Timothy (Timoteo) Haʻalilio was born in 1808, at Koʻolau, Oʻahu. His parents were of respectable rank, and much esteemed.
His father died while he was quite young, and his widowed mother subsequently married the Governor of Molokai (after his death, she retained the authority of the island, and acted as Governess for the period of some fifteen years.)
At the age of eight years, Haʻalilio moved to Hilo where he was adopted into the family and became one of the playmates of the young prince Kauikeaouli (later, King Kamehameha III.) He travelled around the Islands with the prince and remained one of the most intimate companions and associates of the King.
At the age of about thirteen, he learned to read, and was a pleasant pupil and made great proficiency. There were then no regularly established schools, and, consistent with the wish of Kamehameha III, he was a private pupil of Hiram and Sybil Bingham.
In April or May, 1821, the King and the chiefs gathered in Honolulu and selected teachers to assist Mr. Bingham. James Kahuhu, John ʻĪʻi, Haʻalilio, Prince Kauikeaouli were among those who learned English. (Kamakau)
In addition to English, Haʻalilio learned to read Hawaiian and was taught arithmetic and penmanship, and was soon employed by the King to do his writing – not as an official secretary, but as a clerk.
On June 7, 1826, Haʻalilio married Hannah Hooper (Hana Hopua;) wedding entertainment was served at the house of Kīnaʻu, at which several of the members of the mission were present. (Chamberlain)
In 1831, the Lahainaluna School was founded, and Haʻalilio continued his education there.
During the brief conflict with Captain Cyrille-Pierre-Theodore Laplace and his fifty-two-gun frigate L’Artemise to Hawaiʻi in July, 1839 – where Laplace issued a ‘Manifesto’ “to put an end either by force or by persuasion to the ill-treatment of which the French are the victims at the Sandwich Islands” – Haʻalilio was taken hostage by the French. He was later exchanged for John ʻĪʻi who went on board the L’Artemise.
“The Kings and Chiefs could not fail to see the real value of such a man (Haʻalilio,) and they therefore promoted him to offices to which his birth would not, according to the old system, have entitled him.”
“He was properly the Lieutenant Governor of the Island of Oahu, and regularly acted as Governor during the absence of the incumbent. He was also elected a member of the council of Nobles.” (Polynesian, March 29, 1845)
When the Hawaiian government needed to raise funds, as early as 1842, certain government lands were set aside to produce revenue for government needs.
To support this, a Treasury Board was formed, Haʻalilio severed on the Board with Dr. Gerrit Judd and John ʻĪʻi; they accepted taxes paid into the treasury. (Van Dyke)
King Kamehameha III recognized the need for his kingdom to be recognized internationally and he decided to send abroad a first-class delegation composed of Haʻalilio and William Richards.
Although neither individual was a professionally trained or experienced diplomat, both were men of the highest intelligence and trustworthiness who had the unequivocal backing and confidence of the King.
The importance placed on this diplomatic mission by Kamehameha III was apparent in his choice of Haʻalilio, whose integrity and lofty reputation among native Hawaiians gave enormous respectability and political clout to the monarchy’s latest international endeavor. (Crapol)
Haʻalilio was a man of intelligence, of good judgment, of pleasing manners, and respectable business habits. Few men are more attentive to neatness and order, at home, on shipboard, or in foreign climes, than he; and few public officers possess integrity more trustworthy. (Bingham)
The other half of Kamehameha’s frontline team was William Richards, the American missionary who was the primary architect of the Hawaiian monarchy’s campaign for legitimacy and international acceptance. Prior to this mission, in recognition of talents and service to the Crown, Richards was chosen in 1838 to be the principal counselor to the King and his chiefs. (Crapol)
Haʻalilio had acquired a very full knowledge of the political relations of the country. He was a strenuous advocate for a constitutional and representative government. He was well acquainted with the practical influence of the former system of government, and considered a change necessary to the welfare of the nation. (Richards)
“In the month of April 1842, (Haʻalilio) was appointed a joint Commissioner with Mr. Richards to the Courts of the USA, England and France. (He and Richards sailed from Lāhainā, July 18, 1842, and arrived in Washington on the fifth of December.) …”
“After spending a month at Washington, and having accomplished the main objects of embassy there (and subsequent US recognition of the independence of the Hawaiian Kingdom,) he proceeded to the north.” (Polynesian, March 29, 1845)
While on the continent, a newspaper noted a note Haʻalilio passed to a friend: “We are happy that our Christian friends have so much reason to congratulate us on our success in the prosecution of our official business at Washington.”
“May the cause of righteousness and of liberty, and the cause of Christ every where be prospered. (Signed) T. Haalilio, William Richards.” Boston Harbor, Feb. 2. (The Middlebury People’s Press, Vermont, February 15, 1843)
On February 18, 1843, Haʻalilio arrived in London and within six weeks “after accomplishing the object of his embassy to England, he proceeded to France, where he was received in the same manner as in England, and …”
“… succeeded in obtaining from the French Government, not only a recognition of independence, but also a mutual guarantee from England and France that that independence should be respected. (Similar responses were made from Belgium.)” (Polynesian, March 29, 1845)
While in London, Haʻalilio commissioned the College of Arms in London to prepare the Hawaiʻi Coat of Arms (following his design;) a May 31, 1845 story in the Polynesian newspaper reported that the National Coat of Arms was adopted by the Legislative Assembly.
Haʻalilio was a man of intelligence and judgment, of agreeable manners, and respectable business habits. While employed on his embassy, he read his Hawaiian Bible through twice.
The proofs of his piety appeared in his love for the Scriptures, for secret and social prayer, for the Sabbath, and for the worship of the sanctuary. He was gratified by what he saw of the regard for the Lord’s day in the United States and England, and was shocked in view of its desecration in France and Belgium. (Anderson)
After fifteen months in Europe, he returned to the USA and prepared to return to the Islands.
“On his arrival in the western part of Massachusetts, was attacked by a severe cold, brought on by inclemencies of the weather, followed by a change in the thermometer of about sixty degrees in twenty-four hours. Here was probably laid the foundation of that disease by which his short but eventful life has been so afflictingly closed.” (Polynesian, March 29, 1845)
“On Sabbath evening, just before his death, he said; ‘This is the happiest day of my life. My work is done. I am ready to go.’ Then he prayed; ‘O, my Father, thou hast not granted my desire to see once more the land of my birth, and my friends that dwell there; but I entreat Thee refuse not my petition to see thy kingdom, and my friends who are dwelling with Thee.’” (Anderson)
Timothy Haʻalilio died at sea December 3, 1844 from tuberculosis. He was 36 years old.
“Great hopes had been entertained both among Hawaiians and foreigners, of the good results that would ensue to the kingdom from the addition of its councils of one of so intelligent a mind, stores as it was with the fruits of observant travel, and the advantages derived from long and familiar intercourse in the best circles of Europe and the United States. … (Upon news of his death) every attention affection or sympathy could suggest was afforded the deceased.” (Polynesian, March 29, 1845)
“Let us not forget that Haalilio was permitted to live to accomplish the great objects of his mission, that he had represented his country with honor, and with a dignity which had inspired respect for him abroad both as an individual and as the Representative of (Kamehameha III.) …”
“In his death the nation has ample cause for mourning, and has met with a heavy loss, which time cannot repair.” (The Polynesian, April 12, 1845) (Lots of information from Polynesian, Richards, Chamberlain, Crapol and Kamakau.)