Island History

Kamehameha Part II

While Kaumuali‘i agonized over his impending doom, Kamehameha, buoyed with confidence after surveying his splendid fleet and army, swore that he and his men would, “….Go and drink the water of Wailua, bathe in the water of Namolokama (a 4,382-foot tall mountain in the Hanalei District of Kaua‘i), eat the mullet that swim in Kawaimakua at Ha‘ena, wreathe ourselves with the moss (sea-lettuce) of Polihale, then return to O‘ahu and dwell there.”

But Kamehameha’s grand oath would never be realized. Disaster struck his army in the form of a foreign pestilence the Hawaiians called ‘oku‘u—likely typhoid or bubonic plague. Kamehameha’s army was overcome by sickness and death, which also spread throughout O‘ahu. Most died within 24 hours, their bodies turned black. Invasion was now hopelessly impossible.

On Kaua‘i, Kaumuali‘i was elated when he learned of the disease that destroyed Kamehameha’s army. For the second time, Kaua‘i had been spared invasion by the mighty Kamehameha.

Kamehameha now sought peaceful means to take over Kaua‘i. He proposed an alliance with Kaumuali‘i, whereby Kaumuali‘i would retain authority over Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, but under Kamehameha’s rule.

Emissaries were exchanged over a period of close to five years before Kaumuali‘i, dreading a third invasion, agreed to acknowledge Kamehameha’s lordship in person and consented to pay him tribute.

Accordingly, in March or April of 1810, an apprehensive Kaumuali’i sailed to meet Kamehameha in the sea of Mamala (Honolulu Harbor) aboard Captain Nathan Winship’s merchant ship. Awaiting Kaumuali‘i in the harbor was a fleet of Kamehameha’s canoes.

Kamehameha and his chiefs then went aboard Winship’s ship. All were dressed in colorful feathered robes, as were Kaumuali‘i and his chiefs.

The two kings, contrary to what the fearful Kaumuali’i may have expected, then met face-to-face and clasped hands in friendship.

They then went ashore where celebrations began, and several days later their agreement was sealed—Kaumuali‘i would carry on as the ruler of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, but he would accept Kamehameha as his sovereign and serve as a vassal king under Kamehameha, who would make no further attempts to conquer Kaua‘i.

After Kamehameha died in 1819, his son, Liholiho (Kamehameha II), took over as ruler of the Hawaiian Islands, with Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau alone among all the islands continuing to remain a separate kingdom.

On May 26, 1824, the day Kaumuali‘i died, Liholiho became the absolute ruler of all the Hawaiian Islands—including Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

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