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These dates indicate generational patterns, suggesting that the impact of venereal disease continued for at least three generations before it abated or became a leas virulent strain.

The lack o£ any natural immunity to Western diseases aiaong trie native Hawaiians was far more ca amatically traceable with the introduction of air- or water-borne contagion. The first recorded epidemic occurred in 1804. From native accounts of the symptoms, it is now assumed that outbreaks of either cholera or bubonic plague occurred. Of an estimated population of 280,000 in the year before this epidemic, nearly half succumbed.

Later epidemics also contributed to the high mortality rate: influenza "irst appeared in 1826, and measles, "hooping cough, diarrnea, and nfluenza struck in rapid succession n 1848 and 1849.

Other causes mentioned by authors for the declining population are:

  • Limited knowledge of treatment for certain diseases, poor infant care, breakdown of the old moral order, and disruption of important economic activities; 11/
  • Inter-island warfare that did not abate until 1795 and infanticide, mostly of females, to balance the loss of males in war; and
  • The sandalwood trace, which caused innumerable natives to work gathering sandalwood, weakened them, and caused them to neglect other economic pursuits, such as fishing and farming. 12/

Migration: although it was not a [major cause of: population decline, the migration of young Hawaiian men did play a role. The recruitment of native tiawaiians as'crew members for visiting ships evidently began in 1788. Romanzo Adams estimated that the number of island seamen increased from 200 in 1823 to 300 in 1825, 400 in 1832, 600 in 1836, 3,500 in 1848, and 4,000 in 1850. At mid-century, then, nearly 5 percent of the total Hawaiian population had enlisted as sailors. More importantly, this group accounted for approximately 12 percent of all Hawaiian males 18 years of age or older. 13/

Population Trends from 1850 to 1896

According to the census data of the kingdom, this period witnessed the reversal of the decline in the overall population of Hawaii. While there was a 3.5 percent per year population decline in 1853, the population in 1896 was increasing at a rate of 3.3 percent per year (see Table 2).

However, far-reaching changes were occurring in the lifestyle and composition of the population, as the native population continued its decline. Central to this transformation was the importation of laborers, beginning in 1852, to work the newly-established sugar plantations. The effects of the plantation system are evident in the increase of non-Hawaiians, a considerable excess of males over females, and a youthful population.


Although there was a sufficient number of Hawaiians to meet the labor needs of the plantations, the native cultural pattern of subsistence living was not conducive to plantation labor. As Lind concluded, since Hawaiians could satisfy their simple living expectations by a few hours toil in the taro patches, "there was little reason for the Hawaiians to offer themselves as plantation laborers under the onerous and confining conditions which prevailed—long hours of hard labor under driving rain and hot tropical sun..." 14/


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