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Indigenous Peoples in the Global Revolutionary Era


To "Live Like King George" in Hawaiʻi and the United States: Entangled Exceptionalisms and Sovereignty Struggles in an Age of Revolutions, 1776–1819

Christine Skwiot


     In July 1776 in New York, General George Washington's troops attended a reading of the Declaration of Independence. They then joined a crowd which toppled an equestrian statue of King George III, decapitating his likeness in the process. The 19,000 American colonials arriving in the city to prepare for the revolution's next battle soon overtaxed its resources. Deprivation, disease, and death became widespread even before 10,000 British troops arrived from Boston by sea. Amidst all of this, Washington strategized the defense of New York. But he still took time to oversee the placement of orders for fine china, cutlery, and other luxury goods with loyalist merchants. Washington was determined to set a "tolerably genteel table" throughout the war.1 This story exhibits uncanny parallels to one that unfolded an ocean away two decades later.

     In March 1793 at Kealakekua Bay, Kamehameha, king of the Island of Hawaiʻi, spoke with Captain George Vancouver about his plans to conquer and unite all the Hawaiian Islands into a sovereign state. Although Vancouver never saw a battle between the 10,000-man armies aliʻi (chiefs) were then putting on the field, widespread evidence of the deprivation, disease, and death which he thought resulted from "the continued state of war that had so long disgraced their islands" appalled him, and he offered to help broker a peace.2 The king and the captain exchanged gifts, including lessons in the British "art of Cookery" for an attendant of Kamehameha. Before Vancouver set sail for Northwest America, Kamehameha boarded his ships to ensure that "all" of his guest's "wants" had been "gratified." He in turn accepted gifts of china and cutlery. Having thus acquired "all requisites for the table, a tolerable Cook and every kind of implement for culinary purposes," an officer of Vancouver noted, "The Monarch boasted with pride and satisfaction that he should now live like King George."3 

     Washington's and Kamehameha's determination to live like King George while waging wars for unification and independence suggests something about how separate struggles converged into shared quests for sovereignty during the age of revolutions.4 Both men used fine china as a prop on the global stage to perform the civilized statehood needed to secure belonging in the emergent world of nations.5 Such performances captivated audiences, especially those European philosophers, statesmen, and travelers who read the concurrent founding of the United States (1776, 1783, 1789) and Hawaiʻi (1791, 1795, 1810) as separate dramas about the entwined futures of republicanism and monarchy.6 Many of them cast these two emerging nations as exceptional states outside the corruptions of history imperiling the Old World and at the vanguard of bold political experiments in America and Oceania, twin New Worlds Europeans widely regarded as "inventions" of Europe.7 Many further joined elite Hawaiians and Americans in positioning Hawaiʻi and the U.S. at the summit of emergent Polynesian monarchies and American republics as the states best poised to demonstrate the appeal and vitality of these forms of government beyond European shores. This paper focuses on how the Native state of Hawaiʻi developed in dynamic engagement with established European states and the first independent American settler state and, in the process, helped connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean worlds.8

     Sovereignty was difficult to obtain and to keep in the age of revolutions, when Europeans labored to define and preside over an international law that increasingly distinguished a small number of civilized states deemed worthy of nationhood from the large number of those they viewed as less civilized and hence open to colonization or recolonization.9 To take and keep a place "among the powers of the earth," the United States, as well as Hawaiʻi, needed Europeans to acknowledge them as "treaty-worthy nations;" this meant, as Eliga Gould argues of the U.S. and was as true for Hawaiʻi, that "the history they made was often the history that others were willing to let them make."10

     That history meant stadial history, which Scottish Enlightenment theorists devised to explain Britain's rise to commercial greatness, political genius, and global power. They argued that societies progressed from savagery to civilization through four stages: foraging, pastoralism, agriculture, and commercial and civil society. They further tracked progress toward civilization by assessing the development of property relations and social ranks, arts and industry, manners and morals. Stadial theorists insisted that societies "behind" their "advanced" European counterparts, like Hawaiʻi and the U.S., could progress by emulating civilized Europe and exceptional Britain but also, crucially, through their own initiative.11 Still, ascending the ladder of civilization was not assured, and a given people could stand on more than one rung at a time.

     To wit, Europeans widely believed that their brethren and descendants in America had degenerated intellectually, morally, and physically, approaching savagery without relinquishing civilization. At the same time, Europeans widely admired Hawaiians' advanced state of civilization, although few relinquished their beliefs in Hawaiian savagery. Hence, even ardent admirers used the future or conditional tense to describe Hawaiʻi and U.S. as exceptional states.12 Most located them, as the Welsh moral philosopher and American independence supporter Richard Price did the United States, between "the savage and the refined" stages of development.13 But most also held high hopes that each, as the Russian explorer V.M. Golovnin said of Hawaiʻi, "would reach a state of civilization unparalleled in history."14

     White Americans working first to secure and then to keep their independence, and Native Hawaiians working to keep theirs, wrestled with the implications of Europeans locating them between savagery and refinement. They did so at a time when performances of Britishness and Englishness offered many of the world's peoples a way to claim civilized status.15 White Americans emulated the British to demonstrate their civilized standing and innovated to forge a distinctive identity; "becoming American" meant defiantly but quite selectively "unbecoming British."16 As rival European states cast imperial eyes on Hawaiʻi, Hawaiians continued their work at unification and began to strategize how to remain independent; they worked determinedly at becoming a singular Hawaiian people while quite selectively becoming English.17 In the process, Hawaiians built a transcultural monarchy on an indigenous foundation. They designed this "hybrid nation-state," Kamanamaikalani Beamer argues, "as a means to resist colonialism and to protect Native Hawaiian and national interests."18

     As elite Hawaiians and Americans labored to live like King George, they adopted the free trade Britain then preached but rarely practiced.19 Their material success enabled them to display their commercial prowess, as well as to live like kings. In building states that aimed to showcase their political genius, Hawaiians built a monarchy loosely modeled on George III and the British monarchy, while Americans built a republic ostensibly in opposition to them. Both secured a fragile independence marked by dependence and mimicry, as well as singular potential. To understand how Hawaiians enlisted Westerners in developing narratives of their unique promise and deployed them in pursuit of cultural and political power requires starting with an account of how Hawaiian, British, and American histories first converged during the age of revolutions.

Converging Revolutions and Civilizations

     In history and historiography Europeans often appear to have imported the revolutionary era from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is certainly true that Europeans' experiences of the revolutionary Atlantic shaped how they sought to make sense of and control Pacific Islanders.20 But the reverse is true too: Islanders' experiences of the revolutionary Pacific shaped how they sought to make sense of and "manage Europeans."21 Hawaiians had been embroiled in political upheavals and wars long before 1778, when they discovered Captain James Cook's ships off their shores and paddled out to explore them.22 Hawaiians and other Polynesians did not join the revolutionary era after encountering Britons and other Europeans. Rather, separate currents of revolutionary change in the Pacific and Atlantic converged through cross-cultural exchange.

