The kidnapping of King Kaumualii

On July 21, 1821, King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) set sail from Oahu with his entourage to pay a surprise visit to King Kaumualii of Kauai.

And, when he arrived at Waimea, he assured Kaumualii that he would continue to uphold the agreement his father, King Kamehameha I, had made with Kaumualii in 1810 – that Kaumualii would rule Kauai and Niihau, yet within the realm of Kamehameha.

Shortly thereafter, Liholiho and Kaumualii began a tour of Kauai with a number of their chiefs, and on Sept. 16, the two kings spent the day sailing, each on his own yacht.

That evening, with their yachts anchored off Waimea, Kaumualii accepted Liholiho’s offer to come aboard Liholiho’s yacht, the “Pride of Hawaii.”

Later that night at around 9 p.m., with Kaumualii aboard and without his consent, the “Pride of Hawaii’s” anchors were raised and its sails were set for Oahu.

It was by this act of treachery that Liholiho kidnapped Kaumualii, and in doing so had shown that his words of assurance to Kaumualii had been false.

There’s little doubt that Liholiho’s regent, the strong-willed Kaahumanu, had put him up to it before he’d sailed to Kauai, but their motivation is open to debate.

Perhaps, Kaahumanu and Liholiho feared that Kaumualii would attempt to capitalize on his newfound friendship with the recently arrived American missionaries on Kauai to form an alliance with the United States that could conceivably supplant their power.

That Kaumualii was capable of engineering such a treasonous arrangement was beyond doubt, for he’d committed treason once before in the eyes of the Kamehamehas, when he’d plotted with German adventurer Georg Anton Schaffer in a failed effort to obtain Russian arms to remove Kamehameha I’s suzerainty over him by force.

What is certain is that not long after Kaumualii’s arrival in Honolulu — where he became a virtual prisoner of state — Kaahumanu married him.

When Kaumualii died about three years later in May of 1824, Kauai’s status as a separate kingdom — which only had legitimacy so long as he lived — passed away with him.

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