Pierce, Richard A. , ed. Russia’s Hawaiian Adventure, 1815-1817. The Limestone press, 1976

Check out the Most Significant Events of the Last Two Hundred Years of Fort Elizabeth history. The timeline, developed by Peter Mills, show how Fort Elizabeth have developed since 1778.

(Pierce 1976:1-33) The Pacific Ocean, all but empty of sail until Cooks epoch-making voyages in the 1770’s, became in little more than a generation the scene of a thriving and far-flung commerce. While Europe was pre- occupied with war, new patterns of power took shape on the shores of Asia and the Americas. Foreign shipmasters began to touch with impunity on the forbidden Spanish coasts. In the north, a handful of Russian promyshlenniks (traders) extended the imperial domain of Catherine II to the shores of Alaska. On the Northwest coast, Yankee skippers swapped cloth, cutlery, and trinkets with the Indians for furs, then exchanged the furs in Canton for porcelain, tea, and fine fabrics, which in turn sold at premium prices in New England. All around the Pacific Basin, towns and hamlets destined to become great ports were already well-known trading centers.

The Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands formed the hub of this traffic. Their convenient location made them a favorite stopping place to pick up supplies, refresh scorbutic crews, and perhaps augment cargoes of furs with sandalwood.

The conquest of most of the Hawaiian Islands by Kamehameha I coincided with the rise of the Russian American Company holdings in Alaska under the able Chief Manager, Alexander Baranov. Kame- hameha, noble savage and “Napoleon of the Pacific” and Baranov, hard-drinking, shrewd, and resourceful builder of a commercial empire on beggarly means, were already legends in their own time. The two never met, but heard of one another from American and British shipmasters.

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The first Russian visit to the islands occurred in June 1804, during the first of a notable series of round the-world voyages aimed at providing supplies and naval support to the Pacific colonies. The sloops Nadezhda (Hope) and Neva, under Lieutenant-Captain Ivan Fedorovich Krusenstern and Lieutenant Iurii Fedorovich Lisianskii, stopped first at the island of Hawaii, Kamehameha’s residence, but the monarch was then with his army on the island of Oahu, preparing an invasion of the realm of a lesser rival, Kaumualii. Hearing that a disastrous epidemic had beset Kamehamehas army, the Russians bypassed Oahu and visited Kaumualiis capital on the island of Kauai. Kaumualii, who spoke English, described his fears of aggression by Kamehameha, and begged for protection. Although unable to grant his plea, the Russians sailed away impressed by the Kings character and the justice of his claim to the rest of the islands. (Lisianskii 1812) In 1806, Kamehameha made known to Baranov through a foreign shipmaster “that he understood from persons trading to that coast how much the Russian establishment had sometimes suffered in winter from the scarcity of provisions; that he would therefore gladly send a ship every year with swine, salt, batatas [sweet potatoes] and other articles of food if they would in exchange let him have sea otter skins at a fair price. ” (Langsdorff 1813-1814: 165) In the following year, 1807, a small vessel, the Nikolai, under a Russian promyshlennik, Pavel Slobodchikov, detoured to the islands while en route from California to Sitka. Slobodchikov was well treated by Kamehameha, who furnished a cargo of foodstuffs in exchange for furs. (Golder1928:471)


The first Russian circumnavigation of the Earth took place from August 1803 to August 1806. It was sponsored by Count Nikolay Rumyantsev, funded by the Russian-American Company, and was headed by Adam Johann von Krusenstern. In addition to its exploratory goals, the expedition was also meant to help establish diplomatic and economic relations between Russia and Japan, for which the party included a large diplomatic delegation headed by Court Chamberlain and Ambassador Nikolai Rezanov.

In 1808, following the return of the Neva, now under Lieutenant L. A. Hagemeister, to Russian America, Baranov sent her to the islands for a cargo of salt. (Golder1928) There is some question as to whether a Russian colony was to be established during this visit. The voyage coincided with dispatch by Baranov of the schooner Sv. Nikolai (later wrecked) and the ship Kad’iak to reconnoiter the coast southward and to establish a colony in California, so could have been part of a larger design. Archibald Campbell, a sailor given pas- sage on the Neva from Novo-Arkhangelsk (Sitka) to Hawaii, claims rather ambiguously that a settlement was intended:

It would appear that the Russians had determined to form a settle- ment upon these islands; at least, preparations were made for the purpose; and I was informed by the commandant, that if I chose, I might get a situation as interpreter. The ship had a house in frame on board, and intimation was given that volunteers would be received; none, however, offered; and I never observed that any other steps were taken in the affair. (Campbell n.d.:81)


Alexander Andreyevich Baranov (1747–16 April 1819), was a Russian trader and merchant.

While the Neva was at Hawaii, Campbell talked to a fellow Scot, residing on the island, and told him that I understood the Russians had some intention of forming a settlement on the Sandwich Islands. This reached the Captains ears, and he gave me a severe reprimand for having, as he expressed it, betrayed their secrets. He desired me to say no more on the subject in future, otherwise I should not be permitted to quit the ship. I know not what obstacle prevented this plan from being carried into effect, but although the Neva remained several months in the country, I never heard any more of the settlement. (Campbell n.d.:19)


Ludwig August von Hagemeister (1780 – December 24, 1833) was a Baltic German who held the rank of Captain of the 1st rank in the Imperial Russian Navy. He was a maritime explorer of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, and served briefly in 1817-1818 as the second Chief Manager of the Russian-American Company.

Hubert Howe Bancroft asserts: “Baranov certainly instructed Hagemeister to found a settlement, and a copy of his instructions has been preserved in the Sitka Archives . . . ” (Bancroft: 491) However, the surviving Archives, or more properly the Journals of Correspondence of the Russian American Company, turned over to the United States upon its purchase of Alaska in 1867 and now housed in the National Archives, begin (except for a lone document dated 1802) in 1817, and contain no such instruction. Document No. I of the series presented here, giving the substance of two letters from Hagemeister himself, written in 18o9 after leaving Hawaii and paraphrased for Company use a decade later, contains only a discussion of ways and means of securing territory, indicating that the venture was primarily a reconnaissance. (Tikhmenev: 165-166) This is further supported by Hagemeisters comment in a dispatch of 1818 on the possibilities of obtaining sandalwood from the island of Kauai: “After my first voyage was the right time, but no one then paid any heed” (Pierce 1976: 154-155).

Visiting Kauai, the Neva was once again welcomed by Kaumualii, who again sought Russian aid, but without success.

During the war of 1812-1814 between the United States and Great Britain, several American captains, fearing British warships or privateers, sold their vessels to Baranov. Thus, early in 1814 Baranov bought from Captain James Bennett the ship Atahualpa, renamed the Bering, and later in the year the brig Lydia, renamed the Il’mena.

In April, 1814, Baranov sent the Bering, still under her erstwhile owner, Captain Bennett, to the Pribylov Islands for seal skins, to be used as part of the payment for the ship. From there she sailed to Okhotsk, and thence to Hawaii to obtain foodstuffs for Sitka. The ship touched at Waimea Bay, Kauai, early in October, 1814, then traded among the islands. A letter from Kaumualii to Baranov via Captain Bennett, written at this time, pledges friend ship but makes exaggerated demands for foodstuffs, arms, and a ship (Pierce 1976: 40-41).