     In 1754 Kalaniʻōpuʻu united, or rather, reunited the Island of Hawaiʻi and became its sole aliʻi-akua (god-king or divine king). Shortly thereafter, he and Kahekili of Maui, kings of two most powerful polities of the Hawaiian Islands, embroiled their people in an "almost perpetual state of war" for the control of each other's territories and of the rich agricultural islands to the west: Molokaʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi.23 Had Europeans visited Hawaiʻi in 1754, or the century leading up to it, they would have witnessed the development of divine kingship and strict social classes and watched aliʻi-akua grapple with climate- and human-induced agricultural crises, project their power through ever costlier wars, and consolidate their territory into ever larger polities. They might have concluded that these aspects of recent Hawaiian history bore more than a passing resemblance to their own. Some might even have seen mid-18th century imperial wars and rivalries between Hawaiʻi and Maui as analogous to those between Britain and France.24

     1754 was also the year that the French and Indian War began in North America; it sparked the broader Seven Year's War (1756–1763). A transoceanic war waged around the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea, the Seven Year's War marks the beginning of the age of revolutions.25 In response to the military-fiscal crisis engendered by that war, European monarchs imposed political and fiscal discipline on their colonies in the Atlantic, and Britain and France extended their rivalry to the Pacific, where they sought new colonial and commercial opportunities. Growing tensions between European empires and their colonies fueled Enlightenment thinkers' critiques of empire. Imperial critics questioned the savagery of indigenous people, the morality of settler colonial projects rooted in native destruction and dispossession, and the ability of imperial powers to keep settler colonies loyal and dependent. 26 This led some to conceive of forging friendships with indigenous peoples either as an alternative to or as a new method of imperialism.27

     As relations between Britain and its North American colonies deteriorated after the Seven Year's War, moral critics and pragmatic agents of empire alike envisioned future relations with Pacific Islanders as an antidote to the revolutionary storms brewing in the Atlantic. In the Pacific volumes the Scottish hydrographer, Alexander Dalrymple, published in 1770 and 1771, he asserted that finding and establishing trade with Terra Australis Incognito, the Great Unknown Southern Continent that Europeans believed must lie in the Pacific, would enable Britain to resolve problems with its North American colonists and prevent the escalation of their righteous struggle against tyranny into war.28 Sailing with Captain Cook on his second Pacific voyage (1772–1775) in search of this fabled continent, naturalist George Forster mused that a "future age, when the maritime powers of Europe lose their American colonies," might make it "possible for Europeans to have humanity enough to acknowledge the indigenous tribes of the South Seas as their brethren" and to have "settlements which would not be defiled with the blood of innocent nations."29 Cook disproved the existence of the Southern Continent on his second Pacific voyage. He then accepted the command of a third voyage to find a Northwest Passage long believed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific. Before he set sail, the Admiralty reaffirmed trade, not settlement, as the most promising strategy for promoting harmonious relations between Europeans and Polynesians like Tahitians, whom Europeans then regarded as the Pacific's most civilized people and those most capable of further ascent on the ladder of civilization.

     Cook departed Plymouth in July 1776, a week after Americans declared their independence and four months after publication of The Wealth of Nations. He sailed, Bernard Smith argues, as a "global agent" of Adam Smith, charged with showing that the British did not seek to conquer the Pacific but to promote mutually beneficial friendship and trade there. But by his third voyage, Cook had become disillusioned by the contradictions inherent in his mission to spread European civilization to ostensibly less civilized peoples. For example, his efforts to open trade often engendered violence, while exchanges of iron for sex expedited the spread of venereal disease.30 To further complicate matters, Anne Salmond argues, having spent years in the Pacific, the officers and men who had sailed with Cook before, and even more so Cook himself, "were no longer purely European;" they "had come under Polynesian influence."31

     Over Cook's first two visits to the Hawaiian Islands in January 1778 and the following year, Britons and Hawaiians developed admiration and respect for each other, perhaps starting with each other's maritime skills. Recognizing Hawaiians as linguistically and culturally related to other Polynesians who had explored and settled the vast region from Aotearoa (New Zealand) in the south, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east, and Hawaiʻi in the north, Cook was awestruck that what he deemed "by far the most extensive nation on earth" was even larger than he had previously thought.32 Hawaiians had potent memories of their epic voyages of exploration and settlement; they and Britons may have recognized their first meeting as one between "two of the greatest seaborne colonizing societies in history."33 Stadial theorists thought maritime skill a hallmark of civilization, as they did social and political ranks. Even more than elsewhere in Polynesia, Hawaiians and Britons found each other's social hierarchies and power structures mutually intelligible.34 Indeed, Britons thought that "there seemed to be true kings" in Hawaiʻi.35 Clothing not only enabled chiefs and officers, commoners and men to identify each other but served as a sign of advanced civilization. Britons read the magnificent feather cloaks aliʻi wore as a testament to their organization of the surpluses that supported the rise of divine kings, hereditary ranks, and a complex division of laborers producing the finest arts and goods.36 Cook's surgeon thought "a more rich or elegant Dress than this, perhaps the Arts of Europe have not yet been able to supply."37 Moreover, Patrick Kirch observes, when Cook met Kalaniʻōpuʻu, he encountered a kingship that seemed familiar to him: "King George III, to whom Cook had been introduced at Buckingham Palace, basked in the fading aura of divine kingship even as the 'divine right of kings' would soon be tested in revolutions across Europe. But in far-off Hawaiʻi, divine kingship was still ascendant."38 Cook experienced something of its power himself.

Figure 1
  Figure 1: Herb Kawainui Kane, Captain Cook Entering Kealakekua Bay in 1779. Courtesy of Isaacs Art Center.  

     When he first sailed into Kealakekua Bay in January 1779, Hawaiians in 1,500 canoes came to greet him. When he went ashore, ordinary people prostrated themselves in his presence, while priests addressed him as the akua Lono, met him with chants and offerings, and honored him in ceremonies. Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Cook exchanged names and regalia, including a resplendent feather cloak that the former draped over the latter's shoulders, linking the captain to the king's highest genealogical lines and ancestor gods. In the process, Anne Salmond explains, Cook "acquired part of his mana or power;" in exchanging names, "their life forces were mingled."39 Throughout the third voyage, tension and violence had plagued Cook's relations with his men, as well as those with islanders, far more than on the previous two. His men interpreted his relationship with Kalaniʻōpuʻu as further proof that their captain had elevated the interests of Polynesians and his relationships with the aliʻi he befriended over theirs.40

     On his third, unexpected visit to Hawaiʻi in February 1779, Cook died after a series of misinterpretations and violent events with his men, which undercut his authority over them, and with Hawaiians, which led them to steal a cutter and Cook to attempt to take Kalaniʻōpuʻu hostage. By the time Hawaiians fatally attacked Cook, his men's ability to save him had collapsed along with his command.41 It seemed Cook had utterly failed his mission to transplant to the Pacific a new-and-improved version of what Kathleen Wilson calls "the once-glittering vision of a free and virtuous empire, founded in consent and nurtured in liberty and trade," a vision that became ever more "tarnished" as the American war continued in the Atlantic.42

     Cook's death immediately engendered anger and violence between Britons and Hawaiians, but the grief they shared soon afterwards helped renew mutual bonds of admiration at once selfless and self-interested. By the time the British departed, Hawaiians had assumed in their imagination the place long held by Tahitians. Lieutenant James King wrote, "If Otaheite is call'd the Queen of the So sea Isles…, Owhyhee may be termed the King of the So sea, & these Islands the most capable of being made useful." The Admiralty sanctioned this view in its official account of Cook's last voyage, published in 1784. Although it hoped Cook was mistaken in asserting that the long-sought Northwest Passage did not exist, the Admiralty attributed to the navigator an assessment of Hawaiʻi in fact written by its editor: "a discovery, which though the last, seemed, in many respects, to be the most important that had hitherto been made by Europeans, throughout the extent of the Pacific Ocean."43 Hawaiians soon reciprocated the British view. When Kalaniʻōpuʻu's nephew, Kamehameha, became king of Hawaiʻi Island in 1791, he led the way in treating Britain as Hawaiians' most important discovery and Britons as the foreigners most capable of being made useful to Hawaiʻi.

