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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.

Prince Kuhio was only 22 years old during the 1893 Overthrow of the Monarchy, and then became a rebel leader in the abortive counter-revolt*, and re-invented himself as a local politician in both Home Rule and Republican Parties in the early 20th century -- a fascinating biography.

His entire life was a “What If . . . “, since from the time of his birth as a Royal Family member on the island of Kauai in 1871.

Disappointingly, although he was educated and trained to become the leader of the Kingdom, Prince Kuhio never became King.

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 Hawaiian island to the easternmost and largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Sadly, Prince Kuhio's 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 even 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 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 electric lighting (Iolani Palace had been lit up during Kalakaua’s reign, before the White House), 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 agri-business economy based more and more on large sugar plantations and a banking/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 an illuminating 1988 essay 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 coercive “Bayonet Constitution”, which placed 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 Boston, Massachusetts – but the Kingdom leadership was far more “international” than what we in 2013 think – the King was thinking beyond than American education and cultural values (King Kalakaua himself was taught 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 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 or Hawaiian language.

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 nationalist political movement – and King Kalakaua even greeted them in Italy on the King’s world tour).

The only Hawaiian woman – Maile Nowlein – in the Kingdom's global educational program would also travel 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 when China was still under Manchu Dynastic rule. The King may have been influenced by a young Chinese scholar-whiz named Sun Yat-Sen, an Iolani School student who gratefully received a certificate of achievement in English from King Kalakaua and would later travel often to Maui as a disguised revolutionary leader and later become the first President of the Republic of China.

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 Hawaiian 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 many 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 man speaking fluent Italian with European military and engineering background.

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 society balanced between Eastern and Western cultures, languages, and influences, utilizing science and technology (what we now call "STEM") from the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

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 led by second-generation New England sugar planters and businessmen; he served a depressing year dressed in a humiliating striped prison uniform in a Honolulu prison.

After he was released, he and his new wife (he was still only 25 years old) departed on a long trip, part-exile, away from what he probably saw as an "occupied" former Kingdom. He reportedly went to South Africa and served with British forces fighting against the Boers, and also traveled to England to meet friends and attend Anglican services, reminding himself of happier times at St. Andrew's Cathedral in downtown Honolulu.

**In Honolulu’s Kalihi-Palama District, my childhood home, 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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