William Ansel Kinney was born October 16, 1860 in Honolulu. His parents were born in Canada, lived a while in Calais, Maine, then moved to Hawai‘i.
William first attended the Royal School at Honolulu, afterwards at O‘ahu College (Punahou – (1874–1877.)) During his boyhood, when out of school, he has been a clerk in a law office. He graduated from Michigan University Law School in 1883. (Michigan University)
He returned to the Islands; his first law partner was Arthur P Peterson. Then, in 1887 he became partners with William Owen Smith and Lorrin A. Thurston. (Kuykendall) From 1887-1888, he was a member of the House of Representatives, representing Hawai‘i Island.
Kinney was part of the team that drafted the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i (‘Bayonet Constitution.’) Other reforms to the government included replacement of the Kings cabinet. (Forbes)
He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, about 1890 and practiced law there. “After several visits to the states about 1891 (his mother) came to live for a time at Salt Lake with her second son William A Kinney, then and for several years after a well-known attorney of this city. (Salt Lake Herald, April 9, 1897)
Following the overthrow of the Hawai‘i constitutional monarchy, “William A. Kinney, now a lawyer in Salt Lake City, but a former resident of the Sandwich Islands and one of the leading participants in the revolution of 1887…”
“… met the members of the committee (seeking Hawai‘i annexation to the US) at Ogden for the purpose of renewing old acquaintance, and was induced to accompany the body to Washington in an unofficial capacity as legal adviser.” (NY Times, February 4, 1893)
Kinney moved back to the Islands in 1893 and on August 16, 1893 he married Alice Vaughan McBryde in Honolulu. McBryde was the daughter of Judge Duncan McBryde, who laid the foundation for what later was to become McBryde Sugar Company. Not a planter himself (but encouraged by Kinney and Dillingham,) McBryde hired a few men to obtain seed, plow the land and haul cane.
The original plantation lands extended from Kōloa to the Hanapepe River giving the newly formed McBryde Sugar Company access to a port. At first, the ʻEleʻele sugar mill was used to grind the cane, but within a couple of year, the Directors knew that another mill would have to be built.
As fortune would have it, McBryde bought the large Cuban type mill originally destined for Molokai’s American Sugar Company, whose plans for a plantation had to be abandoned. (HSPA)
Following Queen Lili‘uokalani’s arrest in 1895, “Mr William A. Kinney … Without military experience, he was commissioned a captain, and afterward charged with the duty of Judge Advocate in attacking me, and those of my people who sought liberty from the foreign oppressor.” (Lili‘uokalani)
While critical of Kinney related to the trials in 1895, in 1909, Lili‘uokalani retained Kinney and others in her claim to Crown Lands.
“Mr Kinney was judge advocate for the United States in the trial of Queen Lili‘uokalani and as he says ‘I tried her, prosecuted her, and convicted her, and I am now her attorney. Of course there was never anything personal in the matter.’” (Hawaiian Gazette, July 26, 1910)
Queen Lili‘uokalani made a claim to Crown Lands as her personal property. Noting, “Her cause of action is predicated upon an alleged ‘vested equitable life interest’ to certain lands described in the petition, known as ‘crown lands,’ of which interest she was divested by the defendants.”
However, the US Court of Claims noted, “It may not be unworthy of remark that it is very unusual, even in cases of conquest, for the conqueror to do more than to displace the sovereign and assume dominion over the country.”
The Court concluded, “The crown lands were the resourceful methods of income to sustain, in part at least, the dignity of the office to which they were inseparably attached. When the office ceased to exist they became as other lands of the Sovereignty and passed to the defendants as part and parcel of the public domain.”
The Court further noted, “The constitution of the Republic of Hawai‘i, as respects the crown lands, provided as follows: ‘That portion of the public domain heretofore known as crown land is hereby declared to have been heretofore, and now to be, the property of the Hawaiian Government …” (Lili‘uokalani v The United States, 1910)
Later, Kinney joined forces with Prince Kūhiō in fighting Governor Frear (and the Big 5’s hold on the Islands,) noting, “Simply that the plantations, finding Gov. Frear under fire on their account, have been trying to fix things up …”
“… for they do not propose to lose control of the governorship and the local Territorial government; and when they do, however justly, a determined cry will be raised by them for commission government.”
“(I)nsistent retention of medieval ideas on land and labor, is merely an illustration of the recognized principle that things are apt to move along the lines of least resistance.”
“When the plantations of Hawaii have either got to do the right thing in regard to homesteading or go to the wall, they will come to time, and they should be forced to that position, not by way of retaliation nor in a spirit of hostility but because it is right and just to Hawaii and to the mainland that this be done.” (Kinney, Testimony before US House of Representatives, 1912)
The matter related to appointment of the next Territorial Governor of Hawai‘i. Kinney wanted someone without ties to the Plantations.
Lucius Pinkham, from the mainland, but had prior Island business interests and noted by Kūhiō that the Hawaiians “are very fond of Pinkham and … believe he is their best friend,” got the appointment.
Kinney left the Islands shortly thereafter and lived in California, continuing with his legal profession; he died sometime after 1930 in California.