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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (R)
Robertson, George Morison


GEORGE MORISON ROBERTSON - 1821-1867  

Born Feb 26, 1821 in Huntly, Scotland, to parents John Robertson and Anne Morison, George Morison Robertson came to Honolulu in 1844.  His illustrious family history dated centuries back when his ancestors fought beside the brave Robert Bruce of Scotland.  The Robertson clan of Huntley, Scotland possessed its own shield, tartan and insgnia of Scottish rank.
When still a lad of 15 he moved with an older brother to settle in New Brunswick, Canada.  Drawn to adventure, he later joined, in 1844,  the British whaling ship  "Peruvian" en route to Hawaii and Arctic waters.  Upon returning to Hawaii he obtained a proper discharge and entered the firm of Skinner & Company as a clerk.  Noting his diligence and ability, Minister Robert C. Wyllie of the Hawaiian Government employed him in government service.  He soon moved into the Interior Treasury Departments.

The "Gold Rush" of 1849  in California lured George away to the mainland, but the venture was not a success and he returned in 1850 to make his permanent home in Hawaii. He was appointed to the board of land commissioners and held offices of police justice in Honolulu from 1850-55.   Many of the present land titles in Hawaii are based on the work of the board of land commissioners between 1850-1855.  It was then that the common people were awarded land surrendered by King Kamehameha III.

 His ability and integrity earned him esteemed appointments in Hawaiian Government service.  He was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court of the island of Hawaii, in the latter part of 1850, and in the same year was appointed to the Land Commission.  He was chosen as a representative in the House and several times served as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

It was as a jurist that Robertson became most famous.  Appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1855, he held that office until his death 12 years later, except for a few weeks in Dec. 1863 and Jan. and Feb. 1864 when he was in the cabinet of King Kamehameha V, his intimate friend.  As a jurist, Robertson built the foundation of Hawaii's present judiciary system and was one of the framers of the Civil Code of 1859.  He was a master of the Hawaiian language, and was highly regarded as a friend and sincere adviser by the Hawaiian people.

He served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1851-1859 and was speaker at several sessions.  In 1864 he was a delegate to and chairman of the historic Constitutional Convention.  He was a Knight Commander, Order of Kamehameha, and a Privy Councillor, in addition to his other honors, a charter member of the Honolulu Sailors' Home, 1855; charter member of the Queens Hospital, 1859; and a trustee of Oahu College from 1860 to his death.

In 1851 he married Sarah Symonds Humphreys, a young Englishwoman who had recently survived a shipwreck off the shores of Waikiki, Oahu.  The couple made their home in Waimea, Hawaii for a brief time and then returned to Honolulu where Judge Robertson was needed in the Court and Land Office there.

George was highly regarded by King Kamehameha IV, and became a close friend and personal adivsor to the King. In order to better understand and serve the Hawaiian people, Judge Robertson studied their language and became highly proficient in its use.  He devoted much time to the study of law, and was deeply respected in judicial matters.  He rose to the distinguished office of Minister of the Interior; he became a Privy Counsellor and Legislator, a Justice of the Supreme Court, and served on civic, religious and educational Boards.  Among his contributions was the revision of all existing laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and the untangling of many land claims, dating back to the Great Mahele of King Kamehameha III.

Meticulous and faithful attention to the details of his many high offices and responsibilities began to take their toll.  Judge Robertson sought rest at the home of a friend in Waianae, Oahu, where his oldest son James accompanied him.  Here he died at the age of 46. 

The prominent jurist was deeply mourned and was accorded a funeral comparable to that of Hawaiian royalty. He was given a funeral with royal honors at the expense of the Hawaiian monarchy, and among the mourners were King Kamehameha V, members of his court, high military and civil officials and members of the diplomatic corps.  The Pacific Commercial Advertiser of March 16, 1867, said, in part:  "Judge Robertson's death will be a great loss to the community, but especially to the government, in which he was a wise counsellor and an impartial, upright judge.  Native Hawaiians always found in him a kind friend and adviser, and learned to trust his wisdom.  It will be impossible to fill the vacant judgeship with a man of the same varied qualifications, for there is no one living possessed of the knowledge of the native language combined with the firmness, impartiality and virtue which he had."

His widow and five children survived him--James, George, Elizabeth, Florence and Grace.  A son, Alexander, was born a few months after his father died.

Thanks to Sandra DiNanni for this information


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