After undergoing repairs at Honolulu, the Bering sailed for Alaska on January 25, 1815, but on January 29 stopped at Kauai once more for supplies. Two days later she was thrown on the beach at Waimea Bay by a gale. Kaumualii thereupon appropriated the vessel and cargo on grounds that anything thrown on the coast belonged to him. (Howay1933:70-80) Captain Bennett and his men had an uncomfortable sojourn on Kauai but were finally rescued, on April 11, 1815, by the American ship Albatross (Captain William Smith) (Howay1933:79; Pierce1976:157-215) and taken to Sitka.

Bennett’s arrival at Sitka with this bad news was soon followed by other troubles. Wilson Price Hunt, leader of the overland expedition sent out by John Jacob Astor in 1810 in support of the short-lived Astoria trading post, was given sanctuary by Baranov until the end of the war with Great Britain. For alleged illegal trade with the Indians around Sitka, on July 19/31, 1815, Baranov seized Hunt’s ship, the Pedler. Lieutenant M. P. Lazarev, commander of the Suvorov, another Russian round-the-world vessel then at Sitka, took Hunt’s part. Threatened with removal from his command by the choleric old Chief Manager, Lazarev took unauthorized leave rather than submit.

Lazarev left behind his supercargo and the ship’s doctor. The latter, Georg Anton Schäffer, had not gotten along well with Lazarev, which probably helped gain him Baranovs favor. Shorthanded as always, needing someone for the delicate task of recovering the cargo of the Bering, Baranov put aside initial doubts (indicated in Pierce 1976: 108-109) and chose the well-traveled, educated newcomer.


Kaumualiʻi (c. 1778–May 26, 1824) was the last independent aliʻi nui (supreme ruler of the island) of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau before becoming a vassal of Kamehameha I of the unified Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. 


Schäffer, the fast-working interloper who for a short time was to disturb the torpor of premissionary Hawaii, was born in Münnerstadt, Bavaria, on January 27, 1779, a millers son. He was baptized in the Catholic Church, received a good education, and was set up as an apothecary. Something in his makeup even then drew him to distant places, for he pursued his profession as far afield as Hungary and Galicia. In 18o5, despite earlier expulsion for unspecified disciplinary difficulties, he passed the “surgeons examination” at St. Julius Hospital in Würzburg, and became eligible to practice medicine. At about the same time he married the daughter of the hospital miller. In 1808 he was invited to Russia, possibly to take part in the Franco Russian expedition against India which was then under discussion. He served in the army as a staff physician, and in 1812 took part in an abortive project, under a German charlatan named Leppich, for construction of balloons to combat Napoleons invading army. In 1813 he signed on with the Russian-American Company in St. Petersburg as surgeon on the Company vessel Suvorov, for the voyage which left him in Alaska. [1]

No Company vessels were at hand, so Baranov arranged for Schäffer to go to the islands on the American ship Isabella (Captain Tyler). In careful instructions (Pierce 1976: 41-44) Baranov directed Schäffer to appear only as a naturalist until he had won King Kamehameha’s confidence. When two Company ships, the Otkrytie (Discovery) and the Kadiak (or Mirt-Kadiak, recalling its earlier name, the Myrtle), arrived, he was to gain Kamehameha’s help in retrieving the cargo of the Bering or obtaining compensation for it in sandalwood. He was to try to obtain trading privileges and a monopoly on sandalwood within Kamehameha’s domains similar to a concession granted earlier to two Americans, Captains William Heath Davis and Nathan Winship. (Morrison 1961:204) In a letter to be given Kamehameha when the time was ripe, Baranov reviewed the story of the Bering and revealed Schäffer’s authority to act for the Company (Pierce 1976: 44-46).

On October 5/17, 1815, accompanied by two “creole” (half-Russian, half-Indian) boys, one of them Baranov’s son Antipatr, Schäffer sailed for the islands on the Isabella.

Several months passed before Baranov could send reinforcements to his envoy. The Otkrytie had come in from a trading expedition only four days after Schäffer’s departure, but needed extensive repairs and new equipment. In instructions of February 15, 1816, to Lieutenant I. A. Podushkin, commander of the Otkrytie, Baranov reviewed his instructions to Schäffer. Podushkin was to meet Schäffer at Kamehameha’s residence on the island of Hawaii, from whence they were to go to Kauai. They were to obtain the Bering’s cargo by peaceful means if possible, but if force proved necessary they were to conquer the island for Russia. The Kad’iak, carrying a cargo of timber, was to follow later, and be sent to Macao with sandalwood or the cargo of the Bering. On the way back to Alaska it was to poach for furs on the California coast or trade for furs “in the Straits” along the Northwest coast. If permission could be obtained, the Otkrytie was to leave a party on Oahu to establish a trading post (Pierce 1976: 46-54).

In further instructions to Schäffer, sent with the Otkrytie, Baranov mentioned the likely arrival of another round-the-world ship from St. Petersburg, from which Schäffer could ask help if necessary. Schäffer was to get payment for the Bering cargo, salvage what he could from the wreck, and return immediately on the Otkrytie. If the situation required force, Schäffer was to wait until arrival of the Kad’iak, and then take both ships to Kauai (Pierce 1976:54-60).

Schäffer, meanwhile, had arrived on the island of Hawaii early in November, 1815. There he ran into unexpected opposition. The elderly British seaman, John Young, Kamehamehas chief advisor, suspected at once that the visitor was more than a naturalist, and warned the King against him. According to Schäffer, several Americans on the Isabella did the same. So, did John Ebbets, veteran master of Astor’s ship Enterprise, arriving in December en route from New York to the Northwest Coast, and W. P. Hunt, on the Pedler, en route from Sitka to Canton and Boston. Fearing encroachment on their privileges, the American skippers intensified Kamehameha’s fears of Russian designs.

By medical aid and personal assurances Schäffer finally managed to mollify the King so that the latter ordered a house built for him and agreed to grant land to the Company and to permit establishment of a factory on the island of Oahu. Kamehamehas chief consort, Queen Kaahumanu, gave Schäffer “Veikarua” (Kailua ?) in the province of “Kollau” (Koolaupoku?) on the southeast side of Oahu, “fishing grounds seven versts along the seashore”, and ten sheep and forty goats. The Queen’s brother, Kuakini, known to foreigners as “John Adams”, gave him the tract of “Koalai” (Hoaeae?) on the Eva, or Pearl, River, near Honolulu.


John Young (c.1742–1835) was a British subject who became an important military advisor to Kamehameha I during the formation of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Early in January 1816, an American acquaintance described Schäffers situation thus:

“I found that Dr. Shafford (Schäffer) had succeeded in removing the prejudices of the King, had acquired his favour, and stood high in his good graces; he was at this time attending one of the queens, who was indisposed, as her physician. The King had caused a house to be built for him in the center of a breadfruit grove, where the doctor could pursue his botanical researches without interruption. I visited him there and passed some hours with him. (Barnard 1829 :219)

This was only an interlude, however, and before long, conditions again grew difficult. Provisions were supplied irregularly; Schäffer’s movements were circumscribed, and some of the Kings advisors, he claims in his journal, urged that he be killed. He asked permission to move to Oahu, and the King finally consented, though in adherence to his usual policy of prohibiting foreigners from building permanent structures, he assigned the Company one of his own warehouses at Honolulu for a factory.

