King Kaumuali‘i of Kauai decided to send his son Humehume (George Prince) to America, at least, in part, to receive a formal education.
Humehume was about six years old when he boarded the Hazard that ultimately sailed into Providence, Rhode Island on June 30, 1805 after a year-and-a-half at sea. Over the next few years he made his way to Worcester, Massachusetts.
Later, on October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for Hawai‘i.
There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity in this first company. These included two Ordained Preachers, Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil and Asa Thurston and his wife Lucy …
… two Teachers, Mr. Samuel Whitney and his wife Mercy and Samuel Ruggles and his wife Mary; a Doctor, Thomas Holman and his wife Lucia; a Printer, Elisha Loomis and his wife Maria; and a Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain, his wife and five children.
With the missionaries were four Hawaiian students from the Foreign Mission School, Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Humehume. They arrived in Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
“[April] 5th . The natives appear very kind, express their generosity by sending us hogs, potatoes, melons, and various kinds of fruits. Fresh provisions relish well after living almost half a year on salt food.”
“We understand that the Kings and Chiefs are all pleased, with our object in settling among them but some wicked white men are endeavoring to prejudice them against us, by telling them that our intention is to get possession of the Islands. We know not yet what God designs to do with us, but trust the enemy will not be suffered to triumph over us.” — Saml. Ruggles.
Then, Ruggles and Whitney took Humehume home to Kauai.
“May 2 (1820). To-day brother Whitney and myself have been called to leave our dear little number at Woahoo, to accompany George P. Tamoree (Kaumualii – Humehume) to his native Isle, and to the bosom of his Father.”
“[May] 10th . This morning Tamoree sent for me, said his interpreter was going away to be gone several days and he wished to say a few things to me before he went.”
“‘I want to know, says he, if you love Hoomehoome, if you love me, if you like to stay here and learn my people.’ I assured him, that I loved his son and him, wished to spend my life in doing them good, and not only I, but Mr. Whitney and all who came with us, wished the same.”
“‘Hoomehoome tell me so,’ says he; he then shed tears freely, and said, ‘I love Hoomehoome, I love him very much, more than my other children. (Tamoree has two other children besides George, a daughter older and a son younger.)”
“‘I thought he was dead; I cry many times because I think he was dead. Some Captains tell he live in (America) but I not believe; I say no, he dead, he no more come back.’”
“‘But he live, he come again, my heart very glad. I want my son to help me, he speak English well and can do my business. But he is young, young men are sometimes wild they want advice. I want you stay here and help Hoomehoome, and when vessels come, you & Hoomehoome go on board & trade, so I make you a Chief.’”
“I told him I wished not to be a Chief neither could I do any of his public business, but was willing to advise his son and assist him in every thing when it was consistent with the object for which we came to his Island.”
“He expressed some surprise when I told him I wished not to be a Chief, but when I explained to him what we wished to do, he appeared satisfied and pleased.”
“This afternoon the King sent to me and requested that I should come and read to him in his Bible. I read the first Chap of Gen. and explained to him what I read as well as I could.”
“He listened with strict attention frequently asking pertinent questions and said ‘I can’t understand it all, I want to know it. You must learn my language fast, and then tell me all. No white man before, ever read to me & talk like you.’” — S. R.
Kaumuali‘i naturally “expressed some surprise” when Ruggles and Whitney refused to be chief. In fact, the two missionaries continued to puzzle the residents of Kauai as they toured the island, for these were white men unlike any the Hawaiians had met before.
One family offered the missionaries a wife and a daughter “as a token of respect and kindness.” When Ruggles firmly refused the sexual favor, the family was confused, “all white men before say it was good, but you are not like other white men.” (Ruggles Journal)
“[June] Sat. 17th . The week past I have spent principally in visiting the different parts of Wimai; believe there is scarcely a house that I have not entered and my friendly Aloha.”
“The more I visit and become acquainted with this people, the more I feel interested in them, and the more I desire to spend my strength and life in endeavoring to secure to them the eternal welfare of their souls.”
“I sometimes feel almost impatient to know the language that I may explain to them the way of life and salvation. What little I can say they will listen to with the greatest attention, but their answer will be, ‘I want to know more, by and by I shall understand’”.
“One said yesterday, ‘the God of America is good but the Gods of Attooi are good for nothing; we throw them all away; by and by the American God will be the God of Attooi’”.
“The King appears more & more desirous for instruction; complains that he cannot spend time enough with his book, but says it is a time of unusual hurry at present, and he is soon to give his mind more thoroughly to it.”
“He with his Queen and several servants are able to read in words of four letters. Neither of them knew the alphabet when we arrived.”
“Says the King at one time when I visited him, ‘Hoomehoome says you no tell lie like some white men, now you must not tell lie when you go Woahoo, but you must come back and live with me’”.
“The week past has been a busy time with the natives. The King’s rent has been brought in from all parts of the Island and from Onehow (Niihau) a small Island about 15 miles to the westward. It consisted of hogs, dogs, mats, tappers, feathers, pearl fishhooks, calabashes and paddles.”
“This rent is to go to Owhyhee (Hawaii) as a present to the young King. It was interesting to see the natives come, sometimes more than a hundred at a time, with their loads on their backs and lay down their offerings at the feet of their great and good Chief as they call him.”
“When will the time arrive that they shall come and bow down to Jehovah, and give themselves living sacrifices to Him who has purchased them with His blood. I trust the day is at hand.” — S. R.