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Country: United States
City: Honolulu (Oahu), Hawaii
Issues of this title available in Elephind: 79
Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 317
Earliest Date: 6 June 1840
Latest Date: 11 December 1841
The four-to-eight page Polynesian was published weekly in Honolulu in English and some Hawaiian from June 6, 1840 to December 11, 1841 (first series), and again from May 18, 1844 to February 6, 1864 (second series). James Jackson Jarves ran the first series with a combination of mission support, advertising, and subscriptions. However, the paper was not profitable, and he shut it down after only two and a half years. Jarves reestablished the paper under the same title in May 1844. Two months later, the Polynesian became the "Official Journal of the Hawaiian Government" and remained so until 1861, with Charles E. Hitchcock, Edwin O. Hall, Charles G. Hopkins, and Abraham Fornander as subsequent editors. The Polynesian was the leading paper on O'ahu in the mid-1800s.
A commercial enterprise aimed at Honolulu's foreign (mostly American) residents, the Polynesian's first series held "Pro bono publico" (for the public good) as its first principle and claimed to be open to all opinions--as long as they were of "an elevated character, avoiding scurrility . . . or any thing [sic] tending to excite without improving the community." The paper was among the first in the islands to feature puff pieces, which were essentially free advertisements posing as articles and promoting products or industries featured in adjoining paid advertisements.
In 1844, Jarves revived the Polynesian with the hope of building it into a financially viable enterprise. In the first issue of this second series, he presented the Polynesian as an independent, impartial paper aimed at foreign residents. Soon after, however, King Kamehameha III commissioned the Polynesian as the official voice of the kingdom, keeping Jarves on as printer and editor. Thereafter it served as the principal vehicle for publishing all enacted laws and criminal codes as well as the policies of Kamehameha III and his successor, King Kamehameha IV. The paper continued to feature local and international news, business and shipping news, police reports, editorials, and fiction. Its size depended on the amount of newsprint available at the time.
Although government sponsored, the Polynesian was ideologically an American haven. Jarves's ethnocentrism ran through his journalism, and he was not afraid to use editorials to influence public opinion. Jarves upheld Western culture as superior and discounted the Hawaiian language as not worth preserving. He promoted Christianity, agriculture, and commerce; endorsed English as the language of instruction in schools; advocated for the institution of private land ownership--the event known as the Great Mahele--as the key to "preserving" the native Hawaiian population; and encouraged the creation of an American-style constitution for Hawai'i. Between government sponsorship and Jarves's editorializing, the Polynesian exemplified the many conflicts, contradictions, and tensions that characterized Hawai'i during this period.
In 1848 Jarves left Hawai'i, leaving printer Charles E. Hitchcock to become the editor of the paper. Abraham Fornander, editor of the Weekly Argus from 1852 to1853, and the New Era & Weekly Argus from 1853 to1855, later edited the Polynesian, then purchased it in 1861 and continued to publish it till its demise in 1864
Provided by: University of Hawaii at Manoa; Honolulu, HI