This page of the HawaiiansAbroad.com website is dedicated to the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Visitors to this page should realize that this account of Hawaiian history is not a complete account of Hawaiian history. It is only a portion of a history that spans over a thousand years. I have chosen the Hawaiian Kingdom era because it appears to be the most documented, yet, perhaps the most mis-understood. This page is not yet finished but I'm sure you'll enjoy reading what has been published so far.
Previous to the warrior-king, Kamehameha the Great, unifying the islands (some would rather describe it as consolidating political power), the Hawaiian political system could be considered as operating through chiefdoms. The different islands had chiefs for different regions. Chiefdoms were often at war with each other. Sometimes, there might have been alliances among different chiefdoms, but, it was not until Kamehameha the Great, that the Hawaiian Islands were brought under one rule. Unification changed the political structure from chiefdoms to a single kingdom, the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Kamehameha the Great (aka Kamehameha I) ruled th Hawaiian Kingdom until 1819 when he died. During his reign kingdom law was maintained through the ancient Kapu system.
A son, 'Iolani Liholiho, who became known as Kamehameha II, was the first king's successor. During Kamehameha II's reign, Hawaiian society experienced the fall of the Kapu system as the new King rejected it. This was a significant point in Hawaiian history as it was a period in which the ancient law system had been abandoned and no written laws had been implemented. While visiting England in 1824, Kamehameha II died. The death of his wife preceeded him.
At the age of nine, Kauikeaouli, better known as Kamehameha III, ascended to the throne after the death of his brother, Kamehameha II. During his reign, he was responsible for monumental changes to the Hawaiian Government. He proclaimed the Hawaiian Declaration of Rights and provided the Hawaiian Kingdom with its first constitution in 1840. Kamehameha III solely and voluntarily transformed the government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
In becoming a constitutional monarchy, political power was no longer limited to the Monarch. Political power was now shared with the people. This new political structure had three branches of government similar to many democracies today: Executive branch; Office of the Monarch, Legislative Branch; consisting of the House of Nobles and House of Representatives, and the Judical branch; the Supreme Court. Contrary to what most people believe, the Hawaiian Monarchy, from this point on, was not an "absolute monarchy" Hawaiian Nationals or Citizens, if eligible were now able to be elected into government positions. Legislative sessions were held to modify and create laws. In addition to its constitution, the Hawaiian Kingdom also established Civil and Penal Codes. During the reign of Kamehameha III a second Constitution in 1852 became law.
On November 28, 1843, the Hawaiian Kingdom was formally recognized, by England and France, as an independent nation-state. The United States had previously recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as such in 1842. The international recognition of being an independent nation-state brought the island kingdom into the Family of Nations among the "greatest of nations" including England, France, and the United States.The status of being a recognized independent nation-state brought several benefits to the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Hawaiian government was now bound and protected by international law. The kingdom was also able to participate in international trade and commerce through treaties and agreements.
The recognition also affected the political status of the Hawaiian people. "Hawaiian" was not recognized as an ethnic identity (ethnicity), but rather the national identity (nationality). From the 1840's up until 1893, immigrants came to the Hawaiian Islands and when eligible applied for citizenship to become Hawaiian Subjects/Nationals. The term "Hawaiian," during the 19th century was considered the short term for Hawaiian Subject, which was the name given to the citizenry of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Kamehameha IV ascended to the the throne after the death of Kamehameha III. Kamehameha IV, previously known as Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani, was a grandson of Kamehameha I and a nephew to Kauikeaouli, (Kamehameha III). At birth, Alexander Liholiho became the hanai son of Kamehameha III. He was also the younger brother of Lot Kapuaiwa, who later became known Kamehameha V. Kamehameha IV was the last monarch to have a child. Unfortunately, his son, Prince Albert Edward, (named after Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria of England) did not live past the age of four. Kamehameha IV is credited with starting the Queen's Hospital with his wife, Queen Emma. The royal couple raised $13,000 to build the hospital and it opened on December 6, 1869. Alexander Liholiho saw the importance of a hospital after traveling the island and seeing the poor health among Hawaiians and the reduction in the aboriginal population. At 29 years of age, Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani passed away on November 30, 1863. His reign was between 1854 - 1863.
Kamehameha IV died without a confirmed successor to the throne. Section II Article 47 of the 1852 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom provided that the Kuhina Nui (Premier), in absence of a Monarch, would fill the vacant office. "Whenever the throne shall become vacant by reason of the Kingšs death, or otherwise, and during the minority of any heir to the throne, the Kuhina Nui, for the time being, shall, during such vacancy or minority, perform all the duties incumbent on the King, and shall have and exercise all the powers, which by this Constitution are vested in the King." Victoria Kamamalu was the Kuhina Nui during the reign of Kamehameha IV and upon his death, ascended to the role of Monarch. As the Head of State to the Hawaiian Kingdom, she immediately named Lot Kapuaiwa (her brother) to the Office of Monarch. Hawaiian Kingdom law permitted her to do this. Victoria Kamamalu is often overlooked in Hawaiian history and rarely recognized as a Queen of Hawai'i. She was literally a "Queen for a day."
Article 94 of the 1852 Constitution stated, "The King, after approving this Constitution, shall take the following oath: I solemnly Swear, in the presence of Almighty God, to maintain the Constitution of the Kingdom whole and inviolate, and to govern in conformity with that and and the laws." Lot Kapuaiwa, better known as Kamehameha V, did not approve of the 1852 Constitution, specifically articles 45, and 94. Kamehameha V refused to take an oath to the 1852 Constitution. Remember, the Constitution in effect allowed him to do so. He disagreed with it because he believed that every monarch should be required to take the oath whether they approve it or not. He also did not believe Article 45 was good for the Kingdom. Article 45 of the 1852 Constitution reads as follows: "All important business for the Kingdom which the King chooses to transact in person, he may do, but not without the approbation of the Kuhina Nui. The King and Kuhina Nui shall have a negative on each otheršs public acts." This part of the Constitution allowed the Monarch to pass laws without passage from the House of Nobles nor the House of Representatives, as long as the Kuhina Nui approved. This Article (45) created a conflict of interest as the Kuhina Nui, the same person who appointed him Monarch, was also his sister, Victoria Kamamalu.
The Hawaiian Kingdom Legislature was called to session to deal with these issues of the Constitution. An effort to promulgate a constitution that the King would approve of (as required by the 1852 Constitution) was attempted but eventually hit a stalemate. Still operating under the 1852 Constitution (the legal constitution at the time), Kamehameha V proclaimed, passed, and signed the 1864 Constitution using Article 94. Article 24 of the 1864 Constitution states, "His Majesty Kamehameha V, will, and His Successors upon coming to the Throne, shall take the following oath: I solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God, to maintain the Constitution of the Kingdom whole and inviolate, and to govern in conformity therewith. The position of Kuhina Nui (which by this time was filled by Mataio Kekuanaoa) was also terminated. Many people claim that Kamehameha V wanted to rule with absolute power. By eliminating the position of Kuhina Nui, he helped to prevent himself and future monarchs from ruling with such authority.