Sovereignty Restoration Day

Sovereignty Restoration Day
Official name Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea
Also called Hawaiian Restoration Day
Observed by Hawaii
Significance Restoration of the sovereignty of Kingdom of Hawaii following British occupation during the Paulet Affair (1843)
Date July 31
Next time July 31, 2019 (2019-07-31)
Frequency annual
First time 1843
Related to Hawaiian Independence Day

Hawaiian Sovereignty Restoration Day (Hawaiian: Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea) is a former national holiday celebrated on July 31 in the U.S. state of Hawaii, which commemorates the restoration of sovereignty to the former Kingdom of Hawaiʻi following the occupation of Hawaiʻi by Great Britain during the 1843 Paulet Affair. It is still celebrated today by proponents of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement as a day of resistance against what sovereignty advocates consider an ongoing American occupation of Hawaiʻi.


On February 10, 1843, Captain Lord George Paulet, of HMS Carysfort landed in Honolulu in response to the complaints by the British Consul in Honolulu Richard Charlton, who had an underlying land dispute with the Hawaiian government, and claimed British subjects were being denied their legal rights. Paulet, without the authorization of his superiors, unilaterally occupied the kingdom in the name of Queen Victoria on February 25 despite the protests of Hawaiian King Kamehameha III and his ministers. The Hawaiian king ceded his sovereignty under protest to the British government. Paulet placed himself and a committee in charge, restricted trade in the ports, destroyed all Hawaiian flags that could be found, and raised the British Union Jack in their place.[1][2]

After a five-month occupation, Rear-Admiral Richard Darton Thomas, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Station, sailed into Honolulu on his flagship HMS Dublin on July 26, 1843, and requested an interview with the king. Kamehameha III was more than happy to tell his side of the story, and a new treaty was negotiated with the British giving British subjects on the islands "perfect equality with the most favored foreigners".[3]

On July 31, 1843, Thomas raised the Hawaiian flag in place of the Union Jack at the plains east of Honolulu (now part of downtown Honolulu), formally ending the occupation, and gave a speech affirming the independence and sovereignty of the Hawaiian kingdom and the friendship of the British government.[3]

The site of the ceremony was later made into a park in honor of the event and named Thomas Square.[4]

Official observation

Following the restoration of sovereignty at Thomas Square, King Kamehameha III held an afternoon thanksgiving service at Kawaiahaʻo Church where he uttered the phrase: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono ("The life of the land is preserved in the righteousness of the people"). This phrase was adopted in 1959 as the motto of the state of Hawaii.[5][3] The king declared a ten-day holiday and the entire community including foreigners and native Hawaiians rejoiced in festivities with a lavish luau of suckling pig, fish and poi. The event was later made into an annual holiday and was observed by his successor King Kamehameha IV (1855–1864).[6][7] During the fourth anniversary of the restoration in 1847, King Kamehameha III and his wife Queen Kalama hosted a grand luau at their summer palace, Kaniakapupu, attended by an estimated ten thousand guests.[8][9]

During the latter part of the reign of King Kamehameha V (1864–1872) the celebration was deemed inappropriate by the king and his ministers since it brought back unpleasant memories of the British occupation by Paulet, and the official holiday was discontinued. The holiday was still being officially sanctioned in 1865, but had ceased to be officially observed by 1870.[10][11] There are also later assertions that the holiday was dropped "to suit the delicate feelings of a few Englishmen who did not like the memory of these events revived".[12] However, the anniversary was still remembered by people in private.[6][13] In 1872, the king replaced the holiday with Kamehameha Day (on June 11) to honor his grandfather Kamehameha I who had conquered and united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. This remains the only holiday from the time of the Hawaiian monarchy that remains an official holiday of the state of Hawaii.[14][15]

