Friday, June 19, 2009

Escape to Paradise

& Welcome to. . .
Machu Picchu? Nat'l Geographic (c)

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau

“How far away the stars seem, and how far is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart.”
William Butler Yeats

The Playground of Waikiki

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained... now everywhere is war.”

Popularized by Bob Marley in the song War

Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Imagine that you are a black man born into slavery in Albany New York in the Year of Our Lord 1774.

That you somehow make your way to Boston as the modern 19th Century dawns, find a job in the galley of a whaling ship, but are discovered by your "owner" while still at anchor in the harbor.

Freedom denied at the last possible moment!

Then imagine your Yankee captain, bristling at such interference in HIS affairs, brusquely paying Massa off, and allowing you to work off your debt, thus EARNING your FREEDOM as you see the world from the deck of a sailing vessel.
After 1802 you are a free man.
In 1812 you settle in the Hawaiian Kingdom of Kamehameha the Great.

Such was the early story of Anthony Allen.

But the most interesting parts of this story were yet to come.

Thanks to a historic letter, auctioned last week by Bonhams, we can thrill to his amazing tale, from a unique historic moment,

and in the words of the man himself.

Missionary Hiram Bingham wrote the letter by hand to Allen's dictation on October 11th, 1822.
Allen would live until 1835.

(Incidentally, Bingham's name-sake grandson would later discover Machu Picchu! Hence the top picture ;-)

The so called "lost letter of Anthony Allen" describes his rise from slavery in New York to freedom and land-ownership in Hawaii.
From the Bonham's catalogue:
"In 1822, Allen received a letter from a Dr. Dougal of Schenectady, New York. Dougal was the son of the family that owned Allen as a slave, and had read an article about him in the Missionary Herald. He wrote to Allen, asking him to reply describing his life during the past two decades. Touched by the letter, Allen asked the American Protestant missionaries whether one of them would be willing to act as his scribe in writing a response.
The willingness of Bingham to help Allen write was testimony to the former slave's generosity and kindness towards the missionaries. Elisha Loomis remarked of Allen that he "lives the most comfortably of any on the island - has a wife and two pretty children," and that he frequently sent gifts of potatoes, squashes, goats, and milk.
The letter reads, in part:
'Mr Dear Master, I rejoice that you have found out my residence after supposing I had been dead ... As you have written me a long and very kind letter and requested me very particularly to write to you an account of myself since I left your city, I have come to the house of the Missionaries, to get one of them to write what I wish to say to you respecting myself ... Came to the Sandwich Islands in 1811 & here came ashore with permission and lived four months with Hevaheva the high Priest of the Islands ... Capt. Davis employed me as a steward in passage from one island to another particularly to wait on the King Tamehameha & his five Queens, as I was a taboo'd man, and they would like my services the better ... The High Priest gave me a piece of land at Waititi (Waikiki!) containing about six acres, having on it a few cocoanut trees & three small houses or native huts ... Came back to these Islands in the Isabella Capt. Davis in 1812 & celebrated the 4th of July at Karakekuah (Kealakekua) a great day. - Returned from Hawaii to this Island (Oahu) & after about a fortnight I came ashore with my wages which amounted to about 150 doll., and came to live on my place with two families the people of the High Priest, belonging to the land. And here I must tell you that according to the custom of the country & the practice of some of my white neighbors who settle in these Islands I took me two wives ... Isaac David had six, and one American gentleman I could name, kept ten, for two or three years ... In 1813 I began to build me small thatched houses, I built one for a sleeping house, one for an eating house for myself and one for an eating house for my wives, for we might not eat in a sleeping house without breaking taboo. I could not eat in my women's eating house nor they in mine. I could not go into theirs nor they in mine, we could not drink ...'"The text breaks off here-
It sold for $9,150 USD inclusive of Buyer's Premium.
The document is a private treasure, but the words are free to thrill us. . .
A L O H A! Cloudia