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The Need for Philosophy in the Islands of the Blessed.

According to Genesis, man emerged from the placid bliss of Eden when Eve broke God's command and ate a fruit--traditionally an apple, though the Bible doesn't say--from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve had been told that she would die if she tasted the fruit, but the serpent said no; the only reason God had imposed His ban was because He knew that if they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve's eyes "shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." In his version of the story, John Milton's serpent explained things more bluntly. God wanted to keep humanity in subjection:
Why but to awe,
Why but to keep you low and ignorant,
His worshippers; he knows that in the day
You eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Opened.... (1)

This myth remains potent today, told and retold by everyone from the philosopher Nietzsche (who saw the story as proof of "God's hellish fear of science") (2) to producer Gary Ross, whose film Pleasantville reimagines it as a "fairytale" of triumph and learning. Eve, writes poet Jennifer Michael Hecht, "leapt and fell from grace, / that she might have a story of herself to tell / in some other place." (3)

How astounding, then, that something very like this story happened in real life--not in a fictional Eden but on the island of Hawai'i, and not in ancient days but during the first week of November 1819. However, the fruit in question was not an apple; it was a banana, and the transgressor was not a naive girl but Ka'ahumanu, the strong-willed widow of Hawai'i's famous king Kamehameha I. (4)

Together with two other women--her fellow widow Keopuolani and the chiefess Kapi'olani (5)--Ka'ahumanu conspired to overthrow her nation's ancient religion, the brutal and oppressive system known to us as kapu. That set in motion one of the greatest religious revolutions in recorded history: the only known instance of a people abandoning their religion without having another to replace it. Within a single lifetime, the people of Hawai'i were transported from the Stone Age to the Age of Steam and had thrust upon them all of the risks and rewards of civilized life. Yet, triumphant as the overthrow of kapu was, the lack of a substitute philosophy left a vacuum in which the Hawaiians found themselves vulnerable before the influences of 19th-century European and Asian culture. The tale of Hawai'i's cultural revolution stands as a testament both to the courage of these pioneering women and to the vital need for philosophy in human life.

She was born in a cave near Hana on Maui in 1768 and given the name Ka'ahumanu, which means "the feathered cape." Such capes were the most valuable and admired objects in Hawaiian culture. Phenomenally expensive badges of office worn only by the highest ali'i (the royal aristocracy), these scarlet and yellow cloaks supposedly were so steeped in the mystical energy known as mana that only men were allowed to weave together the million or so feathers that comprised them. Women were regarded as inferior in the religion of kapu, and it was believed that if a woman touched a cape, she would taint its mana.

Her father was a prominent supporter of the warrior Kamehameha in his fight for leadership of the islands, and when Ka'ahumanu was ten, her father gave her to Kamehameha to raise until she was of marriageable age. It was only about a year later that Hawai'i's religious catastrophe began with the arrival of the British explorer Captain James Cook. Cook's two ships were en route to Alaska when they happened upon the islands in January 1778, and he was astonished to find that the natives were members of the same Polynesian race he had already encountered thousands of miles away in places such as Tahiti. They spoke a dialect of the same language and practiced a variant of the same religion.

That religion was a system of taboos (kapu, in Hawaiian) practiced by natives throughout the Polynesian triangle, which stretches from New Zealand in the west and Rapa Nui in the east to Hawai'i in the north. The commonality was amazing, considering the great distances involved. The Hawaiian archipelago is the most isolated spot on the planet. Yet without written language or compasses, Polynesian voyagers had managed generations earlier to traverse the desolate Pacific, guided only by stars, to find and colonize the islands. For more than a millennium, Hawaiians farmed, lived, traded, warred, and worshipped, forgotten even by other Polynesians. The Tahitians of the 1770s had never heard of Hawai'i.

Yet for the most part, the Hawaiian religion paralleled what Cook had encountered elsewhere, with only minor variations. Kapu was a polytheistic faith centered on four primary gods--Ku, Kane, Ku'kalanimoku, and Lono--and a variety of lesser gods and demigods (most famously, Maui and Pele), about whom legends sprang up, just as with the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. And, as with other ancient peoples, the religion was administered by a powerful class of priests who sometimes clashed with the political authority of the secular ali'i.

Ku, the god of war, was believed to exercise supernatural authority during most of the year. He was appeased by blood sacrifices, including human sacrifices. But during autumn--coincidentally, the season of Cook's arrival--Lono, the god of fertility, reigned. This season was called makahiki, and like Christmas or Mardi Gras, it was a time of harvesting, feasting, and gaming; kapu restrictions were relaxed and sacrifices minimized. The priests and chiefs led a ritual procession around the islands in a clockwise direction, holding tall staffs from which hung sheets of barkcloth--Lono's symbol.

Central to the religion was the notion of mana, often translated as "power," but closer in meaning to potency, efficacy--or, in our own culture, fame. A person's mana represented his personal dignity and reputation, and it could be injured by disrespect, defeat in battle, or acts of spiritual contamination. Most notable among these was the contamination of men by women or the violation of strict dietary rules.

The significance of these rules is hard to articulate in today's world. Food was of paramount religious concern to ancient Polynesians--believed to be a major conduit between the supernatural and physical worlds. (6) Thus, the best foods were reserved for men, who were responsible for cooking, in order to ensure that it was not polluted by women. Major chiefs had servants whose job it was constantly to stuff food in their mouths; those of the very highest rank did not even chew their own food but had servants do that for them. To avoid dietary pollution, men and women ate in separate buildings; and many foods, including bananas, coconuts, and pork, were entirely off-limits to women. This system was known as 'ai kapu, or restricted eating, and the penalty for violating such a kapu was death, typically by strangulation.

On one occasion, when the chiefess Kapi'olani was a little girl, she ate a banana out of curiosity. This was a capital offense, but because of her high political position, the priests were afraid to kill her. Instead, they put to death one of her young playmates, a boy named Mau.

As this incident suggests, highly ranked ali'i women were in a peculiar position: they were subject to kapu's sexist prohibitions, yet they enjoyed the powerful authority conferred by their mana--and that was a deadly serious matter. Some ali'i ranked so high that if a commoner's shadow touched the ali'i, the commoner might be put to death. It was kapu to touch a chief's hair or fingernails, kapu to look directly at him or to have one's head at a higher level than his, and kapu to go places or hunt wildlife that the priests proclaimed off-limits. Breaking any of these rules was grounds for execution.

Practically speaking, this was a totalitarian theocracy. Everything from fishing to the building of homes was governed by the ali'i and the priests through the pronouncement of kapus. Captain Cook, impressed by the orderly layout of the villages--their neatly designed streets and well-maintained farms reminded him of European countries--was nonetheless shocked by the way ordinary Hawaiians were "kept in so slavish a subordination to their chiefs." (7) The commoners were essentially slaves, forced to prostrate themselves in the presence of ali'i and to avoid letting their shadows or even the shadows of their canoes fall upon those of the privileged. "The condition of the common people," wrote historian David Malo, "was that of subjection to the chiefs, compelled to do their heavy tasks, burdened and oppressed, some even to death. The life of the people was one of patient endurance." (8)

What Cook did not then know was that the Hawaiians thought he was Lono. His ships' sails resembled the staff-and-barkcloth symbols of Lono's priests, and his vessels had circled the island of Hawai'i in Lono's sacred clockwise direction before anchoring at Kealakekua Bay, which just happened to be where the priests had long prophesied Lono would appear someday. All of this happened during makahiki, the season sacred to Lono. Some crewmen realized what was happening and grew nervous, but Cook himself appears to have refused to believe it until it was too late. (9) Before departing in February 1779, his men enjoyed months of feasting and sex with native women, who thought the white men were something like angels.

