Bonin Islands and Hawaiians abroad, 1830 / 2014.


Historical Work Soon to Be Published Will Contain Letters From Honolulans

New and interesting facts concerning the conditions and history of the Hawaiian Islands during the first few decades of last century are promised in a history of the Bonin Islands which will be published in October by Constable London.

One feature is the tale of how the British consul in Honolulu in 1830 sent out a band of colonists to settle the Bonin Islands an attempt at colonizing the tiny archipelago for the British Empire which was destined to failure, for the islands now belong to Japan.

The book is by Rev. L. B. Cholmondeley, honorary chaplain of the British embassy at Tokio, who was for many years in charge of the mission at the Bonin group, and has since made frequent visits there.

In a letter to the Star-Bulletin, penned at Tokio on July 3, Rev. Mr. Cholmondeley says:

“I have been carefully collecting material for this history for many years, and all who know anthing of the extraordinary history of the early settlers on Bonin, before the islands were definitely taken over by the Japanese in 1875, have felt that it ought to be given to the world.

“The Sandwich Islands, as they were then called, figure so largely In the records. which contain some such remarkable letters to Nathaniel Savoy from his seafaring and storekeeping friends in Hawaii, that I cannot help thinking the volume will be of special interest to the people in Hawaii today.

Massachusetts Man Leader.

“The islands, which were then without inhabitants, were discovered by Captain Beachey, H. M. S. Blossom, in 1827. It was in the year 1830 when a little band of adventurers from Hawaii, of whom Nathaniel Savoy, originally from Bradford, Mass., was one, fitted out an expedition and sailed for the islands, where they established the first colony. Captain Charlton, then British consul at Honolulu, seems to have been directly responsible for the enterprise, and the first party of colonists went out under the British flag.

“England, however, never formally asserted her claims to the islands, and never took the little colony under her protection.”

Both at the public archives and at the Library of Hawaii, information is very scarce regarding the Bonin Islands. A standard encyclopedia however, refers to the islands as being located in the “North Pacific ocean, being 32 square miles in size, and having a population of 150 persons, all Japanese.”

Robert C Lydecker, librarian at the archives, believes that if any expeditions were sent out from these islands about 1830 or 1832 that the Hawaiian government had nothing to do with them. Expeditions to settle those islands may have been sent out by the British consul, in his opinion.

The fifteenth report of the Hawaiian Historical Society, the edition of 1907, publishes a letter written In 1832 to the British, government by T. Horton James, who had just completed a tour of the world. In the letter, the writer urges the government to send out colonists to settle in the Hawaiian and Bonin Islands. Unfortunately, that part of the letter referring to the Bonin islands is omitted in the report. From the tenor of the letter, however, it is evident that the writer paid a visit to the Bonin islands before arriving at Honolulu.

Letter From Charlton.

On file in the archives is a letter written August 11, 1830, by Captain Charlton, the first British consul to the Hawaiian Islands, reporting the return to Honolulu of the brig Karaimoku, better known as the Beckert.

Hawaiian history says that on December 4, 1829, an adventurer from Port Jackon arrived in Honolulu in the brig Beckert, reporting the discovery of an island in the South Pacific which abounded in sandalwood. The name of the islands was Ermango, in the New Hebrides. Boki, then a high chief, stole the royal bark Kamehameha and, in company with the Beckert sailed for the island. The boats touched at the- island of Rotuma and then sailed on to Ermango. The Beckert remained there for five weeks, and Boki and the Kamehameha sailed on south.

Owing to the hostility of the inhabitants, the Beckert was forced to leave Ermango sad return to Hawaii On the way home it stoped at Rotuma, where 20 sick sailors were left. The Beckert arrived in Honolulu August 3, 1830. There were only eight persons aboard. Nothing was ever heard of the Kamehameha or Boki.

This incident, together with Kalakaua’s project to annex Samoa are the only facts that could be learned today regarding any attempts to send out colonization parties from the Hawaiian Islands.

[The Hawaiian Historical Society is once again delving into this thought-provoking story. See more on an upcoming presentation and publication put on by the Society here!]

(Star-Bulletin, 7/17/1915, p. 14)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XXII, Number 7259, Page 14. July 17, 1915.

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