At the end of the American Revolutionary War, the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, recognized the United States of America as an independent nation and established boundaries that extended far to the west of the 13 original colonies.
The new country was bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Mississippi River on the west, Florida on the south and Canada and the Great Lakes on the north. Spain retained control of Florida, and the United States was permitted use of the Mississippi River.
Later, Manifest Destiny was the widely held belief that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent. Journalist John L O’Sullivan wrote an article in 1839 and predicted a “divine destiny” for the United States, “This is our high destiny, and in nature’s eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man.”
In part, the stage was first set in 1803 when President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the 828,000-square mile Louisiana Purchase from France. Later, after combat and negotiations, the US ran east to west across the continent.
Lots of folks criticize the US for these take-overs, wars and expansion.
Let’s look at what was happening in Hawaiʻi at about these relative times.
Over the centuries, the islands weren’t unified under single rule. Leadership sometimes covered portions of an island, sometimes covered a whole island or groups of islands. Island rulers, Aliʻi or Mōʻī, typically ascended to power through warfare and familial succession.
At the time of Cook’s arrival (1778-1779) (while the Colonists were battling the British,) the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and at (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
Separate Kingdoms ruled separate parts of the Islands. However, conquest was in the air and battles and negotiations for power and control were going on.
A notable player for power was Kamehameha. He was born under a prophecy of Keʻāulumoku – Haui ka Lani, Fallen is the Chief; the prophecy stated Kamehameha would ultimately overthrow the kingdom and rule the Islands.
Following Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s death in 1782, the kingship was inherited by his son Kīwalaʻō; Kamehameha (Kīwalaʻō’s cousin) was given guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kūkaʻilimoku.
In the Islands, about the time of the Treaty of Paris, civil war broke out between Kīwalaʻō’s forces and the various chiefs under the leadership of Kamehameha. At the Battle of Mokuʻōhai (just south of Kealakekua) Kīwalaʻō was killed and Kamehameha gained control of half the Island of Hawaiʻi.
The result of the battle of Mokuʻōhai was virtually to split the island of Hawaiʻi into three independent and hostile factions. The district of Kona, Kohala and portions of Hāmākua acknowledged Kamehameha as their sovereign. (Fornander)
The remaining portion of Hāmākua, the district of Hilo and a part of Puna, remained true to and acknowledged Keawemauhili as their Mōʻī; while the lower part of Puna and the district of Kaʻū, the patrimonial estate of Kīwalaʻō, ungrudgingly and cheerfully supported Keōua against the mounting ambition of Kamehameha. (Fornander)
On Maui, Kamehameha also battled Kahekili and Kalanikūpule’s forces at a battle at ʻIao. It was described, “They speak of the carnage as frightful, the din and uproar, the shouts of defiance among the fighters, the wailing of the women on the crests of the valley, as something to curdle the blood or madden the brain of the beholder.” (Fornander)
The Maui troops were completely annihilated and it is said that the corpses of the slain were so many as to choke up the waters of the stream of ʻlao, and that hence one of the names of this battle was “Kepaniwai” (the damming of the waters). (Fornander)
Late in 1790, Kamehameha sent an emissary to the famous kahuna (priest, soothsayer,) Kapoukahi, to determine how Kamehameha could conquer all of the island of Hawaiʻi. Kapoukahi prophesized that war would end if Kamehameha constructed a heiau dedicated to the war god Kū at Puʻukohola.
Called back to Hawaiʻi by an invasion of Kohala by his cousin, Keōua (ruler of Kaʻū and part of Puna,) Kamehameha fought more battles without gaining a decisive victory.
Recalling the prophecy of Kapoukahi, Puʻukoholā Heiau was being used by Kamehameha to win wars and secure unification of the Hawaiian Islands (at the same time that George Washington was serving as the US’s first president (1790.))
“When it came to the building of Puʻu-koholā no one, not even a tabu chief, was excused from the work of carrying stone. Kamehameha himself labored with the rest. …” (Kamakau)
After completing the heiau in 1791, Kamehameha invited Keōua to come to Kawaihae to make peace. However, as Keōua was about to step ashore, he was attacked and killed by one of Kamehameha’s chiefs.
With Keōua dead, and his supporters captured or slain, Kamehameha became King of Hawaiʻi Island, an event that according to prophecy eventually led to the conquest and consolidation of the islands under the rule of Kamehameha I.
Then, in 1795, a final battle of conquest took place on Oʻahu. Kamehameha landed his fleet and disembarked his army on Oʻahu, extending from Waiʻalae to Waikīkī. … he marched up the Nuʻuanu valley, where Kalanikūpule had posted his forces. (Fornander)
At Puiwa the hostile forces met, and for a while the victory was hotly contested; but the superiority of Kamehameha’s artillery, the number of his guns and the better practice of his soldiers, soon turned the day in his favor, and the defeat of the Oʻahu forces became an accelerated rout and a promiscuous slaughter. (Fornander) Estimates for losses in the battle of Nuʻuanu (1795) ranged up to 10,000. (Schmitt)
Then, Kamehameha looked to conquer the last kingdom, Kauaʻi, which was under the control of Kaumualiʻi. In 1804 (about the time of US expansion with the Louisiana Purchase,) King Kamehameha I moved his capital from Lāhainā, Maui to Honolulu on O‘ahu, and planned an attack on Kaua‘i. Kamehameha’s forces for this second invasion attempt included about 7,000-Hawaiians along with about 50-foreigners (mostly Europeans.)
Weather and sickness thwarted the invasions. However, in the face of the threat of a future invasion, in 1810, Kaumuali‘i decided to peacefully unite with Kamehameha and join the rest of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi under single rule.
According to Manifest Destiny, the people of the United States felt it was their mission to extend the “boundaries of freedom” to others by imparting their idealism and belief in democratic institutions to those who were capable of self-government. (pbs) After wars and negotiation, the US ran east to west across the continent.
According to a prophecy prior to his birth, Kamehameha would win wars and overthrow the whole kingdom; another prophecy suggested he would succeed in battle after constructing a special heiau. After wars and negotiation, Kamehameha gained power from east to west across the Island chain.
The image shows Puʻukoholā Heiau in 1890; in addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.