King Kamehameha IV’s Ascension Speech, 1855

King Kamehameha IV’s Address on the occasion of taking the Oath prescribed by the Constitution. Extr. from Polynesian, published on Jan. 13, 1855:
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 the laws.
Give ear Hawaii o Keawe! Maui o Kama! Oahu o Kuihewa! Kauai o Mano!
In the providence of God, and by the will of his late Majesty Kamehameha III., this day read in your hearing, I have been called to the high and responsible position of the Chief Ruler of this nation. I am deeply sensible of the importance and sacredness of the great trust committed to my hands, and in the discharge of this trust, I shall abide by the Constitution and laws which I have just sworn to maintain and support. It is not my wish to entertain you on the present occasion with pleasant promises for the future; but I trust that the close of my career will show that I have not been raised to the head of this nation to oppress and curse it, but on the contrary to cheer and bless it, and that when I come to my end, I may, like the beloved Chief whose funeral we yesterday celebrated, pass from earth amid the bitter lamentation of my people.
The good, the generous, the kind hearted Kamehameha is now no more. Our great Chief has fallen! But though dead he still lives. He lives in the hearts of his people! He lives in the liberal, the just, and the beneficent measures which it was always his pleasure to adopt. His monuments rise to greet us on every side. They may be seen in the church, in the school house, and the hall of justice; in the security of our persons and property; in the peace, the law, the order and general prosperity that prevail throughout the islands. He was the friend of the Makaainana, the father of his people, and so long as a Hawaiian lives his memory will be cherished!
By the death of Kamehameha III., the chain that carried us back to the ancient days of Kamehameha I. has been broken. He was the last child of that great Chieftain, but how unlike the father from whom he sprung. Kamehameha I. was born for the age in which he lived, the age of war and of conquest. Nobly did he fulfill the destiny for which he was created, that of reducing the islands from a state of anarchy and constant warfare to one of peace and unity under the rule of one king. With the accession of Kamehameha II. to the throne the tabus were broken, the wild orgies of heathenism abolished, the idols thrown drown, and in their place was set up the worship of the only living and true God. His was the era of the introduction of Christianity and all its peaceful influences. He was born to commence the great moral revolution which began with his reign, and he performed his cycle. The age of Kamehameha III. was that of progress and of liberty—of schools and of civilization. He gave us a Constitution and fixed laws; he secured the people in the title to their lands, and removed the last chain of oppression. He gave them a voice in his councils and in the making of the laws by which they are governed. He was a great national benefactor, and has left the impress of his mild and amiable disposition on the age for which he was born.
To-day we begin a new era. Let it be one of increased civilization—one of decided progress, industry, temperance, morality, and all those virtues which mark a nation’s advance. This is beyond doubt a critical period in the history of our country, but I see no reason to despair. We have seen the tomb close over our Sovereign, but it does not bury our hopes. If we are united as one individual in seeking the peace, the prosperity and independence of our country, we shall not be overthrown. The importance of this unity is what I most wish to impress upon your minds. Let us be one and we shall not fall!
On my part I shall endeavor to give you a mild, and liberal government, but at the same time one sufficiently vigorous to maintain the laws, secure you in all your rights of persons and property, and not too feeble to withstand the assaults of faction. On your part I shall expect you to contribute your best endeavors to aid me in maintaining the Constitution, supporting the laws, and upholding our Independence.
A few remarks addressed on this occasion, to you, the foreign portion of the assembly present, may not be inappropriate.
You have all been witnesses this day to the solemn oath I have taken in the presence of Almighty God and this assembly, to preserve inviolate the Constitution. This is no idle ceremony. The Constitution which I have sworn to maintain has its foundation laid in the deep and immutable principles of Liberty, Justice and Equality, and by these, and none other, I hope to be guided in the administration of my Government. As the ruler of this people, I shall endeavor, with the blessing of God, to seek the welfare of my subjects, and at the same time to consult their wishes. In these endeavors I shall expect the hearty co-operation of all classes—foreigners as well as natives.
His Majesty Kamehameha III., now no more, was preeminently the friend of the foreigner; and I am happy in knowing he enjoyed your confidence and affection. He opened his heart and hand with a royal liberality, and gave till he had little to bestow and you but little to ask. In this respect I cannot hope to equal him, but though I may fall far behind I shall follow in his footsteps.
To be kind and generous to the foreigner, to trust and confide in him, is no new thing in the history of our race. It is an inheritance transmitted to us by our forefathers. The founder of our dynasty was ever glad to receive assistance and advice from foreigners. His successor, not deviating from the policy of his father, listened not only to the voice of a missionary, and turned with his people to the light of Christianity, but against the wishes of the nation left his native land to seek for advice and permanent protection at a foreign Court. Although he never returned alive, his visit shows plainly what were his feelings towards the people of foreign countries. I cannot fail to heed the example of my ancestors. I therefore say to the foreigner that he is welcome. He is welcome to our shores—welcome so long as he comes with the laudable motive of promoting his own interests and at the same time respecting those of his neighbor. But if he comes here with no more exalted motive than that of building up his own interests at the expense of the native—to seek our confidence only to betray it—with no higher ambition than that of overthrowing our Government, and introducing anarchy, confusion and bloodshed—then is he most unwelcome!
The duties we owe to each other are reciprocal. For my part I shall use my best endeavors, in humble reliance on the Great Ruler of all, to give you a just, liberal and satisfactory Government. At the same time I shall expect you in return to assist me in sustaining the Peace, the Law, the Order and the Independence of my Kingdom.
January 6th, 1855.

