Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono – The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness is the Hawai‘i State Motto. The expression dates back to July 31, 1843 when the Paulet Affair was resolved in Honolulu and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i regained its independence from Great Britain.
By the 1860s Native Hawaiians were using the expression Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono in Hawaiian newspapers to denote their independence as a nation. For decades July 31 was celebrated in Hawai‘i during the nineteenth-century as Ka La Ho‘iho‘i Ea – Sovereignty Restoration Day. Today that holiday is again celebrated to mark the modern-day Native Hawaiian Sovereignty movement.
As used in Ua Mau Ke Ea, the word “ea” preceded by the article “ka” is defined as spirit, the breath of life, and is used in the Hawaiian Bible in Isaiah 42:5: Ke i mai nei ke Akua, o Iehova, penei, ka mea nana i hana i na lani, a hohola ae la ia lakou, ka mea i hoopalahalaha ae i ka honua, a me kona mau mea ulu, ka mea haawi i ka hanu no na kanaka maluna ona, a me ke ea hi i ka poe e hele ana maluna ona. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
Surprisingly, even twenty-five years after his death in Cornwall, Connecticut the impact of Ōpūkaha‘ia – Henry Obookiah, especially his seeking to have the Bible and Protestant missionaries sent to his homeland was felt that landmark day in July, 1843.
Head-strong Royal Navy officer Lord George Paulet, Captain of British Navy frigate Carysfort, used a show of naval force to pressure Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli (1813–1854, King of Hawai‘i 1825-1854) to sign a provisional deed of cession of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. Hawaiian flags were lowered and the British flag raised.
Rear Admiral Richard Thomas, Commander of the Royal Navy’s Pacific Squadron, and Paulet’s superior officer, anchored at Honolulu Harbor in July, 1843. Thomas’ timely arrival came following five months of rule over the Kingdom of Hawai‘i by a commission that included local British ex-patriot residents. Admiral Thomas soon restored Hawai‘i’s independence. Months earlier Queen Victoria in England issued a policy that included non-intervention in the affairs of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. To mark the return of the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, a grand military ceremony was held on a parade ground in Honolulu now known as Thomas Square, on July 31, 1843.
Tradition holds that Kauikeaouli made his famous Life of the Land proclamation inside Kawaiaha‘o Church in Honolulu during a thanksgiving service held in the afternoon of that day, following the raising of the Hawaiian flag in the morning. No copies of his speech are known to exist.
On February 25, 1843 – the day the British took control of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i – Kauikeaouli told his people: “Here ye! I make known to you that I am in perplexity by reason of difficulties into which I have been brought without cause; therefore, I have given away the life of our land, hear ye! But my rule over you, my people, and your privileges, will continue, for I have hope that the life of the land will be restored when my conduct is justified.”
The July 31 proclamation answered Kauikeaouli’s plea made in February. A report made in a special July 31, 1843 edition of the Advocate & Friend newspaper edited by Samuel Damon in Honolulu stated: “The King was compelled to make a Provisional Cession of his dominions to a foreign power, by reason of difficulties, into which he had been brought without cause so far as concerned his own conduct, hence he gave away the life of his land. As His Majesty’s conduct has been justified the life of the land is restored by the noble and magnanimous conduct of Rear Admiral Thomas.”
Following the Kawaiaha‘o service, Dr. Gerrit Parmele Judd (1803-1873) standing on the steps of Kawaiaha‘o Church, read in English and Hawaiian a proclamation from Kauikeaouli. The proclamation highlighted the words Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono – The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness. Judd’s influence on the authorship of the proclamation and motto points to a biblical basis for the expression. Judd arrived in Hawai‘i in March, 1828 as a missionary physician assigned to the third company of missionaries sent to Hawai‘i by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He became a trusted advisor to Kauikeaouli.
At the age of thirteen, Gerrit Judd was tutored in his hometown of Paris Hill, New York by Edwin Welles Dwight. Dwight found Henry Obookiah weeping on the steps of Yale for his lack of western in learning in the late summer-fall of 1809. Edwin, a student at Yale, went on to tutor Henry inviting the Native Hawaiian youth from Hawai‘i Island to join his close friend Thomas Hopoo in learning the basics of English.
Edwin was named principal of the Foreign Mission School when the academy opened in 1817, rejoining Obookiah. He was there at Obookiah’s bedside during Henry’s last days, when he died from typhus fever at Cornwall in February 1818.
A year prior to heading up the Foreign Mission School, Edwin went on a domestic mission to central New York State, an area then considered remote from mainstream American life along the eastern seaboard. Apparently, Edwin was invited to serve as a teacher to Gerrit Judd and other boys living in the Utica area. The tiny village of Paris Hill is located about a half-dozen miles from Utica. At Paris Hill Gerrit attended a Congregational Church. In a biography of Judd’s life, Dr. Judd, Hawaiiʻs Friend, the author ponders the influence of Edwin Dwight, and Edwin’s close friendship with Henry Obookiah, on Gerrit’s later decision to become at a missionary physician with the Sandwich Islands Mission.
