John Papa ʻĪʻī began his service in the royal court when he served as an attendant to Liholiho (Kamehameha II.) Īʻī later became a trusted advisor and chief in the court of Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) and continued to serve the sovereigns of Hawaiʻi until his death in 1870.
On February 26, 1829, he wrote an account of events of that day dealing with drunken foreigners who wanted to tear down the missionary house because “they guessed that the missionaries had made the sanction” forbidding prostitution.
‘Ī‘ī notes in his letter, “but that was not so; the chiefs had laid the sanction for they knew that the word of God was right saying not to commit adultery, not to commit prostitution and that is why they forbade it. It was not done by the missionaries.”
The letter is part of the Ali‘i Collection at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives. The collection is part of a translation project spearheaded by Puakea Nogelmeier and Awaiaulu. Here is the full translated text of ‘Ī‘I’s account:
“Here are the actions of the house wreckers that we saw carrying out destruction.”
“On Sunday, the 26th of February in late afternoon, about four o’clock, they arrived at the yard of Kalaimoku’s house. We saw them running this way, drunk on rum, and they entered the stone house of Kalaimoku and climbed atop that stone house with clubs in their hands.”
“I entered after them and we looked from below at them doing damage above the door of that building and the glass panes of three windows were smashed by them as well as that of the main door, a fourth, which they scattered down in pieces.”
“Many people came at that time for evening prayers, for they intended to hear the word of God, but before we prayed those troublemakers arrived so a great number of people sat quietly and calmly watched their mischief. My thought to Boki was that we should hold them without beating them, because these scoundrels had no right, and that is what I said to Boki.”
“Because of that statement that I made to him, he ordered all the people sitting there to not make trouble to them, that it was fine as it was. Kahalaia was there, another chief, and the people everywhere in Honolulu heard so they came thinking that it was just a battle, for it had been heard that they were coming to tear down the house of the missionaries and to beat them. “
“Women were the offense, for they guessed that the missionaries had made the sanction, but that was not so; the chiefs had laid the sanction for they knew that the word of God was right saying not to commit adultery, not to commit prostitution and that is why they forbade it. It was not done by the missionaries.”
“When their destruction ended, they all came down from that house and stood with the people, saying to us, ‘There is no goodness about the missionaries, they are deceitful people. It is not that way in Britain and America. The missionaries are liars.’ And that is how they spoke to us.”
“Their statements having ended, it had reached five o’clock and they all left that place, going off to destroy Bingham’s house. He followed after them on a different path, coming from among the people, but none of the people followed along behind him. The place was filled with people sitting quietly.”
“His wife, (Mrs) Bingham had seen the rogue foreigners with sticks in their hands headed there so she closed the door and locked it. They quickly reached the door of the house, it being the second house they attacked, and wreaked damage there. They shattered the glass panes of the windows which scattered down.”
“They saw Bingham going there from where we were. So they gathered together to beat him with the wood from the door of his house, but he was caught by a foreigner from the whaling fleet who had come with the scoundrel foreigners, and he was saved by that foreigner.”
“So he quickly came back with that foreigner who had saved him and we followed after to take care of him. He came and stood with us and with a chiefess, Lidia Piia, she being a student of his, and she stood in front of him. I was there as well.”
“The foreign scoundrels followed him all the way with no fear of our great numbers, and then stood with us, some with clubs, others with jack knives, with evil statements coming from their mouths, and Bingham was talking with one of the foreigners.”
“Then one of those foreign scoundrels suddenly struck at him with a stick, hitting his umbrella. The blow on that umbrella was fended off by Lidia and then I grabbed the stick from the hand of that foreigner.”
“I seized it, and because of that the foreigners were afraid and they fled. The people talked of seizing them all, for finally we should make trouble to them for their prior mischief to our chiefs for no reason, and that is the same way that they attacked the teachers, who had made no transgression. Because of that, they were all seized and held.”
“Ka‘ahumanu saw us and that the foreigners had all been seized by us, so she called down to us from up on the house, ‘Do not beat the foreigners; you should take care of them.’ The people heeded her words and sat quietly.”
“That is my message. I am reporting to all of you in that land of America so that you know the wrongdoings of some of your people here, those foreigners.”
The following shows a short discussion by Marie Alohalani Brown on John Papa ‘Ī‘ī’s letter and other information related to this 1826 event.
The following shows a short discussion by John Laimana on a related letter written by Kalanimoku that addresses this 1826 incident, as well as the role of decision-making by the ali’i related to situations like this (the ali’i made the decisions, not the missionaries).
The following shows a portrayal of John Papa ‘Ī‘ī (by William Hao;) it’s part of the Mission Houses Cemetery Pupu Theater; describing Hawai‘i of his time (not the events of February 26, 1829).