Only days later, however, a mechanical problem forced the ships to return to Kealakekua Bay. They found that things had changed. Makahiki had ended, and the season of Ku had returned. The Hawaiians greeted Cook coolly, and eventually a dispute over a theft led to a confrontation in which the Hawaiians killed Cook and several of his men on the beach. (10)

It's likely that Cook's death was a shattering moment in the history of the kapu religion. This and surrounding events inflamed a dispute between the priests and the ali'i. When it turned out that the man the priests insisted was a god was really just a mortal, the blow to their credibility must have been extreme--likely the greatest shock they had ever suffered. It cannot have strengthened the people's faith in religious leaders who for months had claimed that this traveler--who certainly seemed human, notwithstanding his strange tools and unusual skin color--was a god. And this would have had significant consequences for the ali'i. The sanction of the priests enabled the ali'i to maintain their power and impose crushing taxes on the people. The Lono scandal must have destroyed the reputations of countless priests and increased the people's resentment toward the ali'i.

Thus, Cook's death was the first great crisis for kapu. The second was less sudden. This was the spread of European illnesses, particularly venereal diseases with which Cook's men infected the local women. Cook himself had tried to prevent this, having witnessed similar ravages in Tahiti. But there was no real way to stop it given the poor state of European medicine and the hypersexual atmosphere of Polynesia. The natives had no natural resistance and died by the thousands. Cook estimated the population of Hawai'i at about 250,000 in the 1770s; by 1850, it had fallen to about 84,000. It would have been impossible for the Hawaiians not to wonder, in the midst of this cataclysm, whether the gods had not deserted them.

Three years after Cook's death, the elderly king of the island of Hawai'i died, bequeathing the throne to his son. However, his bellicose nephew, Kamehameha, organized a plan to take over the monarchy and more--to conquer the entire island chain. Once he initiated civil war, his quest for power was unrelenting. Although much celebrated today, Kamehameha the Great--more accurately, Kamehameha the Tyrant--was in reality a violent, manipulative warlord who took advantage of Western technology and expertise to subjugate his countrymen and did not flinch from the harshest tactics. In 1791, when he dedicated a new temple (or heiau) on Hawai'i, he invited his cousin to meet him at the shore for the ceremony--only to stab the man to death on the beach and use his corpse as the temple's inaugural sacrifice. Four years later, during an attack on the island of O'ahu, he and his men shoved four hundred soldiers off the thousand-foot Pali cliff to their deaths. "A chief," according to an old Hawaiian saying, "is a shark who travels on land." Of nobody was this truer than Kamehameha.

He found his young cousin, Ka'ahumanu, lovely and charming and married her in 1781. As a later missionary wrote, the thirteen-year-old queen was "sprightly, and beautiful for a Polynesian, and engaging when young.... Kamehameha was exceedingly jealous of her." (11) She grew to be tall--more than six feet--and, at a time when big was considered beautiful, became quite fat. She was passionate and strong-willed, and enjoyed board games, flying kites, and smoking her pipe. But her marriage cannot have been anything like what we would consider happy; it was a political alliance ruled by the principles of kapu and by Kamahameha's penchant for brute force. Tourists in Kona are still directed to a rock under which his wife is said to have hidden when the king came to beat her, which he did often and badly. She tried repeatedly to run away--once even swimming alone through six miles of shark-infested waters to escape. When Captain George Vancouver arrived in the islands in 1792, he found that the couple had separated over Ka'ahumanu's infidelity. Vancouver, focused on grooming the king as the primary liaison with European powers, tried to arrange a reconciliation, which he described in jocular, romantic terms in his journal. But the reality is made clear by the fact that she refused to go home until Vancouver got Kamehameha to promise not to beat her anymore.

He likely did not keep that promise. The young queen was a wily woman who loved sex and had many affairs. One of her nicknames was "The Island of Love." Although Hawaiians at the time had vastly different sexual mores than ours, and no concept of adultery, it was still kapu to sleep with Kamehameha's wife. One incident in 1800 suggests the terror and cruelty that must have haunted her every day. She had an affair that year with a nineteen-year-old man who is said to have been exceptionally handsome, and it seems to have been as much an emotional relationship as a physical one. But when the secret was revealed, the king ordered her lover strangled to death and his body laid on an altar to rot where the queen could see it. She wept for days. Observing her grief, one of the king's ministers wondered aloud whether it would be best to overthrow Kamehameha and give the throne to his son, the young crown prince Liholiho, instead. The boy, who overheard, demurred. "I do not want my father to die," he whispered. (12) That such a dangerous conversation occurred at all was proof that the idea of rebellion was already circulating.

Like other kings, Kamehameha had many wives--about thirty in all. Ka'ahumanu was his favorite, but another wife, Keopuolani, would prove critical to the revolution that was to come. The king had captured her in battle on Maui in 1790, and she ranked among the highest levels of kapu sanctity, so high that Kamehameha himself was required to disrobe in her presence. But unlike the strong-willed Ka'ahumanu, Keopuolani was quiet, gentle, and retiring. (13) This may have been due to Kamehameha's preference for Ka'ahumanu, but it may also be due to the fact that her mana imprisoned her in some ways. She was so sacred that she confined herself to her hut in the daytime, because people in her presence would have to fall prostrate, remove their clothing upon mention of her name, and rush to avoid letting their shadows fall upon her. Like all women, however, she was forbidden to eat certain foods.

The wives lived in a strict and violent world. Ka'ahumanu in particular seems to have chafed under the burdens of kapu. She was known to break the rules when she knew she would not be caught. Others certainly did as well, and they must have witnessed increasing numbers of European visitors violating kapus without supernatural consequences. Combined with the failure of the gods to prevent plagues, and the fact that the priests had been wrong about Lono, these incidents must have increased doubts in the minds of the common people.

The influence of Europeans was growing, too. Kamehameha's effort to conquer the archipelago was reinforced by the prestige that trade with prominent foreigners such as Vancouver gave him and by the material support of Western advisers who joined the king's household and taught him how to mount cannons on canoes--a devastating force against natives armed with spears.