     Kamehameha was not yet famous when he and Cook met, nor were the midshipman, George Vancouver, and the marine, John Ledyard, who served on Cook's final voyage, when Hawaiian, British, and American histories first converged. Each man secured fame, in part by deploying memories of Cook that put the glitter back on competing versions of Britain's free and virtuous empire and aimed to advance Native and Western imperial projects in the Pacific.44 Kamehameha, to whom his uncle had bequeathed both the akua of war, Ku, and something of the life force of Cook, stepped into the explorer's shoes as a global agent of Adam Smith based in an island kingdom that soon earned the reputation, "crossroads of the Pacific." He also enlisted Vancouver in forging a transoceanic "royal fraternity" with "his brother" King George to become monarch of a united and sovereign Hawaiʻi recognized and respected as such on the world stage.45 Vancouver stepped into Cook's shoes as the commander of the Pacific voyage (1791–1795) on which he confirmed Cook's view that the Northwest Passage did not exist and purportedly negotiated a consensual cession of the Hawaiian Islands to Britain. Finally, if far less dramatically, the American colonial Ledyard proclaimed the importance of Hawaiʻi to the United States in unofficial account of Cook's final voyage published in 1783. Just as British restrictions on U.S. trade in the West Indies plunged the newly minted nation into depression, Ledyard's visions of the vast riches to be made trading sea otter pelts from Northwest America to China, with Hawaiʻi as this trade's pivot, inspired some of his countrymen to seek their fortune in the Pacific.46 Hawaiians, along with Britons and Americans, transformed Hawaiʻi into what French explorer C.P. Claret Fleurieu called the "great caravansary" of the world's largest ocean.47

"An Asylum for All Nations"

     Literacy and print culture gave Americans an advantage over Hawaiians in broadcasting their progress toward civilization, but hardly a decisive one. Hawaiians gained access to the international republic of letters through cross-cultural performances. British traveler John Turnbull praised Kamehameha's "genius and spirit of enterprise in creating resources which did not exist before."48 He included among these resources, Nicholas Thomas argues, a skill at "commanding a narrative, purveying a certain interpretation of events, and maintaining its salience."49 Kamehameha drew upon a vast store of knowledge of the world acquired from native and foreign explorers and advisors.50 Deploying this knowledge to communicate Hawaiian aims and achievements from the Pacific to the Atlantic in accounts written by the Western visitors he cultivated, Kamehameha soon "attracted the attention of all of Europe."51

     By the time Kamehameha and Vancouver met again in Hawaiʻi in 1793 in their then-new respective ranks of king and captain, "the struggles between rival chiefs [had] assumed epic proportions unmatched elsewhere in the Pacific at the end of the eighteenth century."52 Off the battlefield, Hawaiian kings and chiefs competed for foreign goods, trading, raiding, and even capturing ships and killing crew (Westerners also engaged in such practices). Kahekili, who by the 1780s controlled Maui, Oʻahu, and Molokaʻi, acquired foreign goods by all viable means. By century's end, Kamehameha consolidated his power over most of the Islands and commanded respect for Hawaiian sovereignty abroad. Honest and peaceful trade constituted one pillar of his success.53 Visiting the Hawaiian Islands in 1792 Vancouver found supplies scanty and prices exorbitant at most of them. But when he sailed into Kealakekua Bay in 1793 for his first formal state visit with Kamehameha, canoes accompanying the welcoming royal armada delivered such a profusion of pigs and produce that his ships could scarcely accommodate the bounty.54

     Americans envisioned free trade as part of their broader struggle against the tyranny of King George and British monopoly.55 By contrast, Kamehameha embraced it as part of a strategy by which the king sought to forge closer relations with George III and secure recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty on the world stage. On the one hand, Kamehameha guaranteed free and honest trade and security to foreigners sojourning in his domains. On the other hand, starting with Vancouver, he provisioned emissaries of King George and the British Admiralty gratis. Edward Bell, clerk aboard a consort ship of Vancouver's expedition, explained: "Kamehameha acts as ship's purveyor…for he had taken in great measure upon himself the supplying of both vessels, declaring that as they belonged to King George, they must not in his dominions traffic for refreshments like other vessels, but be supplied during their stay with whatever they stood in the most liberal way."56 Kamehameha thereby advanced multiple agendas. As he restricted rival aliʻi's access to Vancouver, the king bolstered his standing with the captain, who henceforth paid "principle court" to Kamehameha "as king of the whole island," according lesser chiefs the "degree of respect and attention" their lower status warranted. Kamehameha's largess conveyed to Britons and rival chiefs his power to command the resources of Hawaiʻi.57 His conspicuous displays of generosity furthermore underscored the king's nobility and his kingdom's commitment to a law of nations which recognized hospitality as a right.58 Kamehameha's policies confirmed Kealakekua Bay as the preferred port of call for foreigners and designated refreshment spot for ships of the British Royal Navy and "his brother," King George III.

     On his final departure from Kealakekua Bay in 1794 Vancouver reflected on "the memorable spot where Captain Cook unfortunately fell a sacrifice to his undaunted and enterprising spirit;" despite "that melancholy instance," it had "proved an asylum, where the hospitable reception, and friendly treatment were such as could not have been surpassed by the most enlightened nation on earth."59 Of Vancouver's many invocations of Cook, this one held a message Kamehameha was eager to send across the Atlantic: in relations with foreigners, the king had taken up the enterprising spirit which Cook had bequeathed to Kalaniʻopuʻu and his successor.

     Kahekili died in 1794. Through war and diplomacy, Kamehameha took control of Maui, Oʻahu, and Molokaʻi the following year. After a deadly outbreak of imported disease, possibly typhoid, forced him to abort his plans for unifying all the Islands by conquering Kauaʻi in 1804, Kamehameha turned to consolidating victory through peace (Kaumualiʻi peacefully surrendered Kauaʻi and Niʻihau to Kamehameha in 1810, completing the unification of the Hawaiian Islands).60 This included extending free trade and security throughout all his realms, much to the delight of foreigners. Russian explorer Urey Lisiansky repeatedly lauded Hawaiians' "honesty and hospitality."61 British sailor Archibald Campbell proclaimed that Kamehameha's "strict rules of justice" made visitors as "safe in his port as in those of any civilized nation.62 Kamehameha's success at making "my Islands an asylum for all nations" elicited glowing Western commentary about Hawaiians' progress under his rule and worthiness for belonging in the family of nations.63

     Two visitors Kamehameha temporarily attached to his royal household astutely chronicled his consolidation of peace and rebuilding of war-ravaged Oʻahu, where Kamehameha moved in 1804 and where Honolulu succeeded Kealakekua Bay as foreigners' preferred port-of-call: Campbell, who worked as a sail-maker for the king from 1809 to 1810, and William Shaler, a U.S. captain and fur trader who visited in 1803 and 1805, the second time as the king's guest.

