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The royal brothers, Alexander and Lot, were extremely jealous of American influence, and had never approved of the radical changes made during Kamehameha Ill's reign, believing them to be wholly unsuited to the Hawaiian people. They were also displeased with the independent spirit shown by the lower house, and its investigating committees.
The Coup D'Etat of 1864.
Prince Lot Kamehameha had resolved never to take the oath to maintain the constitution of 1852, but to seize the opportunity to make such changes in it as would increase the power of the Crown. Accordingly, immediately after the death of his brother, on the 30th of November, 1863, he was proclaimed King, without taking the oath, under the title of Kamehameha V. He was careful not to convene the regular Legislature of 1864, but issued a proclamation May 5 for the election of a constitutional convention, to be held June 13. Meanwhile, accompanied by Mr. Wyllie, Kalakaua, and other reactionaries, he made a tour through the islands, explaining and defending the changes which he desired to make in the constitution.
The convention met July 7, being composed of sixteen nobles and twenty-seven elected delegates, presided over by the King. After a week's debate it was decided that the "three estates" should sit together in one chamber.
The next question was whether this convention had the right to proceed to make a new constitution. It was strongly argued that the "only legal method in which the constitution can be referred back to the constituting powers is prescribed in that instrument itself." "Any other method is revolution, and revolutions do not generally claim to be constitutional." After several days' debate the question was decided in the affirmative, on which four delegates resigned their seats. The convention then went on with the revision of the constitution, but on the subject of the property qualification it was found to be intractable. After a long discussion of the article the King lost all patience, and on August 13 he declared the existing constitution to be abrogated and prorogued the convention.
On the 20th of August, 1864, he promulgated a new constitution upon his own authority, which was never submitted to ratification by the people, but continued in force for 23 years.
Constitution of 1864.
The constitution of 1864 was merely a revision of that of 1852, and there were fewer changes in it than had been expected. It was understood at the time that it was drawn up by Mr. C. C. Harris, the attorney-general.
In the bill of rights, the clause guaranteeing elections by ballot was stricken out.
The clause forbidding the union of the legislative and judicial powers in one person was altered to read, "and no judge of a court of record shall ever be a member of the Legislature."
The useless office of Kuhina Nui was abolished, and provision made for a regency in case of the minority of the heir to the throne, or of the absence of the sovereign from his Kingdom. The chapter relating to governors was omitted, and the subject left to be regulated by statute. The nobles and representatives were thenceforth to sit together in
one house, to be styled the Legislative Assembly. The number of the nobles was now limited to 20, while that of representatives remained as before, not less than 24 nor more than forty, to be elected biennially. No person should be eligible for representative unless he owned real estate within the Kingdom worth over and above all incumbrances at least $500, or had an annual income of at least $250.
Every voter was required to own real property worth over and above all incumbrances $150, or a leasehold on which the rent was $25 per annum, or to have an income not less than $75 per annum. These property qualifications might be increased by law. He was also required, if born since 1840, to know how to read and write.
In regard to the status of judges, the old constitution had provided that any judge of the supreme court, or of any other court of record, might "be removed from office for mental or physical inability by a concurrent resolution of two-thirds of both branches of the Legislature." In the new constitution the latter part of this sentence was changed to read, "on a resolution passed by two-thirds of the Legislative Assembly, for good cause shown to the satisfaction of the King."
The powers of the privy council were considerably diminished. Its approval was no longer required for appointment to office. Its chief remaining functions were to pass on pardons, grant charters, or appropriate money "when, between the sessions of the Legislative Assembly, the emergencies of war, invasion, rebellion, pestilence, or other public disaster shall arise."
The governors were given by statute nearly the same powers and duties as were secured to them by the old constitution. They appointed the tax collectors, subject to the approval of the minister of finance and district justices, "by and with the advice of the justices of the supreme court." Their chief duty under the law was to superintend the collection of taxes in their respective islands. In point of fact they acted as the King's personal agents, especially in elections.
The Constitution of 1864 under Lunalilio and Kalakaua.
Lunalilo's election was in great part due to the popular discontent with the arbitrary rule of Kamehameha V. On his accession to the throne several amendments to the constitution were approved at the special session of the Legislature held in January, 1873. The most important of these were one to abolish the property qualifications of voters and another to restore the division of the Legislature into two houses sitting separately.
The subject came before the next Legislature for final action, in July, 1874, when the former amendment was duly ratified by a two-thirds vote, but the latter failed to pass.
The number of representatives had been fixed by law at 28 in 1868. An act increasing the number of justices of the supreme court to five was passed in 1886.
The evil tendencies which had begun to show themselves during Kamehameha V's reign went on increasing during the reign of Kalakaua.
At the legislative session of 1884 a law was passed giving the King the sole power to appoint the district justices, through his creatures, the governors, by striking out the clause "by and with the advice of the justices of the supreme court."
At the elections of 1886 almost all the candidates of the King's party were officeholders.
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