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April 13, 1818 Rumor of pirates in Hawaii

James Hunnewell was a merchant from Boston, Massachusetts. He had sold his ship to one of the local chieftains in December 1817 — owning a collection of Western ships was the highest show of power and status among the Hawaiian native elite. Mr. Hunnewell lived in a grass house in an area set aside for the fur trade mariners and sandalwood merchants using the best port in the archipelago — with the king’s permission.¬†Those anchored in Honoruru (the Hawaiian language was not written, and Westerners wrote it as they heard it) learned that a “patriot” ship from a Spanish American colony had arrived 190 further south at Owyhee (Hawaii). Rumor was that they were offering to sell it to His Majesty, King Kamehameha whose headquarters were there.

Hunnewell had been a ship captain, so was in the habit of keeping a log and journal. There wasn’t a lot going on in paradise. From Hunnewell, we know about the weather and the coming and going of ships involved in active trade between the Pacific coast and Canton, China. The Hawaiian kingdom was about halfway across. The fragrant islands were a welcome sight when they appeared on the horizon just as supplies would be running¬† out. But two ships coming 5800 miles from the south was an utter novelty! What were they up to?

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