From TheMorganReport
Jump to: navigation, search
Previous Page Next Page

Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6 pp676-677 300dpi scan (VERY LARGE!)

Text Only


a treaty with Commodore Jones, in 1826, to enact the first written laws in 1827, and on other occasions.

On account of the long minority of Kauikeaouli, or Kamehameha III, the council of chiefs had greater weight in the government than formerly and was easily constituted a house of nobles. Up to this time the common people were not considered as having any political rights whatever.

The First Written Constitution, 1839-'40.

Kamehameha III and his chiefs early became convinced that their system of government needed to be remodeled, and wrote to the United States in 1836 for a legal adviser and instructor in the science of government. Failing to procure such a person, in 1838 they chose Mr. Richards to be their adviser and interpreter. He accordingly was released from his connection with the American mission, and entered upon his duties in 1839 by delivering a series of lectures on the science of government to the King and chiefs of Lahaina.

The declaration of rights and the first code of laws were drawn up at that time. At first a draft was made by a graduate of the Lahainaluna Seminary, section by section, at the direction of the King. This was then read to the King and several of the chiefs, who spent two or three hours a day for five days in discussing the proposed constitution and laws, after which the draft was revised and rewritten.

The revised draft then passed a second reading at a meeting of the King and all the important chiefs of the islands, at which some further amendments were made.

It afterwards passed a third reading and was unanimously approved, after which it was signed by the King and published in a pamphlet of 24 pages, June 7, 1839.

Having been composed in the Hawaiian language, the laws show unmistakable marks of their origin. (Haw. Spectator, July, 1839.)

In 1840 the first constitution was drawn up in a similar manner and approved in a general council of the chiefs. It was then signed by the King and the premier, Kekauluohi, and proclaimed October 8, 1840.

The declaration of rights plainly shows the influence of the Bible and of the American Declaration of Independence.

The whole of this constitution gives unmistakable evidence that it was originally composed in the Hawaiian language, and by Hawaiians.

The preliminary declaration of rights, published in 1839, produced a feeling of security unknown before, and formed the first step in establishing individual property in land. It also guarantied religious liberty, and led to the edict of toleration which was issued by the King June 17, 1839.

This constitution declared that no land could be conveyed away without the consent of the King. Land forfeited for nonpayment of taxes should revert to him. He should have the direction of the Government property and of the various taxes. It should be his prerogative to make treaties and receive ambassadors. He should be commander in chief of the army, and "have power to make war in times of emergency, when the chiefs could not be assembled." He should be the chief judge of the supreme court.

The singular office of Kuhina nui or premier was continued. The premier's office was to be the same as that of Kaahumanu, by the will of Kamehameha I. All business shall be done by the premier, under the authority of the King. All Government property should be reported to


him or her, and he or she should make it over to the King. "The King shall not act without the knowledge of the premier, nor the premier without the knowledge of the King, and the veto of the King on the acts of the premier shall arrest the business." "The King could transact no important business of the Kingdom without the approbation of the premier."

The four governorships, instituted by Kamehameha I, were perpetuated. Each governor was to have the direction of the tax collectors of his island, who were appointed by the King. He had power to appoint the district judges. He was to have charge of the military and of the war material of his island, and of public improvements.

The Legislative power was vested in the house of nobles, composed of 14 hereditary nobles, together with the King and premier, and certain representatives to meet annually, to be elected by the people. The number of representatives was afterwards fixed by law at seven. The two houses could sit separately or consult together at their discretion. "No new law should be made, without the approbation of a majority of the nobles and also of a majority of the representative body," as well as the approval and signature of the King and premier. A supreme court was established, consisting of the King and premier, and four judges, to be appointed by the Legislature.

Amendments of the constitution could be made by the nobles and representatives with the King's concurrence, after a year's notice of said amendments had been given.

But at the next session, held May 31, 1841, an act was passed which gave "the King, the premier and the nobles resident near" authority in special cases to enact a law which should stand until the next meeting of the Legislature, which could confirm or amend it. Under this grant, the King and privy council often, during the next few years, exercised legislative functions.

Organization of the Government 1845-'47.

As has been seen, this first constitution was extremely simple and loosely drawn up.

On the 28th of November, 1843, the two governments of France and England united in recognizing "the existence in the Sandwich Islands of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations." But it was soon perceived by the friends of the nation that much yet remained to be done in order to organize a civilized government, worthy of such recognition.

On the 20th of May, 1845, the Legislature was formally opened for the first time by the King in person, with appropriate ceremonies, which have retained ever since. At this session Mr. John Ricord, the attorney-general, made a masterly report on "the inferences of the constitution," and the implied powers and duties of the King, showing the necessity that existed for a series of organic acts, defining the said duties, and creating five departments of the executive, viz, those of interior, of finance, of foreign affairs, of public instruction and of the attorney-general.

By order of the Legislature he afterward drafted two volumes of statute laws, organizing not only these departments but also the judiciary department, which laws were enacted in 1846 and 1847, and form the basis of the present civil code. In fact there has been little change in the machinery of the Government as then set in operation.

By the first act the privy council was constituted, to consist of the

Previous Page Next Page