In 1791, there was active debate for opening the trade opportunities to Pacific Ocean trade held by the South Sea Company and the East India Company, particularly considering the recent Nootka Convention with Spain which opened the Pacific Northwest Coast to British traders.
The Butterworth Squadron was a British commercial fleet of three vessels, the Butterworth, the Jackal and the Prince Lee Boo, that sailed for the Pacific Ocean from London via Cape Horn in late-1791.
The Butterworth was a whaling ship with a typical crew of forty-eight men. She is said to have originally been a French frigate of 30 guns, captured by the British.
Her master was Captain William Brown, “an able and expert seaman, regularly brought up in the whale fishery.” Before entering the Pacific, Brown and his ship Butterworth were Greenland whalers.
The Jackal (sometimes spelled “Jackall” or “Jack Hall”) was a small sloop that served as a tender to Butterworth. She “showed a tier of ports fore and aft. The greatest part of them were false or only painted, yet they made such a good appearance that for some time we concluded she was a King’s cutter or a tender to some man-of-war”.
The Prince Lee Boo was a small sloop; by several accounts somewhat lesser than the Jackal. The vessel was named for Prince Lee Boo, a young Palau Islander who traveled to London in 1784.
Prince Lee Boo and Jackal together are said to have carried a total of 9 boat guns ranging in size from 2 pounds to 6 pounds.
Prince Lee Boo was often used to take soundings ahead of the larger ship. She was loaned to Captain George Vancouver for this purpose in Queen Charlotte Sound in 1793.
The principals financing the expedition were Alderman William Curtis, London ship-owner Theophilus Pritzler and probably John Perry, a Blackwall shipbuilder.
The leader of the expedition was Captain William Brown. Sigismund Bacstrom, a naturalist who had previously sailed as a secretary to Sir Joseph Banks, was the surgeon for the expedition.
The Butterworth squadron first wintered at the Hawaiian Islands in February 1793, when control of the Islands was divided between Kamehameha who controlled Hawai’i and much of Maui, and Kahekili who controlled the islands west of Maui including Oahu and Kauai.
Brown traded in weapons with both Kamehameha and Kahekili, but strongly favored the latter. In particular, he entered into a contract with Kahekili giving Brown the title to the island of O‘ahu together with four islands to windward in return for weapons and military assistance suppressing a revolt on Kauai.
It was during this time that the Butterworth squadron became the first European vessels to enter the inner Honolulu Harbor.
At the death of Kahekili in 1793, Kaʻeo became ruling chief of Maui, Molokai and Lānaʻi. Kalanikūpule was ruler of Oʻahu. Homesick for his friends, Kaʻeo set out to return to Kauai by way of Waialua and then to Waimea; he learned of a conspiracy to kill him. (Kamakau)
Then, Kaʻeo invaded O‘ahu. This war became known as Kuki‘iahu and was fought from November 16 until December 12, 1794.
The Jackal and Prince Lee Boo returned to Oahu on November 21, 1794 to find a very different situation from the one they had left.
When Jackal and Prince Lee Boo arrived at Honolulu, Kalanikūpule requested their assistance in the battle. Eight men under the command of George Lamport, mate of the Jackal, joined Kalanikūpule’s forces in a series battles ashore while Captain Brown and the remaining crew defended the shoreline from the Jackal and Prince Lee Boo.
As war was waging, on December 3, 1794, Captain John Kendrick arrived in Fair Haven (Honolulu) aboard the Lady Washington.
While Kaʻeo was successful after some initial skirmishes. A great battle was fought in the area between Kalauao and ‘Aiea in ‘Ewa. Kalanikūpule’s forces surrounded Kaʻeo. (Cultural Surveys) The ship’s men successfully aided in the defense and Kaʻeo was defeated.
To celebrate the victory, on December 12, 1794, Kendrick’s brig fired a thirteen-gun salute in celebration the British ship of Captain Brown.
The tradition of rendering a salute by cannon originated in the 14th century as firearms and cannons came into use. Since these early devices contained only one projectile, discharging them rendered them harmless.
Initially, the tradition began as a custom among ships, whose captains had volleys fired upon entering a friendly port to release its arsenal, which demonstrated their peaceful intentions (by placing their weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective.)
Following Kendrick’s salute, Brown answered with a round of fire. Unfortunately, through an oversight, one of the saluting guns on the Jackal was loaded with round and grape shot, and this shot passed through the side of the Lady Washington, killing Captain Kendrick and several of his crew. (Kuykendall)
Soon after, a dispute arose between Capt. Brown and Kalanikūpule, however the exact nature of it is not clear. It may have related to Brown’s claims to O‘ahu, but it has been suggested that Kalanikūpule may have requested that Brown and his men assist Kalanikūpule in an attack against Kamehameha on Hawai’i, and Brown may have refused.
Kalanikūpule then decided to kill Captain Brown and capture the Jackal and Prince Lee Boo. At his chief’s advice, he agreed to pay the 400 hogs. On January 1, 1795, the hogs were herded down to the beach to be slaughtered and salted down in barrels.
“When the greatest part of the crew of the Jackall being on shore salting pork and the remainder part away with their boat collecting salt, except and one man, and part of the crew of the Prince Le Boo likewise on shore on duty …”
“… that the natives of the said island about ten am on the 1st of January attacked the said vessel with several canoes, killed the commander William Brown and Robert Gordon and wounded several others and got possession of the vessel.” (Bloxam; Payne)
Kalanikūpule and his chiefs then determined to attack Kamehameha’s forces on Hawai’i. On January 3, the captured crew was put to work preparing the vessels for sea, and on January 11 they were ready to sail for Hawai’i.
Kalanikūpule ordered all the arms and ammunition to be loaded into the two captured vessels, along with all the captured crew, although he was advised by his chiefs to divide them among the canoes.
On “the 12th of January … about three pm the chiefs ordered the vessels out of the harbor to go to the bay of Waikiki where about 4 pm, (some of the Jackal and Prince Lee Boo crew) brought up and lay till ten pm, and having all the people on board we both attacked the natives, wounded and drove them overboard and got possession of both vessels”. (Bloxam; Payne)
They released Kalanikūpule, his wife and one attendant in a canoe as they passed Diamond Head, then headed to Hawai‘i where they informed John Young and Kamehameha of Kalanikūpule’s invasion plans.
The Jackal and Prince Lee Boo sailed to China where the vessels were sold. Butterworth successfully returned to England at around 1794. (Lots of information here is from Payne)