Contending maritime powers in the nineteenth century—principally England, France, and the United States—recognized the Islands’ strategic importance. By the early 1840s, intrigues by British residents led Rear Admiral Richard Thomas, commander of the British Squadron in the Pacific, to send Lord George Paulet to Honolulu to protect British interests. Paulet, captain of the Carysfort, arrived on February 10, 1843, to issue a series of ultimatums. It did no good for Kamehameha III to explain that he had sent emissaries to Europe to resolve all disputes. The king was forced to yield to the frigate’s guns. On February 15, Paulet ordered the Hawaiian flag lowered and the British flag raised. The occupation lasted five months.
Great Britain had already recognized Hawai‘i’s independence, and France had promised to do likewise. The provisional cession to Paulet was received with consternation in foreign capitals. Protests mounted in the Islands, too. Admiral Thomas himself arrived in Honolulu on the frigate Dublin on July 26 to assure the king of the English government’s good faith. Great Britain declared Paulet’s act to be unauthorized, and on July 31, the Hawaiian flag was again raised. During Thanksgiving services held at Kawaiaha‘o Church, Kamehameha III expressed what would become Hawai‘i’s motto: “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono”—The life of the land is preserved in righteousness. The whole community rejoiced. Thomas Square near downtown Honolulu was later dedicated to Admiral Thomas.
By Helen G. Chapin