     Shaler dramatically synthesized Western views of Hawaiʻi's development under Kamehameha. This "extremely popular" and talented king was "endeavoring to restore prosperity to his islands" after "many political revolutions," especially recent wars and famines which had "destroyed one-third of the population."64 (Shaler ignored the key role disease played in this great dying, perhaps because his ship likely brought typhoid in 1803.65) Kamehameha revitalized agriculture, which Hawaiians had brought to "an incredible degree of perfection" before recent wars; soon, fields "enclosed by stone walls" once again lent "an exquisitely beautiful appearance to the country."66 Shaler admired the "great ingenuity and taste" of Hawaiian manufactures from their "inimitably well executed" canoes to ordinary goods like "their excellent white cordage; for running rigging there is no better rope."67

     While he found the government "a strange mix of despotism, aristocracy, and liberty," Shaler approved of a recent decline in despotism and restrictions that made nobles "masters of their vassals, but not of their liberty." This sophisticated "balance of rights" and an equally refined "political distribution" of land had enabled Hawaiians to achieve "a very considerable degree of perfection in the science of government."68 Although they had "no regular body of law," by which he and other Westerners meant written law, "private property, the basis of civil government is clearly defined and acknowledged."69 This recognition was as widespread as it was important. Private property and agriculture provided Hawaiians with a powerful claim under international law for recognition of title to their land; they further denoted a society's high position on the civilizational ladder.70 Stadial thinkers, moreover, regarded commerce and industry as generative of progress, for which they found additional evidence in Kamehameha's project to construct a fleet of Western-style ships.

     Vancouver helped launch this program as a result of his first and unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a cession of Hawaiʻi to Britain. Kamehameha agreed on the condition that Vancouver leave him an armed warship. When Vancouver, who refused to traffic in arms, declined, Kamehameha asked: how "could it be expected the Owhyeeans would fight with firmness for their Country if they had imprudently given it away to those who would not protect it?"71 His pointed question abruptly ended further discussion of a cession on that visit. But Vancouver directed his men to help Hawaiians start construction of the first Western-style vessel built in Hawaiʻi, the Beretane (Britain). Soon, Hawaiians' interest in and import of iron tools and ship designs, wrote Shaler, "furnished them with new…channels for their industry and ingenuity, they…have built several vessels, without any foreign aid."72 The skilled Hawaiians blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, and sail-makers with whom Campbell worked did "their work as perfectly as [the] Europeans" who taught them Western ways of ship-building and other "useful arts." Like Shaler, he admired Hawaiians' "rapid progress toward civilization," their "great ingenuity in all their arts and manufactures" and their "persevering industry."73 For this Shaler was personally grateful. After his leaking brig limped from China to Hawaiʻi, Kamehameha offered him "my choice of vessel in exchange for my ship and promised to equip the [45-ton schooner] I chose in the best manner possible."74 By 1810, Kamehameha possessed around thirty Hawaiian-built, Western style ships and had sold or traded others to foreigners like Shaler.75 Europeans and Americans lauded the progress Hawaiians had made before encounters with the West and apparent ease with which they were advancing commerce, industry, and government in engagement with the West. Hawaiians' progress toward civilization appeared far more rapid than that which Adam Smith and J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur had attributed to Britain's North American colonists in the century before their independence, fueling faith that kingdom and republic alike were well on the way toward fulfillment of their unique promise.76

     While Vancouver hoped that Britain would benefit most from Kamehameha's friendship and trade policies, broader British policy provided Americans with the advantage, and they became Hawaiʻi's leading trading partner early in the nineteenth century.77 Although U.S. historians long presented and some still present Honolulu as "the first capital of America's Pacific frontier," interdependence describes the Hawaiian and U.S. relationship in the late 18th and early 19th centuries better than incipient imperialism.78 The furs from Northwest America and sandalwood from Hawaiʻi U.S. traders sold to China, as well as the goods they traded between California and Hawaiʻi, depended on a dizzying array of Hawaiian food, goods, security, services, and labor.79 Even as foreign trade helped Kamehameha secure wealth and extend his power over all Hawaiʻi, U.S. trade with and through Hawaiʻi provided it with a measure of commercial independence that helped offset its continued economic dependence on Great Britain. Their commercial relationship, moreover, enabled American and Hawaiian elites to display in abundance the luxury Chinese and British goods that were hallmarks of a transoceanic modernity and to profess cultural parity with their European counterparts, bolstering the reputations of Hawaiʻi and the U.S. as polite and refined commercial and civil societies on the make. But it was in portrayals of the building the Hawaiian monarchy and U.S. republic that their statesmen labored to demonstrate the popularity and vitality of these modes of government beyond European shores and to stake claims to political genius.

Entangled Exceptionalisms

     Elite Hawaiians and their white American counterparts, along with European sympathizers and supporters of each, developed narratives of their political exceptionalism, respectively in intimate identification with and outward rejection of King George III and the British monarchy. They did so at a time when the British were revising their own exceptionalist narratives as they revitalized their monarchy following their demoralizing defeat by the North American colonists and the devastating loss of Captain Cook.80 British, Hawaiian, and American exceptionalisms of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries were entangled productions, all having deep roots in performances of Englishness and Britishness.81

     Indeed, a key problem with transatlantic efforts to fashion the U.S. republic as the "cause of all mankind" is that so many Western contemporaries regarded Britain as the standard-bearer of liberty, progress, and prosperity and, with a constitution that divided power among king, lord, and commons, a model of republican government, on which the U.S. modeled its own with its president, senate, and congress.82 After their "symbolic regicide" of George III and violent revolution against his alleged corruption and despotism, U.S. Americans cast George as the "antitype" of their virtuous founding fathers.83 This move proved pivotal to ongoing efforts to cast the virtuous U.S. republic, its free citizens, and their liberties in diametric opposition to Britain's tyrannical monarch and servile subjects, but it nonetheless entailed, Peter Onuf argues, "less a rejection of 'Britain' than an imaginative substitution of 'America' for Britain" in narratives of civilizational progress that promised degenerate Europe and Europeans regeneration in America.84 "Unbecoming British" in order to become American paradoxically involved white Americans becoming more British by embracing the rights of Englishmen that they denied to American Indians, free blacks, and slaves. They thereby sought to situate themselves, their nation, and "empire of liberty" at the center of historical change, rather than the periphery.85

     In life, but even more so in death, Captain Cook offered Hawaiians potent material for narrating, and Britons for revising, ideas about their exceptionalism, which both worked to their advantage. When the news of Cook's death reached England in January 1780, King George reportedly wept, and his subjects and Cook's patrons mourned his loss.86 The Morning Standard lamented Cook's "murder" as "not only a national loss, but a misfortune in which all Europe must feel itself deeply interested."87 And in fact, Europe was. In Austria, France, Russia, and elsewhere, Europeans mourned the death of Cook and honored him as a hero, a humble man who rose through the ranks by merit, a captain and navigator without parallel in history, and an icon of the Enlightenment.88 Still, for all this pan-European internationalism, Cook and his memories were especially put in service of English nationalism. Kathleen Wilson shows that in poetry, prose, paintings, and plays, "he was heralded as a particularly English hero who embodied and extended his country's genius for navigation and discovery, aptitude for science, respect for merit, love of liberty, and paternalistic regard for humanity." Amidst a national and imperial crisis, the Great Navigator's achievements as an emissary of George III helped Britons "recuperate British political and imperial authority, rescue the national reputation for liberty and restore faith in the superiority of the English national character."89

     Britons and other Europeans, if not Hawaiians, immortalized Cook and accorded him something like divinity.90 As Rod Edmond observes, "Most striking is the European need for a godly Cook."91 The Admiralty officially endorsed this view in its lavish account of Cook's final voyage, but it took its most spectacular popular form in the hit pantomime, Omai: or a Trip around the World, first staged at the Theatre Royale, Covent Garden, in 1785 at Christmas.92 In the final scene, a magnificent painting, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook, descended to the stage, on which the martyred Cook, holding a sextant rather than a sword, reposed on the clouds above Kealakeakua Bay as he was crowned by Britannia and Fame. The painting came to rest behind and somewhat above a crowd of adoring mourners: the just enthroned Tahitian king Omai, his new British wife Londina, European sailors from many nations, and Native ambassadors from the fifteen countries Cook visited. An "English Captain" sang a lament for Cook, "He came and he saw not to conquer but save," and to the assembled Native chiefs who "prove [their] humanity" by mourning the great navigator.93 Britons' and Europeans' veneration of Cook in some ways dovetailed with that of Hawaiians, providing them common ground at Kealakekua Bay, which became the principal place of pilgrimage where Europeans and Hawaiians gathered to honor his memory.