About May 3, the Otkrytie arrived at Honolulu, and Schäffer could finally prepare for the expedition to Kauai. Then, on May 11, another Russian ship, the Il’mena, hove in unexpectedly from California. (Khlebnikov1816)[2]

The Il’mena (former Lydia), if we piece her story together from several sources, had had her share of misadventure. After being purchased by Baranov late in 1813, she was sent in January 1814, under an American, Captain William Wadsworth, to the Russian outpost at Fort Ross, California, with supplies. On board was a party of Aleut hunters led by a veteran Company employee, Timofei Tarakanov (Andrews1922; Chevigny1942), and John Elliot de Castro, (Kotzebue1821: 287, 292-294; Bancroft:493) a former physician to Kamehameha, who had gone to Alaska for some reason and there had been engaged by Baranov because of his knowledge of Spanish and claimed acquaintance with the Spanish missionaries of California.

The Il’mena had engaged in the usual poaching for sea otter on the California coast, and in the summer of 1814 Tarakanov and eleven Aleuts were seized by the Spanish near San Pedro. (Ogden1933: 217-239; Bancroft: 493-494) The vessel then seems to have wintered at Bodega, the Russian port a few miles south of Fort Ross, and in 1815 went south for more poaching.


Bodega Bay is a shallow, rocky inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of northern California in the United States.

On September 18, 1815, another Russian and twenty-four hunters were seized, and on the twenty-first Elliot and five others were taken. (Ogden1933) The Il’mena then went to Bodega for repairs. (Bancroft: 491) Somehow Tarakanov and presumably some of the Aleuts were released by the Spaniards, and there rejoined the ship. Sailing from Bodega in November for Sitka, the Il’mena was damaged at the harbor entrance, remained through another winter for more repairs, and finally set sail once more in April 1816. She soon sprang a leak, however, and her captain, Wadsworth, detoured to the islands for repairs, arriving early in May 1816. (Khlebnikov 1816)

Ordering Wadsworth to remain at Honolulu with the Il’mena, and leaving the factory in the hands of the promyshlennik Petr Kicherev, Schäffer sailed first for Hawaii. He wanted to pick up cargo and to get an order from Kamehameha for Kaumualii. (Khlebnikov 1816:163)

Having little success with Kamehameha, Schäffer sailed for Kauai, and on May 16/28, according to his journal, the Otkrytie anchored in Waimea Bay.

After dispelling Kaumualii’s initial suspicions and apprehensions, Schäffer found conditions far more agreeable than in Kamehameha’s nominally friendly domains. Kaumualii, probably at the prompting of John Ebbets, master of the Enterprise, which stopped at the islands en route to the Northwest coast, had already had second thoughts about the advisability of appropriating the Bering cargo. On February 5, 1816, he had written Baranov that he was sending the furs with Ebbets, and would deliver other Russian property if a ship was sent (Pierce 1976: 62-63). Kaumualii now told Schäffer the same story he had told earlier visitors, complaining of Kamehamehas usurpation, and stating his desire for alliance with Russia. However, he apparently failed to mention one fundamental change in his status since his earlier requests: In 1810 he had made his peace with Kamehameha and acknowledged the latter’s suzerainty. Schäffer’s appearance on the scene evidently rekindled Kaumualii’s hopes of regaining what he saw as his lawful patrimony and tempted him to overlook his pledge. (Lydgate1916:30)

Schäffer, on the other hand, was eager to grasp what seemed a great opportunity for the Company and himself alike. Vancouver had laid claim to the island of Hawaii in 1794, but England had never taken the matter farther. With the islands open to claim, and a personal invitation from their rightful ruler, a dazzling prospect presented itself. So far he had followed orders, but this unexpected development appears to have left no doubt in his mind about the justification of his taking the initiative.

All in one glorious day, May 21/ June 2, 1816, Schäffer achieved his original objectives and a great deal more. Kaumualii not only agreed to restore what remained of the Bering’s cargo, but in addition pledged allegiance to the Emperor Alexander I (Pierce 1976: 63), promised to trade exclusively with the Russian-American Company, to supply cargoes of sandalwood to it alone, to allow it to establish factories anywhere in his domains, to supply men to aid in the erection of Company buildings and in the development of plantations, and to furnish provisions for Russian ships.

In return Schäffer promised Kaumualii the protection of the Russian Empire and a fully armed ship when the first cargo of sandalwood was ready (Pierce 1976: 64-65). He bestowed on the King a silver medal and made him a line staff officer in the Russian navy (Pierce 1976: 63-64).

During the weeks that followed, Schäffer began building a house at Waimea, and established a trading post in a stone building given the Company by Kaumualii. On May 31/June 11, leaving two Russians and a number of Aleuts behind, he sailed for Oahu on the Otkrytie.

According to his journal Schäffer intended to settle trade affairs on Oahu and to await the Company ship Kad’iak. Instead the Otkrytie ran into a severe storm, lost two masts, and had to take shelter at the island of Niihau. After emergency repairs Lieutenant Podushkin then took the ship directly to Alaska.


Waimea Beach sets itself apart from other Kauai Beaches. The rare black sand beach is a spectacular vantage point for sunsets over Niihau.

Schäffer made his way back to Waimea in a baidarka (an Aleutian boat) with one Aleut. There he settled down, planting an extensive garden and preparing his houses. On July 1, 1816, he and the King exchanged still wider commitments in a secret treaty. Kaumualii agreed to send an army of five hundred men, under Schäffer’s command, to reconquer the islands held by Kamehameha, and to help build a Russian fort on each of the islands. The King promised to give the Company one half of the island of Oahu, strips of land on each of the other islands, and all of the sandalwood on Oahu, and to “refuse to trade with citizens of the United States. “ Schäffer agreed to supply ammunition and ships for the prospective conquest, to supply the King with fish and timber from Russian America (the timber to be cut by islanders sent to Sitka), and “to introduce a better economy, which will make the natives educated and prosperous” (Pierce 1976: 72-73). As a token of esteem, Kaumualii placed his mark on a paper making Baranov a chief of the Sandwich Islands (Pierce 1976: 73-74).

On August 15, the American schooner Lydia, under Captain Henry Gyzelaar, arrived from Oahu with messages for Schäffer from the Russians there. The Il’mena was still at Honolulu, and the Kad’iak, under her American captain, George Young, had arrived at the end of June. The Kad’iak, leaking badly, was a dubious asset, but the men aboard swelled the complement at Schäffer’s disposal. Gyzelaar bore a proposal from Captain John Ebbets to Kaumualii that the King buy the Lydia. Kaumualii was eager to acquire the vessel, and to keep his word Schäffer felt bound to buy it for him. He sailed to Oahu on the Lydia to complete arrangements.

In the Company factory at Honolulu, on August 24 (September 4, New Style?), in the presence of Captains John and Richard Ebbets, Nathan Winship, Betts [?], Gyzelaar, George Young, and Wadsworth, along with John Young and a Doctor Daniel W. Frost, Schäffer purchased the Lydia from Gyzelaar, giving a promise of payment by the Company.

Flag RAC1

Schäffer invited all participants in the transaction to a dinner at the Russian factory, but the affair broke up in a quarrel with John Young, who was incensed over the presence of two Russian armed guards at the factory, which he regarded as a breach of Hawaiian sovereignty. Further unpleasantness occurred with Captain Alexander Adams, master of Kamehameha’s newly purchased brig, the Forester (renamed Kaahumanu), over the Russian flag being flown over the factory and at Kauai.

