dragged him it is said some distance along the ground. – Mills cut the rope & thus saved him probably from being killed.” (Levi Chamberlain Journal, October 5, 1829)
“Immediately Mr. Charlton, in conjunction with the other English residents, memorialized the government on the outrage against the cow, pretending that their property and their lives were in jeopardy, and inferring that if natives dared to shoot a cow of a foreigner, they might shoot the foreigners too”.
“(T)hey therefore begged protection for their lives and property, and Mr. C, in presenting the memorial, urged ‘an immediate answer, that he might send it to his Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State.’” (Hiram Bingham)
“This day the consul stuck up a notification – or a notification was stuck up requiring or requesting the attendance of all British subjects in the place at the office of his BM Consul. – … a petition was drawn up … signed by sixty two persons … requesting the consul to use his endeavors with the Sandwich island government to get the security of their lives & property as in consequence of recent outrages they could not look upon either as safe.” (Levi Chamberlain Journal, October 5, 1829)
The “cow case” culminated in the “cow laws.”
“The Chiefs in council having made out an answer to the letter of the consul handed to Mr Bingham to be translated, having accomplished it, the document was handed back to Kaʻahumanu in order to get the King’s signature.” (Levi Chamberlain Journal, October 9, 1829)
“They quickly issued the following edict, offering the protection of law, and showing what was forbidden and what required in respect to all, both native and foreign. They had no secretary of state, no prime minister to be intrusted with the reply.”
“Still they drew up several articles with great explicitness, and to the point. No pistols, chains, scourges, or daggers appear, yet, considering the circumstances (embracing the time-serving policy of Boki, and the deep interest the two officials had in the result) …”
“… there is a singular combination of the s’uaviter in modo’ and ‘fortiter in re,’ and while with smooth words it shows the absurdity of the memorialists, it keenly rebukes the violence of two foreigners upon a native who deserved no violence at their hands for defending the plantation. The edict was signed by Kauikeaouli, and printed by the mission for the government.” (Bingham)
The aliʻi nui thus very pointedly asserted their authority to make laws for westerners living in their kingdom.
With the cow laws, the Sandwich Island rulers now specifically stated that English residents would be ‘protected’ by statutes that included provisions against not only adultery and fornication, but also the Englishmen’s common pastimes of gambling and drinking. (Kashay)
The Proclamation of the King of the Sandwich Islands, respecting the Treatment of Foreigners within his Territories, Oʻahu, 7th October, 1829 made by Kauikeaouli was acknowledged by the Chiefs in Council (including Kaʻahumanu, Gov. Boki, Gov. Adams Kuakini, Manuia, Kekuanaoa, Hinau, Aikanaka, Paki, Kinau, John li and James Kahuhu.)
In part, the Proclamation and laws stated, “we assent to the request of the English residents; we grant the protection of the laws; that is the sum of your petition. This, therefore, is my Proclamation, which I make known to you all, people from foreign countries”.
“This is our communication to you all, ye parents from the countries whence originate the winds; have compassion on a nation of little children, very small and young, who are yet in mental darkness; and help us to do right and follow with us, that which will be for the best good of this our country.”
“The laws of my country prohibit murder, theft, adultery, fornication, retailing ardent spirits at houses for selling spirits, amusements on the sabbath day, gambling and betting on the sabbath day, and at all times.”
“If any man shall transgress any of these laws, he is liable to the penalty,—the same for every foreigner and for the people of these islands: whoever shall violate these laws shall be punished.”
“This also I make known:—The law of the Great God of Heaven, that is, the great thing by which we shall promote peace; let all men who remain here obey it.”