On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. The battles marked the outbreak of open armed conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its thirteen colonies of British North America.
Following this, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and it was signed by 56-members of the Congress (1776.)
The next eight years (1775-1783) war was waging on the eastern side of the continent. The main result was an American victory and European recognition of the independence of the United States.
It was the turning point in the future of the continent and an everlasting change in the United States.
At this same time, there was a turning point in the future of the Islands.
Captain James Cook’s third and final voyage (1776-1779) of discovery was an attempt to locate a North-West Passage, an ice-free sea route which linked the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Cook commanded the Resolution while Charles Clerke commanded Discovery. (State Library, New South Wales)
In the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, British explorer Cook first sighted apparently uncharted islands in the middle of the Pacific.
“They were named by Captain Cook the Sandwich Islands, in honour of the Earl of Sandwich, under whose administration he had enriched geography with so many splendid and important discoveries.” (Captain King’s Journal; Kerr)
Hawaiian lives changed with sudden and lasting impact, when western contact changed the course of history for Hawai‘i.
At the time of Cook’s arrival (1778-1779), the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokai, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and at (4) Kauai and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
Throughout their stay, the ships were plentifully supplied with fresh provisions which were paid for mainly with iron, much of it in the form of long iron daggers made by the ships’ blacksmiths on the pattern of the wooden pāhoa used by the Hawaiians.
After a month’s stay, Cook got under sail again to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaiʻi Island, the foremast of the Resolution broke. They returned to Kealakekua.
That night a skiff from the Discovery had been stolen. “Our unfortunate Commander, the last time he was seen distinctly, was standing at the water’s edge, and calling out to the boats to cease firing, and to pull in.”
“If it be true, as some of those who were present have imagined, that the marines and boat-men had fired without his orders, and that he was desireous of preventing further bloodshed, it is not improbable that his humanity, on this occasion, proved fatal to him.”
“For it was remarked, that whilst he faced the natives, none of them had offered him any violence, but that having turned about to give his orders to the boats, he was stabbed in the back, and fell with his face in the water.” (Voyages of James Cook) On February 14, 1779, Cook was killed.
At this same time, recall that back in the Atlantic, the American Revolutionary War was still ongoing with the Americans (with support from the French) fighting the British.
At Canton, King learned that the French government had issued a directive to all French sea captains exempting Cook from military action on his way back to England.
“Not long after Captain Cook’s death, an event occurred in Europe, which had a particular relation to the voyage of our Navigator, and which was so honourable to himself, and to the great nation from whom it proceeded”. (King)
On March 19th, 1779, Monsieur Sartine, secretary of the marine department at Paris, sent to all the commanders of French ships the following statement/directive:
“Captain Cook, who sailed from Plymouth in July, 1776, on board the Resolution, in company with the Discovery, Captain Clerke, in order to make some discoveries on the coasts, islands, and seas of Japan and California …”
“… being on the point of returning to Europe, and such discoveries being of general utility to all nations, it is the king’s pleasure that Captain Cook shall be treated as a commander of a neutral and allied power …”
“… and that all captains of armed vessels, etc., who may meet that famous navigator, shall make him acquainted with the king’s orders on this behalf, but at the same time let him know that on his part he must refrain from all hostilities.”
“By the Marquis of Condorcet we are informed that this measure originated in the liberal and enlightened mind of that excellent citizen and statesman, Monsieur Turgot.”
“Whilst great praise is due to Monsieur Turgot for having suggested the adoption of a measure which hath contributed so much to the reputation of the French government, it must not be forgotten that the first thought of such a plan of conduct was probably owing to Dr. Benjamin Franklin.”
Franklin’s gesture of good will toward Cook was not least among the honors he brought to his fledgling country. On the return of the Discovery and Resolution, the met neither French nor American ships on the way home. (Captain Cook Society)
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