Schäffer now decided on yet another ship purchase. While the Il’mena, and presumably the Lydia and the Kad’iak, sailed for Waimea, Schäffer sailed on the American ship Avon (Captain Isaac Whittemore) for the bay of Hanalei, on the north side of Kauai. He liked what he saw, and on return to Waimea gave the Lydia to Kaumualii in return for the valley and port of Hanalei, in a convention witnessed by Captains Whittemore, William Smith, and Gyzelaar (Pierce 1976: 77). He next arranged for Company purchase of the Avon from Whittemore for 200, 000 piastres, payable in Sitka. Kaumualii, in exchange for the protection and added assurance the Avon would afford his expansionist projects, agreed to compensate the Company with three cargoes of sandalwood (Pierce 1976: 76-77). On September 6, Captain Whittemore sailed for Sitka with the Avon, to conclude the purchase. Baranov’s son Antipatr accompanied him as a passenger.

On September 12, on land donated by Kaumualii, Schäffer began construction of a stronghold, built of lava blocks, to be called Fort Elizabeth, after the consort of the Emperor Alexander I.

On the same day, Schäffer sent Captain Gyzelaar to Honolulu with the Lydia to see how the Company post there was faring. Ten days later the vessel returned, bearing the men from the factory with news that the natives, allegedly egged on by John Young and “the Amer ican hot heads”, had burned it. Another writer, much later, probably on the basis of native tradition, states that the men of the Il’mena and Kad’iak built a blockhouse at Honolulu, mounted guns and hoisted the Russian flag. This alarmed the natives, who informed Kamehameha on Hawaii. Kamehameha sent a large force, which caused the men on the Il’mena and Kad’iak to leave for Kauai. Chief Kalanimoku (otherwise known as “Billy Pitt”), in consultation with John Young, then built a more substantial fort to forestall any future Russian incursion. (Emerson1900: 11-25)

Two days after the return of the Lydia, on September 24, the American ship O’Cain (Captain Robert McNeil) arrived at Waimea en route to Canton and Boston. It bore as passengers Captains Nathan Winship, William Smith, Richard Ebbets, and Henry Gyzelaar, and Doctor Frost. Winship, Smith, and Gyzelaar came ashore and tried to haul down the Russian flag, but were prevented by a guard placed by Kaumualii.

View on the fortress from a bird's eye view
Fort Elizabeth Interior

This threat foiled, Schäffer went to Hanalei, and on September 24/ October 6, at a formal ceremony, raised the Russian flag over the valley. He writes that Kaumualii had asked him to attach his name to the valley and to give Russian names to several of the chiefs there. Thus, the valley becomes “Schäfferthal” in his journal; the main chief, Kallavatti, takes the old name of the valley, becoming “Hanalei”; Chief Taera becomes “Vorontsov, “after the Russian statesman; and Kaumualii’s deputy, Obana Tupigea, becomes “Platov, “ probably after a Russian hero of the Napoleonic wars. Two forts of earthworks, which he ordered placed on heights over-looking the river mouth, received the names “Alexander” and “Barclay”, the one after the Emperor, the other presumably after the Russian general, Barclay de Tolly.

Returning to Waimea on October 8, Schäffer received a seven-gun salute, the Russian flag was run up, and Kaumualii signed over Hanalei province and harbor to the Company. Other notables of the island then proclaimed their devotion by deeding land in exchange for gifts.

The references to the land grants are scattered and conflicting, and cannot be linked to present day place names with certainty. Chief Kamahalolani gave the Company a strip of land called “Guramaia”, on the right bank of the Waimea River, for a building and vegetable gardens, and another strip, called “Vaikari, “ inhabited by twenty families, on the left bank of the river. The Kings (or Queens, in another version) sister Taininoa (or Naoa) gave the Company a village on the left bank of the Waimea River with fourteen (or eleven) families, a tract called “Hamalea” on the Mattaveri (Makaweli?) River with thirteen families, and the uninhabited valley of “Mainauri” (perhaps Makaweli Gulch?), “eight versts” from Waimea. Chief Obana Platov gave the Company a village called “Tuiloa. “ (Koloa?), with eleven families, in the province of Hanapepe, four miles inland from Hanapepe Bay, “on the right bank of the river Don” (the latter is evidently the Hanapepe River, renamed by Schäffer). Kaumualii gave the Company the uninhabited islet of Lehua, which Schäffer stocked with sheep and goats. A little later, Kaumualii gave Tarakanov a village with eleven families on the left bank of “the River Don. “At the same time. Queen Monalau gave Schäffer land in the “Khainakhil” (perhaps Kuunakaiole?) valley, renamed the Georg valley, presumably after Schäffer, in Hanapepe province. The latter is further described as being on the coast southwest of Hanapepe Bay, “a large piece of land nine versts long and fifteen wide between the port of Waimea and Hanapepe, along the seashore where one could gather a great deal of salt.“


Otto von Kotzebue (December 30, 1787 – February 15, 1846) was a Russian officer and navigator of Baltic German descent in the Imperial Russian Navy.

Early in December word came of the arrival at Honolulu of the Russian brig Rurik, under Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue. Schäffer received a letter from John Elliot de Castro, former commissioner of the Il’mena, released from arrest in California by Kotzebue’s intercession with the Spanish authorities, and brought to Hawaii on the Rurik (Pierce 1976: 85-86).

Schäffer had been expecting the Rurik, sent out from Kronstadt in July 1815, and could now look forward to supplies and reinforcement, but the anticipated arrival was delayed. Instead, troubles began to mount. Captain Wadsworth of the Il’mena told Kaumualii that Schäffer intended to arrest the King and his chiefs. (Jarvis1843:184) Schäffer thereupon ordered Wadsworth’s arrest and confinement on the ship. In Wadsworth’s place he appointed the pilot, Voroll Madson, though reluctantly, “for he, too, is an American. But where am I to get anyone else?”

Soon afterward came news of trouble with the natives at Hanalei, who had killed one Aleut there and burned the Russian distillery (Pierce 1976: 83-85).

In January 1817, word finally came from Baranov, borne by the Cossack (Captain Brown). Whittemore had arrived in Sitka with the Avon at the end of September, expecting payment for the ship. Instead, Baranov had promptly repudiated the transaction arranged by Schäffer. Whittemore’s reactions to this wild-goose chase are not indicated; he went on to the California coast early in 1817, and thence back to Hawaii. Nor do we have Baranov’s letter, but he is quoted as having forbidden further speculation and demanding return of the Kad’iak and the Il’mena, their crews, and the capital which had been entrusted to Schäffer. (Okun’ 1936:168; Tikhmenev:188) Schäffer probably felt that his main hope of saving the situation lay in support from Kotzebue. Weeks passed, however, without word from the Rurik, so he finally sent the Il’mena to Honolulu to find out about it. On February 6, 1817, the Il’mena at last returned, bearing news that Kotzebue had departed before its arrival. It also bore a second letter from Elliot, declining Schäffer’s invitation to come to Kauai because it might offend Kamehameha (Pierce 1976: 86).

