The troubled beginnings of the short-lived "Calabash Empire." Walter Murray Gibson was a Mormon who arrived in Honolulu 4 July 1861 with the idea of converting the islanders to that religion. Mormon church elders later discovered that he had diverted church funds toward the purchase of a large part of Lanai and excommunicated Gibson in 1864. He then turned to a corrupt career in politics, cleaving himself to the fortune and favor of King Kalakaua.
In 1882 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, and proposed the idea of a federation of Polynesian states not yet annexed to the Great Powers, with Hawaii as its head. In January 1887, John E. Bush headed a mission to Samoa to present Kalakaua and Gibson's plan. On 17 January, one of two rival chiefs of Samoa, Maleioa, who was recognized by Great Britain and the United States as the King of Samoa, entered into an agreement to join the confederation.
Creation of the Hawaiian Navy. Shortly thereafter, the Cabinet Council authorized the purchase of a gunboat, the Kaimiloa, a guano trader refitted with four brass cannon and two gatling guns (Daws, Shoal of Time. A History of the Hawaiian Islands, p. 237). On 27 February 1877, Gibson and King Kalakaua signed Kingdom's first naval appointment, designating George Edward Gresley Jackson, a retired lieutenant of the British Royal Navy and chronic drunk, as the commander of the newly formed Hawaiian navy.
In mid-May 1887, Jackson left Honolulu on the Kaimiloa with a crew of sixty-three, twenty-four of whom were boys from the Honolulu Reformatory School, where Jackson had been principal. For the first eleven days, Jackson was too inebriated to navigate competently. The Kaimiloa made her Samoan landfall 14 June 1877. The presence of the gunboat and the agreement between Malietoa heightened tensions not only with the United States and Great Britain but also nearly provoked Germany (who recognized Tamasese, the other rival chief, as King of Samoa) into declaring war on Hawaii. The idea of the primacy of Hawaii among the independent Polynesian states was quickly shelved.
With the "calabash empire" collapsed, leaders of the Revolution of 1887 deposed Gibson, and one day before forcing Kalakaua to sign the "Bayonet Constitution," the disgraced minister was allowed to leave the islands and thereby avoid being lynched.
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