Hawaii Holomua’s Fiery Insults

A newspaper that calls people a “braying ass,” “usurper,” and “political charlatan.” The Hawaii Holomua’s English edition (1893-1895) got its abrasiveness from its fiery editor Edmund Norrie. As he called the annexationists the “American mafia,” Norrie, a supporter of the Hawaiian Monarchy, said many unpleasant words.

In the mid-1890s, after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Provisional Government created libel laws and restricted freedom of speech in Hawaii to discourage Nationalists from encouraging a counter-revolution. However, Norrie criticized the Provisional Government and consequently was arrested five times between 1893 and 1895 and paid a fine of $100 three times.

In the article “Another Fake” in the October 27, 1893 issue, Norrie criticized what Thomas W. Hobron said in the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote Queen Lili’uokalani would never be the queen of Hawaii again, since a few men swore to shoot her and her followers after 24 hours of regaining her throne. Norrie called the article the “latest fake,” described Hobron as “not a very clever young man,” and said, “It is about time that the learned Attorney-General … get the idiotic ‘correspondent’ confined in a padded room.” Norrie was arrested the next morning for libel.

In the November 21, 1894 issue, Norrie editorialized that Sanford Ballard Dole “is President of Hawaii through treason, fraud and might.” The next day, Norrie was arrested for libel, and the editorial that reported the charge said, “The greater the truth, the greater the libel.” He eventually went to trial and paid fines of $100 for “seditious libel” and $10 for contempt of court.

Norrie certainly did not shy away from personally attacking his enemies in the journalism field. In a lengthy blurb in the February 26, 1894 issue, Norrie called the editor of The Friend, of temperance and seamen (a monthly Christian newspaper), Reverend Sereno Edwards Bishop (editor from July 1887 to March 1902), a “blackguarding, old gossiper” who “indulges in hearsay evidence.” Norrie said, “And this man who calls himself a Christian, and moreover a servant of the great Teacher of truth and love among men goes on in this strain, dodging the truth, black-guarding his fellow-men, and cowardly stabbing them in the dark.”

Norrie also called the leaders of the Hawaiian Star a “conceited missionary minority.” In the January 2, 1894 issue of Hawaii Holomua, Norrie said, along with The Hawaiian Star, a “more dastardly, disgraceful and cowardly journal has probably never been published in any community.” He constantly complained about The Hawaiian Star’s editorial slant supporting the Provisional Government and opposing the Hawaiian Monarchy. The Hawaiian Star accused Queen Liliuokalani of financially supporting The Hawaii Holomua, but Norrie claimed the opposite and that the Hawaiian Star “black-guarded” and “abused” Queen Lili’uokalani, when it reported that Holy Willie Hall sued her for an unpaid debt to his firm.

In the pages of The Hawaiian Star, editorial chief J. S. McGrew claimed Norrie brawled in a saloon and had his head hit by a spittoon. However, Norrie did not drink alcohol or went to bars and sued McGrew, the president of the Annexation Club. However, Norrie quit the lawsuit after McGrew left the paper, and the Hawaiian Star publicly apologized to Norrie.

A three-day counter-revolution broke out, Norrie and the other newspaper editors against the Provisional Government were sent to jail, and his abrasive opinions were silenced. Apparently happy about their imprisonment, Wallace Rider Farrington, the editor of the Hawaiian Gazette, said in his paper’s January 18, 1895 issue that they are “enjoying a long-needed term of rest” and “The editors are passing their vacations in Oahu Prison.”

However, Norrie would not keep silent for long. After he got out of jail, he continued his insults when editing the Independent from June 1895 to 1902.

– Alice Kim

Links to the relevant articles (in the order they were mentioned in the article):

“An American Mafia”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., December 07, 1893, Image 2

“Another Fake”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., October 27, 1893, Image 2

“More Criminal Libel”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., October 28, 1893, Image 4

“The Bishop and Dole”
Norrie editorialized that Sanford Ballard Dole “is President of Hawaii through treason, fraud and might.”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., November 21, 1894, Image 2

“More Libel”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., November 23, 1894, Image 2

“The Libel Suit”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., November 24, 1894, Image 3

“The Norrie Case”
Hawaii holomua = Progress., December 06, 1894, Image 2

“His Sad Case: A Worthy Specimen of the Hawaiian Missionary”
Norrie insults Reverend Sereno Edwards Bishop.
Hawaii holomua = Progress., February 26, 1894, Image 2

“Topics of the day”
Norrie claims that the Hawaiian Star “abused” and “black-guarded” Queen Liliuokalani.
Hawaii holomua = Progress., November 24, 1893, Image 3

“Down with the Hawaiians!”
Norrie comments about the Hawaiian Star.
Hawaii holomua = Progress., January 02, 1894, Image 2

“Demands a retraction: Norrie of the ‘Holomua’ Thinks He Has Been Libelled”
The Hawaiian star., May 30, 1893, Page 2, Image 2

“The Star Libel Suit: It Goes Over Until Next Saturday”
The Hawaiian star., May 31, 1893, Page 5, Image 5

“The Norrie Libel Suit”
The Hawaiian star., November 15, 1893, Page 5, Image 5

“Charged with Sedition: Edmund Norrie Must Answer for His Utterances”
The Hawaiian star., March 23, 1894, Page 3, Image 3


Chapin, Helen Geracimos. Shaping History: the Role of Newspapers in Hawaii. Honolulu, Hawaiʻi: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1996. Print.


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