Thursday, March 22, 2012

How John Young and Isaac Davis Came to Hawai‘i

John Young (British) and Isaac Davis (Welch) became two of the closest advisors to Kamehameha I. Here is a very brief summary on how they got to Hawai‘i and to Kamehameha.

In 1789, Simon Metcalf (captaining the Eleanora) and his son Thomas Metcalf (captaining the Fair American) were traders; their plan was to meet and spend winter in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Eleanora arrived in the islands first; John Young was boatswain on the Eleanora. In Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi, Metcalf was greeted by local chief Kame’eiamoku.

Metcalf believed in strong and immediate punishment when his rules were broken. By most accounts he was snappish and harsh; because of some infraction, Metcalf had the chief flogged. Metcalf then sailed to the neighboring island of Maui to trade along the coast.

Kame‘eiamoku vowed revenge on whatever ship next came his way.

By coincidence, the Fair American was the next ship to visit the territory of chief Kame‘eiamoku, who was eager for revenge. Isaac Davis was a crew member of the Fair American.

On March 16, 1790, the Fair American was attacked by Kameʻeiamoku’s warriors at Puako, near Kawaihae, Hawaii.

The schooner was manned by only four sailors, plus its relatively inexperienced captain. It was easily captured by the Hawaiians.

Kame‘eiamoku appropriated the ship, its guns, ammunition and other valuable goods, as well as the only survivor, Isaac Davis. They turned the Fair American and Davis over to Kamehameha.

Unaware of the events and fate of the Fair American, the Eleanora returned from Maui and arrived at the Big Island; Captain Simon Metcalf sent John Young ashore to see the country.

That evening, as Young attempted to return to his ship, Kamehameha’s forces detained him (Kamehameha had placed a kapu on anyone going on the ship.)

Young was captured and Metcalf, unaware, was puzzled why Young did not return.

Metcalf waited two days for Young to return, firing guns in hope that the sound would guide Young back and sending a letter to foreigners ashore.

Finally, sensing danger or becoming frustrated, Metcalf departed and set sail for China (abandoning Young,) not knowing that his son had been killed not far away.

Kamehameha befriended Young and Davis, who became respected translators and his close and trusted advisors. Their skill in gunnery, as well as the cannon and other weapons from the Fair American, helped Kamehameha win many battles.

John Young and Isaac Davis were instrumental in Kamehameha's military ventures and his eventual conquest and unification of the Hawaiian Islands.

The image, reportedly the oldest surviving document from Hawai‘i in the Hawai‘i State Archives (222-years old, today) is the letter, dated March 22, 1790, written by Captain Simon Metcalf, addressed to four foreigners living there at the time (coincidently, one was also named John Young) - demanding the return of John Young and threatening revenge.

It reads, “As my Boatswain landed by your invitation if he is not returned to the Vessel consequences of an unpleasant nature must follow, (to distress a Vessel in these seas is an affair of no small magnitude) if your Word be the Law of Owhyhe (Hawai‘i) as you have repeatedly told me there can be no difficulty in doing me justice in this Business, otherwise I am possessed of sufficient powers to take ample revenge which it is your duty to make the head Chief (Kamehameha) acquainted with.”

1 comment:

  1. I am trying to find out if this John Young is one that spent time on Cape Cod MA - there are stories that he lied about who he was and skipped town and went to Hawaii and is the John Young who wound up there.