Messrs. Richards and Haalilio to the Secretary of State.

Sir: The undersigned having been duly commissioned by His Majesty Kamehameha III, King of all the Hawaiian Islands, to represent his Government and promote its interests in the United States, wish to call the attention of your Government to the existing relations between the two countries.

In the year 1826 articles of agreement, in the form of a treaty, were entered into between His Majesty’s Government and Thomas ap Cates-by Jones, commanding the United States sloop of war Peacock. His Majesty has never received any notice of that treaty’s being ratified, [Page 42] nor intimation that it was approved by the Government of the United States. His Majesty has, nevertheless, during the last sixteen years, governed himself by the regulations of that treaty in all his intercourse with citizens of the United States.

Subsequently to the above similar forms of agreement have been entered into between His Majesty and officers commanding vessels of war of different nations of Europe; but, so far as is known to the undersigned, those agreements have never received the sanction of their several Governments.

These facts, viewed in connection with their attendant circumstances, have led His Majesty to feel considerable embarrassment in managing his foreign relations, and have awakened the very strong desire that his Kingdom shall be formally acknowledged by the civilized nations of the world as a sovereign and independent State.

His Majesty considers that this acknowledgment has already been tacitly but virtually made, both in the United States and Europe, by the appointment of consuls and commercial agents to reside in his dominions and by the formal manner in which the commanders of national vessels have transacted business with him, many of whom have professedly acted under the express instructions of their several Governments. But he is nevertheless of opinion that the time has now arrived when both the interests and the honor of his Kingdom demand a more formal acknowledgment than has hitherto been made by any foreign government. It is His Majesty’s request that the Government of the United States will take into consideration the nature, extent, and the rapidity of those changes which have taken place in his dominions during the last few years—changes which he has the happiness to believe are honorable both to his Government and to the people over whom it rules.

Twenty-three years ago the nation had no written language and no character in which to write it. The language had never been systematized nor reduced to any kind of form. The people had no acquaintance with Christianity nor with the valuable institutions or usages of civilized life. The nation had no fixed form or regulations of government, except as they were dictated by those who were in authority or might by any means acquire power. The right of property was not acknowledged, and was therefore but partially enjoyed; there were no courts of justice and the will of the chieftains was absolute. The property of foreigners had no protection except in the kind disposition of individuals. But under the fostering influence, patronage, and care of His Majesty and of his predecessors the language has been reduced to visible and systematized form and is now written by a large and respectable proportion of the people. Schools have been established throughout his dominions and are supported principally by the Government, and there are but few among the younger people who are unable to read. They have now, in their own language, a library, embracing a considerable variety of books on a variety of subjects, including the Holy Scriptures, works on natural history, civil history, church history, geography, political economy, mathematics, and statute law, besides a number of elementary books. A regular monarchical Government has been organized, of a limited and representative character, a translation of the constitution of which we herewith transmit. A code of laws, both civil and criminal, has been enacted and published.

The legislature holds an annual meeting, for the purpose of adding to and amending this code. Courts of justice have been established and regular trials by jury required in all important cases. Foreigners [Page 43] of different nations have testified their confidence in these courts by bringing suits in cases where many thousands of dollars’ worth of property was involved, and that, too, in cases when, with but very short delay, they could have been carried before the courts of other countries.

It has, moreover, been the uniform practice of consuls and commercial agents, resident in His Majesty’s dominions, and also of all commanders of national vessels visiting those dominions, to demand all that protection, both of persons and property, which is demanded of sovereign and independent States, and this His Majesty believes has been duly and efficiently extended. While, therefore, all is demanded of his Government, and all is rendered by it which is demanded of or rendered by the governments of sovereign and independent states, he feels that he has a right to expect his state to be acknowledged as such, and thus be formally received into the general compact of sovereign nations. In the request which His Majesty hereby makes to the Government of the United States, he has of course for his direct object the promotion of the interest of his own Kingdom, but he is also very fully convinced that the important interests of all the great commercial nations will also be materially subserved by his dominions remaining, as they have hitherto been, independent.

Their position is such that they constitute the great center of the whale fishery for most of the world. They are on the principal line of communication between the western continent of America and the eastern continent of Asia; and such are the prevailing winds on that ocean that all vessels requiring repairs or supplies, either of provisions or of water, naturally touch at those islands, whether the vessels sail from Columbia River on the north, or from the far distant ports of Mexico, Central America, or Peru, upon the south; and it should be further added, that there is no other place in all that part of the Pacific Ocean where repairs of vessels can be made to so good an advantage, or supplies be obtained in such abundance, and on so favorable terms.

His Majesty wishes also to remind the Government of the United States that the amount of property belonging to their citizens, which is either landed at or enters the various harbors or roadsteads of his dominions, and is consequently more or less dependent on the protection of his Government, can not be less than from five to seven millions of dollars annually. This property lies in some 90 or 100 whaling ships and their cargoes, and in some 12 or 15 merchant vessels, besides also a considerable amount of other property belonging to American citizens on shore. At some seasons there have been not less than three or four millions of dollars worth of American property, and some 1,400 American citizens at the same time, at the various ports of the islands, requiring constantly, in some degree, the protection of His Majesty; and he has the happiness of believing that efficient and satisfactory aid has always been extended to those who have required it. In evidence corroborative of many of the facts herein stated, the undersigned do not hesitate to refer to documentary evidence, which they believe must be among the papers in your Department of State, recently furnished by masters of national vessels, but more especially by the United States commercial agent at Honolulu.

His Majesty is also desirous that there should be a definite arrangement for the settlement of any future difficulties which may unhappily arise and which, between sovereign and independent nations, would ordinarily be the subject of diplomatic correspondence. To carry into effect these desirable objects the undersigned are authorized by His [Page 44] Majesty Kamehameha III to enter into negotiation with the authorities of the United States, by convention, treaty, or otherwise, whenever the latter shall acknowledge the sovereignty of the former; and as evidence that the undersigned are thus authorized, they are prepared to present official papers from His Majesty whenever the way is open for them to be received.

The undersigned will further state that they are directed to proceed from the United States to Europe for the purpose of obtaining from some of the principal governments there the same acknowledgments which it is the object of this letter to obtain from the Government of the United States.

Accept, sir, the assurances of the high consideration with which the undersigned have the honor to be your obedient servants,

  • Timoteo haalilio.
  • William Richards.
  • Hon. Daniel Webster,
    Secretary of State.