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Lā 9: Visiting Dr. Matthew Makalua (Hastings, England)

Dr. Makalua Inspiring the People & Board of Health’s Medical School Establishment

by Nalani Balutski

Matthew Manuia Makalua was one of three students in the Hawaiian Youths Abroad program who studied in England, along with Abraham Piianaia and Joseph Kamauoha in 1882. Makalua was the longest supported student in the program, as he continued to receive support from the Hawaiian Kingdom government until 1892. Makalua never returned home, as he married and started a family and practice in England.

The Daily Bulletin in September 1888 reported on Makalua’s progress in England: “Matthew Makalua, a young Hawaiian who has been studying medicine for the past four years in England at the Government expense, was recently married to the daughter of an English doctor. Makalua is now walking the hospitals.”[1] A few months later, in January 1889, the same newspaper reported that Makalua had “won his certificate of honor in anatomy at King’s College, London.”[2]

By the turn of the century, Dr. Makalua was an award-winning physician. An 1889 newspaper article announces that he won a prize for Hygiene and Medical Sanitation, a first Certificate of Honor for Medical Jurisprudence for the year 1888-1889, and a finalist for Pathology and Morbid Anatomy.[3] Even while living away, Makalua found ways to remain connected to his home country. In 1893, a report of a damaged ship, the “San Mateo,” that was sent for repair was printed in the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper. The ship, owned by “M.E.M. Makalua and others, of England…flies the Hawaiian flag. On her way out from England via the Suez canal several years ago, she called at this port to be registered under the Hawaiian flag.”[4]

In 1890, the Hawaiian Gazette reported from the 1890 legislative session a series of petitions received, including the following: “that Mr. Makalua be requested to return and practice; that native Hawaiians practice medicine and all foreign doctors be discharged, and all medical books be translated into Hawaiian; that restrictions for voting be repealed; that Chinese be allowed to vote. Referred to Committee on Miscellaneous Petitions.”[5] An editorial in The Daily Bulletin a week later also comments on the issue of Dr. Makalua returning home: “Again, has not Dr. Makalua been educated mostly at the expense of the Hawaiian Government, and would it not be only justice to have him return and make some use of his education along his own nation who are at this time almost entirely at the mercy of foreigners?”[6]

In December 1890, the Board of Health met to consider a “proposition of a Chicago University to establish a school of medicine on the Islands…Owing to the vagueness of the proposition, the Board could do nothing definite, but is disposed to favor it, and a communication will be sent to the University asking for a proposition of a more specific character.” In the same article, discussion on a letter from Dr. Makalua was reported of his work with a specific treatment of “the Koch remedy for consumption.”[7] Therefore, the idea to create a medical school in the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1890 means that it would have predated the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) by 75 years.[8]

On April 26, 1891, Hon. Joseph Nawahi spoke at a visit to the Kalaupapa leper settlement that was intended as an inspection but also one to give the residents the assurance of the “interest, sympathy and intentions of those in authority for the condition and the welfare of the afflicted.” The speeches were recorded in The Hawaiian Gazette that spoke about the need for increased medical care and expertise, which drew out a highlight, especially by Joseph Nawahi on training Hawaiian youths abroad to study medicine following in the path of Dr. Makalua. Hon. Nawahi said “It is the duty of the Government to send Hawaiian youths abroad to be educated in medicine. This is the only way left us for saving our race. There is not a single Hawaiian who will dare cheat his own race; for this reason I strongly urge the immediate sending of Hawaiian boys abroad in order to avoid our downward path to destruction. Dr. Matthew Makalua, a true Hawaiian, is at present in England, studying medical sciences. One is not sufficient, send several more. Therefore let us hope till our desires are fulfilled, but in the meanwhile, we must abide by the laws of our land. But just as I have said, there is but one alternative left us for saving our country, and that to have Hawaiian youths educated abroad.”[9]

The Hawaiian Gazette, on July 26, 1892, printed proceedings from the Hawaiian Legislative session on July 10, 1892, including a summary of petitions received “that the Government establish a medical college in this kingdom for native Hawaiians…that the Government request Makalua to return to this country and teach native Hawaiians the art of medicine; that medical books be translated into the native language…that all books used in the schools be translated into Hawaiian.”[10]

In correspondence between Kalākaua and Makalua at the Bishop Museum Archives, one letter and a memo references the tumultuous political situation at home in Hawaiʻi. A September 10, 1890 letter from Kalākaua to Matthew Makalua states:

Honolulu, H. Is; Sept 10, 1890.

Matthew M Makalua,

Dear Sir:

It is sometime since we have corresponded together for reasons no doubt you can well understand—The country having recovered from political convulsion requires time for rest. I have therefore taken this opportunity to write and say that I have received your last letter, and could not answer the many queries concerning my Nephews and other matters you wrote upon. If there is anything I can reconcile you to Mr Armstrong I would be most happy to be the medium of reconciliation if in my power to do so.

I see Uncle Nowlein, Aunty Lucy and Maili. I am so sorry Maili did not stay to finish her education. Any-how, what she has accomplished is a goodd eal though she is not too old to learn more.

