Most are aware that Humehume, some of Kauai’s King Kaumuali‘i was sent to America, at least, in part, to receive a formal education. Kaumualii suggested he be called George (after King George of England) when he went abroad. (Warne)
George 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.
Humehume was “discovered” and taken under the wing of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He was sent, along with Henry Ōpūkaha’ia and other Hawaiian youths, to be educated at the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall, Connecticut. (Warne)
“We thank Providence that I have fallen into the hands of Christians. I hope it will be provided so that I can go back to my country and do good among the people.” (Tamoree (Humehume;) Stauder)
Humehume left the Islands as a young child and spent years around English speakers; he lost the knowledge of speaking Hawaiian.
With this interaction with the Hawaiians at the school, He began “learning the Owhyhee language. This friend that lives here with me is a great benefit to me, for he can learn me the Owhyhee language. I can learn him the English language.” (Tamoree (Humehume;) Stauder)
Three years later, on October 23, 1819, the Thaddeus carried the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries to Hawai‘i. There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity in this first company. With them were four Hawaiian, including Humehume. They arrived in Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
After the Thaddeus departed, George remained in Kailua-Kona and took Betty Davis, the half-Hawaiian daughter of Isaac Davis, as his wife, or his “rib” as he described her. In a short time they rejoined the missionary party in Honolulu. (Spoehr)
On May 3, 1820, Humehume returned to Kauai and was reunited with his father after many years apart. “At 11 o’clock came to anchor at Wimai opposite the fort. A canoe came off to us with several of the king’s men, one of whom could speak English.”
“George had kept himself concealed in the cabin, until we told him that one of his father’s favorite men was on board, and we thought best that his arrival should be made known to him.”
“We then introduced him to the young prince; he embraced him and kissed him, and then without saying a word, turned round and immediately went on deck, and into his canoe, telling his companions they must go on shore, for their young master had come.”
“A salute of 21 guns was soon fired from the brig, and returned from the fort. … When we arrived at the house, Tamoree and his Queen were reclining on a sofa; as soon as George entered the door, his father arose, clasped him in his arms, and pressed his nose on his son’s after the manner of the country; both were unable to speak for some time.”
“The scene was truly affecting, and I know not when I have wept more freely. When they had become a little more composed, Tamoree spoke and said his heart was so joyful that he could not talk much till to-morrow …” (Ruggles Journal)
He was not the only early prince who was sent to America. It appears Kamehameha also sent Liholiho – although his travels were not as extensive or as long as Humehume’s.
We learn of Liholiho’s travels through references by and about Ōpukahaia and Hopu. As noted by Hopu, “Captain Brintnall of New Haven, Connecticut, in the year 1807, touched and tarried sometime in Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands.”
“Kummahamaah, the principal King of the Sandwich Islands, proposed that one of his sons, a youth about 12 years of age, should accompany Captain Brintnall to America, to receive an education.”
Liholiho was born in about 1797 in Hilo; so, in 1807, Hopu’s estimated age of Kamehameha’s son corresponds with the approximate age of Liholiho at the time.
Hopu further notes, “Two of us, Obookiah and myself, were selected to be the attendants of the young prince: and both of us were immediately received on board the ship. I, as a cabin boy, and Obookiah as a sailor.”
“Then Captain Brintnall made a voyage to the northwest coast of America, to take their seal skins, before he came to Owhyhee, and returned to the Sandwich Islands.”
“In our absence to the northwest coast of America, the King had changed his mind, because he feared that some evil would befall the prince, and he would never return to his father again: So that he stayed in Oahhoo, one of the Sandwich Islands.”
“Both of us, however, who were to have been the attendants of the young prince, having our expectations excited, and having a strong curiosity to see America, we both of us continued in the ship, expecting to return to our native island, by the first favorable opportunity, after gratifying our curiosity of seeing America.” (Hopu)
‘Ōpūkaha’ia does not go into as much detail about Liholiho, but he notes that after leaving the Islands, “We set out on our Journey towards the Seal Islands, on the NW part of America.”
“We continued on these islands during six months, then took our course towards Owhyhee. Two of my countrymen were with me in the ship. One of them concluded to stay at Owhyhee, and the other to proceed on the voyage.” (‘Ōpūkaha’ia)
Lots later, other princes traveled for education. In 1885, brothers Kūhiō, Koa and Edward schooled at St Matthew’s Hall in San Mateo, California. (Even Princess Kaʻiulani was sent to boarding school in England in 1889 at the age of 13.)