Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hawaii: The Flag of Negotiation

On August 20, 1950, Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union...

You might expect a modern, tropical paradise like Hawaii to choose a flag the color of the ocean, or to include a volcano or two. After all, Hawaii is home to the world's largest and most active volcano. You might think the flag would include pineapples or coffee beans – the foods or flora the 8 islands are famous for.

You would be completely wrong. 

To look at the Hawaiian flag is to look at centuries of negotiation and alliance with two countries: England and the United States.
King Ka-meha-meha I (rootsweb)

Originally, each of the 8 islands that make up the state of Hawaii – the most isolated occupied land mass on the planet – had a different king. King Ka-meha-meha I, however, is the king that united the Hawaiian islands. 

It also was during Ka-me-ha-me-ha's reign, that Hawaii sought England's protection. Discovered by Captain Cook by accident in 1788 (Cook was looking for the northern coast of California), Hawaii was familiar with English ships and English trade. 

On Feb. 21, 1794, Hawaii officially became a protectorate of England.

Just 4 days after the agreement was signed, the Union Jack was raised over the Hawaiian islands for the very first time. In a funny way, it still waves, reminding one and all that Hawaii, as well as the entire United States, was once a part of England.  

King James' flag, probably what Hawaii flew, c. 1794

According to some sources, this first Union Jack to fly over Hawaii was the version flown by King James from 1603-1625.


The British "Union Jack"

The sea flag of czarist Russia

The King James' flag would have been replaced by the now-familiar, second Union Jack in 1801.

While Hawaii and King Ka-meha-meha were flying the English flag, over on Kauai, they were flying the Russian flag! 

This remained a small bone of contention between the two islands but Kauai would continue to fly the Russian flag for quite some time, even as King Ka-meha-meha conquered the other islands and brought the Union Jack with him.
 Legend has it that years later, during the War of 1812, an American visitor and friend of the king encouraged him to fly his own flag. The thinking was that a sovereign flag may be thought to be less provocative to fly during war than flying England's Union Jack.

Whether this is true or not, it certainly makes sense and corresponds with King Ka-meha-meha's timing for the design of his flag, a forerunner of the current flag for the state of Hawaii

The Hawaii state flag

The new Hawaiian flag was a clever mixing of the English flag and the Star-Spangled Banner, a hybrid to the current flag for the state of Hawaii . It included a small Union Jack in the design as well as several red, white and blue stripes.  While the stripes are the colors of the Unites States' flag, the number of stripes is said to represent each of the Hawaiian islands. When the new flag was flown, it flew everywhere – including Kauai where it replaced the Russian flag.
King Kamehameha III (rootsweb)
In 1843, a sea-faring English lord seized the Hawaiian islands from King Ka-meha-meha III. For four months, Lord Paulet taxed the people, impressed them into military service, and ruled, seemingly with impunity. King Ka meha-meha III, however, sent word to England, asking for help.

That June, an American ship sailed into port and King Ka meha-meha III wasted no time before appealing to the Americans. The Americans responded favorably by recognizing the legitimate government of Hawaii and not Paulet's pretend kingdom. In point of fact, the Americans responded by raising a hastily made version of the Hawaiian flag as all others had been burnt by Paulet.

A model of Captain Cook's Endeavor

Just days later, another ship sailed into harbor, this one under order from the English king to restore Hawaii's independence. Paulet's usurpation was over. 

A celebration was organized on July 31, 1843. A proclamation was read declaring Hawaii's restored status as an independent nation under the protectorate of England. King Ka meha-meha gave a speech. There were parades. The Hawaiian anthem was sung. It was, by all reports, a glorious day.

From King Ka meha-meha's speech that day, a statement was taken and was adopted as the state motto. Translated into English, it says:

"The perpetuation of the life of the land 
depends upon righteousness."

In the years between 1849-1851, the French discovered Hawaii and created enough difficulty that Hawaii thought it more practical to be placed under the protection of the much closer United States. A new contract was negotiated.

Queen Lilio'okalani (rootsweb)
In 1893, as the century was rapidly closing, the queen of the Hawaiian islands attempted a coup. It lasted all of three days, ending on January 17 when the United States Navy landed and restored order.  The local Committee for Safety issued a proclamation that nullified the kingdom, authorized a temporary government,  and placed the islands under "the control and management" of the United States.

This arrangement lasted an entire two months before an independent Hawaii was restored.

Then in 1898, President McKinley illegally annexed Hawaii for the United States (the Newland Resolution). This was remedied in 1900 with Hawaii becoming an official Territory of the United States and, in 1901, forming its first congressional delegation.

Finally, in 1959, after a popular referendum in which over 90% of the vote supported Hawaii becoming the 50th state, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the act that brought Hawaii its statehood.

Ho'omaika'i 'ana, Hawa'ii! (Congratulations, Hawaii!)

Let if fly!

To find find out how to fly the flag and other flag etiquette, see USFlagstore's  Flag Etiquette 101 and USFlagstore's How to Fly the Flag at Half-Staff.