What had happened? Kotzebue’s Travels, describing the voyage, tell the story. Following orders, the Rurik had been supposed to go from Unalaska to Hawaii, but had detoured to California to avoid unfavorable winds. At San Francisco it had liberated Elliot. During the voyage to Hawaii (November 1-24, 1816), Kotzebue had found that the diminutive Elliot “possessed much natural understanding” and that “his society was very agreeable. “They arrived at Hawaii, and there were struck by the “reserved and suspicious manner” of the first native they met. “Elliot was of the opinion that some disagreeable circumstance had occurred on the island, which required the greatest precaution. “ (Kotzebue1821:294) Elliot went ashore and was told that five months before, two Russian ships had stopped there, and that there had been disputes. When the ships left the islands their officers had threatened to return soon with a strong force and a ship of war. King Kamehameha told Elliot that Schäffer had come to botanize, but had gone to Oahu, profaned the sanctuary so that it had to be destroyed and a new one built, and had incited King Kaumualii to rebel.

Elliot reassured the King of the Rurik’s peaceful intentions, and the rest of the party was allowed to come ashore. Kotzebue was grateful to Elliot, without whose help “we should probably have fallen victims to the faults of others. “ He made it clear to Kamehameha that he wanted no part of Schäffer’s enterprise.

They went on to Honolulu, where there were more complaints. “Pitt” told them, through John Young, “We never did the Russians any injustice, and yet they rendered us evil for good!” “I assured him, “wrote Kotzebue, “that everything done by Schäffer had been contrary to the will of our Emperor, and tried to make him easy respecting the future. “ (Kotzebue1821:323)

Kotzebue ordered his men to survey the harbor, only to find the islanders incensed by his men putting up flags as markers. Schäffer, they told him, had put up a flag saying “I take possession of this island. “ (Kotzebue1821:327) Kotzebue mollified the natives by having brooms substituted for the flags, but when he tried to inspect the new fort he was stopped by a sentinel calling out to him “Taboo!” and learned that access was prohibited to all strangers, “particularly Europeans. “ (Kotzebue1821:333)

To Kotzebue, there was no question of supporting Schäffer. As he wrote afterwards: “the Sandwich Islands will remain what they arethe free port and staple of all the navigators of the seas. But should any foreign power conceive the foolish idea of taking possession of them the jealous vigilance of the Americans, who possess the almost exclusive commerce of these seas, and the secure protection of England, would not be wanting to frustrate the undertaking. “ (Kotzebue1821: vol. 2. 241) Thus persuaded, Kotzebue sailed from Honolulu on December 14, 1816, without making any effort to go to Kauai to investigate matters himself.

This evident official disavowal of Schäffer –soon combined, in all probability, with word of Baranov’s attitude, borne by Captain Brown of the Cossack, and later by Whittemore of the Avon must have greatly encouraged Kamehameha and his ministers, and their allies the American skippers.

Exactly how the opposition then took shape, and who directed it, may only be surmised from the scanty references in Schäffer’s journal and reports, and several other sources. Alexander Adams, in his journal for January 19, writes of sailing on the Kaahumanu (Forester) from Hawaii to Oahu: “At 1 PM saw a strange sail to the southward, standing in for Kairua [Kailua]. On being told she was a Russian brig, and apprehensive of some harm, cleared away for quarters and bore up after her. She proved to be the brig Almyra [Il’mena] from Attoi [Kauai], bound for Kairua for hogs. “ (Adams 1905:66-74)


Meeting between the Expedition Party of Otto von Kotzebue and King Kamehameha I. Ovayhi Island reproduction by Choris, Ludwig


Brig Rurik drawing by Choris Ludwig 

Schäffer, meanwhile, carried on seemingly oblivious to the clouds gathering on the horizon. Returning to Waimea on April 9 from a prolonged stay at Hanalei, he found that the brig Kaahumanu (Forester) had stopped while en route to Canton with a cargo of sandalwood, and that Captain Adams had tried to destroy the Russian flag. Adams had been prevented from doing this, but had sent word back to Oahu before sailing.

Adams’ version of this is as follows:

Mar. 7 — . . . at 4 P. M. got under way for Attoi. Arrived off the island and delivered our orders to the king from Tamehameha [Kamehameha]. 11th. –Getting off hogs and taro on board, etc. Some Russian gentlemen dined with us.

12th–N. E. winds. Got off all our stock. Gave the King our ensign to hoist in lieu of the Russian, who said it was on account of his having no other. At 2 P. M. got under way . . . (Adams 1905)

Calling on the King after his return, Schäffer was well received, but noted that for the first time the King did not raise the Russian flag or salute. He noted further that the King and his chief minister, Kamahalolani, had taken much more goods from the Company warehouse than they should have.

About this time, an ingenious form of psychological warfare against Schäffer seems to have been devised in Honolulu, undoubtedly by the American shipmasters in the port. Schäffer’s first inkling of this came on April 16, when the Columbia (Captain Jennings) called at Waimea. Peter Corney, on board the vessel, writes merely that they “were surprised at not seeing any of the natives push off. Doctor Shefham [Schäffer], the Russian, came on board in a bodarkee [baidarka]; he would not allow us to have any communication with the shore, and through policy we did not press the point, but made all sail to the northward towards Norfolk Sound. “ (Corney 1896:73)

Schäffer, however, describing the same visit, states: “Captain Jennings told me of the arrival on the island of Oahu of Captain Ebbets the elder, from China, and also that on Oahu there is talk of disagreements between Russia and the United States, and that the Russian Minister has left America. “

It is not clear who had concocted this tale, evidently designed to create apprehension, but the scanty data concerning ships then in the area at least indicates some of the principal antagonists of Schäffer. “Old Ebbets, “ who had arrived at Honolulu from Canton on the Enterprise on April 13, was certainly on hand. Caleb Brintnell, with the Zephyr, was there; so was Dixey Wildes, of Boston, with the Paragon; Isaac Whittemore had arrived from California with the Avon in May; and William Heath Davis, out of Boston on the Eagle, may also have been present in May. These alone would have constituted formidable opposition once a decision was reached that the interloper must go.

pirate flag

"a pirate flag" in Schäffer's diary. Bancroft Library - 109 (May 1817 - "реефалюция")

Jennings also told Schäffer of an earlier agreement he had made with Kaumualii, to exchange the Columbia for sandalwood, but now void because not acted upon. When he went ashore Schäffer chided the King about the agreement, of which he had not been told, and “again” asked him to load the Russian ships so that they could be sent to Sitka. The King promised to do so, and on April 23, 1817, placed his mark on a new convention reaffirming his agreement of May 21, 1816 (Pierce 1976: 86-87).

Apparently reassured, Schäffer went to Hanapepe to look after work begun there in the spring. There, on May , he heard that “five boats” (elsewhere referred to as “ships”, so it is uncertain whether these were native or foreign vessels) had arrived from Oahu “with news of war.”

Schäffer hastened back to Waimea, and early on the morning of May 8, visited the King. He found him at the river at a gathering of his ministers, surrounded by “a thousand men. “Schäffer again demanded that the Russian ships be loaded and dispatched as soon as possible. Turning to go back to the factory, however, he was seized by a native and “six American seamen” and told that he and all the other Russians must leave Kauai at once. He protested, but was set in a leaky boat and forced to paddle out to the Kad’iak. From its deck he heard cannon shots and saw “a pirate flag”–a blue and white ensign of mysterious origin, but deserving to be ranked among the earliest Hawaiian flags–raised to a cannon salute.

There followed a futile wait in the harbor at Waimea, watching the “pirate flag” raised daily ashore. Captain Wadsworth, still a prisoner on the Kad’iak, pretended insanity, jumped overboard, and was picked up by a native and taken ashore.

