Henry A. Peirce bigraphy, stories - American diplomat

Henry A. Peirce : biography

December 15, 1808 - July 29, 1885

Henry Augustus Peirce (1808–1885) was an American businessman and diplomat. Some sources spell his last name as Pierce.


On May 10, 1869 Peirce was appointed U.S. Minister to Hawaiian Islands, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 21, 1869. This time he traveled on the transcontinental railroad and arrived in Honolulu by June 15, 1869, twenty years after his last visit. On July 19, 1869 he presented his credentials at the court of King Kamehameha V. When this last ruler of the House of Kamehameha died on December 11, 1872 without naming a successor, the Kingdom faced a political crisis. The popular King Lunalilo then died on February 3, 1874, again with no successor, and the crisis deepened when King Kalākaua was elected by the legislature. Supporters of Queen Emma of Hawaii who was popular with the people, started to riot. At the request of C. R. Bishop who was Minister of the Interior, Peirce called out American troops from the sloops and .

On November 17, 1874 Kalākaua left accompanied by Peirce and some other government ministers on a visit to Washington, D.C. which was the first state visit of a ruling monarch to the United States. They were guests at a state dinner and reception with President Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Cabinet. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 allowed use of Pearl Harbor by the U.S. in exchange for elimination of tariffs on Hawaiian goods. This was a careful compromise between those who wanted full annexation of the islands or cessation of the Harbor, and others who opposed any threats to sovereignty. Peirce had worked for years on arranging the trip and treaty, interrupted by the deaths of the two previous monarchs. Kalākaua offered Peirce the Royal Order of Kamehameha, but he had to wait until no longer employed by the U.S. Government to accept.

He served until being replaced by James M. Comly on September 25, 1877. On November 17, 1877 he arrived in San Francisco, but the cold weather convinced him to return to Hawaii January 8, 1878. As he was about to leave, Kalākaua offered him the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Hawaii on March 1. There was a shortage of experienced politicians and diplomats willing to serve; in fact, the Minister from the Kingdom to the United States was fellow New Englander Elisha Hunt Allen. Americans were negotiating on both sides of the 1875 treaty. Allen also was chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. However, after a no confidence vote was narrowly defeated by the legislature, Kalākaua replaced his entire cabinet on July 3, 1878. Peirce served for one session in the House of Nobles, and was sent to an exhibition in Boston in 1883. He returned to Boston one more time and then resided in San Francisco where he died on July 29, 1885.

Early life and business

He was born in Dorchester Massachusetts (now part of Boston) December 15, 1808. His father was Joseph Hardy Peirce (1773–1832) son of Joseph Peirce (1748–1812) and his mother was Frances Temple. He had at least one brother and five sisters. He attended public schools in Boston, and then about 1822 worked for his father and uncle as a court clerk. On October 24, 1824 he enrolled on the crew of the merchant ship Griffon mastered by his brother Marus T. Peirce. On March 25, 1825 the Griffon landed in Honolulu for provisions. He was promoted to ship's clerk for the three-year trading voyage on the west coast of British Columbia. In September 1828 the Griffon was back in Honolulu, and Peirce stayed while his brother returned.

Peirce worked as a clerk for fellow ex-New Englander James Hunnewell (1794–1869), who ran a mercantile business. He eventually became a partner, and then owner when Hunnewell left in 1830. In 1834 he chartered the Becket from King Kamehameha III and traveled to China trading sandalwood and merchandise to the Kamchatka Peninsula. In 1835 he formed a partnership with one of the commanders of his ships, Captain Charles Brewer (1804–1885), and continued to develop the shipping business. Some time around 1828 he took a common-law wife (before marriages were legally required to be recorded) named Kahoa, or Virginia Rives, whose mother was a Hawaiian noble and father was Jean-Baptiste Rives, the French former Secretary of Kamehameha II. They had a son named Henry E. Pierce in 1830 (changing the spelling the last name), whom he took to the mainland for his education. Kahoa divorced in 1837, and Henry E. and his mother moved to Kamchatka.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine