I was recently asked if there were early commemorations/celebrations in the Islands recognizing US Independence on the 4th of July. I’ll let those who were there tell of different US Independence Day activities in Hawai‘i …
“As is apt to be the case wherever on earth or at sea there are Americans, Independence Day was celebrated.”
“At Honolulu, Saturday, July 4, 1818 there was a dinner provided by Mr. Warren, at which were about twenty white men and the principal chief of the island, Bokee.”
“There were a number of appropriate toasts drunk to American Independence. The day and evening were spent in mirth and harmony.” (James Hunnewell)
“July 4th . Last evening had a comfortable season in the observance of the Monthly Concert. Great are the tender mercies of our GOD. We find Him present here, strengthening, comforting and cheering our hearts as in our native land.”
“Received, this morning, from Mr. [Anthony] Allen, a present of a large part of a mutton with a squash and our usual bottles of goat’s milk, to observe American Independence.”
“Another piece comes in from Mr. H[unnewell] who had a bit of cheese last night. Our family all take tea together at Capt. Chamberlain’s.” (Sybil Bingham Journal)
“In the summer of 1829, a commodious house of worship for a congregation of 3000 or 4000 Hawaiians was erected at Honolulu, in an improved style, under the auspices of Kaahumanu and Kauikeaouli [Kamehameha III].”
“It was 196 feet in length, and 63 in breadth, covering an area of 12,348 square feet.” [This was the fourth thatched church at Kawaiaha‘o.
“The posts of the building were fifteen or sixteen feet in length, ten inches in diameter, set firmly four or five feet in the earth, inclining a little inward, the better to resist the lateral pressure of the roof. …”
“Great interest was felt by many in the erection of this building; and when it was completed, and ‘the doors of this immense tabernacle were set up,’ the women spread the entire earth floor of 12,300 feet with clean mats for seats.”
“Care was taken to have a dedicatory service favorable to the advancement of the nation, and preparation was made on the part of the king and chiefs to appear, not as mere spectators of Christian services, not as a company of rude heathen consecrating a polluted fane to the service of the abominable deities of heathenism by the sacrifice of human victims …”
“… but as a Christian and civilized ‘people whose God is the Lord,’ and ‘who know the joyful sound’ of his salvation, offering him such service as they were able to give.”
“On the 3d of July this house was opened for worship, and some four thousand persons assembled in it, with the queen regent, the king, and princess [Nāhi‘ena‘ena] , and most of the leading personages of the nation, and joined in the solemn dedicatory services.”
“Most of the congregation sat upon the mats very closely together, three to a square yard, or one to three square feet. Hundreds were without about the doors and windows, not able to find room within. …”
“When the great congregation was ready, the king rose, and in a handsome, appropriate manner said, in few words, ‘Chiefs, teachers, and commons, hear: we have assembled here to dedicate to Jehovah, my God, this house of prayer, which I have built for him. Here let us worship him, listen to the voice of his ministers, and obey his word.’ …”
“The great congregation, in their best attire, presenting a cloud of faces turned toward the speaker, listened with attention to the exhibition of God’s condescension, kindness, and faithfulness to his church; and the duty, happiness, and blessed results of acknowledging and worshipping him in the sanctuary.”
“After the sermon and dedicatory prayer, the princess, whom Kaahumanu regarded as the future partner of the throne, and who had been somewhat accustomed openly to counsel their own people …”
“… in a very dignified and impressive manner, acknowledged the supremacy of God, the King of heaven, over them all, and their duty to give him the homage of their hearts, and exhorted the people to remember and regard what her brother had said. …”
“Rarely have we, for any single day, felt more deep solicitude to save the young king from the power of the world’s temptations, than on the fourth of July, the day succeeding the happy dedication, when the birth of American Independence was celebrated by a festival among foreigners which, patriotic as we were …”
“… we could have wished for that time had been on the other side of the great waters, lest the excitement of the hilarity, the roar of cannon, the sparkling wine moving itself and giving its color in the cup, and the flatteries and solicitations of those who loved such things …”
“… would entirely overcome his youthful resolutions to maintain sobriety and dignity, or lead him to dishonor the cause he had so well advocated the preceding day.”
“The following day, the first Sabbath after the dedication, a great concourse joyfully assembled again in the new, and to us and them, beautiful house of God, though its architecture and external decorations would hardly distinguish it from a grass thatched shed for canoes, except by its length, the number of windows and doors, and the glass over the four principal doors at the two ends.”
“Twelve hopeful converts were baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and fourteen other hopeful converts stood up before the congregation of worshippers, after they had been carefully examined by the church, and, at their earnest request, were publicly announced as candidates for admission, and who were subsequently received. …”
“Among the multitude who, at that period, came to us confessing their sins, asking instruction in the way of salvation, and proposing to give themselves to God as his servants …”
“…there were at Honolulu about five hundred registered as members of a meeting of inquiry who met from week to week, and who were taught and expected to attend to Christian duties, and to take the Word of God as their guide. …” (Hiram Bingham, 21 Years)
The 4th of July was celebrated by a large number of the American residents here, who gave a dinner at the house of Ha‘alilio, in the valley of Manoa. The King and his suite, with many other invited guests were present.
The party left town together, forming a strong cavalcade, and as they rode along the plain, presented a gay and cheerful appearance.
The dinner was cooked in native style, and the manner of partaking nearly so. The dishes were placed upon mats on the floor, and the party arranged themselves around this primitive table in such attitudes as best suited their case or convenience.
Many toasts were drank, and the festivities were enlivened by a variety of fine songs.
Nothing occurred to interrupt the harmony of the scene, and although not confined exclusively to Americans, every one appeared to be united in the celebration of the day.
Salutes were fired at morning, noon and sunset, from the fort and from some of the vessels in the harbor. (The Polynesian, July 11, 1840)
Here are some other brief American Revolutionary War highlights (and some other July 4 events:)
March 23 – Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech
April 18 – The rides of Paul Revere and William Davis
April 19 – Minutemen and redcoats clash at Lexington and Concord “The shot heard round the world”
June 17 – Battle of Bunker Hill (Boston) – the British drive the Americans
Throughout the year, skirmishes occurred from Canada to South Carolina
Initially, fighting was through local militias; then, the Continental Congress established (on paper) a regular army on June 14, 1775, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief.
The development of the Continental Army was a work in progress, and Washington used both his regulars and state militia throughout the war.
January 15 – Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy
March 17 – the British evacuate Boston
July 4 – the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence
The Congress did not have the approval of all 13 colonies until July 9, 1776. On July 19, Congress ordered that an official copy of the document be created. The order called for handwritten ornamental script to be used on parchment paper with the title ‘The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America.’ The actual signing finally took place on August 2, 1776.
April 26 – Sybil Ludington (16 years old) rode through upstate New York to warn militia that British troops were raiding and burning Danbury, Connecticut
Ultimately, on September 3, 1783, the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The treaty document was signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay (representing the United States) and David Hartley (a member of the British Parliament representing the British Monarch, King George III).
On June 21, 1788, the US Constitution was adopted (with all states ratifying it by that time.)
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Carroll were the longest surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; Carroll was the last signer to die – in 1832 at the age of 95.