Isaak Iselin in Hawaiʻi, 1807

We can only guess why Isaak Iselin omitted a more detailed description of John Young in his journal. As the journal was probably meant for eventual publication, Iselin generally tended to omit political context and comment, probably in order not to insult any of the EuroAmerican empires or their subjects. The life story of John Young, a former detainee who had adapted to and became part of Hawaiian society, may have seemed unfit to recount in detail, perhaps because racial mixing or «going native» were considered inappropriate topics for a wider public.

It is known that John Young had a family in Hawaiʻi. Iselin does not even mention them in the letter to his brother, perhaps for the same reasons discussed above. In order to communicate his views on John Young to his readers, Iselin writes that he «seems a sensible respectable man» (emphasis added).

Interesting in the passage is the use of the word «Indian» for Hawaiians. Iselin uses an otherwise foreign concept for describing the Islanders and pulls them into an North American context.

Comparing sources II – Comment

«Owhyhee* was formerly the residence of the king who has left it about five years ago to follow the conquest of the other islands. and The government of it is now entrusted to Mr. Young a native of Great Britain who was detained here about 15 fifteen years ago; and who owes to his good conduct and attachement [sic] to his indian sovereign the place he now occupies.
His authority over the natives is almost absolute, but the moderate use he makes of his power has gained him their respect and love; he receives his orders immediately from the king, who for fear of disturbancy or revolutions suffers no other chief to live on the island.»

* The island of Hawaiʻi

Portrait of John Young, drawn in 1819 by Alphonse Pellion.
From: Freycinet, Louis de (ed.). Voyage autour du monde (…). Paris: Langlois, 1825, pl. 84.