Figure 2
  Figure 2: John Webber, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook. Courtesy of the British Museum.  

     European accounts of their and Hawaiians' mutual veneration of Cook marked these pilgrimages.94 Joshua Lee Dimsdell, who visited in 1792, encapsulated a wide range of homages that Europeans recorded Hawaiians paying Cook: "There are a Variety of Morais built to his Memory & the Natives sacrifice to him in Common wither their other Deities—it is their firm Hope and Belief that he will come again & forgive them. He is never mentioned but with the utmost reverence & Respect…[His bones] are preserved as Relics."95 As Galaup de la Pérouse approached the Hawaiian Islands in 1786, the French navigator wrote about Cook, "I shall always regard him as the first among navigators." La Pérouse, whose ships disappeared two years later, could not bring himself to visit Kealakekeua Bay because of his "regret at the loss of so great a man." Instead, his went to Maui, where finding found Hawaiians "gentle and considerate," he pondered the circumstances of Cook's death, wondering "whether some imprudent action of his part did not, in some way, compel the inhabitants of Owhyee to have recourse to a justified defence."96 Hawaiians' and Europeans' sharing of memories of Cook at Kealakekua Bay enabled them to find reconciliation and forge friendship. Moreover, in both killing and mourning Captain Cook, Hawaiians acquired a transoceanic authority comparable to that the North American colonists did by militarily defeating mighty Britain.

     Indeed, the Hawaiian killing of Cook, Marshall Sahlins argues, "became a novel source of legitimation for Hawaiian kings," starting with the dynastic founder, Kamehameha.97 He incorporated Cook's bones into the rituals of his power and made the Union Jack, which flew from his dwellings and his ships (until Hawaiians designed a flag of their own which contained a diminutive Union Jack), a symbol of his authority.98 Kamehameha publicly linked his policy of protecting foreign ships to Cook's death, according to Bell of the Vancouver expedition, "it his most solemn determination…to do everything he can to make their stay among them comfortable—he laments in the most pathetic terms the death of Captain Cook, and seems to hold his memory in the utmost veneration."99 Britons reciprocated by investing in the future of Hawaiʻi. Although Vancouver secured a consensual "cession" of Hawaiʻi to Britain in 1794, Hawaiians did not cede their sovereignty to the British.100 Nor did British government use his treaty to assert claims to the Hawaiian Islands. The Russian explorer Golovnin, who visited Hawaiʻi in 1818, offers perhaps the most insightful contemporary account of Vancouver's treaty in theory and practice:

     [T]he Sandwich Islanders consider it an agreement of friendship and assistance or, to use our terminology, a defensive alliance…Tameamea promised to protect English nationals…by supplying them with provisions free of charge, while the English took it upon themselves the obligation to defend him from the attacks of other Europeans. As to their right of ownership and independence, the Sandwich Islanders never even dreamed of parting with them. In any case, it would be hard to believe in the possibility of such a submission."101

     Britain, indeed, wielded its global power and authority to compel rival empires to respect Hawaiian sovereignty, as Kamehameha cultivated a relationship to British mana, especially George III and employed British advisors, ideas, goods, and ships to do likewise. His harnessing of the mana of "his loving Brother King George" to secure recognition of and respect for the sovereignty of a Hawaiʻi just achieving unification compares to Americans deploying the 'rights of Englishmen' to secure recognition of the United States before they even existed as a state.102

     The British-Hawaiian relationship proved important, for Kamehameha confronted internal and external threats to his power throughout his reign (1795–1819). In his later years, powerful aliʻi formulated plans to assert their power once Kamehameha died, while Russians in the form of Georg Anton Shäffer, a naturalist and agent of Alexander Baranov and his Russian-American Fur Company, threatened the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Islands. Kamehameha initially welcomed Shäffer to Oʻahu but was outraged when the Russian began to build a fort on land Kamehameha provided him and raised the Russian flag over it. Shäffer prudently departed for Kauaʻi, where he allied with Kaumualiʻi, who remained a powerful rival of Kamehameha. The two schemed to secure Russian protection over Kauaʻi and Niʻihau.103

            So, it is not surprising that when the Russian warship, Rurik, arrived at Hawaiʻi Island in November 1816 to meet Kamehameha, it was met by 400 Hawaiians armed with muskets stationed on shore, with one of the king's warships standing at the ready.104 The situation was tense. But the Rurik's captain, Otto von Kotzebue, succeeded in convincing Kamehameha that he was an emissary of the Russian emperor on a peaceful voyage of scientific discovery. Kamehameha then welcomed the Rurik's officers and the emperor they represented into a royal fraternity first forged with King George not as "Russians" but as "sons and descendants of Cook and his friend Vancouver" (undoubtedly flattering the Russians, who modeled their nineteenth-century voyages of exploration on Cook's).105 As such, Kamehameha extended to the Russian ship of exploration the same courtesies he did those of the British Royal Navy. Kotzebue's naturalist, the French-born former Prussian lieutenant Adelbert von Chamisso, reported, "We were not merchants, and he would not be one toward us. He would care for our needs completely free of charge. We did not have to give the king a present, unless we wished. This was Tammeiameia, king of the Sandwich Islands."106 Later a British advisor of the king showed Kotzebue and Chamisso a letter from King George to "His Majesty," Kamehameha. It "clearly shows" that "Tamaahmaah is recognized as a real king by the English," leading the captain to do likewise.107 The skill with which Kamehameha transformed potential enemies into privileged guests dependent on his largess forever impressed upon Chamisso the nobility of Hawaiians.

     Viewing aliʻi's ongoing, as well as Shäffer's recent, threats to Kamehameha's sovereignty through the lenses of contemporary European politics, Kotzebue and Chamisso took great interest in the future of the Hawaiʻi, especially in the future event of Kamehameha's death. Kotzebue approved of how Kamehameha was grooming his son as his successor, noting, "Tamaahmaah has ordered this from political motives, that no revolution may arise after his death."108 For Kotzebue, this was a matter of international as well as national importance at a dangerous moment in the age of revolutions and given the importance of Hawaiʻi as the most civilized state in and commercial crossroads of the Pacific. Hence, he enjoined "the English" to "take care that, after Tahaahmaah's death, a sensible man succeed, and every revolution be avoided."109 As Harry Liebersohn observes of Kotzebue's commentary, "Avoid revolution: in the aftermath of Napoleon statesmen everywhere could agree to this."110 Chamisso shared Kotzebue's fears about what would happen to the Hawaiian government after Kamehameha's death, but he was certain it would not involve the loss of Hawaiian sovereignty: "This people will not subject itself to foreigners, and they are too strong, too numerous, and too fond of warfare to be quickly extirpated, like the natives of the Marianas."111

     Kotzebue and Chamisso joined other influential European travelers in exploring how the Hawaiian monarchy governed according to what were fast becoming universal standards of benevolence and enlightenment.112 They compared life, liberty, and happiness in the Atlantic and the Pacific as represented, in Kotzebue's words, by Kamehameha's "wise government," which has "acquired permanent glory."113 While, for example, Kotzebue admired Kamehameha's Western-style "houses of stone," he read the king's preference for entertaining his guests in his "straw palace" and residing in "straw houses" as evidence that "he only wishes to increase the happiness and not the wants of his subjects."114 Chamisso found that happiness pervaded social relations, injecting a measure of equality into a deeply hierarchical society to the benefit of political stability. In one of several episodes, he recounted how Hawaiians observing his lame attempt to swim across a stream, "even though I can't really swim," regaled him with "incessant peals of laughter." Chamisso remarked, "But laughter here does not contain anything hostile in it. Laugher is a person's right; everybody laughs at everybody else, king or commoner, without detriment to their other relationships."115 In this Chamisso found a magnanimity and equality like that of carnival in Europe of yore, which dissolved "the pretensions and anxieties of high and low alike" and in which he found a common fellowship and humanity that crossed oceans.116 Where there was happiness in Hawaiʻi, there was also life and liberty, a trinity that North Americans declaring their independence in 1776 had claimed as their special preserve.

