The first whalers (1819) and missionaries (1820) arrived in Hawaiʻi at about the same time. That is about the only thing a lot of them had in common.
One of the areas of the great divide between them had to do with drinking liquor.
The first temperance movement emerged in New England as clergy began to equate drinking alcohol with sins like Sabbath breaking and blasphemy. In 1808, the first temperance society was formed, but it singled-out hard liquor, such as rum, as its only target.
Very early in the temperance movement a Presbyterian minister by the name of Reverend Thomas P Hunt organized a children’s organization called “The Cold Water Army.”
In 1831, the large and influential American Temperance Union urged everyone to only drink cold water (not alcoholic beverages) thereby taking a Cold Water Pledge.
In Hawaiʻi, King Kamehameha III and most of the chiefs pledged themselves to total abstinence, and, in part, became zealous preachers of temperance; the king himself frequently addressing the people on the subject.
“1. We will not drink ardent spirits for pleasure. 2. We will not deal in ardent spirits for the sake of gain. 3. We will not engage in distilling ardent spirits. 4. We will not treat our relatives, acquaintances, or strangers with ardent spirits. 5. We will not give ardent spirits to workmen on account of their labor.” (Missionary Herald)
King Kamehameha III signed the abstinence pledge in 1842. On putting his name to the pledge, the young king said: “I am one who wish to sign this pledge. I have thought of this before, and the evil of drinking rum was clear to me. I am constituted a father to the people and the kingdom, and it belongs to me to regulate all the other chiefs. I have therefore become really ashamed, and I can no longer persist in rum-drinking. This is the reason why I subscribe my name to this pledge.” (The Friend, 1887)
Although he broke it regularly, he made intermittent appeals for abstinence among his fellows. For some years in the forties, no liquor was served at official functions. (Daws)
On the 1st anniversary of signing the pledge, “When the king signed the pledge, a quantity of rum, brandy, wine, etc, remained in the cellar. After lying there untouched for a year, various casks and bottles containing the poisonous mixtures were brought forth.”
“After discussing for some time the question: ‘What shall be done with them ?’ the king said, ‘Pour them into the sea.’ To this all agreed; the casks were rolled to the seaside, and the whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea and perished in the waters.” (The Friend, 1887)
In March 1838, the first license law was enacted, which prohibited all selling of liquors without a license under a fine of fifty dollars for the first offense, to be increased by the addition of fifty dollars for every repetition of the offense. (The Friend, December 1887)
All houses for the sale of liquor were to be closed at ten o’clock at night, and from Saturday night until Monday morning. Drunkenness was prohibited in the licensed houses under a heavy fine to the drinker, and the loss of his license to the seller. (The Friend, December 1887)
Pūʻali Inuwai (“The water drinking host”) was formed on March 15, 1843; the Cold Water Army – Hawaiʻi’s version of the Temperance Movement.
Following the model elsewhere, they first looked to the children, suggesting: if you had 100 drunkards and tried to reform them, you would be lucky to save maybe 10; however, if you had 100 children and taught them temperance from a young age, you could save 90 out of the 100. Hawaiʻi youth were encouraged to join.
“The churches were crowded with willing worshippers. Thousands of children were taught in Sunday schools. The ‘cold water army’ embraced legions of valiant champions, who mustered occasionally in holiday dress, and marched with flaunting standards of ‘Down with Rum!’ ‘Cold water only!’” (Judd, 1840 in The Friend, December 1887)
Thousands of children enlisted in the ‘cold water army.’ Once a year they came together for a celebration. They had a grand time on these anniversary occasions. (Youth’s Day Spring, January 1853)
“Even the kings, despite their tendency to backslide, could be induced to forego alcoholic beverages and otherwise importuned to live exemplary lives. Kamehameha III toasted the King and Queen of France with a glass of water on board Rear Admiral Hamelin’s flagship.” (Meller)
“Three years earlier, in 1843, after the renunciation of sovereignty by Great Britain and the return of the Islands to his control, the King similarly partook in the festivities by drinking cold water.” (Meller)
Interesting … not knowing the actual date, Kauikeaouli selected St Patrick’s Day as his birthday. St Patrick was said to have proclaimed that everyone should have a drop of the “hard stuff” on his feast day after chastising an innkeeper who served a short measure of whiskey. In the custom known as “drowning the shamrock”, the shamrock that has been worn on a lapel or hat is put in the last drink of the evening.
The Cold Water movement apparently saw some early success. “Recruits to strengthen the ranks of the cold water army, adds real force to this nation; and not-only to this nation, but to every other nation where the principles of total abstinence are making progress. Formerly the Sandwich Islanders were a nation of drunkards; but, as a nation, they are now tee-totallers.” (The Friend, 1843)
However, as time went on, prohibition waned. From the 1850s, it was legal to make wine. In 1864-1865, acts were passed permitting legal brewing of beer and distillation of spirits under license at Honolulu. None of these enterprises produced quality products; all were economic failures. (Daws)
Up through the 1870s, Honolulu was the only place in the kingdom where liquor could be sold legally (another instance of the attempt to isolate vice,) but contemporary comment and court reports make it clear that the illegal liquor traffic was brisk everywhere, from Lāhainā and other port towns to the remotest countryside. (Daws)
At a 1910 prohibition rally, HP Baldwin related an early boyhood event at Lāhainā when a band of over 1,000-people, called “Ka Pūʻali Inuwai” paraded the streets singing songs, and gathered at Waineʻe Church where speeches were made against the evils of the use of liquor. Under the Kamehamehas from the earliest times no liquor was allowed to be sold to Hawaiians until 1882, when the law was changed under Kalākaua. (Maui News, 1910)
Honolulu’s The Friend newspaper began as “Temperance Advocate.” Then, it meant to many, moderate-restrained-use of liquor. Not so in all these years. “It meant total abstinence – nay, even prohibition before there was any such term.” (The Friend, 1942)
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