At the time of ‘contact’ (the period of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778,)) 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 (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
“At that time Kahekili was plotting for the downfall of Kahahana and the seizure of Oahu and Molokai, and the queen of Kauai was disposed to assist him in these enterprises. The occupation of the Hana district of Maui by the kings of Hawaii had been the cause of many stubborn conflicts between the chivalry of the two islands, and when Captain Cook first landed on Hawaii he found the king of that island absent on another warlike expedition to Maui, intent upon avenging his defeat of two years before, when his famous brigade of eight hundred nobles was hewn in pieces.” (Kalākaua)
Then, in 1782, Kamehameha started his conquest to rule the Islands. After conquering the Island of Hawaiʻi, he moved on to defeat the armies in Maui Nui and concluded his wars on Oʻahu at the Battle of Nuʻuanu in 1795. After failed attempts at conquering Kauaʻi, he negotiated peace with Kaumualiʻi and the Island chain was under his control (1810.)
Providing the Means, as well as Ways to this End, foreigners supported Kamehameha, including John Young, Isaac Davis, Don Francisco de Paula Marin, George Beckley and Alexander Adams (and others.)
One can only speculate what might have happened had these foreigners not aligned with Kamehameha.
However, it is clear, with their help, he became Kamehameha the Great.
John Young (1790)
John Young, a boatswain on the British fur trading vessel, Eleanora, was stranded on the Island of Hawai‘i in 1790. Kamehameha brought Young to Kawaihae, where he was building the massive temple, Puʻukoholā Heiau.
Because of his knowledge of European warfare, Young is said to have trained Kamehameha and his men in the use of muskets and cannons. In addition, both Young and Davis fought alongside Kamehameha in his many battles. With these powerful new weapons and associated war strategy, Kamehameha eventually brought all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule.
Young was instrumental in building fortifications throughout the Islands, which included the conversion of Mailekini Heiau (below Pu‘ukoholā Heiau) into a fort, which he armed with as many as 21 ship cannons. Young also served as a negotiator for the king, securing various trade and political agreements with many of the foreigners that visited the Islands.
When Captain George Vancouver visited Hawai‘i Island in 1793, he observed that both Young and Davis “are in his (Kamehameha’s) most perfect confidence, attend him in all his excursions of business or pleasure, or expeditions of war or enterprise; and are in the habit of daily experiencing from him the greatest respect, and the highest degree of esteem and regard.”
Kamehameha appointed John Young as Governor of Kamehameha’s home island, Hawai‘i Island, and gave him a seat next to himself in the ruling council of chiefs. In 1819, Young was one of the few present at the death of Kamehameha I.
Isaac Davis (1790)
Isaac Davis (c. 1758–1810) (Welch) arrived in Hawaii in 1790 as the sole survivor of the massacre of the crew of The Fair American. He became one of the closest advisors to Kamehameha I. He was instrumental in Kamehameha’s military ventures.
Davis became a respected translator and military advisor for Kamehameha. Davis brought western military knowledge to Hawai‘i and played a big role during Hawaii’s first contacts with the European powers. His skill in gunnery, as well as the cannon from the Fair American, helped Kamehameha win many battles.
Davis had the King’s “most perfect confidence” and he attended to Kamehameha’s needs on all travels of business or pleasure – and ventured with him during times of war. Davis earned Kamehameha’s “greatest respect and the highest degree of esteem and regard.”
When Kamehameha sought to negotiate with King Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i, Kamehameha summoned Isaac Davis to escort Kaumuali‘i to O‘ahu. At Pākākā (at Honolulu Harbor, in 1810,) it was agreed that Kaua‘i would join with the rest of the archipelago, but that Kaumuali‘i would continue to rule that island while acknowledging Kamehameha as his sovereign – reportedly, Isaac Davis assisted in the negotiations, on behalf of Kamehameha.
An observer noted in 1798 that, “On leaving Davis the king embraced him and cried like a child. Davis said he always did when he left him, for he was always apprehensive that he might leave him, although he had promised him he would never do it without giving him previous notice.”
Isaac Davis resided immediately next to Kamehameha. He became one of the highest chiefs under Kamehameha and was Governor of Oʻahu during the early-1800s.
Don Francisco de Paula Marin (1793)
Don Francisco de Paula Marin was a Spaniard who arrived in the Hawaiian Islands around 1793. His knowledge of Western military weapons brought him to the attention of Kamehameha, who was engaged in the conquest of O‘ahu. Marin almost immediately became a trusted advisor to Kamehameha I.
