In the 1820s, two notable men with the last name Jones were in the Islands. John Coffin Jones Jr (US Agent for Commerce and Seamen) and Thomas ap Catesby Jones (of the US Navy).
The first to arrive was John Coffin Jones Jr; he was appointed US Agent for Commerce and Seamen on September 19, 1820 and began to serve in October of 1820, at the port of Honolulu.
John Coffin Jones Jr was the only son of a prominent Boston businessman (in mercantile and shipping business) and politician. (John C Jones Sr served as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was legislative colleague of John Quincy Adams (and one of the signors for Massachusetts of the Ratification of the US Constitution for that State.))
This Jones (also known in Hawaiian documents as John Aluli) became the ﬁrst ofﬁcial US representative in the Hawaiian Islands. His role was to help distressed American citizens ashore, both seamen and civilians, serving without salary from the US government and required to report on commerce in Hawai‘i.
(The post of commercial agent was raised to Consul effective July 5, 1844, and held by Peter A. Brinsmade, who had already been appointed commercial agent on April 13, 1838.)
Jones was already agent for the prosperous Boston firm of Marshall and Wildes (one of four American mercantile houses doing business in Honolulu,) and by accepting the additional responsibility from his country, the firm and he might hope that through his reports to Washington the voice of commerce in the Pacific would be heard more clearly by the US Government. (Hackler)
When Jones arrived, the sandalwood trade with China was still thriving. King Kamehameha I had monopolized, the cutting and exporting of sandalwood during his reign, but after his death in 1819, Kamehameha II was unable to enforce the conservation policies of his father, and unrestricted cutting of sandalwood soon threatened to deplete the hillsides of this rare wood.
But, while the wood lasted and the market held up in Canton, the American merchants in Honolulu competed fiercely with each other for the valuable cargoes, and pressed on the Hawaiians all sorts of goods which were to be paid for in sandalwood. (Hackler)
He was considered an advocate for commercial interests in Hawaiʻi and immediately collided with the missionary group led by Rev. Hiram Bingham. For the next couple of decades he contended for commercial advantages for the US. He set up his own trading firm in 1830 and made many voyages to California during the next ten years. (Kelley)
“Since the discovery of the whale fishery on the coast of Japan, and the independence of the republics of the western coasts of North and South America, the commerce of the United States at the Sandwich islands has vastly increased.”
“Of such importance have these islands become to our ships which resort to the coast of Japan for the prosecution of the whale fishery, that, without another place could be found, possessing equal advantages of conveniences and situation, our fishery on Japan would be vastly contracted, or pursued under circumstances the most disadvantageous.” (Jones, to Captain Wm B Finch, October 30, 1829)
As US Agent for Seamen, Jones had a burdensome responsibility. Many seamen were put ashore because of illness, and they became the special concern of Jones. This was a responsibility and an expense.
In his first report to the Secretary of State on December 31, 1821, Jones complained of the commanders of American ships who were in the habit of discharging troublesome seamen at Honolulu and taking on Hawaiian hands. (Hackler)
In addition, Jones reported to the Department that 30,000 piculs of sandalwood were sent to China in American ships that year, and estimated that the price for this wood in Canton should be about $300,000. The Hawaiian chiefs were becoming increasingly indebted to the American merchants in Honolulu and payment was slow in coming.
He wrote that the only solution was the posting of a US naval vessel at Honolulu, at least during the periods between March and May, and October and December, when the whalers gathered at the port. (Hackler)
The desertions, debt and disorder led to the arrival of the second Jones, Thomas ap Catesby Jones (the ‘ap’ in his name is a Welsh prefix noting he is ‘Thomas, the son of Catesby Jones.’)
Thomas was a Navy man; he received an appointment as a midshipman and joined the US Navy (at the time, 1805, it had only 29-vessels.) He moved up through the ranks. (Smith) He later fought in the War of 1812.
Growing concerns over treatment, safety and attitudes toward American sailors (and therefore other US citizens in the Islands) led the US Navy to send Jones to the Islands, report back on what he learned, banish the bad-attitude sailors and maintain cordial relations with the Hawaiian government.
“The object of my visit to the Sandwich Islands was of high national importance, of multifarious character, and left entirely to my judgment as to the mode of executing it, with no other guide than a laconic order, which the Government designed one of the oldest and most experienced commanders in the navy should execute”. (Jones, Report of Minister of Foreign Affairs)
“Under so great a responsibility, it was necessary for me to proceed with the greatest caution, and to measure well every step before it was taken; consequently the first ten or fifteen days were devoted to the study and examination of the character and natural disposition of a people who are so little known to the civilized world, and with whom I had important business to transact.”
“The Sandwich Islanders as legislators are a cautious, grave, deliberate people, extremely jealous of their rights as a nation, and are slow to enter into any treaty or compact with foreigners, by which the latter can gain any foot-hold or claim to their soil.”
“Aware of these traits in the character of the Islanders with whom I had to negotiate, I determined to conduct my correspondence with them in such a manner as at once to remove all grounds of suspicion as to the object and views of the American Government, and to guard against misrepresentation and undue influence”.
“(I also wanted to) give the Chiefs and others in authority, the means of understanding perfectly the nature of my propositions, I took the precaution to have all official communications translated into the Oahuan language, which translation always accompanied the original in English”.
“(B)y giving them their own time to canvass and consult together, I found no difficulty in carrying every measure I proposed, and could I have been fully acqainted with the views of my government, or been authorized to make treaties, I do not doubt but my success would have been complete in any undertaking of that character.” (Jones Report to Navy Department, 1827)
Jones resolved the sailor desertion issue, the chiefs agreed to pay in full the debts and then Jones negotiated ‘Articles of Arrangement’ noting the “peace and friendship subsisting between the United States and their Majesties, the Queen Regent and Kauikeaouli, King of the Sandwich Islands, and their subjects and people,” (later referred to as the Treaty of 1826, the first treaty signed by the Hawaiians and US.)
“Capt (Thomas ap Catesby) Jones, as a public officer, carefully sought to promote the interests of commerce and secure the right of traders, pressed the rulers to a prompt discharge of their debts, and negotiated articles of agreement with the government for the protection of American interests …”
“… in which Kaahumanu, as regent, is conspicuous; and secured for himself among the people the designation of ‘kind-eyed chief’ – a compliment falling on the ear of many of different classes”.
In contrast, by 1829, John Coffin Jones Jr seemed to have fallen out of favor with the Hawaiian rulers. At that time the King and the principal chiefs addressed a protest to Captain Finch of the USS Vincennes, accusing Jones of maltreating a native and lying about royal morals. (Hackler)
John Jones’ several marriages caused additional concern. He married Hannah Jones Davis, widow of his partner, William Heath Davis Sr, in 1823. Jones continued to live with Hannah but also lived with Lahilahi Marin, daughter of Don Francisco Marin, and had children by both. In 1838, he married Manuela Carrillo of Santa Barbara, California and deserted Hannah and Lahilahi.
In December, 1838, returning from one of his periodic business trips to California, he introduced Manuela as his wife. This apparently enraged Hannah Holmes Jones, who promptly petitioned the Hawaiian Government for a divorce on grounds of bigamy.
The charge was upheld by the King and led to his writing Jones on January 8, 1839, that “… I refuse any longer to know you as consul from the United States of America.” (Kamehameha III; Hacker)
John Jones left the Islands and settled in Santa Barbara in 1839 and continued as a merchant both in California and Massachusetts. He died on December 24, 1861, leaving his wife and six children. (Kelley)