James Melville Monsarrat was born June 13, 1854, in Honolulu. On his paternal side Monsarrat is descended from Nicholas Monsarrat, who went to Dublin, Ireland, in 1755 from France. MC Monsarrat, his father, resided in Canada before coming to Hawaii.
The elder Mr. Monsarrat was a figure in the public life of Hawaii in the 1850s, being at one time deputy collector of customs and later entering the lumber firm of Dowsett & Co., which was eventually absorbed by S. G. Wilder & Co. He died on October 18, 1871.
Through his mother Monsarrat is a descendant of Captain Samuel James Dowsett, a native of Rochester, Kent, England, and a commander in His Majesty’s Colonial Service, who, as owner and master of the brig “Wellington,” came to Hawaii from Sydney July 27, 1828, and established his family in Honolulu.
James Monsarrat was educated at Episcopal Grammar School (Honolulu), Oahu College (Punahou). Returning to his father’s native land in 1871, he studied at Kilkenny College, Ireland.
For two years, and, traveling extensively, he was privately tutored in the French language at Brussels, Belgium, in 1873. He later attended Harvard University Law School, receiving his LL.B. degree, class of 1878.
Before returning to Hawaii, he was with the law firm of Ely & Smith, New York City, for a short time. He was then admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the Hawaiian Islands, Aug. 22, 1879.
He became active in public life, holding the office of deputy attorney general under W Claude Jones, Attorney General, and was secretary of the legislative assembly in 1880.
During his practice Judge Monsarrat drew the will of Queen Emma and of Princess Likelike. The will of Queen Emma was later contested without success by Prince Albert Kunuiakea.
“There are many legacies mentioned in the will. Some are to native Hawaiians, one is to a Chinaman, and to the St. Andrew’s School for Girls, and the Queen’s Hospital, a chartered institution, a large share of the property is left.” (Hawai‘i Supreme Court)
Queen Emma left the bulk of her estate, some 13,000 acres of land on the Big Island and in Waikiki on Oahu, in trust for the hospital that honors her.
The Queen’s Medical Center mission is to fulfill the intent of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV to provide in perpetuity quality health care services to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawaii.
Princess Likelike was the sister of a King and Queen – and the daughter of High Chief Kapaʻakea and Chiefess Analeʻa Keohokālole – her sister became Queen Liliʻuokalani and her brothers were King Kalākaua and William Pitt Leleiōhoku.
On September 22, 1870, Princess Likelike was married to Honolulu businessman Archibald Scott Cleghorn. The Cleghorns had one child Kaʻiulani (born on October 16, 1875) – “the only member of the Royal Family having issue.” (Daily Herald, February 3, 1887)
In 1887 when Master of Hawaiian Masonic Lodge, Monsarrat assisted in conferring the Mark Master’s degree on King Kalakaua at Iolani Palace.
Monsarrat married Carrie Capitola Tuttle in Honolulu, February 11, 1907. He was appointed District Magistrate of Honolulu, May 8, 1911 to May 31, 1917. He was later an examiner of titles for the Land Court.
Judge Monsarrat consolidated his professional interests in 1926, when he organized the Monsarrat Abstract and Title Co., his nephew, Marcus R Monsarrat, became associated with him at that time.
Judge Monsarrat was a member of the Outrigger Canoe, Harvard and British Clubs, and the Harvard Law School Association. He died September 20, 1943 in Honolulu.