The Hawaiian Kingdom
by Keanu Sai
Interview recorded for the television broadcast Aloha Quest
The Hawaiian Kingdom was established by Kamehameha I when he unified the Hawaiian islands. Kamehameha I was an absolute monarch. The government and the man were one and the same. There were no courts, there was no legislative process. He was the government.
That absolute authority was transferred to his son, Kamehameha II, Liholiho. And upon the death of Kamehameha II in 1824, Kamehameha II's younger brother, Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli, came to the throne.
Kamehameha III is a very important individual. He was the transitional period from Hawai‘i being an absolute monarchy to Hawai‘i becoming a constitutional monarchy. That all began in 1839 when Kamehameha III established the Declaration of Rights. He declared the rights for both the chiefs and his subjects and said that everyone will be treated equal under the law.
The very next year, in 1840, he established the first constitution for the Hawaiian Kingdom. For the first time ever, the King was separate and distinct from the government. From 1840 on, Kamehameha III was the chief executive, no different than the president of the United States.
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see: Constitutional History of the Hawaiian Kingdom
see: Key Institutions of the Hawaiian Government
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In December of 1842, Kamehameha III dispatched certain envoys to the United States and then on to Europe to secure Hawai‘i's recognition as an independent state. They were able to successfully obtain the recognition from England and France of Hawai‘i's independence. A formal recognition of that independence was signed on November 28, 1843, at the court of London.
As a result of the efforts by these Hawaiian envoys, Hawai‘i, as of November 28, 1843, now became a member of the family of nations. We were on an equal footing with England, France and America and all of the other countries that were members of that family of nations. Hawai‘i then began to enter into most favored nation treaties with other nations.
Hawai‘i was not a colony, nor was it an indigenous tribe. From 1843 all the way until 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom had a complete system of laws, both criminal and civil.
It had a legislative process, it had an executive branch and also a judicial court system, with a Supreme Court, circuit courts, district courts and police courts
The Hawaiian Kingdom, as a nation, had a fixed territorial boundary that included the Hawaiian archipelago, that also included Palmyra Island, way down south.
The Kingdom had a distinct population termed "Hawaiian subjects" — that was the nationality of the country — and was actively engaged in commerce and trade. It had over ninety consulates throughout the world with ambassadors and ministers assigned to them. On January 16, 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom was a fully functional nation.