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Prince Jonah Kuhio and Global Education
March 27, 2013 - Ray Tsuchiyama
As we celebrate Prince Kuhio Day, we should recall that Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole Pi'ikoi was a well-educated, well-traveled member of the Hawaiian royalty class who came of age in his early twenties during the last years of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent nation (he was only 22 years old during the 1893 Overthrow of the Monarchy), became a rebel leader in the abortive counter-revolt*, and re-invented himself as a local politician in both Home Rule and Republican Parties.**
His entire life was a “What If . . . “, since from the time of his birth on the island of Kauai -- 1871 – the same year as Wallace Rider Farrington, the sixth Hawai’i Territorial Governor – but Prince Kuhio never became a King of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Living in a Kingdom that paid much attention to family ties, he was the grandson of King Kaumuali’i of Kauai and the cousin of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. He was named after his grandfather Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, a High Chief of Hilo, and his paternal grandfather Jonah Pi'ikoi, the High Chief of Kaua'i – so his name reflected an impressive lineage from the northwestern major island to the easternmost and largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Sadly, his father died in 1880, followed by his mother in 1884, so Kalaniana'ole was adopted by King David Kalakaua's wife, Queen Kapi'olani, who was his maternal aunt (which is not uncommon today, as an example of hanai custom) – which brought him even closer to the royal ruling circles.
By the time he reached his teens, he would be immersed in the most innovative and up-to-date educational programs of the period: the Royal School and Punahou School in Honolulu. He would have met King Kalakaua often at banquets and holidays, as well as becoming friends with the growing missionary-business families with New England roots. He was fluent in English as any American citizen, and knew about electrical lights (Iolani Palace had been lit up during Kalakaua’s reign), Latin, mathematics, and legal codes.
Then Prince Kuhio left Hawai’i for four years at Saint Matthew's School, a private Episcopal military school in San Mateo, California, and then took a long voyage to England, where he studied at the Royal Agricultural College in England before graduating from a business school in England – so he had an unique combination of military studies, agronomics and business, perfect for a future leader of the Hawaiian Kingdom who faced plotting internal and external forces, and an economy and financial system increasingly dominated by non-Hawai’i Kingdom citizens.
The young man, educated in Hawai’i, California and Great Britain, must have met a wide variety of people in his journeys, and in London he must have passed by stately Buckingham Palace where Queen Victoria lived: we can imagine that he thought about his friends and relatives having a noisy and fun luau back at Iolani Palace.
But Prince Kuhio was not the only young Hawaiian elite who received what we would call today a “global MBA”. In a 1988 article published in the Hawaiian Journal of History by Agnes Quigg entitled “Kalakaua's Hawaiian Studies Abroad Program”, she writes of a Hawai’i politician “Robert Ho'apili Baker, a staunch and loyal supporter of (King) Kalakaua, (who) introduced a proposal to educate Hawaiian youths abroad to the 1880 Legislature. At the close of the session, the Hawaiian government appropriated $15,000 in support of the education program. From 1880 to 1892, legislative appropriations for the education of Hawaiian youths abroad totaled $120,000, and of that sum $86,883 was actually expended.”
The program results were startling: “From 1880 to 1887, 18 young Hawaiians —17 men and one woman — attended schools in six countries where they studied engineering, law, foreign language, medicine, military science, engraving, sculpture, and music.” The end year 1887 reflects the “Bayonet Constitution”, the severe restrictions on the King’s power, and the beginning of the end of the Hawaiian Monarchy in five short years.
As part of this educational program, four young bright Hawaiian students -- Thomas Puali'i Cummins, David Kawananakoa, Henry Grube Marchant, and Thomas Spencer sailed across the Pacific to enter schools in the United States (several in this U.S. Mainland group would also study at the same San Mateo College like Prince Kuhio).
One would expect the Hawaiian Kingdom to send more to study in California or even Massachusetts – but the Kingdom leadership was far more “international” than what we in 2013 think – in fact, the King was thinking beyond than American education and cultural values (King Kalakaua himself was taught by and influenced by New England missionary teachers, but deeply suspected that his Kingdom and lands were targeted by the close-knit network of American business families within Hawai’i – plus he had traveled widely and knew first-hand of the Mainland United States, Europe, Japan, even Thailand; he sought counter-balancing political and social influences, other languages and cultures, not just learning about America and English).
Ultimately, from the lens of 2013 King Kalakaua would be a contemporary thinker, more 21st century than 19th as he would have viewed “global” educational programs, business, engineering, classical art and music, foreign language training, and internships in Shanghai or Paris a very normal part of educating leaders in Hawai’i – plus Hawaiian hula and music, ‘olelo Hawai’i.
So, it is not surprising that James Kaneholo Booth, Robert Napu'uako Boyd, August Hering, and Robert W. Wilcox attended schools in Italy (and of course were influenced by Italian opera, art and the Garibaldi political movement – and King Kalakaua even greeted them in Italy on the King’s world tour). The only Hawaiian woman – Maile Nowlein – in the global educational program would also go to Italy to study music and art. Three more young men went to cold, isolated Glasgow, Scotland, and another three were educated in England (one attended King’s College in London).
To balance West and East, King Kalakaua sent James Kapa'a to Canton (now Guangdong), in southern China (the King may have been influenced by a young Chinese scholar-whiz named Sun Yat-Sen, the revered Chinese revolutionary leader who as a boy received a certificate of achievement from King Kalakaua and would later travel often to Maui) – when China was still under Manchu rule. Imagine a young Hawaiian man studying the Cantonese language in a teeming port city, and passing British merchants riding in rickshaws.
The program's two youngest students – 10 and 11 – were sent to Tokyo, “where they were immersed in the Japanese culture”. According to Agnes Quigg’s essay, the two boys in Japan learned Japanese so well that an adviser recommended that one attend the Japanese Army Academy and the other to the Japanese Naval Academy, but before they could go, the Hawaiian Kingdom legislature abruptly terminated funding (both students later would use their Japanese language talents in Hawai’i government agencies).
Of the young Hawaiian students sent for studies abroad, perhaps the best-known is Maui-born Robert Wilcox who returned to Hawai’i after years in Italy – and he brought with him an Italian spouse just around the time of the 1887 “Bayonet Constitution”. Of course, the American businessmen who were busily taking power from the Hawaiian Kingdom did not give a warm welcome to a Hawaiian speaking fluent Italian.
Unable to “fit in” in a turbulent, fast-changing Hawai’i with an global education, Wilcox moved to San Francisco, but he returned to Hawai’i to lead a political movement to overturn the 1887 Constitution.
After the 1893 Overthrow, Wilcox led what historians call the 1895 “Counter-Revolt”, but it failed. Seven years later, still active in politics, Wilcox was elected to the U.S. Congress as Hawai’i’s first Delegate (representing the Home Rule Party).
Two years later Prince Jonah Kuhio as a Republican won the Delegate election, and Wilcox died a year later – a tragic model of King Kalakaua’s brave new experiment of well-educated, international leaders who could transform the island kingdom into a better society balanced between Eastern and Western cultures, languages, and influences.
As a final note, when Prince Kuhio was sworn into office in 1903, he had lived nearly half of his life outside Hawai'i.
*Prince Kuhio was found guilty inciting a rebellion against the new Provisional government and he served about a year in prison. After he was released, he and his new wife (he was barely 25 years old) departed on a long trip, part-exile -- and he reportedly went to South Africa and served with British forces fighting against the Boers.
**In Honolulu’s Kalihi-Palama District, there are three parallel streets named “Democrat”, “Republican” and “Home Rule” (whether anybody changed addresses to remain true to their political ideology has never been documented).
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