     In 1795 Kamehameha's trusted English advisor, John Young, told a U.S. visitor, "twas at Owhyhee…that peace & contentment seem'd to go hand in hand…poverty was a stranger, in this land of liberty; and Slavery was a term, they did not understand."117 Whereas the early Atlantic revolutions framed Young's contrast of liberty in Hawaiʻi and America, the Napoleonic era framed Chamisso's reflection on the absence of slavery and serfdom: in Hawaiʻi, "a man is free—he can be killed but he cannot be sold or imprisoned." Chamisso also found there nobility "the way I imagined it used to exist among us," before it could be "given and taken away," which "is no nobility." In Hawaiʻi, "le gentilhomme" remains: "true nobility,…such as no king can bestow, and no Napoleon can stamp out."118 Through Kamehameha's masterful synthesis of liberty and nobility, happiness and hierarchy, prosperity and order, modernity and tradition, Hawaiʻi came, Harry Liebersohn argues, "to symbolize monarchy itself," at the same time that the United States came to symbolize republicanism.119

     Over his three Pacific voyages, Cook disproved the existence of the Great Southern Continent, which Europeans long believed a necessary counter-weight to the Eurasian landmass, and of the Northwest Passage, long believed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. But later European travelers imagined that their dreams of the Great Southern Continent and Northwest Passage had been realized in Hawaiʻi. As Hawaiians and Westerners made Hawaiʻi a crossroads of the Atlantic and Pacific, it came to serve as a Northwest Passage. The Hawaiian monarchy, along with its Tahitian and Tongan counterparts in the Pacific, provided European monarchies with a counterweight to the U.S. republic, along with its American and European counterparts in the Atlantic, balancing the political world much as the Great Southern Continent was said to have kept the physical earth in equilibrium. During the age of revolutions, the entangled exceptionalisms of Hawaiʻi, the United States, and Britain could be expressed in a regional and developmental analogy: Hawaiʻi was to Oceania, as the U.S. was to the Americas, as Britain was to Europe. Hawaiians leveraged these beliefs to secure and maintain their national sovereignty from the late-eighteenth century until the very end of the nineteenth, during which time most of the world came under Western imperial rule.


     In the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries Hawaiians and white Americans labored to build united and sovereign states, recognized and respected as such by Europeans. These two fledgling nations were similarly weak, struggling for survival on the home front and on the world stage. Then, Hawaiʻi and the U.S. could at times only make the kinds of history that Europeans were willing to let them make. Stadial histories, which sought to explain the historical development of civilized Europe in general and exceptional Britain in particular, provided elite Hawaiians and their white American counterparts with an opening each used to develop narratives of their own nation's exceptionalism. The narratives of both were inextricably bound up with, as it were, the British original. And it worked. Hawaiians and Americans cultivated beliefs in their unique promise to secure Western recognition of and respect for their sovereignty.

     Hawaiian and U.S. efforts to sustain their sovereignty, however, involved a difficult balancing act, as they found themselves poised between independence and dependence. Each, for example, came to serve, in different ways, as commercial linchpins in the expanding economy of the Pacific. Their centrality to the transpacific trade and embrace of free trade policies contributed to each's sense of its economic importance and commercial prowess. In respectively building an esteemed monarchy and esteemed republic, Hawaiians and Americans demonstrated the popularity and vitality of these forms of government beyond European shores. This contributed to each's sense of its political importance and political genius. Still, the debts both owed to Britain for their forms of government and commercial success seem to have lent a palpable sense of fragility to Hawaiians' and Americans' sense of empowerment, which depended on maintaining relations with others, particularly Great Britain, that were often characterized by mimicry and dependence. In these ways, the rhetoric of Hawaiian and American exceptionalism derived from a sense of tentative power, of precarious centrality.120

     Moreover, American and Hawaiian exceptionalisms proved to be double-edged swords. European beliefs in them bolstered Hawaiʻi's and the United States' claims to treaty worthiness and helped them secure and keep a place in the world of nations in the tumultuous decades following Britain's formal recognition of the United States in 1783 and in the many decades both before and after Britain, France, and the U.S. signed treaties formally recognizing the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1843 (when the Marquesas, New Zealand, and Tahiti came under European colonial rule). Elite white Americans' determination to secure and keep their sovereignty and claim "the rights of Englishmen" as their special preserve facilitated their broader and deeper desires and abilities to limit the political power and rights of ordinary whites and to deny them to nonwhites as they undertook the conquest of the North American continent and overseas territories. Hawaiians' determination to secure and keep their sovereignty at times led them to embrace pejorative and racist views and to engage in acts of imperial aggression against other Pacific Islanders and American Indians.121 Later in the nineteenth century, shared experiences of colonialism facilitated Hawaiians' identification with American Indians. With the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and U.S. annexation in 1898, David Chang argues, Hawaiians' identifications and "comparisons with other colonized people became more powerful and geographically expansive." Still, "[i]t took imaginative power" for Hawaiians "to understand themselves to be like Indians" and other colonized peoples.122

     Late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Europeans travelers and others recognized, as later historians did not, that the new Native state of Hawaiʻi emerged alongside and in engagement with established and new states in the Atlantic World, and that its history shaped and was shaped by the revolutionary era. This is an important story in its own right. It may also help scholars and teachers continue to revise accounts of the American Revolution, the importance of which, as Michelle Burnham so aptly puts it, "has been so magnified, mythologized, and multiplied that it has made it difficult to see late eighteenth century America in a truly global, transnational context."123 The magnification of the American Revolution long worked to diminish the importance of and attention paid to revolutions elsewhere in the Americas; so too, until fairly recently, did the magnification of the importance of North Atlantic political, industrial, and other revolutions diminish the importance of and attention paid to revolutionary processes and projects elsewhere in the world.124 Study of the age of revolutions in world history, moreover, has just begun to include, in Ben Finney's words, the "other one-third of the globe" that is the Pacific Ocean world.125 But, the age of revolutions was not a foreign import to the Pacific; there, as elsewhere, cross-cultural exchanges and relationships facilitated the convergence of previously separate currents of revolutionary change.


     I thank Michelle Burnham, Larry Gross, Dylan Ruediger, and Christoph Strobel for their critical readings of and constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Christine Skwiot is an associate professor of history and humanities at Maine Maritime Academy. You may reach her at


1 John Kuo Wei Tchen, New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 17761882 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 3–4.

2 Paul D'Arcy, "Warfare and State Formation in Hawaii: The Limits on Violence as a Means of Political Consolidation," Journal of Pacific History 38, no. 1 (June 2003): 29–52, especially 36, 40, 44; George Vancouver, A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World, 5 volumes (New York: De Capo Press, 1967) III, 155.