  1. SIck listening to you Americans talking about England when you mean Britain. UNION FLAG so called showing the UNION between England and Scotland to make Britain. Half wits.

  2. Hawaiʻi is not now and never has been part of the United States, but is under an illegal and prolonged occupation!

    The Hawaiian flag previous to 1845 differed only in the amount of stripes, which was formerly "seven", and also the arranging of the colors. Previous to 1845 the white stripe was at the bottom instead of the present position of at the top. The person accredited with the designing of the new flag, which was unfurled before the 1845 Legislative Assembly, was Captain Hunt of H.B.M.S. (Her British Majesty's Ship) Baselisk. The Union Jack represented the friendly relationship between England and Hawai'i, and also noting that it was England and France that formally recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as an Independent State and admitted her into the Family of Nations on November 28, 1843.

    In 1794, after voluntarily ceding the island Kingdom of Hawai‘i to Great Britain and joining the British Empire, Kamehameha and his chiefs considered themselves British subjects and recognized King George III as emperor. The cession to Great Britain did not radically change traditional governance, but principles of English governance and titles were instituted such as Prime Minister and Governors. The British colors was given to Kamehameha by Vancouver and flown over the island Kingdom of Hawai‘i.

    In 1816, Kamehameha adopted a national flag design very similar to the British East India Company with the Union Jack in the canton.

    The Hawaiian flag replaced the thirteen red and white stripes which appeared to vary between seven and nine alternating colored stripes of white, blue and red. Historical records give conflicting number of stripes.

    The Hawaiian flag was not flown over the island Kingdom of Kaua‘i because it was a vassal kingdom under Kamehameha through voluntary cession by its King Kaumuali‘i in 1810. Kaumuali‘i was the son of Ka‘eo and succeeded his father after he died in a great battle against the Kingdom of Maui on the plains of Honolulu on the island of O‘ahu in December 1794. This vassalage came to an end on August 8, 1824, after the Kaua‘i chiefs unsuccessfully rebelled under Humehume, son of Kaumuali‘i, King of Kaua‘i. Humehume was removed to O‘ahu under the watch of Kalanimoku, and all of the Kaua‘i chiefs were dispersed throughout the other islands and their lands replaced with Hawai‘i island chiefs.

    On November 28, 1843, the Hawaiian Kingdom was formally separated from the British Empire when Great Britain recognized Hawaiian Independence, and two years later on May 25, 1845 a revised national flag was unfurled at the opening of the Hawaiian legislature. The Hawaiian flag previous to 1845 differed only in the amount of stripes and also the arranging of the colors.

    The British occupation occurred when a British Naval ship, HBMS Carysfort, under the command of Lord Paulet, seized control of the Hawaiian government on February 25, 1843, after threatening to level Honolulu with cannon fire.  Basing his actions on complaints made to him in letters from the British Consul, Richard Charlton, who was absent from the kingdom at the time.
    After a meeting with Kamehameha III, Admiral Richard Thomas determined that Charlton’s complaints did not warrant a British takeover and ordered the restoration of the Hawaiian government, which took place in a grand ceremony on July 31, 1843.
    Queen Victoria recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign State on November 28, 1843 after Lord Paulet’s seizure from February to July 1843. 

    National motto - Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono (the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness).

    1849 - United States of America—1849 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation.

    1. On January 14, 1893, the Queen proclaimed her intent to reinstate the lawful constitution in response to calls by the people and political organizations, in particular the Hui Kalai‘aina (Hawaiian Political Association).
      In reaction, Lorrin Thurston organized a small group of insurgents into a Committee of Safety to plan for the ultimate takeover of the government and to secure annexation to the United States. The so-called Committee of Safety sought support from U.S. Minister John L. Stevens on January 16, 1893 to order the landing of U.S. troops to protect the insurgents while they prepared for the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States by a voluntary treaty of cession.

      The Republic of Hawai‘i, who the United States Congress in its Apology resolution in 1993 called “self-declared,” was comprised of insurgents that committed the high crime of treason. After completing a presidential investigation into the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government by United States forces, President Cleveland secured an executive agreement with Queen Lili‘uokalani to grant amnesty after the Hawaiian Kingdom government was restored under the 1893 Agreement of restoration.

      The Presidential investigation a.k.a The Blount report concluded that the United States diplomat and troops were directly responsible for the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government with the ultimate goal of transferring the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. Blount reported that, “in pursuance of a prearranged plan, the Government thus established hastened off commissioners to Washington to make a treaty for the purpose of annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States.” The report also detailed United States government actions that violated international laws as well as Hawaiian territorial sovereignty.

      1898 Newland Resolution - A Joint resolution is merely a law, an act of Congress. It does not have any power to acquire the territory of a foreign, sovereign state.
      1959 Statehood vote - As for the vote for statehood, more importantly who orchestrated the vote called the U.S. congress.
      The U.S. congress is limited to U.S. territory, meaning it does not matter who voted.  And anything that was voted upon is still limited to U.S. territory.