Hamilton College chapel, built in 1827 of local stone has a quill weathervane atop the cupola. This represents the college's commitment to teaching effective writing.
Hamilton College chapel, built in 1827 of local stone has a quill weathervane atop the cupola. This represents the college's commitment to teaching effective writing.

BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – 

This teenager’s bluntness conveyed so much:
“Attended church all day.
“Lot did not come.  He claimed he had a headache
         or something.”

With these words written in his 1850 journal, 15-year-old Prince Liholiho cues us as to why he and brother Lot may have wished for an alternative to dreary Calvinism they found replicated in Clinton, N.Y. the area from where about 25% of Hawaii’s missionaries originated.

Kamehameha II allowed a boatload of Calvinist missionaries in for a year in 1820.  They wouldn’t go home, more arrived, their Hawaii Sunday services seemed as endless as those in Clinton, N.Y.

Alexander Liholiho and his 18 year-old brother Lot Kamehameha were traveling through France, England and the United States, accompanied by Dr. Gerit P. Judd.   This journey was an important part of their education.  They’d visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France and the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and were feted wherever they went.

”]They traveled the Erie Canal that flowed from the Great Lakes throughout New York State and into the New York City harbor.

They were on barges, rode on horseback, and were stage-coach passengers.  In Upstate New York Liholiho observed,  “We met a caravan of wild beasts – elephant, dromedaries, camels traveling for exhibits.  “Sometimes we rode atop the stage coach to get away from the odor of tobacco chewers within.”

The princes spent several days in Clinton, New York at the home of Dr. Hastings, an uncle of Mr. Judd.

Liholiho wrote: “We got along very well with a number of their boarders from Hamilton College which is just up the hill.”

These descendants of Kamehameha the Great toured the campus and visited classes. They may have found some correlation with Lahainaluna, founded on Maui in 1831.  It was the oldest secondary school west of the Rocky Mountains, the fine writer David Malo was one of its eminent Hawaiian scholars. Hawaiians were then known to be the most literate persons in the world, thanks to zealous missionary instructors, and the printing press from Upstate N.Y.

"Lot," King Kamehameha V

Judd was awarded an honorary M.A. degree from Hamilton.

In Europe, Prince Liholiho found a pleasing alternative to lengthy Calvinistic (Congregational and Presbyterian) services in Clinton and Hawaii.

The Church of England‚s services, structured around “The Book of Common Prayer,” were over in not much more than an hour – even with the grandeur of processions and glorious choral music.

They saw Christian mysticism reawakening. The Puritan mania for barren interiors and lack of ritual and symbolism that had spread throughout England and Europe and was brought to Hawaii by Calvinists was waning.  The inner meaning of the liturgy was being made known again to all people. The young Hawaiian Princes responded to this.

I’ve heard folks at Honolulu’s St. Andrews Cathedral in Honolulu state “The Church of England was invited by King Kamehameha IV to come to Hawaii – unlike Calvinists (Congregationalist/Presbyterians) who arrived without being invited.”  King Liholiho extended the invitation and Catholics also began arriving. You didn’t have to go to church all day Sunday in Episcopal churches back then.

I’m heading to Clinton for Hamilton College’s 200th Anniversary Celebration.   In my book “Thy Boys, Hamilton College Stories” (2007 – Amazon.com), I describe how the college was started in 1793 as Hamilton-Kirkland Academy for Indian and white boys by Samuel Kirkland, a Presbyterian minister.  He was Alexander Hamilton’s pal.  It emerged 200 years ago as Hamilton College and that’s what we will be celebrating. I am the first person of Hawaiian ancestry to attend.

About 25% of Hawaii‚s missionaries came from the college and its vicinity.  A Hamilton-Kirkland Academy alumnus initiated “The Second Great Awakening bringing  my ancestors and other missionaries here.  Mormonism began nearby – that’s described in “Thy Boys” along with information about Hamilton College alumni and family who were linked to the evolution of many astounding major American developments – including the Civil War and Women’s Rights.

Chapel was compulsory for us, and we read “The Bible” in freshman English class as “literature.”  That’s what provided the perspective on writing I express here:

Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John were the Christian era’s first journalists.

Virtues are reflected in symbols attributed to them: Ox, Lion, Eagle, Man.

I like to think that those who are dedicated to inform are granted some measure of these virtues:

  • Patience of the Ox,
  • Courage of the Lion to express our convictions,
  • Eye of the Eagle to soar above human defects and see truth,
  • And the warmth and humanity of Mankind.

Liholiho answered missionary descendants‚ hostility to the Episcopal church and its wonderful panoply by saying: “I wonder if they (missionaries) really are in earnest in objecting to peoples getting to heaven in any way they please?”

Am about to trace the footsteps of two Hawaii princes on a 200-year old campus and wanted to share these slices of life.

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