Kamehameha seems to have taken his religion seriously, but he had little interest in Christianity. On the other hand, he used his powers of establishing kapu for obviously self-serving, nonreligious purposes, such as keeping a strict monopoly on trade with Europeans. He found his religion profitable. When he did not, he found ways around his scruples. One time, when Vancouver asked him to accompany him from Hilo to Kealakekua Bay during a period when it was considered kapu to travel by water, the king compromised by simply delegating his religious duties to his brother. (14) Yet, a contemporary observed that when Vancouver asked him about adopting Christianity,
The King... told Capt. Vancouver that he would go with him to the high
mountain of [Mauna Loa] and they would both jump off together, each
calling on their separate gods for protection, and if Capt. Vancouver's
god saved him, but himself was not saved by his god, then his people
should believe as Capt. Vancouver did. (15)

In sum, Kamehameha blended genuine belief with practical-mindedness and cynicism. Onlookers, however, could not be expected to do the same. In the decades after Cook's death, European ships arrived in increasing numbers, bringing with them sailors who ignored the kapus and suffered no divine punishment. No doubt many travelers spoke to the Hawaiians in private conversations about their own religious beliefs. And just as the Hawaiians were shocked by the barbarism of some European practices--the corporal punishment doled out to disobedient sailors never failed to horrify them--the Europeans likely expressed their revulsion at some of the Hawaiians' practices, particularly human sacrifice, infanticide, and incest. Prominent Hawaiians began abandoning kapu. "I have frequently questioned the chiefs about their religion," wrote a European afterward, "and their general answer was, that they go to the [heiaus] more to feast than to pray, which I believe to really be the case." (16) The royal governor of Maui, Ke'eamouku, openly called the priests liars. (17) Ordinary Hawaiians breaking kapu eventually became so common that, in the last year of his life, Kamehameha was forced to reduce the penalties, (18) although he still ordered one commoner executed for wearing a feathered cape, another for entering a kapu house. (19)

The clash of civilizations occurring across the Pacific during the opening decades of the 19th century was having consequences already. European and American missionary societies sent their first vessel to Tahiti in 1796, and in the years that followed, Christian Europeans arrived in New Zealand, Samoa, and elsewhere. In all of these places, longstanding religious practices were challenged in unprecedented ways by visitors whose backgrounds were beyond the natives' imaginings. In 1812, Pomare, high chief of Mo'orea, under the influence of Christian clergy, ate a turtle without following the required sacrifices. It was the first of what became a series of religious overthrows throughout the islands. Three years later, Pomare's priests destroyed the temples and god images; in 1816, chiefs in Tahiti followed suit. It was the beginning of the Polynesian Iconoclasm. (20)

Kamehameha died in May 1819 near his home in Kona. According to tradition, a king's death led to a period of festival rule breaking similar to the Roman Saturnalia; it ended only when his successor assumed the throne. But things proved different this time. Ka'ahumanu recruited Keopuolani and a high priest named Hewahewa into a conspiracy to overthrow the rule of kapu.

The exact reasons are not known with certainty, but the conspirators certainly knew of the iconoclasm that had already begun in the rest of Polynesia. (21) Before his death, Kamehameha himself had been told of what Pomare had done on Mo'orea, but he seemed to shun the idea. (22) Ordinary Hawaiians had traveled on European ships and even visited Europe itself, bringing back stories that confirmed what the whalers and navy men told the Hawaiians: the gods and idols were powerless. One missionary writing a decade later told of the influence this had:
Since the discovery of these islands, many natives had, from time to
time, visited foreign lands by vessels that came hither for purposes of
commerce. These, when they returned, informed their countrymen that the
people of England, America, and [Australia] did not worship such stupid
blocks as their stone and wooden idols, but had one God only, who was
not to be seen himself.... [One] youth... had been much abroad, and was
a shrewd observer.... One day, when he was disputing against the
superstitions of his country, a priest affirmed that, if the [heiaus]
were forsaken, there would be no rain, and every thing would be burnt
up. He replied, "In England and America there are no idols, no [kapus],
yet there is plenty of rain there, and fine crops, too. In Tahiti and
Huahine they have broken the [kapus] and destroyed the idols, and
worship the God of the white men--yet the rain falls there, and the
fruits grow as abundantly as ever. And why should not rain and the
ground produce food here as well as elsewhere, when these senseless
things are done away?" (23)

Conversations like this must have happened countless times in the years after the first European contact. And Hawaiian families themselves must often have broken kapu in secret without suffering divine punishment. One European who visited Hawai'i in 1809 reported that "the women very seldom scruple to break [kapu] when it can be done in secret." He had witnessed Ka'ahumanu herself doing so, he said, "and was strictly enjoined to secrecy, as she said it was as much as her life was worth." (24)

This oppression of women was the aspect of the religion that most galled Ka'ahumanu. She was independent-minded, opinionated, and even domineering--the missionary Hiram Bingham, who knew her well in later years, regularly called her "haughty," and an artist who painted her in the 1820s called her "the most proud, unbending lady in the whole island." (25) She relished the privileges of rank, even riding in a carriage drawn not by horses but by commoners. She was fond of forbidden foods and alcohol as well. Bingham later said that she led the rebellion because she "desired equal privilege with men, in respect to eating and drinking, and, therefore, wished the termination of those distinctions and restraints which were felt to be degrading and oppressive to her and Keopuolani, and to her royal sisters, and royal step-daughters." (26) But she also resented the way the rules barred her from participating in politics, forcing her into subordination to men such as the young prince Liholiho, who were far less competent than she. Europeans who met her were often surprised at her sophisticated understanding of international trade--and rarely failed to notice how comparatively ignorant and weak-willed Liholiho was.

Ka'ahmanu was smart enough to realize that if change were to come at all, it would have to come immediately upon Kamehameha's death, before Liholiho was crowned king. Not only would his accession dampen her influence and interfere with her ability to rule later, it was also likely that other groups in the islands were already plotting rebellion, eager to avenge themselves after the death of the conquering Kamehameha. Timing the revolution for the autumn of 1819 would defuse such tensions. (27)

Because less is known about Keopuolani, her motives for joining the plot are less clear, but she had a reputation for compassion, and she regularly forgave people who violated kapus and would otherwise have faced death. Other chiefs noted that she never permitted an execution if she could prevent it. And she broke the rules on at least one notable occasion herself: although it was customary for the ali'i to give their children to other ali'i to raise, Keopuolani refused to let anyone adopt her daughter. (28) She also hinted at her readiness to break with the old ways on the night the king died, when--during the Saturnalia period in which 'ai kapu prohibitions were suspended--she sat with men, eating coconuts and other sacred foods, and said, "It is right that we should eat together freely." (29)

Whatever their motives, the decision by Ka'ahumanu and Keopuolani to put an end to the centuries-old religion represented the climax of a process that had been going on at an individual level for a long time: common Hawaiians exercising their own independent judgment to recognize the foolhardiness and malice that lay behind kapu. Although many practiced a sort of folk version of kapu--honoring their own household gods alongside the officially recognized deities--few were under any illusions about the fact that the monarchs and priests used the religion to retain and wield power for themselves, and that the official religion was based on lies and coercion rather than observable reality. Now, the queens and their collaborators took the dangerous step of openly acknowledging the fraud, knowing it could risk their lives and the future of their authority.

