Hawaii 1849
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USA - Hawaii 1849

Folded letter datelined Honolulu nov. 14 th 1849 to Wilbraham, Mass., carried by the merchant ship Montreal to the United States, where it entered the mails with blue "New Bedford, Ms./Apr 5" datestamps and matching "SHIP" handstamp, with ms. "7" due after a long voyage of 143 days via Cape Horn, fresh and very fine.

In his letter, Lowell Smith, who had been sent to the Sandwich Islands by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, writes on the comings and goings of the missionaries. That many will be returning the the U.S. on the merchant ship Montreal which is now loading and that: "A year ago this nation was visited with the measles & whooping cough, which proved to be a most distressing and fatal epidemic. It swept of I presume a least ten thousand of the poor natives, embracing nearly all the infants & young children." In closing he writes "In August the French came on shore here & took possession of the fort, spiked all the guns on the fort, broke open the magazine & destroyed all the muskets & powder. Smashed in the doors & windows of the Gov´s house. Took the Kings Yacht (Kamehameha) worth $10,000 & cleared out. And Dr. Judd & two young chiefs have gone to the U.S. & England, & France to get redress...The mail will be left at New Bedford."

This intrusion was the last by the French to force recognition of Catholicism and to lower tariff rates on French wines and trade in general with the French government. Up to 1839 Catholic missionaries had been ordered out of the islands by the Regent Kaahumanu and a majority of the chiefs. The King´s yacht was never returned.

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WIKIPEDIA: On August 12, 1849, French admiral Louis Tromelin arrived in Honolulu Harbor on the corvette Gassendi with the frigate La Poursuivante. De Tromelin on his stay in Honolulu found out the pasted persecution of Catholics and high tariffs on French brandy from French Consult William Patrice Dillon sent to Hawaii to oversee French interests. De Tromelin angered by these issues of the ABCFM missionaries’ intentions to shut out Catholicism and French trade, he made ten demands to King Kamehameha III on August 22:

The complete and loyal adoption of the treaty of March 26th 1846.
The reduction of the duty on French brandy to fifty per cent ad valorem.
The subjection of Catholic schools to the direction of the chief of the French Mission and to special inspectors not Protestants and a treatment rigorously equal granted to the two worships and to their schools.
The use of the French language in all business intercourse between French citizens and the Hawaiian Government.
The withdrawal of the alleged exception by which French whalers which imported wine and spirits were affected and the abrogation of a regulation which obliged vessels laden with liquors to pay the custom house officers placed on board to superintend their loading and unloading.
The return of all duties collected by virtue of the regulation the withdrawal of which was demanded by the fifth article.
The return of a fine of twenty five dollars paid by the whale ship General Teste besides an indemnity of sixty dollars for the time that she was detained in port.
The punishment of certain school boys whose impious conduct in church had occasioned complaint.
The removal of the governor of Hawaii for allowing the domicile of a priest to be violated by police officers who entered it to make an arrest or the order that the governor make reparation to that missionary.
The payment to a French hotel keeper of the damages committed in his house by sailors from HBM s ship Amphitrite.

Sacking of Honolulu:

On August 25 the demands had not been met. After a second warning to the civilians of the impending invasion, 140 French Marines, two field pieces, and scaling ladders were landed by boat. The marines overwhelmed and captured Honolulu Fort from the two men at the fort, Governor of Oahu Mataio Kekuanaoa and Marshal of the Kingdom Warren Goodale, who did not resist, the fort had being evacuated before the French landed. The marines spiked the coastal guns, threw kegs of powder into the harbor and destroyed all the other weapons they found (mainly muskets and ammunition). They raided government buildings and general property in Honolulu, causing $100,000 in damages. They also took the king´s yacht, Kamehameha III, which was sailed to Tahiti and never returned. After these raids, the invasion force withdrew to the fort. During the occupation, men in Honolulu ridiculed the French, and on August 30 they organized a mock attack party making the marines double their guard and send skirmishing patrols out late into night, encountering no attackers. De Tromelin eventually recalled his men and left Hawaii on September 5.


Gerrit P. Judd lead a party to inquire and settle the incident leaving for Paris on September 11. Along the way Judd requested support from the United States and Great Britain, the latter accepting for his case against Tromelin. At first the French government condemned the attack on Honolulu but with the account of Tromelin and Dillon who left with Tromelin on September 5, the French government reconsidered the incident as more justified and did not make reparation for the damages.