William Austin Whiting

William Austin Whiting (right) as Second Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court with Chief Justice Albert Francis Judd and First Associate Justice Walter F. Frear

William Austin Whiting (August 5, 1855 – January 18, 1908)[1] was an American lawyer and politician of the Kingdom, Republic, and Territory of Hawaii. He served as Attorney General of Hawaii and was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. During his college years, he was captain of the 1875 Harvard Crimson football team.

During her 1895 trial of Queen Liliuokalani, the military tribunal was led by William (her former attorney general) and she was defended by Paul Neumann, another one of her former attorney general.[2][3]


Whiting was born August 5, 1855, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His ancestors included Massachusetts colonial governors Thomas Dudley and Simon Bradstreet, and Reverend John Cotton.[4] He became a sixth generation Harvard College graduate, and captain of the 1875 Harvard Crimson football team.[5][6] However, he is historically known as the Attorney General of the Kingdom of Hawaii. After graduating Harvard, he became a lawyer and practiced in Boston and Charlestown.[4]

Whiting resettled in the Hawaiian Islands in 1880 where his uncle James W. Austin was an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He continued his law practice in Honolulu.[4] In 1891, the newly enthroned Queen Liliuokalani appointed him as Attorney General succeeding Arthur P. Peterson of the hold-over cabinet from the reign of King Kalākaua.[7][8] As a cabinet minister, he sat as a member of the House of Nobles, the upper body of the legislature of the kingdom. Considered a tool of the queen by her opposition, Whiting lost popularity for his defense of the controversial Marshal Charles Burnett Wilson, a favorite of the queen and subordinate of the Attorney General. Whiting resigned on July 27, 1892, and was replaced by Paul Neumann.[7][9]

Trial of Queen Liliuokalani

On January 11, 1893, he was appointed First Judge of the First Circuit Court. Six days later, the monarchy was overthrown by pro-American elements in Hawaii. Whiting continued his position under the successive new regimes.[7][10] Following the unsuccessful Royalist counter-revolution, Whiting headed the military tribunal which sentenced Liliuokalani for misprision of treason. In this capacity, he was given the rank of Colonel by the Republic of Hawaii. The trial was held in the former throne room of the ʻIolani Palace. The deposed queen was defended by Paul Neumann. She claimed ignorance but was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison by the military tribunal and fined $5,000. The sentence was commuted on September 4, 1895 to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of ʻIolani Palace.[2][3]

Whiting continued working as a circuit court judge until his elevation to the Supreme Court. On January 11, 1896, he was appointed Second Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Hawaii succeeding the vacant seat left by the death of Richard Fredrick Bickerton. He held this position until the annexation of Hawaii and the organization of the Territory of Hawaii on July 14, 1900.[7] After retiring from politics, he returned to his private law practice. Judge Whiting died on January 18, 1908; the cause of death was "dropsy caused by cirrhosis of the liver".[4]


  1. Thayer et al. 1909, p. 198
  2. 1 2 Allen 1982, pp. 330–339
  3. 1 2 Allen 1982, pp. 123, 147, 187, 344–345, 347; "Declines to Confess". The Daily Bulletin. Honolulu, HI. February 6, 1895. p. 5. Retrieved October 1, 2016 via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.; "Five Years in Parlor". The Daily Bulletin. Honolulu, HI. February 27, 1895. p. 5. Retrieved October 1, 2016 via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Wm. Austin Whiting Passes to the Beyond". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. January 19, 1908. Retrieved November 16, 2016 via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  5. "Media Center: Harvard Crimson Football - All-Time Football Captains". Harvard.
  6. "Football, the American intercollegiate game". archive.org.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Whiting, William Austin office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  8. Kuykendall 1967, pp. 476–478; Allen 1982, pp. 245; "A New Cabinet – Some New Ministers for the Public to Swallow". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. XVII (3277). Honolulu. January 14, 1893. p. 4. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  9. Allen 1982, pp. 271–273; Kuykendall 1967, p. 550
  10. Kuykendall 1967, p. 577


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