The first test would be to obtain the agreement of Liholiho, who had followed the usual custom of sailing away for two weeks of purification rituals after his father's death. He returned to a grand sight. On coronation day at the bay of Kailua stood Ka'ahumanu, six feet tall, wearing the late king's red and yellow feather cape and helmet and holding his twelve-foot kauila wood spear. Beside her stood his mother, Keopuolani. And surrounding them all were the high chiefs and priests of the islands bearing the feathered staffs called kahili that the Hawaiians used as flags. Ordinarily, the new king would be handed the symbols of office and elevated to his new role. Instead, when the moment came, Ka'ahumanu made a brief speech. "O heavenly one! Here are your guns, here are your lands," she said. Then she paused. "But," she added, "we two shall share the rule over the land." (30) She would serve, she announced, as queen regent or "kuhina nui," a new office that she had decided to create. She claimed that this had been the desire of the late king (which may have been true, as Kamehameha appears to have had a low opinion of his son), but what she said next was entirely unexpected:
If you wish to observe [Kamehameha's] laws, it is well and we will not
molest you. But as for me and my people we intend to be free from the
[kapu]. We intend that the husband's food and the wife's food shall be
cooked in the same oven and that they shall be permitted to eat out of
the same calabash. We intend to eat pork and bananas and coconuts. If
you think differently you are at liberty to do so; but for me and my
people we are resolved to be free. (31)

The young king made no reply. Likely a tense silence followed as the royal household waited to see what would happen. Then Keopuolani intervened. She gestured to her mouth, demonstrating that she stood with Ka'ahumanu's new regime. Still, the stunned king remained silent. But he could not ignore her next gesture. Summoning her young child Kauikeaouli, the king's five-year-old brother, she sat and ate next to him in violation of the 'ai kapu.

Shocked and afraid, Liholiho boarded a boat stocked with liquor and went on a drinking binge. At some point he consulted with his high priest, Hewahewa, who for unknown reasons urged him to accept the new way. (32) Hewahewa may have been willing to admit what he had witnessed in Kamehameha's household: the monarch had used kapu for self-aggrandizement rather than for spiritual purposes. (33)

Liholiho wavered, remaining at sea for six months, until Ka'ahumanu lost patience. She sent him a message: "The ti leaf kapu is to be declared your god upon your arrival"--which meant that when the king came home, the gods would take away kapu, leaving the Hawaiians free. At last, the new king accepted the women's demands. His ship arrived in Kailua the first week of November 1819, and when he again hesitated to come ashore, the kuhina nui sent a canoe out to retrieve him. As King David Kalakaua later told the story, Keopuolani made her determination clear to her son once again; while commoners began preparing a feast, she "deliberately ate a banana in his presence." (34)

Even after witnessing these sacrilegious acts, the king hesitated. As the royal party was led in to the banquet, Ka'ahumanu challenged him: "If you have the courage of your father," she said, "this will be a great day for Hawai'i." (35)

A friend of the kuhina nui described the scene as the royal party sat down together:
After the guests were seated, and had begun to eat, the king took two
or three turns around each table, as if to see what passed at each; and
then suddenly, and without any previous warning to any but those in the
secret, seated himself in a vacant chair at the women's table and began
to eat voraciously, but was evidently much perturbed. The guests,
astonished at this act, clapped their hands, and cried out, "A;
noa!--the eating taboo is broken." (36)

This was the first of what would become the cherished Hawaiian tradition of the luau.

On November 6, Liholiho issued an official order: 'ai kapu was abolished. Instead, 'ai noa--"free eating"--would be the rule. Shortly thereafter, Ka'ahumanu ordered the heiaus dismantled and the wooden ki'i (or tiki gods) destroyed. The reign of the kapu religion officially was over. Among the common people there was a dazzled sense of liberation. When the missionary William Ellis visited four years later, he talked with a group of natives near Hilo about how they felt. "We asked them if they had done well in abolishing [the gods]. They said, Yes, for the [kapu] occasioned much labour and inconvenience, and drained off the best of their property." When Ellis asked "if it was a good thing to have no god," they answered "perhaps it was, for they had nothing to provide for the great sacrifices, and were under no fear of punishment for breaking [kapu] ; that now, one fire cooked their food, and men and women ate together the same kind of provisions." (37)

Many factors had led to the revolution, of course: Not only had brazen transgressions been indulged with impunity for four decades after Cook's visit, and not only had the religion failed to prevent the ravages of disease, but the ali'i--including Ka'ahumanu and Keopuolani--saw an opportunity to break the power of the priests, who controlled immense amounts of land and other resources. "Constitutional reforms of an established governmental system are usually forced upon the regime by a political crisis," writes one scholar of the incident. The Hawaiian government "was in economic trouble through trying to pay for its lavish purposes," and this distress may have been so severe that the ali'i thought it necessary to consolidate their secular authority. (38)

If that was their aim, it was successful. The 'ai noa increased the power of the ali'i, and particularly Ka'ahumanu, who now served as de facto queen. But it also meant a wave of newfound freedoms for Hawaiians themselves. This fits a longstanding historical pattern in which conflicts among nobles have resulted in greater freedom for commoners. Magna Carta, for example, was the result of a dispute among nobility, but it resulted in the long term in constitutional protections for ordinary British subjects. Religious disputes, such as the Protestant revolution in Europe, often have begun as contests between theocrats but ultimately redounded to the benefit of ordinary people. Likewise in Hawai'i; although royal privilege remained--and ordinary Hawaiians suffered political and economic repression for many years afterward--the overthrow of kapu was a major step toward the emergence of Hawai'i from self-imposed darkness.

The true impact of the revolution is revealed by a story in the diary of Laura Judd, the wife of a later missionary. One evening in 1821, she was conversing with the chiefess Kapi'olani, and the story came up of the time she had been caught eating a banana. Apparently unaware that the priests had killed her friend Mau in her stead, Kapi'olani now summoned the priest to explain. When he admitted strangling the boy on an altar, Kapi'olani burst into tears. "Those were dark days," the man muttered. "We priests knew better all the time. It was power we sought over the minds of the people, to influence and control them." (39)

The ali'i must have sensed that they were entering dangerous waters. Some were holdouts, after all. After the proclamation of 'ai noa in November 1819, traditionalists rallied around Kamehameha's nephew, Kekuaokalani, who clung to the old religion. A month later, he raised an army, intending to resist the government. This was no minor insurrection: Kekuaokalani expected his rebellion to lead to the overthrow of the monarchy and the massacre of all Europeans in the islands. (40) Hoping to avert war, Ka'ahumanu dispatched two messengers in a canoe to encourage the rebels to surrender, but just as the messengers departed, Keopuolani insisted on accompanying them. This may have doomed whatever chance the peace mission would have had, because her presence in a canoe with two men demonstrated once more that she and Ka'ahumanu were committed to abolishing kapu forever.