Secularism, Kamehameha IV and Kalākaua

Throughout most of the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was not a secular government (aupuni kauhonua).  However, a secular (kauhonua) movement did begin during the reign of  Kamehameha III, as well as a few Hawaiian politicians (including the future King Kalākaua) who urged for laicism or a leaving affairs to the laity themselves–something that was discouraged by Kamehameha III who frequently appointed missionaries for every important government portfolio. Kamehameha IV can be credited as being one of the primary advocates of laicism, though he is best remembered for bringing the Anglican Church to Hawai’i. King Kalākaua on hand, can be credited for being instrumental in advocating for hard secularism within the Hawaiian government, which is why ‘Iolani Palace never hosted a Christmas Party or any religious holiday during most of his reign. Hard secularism calls for no display of any religion in government offices and that the separation of Church and State be strictly maintained. Laicism and soft secularism normally call for all religions to be respected and that the government should not privilege one religion over the next but may make official references to a deity. Indonesia may be an example of a laicist or soft secularist nation while France is an example of more hard secularist country. Tonga meanwhile is not technically a secularist or laicist country.

During the reign of Kamehameha III, Hawai`i was not a secular society. The Calvinist version of the Christian religion played a heavy part in the development of laws and constitutions. Both Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha III largely helped to impose Protestant practices on the Hawaiian population and would give sermons on salvation in their official capacity. Those that did not comply with the views of Ka’ahumanu and Kamehameha III were fined, imprisoned, harassed, and in some cases exiled and burned alive. Such was the case of many of the kahuna who were burned alive between the First Hawaiian Civil War (1819). Native Hawaiians regardless of their own religious convictions were forced to attend Church or else be fined.  One of the roles of the public school system in Hawai`i during that time was not only to teach reading, writing, and arithmetical but also obedience to the Christian God, to the Kamehameha Dynasty, and to the Western values. This was further re-enforced in the Penal Code which made it illegal to conduct any business on a Sunday. One of the personal names of Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli (“placed in the dark cloud”), could have been Kauikeauuli (“placed in the dark time”) for the masses of Hawaiians. Despite the Act of Toleration, Hawaiian Roman Catholics and those of the Hawaiian indigenous religion were still be discriminated against. It is of little wonder that when Lord George Paulet seized control of Hawai`i in 1843 (which according to the British and Foreign State Papers, Volume 149, Part 3, page 1025, was actually largely due to the prejudicial actions of Minister Judd who among other reasons interfered in the trial of a Henry Skinner, a British subject and John Dominis, the father-in-law of the future Queen Lili’uokalani), there were many commoners who celebrated and the entire Fort Kamehameha in Honolulu (where Fort Street got its name) immediately gave their loyalty oaths to Lord Paulet. To the credit of Kamehameha III, when Hawaiian independence was restored he met every one of the soldiers of the Fort and forgave them without punishment acknowledging that he and his administration were not at times fair. This episode had a profound impact on the young Princes Alexander Liholiho Kamehameha and Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha as well as David Kaläkaua and the other children of the Chiefs’ Childrens’ School.