3 Thomas Manby, "Journal of Vancouver's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean," Honolulu Mercury 1929 I, no. 3 (1929): 39–55, 46.

4 Wim Klooster argues that the chief objective of the transatlantic revolutions in the Americas was or became sovereignty; his argument applies to the Hawaiian wars of unification, which also became wars for sovereignty as a result of inter-imperial rivalries in the Pacific. Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 165.

5 On the idea of the world stage, see Patrick Manning "Locating Africans on the World Stage: A Problem in World History," Journal of World History 26, no. 3 (September 2015), 605–637.

6 The colonies that became the United States declared their independence in 1776, won their independence and signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and ratified the Constitution and elected their first president in 1789. In uniting the separate islands of Hawaiʻi into a single state under his sole sovereignty, Kamehameha asserted control of the Island of Hawaiʻi in 1791, conquered Maui, Molokaʻi, and Oʻahu in 1795, and peaceably incorporated Kauaʻi and Niʻihau into his realm in 1810.

7 On the Pacific Ocean as a second New World for Europeans, Alan Frost, "The Pacific Ocean: the eighteenth century's 'new world,'" Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 152 (1976): 779–822. J.H. Elliott argues that Europeans viewed the Americas as "peculiarly artifacts" of Europe in ways that "Africa and Asia were not," while Oliver Spate argues that they regarded Oceania as an "invention" of Europe. J. H. Elliott , The Old World and the New, 14921650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 5; O.H.K. Spate, The Pacific Since Magellan, vol. 1, The Spanish Lake (Canberra: Australian National University, 1979), ix.

8 Claudio Saunt, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014); Michael Witgen, An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012); Kate Fullagar, ed., The Atlantic World in the Antipodes: Effects and Transformations Since the Eighteenth Century (Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012).

9 While sovereignty was difficult to obtain and to keep in the age of revolutions, Jennifer Pitts compellingly argues that the late 18th century "stands out in the history of the law of nations as [a period] of striking openness on the part of Europeans to the possibility of shared legal frameworks and mutual obligations between Christians and non-Christians, Europeans and non-Europeans." Jennifer Pitts, "Empire and Legal Universalisms in the Eighteenth Century," American Historical Review 117, no. 1 (February 2012): 92–121, citation, 95. See also Eliga H. Gould, Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012); Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007); Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and International Order from Grotius to Kant (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

10 Gould, Among the Powers of the Earth, 11, 2.

11 Roxann Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia, 2000); Ronald L. Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

12 On the use of the future and conditional tense to describe the U.S. as exceptional, Jack P. Greene, The Intellectual Construction of America: Exceptionalism and Identity from 1492 to 1800 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 135 ff.

13 Richard Price, Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution and the Means of Rendering It a Benefit to the World (Dublin: L. White, W. Whiteston, P. Byrne, P. Wogan, J. Cash, and R. Marchbank, 1785), 69.

14 V.M. Golovnin, Around the World on the Kamchatka, 18171819, trans. Ella Lury Wiswell (Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, 1979), 206, my emphasis.

15 Kathleen Wilson, The Island Race: Englishness, Empire, and Gender in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2003), 17.

16 Kariann Akemi Yokota, Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

17 Marshall Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1981). 

18 Kamanamaikalani Beamer, No Mākou Ka Mana: Liberating the Nation (Honolulu, Kamehameha Publishing, 2014), 3–4.

19 C.A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 17801830 (New York: Longman, 1979).

20 Harriet Guest, Empire, Barbarism, and Civilization: Captain Cook, William Hodges, and the Return to the Pacific (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Michelle Burnham, "Early America and the Revolutionary Pacific" PMLA 128, no. 4 (October 2013), 953–960.

21 Michael A. McDonnell and Kate Fullagar, "Facing Empire: Indigenous experiences of European empire in comparative perspective, 1760–1820," in Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie, eds., The Routledge History of Western Empires (New York: Routledge, 2014), 60. See also Saunt, West of the Revolution.

22 David Chang, The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), vii.

23 Patrick Vinton Kirch, A Shark Going Inland Is My Chief: The Island Civilization of Ancient Hawaiʻi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 299.

24 For Hawaiʻi, Kirch, A Shark Going Inland is My Chief, 226–233, 244–246; for a succinct synthesis of this large literature on Europe on this topic, see Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Environmental Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century, 3rd edition, (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 86–96.

25 David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds., The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c. 17601840 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).

26 Jennifer Pitts A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); Anthony Pagden, Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain, and France, c. 1500-c.1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

27 Vanessa Smith, Intimate Strangers: Friendship, Exchange, and Pacific Encounters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Guest, Empire, Barbarism, and Civilization.

28 Burnham, "Early America and the Revolutionary Pacific," 954.

29 Forster cited by Guest, Empire, Barbarism, and Civilization, 137.

30 Bernard Smith, Imagining the Pacific: In the Wake of the Cook Voyages (New Haven: Yale University Press 1992), 202, 215, 236.

31 Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Encounters in the South Seas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 8, 10.

32 Cook in J.C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook, Volume III: The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery, Part One (Cambridge: for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1967), I, 279.

33 Wade Graham, "Traffick According to Their Own Caprice: Trade and Biological Exchange in the Making of the Pacific World, 1766–1825," paper presented at the Conference on Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., February 12–15, 2003,

34 Patrick Vinton Kirch, On the Road of the Winds: An Archeological History of the Pacific Islands before Contact (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 248.

35 Nicholas Thomas, Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press 2010), 74.

36 Thomas, Islanders, 75–76.

37 Samwell cited in Patrick Vinton Kirch, How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawaiʻi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 42.

38 Kirch, A Shark Going Inland Is My Chief, 290.

39 Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 393–403, cited portions, 403.

40 Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 393; Nicholas Thomas also makes this point in his Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain Cook (New York: Walker & Co., 2003), 325.

41 Salmond, Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 431.

42 Kathleen Wilson, The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 17151785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 277.

43 King and quote the Admiralty's editor attributed to Cook cited by Oswald Bushnell, The Gifts of Civilization: Germs and Genocide in Hawaiʻi (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1993), 155, 156; see also Glyn Williams, The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), 57, 58. Hawaiʻi soon displaced Tahiti as the hub of commercial intercourse and ethnographic debate in the Pacific; see Harry Liebersohn, The Traveler's World: Europe in the Pacific (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006), 5.

44 John Gasciogne, Encountering the Pacific in the Age of the Enlightenment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 326.

45 The phrase "royal fraternity" is Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1968), 50; numerous Western travel accounts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries cite Kamehameha referring to King George as "his brother" or "his loving brother."

46 James R. Gibson, Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 17851841 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992), 22–25.

47 Charles Pierre Claret Fleurieu cited in David Igler, The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 29.    

48 John Turnbull, A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804…, reprint of 1813 edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 208.

49 Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), 108.

50 For a wonderful analysis of the foreign travels of Kaʻiana, a high-ranking aliʻi from Kauaʻi who advised Kamehameha for a time, aboard Captain John Meares' ship in 1787; how his explorations of Macao, the Pacific, and Westerners shaped his understanding of race, nation, and the world of nations; and, how he applied what he learned to navigate Hawaiian politics and foreign visitors upon his return, see Chang, The World and All the Things upon It, especially 38, 49–58–53, 71–77.

51 Otto von Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery into the South Seas and Beering's Straits…in the Years 18151818 (New York: De Capo, 1967), I, 303.

52 Gascoigne, Encountering the Pacific in the Age of the Enlightenment, 401.

53 Patrick V. Kirch and Marshall Sahlins, Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii, Vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 38–41.