Kekuaokalani ordered his army to march swiftly on Kailua, hoping to capture the government leaders before they could react. But they were intercepted at a place called Kuamo'o on the western shore of the island of Hawai'i. In the ensuing battle, the rebels were slowly pushed back toward a sea cliff of razor-sharp lava rocks. There they came under fire from the government's ships, armed with muskets and cannon. Kekuaokalani and some three hundred soldiers were killed. The revolution had triumphed--and the rebels' bodies still lie buried in a place labeled on maps as The End of The World. (41)

The first Christian missionaries arrived in Hawai'i four months later. They were startled to find that the old religion had already been extinguished. Ka'ahumanu welcomed them but immediately made clear that she was not interested in adopting a new religion. "We have finished with the gods," she told missionary leaders Asa Thurston and Hiram Bingham. "We have destroyed the temples and forbidden worship of images. The people have spoken. We will accept no new gods. The gods brought only sorrow and unhappiness to our people. We shall not go into that again. Let us speak of other things." (42)

Recognizing Thurston and Bingham's disappointed looks, she continued: "This learning of which you speak--perhaps that is a good thing. But let us have this clearly understood--no more gods! There will be no more priestly tyranny in these islands, no enslaving of our people with another set of religious [kapus]." (43) She allowed the missionaries to build a house--which still stands in Honolulu--and to commence teaching the Hawaiians to read. But she showed little interest in learning herself, and spent Sundays surfing or sunbathing, or enjoying the company of her pet pig (an enormous sow also named Ka'ahumanu) rather than attending church. Yet her subjects took to writing--what they called palapala--with avidity. Within a few years, the literacy rate had skyrocketed, and the printing press already was producing books in January 1822. This was not only the first press in the Hawaiian islands; it also preceded any in the western United States.

Ordinary Hawaiians also were resistant to Christian preaching. They enjoyed the spectacle of Sunday services and fell rapturously in love with religious music, but, wrote Bingham, "in respect to the course the Bible marks out, the case was different." (44) They were puzzled by many Christian practices, particularly monogamy, prohibitions against dancing and smoking, or working on the Sabbath, and the fasting that missionaries often practiced--all of which seemed like nothing more than new kapus. Although that reaction was understandable, Hawai'i's newfound freedom confronted a serious problem: abolition of the old religion was not enough.

Observers noted that in the period following the 'ai noa, the Hawaiians began experiencing a sense of loneliness and alienation. (45) Teasing the missionaries, in which the ali'i often indulged, was marked by a degree of bitterness as well as amusement. Ka'ahumanu's brother, Kuakini, an outspoken opponent of Christianity, demanded to know "if white men do not die when they break the [kapu] of your God, why should we observe the rules of your religion?" (46) And Kauikeaouli, Liholiho's brother, who became king in 1825, even mocked Christians by holding an elaborate funeral for his pet baboon. (47) Worst of all, what appeared to the missionaries was a growing "dissipation"--an increase in alcoholism and idleness, and an even more pronounced sexual promiscuity that was perilous at a time when venereal diseases were little understood.

Sexual relations between native women and the crews of European ships had long been one of the most marked aspects of life in the South Seas. Polynesian culture was highly sexualized, particularly in contrast with the repressive culture of 19th-century Europe and America. From the first voyagers to Tahiti in the 1760s, British, French, and Spanish explorers had returned home with tales of beautiful Polynesian women eager to sleep with sailors in exchange for trinkets, or simply for fun. The crews of European ships came to think of sex with natives as part of their just rewards after grim months at sea. The term "prostitution" is inaccurate for this practice; although most women were quite willing--swimming eagerly out to European ships as fast as they could--they did not necessarily choose sex for commercial exchange. Some were kidnapped, tricked, or sold by other Hawaiians--and once on board, they might be abused or drugged.

But whatever term is used, the consequences of promiscuity could be severe. Syphilis and other illnesses were rampant, and unwanted pregnancies were often dealt with through infanticide. In fact, the killing of newborns was so common that the missionaries estimated that two-thirds of Hawaiian babies were killed by their parents--either by strangulation or being buried alive. (48)

At the same time, the native birth rate began declining noticeably--to such a degree that missionaries began to fear for the future of "this perishing people." (49) They also noticed a growing malaise among the islanders, which became so pronounced that they began calling it "the Great Fatalism." (50) Observing that the epidemics had worsened since the destruction of the temples, some Hawaiians concluded that their old gods were punishing them for disobedience. (51) A gloomy Kapi'olani concluded that the Hawaiian race was destined for extinction--"by and by we shall all die," she told a friend. And David Malo, a native-born, Western-trained scholar, described his countrymen as "a dying people." (52) Many ordinary Hawaiians shared this view (53) and reacted to a feeling of alienation by vacillating between licentiousness and indolence. The Hawaiians' precarious situation proved to one missionary that the end of kapu had left the people "so far without any religion as to be really in a less favorable state for self-preservation than... before." (54)

Although this judgment was biased by the missionaries' own religious prejudices, the Hawaiians were experiencing a genuine malady: a "cultural value deprivation" that is not uncommon among those who have experienced totalitarian rule. Refugees from such tyrannies often feel confused and frightened upon reaching freedom, because their capacities for critical thinking have been stunted by the regime, leaving them bewildered when the responsibilities of critical thinking and independent living are suddenly thrust upon them.

In her 2015 memoir, North Korean defector Yeonmi Park describes how bewildered she felt when asked after her escape what her favorite color was. She had been trained from birth that "there was no 'I'... only 'we,'" and had no idea how to answer such a question. "In North Korea, we are usually taught to memorize everything, and most of the time there is only one correct answer to each question. So when the teacher asked for my favorite color, I thought hard to come up with the 'right' answer."

In the totalitarian conformity in which she was raised, Park writes, "I had never been taught to use the 'critical thinking' part of my brain," and she found even the simplest tasks of independent thought to be challenging, sometimes frightening, experiences. (55)

A similar feeling likely pervaded Hawaiian society after the swift eradication of the centuries-old rules of kapu--and just as the tyranny of ancient Hawai'i had been more severe than anywhere else in Polynesia, the new crisis of consciousness was worse. The priests and ali'i had drilled into Hawaiians the idea that morality was a matter of duties and prohibitions accepted on faith and enforced by punishment, rather than of self-comprehension and self-responsibility. Generations of authoritarianism had left them untrained to think for themselves. Thus the same sense of confusion that refugees from oppressive regimes experience permeated Hawaiian society in the 1820s. As totalitarianism scholar Hannah Arendt put it, "if everybody lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.... And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge." (56)

For many Hawaiians, the only alternative to total obedience seemed to be nihilism or total abandon. One scholar put it well in a 1902 magazine article translating an ancient Hawaiian chant. The word "freedom" as used in the chant, he explained, "meant unrestricted license." In early Hawai'i the term "did not mean the nobility of a life of self-governed manhood and womanhood, only that burdensome [kapus] were taken away." (57) Liholiho and several other ali'i became alcoholics and made dangerously shortsighted choices about the kingdom's finances. In one shocking instance, Liholiho borrowed money to finance a luxury yacht that cost about $80,000 in 1820 dollars. (58)

In a study of the overthrow of kapu published in 1931, sociologist Edward S. C. Handy emphasized the "chaotic psychological atmosphere, charged with doubt, fear, confusion, and contention," that the Hawaiians faced in this new era. (59) The old rules had governed everything from agriculture to the division of labor to family relationships and had provided the Hawaiians with some semblance of how to address the challenges of life. Now all of that was gone.
With his private and public life in chaos, with the heritage of his
mind and habits upset, and even the things of his external mode of life
changing, less efficient in everything he did because deprived of
leadership and the support of traditional ceremonialism... and with a
new uncertainty as to what lay beyond sickness and death, the native of
this period certainly lived in a condition of dangerous psychological
stress and depression. (60)

The problem, however, was not primarily one of psychology but of philosophy. The source of Hawai'i's cultural crisis lay in the fact that although Ka'ahumanu and her coconspirators had abolished the old religion, they had nothing to offer in its place. After an initial feeling of liberation, therefore, the people found themselves lost in a new world where answers to such questions as "What should I live for? How should I treat others?" were all the more pressing, particularly given the increasing numbers of European visitors, many of them sailors prone to violence, alcoholism, and abusive attitudes toward natives. Kapu had equipped Hawaiians with none of the tools necessary for recognizing values or obtaining them. And its abolition left them more psychologically and philosophically disarmed than they had ever been.

