the short story project


Who goofed and lost the most expensive Real Estate in the Empire?

Parola, G., Who goofed and lost the most expensive real estate in the emp? Hist. non-fict. 991wd


Was it a too-busy Parliament or a too-ill king?


Gene J. Parola

The average price for a single family home in the American state of Hawai’i is $750,000.  

On a trip to London in 1824 the young Hawaiian King Kamehameha II tried unsuccessfully the second time to have the Crown or Parliament of the British government accept the gift of the eight small mid-Pacific volcanic rocks.

One would have thought that the British government with the largest fleet in the world, colonies spanning the globe North and South and East to West, would have scooped up the freebee without much thought.  Hadn’t they just saved Canada from the pesky Americans, destroyed the French fleet at Trafalgar,  pacified the little island-hopping Corporal,  signed the Act of Union? 

Well, their plate was a little crowded. Besides, hadn’t George Vancouver taken care of that back before the turn of the century? Wasn’t there a salt stained document in a sea chest somewhere attesting to the gift of the Hawaiian Kingdom to King Kamehameha’s ‘friend’, King George?  Maybe Vancouver lost it.

Granted, that ‘Kingdom’ (the first of its kind in those islands) had been only the Island of Hawai’i and not the entire chain that it had become in the interim. So perhaps the thinking was that there was little commercial value in a single island–and anyway maybe one should wait until the Hudson Bay people had made their move. There was talk..and they’d make an evaluation of the money-making prospects of the chain.

King Kamehameha II and his queen made quite an impact on London society in the short three weeks visit before they both died of measles–sans an audience with the new king–George III had died the previous year.

Parliament remained silent.

Lord George Byron, Captain of the frigate Blonde returned the royal corpses to a Hawai’i that flew the new flag over its public building and on its growing fleet.

Until the end of the War of 1812 Vancouver’s gift Union Jack flew. There was a fuss about that.  There was a growing population of Americans having arrived to cater to the needs of the expanding Yankee whaling fleet. And they were very aware that the Americans had won the War of 1812 and hence they were unhappy with all the Union Jacks flapping in the Trade Winds. The old King Kamehameha, in an effort to calm ruffled feathers commissioned a new flag with the Union Jack in the corner and eight red and blue stripes. With a nod to both groups.

He had been regularly warned that his mid-ocean home was acquiring ever more value to several countries whose fleets found profit going, coming and stopping by. He had been advised early to make accommodation with one of the Great Powers, but he had insisted that his document signed by Vancouver was enough. 

On his death bed, he had deemed that his young son, Liholio should inherit the crown, but his forceful and favorite wife, Ka’ahumanu,  would receive the power–as regent. 

Now, the young king safely interred, the queen shook up what had been a chaotic reign for the past five years. New influences had rapidly arrived on her shores and promises made had to be weighed.

A short six months after the old king’s death, under pressure, (ironically from the most sacred High Chiefess) Queen Ka’ahumanu destroyed the native religion by “lifting the kapu,” and declared that all Kanaka would embrace Christianity.  

Again, it had long been advised that the Kingdom should be a Christian one when the inevitable Great Power grab occurred.  Non-Christians ‘savages’ would be treated badly.  

But it would not be a grab.  It would be a rub, a massage, an insidious feeling around and fingering by boatloads of American Congregational missionaries–the first of which had arrived six months after the queen’s ‘lifting of the kapu’.  

Suddenly the American influence was everywhere and a widow queen, feeling the pressure of her male dominated councils–now heavily influenced by very conservative American missionaries–walked a narrow line as she watched the seduction of her entire culture by newcomers of every ilk.

By the end of the decade, foreign businessmen so dominated the commerce of the kingdom that the almost forgotten ‘grab’ crept up  from within.

Haole, Caucasian, business men had begun to acquire large land holdings–often by marrying into the noble families–and benefitting by the thousands of acres. Prominent foreigners, acting as advisors to the crown, manipulated a  native legislature, naive in the ways of western politics.

In the late thirties, the British fumbled a third opportunity to acquire Hawai’i. Parliament 

appointed  Richard Charlton a local business man as Consular Agent to oversee local ‘British

Interests.’   Charlton decided that those interests needed the protection of the British Government 

and seized the Kingdom under threat of attack by a British warship. 

The young King Kamehameha III, capitulated in order to prevent blood shed, but sent 

three ministers to Parliament to object. In the process there began an organized diplomatic full 

court attempt to gain international recognition of the kingdom as a free, independent state.  

  Then, this last failed attempt failed grandly. British Rear Admiral, Richard Thomas 

arrived,  reprimanded  the captain of the warship Charlton had threatened the king with and 

restored the youthful king to his throne. 

That was the last  attempt by England to capture  the Islands–which were 

now producing sugar by huge tonnages. The kingdom stumbled toward the end of the century 

when children of the Yankee missionaries would seize the government and trade the Islands to 

the U.S. in return for duty free entry for their sugar.

The last crop of sugar cane was harvested on the island of Maui in 2016. Every bare 

building plot would bring a quarter of  a million dollars if the fields are subdivided.


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