“Hae O Hawaii”… the Flag of Hawaii… It fluttered from the staff like a stricken bird!
The Hawaiian flag, designed by an English sea captain at the request of King Kamehameha the First in 1812, was supplanted by the 45-star American flag on August 12, 1898. On that day Hawaii officially became an integral part of the United States as an organized territory.
The flag had carried Hawaii through the days of the monarchy under the reign of seven Kings, a Queen, a provisional government resulting from a revolution, and a Republic. Then, as now, it showed a strong British influence. There was a small Union Jack in its upper left corner, and eight stripes of alternating white, red, and blue. The striped represented the eight main islands of Hawaii. The English “Jack” was to symbolize the friendly influence of Britain for Hawaii in early times.
The flag endured many tempestuous times during the days of the young monarchy. Early in 1843, an English Naval Officer, Lord George Paulet, with his ship’s guns trained on Honolulu, demanded that Kamehameha the First cede Hawaii to him. The friction had grown from a land dispute between two Englishmen and a native Hawaiian. The King had ruled it invalid when he heard the full details. Rather than spill his subjects’ blood without reason, Kamehameha, upon the advice of his counselors, acquiesced.
But on July 31, 1843, Rear Admiral Richard Thomas arrived in the islands. Acting in behalf of Queen Victoria of England, he repudiated Paulet’s action. After a hasty fabrication of the Hawaiian flag (all existing flags had been destroyed at the command of Paulet) the monarchy was restored. The raising of the flag was accompanied by a 21 gun salute from Admiral Thomas’s flagship.
The flag survived intrigues, threats, and attack by the French Commander in the Pacific, Admiral Legoarant de Tromelin, and his two warships, in 1849. It also survived a French commissioner, Emile Perrin, who had plans for seizing the islands.
But the wily Kamehameha the Third signed a secret proclamation placing Hawaii under the protection of the U.S. When the ambitious French commissioner learned the document was in the hands of the American commissioner, he realized he had overstepped himself. Shortly thereafter he returned to France, ending France’s shadow over Hawaii.
Earlier, during the reign of King Kamehameha I, the Russian-American Fur Company began to visit Honolulu and Kauai. Their ship, Bering, was wrecked on the shore of Kauai. The Russian company then sent a Dr. Georg Anton Scheffer to Kauai, ostensibly to salvage the Bering’s contents. He gained the good graces of both Kamehameha I on Oahu and King Kaumualii of Kauai by his ability as a doctor, and his fine personality.
At the end of a year, though, two Russian ships arrived at Honolulu Harbor and began to erect a fort there. The King quickly revised his opinion of the Russians and ordered them off Oahu. Scheffer and the two ships returned to Kauai and persuaded King Kaumualii to allow them to build forts at Waimea and Hanalei. The King was also persuaded to declare his independence of Kamehameha. The Russians further got him to grant them comprehensive monopolies. They lowered the Hawaiian flag and raised the Russian flag.
This lasted a little less than a year. After some skirmishes with Kamehameha’s forces, the Russians were expelled. When a Russian Navy exploring ship, the Ruriek, arrived in Hawaii, its commander, Lt. Otto von Kotxbue evaluated the situation. He counseled the Czar that unless he wished to risk a confrontation with Britain and possibly the United States, it would be best to abandon all Hawaiian ambitions.
So after many years of struggling and fighting to remain an independent entity in such a key position in the Pacific, there were many kamaainas (sons of the soil) who felt real grief at the lowering of Hae O Hawaii, and giving way to the haole (white man’s) flag.
The Spanish-Amrican War impressed upon President McKinley the vital strategic location of Hawaii, and its great importance to the United States. He signed the resolution annexing Hawaii on July 7, 1898. The news reached Hawaii July 13. At a brief ceremony, President Sandord Dole of the Republic of Hawaii turned over the sovereignty. On the stand-of-honor were President Dole and his cabinet, U.S. Admiral Miller, the U.S. Minister Harold Sewal, and Colonel Barber of the U.S. Army.
Thousands of Hawaiian citizens and foreigners were on hand. But few Hawaiians were present, out of respect for Queen Liliuokalani. The Queen was at her late husband’s home, Washington Palace, less than a block from Iolani Palace, which had been renamed “The Executive Building” by the revolutionists.
When the last strains of Hawaii Ponoi, Hawaii’s Anthem, faded on the still tropic air, the Hawaiian flag trembled and fluttered from the truck like a stricken bird, and fell lifelessly. A light shower misted from the heavens, and from the eyes of many who watched its descent.
The spokesman for the Hawaiian people was John Lot Kaulukou. He stood stoically chewing a cigar during the proceedings. One writer reported it was the only way he kept from breaking down, as so many of those present did.
With the raising of the American emblem, there was a 21 gun salute from the U.S.S. Philadelphia in port, as well as the fort. The warship’s band struck up The Star Spangled Banner.
Queen Liliuokalani always flew a Hawaiian flag from Washington Place in defiance of the changeover, until word was received during World War I that the S. S. Aztec had been sunk by the Germans with five Hawaiian servicemen aboard. The Queen’s bodyguard, Col. Curtis Iaukea, pointed out to her that the men had lost their lives in the service of the United States.
“Wouldn’t you like to fly an American flag over Washington Place now?” he asked. “It’s the flag they were serving when they gave their lives.”
She clenched her fist, and with the old fire flashing from her regal eyes she snapped, “Yes! Can you find me one?”
The American standard rippled in the tradewinds over Washington Place from that day on.
By Al “Papio” Ezell.
Typeset and printed by hand for the American Amateur Press Association,
The National Amateur Press Association, and some friends.
Herbert L. Foster
Kalaheo, Hawaii 96741