In Politics, Aristotle argued that even "the persons, if such there be, as the poets say, that dwell in the Islands of the Blest" would need philosophy. Such people would especially need the virtues of "wisdom, temperance and justice, the more they are at leisure and have an abundance of such blessings," for without such virtues they would, "in times of peace and leisure" become "no better than slaves." (61) He could hardly have imagined how perfectly this would be proven thousands of years later, on the other side of the world. Even in their own blessed islands, the Hawaiians could not escape the need for answers and guiding principles for survival and flourishing--needs that all humans have.

Into Hawai'i's philosophical vacuum came the missionaries' new religion, which, with all of its flaws, offered some degree of hope.

Throughout the early 1820s, while teaching literacy and tending to the medical needs of the locals, missionaries pressured Ka'ahumanu to convert. They emphasized the political and social ills that they claimed embracing Christianity could help solve. Ka'ahumanu was exceptionally fond of children and was mortified by infanticide and the spread of venereal diseases. Reluctant as she and other rulers might have been to embrace Christianity, she was eager to find a means of addressing these problems; the prohibitions on promiscuity, alcoholism, and infanticide that the missionaries urged her to adopt seemed like the only options. Certainly, whalers and other Western visitors were more likely to obey a Christian monarch than one they looked upon as a primitive barbarian.

Still, Ka'ahumanu held out, even as missionaries began converting other ali'i, including those who had helped her overthrow kapu. In August 1823, Keopuolani fell ill and agreed on her deathbed to be baptized. A few months later, Kapi'olani also became a Christian and participated in a demonstration aimed at dissuading the lingering practice of kapu by the common people. Descending shoeless five hundred feet into the Halemau'uma'u crater of the Kilauea volcano (one of the sites of violent eruption in 2018), she tossed a handful of sacred 'ohelo berries into the pit--a blasphemy to the goddess Pele--to prove that no evil effects would follow. Learning of her boldness, the British poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a commemorative ode:
When from the terrors of Nature a people have fashioned and worship a
Spirit of Evil, Blest be the Voice of the Teacher who calls to them
"Set yourselves free!"
Noble the Saxon who hurl'd at his Idol a valorous weapon in olden
Great and greater, and greatest of women, island heroine, Kapi'olani
Clomb the mountain, and flung the berries, and dared the Goddess, and
freed the people
Of Hawai'i. (62)

In 1824, after a serious illness, Ka'ahumanu agreed to let the missionaries teach her to read, and Bingham began preaching to her in earnest. About a year later, she was baptized and took the name Elizabeth. As the missionaries had hoped, Ka'ahumanu's adoption of Christianity soon influenced how she ruled. Shortly after her conversion, she issued a proclamation forbidding Hawaiian women from going aboard the ships. Furious whalers exploded in violence. A mob burst into the home of a Maui preacher and threatened his family. A year later, the crew of a U.S. Navy vessel stormed a house in Honolulu and tried to murder Bingham. The year after that, another whaling ship fired its cannon at the Lahaina mission house. Ka'ahumanu's characteristic determination, however, was unabated. She convened a meeting of chiefs and invited the ship captains. "It was, doubtless, hoped on one part that every obstacle in the way of crime would now be removed, and everything like law or kapu be banished from the islands," wrote a missionary who attended. "But this was the very meeting at which was enacted the first laws that ever existed [in Hawai'i]." (63) Along with adultery, Ka'ahumanu outlawed infanticide, murder, and alcohol.

Although well-intended, these and other efforts by the now Christian ruler inevitably led to new kinds of oppression. Adultery was a concept so unfamiliar to ordinary Hawaiians that when missionaries first tried to translate the Seventh Commandment, the best they could manage was "thou shalt not sleep mischievously." (64) The new laws punished it severely: Violators were put to hard, sometimes deadly labor building roads through the islands' scorching desert landscapes, or were banished to a penal colony on Lana'i, where many committed suicide. In 1827, the crown banned Catholicism; even more shocking, it forbade the native hula dance in 1830 on the grounds that it was lascivious. (65) Although Ka'ahumanu's laws were, on the whole, beneficial--along with educational reforms and protections for the natives, she also established trial by jury (66)--her efforts at Christianizing the nation cast a permanent shadow over her achievement in abolishing kapu. Toward the end of her life, she became the instrument of precisely what she had feared when the missionaries first came: the reintroduction of a system of supernatural dogmas imposed by law. Yet unlike the rule of her predecessor, there is no reason to believe that she enacted dogmatic laws in order to gain more power.

And to some extent, the crisis into which the Hawaiians had descended since the abolition of kapu was inevitable. Human beings must have philosophy--particularly the identification of values and the means of obtaining them--to survive and flourish. When deprived of it, they tend to fall into terror, confusion, and even self-destruction--and to become, in Aristotle's phrase, no better than slaves. However flawed the missionaries' ideas were, Ka'ahumanu embraced them from a sincere effort to alleviate the people's suffering, lacking any apparent alternatives.

Those who knew her described a dramatic change of character that came over her at the time of her conversion. The haughtiness that once had marked her demeanor transformed into an outgoing concern for ordinary people. "Her interest in good works grew less political and more charitable," wrote one observer. (67) She began meeting with commoners, visiting them in their homes, advising them on their personal problems, and encouraging them to take up literacy and attend the new public schools. When word reached her that punishments for adultery and dancing were causing severe suffering, she found herself unable to reconcile her new Christian dogma with her previous individualism. Though despondent over the new forms of repression, she made few efforts to undo them. She did repeal laws that barred people from fishing in important areas of O'ahu and quarreled with local rulers who imposed draconian taxes. She pretended not to notice minor infractions, such as the rules against hula dancing--but others, including the ban on Catholicism, she punished severely. In the years to come, religiously motivated repression worsened in the islands. In 1835, an American voyager lamented the way "the severe tenets of Calvinism" had taken hold there: Swimming, surfing, even singing, were being suppressed, and the prohibition of alcohol had done little to prevent drunkenness among commoners who felt alienated by the strict and arbitrary commands of the missionaries. (68)

Ka'ahumanu died on June 5, 1832, clasping the first copy of the Bible translated into Hawaiian. In her life, she had witnessed her people's transition from a Stone Age culture--one with no written language, no metal or glass, no legal system, no knowledge of the world beyond its shores--to a literate, mechanical, internationally recognized nation. But she had not been a passive onlooker. Like the Eve of myth, she had taken charge of her fate, challenging the rule of the gods directly and overthrowing the priests' tyranny of superstition and terror. The years that followed proved, in some cases tragically, that mere revolution was not enough--that the Hawaiian people, like all people, needed the insights of philosophy to make their lives whole and meaningful--and in the growing crisis she had felt compelled to yield to the missionaries' new faith, one that brought with it a new set of oppressions. Yet that cannot obscure the bravery of her stand against kapu.

