Friday, March 06, 2009

Lincoln's 1864 Letter to King Kamehameha V

Hawaii has been part of the United States since 1898. However, before that it was an independent nation as both a Republic (1893-1898) and a Kingdom (1795-1893). During the American Civil War, Hawaiian King Kamehameha IV died. His brother (King Kamehameha V) ascended the throne as his heir. President Lincoln wrote a letter of sympathy to King Kamehameha V in 1864.

The Honolulu Advertiser in an article by Dan Nakaso has details. It is titled Lincoln Reached Out to Grieving Hawaiian King in 1864. The article notes:

Archivist Dainan Skeem considered himself lucky yesterday to hold an original, four-page letter of condolence that President Lincoln wrote to King Kamehameha V 145 years ago and that ends with Lincoln's own squirrely signature.

The letter Lincoln wrote to the new king on Feb. 2, 1864, following the death of Kamehameha V's younger brother, King Kamehameha IV, is one of four documents signed by Lincoln that sit in a vault inside the state archives and are rarely seen — let alone touched.

Collectively, they help illustrate the connection between the Islands and Abraham Lincoln that continues on today's bicentennial of his birth and has been strengthened by President Obama, a son of Hawai'i who often quotes Lincoln and swore his presidential oath of office on Lincoln's bible.

The article also notes the pro-Union sympathies of Hawaii:

Honolulu newspapers at the time documented the sometimes fierce attitudes in the Islands toward the Civil War and the fight to end slavery.

"You'll find substantial coverage of things that were happening in Hawai'i that were responses to the things that were going on at the national level," Horton said. "There was an interesting story of a Southern-born woman who hung a Confederate flag on her lanai that was destroyed by her neighbors."

Some American and Hawaiian whaling ships did get pulled into the conflict, however, when they were attacked by the confederate ship CSS Shenandoah in the north and south Pacific, said Susan Lebo, a researcher who is compiling the names of Native Hawaiian sailors who worked on whale boats.

"A fair number of ships were overtaken and burned," Lebo said yesterday. "The CSS Shenandoah was indiscriminate whether it attacked American vessels or ones flying under the Hawaiian flag."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the middle of this story there is a quote from "Horton" but does not identify who HORTON is. Would it be James Oliver HORTON who told me to look up this interesting bit of history at a family reunion this past summer?