I have a great desire for you to join the Prince of Wales class for studying Leper cases. Although to us here the de [sic] disease is well known, but the physicians does not seem to know the modus opporandi of proceding to operate upon each stage of the case.

Her Majesty joins with me intendering yourself and Mrs Makalua, our best wishes for your welfare.


The folder in the Bishop Museum Archives containing this letter is adjacent to a hand written note that, based on the contents of the note, is from a more recent time period, perhaps accompanying a donation to the musum of the 1890 Kalākaua letter from Makalua’s grandchild reading:

Matthew Everard Puakakoililanimanuia Makalua
(later, just simply Matthew Manuia Makalua)

born at Lahaina, Maui, 11 April 1867
educated in England (Denstone College), and did not
return to Hawaii as the Americans had taken over.

His parents are shown as
Matthew and Leiaholia Makalua
but I believe that his natural father was an Englishman (!)

I also think that Leiaholia was related to
King Kalakaua I of Hawaii (King 1874-1891). I have
two handwritten letters of Kalakaua in Hawaiian, as
a typed English letter from him to my grandfather written in
1890 mentioning political troubles as reason for long
silence, also “Uncle Nowlein, Aunty Lucy and Maili”
(Maili may be their daughter).[12]

Makalua never returned home, despite previous correspondence in the mid and late 1880s suggesting that to still be the intention. The Bayonet Cabinet in 1887 marked a sharp contour in the treatment, attitude and conditions of the Hawaiian Youths Abroad program and its scholars. As such, the previously heavily supported and warm treatment of most of the scholars turned. Makalua requested several times for added support while he finished up his studies and residency and even when he started a family while still studying for his final placement examinations. Staring in 1888, Makalua made several pleas to stay in England to finish his studies, despite urging from home to return. Although ultimately allowed to stay to finish his examinations, his other requests for additional allowance were largely denied, marking a sharp new treatment and confidence in his studies and his commitment to returning home and returning his investment.

Makalua’s pleas start in early 1888, such as the one in a letter to Armstrong dated April 6, 1888 he writes from Notting Hill:

Cambidge Gardens
Notting Hill
London W.
April 6th/88

Your Excellency,
I have the honour to address a few lines to you soliciting your influence on my behalf as there are rumors that I am to be recalled. I am happy to inform your Excellency that I have just passed the second Examination of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and surgeons, in Anatomy and Physiology. There is a third Examination to pass before I can take my Diploma.

Mr. Franklin Austin who is in London has advised me to write and ask your Excellency this favour. As I have no one else to help me to fight my battles in life I earnestly hope your Excellency will bear my request in mind and not to allow my recall to be an accomplished fact.

I have the honour to be your Excellency’s humble servant,
Matthew Makalua

Later that year, Makalua writes another letter home pleading for a postponed return:

South Kensington
Nov. 17th/88

Your Excellency

I am in receipt of a letter written by Your Excellency’s Secretary & dated October 22nd showing that you have been pleased to instruct Mr. Manly Hopkins H.M. Consul in London, to pay me, or to honour my drafts to the amount of L50-per Quarter, beginning on the 1st of this month. I must beg your Excellency to accept my most sincere thanks & gratitude for your kindness. It is not only for my allowance that I am so thankful, it is also for the fact that your Excellency has relieved me of every connection whatsoever with Mr. Armstrong. I feel this indeed to be a boon. Your Excellency must know how much he has done to throw obstacles in my way. How he has written injurious things about me. While he was my superior under the Government I could not retaliate in a way satisfactory to myself, so I was forced tolay my complaints directly before your Excellency. Since I know that you have judged impartially between us I can afford to forget all the injuries Mr. Armstrong has done me. Mr. Manley Hopkins has always been kind to me ever since I came to England, and in him I feel I have a true and kind friend. My term as Sir Joseph Lister’s surgical dresser came to an end at the end of October, & I had to take an appointment as a medical clerk to the Senior Physician (Dr. Beale). There were three vacancies and five men went in for them. The result of the examination was that I & two others passed & got the appointments.

I am sending your Excellency my 1st Certificate of Honour in Anatomy which I won last term.

I am your Excellency’s obdt servant.
Matthew Makalua

P.S. I need hardly mention to your Excellency that my wife & I have every intention of returning home as soon as I get my diploma.

A year and a few months after the illegal overthrow, in June of 1894, The Pacific Commercial Advertiser runs a short story about the appropriation of $400 for the return, if ever needed, of Dr. Makalua from London. The article claims “this is a sheet waste of the public money. Here is a man who has been educated for years at the expense of the taxpayers. He shows no little sense of his obligations that he plans not to return at all, but to settle and practice his profession in England. Yet the Government in a fit of irresponsible generosity, proposes to allow him $400 to come home on. Three hundred would be ample; two hundred would be sufficient; one hundred and ten would buy a second class ticket from London to San Francisco. The Government perhaps feels that in order to entice the truant home it must dine him and wine him in the cabin of a fashionable Cunarder.”[13] Also appropriated in that same year, 1894, was the “relief and return of Indigent Hawaiians $5,000.”[14]

