Taking a Stand for Independence: Robert Crichton Wyllie - Joy Kam

Taking a Stand for Independence: Robert Crichton Wyllie

Robert Crichton Wyllie was a man who strived to preserve the independence of Hawaii and its dynasty, through his knowledge and passion of working in Foreign Affairs. He was born in October 13, 1798 in Eastern Scotland and later attended the University of Glasgow. At the age of twenty he graduated with his medical degree, with the goal of practicing his work in Russia, but when he was in Chile, he decided to change careers and go into business commerce field. He grew to be successful in this field, creating deals with Mexico, United States and England. General William Miller, Robert C. Wyllie’s friend he met during a business negotiation, convinced Robert to travel with him to Hawaii as General William Miller’s Honor Secretary. His friend was only in Hawaii a short time before needing to leave to Tahiti, but Robert stayed in Hawaii for the rest of his life. 

The work Robert Crichton Wyllie completed in Hawaii, while working under the reigns of Kamehameha the III, IV, and V, was to solidify and ensure the trades and business structures of Hawaii did not over power the independence of Hawaii. He first worked as British Consul until his friend returned, but was later appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Kamehameha the III in 1845 until his death in 1865. Wyllie was able to sign treaties with France, Denmark, United States, and England, in stating that the following countries recognized Hawaii as an Independent State. He not only worked as the British Consul, but also administer as Secretary of War and participated in the legislature in the House of Nobles. Robert C. Wyllie helped boarder the Americans with partnering with the British, and in one case he helped prepare Queen Emma for a meeting with Queen Victoria in Britain. Wyllie as helped with trade and growing profits in Hawaii during the Civil war in 1861, ensuring that Hawaii should not be involved in the battles. He also helped influence the Monarchs in Hawaii to adapt to more European dressings to help solidify their stance as a serious state like Britain. In 1853 residents began pressuring King Kamehameha the III to sign a treaty of annexation with the United States to help protect Hawaii. Wyllie still being in his position when King Kamehameha the IV stepped into reign, helped the King see racism in America during their journey to the United States. This helped delay an annexation of Hawaii, but it would later happen after the death of Robert Wyllie. 

Robert C. Wyllie not only helped aid the independence of Hawaii but also help establish the “Archives of Hawaii” in 1847. He was able to establish this because of his in depth works for the monarchy done in 1845. He wrote about the islands, trade and other government occurrences that could be of importance later down the road. While working with the Hawaiian Monarchy Wyllie also continued his business history with owning a plantation by Hanalei Bay in Kaua’i. There he harvested coffee and sugar cane and at times hosted Kamehameha the IV, Queen Emma and their son to which the plantation was later named “Princeville”. He also lived in an area of Nu’uanu Valley to where he would be seen walking the two miles to work daily, along with his case of papers and documents. He later died in October 1865 in Hawaii, and King Kamehameha the V ordered his body to be buried Mauna ‘Ala, which was next to the sovereign chiefs of Hawaii.

One could analysis this passion Wyllie had because of his coming from Scotland, a smaller country in itself in comparison to France or the United States. He understood that Hawaii had its own history, culture, and diplomacy instituted but it could easily be looked over by the larger counties partnering with Hawaii. He wanted to emphasize to France, Britain, and other countries that Hawaii was an independent State just as they are and should not be over looked. There is also an idea that Robert C. Wyllie was passionate about this because he cultivated such strong growing bonds with these members and poured his life into it, he did not want it to be taken over. The idea of justice for these relationships and work could be a part of what drove his passion and love for Hawaii.  

Robert C. Wyllie’s relationship with the Monarchy of Hawaii was shown clearly through all the people through Hawaii. This could also be analyzed as a reason for the strong love and passion Wyllie had for staying and fighting for Hawaii’s state rights. He saw the labors and trials of the Kings and Queens, and saw through Kamehameha III and IV, and died through Kamehameha V’s reign. He ensured that Hawaii was to be seen as an equal and not feared and wanted the kings and queens to be on the same level, not facing discrimination, as the other larger states. When the civil was occurring Robert encouraged Queen Emma to write to Queen Victoria of England to help establish a relationship, but it grew into a bigger friendship, to which Queen Emma thanks Robert for. Seeing all this occur, one could understand through the years why there would be such passion and strive to emphasize the independence Hawaii deserved. 

Robert Crichton Wyllie found the islands of Hawaii and decided to dedicate his life to ensuring the independence was kept and understood by other states. He worked and aided the monarchy in all that he could do during wars and difficult pressures by the people. Beloved by the people of Hawaii and the monarchy, he was a man who believed in Hawaii and the independence it deserved. 


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“The Journals and Letter Books of R.C. Wyllie .” Newspapers of Hawaii, 1834-1903: From "He Liona" to the Pacific Cable, by Helen Geracimos. Chapin, Publisher Not Identified, 1984, pp. 87–88.

UpClosed. “About Robert Crichton Wyllie | Biography.” UpClosed, upclosed.com/people/robert-crichton-wyllie/.

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