Demonstrating how the language of instruction served a shifting role during the 19th century is the means by which this study achieves its purpose of providing the background for the current conflict surrounding the Hawaiian language immersion movement. The first role the language of instruction served was to help Hawai‘i become a modern nation. This was primarily accomplished through instruction in the Hawaiian language. During the last 40 years of Hawaiian sovereignty, instruction in the English language served the role of supplanting Hawaiian sovereignty with American control. Understanding the roles that the language of instruction played during this period helps to frame today’s difficulties in resurrecting the Hawaiian language as a language equal to the English language.