Finding they could do nothing more at Waimea, Schäffer and his men sailed the Il’mena and the Kad’iak around the island to Hanalei, in hope of making a stand at Fort Alexander. On the way Schäffer wrote to Kaumualii, scolding him and warning him of dire consequences for not keeping faith (Pierce 1976: 88-90).

At Hanalei, Schäffer made formal claim to the whole island of Kauai in the name of the Emperor of Russia, and ordered the Russian flag raised over Fort Alexander, to a three-gun salute. He hoped to make a stand, and had the men sign a compact to that effect (Pierce 1976: 93-94), but hostility of the local natives, capped by an order from Waimea to leave Hanalei or suffer the consequences, left Schäffer no choice but to comply.

The Kad’iak, up to then under Captain George Young, was unseaworthy for the voyage to Alaska. Schäffer accordingly placed the loyal Young in command of the Il’mena and sent it, with tidings of the debacle, to Baranov. As passengers went Madson, previously in command, and the still faithful Chief “Hanalei” (Kallavatti), his wife Mitina, and their servants.


Georg Anton Schäffer in 1817 (38 years old). Drawing by Olga Sokolova.

Schäffer himself took command of the leaky Kad’iak, and with the remaining Russians and more than forty Aleuts sailed for uncertain sanctuary in Honolulu, apparently hoping to stay there until reinforcements arrived.

After five days the Kad’iak dropped anchor outside the harbor of Honolulu. The Russian flag was placed upside down on the mizzenmast to indicate distress, and a cannon shot brought a pilot, who brought the ship to the inner harbor.

Ashore there was uncertainty what to do with the unwelcome guests, none of whom were permitted to land. Finally it was proposed that if Schäffer went as a prisoner to Hawaii, and if the ship gave up all arms and ammunition, the others on board would be allowed to stay. Schäffer agreed to give up the arms, but declined to be “a caught fish” himself and in this was backed up by Tarakanov and the others. On July 4 flags were flying from all the ships in the harbor in honor of the American Independence Day. At noon Schäffer ordered the Russian flag flown, but upside down, which caused “a great commotion on the American ships. “A “Captain Wills” (probably Captain Dixey Wildes, of the ship Paragon), sent word to Schäffer to turn his flag around, but he refused on the ground that his ship was still in distress.

On the same day, the brig Panther arrived. Its captain, Isaiah Lewis, grateful for medical aid Schäffer had rendered the previous year, offered a way out of the dilemma in the form of passage to Canton.

Schäffer put the matter before a committee of his men. They, probably eager to be rid of him, urged that he accept, on the grounds that he should go on to Europe and report directly to the Company heads and the Russian government. Leaving a committee, headed by Tarakanov, to look after the stricken Kad’iak and the men, Schäffer sailed on the Panther on July 7. Taking with him an Aleut, Grigorii Iskakov, and a Russian promyshlennik, Filip Osipov, he left the islands as he had come, in an American ship with only two companions.


Kaumualiʻi. Drawing by Olga Sokolova.

The voyage was uneventful. The brig touched at Kauai for supplies, but Schäffer was kept in quarters out of sight of the natives. Schäffer records in his journal some observations by the mate–a Mr. Marshal (Merschel?), a nephew of John Jacob Astor and former second officer of Astors ill-fated ship Lark, wrecked off Kahoolawe in 1813– regarding the fur trade on the Northwest coast and the unscrupulous methods pursued.

The Panther arrived at Macao on August 26. There Schäffer stayed with Anders Ljungstedt, the Swedish consul, long a friend of the Russian-American Company. Again exceeding his powers, Schäffer made Ljungstedt official representative of the Company at Macao.

On December 4/5, 1817, Schäffer left Macao on the Portuguese ship Luconia, bound for Rio de Janeiro, arriving March 8, 1818. A month later, in April, he sailed for Riga on a Russian ship, the Natalia Petrovna.

Reactions to the fiasco, in Sitka and St. Petersburg, were much delayed. In these days of instant communications, it is easy to forget the lag which formerly took place in the spread of information. Russian America was particularly subject to this. The fastest of vessels took about a month between Sitka and San Francisco, Honolulu, or Okhotsk. From Okhotsk the post, operated on a relay system, could get a message to St. Petersburg in about three months. However, all depended on the season and the availability of ships. Months might pass before a message could even start on its way. A year was the usual time between Sitka and St. Petersburg, whether by round-theworld ship or across Siberia.

Contrary to the impression given in some accounts, therefore, Schäffer’s venture could only have been a one-man show. Baranov, in Sitka, appears to have heard nothing about the fate of his agent from the time of Schäffer’s departure for the Islands in November 1815, until the return of the Otkrytie in the following June. The displeasure and uneasiness he then felt at the turn events had taken could not be communicated for some months. When Whittemore arrived early in October 1816, with a 200, 000-piastre claim for the Avon and further evidence of Schäffer’s misguided zeal, Baranov still could not communicate with the Islands until the departure of the brig Cossack late in December. He could not inform St. Petersburg of the situation and of his demands on Schäffer until the brig Brutus left for Siberia in May, 1817, bearing dispatches to be sent to the capital on the long overland journey via Okhotsk.

The Company directors in St. Petersburg, half a world away, were scarcely in the picture at all. They seem to have heard of Schäffer’s dispatch on the mission (November 1815) only in March, 1817. In a dispatch of March 22, 1817, they reminded Baranov that he had earlier stated that Schäffer would likely be of no use, yet now he was sending him on an important mission. They cautioned Baranov against carrying out a proposal he had apparently made, of employing Schäffer to set up a school or distillery at Fort Ross, in California, on grounds that such activity might arouse the Spaniards (Pierce 1976: 108-109).

The Company heads seem to have heard of Schäffer’s successes of May 21/June 2, 1816, via Canton, only in August, 1817, over two months after the game was already up and Schäffer had left the Islands. In a postscript to a dispatch of August 14, 1817, to be sent with Lieutenant V. M. Golovnin, commander of the frigate Kamchatka, soon to depart for Russian America, they mention receipt of Dr. Schäffer’s “very interesting and pleasant report” (Pierce 1976: 109110). In instructions to Golovnin they urged that everything possible be done “to establish Russian authority and to develop factories” on Kauai (Pierce 1976: 110), and sent with him a number of presents for the King (Pierce 1976: 113). They wrote Schäffer instructing him to protect Kaumualii and his people, to give the King due honors and respect, and to avoid quarrels between the Russians and natives, any oppression or mistreatment of natives, or their use as forced laborers (Pierce 1976: 110-113). At about the same time the naval historian V. N. Berkh, who had visited the Hawaiian Islands with the Neva in 1805, prepared a lengthy memorandum on the Islands, evidently for Company use, summarizing his own observations and other information about the area. An interesting adjunct to this report is a letter from I. A. Kuskov, manager of the Company outpost of Fort Ross, in California, dated August 12, 1816, lauding Schäffer’s achievement on the basis of information he had just received, and enclosing a copy of Kaumualii’s act of submission (Pierce 1976: 113-122).

Official circles, however, took a different view of the matter. On August 15, the Company informed Count Nesselrode, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of the developments in the Pacific, enclosing a copy of Schäffer’s report of August 1816 (Pierce 1976: 74-76), and a copy of Kaumualii’s submission (Pierce 1976: 63; Pierce 1976: 113-122), for transmittal to the Emperor. Nesselrode, unimpressed, sent the Company a short note directing it to take no action concerning the cession of Kauai until receipt of additional information. (Okun’ 1936:167-168)

Copies of Kaumualii’s conventions with Schäffer, Schäffer’s proposal that the Company buy the Avon, and a report of Baranov’s refusal and subsequent orders to Schäffer, sent by Baranov about May, 1817, via the Brutus and the overland post from Okhotsk, reached St. Petersburg about October 15, 1817. (Okun’ 1936:166)

The matter then rested until January 1818, when the Company dispatched a report, accompanied by copies of all pertinent documents, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for forwarding to the Emperor (Pierce 1976: 123-124).

