Millard Fillmore: Hawaii, "The Saudi Arabia of the 19th Century"

Whale oil fueled the industrial revolution before the process of refining petroleum was discovered.

It not only powered the street lights of the cities in the Midwest that seemed to be growing exponentially overnight, but it also was used to lubricate the machines that were required for the new mass production economy.

It's no surprise that as a resource, it became a political subject. Whaling fleets in New England eventually hunted whales off their coast to the point of exhaustion and were required to look elsewhere.

In the early 1850's, it would be nearly 100 years before Hawaii became a state, but this was the time that diplomatic relations really were established with the ruling monarchy. U.S, British and Japanese whaling fleets started to span the globe looking for suitable whaling. Both the U.S and Britain competed for fishing rights over the Hawaiian islands and sent offers of protection, threats and bribes to the ruling monarchs of the islands.

Things continued to escalate, with the major powers including the confederates during the Civil War sending privateers after competing nations' vessels. Like the oil industry, it was both public and private.

Hawaii's status as a mineral rich, remote kingdom allowed it to play the major powers against each other, using one side's negotiations against the other. It would eventually fall victim to the fate of most colonies and have much of it's wealth and resources annexed, but for the time being, it's remoteness allowed it to be the Saudi Arabia of it's times, amassing enormous amounts of wealth and power for it's ruling and connected families.

It only lost this status when petroleum oil replaced whale oil as the driver of industry.

This will be the fate of Saudi Arabia not if, but when something better than petroleum is discovered.

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