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Episode 36: Formal recognition of Hawai‘i’s independence with Kau‘i Sai-Dudoit

After Liholiho’s death in England, his brother Kauikeaouli became king. He was Hawai‘i’s longest-reigning monarch, and one of his greatest feats was gaining formal recognition of Hawai‘i’s independence from the world powers. In 1839, a French ship had challenged the nation’s sovereignty, and the king was determined to protect against such occurrences in the future. In 1842, he sent envoys Timoteo Ha‘alilio and William Richards to the United States, England, and France on a mission to get recognition. Meanwhile, back in Hawai‘i, the importance of that mission was being made all too clear, says historian Kau‘i Sai-Dudoit.

“It’s the early part of 1843 now and while they’re out there trying to secure the recognition of Hawaiian independence, George Paulet from Great Britain arrives here and he holds the country hostage again. He takes down the flag, makes demands of the king and for four months Hawai‘i is in limbo under the British flag. Ha‘alilio and Richards are in France when they read in the morning paper that Great Britain has just taken Hawai‘i. But they just came from Great Britain, making arrangements to recognize its independence.”

Ha‘alilio and Richards immediately crossed the channel back to England. Ultimately, the British sent Admiral Thomas to Hawai‘i and he restored the Islands’ independence. Soon thereafter, on November 28, 1843, England and France both formally recognized Hawai‘i’s independence. The United States followed soon after.

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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