The Emperor threw cold water on the project, informing Nesselrode that acquisition of the Islands would be useless, and could actually lead to “unpleasantness” in the country’s relations with other powers. Therefore, Kaumualii’s act of submission was not to be accepted, although the Company should try to keep the King’s esteem and good will. On February 24, 1818, Nesselrode informed the Minister of Interior, Kozodavlev, of the Emperors decision, which Kozodavlev relayed to the Council of the Russian-American Company in a letter of March 13. (Okun’ 1936:166)


Count Karl Robert Nesselrode, also known as Charles de Nesselrode, was a Russian Empire diplomat of Baltic-German descent.

Upon receiving the Emperor’s directive, the Company on March 15, 1818, wrote Baranov at length, telling him to recall Schäffer as soon as possible and, in consultation with Hagemeister and Golovnin, to replace him with someone more able. (Okun’ 1936:168) Meeting on March 26, the Council of the Russian-American Company decided that steps should be taken (1) to return to Kaumualii his act of submission, with the explanation that the Emperor already had enough possessions, but with due regard for the King’s feelings; (2) to ask the Ministry of the Interior to strike a gold medal inscribed “To Kaumualii, King of the Sandwich Island of Kauai, as a mark of Russian friendship”, to be given him on a ribbon of St. Anna along with a jewelled cutlass; and (3) to get word to Baranov to recall Schäffer as soon as possible, and to put the matter of Company trade with the Sandwich Islands in the hands of a wiser person. (Okun’ 1936: 166-170) [3]

Another lag followed, until August 5, 1818, when at the Company’s request, Alexander granted the gold medal for Kaumualii which had been proposed in March. (Okun’ 1936: 164)

Then, also in August, the Company received Schäffer’s letter of September 20, 1817, from Macao, telling of the evacuation of Kauai. All was lost. On August 13, the Company passed on the sorry information to the Minister of the Interior. (Okun’ 1936)

All the while, Schäffer had been on his way to Europe. Late in July he and his two companions finally arrived at Helsingor, Denmark. On July 30, he wrote the Main Office from that port, stating that he must report in person to the Emperor. He had learned that the Emperor had gone to attend the Congress of Aachen, so had sent a message to him there (Pierce 1976: 124-125). Evidently no invitation to Aachen was forthcoming, for on August 18 he wrote the Main Office from Berlin, complaining of lack of funds, and asked the Company to send him a draft (Pierce 1976: 124-125).

Schäffer’s erstwhile traveling companion, the promyshlennik Filip Osipov (there is no indication of what ever happened to the other, an Aleut) had meanwhile arrived in St. Petersburg, where he delivered a lengthy report to the Main Office (Pierce 1976: 125-131). Schäffer, however, failed to appear, so upon hearing that he was at Riga, the Company finally wrote the governor-general of Riga on November 23, 1818, asking that he be sent to St. Petersburg (Pierce 1976: 131-134).

Joseph Josefovich-Charlemagne-IceFairontheNevaRiverSt.Petersburg-5112013T121052

St. Petersburg, 1819

In the capital, Schäffer appears to have had a cool reception. He wrote the Company on February 6, 1819, stating dissatisfaction with the payment he had received (Pierce 1976: 134-135). Later in the month he directed a lengthy memorial to the Emperor, setting forth a glowing description of the Hawaiian Islands, the rights of Russia to them, and the political and economic advantages which would accrue from their acquisition. (Okun’1936:173-177)

Although forwarded with some skepticism by the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade, judging by appended comments, the memorial appears to have reopened the entire question. Evidently there were those in Company or government circles who still favored the project. On February 27, 1819, the Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade asked the Company its opinion of the memorial. (RAC n.d. )

On March 2, 1819, evidently in reply to criticisms of his proposals, Schäffer submitted an “Appendix” to the memorial, amplifying some of its points. A Company memorandum on the project, prepared for the Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade on March 18, 1819, expounded on the benefits that could derive from acquisition of the Islands, and gave grounds for the Russian claim. (Okun’1936:181-182)

However, the hopes of Schäffer and his adherents were soon dashed. On April 1, 1819, the Main Office of the Company informed Captain L. A. Hagemeister, who had succeeded Baranov as the Chief Manager at Sitka, that the proposals set forth in Schäffer’s memorial should be achieved only by peaceful means. [44] There is then a curt letter from Schäffer to the Company, dated April 22, 1819, reviewing his expenditures, and criticizing the Company for handicapping its representatives in the Pacific with inadequate means, especially shipping (Pierce 1976: 35-137). The Company minutes of May 17, 1819, mention that Schäffer had left for Germany in April, and record efforts to account for amounts still outstanding (Pierce 1976: 137-139). The coup de grâce was given to the idea of dominion in Hawaii on June 24, when Foreign Minister Nesselrode wrote Minister of the Interior Kozodavlev, passing on a reminder by the Emperor that he had refused annexation from the first and now wanted good relations with the Sandwich Islands restored as soon and as well as possible, and no new adventures. (Okun’1936:182-185) On July 15, 1819, this directive was passed on word for word through the Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade to the Company (Pierce 1976: 139-141).

That settled the matter. On August 12, 1819, the Main Office stated in a letter to Captain Hagemeister, dispatched via the Borodino, departing for Russian America on September 29, that in accordance with the Emperor’s will he was to visit the Islands, try to mollify the King, and–showing that all hope of concessions had not been extinguished–try to obtain permission for Russians to settle there (Pierce 1976: 141-146).

In the Pacific, meanwhile, Hagemeister had arrived at Sitka on the Kutuzov on November 21, 1817. He bore orders from the Main Office, concerned over Baranov’s capability in the light of reports of his fracas with Lieutenant Lazarev in July, 1815, to supplant, himself, the aging Chief Manager in office if he thought it necessary. Six weeks later, Hagemeister abruptly and tactlessly informed Baranov of his dismissal, and took over his post. He inherited the Hawaiian fiasco along with other problems.

On January 28, 1818, Hagemeister wrote Kuskov, manager at Fort Ross, that “matters have been decided in the Islands–the Doctor has left. “ He then described how Tarakanov, evidently just arrived in Sitka, had arranged with an American shipmaster for the latter to take two Russians and forty-one Aleuts, then on Oahu, back to Sitka, the men paying their passage home by hunting on the California coast (Pierce 1976: 146-147). In February Hagemeister directed Podushkin to take the Otkrytie to the Islands and settle affairs with Kamehameha and Kaumualii (Pierce 1976: 147-154). On April 6 Hagemeister wrote the Main Office a sarcastic description of Schäffers transactions (Pierce 1976: 154-155).

The voyage of the Otkrytie was evidently inconclusive, [4] for over a year later, on April 20, 1820, Hagemeisters successor as Chief Manager, Lieutenant-Captain S. I. Ianovskii, wrote the Main Office that he had sent the ship Brutus (purchased by the Company from her American owner in 1819) to the Islands to straighten out matters once and for all. However, no satisfaction had been obtained from Kaumualii, causing Ianovskii to observe that “much more might be obtained from the King by threats, if one or two well-armed ships were sent there . . . “(Pierce 1976: 155-157).

