“The petition of sundry merchants and others engaged in the whale fishery, from the Island of Nantucket, has been referred, by the president of the United States, to this department …”
“… I am directed to inform you that the subject has been considered, and that instructions will be given to commodore Hull to visit the Sandwich Islands, when the public interest will permit his absence from the South American coast for a sufficient period.” (Samuel L Southard, Secretary of the Navy, April 28, 1825)
A second petition from ship owners quoted an American who recently returned from Hawai’i, who reported: “When I left the Sandwich Islands, there were over one hundred and fifty seamen (principally deserters from the whale ships) prowling about the country, naked and destitute, associating themselves with the natives, assuming their habits and acquiring their vices. …” (Gapp)
A third petition, sent by ship owners of New Bedford, Massachusetts complained about the British influence in Hawai’i, declaring that they spread the rumor: “The English have men-of-war, but the Americans have only whalers and trading vessels.” (Gapp)
Pointing out that they had separate whaling fleets canvassing both the northern and southern hemispheres of the Pacific, the ship owners asked for protection at the two berthing stations used by the fleets and requested “one or more armed vessels to proceed to the Sandwich and Society islands, with instructions to render such protection, and afford such aid, to American shipping distributed at those places, as circumstances may render necessary and proper.” (Stauffer)
In response, the Secretary of the Navy gave orders to Commodore Hull to sail to the Islands, report back on what he learned, banish the bad-attitude sailors and maintain cordial relations with the Hawaiian government … “the manner in which you shall endeavor to accomplish them, must be left almost entirely to your own discretion and prudence.”
Hull, in turn, decided to stay and ordered Commander Thomas ap Catesby Jones and his ‘Peacock’ to undertake the duties assigned by the Naval Secretary.
For the most part Hull’s orders to Jones merely relayed the instructions from the shipowners and the Navy Department, but also noted that there were debts to address, “claims for property belonging to citizens of the United States, on persons now residing at the Sandwich Islands.” (Stauffer) Jones went first to the Society Islands; then arrived in Honolulu on October 22, 1826.
“The object of my visit to the Sandwich Islands was of high national importance, of multifarious character, and left entirely to my judgment as to the mode of executing it, with no other guide than a laconic order, which the Government designed one of the oldest and most experienced commanders in the navy should execute”. (Jones, Report of Minister of Foreign Affairs)
“Under so great a responsibility, it was necessary for me to proceed with the greatest caution, and to measure well every step before it was taken ; consequently the first ten or fifteen days were devoted to the study and examination of the character and natural disposition of a people who are so little known to the civilized world, and with whom I had important business to transact.”
“The Sandwich Islanders as legislators are a cautious, grave, deliberate people, extremely jealous of their rights as a nation, and are slow to enter into any treaty or compact with foreigners, by which the latter can gain any foot-hold or claim to their soil.”
“Aware of these traits in the character of the Islanders with whom I had to negotiate, I determined to conduct my correspondence with them in such a manner as at once to remove all grounds of suspicion as to the object and views of the American Government, and to guard against misrepresentation and undue influence”.
“(I also wanted to) give the Chiefs and others in authority, the means of understanding perfectly the nature of my propositions, I took the precaution to have all official communications translated into the Oahuan language, which translation always accompanied the original in English”.
“(B)y giving them their own time to canvass and consult together, I found no difficulty in carrying every measure I proposed, and could I have been fully acqainted with the views of my government, or been authorized to make treaties, I do not doubt but my success would have been complete in any undertaking of that character.” (Jones Report to Navy Department, 1827)
Jones’s first order of business was the matter of the deserters; after initial discussions with local Hawaiian officials about a comprehensive treaty, Jones proposed on October 31, 1826, that a ‘rule’ be established, “which ought never to be departed from”’ regarding foreigners in Hawai’i.
Under the proposed ‘rule,’ all American sailors who had deserted their ships would be immediately removed from the Islands no matter under what circumstances or how far back in the past the desertion had occurred. Secondly, any American otherwise living in Hawai’i who had no “visible means of making an honest livelihood” would be removed. Finally, Jones proposed that “all other foreigners who did not support a good character” should likewise be banished.
Governor Boki, as well as both the American and British representatives were in favor of the proposal. He then approached the issue of ’debts’ (on November 4, 1826) – these primarily dealt with the ‘payment’ of sandalwood that was promised to traders for goods given. The chiefs agreed to pay off all the ‘debts’ in full. (Staffer)
Then on November 13, “The communication … which accompanied some regulations of general interest to our commerce in the Pacific was not less successful”. (Jones Report to Navy Department, 1827)
On December 23, 1826, the US signed a treaty (Articles of Arrangement) with the Kingdom of Hawaii thus indirectly recognizing Hawaiian independence. (State Department Historian) It is generally referred to as the Treaty of 1826 and was Hawaiʻi’s first treaty with the US.
It “received the signatures of the Ruling Princes and Chiefs, in testimony of their approbation of them, and as a pledge of their sincere friendship and confidence in the American Nation, and their earnest desire to remain neutral and take no part in any foreign wars.” (Jones Report to Navy Department, 1827)
The meeting considered the ‘Articles of Arrangement,’ a trade agreement between the US and the Hawaiian Kingdom, which was accepted and signed by Thomas ap Catesby Jones, and Elisabeta Kaʻahumanu as Queen Regent, Kalanimōku as Prime Minister, and the principal chiefs Boki, Hoapili, and Lidia Namahana. (Gapp)
Its articles included, “peace and friendship subsisting between the United States, and their Majesties, the Queen Regent, and Kauikeaouli, King of the Sandwich Islands, and their subjects and people, are hereby confirmed, and declared to be perpetual.”
“(S)hips and vessels of the United States … shall be inviolably protected against all Enemies of the United States in time of war. … (and) Citizens of the United States … engaged in commerce … shall be inviolably protected in their lawful pursuits (and may sue) … according to strict principles of equity, and the acknowledged practice of civilized nations.” (Treaty of 1826)
“Jones, as a public officer, carefully sought to promote the interests of commerce and secure the right of traders, pressed the rulers to a prompt discharge of their debts, and negotiated articles of agreement with the government for the protection of American interests”. (Hiram Bingham)