54 Vancouver, Voyage of Discovery, II, 127.

55 James R. Fichter, So Great a Proffit: How the East Indies Trade Transformed Anglo-American Capitalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010).

56 Edward Bell, "Log of the Chatham," The Honolulu Mercury 1, no. 6 (1929), 88–89.

57 Jennifer Thigpen, Island Queens and Mission Wives: How Gender and Empire Remade Hawaiʻi's Pacific World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 17, 18.

58 Anthong Pagden, "Human Rights, Natural Rights, and Europe's Imperial Legacy," Political Theory 31, no. 2 (2003): 171–199.

59 Vancouver, Voyage of Discovery, III, 59.

60 Igler, The Great Ocean, 41–42; D'Arcy, "Warfare and State Formation in Hawaii," 49–51.

61 Urey Lisiansky, Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806 (New York: De Capo, 1968), 137.

62 Archibald Campbell, A Voyage Around the World, from 1806 to 1812 (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1967), 152.

63 Kamehameha quoted by Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 303.

64 William Shaler, "Journal of a Voyage between China and the North-Western Coast of America, Made in 1804," American Register 3 (1808): 137–175, cited portions, 161, 165.

65 Igler, The Great Ocean, 41–42.

66 Shaler, "Journal," 165.

67 Shaler, "Journal," 166.

68 Shaler, "Journal," 168–169.

69 Shaler, "Journal," 169.

70 Stuart Banner, Possessing the Pacific: Land, Settlers, and Indigenous People from Australia to Alaska (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), especially the introduction and ch. four.

71 Manby, "Journal," 45.

72 Shaler, "Journal," 166.

73 Shaler, "Journal," 166; Campbell, A Voyage Around the World, 121, 144, 151.

74 Shaler, "Journal," 166, 171.

75 Paul D'Arcy, The People of the Sea: Environment, Identity, and History in Oceania (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2006), 142.

76 Greene, The Intellectual Construction of America, 116–121.

77 Gascoigne, Encountering the Pacific in the Age of the Enlightenment, 415.

78 John Curtis Perry, Facing West: America and the Opening of the Pacific (Westport: Conn.: Praeger, 1994); 45. His interpretations is part of a professional scholarly tradition that dates to Harold Whitman Bradley, The American Frontier in Hawaii: The Pioneers, 17891843 (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1943).

79 Igler, The Great Ocean, 27–33.

80 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 17071837, revised edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012) and Wilson, Island Race.

81 While exceptionalism denotes uniqueness, scholars have begun to explore exceptionalisms as entangled productions in a growing literature from which I cite two particularly insightful works. See Greg Grandin's comparative analysis of the competitive politics of U.S. and Latin American exceptionalisms, "The Liberal Traditions in the Americas: Rights, Sovereignty, and the Origins of Liberal Multilateralism," American Historical Review 117, no. 1 (February 2012): 68–91. On the entangled development of British and American exceptionalisms, see Ezra Tawil, "'New Forms of Sublimity': 'Edgar Huntly' and the European Origins of American Exceptionalism," NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 40, no. 1/2 (Fall 2006–Spring 2007): 104–124. On cross-cultural performances of Englishness, see Wilson, Island Race.

82 Brendan McConville, The King's Three Face: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 16881776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), ///; Frank Prochaska, The Eagle and the Crown: Americans and the British Monarchy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 9.

83 Prochaska, The Eagle and the Crown, 4.

84 Peter S. Onuf, "American Exceptionalism and National Identity," American Political Thought 1, No. 1 (Spring 2012): 77–100, citation, 90.

85 Yokota, Unbecoming British; Edward Larkin, "Nation and Empire in the Early U.S.," American Literary History 23, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 501–526, especially 504–506.

86 Glyn Williams, Voyages of Delusion: The Quest for the Northwest Passage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 335.

87 The Morning Standard cited in Glyn Williams, The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), 65–66.

88 Williams, The Death of Captain Cook, 67–71.

89 Wilson, Island Race, 59, 72, 90, emphases in the original.

90 It is not within the scope of this paper to engage the enormous literature on whether or not Hawaiians regarded Cook as Lono, a god or akua. Nonetheless, Nicholas Thomas authoritatively argues, "Cook was not take to be a god, not if a god is a supreme being, of a supernatural or transcendental nature, categorically distinct from any humans. Polynesians recognized no such gulf between the beings they called atua and or in Hawaii akua and living men and women. Gods themselves had varied natures, ranging from the abstract and elemental…to the essentially human and historical, in that of deified ancestors of chiefs. But divinity and humanity always shaded together." Thomas, Cook, 384.

91 Rod Edmond, Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gauguin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 40.

92 Edmond, Representing the South Pacific, 29, 30.

93 Wilson, The Island Race, 66–69; Edmond, Representing the South Pacific, 30–31, emphasis in original.

94 See especially Williams, The Death of Captain Cook, 98–108; Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 425–427.

95 Dimsdell cited by Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, 426–427.

96 La Pérouse cited by Williams, The Death of Captain Cook, 94, 99.

97 Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities, 7.

98 Kirch and Sahlins, Anahulu, 41.

99 Bell, "The Log of the Chatham," 1, no. 6 (1929), 84; Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities, 26–27.

100 Beamer, No Mākou Mana: Liberating the Nation (Honolulu, Kamehameha Publishing, 2014), 73.

101 Golovnin, Around the World on the Kamchatka, 197.

102 Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities, 7, 26; Bell, "The Log of the Chatham," 2, no. 2 (1930): 120.

103 Peter R. Mills, Hawaiʻi's Russian Adventure: A New Look at Old History (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2002; Richard Pierce, Russia's Hawaiian Adventure 18151817 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).

104 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 299.

105 Adelbert von Chamisso, A Voyage Around the World with the Romanzov Exploring Expedition in the Years 1811818 in the Brig Rurik,, trans. Henry Kratz (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1986), 117; Williams, The Death of Captain Cook, 96.

106 Chamisso, A Voyage Around the World, 117; see also Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 302–303.

107 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 334, 335.

108 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 308.

109 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 309.

110 Liebersohn, The Traveler's World, 182.

111 Chamisso, A Voyage Around the World, 308.

112 C.A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 17801914 (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004), 108.

113 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 308.

114 Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery, 301.

115 Chamisso, A Voyage Around the World, 121.

116 Liebersohn, The Traveler's World, 74.

117 John Young cited by John Boit in Log of the Union: John Boit's Remarkable Voyage to the Northwest Coast and Around the World, 17941796, ed. Edmund Hayes (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1981), 77.

118 Chamisso, A Voyage Around the World, 189, 310–311.

119 Liebersohn, The Traveler's World, 182.

120 I am grateful to Michelle Burnham for making these points.

121 David A. Chang, "'We Will Be Comparable to the Indian Peoples: Recognizing Likeness Between Native Hawaiians and American Indians," American Quarterly 67, no. 3 (September 2015): 859–886; Kealani Cook, "Postmillennial Thought and Native Hawaiian Foreign Mission Work," American Quarterly 67, no. 3 (September 2015): 887–909; Jodi A. Byrd, Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), ch. 5.

122 Chang, "'We Will be Comparable to the Indian Peoples,'" 880, 881, 882.

123 Burnham, "Early America and the Revolutionary Pacific," 958–959.

124 David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, "Introduction: The Age of Revolutions, c. 1760–1840—Global Causation, Connection, and Comparison," in Armitage and Subrahmanyam, eds., The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, especially xvi–xviii.

125 Ben Finney, "The Other One-Third of the Globe," Journal of World History 5, no. 4 (Fall 1994): 273–297.

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