In his memoirs, Hiram Bingham described an incident that encapsulated the achievement and personality of this remarkable queen. In 1824, a prophetess traveled from the island of Hawai'i to Lahaina on Maui--then the kingdom's capital--on a mission of warning. She was possessed, she said, by Pele, goddess of volcanoes, who had fashioned the islands with her fire and stone and now took this mortal form to send a message. Enraged at the desecration of her holy sites and at the way the people had ceased sacrificing to the gods, Pele wanted the monarch to order the Americans to go home and put an end to the palapala. If they refused, the goddess would deluge the islands in an unquenchable fire of wrath. Preceded by two attendants holding kahili, the priestess marched forth--"with haughty step," wrote Bingham, her "countenance wild" and her "long black, disheveled hair" blowing in the wind. (69) She was wrapped from shoulders to ankles in a red and yellow feathered cape singed black at the bottom by exposure to the burning magma that flowed on Kilauea, and she held high a twelve-foot wooden spear. "Pele" demanded to be taken before Liholiho and Ka'ahumanu, and as she proceeded to the royal household, thousands of locals thronged to her side, to worship her or to witness the supernatural showdown that was sure to follow. (70)

But when she came before the king and Ka'ahumanu, they were unimpressed. "What are these things in your hands?" asked the king. "The spear and kahilis of Pele," she answered. "Lay them down," came the reply. When the priestess hesitated, the kuhina nui commanded her again: "Lay them down." This time, the woman obeyed. Summoning the formidable willpower that had served her so well in announcing the 'ai noa, Ka'ahumanu then spoke without fear. "Tell us not that you are Pele," she said.
You are a woman, like one of us.... Formerly we thought Pele a god, and
gave our hogs, dogs, and coconuts [as sacrifices]. Light is now shining
upon us, and we have forsaken our false gods. This now is your
business--go back to Hawai'i [island], plant potatoes... catch fish,
feed swine, and eat of your own earnings; but demand not of the people
this and that for Pele. Go to school and learn [the] palapala, and send
also [to school] your daughters. Books are our teachers.

When the priestess stood, staring silently forward a moment longer, Ka'ahumanu spoke more soothingly. "Now tell us without falsehood," she said, "have you not been lying to the people?"

At last, the bitterness left the other woman's eyes, and she replied in a human voice. "I have been lying," she confessed, "but [I] will lie no more." (71)

Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur holds the Duncan Chair in Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute. Special thanks to Jared Aronda for obtaining hard-to-find research material.


(1.) John Milton, Paradise Lost, book IX, lines 703-8. What Milton--a devout Christian--really thought of the serpent's argument remains a matter of debate.

(2.) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, in Walter Kauffman, ed. and trans., The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1968), 628.

(3.) Jennifer Michael Hecht, "History," Best American Poetry, September 17, 2009,

(4.) Only two book-length biographies of Ka'ahumanu exist: Jane L. Silverman, Kaahumanu: Molder of Change (Honolulu: Judiciary Center of Hawai'i, 1987), and Kathleen Dickenson Mellen, The Magnificent Matriarch (New York: Hastings House, 1952). Silverman's book is frustratingly brief. Mellen's is beautifully written, but it is based largely on oral tradition and at times is a questionable source. An excellent and admiring discussion of Ka'ahumanu's life and experiences is found in Susanna Moore, Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawai'i (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015). Ka'ahumanu also plays a crucial role in James Michener's classic novel Hawaii, where she appears as the character Malama. A fine brief history of Hawai'i--untainted by the relativism and other fashionable doctrines that are common in Hawaiian historiography--is James L. Haley, Captive Paradise: A History of Hawai'i (New York: St. Martin's, 2014). As Haley notes, "the reigning 'politically correct' paradigm of race, gender, and exploitation" is especially intense in Hawai'i, with the result that many histories downplay or disregard the oppressive and brutal nature of precontact Hawaiian society. See Haley, Captive Paradise, xiv-xv.

(5.) Not to be confused with the Hawaiian Queen Kapi'olani, who reigned from 1874 to 1891.

(6.) Valerio Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), chap. 4.

(7.) Quoted in Anne Salmond, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 408 (quoting Second Lieutenant James King).

(8.) David Malo, Hawaiian Antiquities, translated by N. B. Emerson (Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette, 1903), 88.

(9.) Timothy Sandefur, "Captain Cook: Explorer of the Enlightenment," The Objective Standard 13, no. 1 (Summer 2017).

(10.) Some scholars have argued that the Hawaiians did not think Cook was Lono, or that they simply believed him to be a powerful chief. But it's more likely that Hawaiians believed Lono's spirit could embody itself in many forms. Part of the makahiki ceremonies involved the god's annual departure for the spirit world--in preparation for his return at next year's celebration--and the Hawaiians would naturally imagine that to have taken place in Cook's demise. See Marshall Sahlins, Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004).

(11.) Hiram Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years in the Sandwich Islands (Hartford: Hezekiah Huntington, 1848), 54.

(12.) Moore, Paradise of the Pacific, 113-14. Hiram Bingham reported that after Kamehameha's death, Ka'ahumanu "and her party" were suspected of having murdered him. Bingham, A Residence, 72. There is no evidence of this, but the fact that she was suspected is another indication of the tensions that may have existed early on in the royal household.

(13.) Esther T. Mookini, "Keopuolani, Sacred Wife, Queen Mother, 1778-1823," Hawaiian Journal of History 32 (1998): 1-24.

(14.) Cummins E. Speakman Jr. and Rhoda E. A. Hackler, "Vancouver in Hawai'i," Hawaiian Journal of History 23 (1989): 55-56.

(15.) "Extract from the Diary of Ebenezer Townsend, Jr.," in Bruce Cartwright, ed., Hawaiian Historical Society Reprint 4 (Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, n.d.), 26-27.

(16.) Peter Corney, Voyages in the Northern Pacific (Honolulu: Thos. G. Thrum, 1896), 102.

(17.) Sahlins, Historical Metaphors, 63.

(18.) Jennifer Fish Kashay, "From Kapus to Christianity: The Disestablishment of the Hawaiian Religion and Chiefly Appropriation of Calvinist Christianity," Western Historical Quarterly 39 (Spring 2008): 22.

(19.) Moore, Paradise of the Pacific, 128.

(20.) Jeffrey Sissons, The Polynesian Iconoclasm (New York: Berghahn, 2014), 1.