The warships were never sent. Russia was involved in European affairs. Alaska was adequately provided for by the now almost annual round-the-world ships, by foreign shipping, and by the produce of Fort Ross, borne to the north on Company vessels. The Company evidently wrote off the losses incurred by the wreck of the Bering and by Schäffer’s machinations, and Russian interest in the Hawaiian Islands all but ceased.

Two other foreigners, however, kept Schäffer’s dream alive for a little longer. Anders Ljungstedt, the Swedish consul in Macao, caught the idea from Schäffer and passed it on to Peter Dobell, an Irish-American who had made a fortune in the China trade and taken Russian citizenship. Each wrote memorials to the Russian government urging Russian acquisition of Hawaii as the key to trade and power in the Pacific, and each was ignored. (Golder 1928: 39-49) Neither Company nor government personnel were inclined to act in the face of the Emperor’s expressed opinion.


Anders Ljungstedt, the Swedish consul in Macao

In the Islands, Kamehameha died in 1819, and with him an era. His son and successor, Liholiho (Kamehameha II), before sinking into a life of debauchery, renounced the old gods and their taboos, put down rebellions, and demanded and received Kaumualii’s abject submission. The latter, married, strangely enough, Kamehameha’s widow, Kaahumanu, and lived out his remaining years in Honolulu, as a royal prisoner, until his death in 1824.

Schäffer, meanwhile, seeking to repair his fortunes, left Germany for Brazil early in 1821. He had already become acquainted with the Emperor Dom Pedro I and his young Hapsburg Empress, Leopoldina, during a stop at Rio de Janeiro on the outward voyage of the Suvorov in May, 1814. From them he received an estate, which he named “Frankenthal, “ and joined the parvenu nobility of the Brazilian capital as Count von Frankenthal. In 1823 he returned to Europe to recruit German colonists and mercenary troops, gaining the sobriquet of “the soul-buyer” (Seelenverkaufer) because of the hardships suffered by the colonists. His book Brasilien als unabhängiges Reich, in historicher, mercantilischer und politischer Beziehung. . . (Altona, 1824) is a propaganda piece but is also a competent description of the country. (Canstatt1902: 31-32) In about 1827 he returned to Brazil. He settled on his estate, his roamings at an end, and died there in 1836.

Any evaluation of Schäffer must depend on clues in his writings and career. They reveal a restless personality, more at home among peoples of distant places than with his own kind. There is an urge to achieve status, hence the millers son sometimes signs himself as “de Sheffer” and “von Shaffer, “Hanalei becomes “Schaffer valley” without apparent resistance on his part, and his career doubtless reaches its pinnacle when he becomes “Count von Frankenthal.”


Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great, (full Hawaiian name: Kalani Paiʻea Wohi o Kaleikini Kealiʻikui Kamehameha o ʻIolani i Kaiwikapu kauʻi Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea) was the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

There also appears an almost paranoid suspicion and persecution complex in his references to old Young, and to the Americans, typified in his eyes by W. P. Hunt, the elder and younger Ebbets, the Winships, and others. Although these figures doubtless had their faults, his virulent characterizations are not corroborated by other writers of the time, and must be regarded as rising from bafflement and frustration at the thwarting of his own aims.

Likewise, one cannot overlook the opportunism and personal ambition behind his rash disregard of instructions, the deception occasionally evident in his reports to the Company or his deals with Kaumualii, the hypocrisy and self-seeking of his too-fervent love for Russia (“my second home”), the vanity and self-delusion which led him into a hopeless predicament, and the legalistic mind which caused him to place naïve reliance on the symbols rather than the reality of power. Outraged at Kaumualii’s fickleness, he lacked the realism which led the native monarch to change sides quickly when the pleasant game of signing treaties and bills of sale, building forts, and giving cannon salutes promised unfavorable results. He had nothing to match the resourcefulness, practicality, and flinty resolve of the Yankee traders, and no understanding of the sea power they represented, upon which he and the Company were dependent at every turn.

On the other hand, this ship’s surgeon turned empire builder managed to get surprisingly far on slender resources. Lengthy survey tours of Hawaii, Oahu, and Kauai, and his attention to local products and to planting testify to a zeal and energy which could have shown good results if properly channeled. Had his gains on Kauai been taken over by some soberer head–Kotzebue could have played this role–Russia might have salvaged at least a foothold in the Islands to the benefit of her possessions in Eastern Siberia and Alaska.

As it was, however, Schaffer’s fleeting success merely typified Russia’s own brief rise in the North Pacific, due largely to the temporary absence of competition. Baranov’s forced retirement in 1819 ended the forward policy he had pursued almost single-handedly for the Russian-American Company. The death of Kamehameha later in the same year, and the arrival of the missionaries, spelled the end of “Old Hawaii. “Political change and rapid economic development throughout the Pacific Basin signaled a new era in which Russia could take only a limited part.


1. Most of this biographical data on Schäffer has been supplied by Professor Enrico Schaeffer of São Paulo, a collateral descendant. Professor Schaeffer is the author of “De velhas cronicas de familias: O Cavalheiro Georg Anton de Schaeffer, “Revista Genealogica Latina, São Paulo, 1959, and “Aus alten Familien-Chroniken: Georg Anton Ritter von Schaeffer, Seelenverkaeufer und Freund der brasilian. Kaiserin, “ Revista Suedamerika, Buenos Aires, 1960. The brief biographical account in Bancroft, op. cit, p. 507 n. contains several gross inaccuracies. The balloon episode is mentioned in Eugene Tarle, Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, 1812, London, 1942, pp. 157158.

2. Podushkin, commander of the vessel, states (Pierce 1976:65-71) that he arrived at Oahu on April 21 and dropped anchor in Honolulu harbor on April 23. Schäffer, in his Journal (Pierce 1976:157-217), agrees with the latter date when he states that the Otkrytie arrived on May 3 (New Style). Khlebnikov states that the Il’mena arrived on April 30, which would be May 11 New Style.

3. The vicissitudes that could beset Company correspondence were shown in the fate of a dispatch of a few days later, March 21, 1818. Sent to Okhotsk for forwarding to Sitka, it was returned to St. Petersburg by error, and then sent out again, finally reaching its destination in 1821 (Pierce 1976:141-146).

4. The dates of the Otkrytie’s 1818 voyage to Hawaii are unknown. However, James Hunnewell, “Voyage in the Brig Bordeaux Packet, Boston to Honolulu, 1817, and Residence in Honolulu, 1817-1818,

“ Hawaiian Historical Society, Papers, No. 8 (1895), 17, describes her visit to Oahu thus: “Apr. 10. Arrived, Russian ship Cretie, from Owyhee. . . May 5. Sailed, ‘the Russian ship. ‘”

The condition of Kaumualii by that time is indicated by the American shipmaster Samuel Hill (Packet) in his log on November 7, 1818: “Tamooeree [Kaumualii]), who is now absolutely no more than 40 years of age, has every appearance of a man of 70 years old, & appears to be rapidly declining–he has led a very intemperate life by Indulging to an Excess in Smoking Tobacco, taking the Ava, and Keeping a Number of Females. “Samuel Hill, “Journal and Logbook, Ophelia and Packet, 1815– 1822, “ MS, New York Public Library.



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