The Hawaiian Kingdom Legislature appropriated funds for Makalua’s return passage home, if he ever required it. In the Hawaii Holomua newspaper on June 1, 1894, there was a short article entitled “Doctor M. Makalua” where the allocation of $400 was discussed. According to the article, “it is not at all clear that the offer of this paltry pittance toward his expenses out will induce Doctor Makalua to quit a country and people where the shade of a man’s skin is no more social barrier than the color of his hair or eyes. The Advertiser is generous in suggesting a second-class passage for the ‘kanaka’ in preference to a steerage one, but how about his wife; daughter of a Colonel of the British Army and their children.”[15] The article goes on to say that:

Doctor Makalua has attained high distinction in his profession and moves in the best society, and is possessed of means sufficient to come out and return. For the peace of mind of himself and wife we would advise him to remain in England; but memory dwells fondly over ones birthplace, and his countrymen want him among them; Mr. Damon, also, who at the risk of offending the crowd of medicos who constitute about a tenth of the foreign population is resolved to tempt Dr. Makalua to come. The Advertiser never raised a howl over the expenses—which ran into thousands—incurred in bringing Dr. Arning, Lutz and others out here, and in the case of these two gentlemen named. The causes which led to their departure were eminently discreditable to the Advertiser party, and injurious to the credit of the country.

In March 1905, The Pacific Commercial Advertiser runs an article titled “A Young Hawaiian Doctor Succeeds in England” that describes the story of Matthew Makalua:

It is not generally known that one of the young Hawaiians who were sent abroad by Premier Gibson of Hawaii to be educated, remained there and became successful, but such is the fact. The name of the youth was Matthew Makalua and he is today a surgeon of large practice in England.

A personal letter to Prof. Alexander, from a friend in the south of England contains the following:

‘There is a very interesting Hawaiian here, Manuia Makalua by name. He is a surgeon. Our doctor speaks highly of him. He was sent here in the old days, under the Gibson regime, to study and has married an English-woman whom I should imagine to be very well off. They have a pleasant home, beautifully furnished, and are a most devoted couple. Dr. Makalua was delighted to hear Hawaiian, of which he has forgotten a good deal. He bears an excellent character and is in every way a pleasing young fellow, good-looking and well-mannered. We have been very much pleased to meet him and Mrs. Makalua. I believe him to be the only Hawaiian who has practiced medicine successfully.’

Dr. Makalua was educated at St. Chad’s College, Denstone, England. Afterwards he took a complete medical course at King’s College, London.[16]

On January 24, 1907, an article entitled “Doctor Makalua Gives Address” appears in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser where Makalua’s address in England (37 Pevensey Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, England) is printed along with a short memo from Dr. Makalua: “Dear Sir: A stranger in Scotland has just sent me a cutting from your issue of November 16 last (I think) inquiring for my whereabouts. The above address will find me, I thank you for publishing the inquiry, and with best wishes for the New Year, believe me, yours truly, M. Makalua. To the Editor, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Honolulu.”[17]

On November 14, 1906, an article published in The Hawaiian Star acknowledges the death of Dr. Makalua’s mother at the age of 70 in Pauoa, Honolulu. It lists her as a widow to a Judge Makalua of Lahaina and leaving behind a son, Doctor Makalua, now in London.[18] Judge Matthew Makalua died in 1902 in Lahaina with funeral services at Wainee Church. A 1902 newspaper article describes him as “a native of merit and worth, but has been out of public life for many years.”[19]

[1] “Local & General News,” The Daily Bulletin, 5 September 1888, p. 3.

[2] “Local & General News,” The Daily Bulletin, 16 January 1889, p. 3.

[3] “Mr. Matthew Makalua,” The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 26 August 1889, p. 3.

[4] “Wharf and Wave,” The Hawaiian Gazette, 28 November 1893, p. 8.

[5] “Twenty-seventh Day,” The Hawaiian Gazette, 15 July 1890, p. 2.

[6] “A Reply,” The Daily Bulletin, 21 July 1890, p. 2.

[7] “Local and General,” The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 27 December 1890, p. 3.

[8] “Facts and Figures.”

[9] “At Molokai: The Leper Settlement Visited by the Queen and Party,” The Hawaiian Gazette, 5 May 1891, p. 5.

[10] “Petitions,” The Daily Bulletin, 26 July 1892, p. 2.

[11] MS MC Kalākaua Box 1, 2. Bishop Museum Archives.

[12] MS MC Kalākaua Box 1, 2. Bishop Museum Archives.

[13] The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 01 June 1894, p. 4.

[14] “By Authority Act 84,” The Hawaiian Gazette, 19 June 1894, p. 5.

[15] “Doctor M. Makalua,” Hawaii Holomua, 1 June 1894, p. 2.

[16] “A Young Hawaiian Doctor Succeeds in England,” The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 25 March 1905, p. 7.

[17] “Doctor Makalua Gives Address,” The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 24 January 1907, p. 2.

[18] “Died,” The Hawaiian Star, 14 November 1906, p. 6.

[19] “Death of Judge Makalua,” The Independent, 6 August 1902, p. 3.


Student Post Coming Soon

by Hoʻoleia Kaeo


Photo Credits: Anianikū Chong

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