After the death of Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV began to undo much of the work of his uncle who he deemed was too much of a “friend of the foreigners”. This entailed removing Judd and the others from his cabinets and in establishing a new church. But in a very little written about episode in Hawaiian history, we have clearly the policies of Kamehameha IV in 1860 and the start of modern Hawaiian secularism. In 1860, the Japanese first embassy was making its way to Washington, D.C.  King Kamehameha IV was eager to conclude a Treaty of Friendship with Japan and so tasked his Foreign Minister R. C. Wylie to explain to the Japanese ambassador the nature of his government. Minister Wyllie wrote to Ambassador Lord Shinmi Masaoka on March 18th, a Sunday, the following:

“…His Majesty places them [all foreigners] all on the same friendly footing; and while he permits men of all religions to follow their own conscientious belief, he permits no priests of any religion to interfere in the political administration of His government.”

The following Monday, Prince Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha in the Privy Council explained that the policy of his brother in regards to the Japanese was in accordance “with enlightened governments and….with ancient practices”.  What the future Kamehameha V was probably referring to was the separation of the ali`i and the kahuna which symbolically had separated the government from religion until the time of Pa`ao (13th century) who made the ali`i paramount and justified it by the stories of Papa and Haumea and other mo`olelo.  Kamehameha IV saw no conflict in being religious while trying to keep the Church out of political affairs. In fact, in the same letter from Foreign Minister Wyllie to Lord Shinmi Masaoka, he states that:

“…when the Portuguese priests arrived, [the Emperor of Japan] was as liberal and kind to men of all religions as is the policy of King Kamehameha IV, and that their Imperial Majesties changed that policy and strictly prohibted the Roman Catholic religion, because some priests, the successors of Saint Francis Xavier, intermeddled in the political government of the Empire. If the priests did so, they did wrong, and violated the rules of their own Church….”

King Kamehameha IV therefore was an early advocate of laicism though he still enforced many of the laws he inherited from Kamehameha III because of the resistance of his kuhina nui and some of the higher tanking Christian Hawaiian ali’i themselves. Kamehameha V went further than his brother and began to bring back the hula (though privately), allowed the licensing of certain types of kahuna, as well as permitting the funeral of his sister to be conducted in the old Hawaiian pre-Christian manner. But in general, throughout the first half of the 19th century, laws based on Calvinist Christian values were codified into the emerging Hawaiian adaptation of the English Common Law system though theoretically Hawaiian practices were exempt unless they hampered health, sanitation (i.e. the excuse for banning kahuna la’au lapa’au), public morality (i.e. the banning of the hula) and political stability.

During the reign of Kalākaua, one saw the emergence of an assertive Hawaiian nationalism and a measure of kauhonua unknown until that time. During the King’s coronation in 1883, he placed the Crown over his own head rather than having it placed by the presiding Anglican bishop. This symbolized ideas from the French revolution via Napoléon that it is the laity (non-clerics) that governs and man is the maker of his own destiny. He further went on to use national days as a way to re-introduce Hawaiian legends and began to celebrate Christian holidays private in his own household. While it was the custom of Kamehameha III to have the clergy sit in among the high chiefs in the front pews during the opening of the National Legislature, King Kalākaua only allowed up to two representatives of each religious organization to have reserved seating. As a sign of respect for what the King was trying to accomplish, the Anglican Church bishop normally would not attend the opening but would simply attend the reception afterwords. The King also tried–alas in vain–to remove religious references from the Penal and Civil Code particularly the ones involving the Sabbath. “…Better to keep a proper Sunday than a wrong Sabbath….” as the King wrote to his sister, Princess Likelike in 1881. He failed in amending these laws because of political events such as the 1887 Constitution which was supported by influential preachers and missionary children of what is now the United Churches of Christ had no issue with using the pulpit to preach political issues and to “damn” members who opposed their narrow view of Christianity– as his sister, St. Damien, and Robert Louis Stevenson would all be victims to that same pulpit.