(21.) William Ellis, Narrative of a Tour through Hawai'i (London: H. Fisher & Son, 2nd ed., 1827), 96; Stephenie Seto Levin, "The Overthrow of the Kapu System in Hawaii," Journal of the Polynesian Society 77, no. 4 (1968): 402-30; and Richard H. Harfst, "Cause or Condition: Explanations of the Hawaiian Cultural Revolution," Journal of the Polynesian Society 81, no. 4 (1972): 437-71, provide a good overview of theories about the cause of the overthrow. Of course, all revolutions have multiple causes.

(22.) Sissons, Polynesian Iconoclasm, 64.

(23.) Daniel Tyerman, George Bennet, Journal of Voyages and Travels vol. 2 (Boston: Cockner & Brewster, 1832), 62.

(24.) Archibald Campbell, A Voyage Around the World (New York: Broderick & Ritter, 1819), 134.

(25.) Silverman, Molder of Change, 94.

(26.) Bingham, A Residence, 78.

(27.) William Davenport, "The 'Hawaiian Cultural Revolution': Some Political and Economic Considerations," American Anthropologist 71, no. 1 (February 1969): 17.

(28.) Haley, Captive Paradise, 47.

(29.) Mookini, "Keopuolani," 13.

(30.) S. M. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, rev. ed. 1992), 220. Although Kamakau's account of this speech is the generally accepted one, the historian David Malo gives a different version: according to Malo, it was Keopuolani who announced that Ka'ahumanu would share Liholiho's authority. Malcolm Naea Chun, Kaka'olelo: Traditions of Oratory and Speech-Making (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 2006), 31.

(31.) W. D. Alexander, "Overthrow of the Ancient Tabu System in the Hawaiian Islands," Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Hawaiian Historical Society (Honolulu: Paradise of the Pacific Press, 1917), 40.

(32.) Ellis, Narrative of a Tour, 112.

(33.) Davenport, "The 'Hawaiian Cultural Revolution,'" 17.

(34.) David Kalakaua, Legends and Myths of Hawaii (New York: Charles Webster and Co., 1888), 436.

(35.) Kalakaua, Legends and Myths, 436.

(36.) Artemas Bishop, Letter to the Corresponding Secretary, Missionary Herald, August 1827, 247.

(37.) Ellis, Narrative of a Tour, 173.

(38.) Davenport, "The 'Hawaiian Cultural Revolution,'" 17.

(39.) Laura Fish Judd, Honolulu: Sketches of Life: Social, Political, and Religious, in the Hawaiian Islands (New York: Randolph & Co., 1880), 98.

(40.) Sahlins, Historical Metaphors, 64.

(41.) The End of the World is not hard to reach; it's on Ali'i Drive, just about five minutes south of the Sheraton Kona Resort.

(42.) Mellen, Magnificent Matriarch, 67. Mellen's wording here is a dramatization drawn from her oral history sources. But it is certain that a conversation to this effect did take place. Bingham wrote that "for many months," the kuhina nui was "scornfully averse" to the teaching of Christianity in the islands. Bingham, A Residence, 108.

(43.) Mellen, Magnificent Matriarch, 67.

(44.) Bingham, A Residence, 127.

(45.) Kashay, "Kapus to Christianity," 30.

(46.) Mellen, Magnificent Matriarch, 164.

(47.) Moore, Paradise of the Pacific, 231.

(48.) Haley, Captive Paradise, 71.

(49.) Seth Archer, Sharks upon the Land Colonialism, Indigenous Health, and Culture in Hawai'i, 1778-1855 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 195.

(50.) Archer, Sharks upon the Land Colonialism, 5.

(51.) Archer, Sharks upon the Land Colonialism, 168; Katherine Dinkenson Mellen, Hawaiian Heritage: A Brief Illustrated History (New York: Hastings House, 1963), 27

(52.) Archer, Sharks upon the Land, 167-68.

(53.) Archer, Sharks upon the Land, 170.

(54.) Rufus Anderson, The Hawaiian Islands: Their Progress and Condition under Missionary Labors (Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 3d ed., 1865), 44.

(55.) Yeonmi Park, In Order to Live (New York: Penguin, 2015), 216. In the 1990s, Carl Sagan noted in his classic The Demon-Haunted World (New York: Ballantine, 1995) that Russia and China were suffering from a rash of pseudoscience after the relaxing of communist controls in the 1990s. "It used to be easy. Authoritative science was what the authorities taught. The distinction between science and pseudoscience was made for you." Authoritarianism left the people vulnerable when "strictures on free thought were loosened." See Sagan, Demon-Haunted World, 21-22. See also Richard M. Ebeling, "Freedom and the Fear of Self-Responsibility," Foundation for Economic Education, August 8, 2017, I borrow the term "cultural value deprivation" from Ayn Rand, "Our Cultural Value Deprivation," in Leonard Peikoff, ed., The Voice of Reason (New York: Meridian, 1990), 100, who was describing a slightly different phenomenon.

(56.) Excerpts from an interview, New York Review of Books, October 26, 1978,

(57.) W. D. Westervelt, "The Legend Trees of Hawaii," Paradise of the Pacific, June 1905, 10.

(58.) The Hawaiian kingdom's cash crop was fragrant sandalwood, prized in Asia. The ship, dubbed by Westerners "Cleopatra's Barge," cost about one million pounds of sandalwood. The monarchy, which conscripted commoners to farm sandalwood, stripped large ancient Hawaiian forests to plant it--forever ruining parts of the landscape of Kauai and O'ahu in the process, and even destroying food crops to such an extent that it caused famine. See Archer, Sharks upon The Land, 171; Paul F. Johnston, Shipwrecked in Paradise: Cleopatra's Barge in Hawai'i (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2014).

(59.) "Cultural Revolution in Hawaii" (Institute of Pacific Relations, 1931), 31.

(60.) "Cultural Revolution in Hawaii" (Institute of Pacific Relations, 1931), 31.

(61.) Aristotle, "Politics," 1334a-b, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 1298-99.

(62.) "Kapiolani," The Works of Tennyson (New York: Macmillan, 1913), 864 (spelling modernized).

(63.) Quoted in Orramel Hinckley Gulick, The Pilgrims of Hawai'i (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1918), 114.

(64.) Letter from Mr. Andrews at Lahinaluna, December 2, 1836, Missionary Herald 32, 391.

(65.) The hula ban was largely disregarded until 1859, when the Hawaiian kingdom strictly outlawed the performance of hula without a government license. That was eliminated in the 1870s when King David Kalakaua and Princess Lili'uokalani began encouraging native arts. See Noenoe K. Silva, "He Kanawai E Ho'opau I Na Hula Kuolo Hawai'i: The Political Economy of Banning the Hula," Hawaiian Journal of History 34 (2000): 29-48.

(66.) Silverman, Molder of Change, 122.

(67.) Quoted in Moore, Paradise of the Pacific, 228.

(68.) W. S. W. Ruschenberger, A Voyage Round the World (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1838), 484.

(69.) Bingham, A Residence, 227.

(70.) John Eimeo Ellis, Life of William Ellis, Missionary to the South Seas and to Madagascar (London: John Murray, 1873), 101.

(71.) Bingham, A Residence, 226-27. Bingham reports that Kamakau challenged the priestess, but Silverman plausibly contends that it was actually Ka'ahumanu. Silverman, Molder of Change, 141.
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