Marin spoke four languages (he arrived fluent in Spanish, French and English, and learned Hawaiian) and was employed by Kamehameha as Interpreter, Bookkeeper and part time Physician (although he had no formal medical training, he had some basic medical knowledge.) He also served as purchasing agent for the arms that proved decisive to Kamehameha’s victory of the Battle of Nu‘uanu (1795.)
In April of 1819, Marin was summoned to the Big Island of Hawai‘i to assist Kamehameha, who had become ill. Marin was not able to improve the condition of Kamehameha, and on May 8, 1819, King Kamehameha I died.
Marin was known for his interest in plant collecting and brought in a wide variety of new plants to Hawai‘i. His gardens were filled with trees, vines and shrubs. Marin was responsible for introducing and cultivating many of the plants commonly associated with the Islands. To name only a few, here are some of the plants he introduced and/or cultivated in Hawai‘i: pineapple, coffee, avocado, mango and grape vines.
Marin’s contributions are best noted by Robert C. Wyllie, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when addressing the Royal Agricultural Society of Hawai‘i in 1850, saying of Marin: “From the brief accounts of the life and works of the don in 1809 to 1820, few of you will doubt that most of the present wealth of these islands is owing to the seeds, roots and plants introduced by Francisco de Paula Marin, and to whom the Hawaiian people are so greatly indebted.”
Captain George Beckley (1804)
George Charles Beckley arrived in the Islands around 1804 and was known as “the English friend and military adviser of Kamehameha the Great.”
Family traditions credit Beckley as being the designer of the Hawaiian Flag (other stories suggest the flag was designed by Alexander Adams, another trusted sea captain of Kamehameha – they may have designed it together (Adams later served as executor of Beckley’s estate and guardian of his children.))
At the birth of the princess Nahiʻenaʻena (Kamehameha’s daughter) at Keauhou, Kona, in 1815, Beckley was made a high chief by Kamehameha, so that he might with impunity enter the sacred precinct, and present the royal infant with a roll of China silk, after which he went outside, and fired a salute of thirteen guns in her honor. (Hawaiian Historical Society)
In 1815, Kamehameha I granted some Russians permission to build a storehouse at Honolulu Harbor. Instead, they began building a fort against the ancient heiau of Pākākā and close to the King’s complex and raised the Russian flag. (Pākākā was the site of Kaua‘i’s King Kaumuali‘i’s negotiations relinquishing power to Kamehameha I.)
When Kamehameha discovered they were building a fort (rather than storehouses,) he sent several chiefs, along with John Young (his advisor) and Kalanimōku, to remove the Russians from Oʻahu by force, if necessary. The partially built blockhouse at Honolulu was finished by Hawaiians who mounted guns in the protected fort.
Beckley was the first commander of the fort (known as Fort Kekuanohu or Fort Honolulu.) Its original purpose was to protect Honolulu by keeping enemy or otherwise undesirable ships out. But, it was also used to keep things in (it also served as a prison.)
Captain Alexander Adams (1811)
Scotsman Captain Alexander Adams arrived in Hawaiʻi 1811. He became an intimate friend and confidential advisor to King Kamehameha I, who entrusted to him the command of the king’s sandalwood fleet. He became the first regular pilot for the port of Honolulu, a position he held for 30-years.
Captain Adams was sent to Kauaʻi by Kamehameha I to remove the Russians from Fort Elizabeth that had been set up in 1817. His words reportedly were “upon arriving they were soon dispatched”. Adams raised the Kingdom of Hawai‘i flag over the fort in October 1817.
Adams stood on the shore with John Young at Kailua-Kona when the first American Christian missionaries anchored off shore in 1820. He helped convince the King to allow the missionaries to come ashore and take up residence in Hawaiʻi. When the HMS Blonde arrived in 1825, Adams helped the Scottish naturalist (James Macrae) distribute some plants he thought would be commercially successful in the tropical climate.
After 30 years of piloting, Adams retired in 1853, grew fruit on his land in Kalihi Valley, and was great host to visitors. He also had a home on what was named Adams Lane (in 1850,) a small lane in downtown Honolulu off of Hotel Street named after him (near the Hawaiian Telephone company building) and had an estate in Niu Valley.
Without these and other foreigners, Hawaiʻi’s history may have been significantly different.
The image shows Kamehameha the Great as a warrior, drawn by Herb Kane.