“The advent of the white man in the Pacific was inevitable, and especially in Hawaii, by reason of its size, resources, and, most important, its location at the crossroads of this vastest of oceans, rapidly coming into its own in fulfilment of prophecies that it was destined to become the chief theater of the world’s future activities.” (Frear, 1935)
Years before the westward land movement gathered momentum, the energies of seafaring New Englanders found their natural outlet, along their traditional pathway, in the Pacific Ocean.
What helped started in the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, on his third expedition, when British explorer Captain James Cook on the HMS Resolution and Captain Charles Clerke of the HMS Discovery first sighted what Cook named the Sandwich Islands (that were later named the Hawaiian Islands.)
“During the forty-two years from Cook’s discovery to the arrival of the first missionaries, and long afterwards, there came this way thousands of whites beach-combers, Botany Bay convicts, fur-traders, whalers, and others, including black-birders in the South Seas, who, with noteworthy exceptions …”
“… lived up to the then-prevailing motto that ‘there was no God this side of Cape Horn,’ or, when they rounded the Cape, ‘hung their consciences on the Horn,’ as it was said, and who, bent solely on their own profit and pleasure, brought muskets, alcohol, and infectious and contagious diseases, promoted licentiousness and exploited the natives, without a thought for their rights or welfare.” (Frear, 1935)
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity in this first company.
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished; through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho,) with encouragement by former Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother,) the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs.
“(F)or forty years Hawaiians wanted everything on every ship that came. And they could get it; it was pretty easy to get. Two pigs and … a place to live, you could trade for almost anything.” (Puakea Nogelmeier)
Collaboration between native Hawaiians and the American Protestant missionaries resulted in, among other things, the introduction of Christianity; the creation of the Hawaiian written language and widespread literacy; the promulgation of the concept of constitutional government; making Western medicine available; and the evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition (with harmony and choral singing.)
Dr Rufus Anderson, Foreign Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions traveled from Boston to Hawai‘i to attend the annual meeting of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association (the name attributed to the Hawaiian Mission). The General Meeting was held from June 3, 1863 to July 1, 1863.
Subsequent meeting minutes and other references noted that, they were looking at “devising such plans of future action, as should bring the native churches, as speedily as possible, in what is believed to be the natural order in such cases, (1) to a condition of self-government, and (2) by means of the greater activity and earnestness which would be developed by this self-government, to a condition of complete self-support …”
“… and, also, for the purpose of determining, by such free conference with the missionaries, what may best be their future relations to the Board and its work”. (Action of the Prudential Committee; Proceedings of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association)
“The state of things at the Islands is peculiar. They have been Christianized. The missionaries have become citizens. In a technical sense they no longer are missionaries, but pastors, and as such on an official parity with the native pastors.” (Anderson)
“The Protestant Christian community, as in older Christian countries, has been organized for action. And the American Board, at its annual meeting next following, which was at Rochester, NY, performed the crowning act, by transferring to this new Hawaiian Board its own responsibilities for directing the work on the Hawaiian Islands.”
“In short, we see a Protestant Christian nation in the year 1863 … self-governing in all its departments, and nearly self-supporting. And the Hawaiian nation is on the whole well governed. The laws are good, and appear to be rigidly enforced. The king at the time of this meeting was in declining health, and did not long after.”
“Better educated by far than any of his predecessors, more intelligent, more capable of ruling well, he was subject to strong feeling, and was said to be less an object of veneration and love to his people than was his immediate predecessor.” (Anderson)
The Prudential Committee of the ABCFM “Resolved, That … the Protestant Christian community of the Islands has attained to the position of complete self-support, as to its religious institutions, there is yet ample occasion for gratitude to God for his signal blessing upon this mission”.
It further “Resolved, That the proposition made by the Protestant Christian community at the Sandwich Islands, who have organized a working Board, called ‘The Board of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association,’ to relieve the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and the American churches, from the responsibility of future oversight and direction in the work …”
“…And this Committee joyfully commits to the Board of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association the future care and direction of this evangelizing work in those Islands; and hereby concedes to that Board the right of applying for grants-in-aid, as specified in said proposition.” (Action of the ABCFM Prudential Committee)
Anderson wrote to inform Kamehameha IV of the Hawaiian Evangelical actions and dissolution of the mission in his July 6, 1863 letter noting, in part: “I may perhaps be permitted, in view of my peculiar relations to a very large body of the best friends and benefactors of this nation, not to leave without my most respectful aloha to both your Majesties.”
“The important steps lately taken in this direction are perhaps sufficiently indicated in the printed Address …. I am happy to inform your Majesty that the plan there indicated has since been adopted, and is now going into effect, — with the best influence, as I cannot doubt, upon the religious welfare of your people.”
“My visit to these Islands has impressed me, not only with the strength, but also with the beneficent and paternal character of your government. In no nation in Christendom is there greater security of person and property, or more of civil and religious liberty.”
“As to the progress of the nation in Christian civilization, I am persuaded, and shall confidently affirm on my return home, that the history of the Christian church and of nations affords nothing equal to it.”
“And now the Hawaiian Christian community is so far formed and matured, that the American Board ceases to act any longer as principal, and becomes an auxiliary,— merely affording grants in aid of the several departments of labor in building up the kingdom of Christ in these Islands, and also in the Islands of Micronesia.”
“Praying God to grant long life and prosperity to your Majesties, I am, with profound respect, Your Majesty’s obedient, humble servant, R. Anderson”
Later (October 1863), the ABCFM “Resolved, That, in taking this additional step toward the conclusion of our work in the Sandwich Islands, we record anew our grateful and adoring sense of the marvelous success, which our missionaries there have been enabled to achieve by the blessing of God, to whom be all the glory.” (Action of the Board; Proceedings of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association)
“The mission, having accomplished, through the blessing of God, the work specially appropriate to it as a mission, has been, as such, disbanded, and merged in the community.” (Rufus Anderson, Foreign Secretary of the ABCFM, 1863)