Island History

John E. Bush

In 1877, King David Kalakaua appointed John E. Bush (1843-1906) as governor of Kaua‘i, an office he would occupy through 1880.

While Bush was governor, his family lived at Koloa, but Bush lived in Kapa‘a to be near Kealia, where he planted sugar cane part-time on shares for Makee Sugar Co. 

But Bush’s principal duty as governor was to provide Kalakaua, Queen Kapiolani, and their retinues with food, lodgings, entertainment and transportation whenever they visited Kaua‘i. At Koloa, the governor would, without fail, obtain provisions of poi, sugar, bullocks, pigs, turkeys and chickens from Koloa Plantation manager John N. Wright.  Likewise, Mrs. Wright supplied such items as butter, eggs, preserves, fruit and vegetables.

Bush later became a participant in Kalakaua’s abortive attempt at Pacific empire building when Kalakaua dispatched him to Samoa in Dec. 1886 to negotiate a treaty of confederation with Samoa.

In Samoa, Bush met chief Malietoa, one of two chiefs claiming title to king of Samoa, and on Feb. 17, 1887, Bush persuaded him to sign an agreement binding Hawai‘i and Samoa in confederation.

Germany, which backed Malietoa’s rival, Tamasese, and desired to annex all of Samoa, was initially annoyed by Hawaiian intervention in Samoa, and eventually threatened war unless Kalakaua withdrew.

By November, when Bush returned to Hawai‘i, the Germans had sent four warships to Samoa, deposed and exiled Malietoa, and had recognized Tamasese as king. 

Bush held several ministerships during Kalakaua’s reign. As a Native Hawaiian, Bush supported Queen Liliuokalani on occasion. Yet, as Liberal Party editor of  “Ka Leo o Ka Lahui” newspaper, he usually did not.

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