Previous to being taught by Edwin Dwight, Gerrit Judd studied at an academy known as the Classical School in Clinton, New York, a town not far from Paris Hill. Clinton is about seven miles from Whitestown, New York. In 1814, Thomas Hopoo worked as a servant for the Granger family in Whitestown. It is possible Gerrit and Thomas crossed paths that year. The Congregational churches in the rural towns of upstate New York in the 1810s were part of a tight-knit network of revival-fueled, evangelical congregations at a time of great interest and support for foreign missions to far away countries including Hawai‘i.
In his journal, Sandwich Islands missionary Peter Johnson Gulick from Freehold, New Jersey, who like Judd came to Hawai‘i with the third missionary company, recalled the day of Ka La Hoihoi Ea:
“At one o’clock the king and chiefs repaired to the stone meeting house to offer public thanks for the singular interposition of Providence in favor of the nation. The king made an earnest address stating that, according to the hope expressed by him when he ceded the islands, ‘the life of the land’ had been restored to him, that now they, the people of his islands, should look to him and his rule over them should be exercised according to the constitution and laws. This address was followed by the interpretation of Admiral Thomas’ Declaration, after which John Ii (Native Hawaiian historian, educator and politician) delivered an animated address suited to the joyful occasion. He (Ii) referred to the gloom which had shrouded the nation and the despondency which had brooded over many minds, that these were now dispelled, that joyful hope had sprung up making every thing around look bright and smiling.
“(Ii) referred to the auspicious event of the restoration as of the Lord who had been mindful of the nation in its low state and as demanding from all, grateful thanks and praise. He spoke as though the sentiments and feelings of the Psalmist was in his heart when he penned the Twelfth Psalm. ‘When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion we were like them that dream,’ etc. Every arrangement on the part of Admiral Thomas was made with reference to conferring upon the king the honor which was due to him as a sovereign and to wipe away, as it seemed to us, as far as he might be able the reproach which his flag had suffered by the proceeding of Lord Paulet.”
In the fall of 1843, Sandwich Islands missionary Richard Armstrong wrote of the spread of temperance and peace that swept across Hawai‘i following the restoration of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i: “The restoration has given an impulse to everything and inspired the friends of the nation with new courage. The reign of Lord George Paulet was short and full of evil, and blessed be God that it has been brought to a speedy end. The king continued to adhere to his teetotal principles and the other chiefs without exception, I believe, follow his example. The common people generally have enlisted under the same banner, so that among natives we have quietness and order throughout the land.”
Shortly before his death in 1989, Thomas D. Murphy, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Hawai‘i, requested that his analysis of the motto “Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono – The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness” be sent to the Hawaiian Historical Society for publication in the annual Hawaiian Journal of History.
Professor Murphy oversaw the University of Hawai‘i’s War Records Depository during World War II. Following the war, Dr. Murphy spearheaded the publication of a war-time history of the American of Japanese Ancestry-strong 100th Battalion service in World War II. While teaching full-time in Manoa, Murphy in his off-hours wrote the book Ambassadors in Arms: The Story of Hawaii’s 100th Battalion.” The book was published to acclaim in 1954.
In his note to the Hawaiian Historical Society, Murphy wrote that the speeches given by Kauikeaouli “are obviously of Biblical derivation.” The professor stated that the term “righteousness” can be seen as taken from Deuteronomy 9:4-6.
Murphy wrote: “…Moses warns his people not to assume that they are to enter in upon possession of the land of the Canaanities because of their own righteousness…but because of the wickedness of the Canaanites and because of God’s purpose to manifest His will through the Israelites. They are receiving the land through God’s righteousness, not their own, and would be judged according to the manner in which they advanced in the path of that righteousness which was of God.…”
In analyzing the term “life of the land,” Murphy referenced Proverbs 12:28: “In the way of righteousness is life / And in the pathway thereof is no death,” and Proverbs 11:30: The fruit of righteousness is a tree of life / And he that winneth souls is wise.”
Murphy also cited Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalteth a nation / But sin is a reproach to any people”.
The UH professor concluded that the Life of the Land phrase: “…seems, on this evidence, to have been framed by a person thoroughly familiar with the Bible, who most aptly conjoined word and concepts therein to express thanksgiving for God’s righteousness which had preserved, or restored, the life of the land.”
Judd, Gerrit Parmele. 1960. Dr. Judd, Hawaii’s friend; a biography of Gerrit Parmele Judd, 1803-1873. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 117
Judd, Laura Fish. 1928. Honolulu, sketches of the life, social, political, and religious, in the Hawaiian Islands from 1828 to 1861. Honolulu: Reprinted by the Honolulu star-bulletin.
(Temperance) Advocate and Friend, (Extra edition), Honolulu Oahu, Sandwich Islands July 31, 1843 p.36-38
Hawaiian Historical Society – Dr. Thomas Murphy statement in Hawaiian Journal of History Vol. 24 (1990) pp. 185-187 Notes & Queries Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka ‘Aina I Ka Pono (The life of the land is preserved in righteousness).
Gulick, Orramel Hinckley, and Ann Eliza Clark Gulick. 1918. The Pilgrims of Hawaii; Their own story of their pilgrimage from New England and life work in the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co. pp. 217-218
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine September, 1883. Vol. LXVII pp. 511-520. “An Unpublished Chapter of Hawaiian History.”