The 1890 session of the Hawaiian legislature briefly restored the date as a national holiday effective July 31, 1891, during the reign of Queen Liliuokalani.[16] In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and the queen yielded her authority to the United States government under protest. The Provisional Government of Hawaii, which was established as an interim regime while a treaty of annexation was being pushed through the United States Congress, abolished the holiday. Private observance of the fiftieth anniversary on July 31, 1893, was watched by the oligarchical government with an air of suspicion, while royalists and supporters of the deposed queen hoped in vain for another restoration to occur.[17] After 1893, the holiday continued to be observed privately by loyalists of the monarchy as a form of opposition and resistance.[18][19][20] By the time the Territory of Hawaii was organized in 1898 the holiday had become a historical footnote.[21][22]

Modern-day observation

The tradition of this celebration was revived in 1985 by Hawaiian sovereignty movement activist Kekuni Blaisdell during the Hawaiian Renaissance.[21] Today, the holiday is upheld by proponents of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement who compare the British occupation of 1843 to what they believe is the ongoing modern American occupation of the islands and believe the United States government should "follow the example of the British to restore the Hawaiian nation".[23][24][25] In Honolulu, the holiday is marked by the celebration of Hawaiian culture, history and activism through organized speeches, presentations, marches, hula performances, music rallies and flag-raising. On the other islands, sovereignty groups organize historical reenactments, rallies, and the ceremonial raising of the Hawaiian flag in place of the American flag.[23][24]

On July 31, 2018, a 12-foot bronze statue of Kamehameha III and a flagpole flying the Hawaiian flag was unveiled at Thomas Square in a ceremony honoring the 175th anniversary of the restoration of Hawaiian sovereignty in 1843. The statue was created by Oregon artist Thomas Jay Warren for $250,000 allotted by the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts and is part of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s plans to revamp the park.[26]

See also


  1. Kuykendall 1965, pp. 208–230.
  2. Thrum 1892, pp. 45–70.
  3. 1 2 3 Kuykendall 1965, pp. 219–221.
  4. Riconda 1972.
  5. Hoʻokahua Staff 2014.
  6. 1 2 Thrum 1909, p. 114.
  7. Gilman 1892, pp. 70–77.
  8. Thrum 1929, pp. 101–106.
  9. Pacific Worlds 2003.
  10. "Restoration Day". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu. August 5, 1865. p. 2.
  11. "Legislative Jottings". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu. June 11, 1870. p. 2.
  12. "Hawaiian National Holidays". Saturday Press. Honolulu. December 1, 1883. p. 2.
  13. Schmitt 1995, pp. 141–146.
  14. "Memorial Day". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu. June 14, 1873. p. 2.; "Commemoration Day". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu. June 17, 1876. p. 3.
  15. Schmitt 1995, p. 143.
  16. "By Authority". The Hawaiian Star. Honolulu. July 10, 1891. p. 2.
  17. "Restoration Day". The Hawaiian Star. Honolulu. July 31, 1893. p. 2.; "Melange". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu. August 1, 1893. p. 5.; "Maui News". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu. August 8, 1893. p. 9.
  18. Thrum 1898, pp. 62–69.
  19. "Ka La Hoihoi Ea". Hawaii Holomua. III (272). Honolulu. July 31, 1893. p. 2.
  20. "Restoration Day". The Independent. Honolulu. July 31, 1899. p. 2.
  21. 1 2 Fujii & 2012/2013.
  22. "Reminiscences of the Past – How Restoration Day Was Celebrated and What Happened to the Participants". The Independent. Honolulu. July 31, 1899. p. 3.; "Restoration Day". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu. August 1, 1913. p. 4.
  23. 1 2 Hoover 2004.
  24. 1 2 Scottmaui 2005; Tranquilli 2005
  25. McDougall 2016, p. 162.
  26. Yang, Gordon Y. K. (July 28, 2018). "King Kamehameha III bronze statue to be unveiled at Thomas Square". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Honolulu: Oahu Publications, Inc. Retrieved August 5, 2015.


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