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Kingdom of Hawaii - The Christian Period

As long as Kamehameha held the reins of government with the strong hand, the crash was delayed. Kamehameha was all his life a firm supporter of paganism, for only through a strict observance of the traditional doctrines was it possible in those times of ferment to retain the respect of the people for the person and power of the godlike monarch. His death, which occurred on May 8, 1819, changed the situation. Liholiho (Rio-Kio), his son, who mounted the throne as Kamehameha II, immediately sank to be a puppet in the hands of his nobles, and especially of his co-regent Kaahumanu (Kahumonna), the favorite wife of the late king, and his aged chief counsellor, Kaleimoku (Karemaku), the "Pitt of the South Sea."

At their advice he abolished the ancient and revered custom of Taboo, and compelled women to share a large public banquet and to eat the pork which was forbidden them. The majority of the people gladly welcomed this step. The minority, who, under the lead of Kekuaokalani, a cousin of the king, remained true to paganism, were defeated in the sanguinary battle of Kuamoo; Kekuaokalani fell, together with his heroic wife, Manona. The destruction of the old temples and images, already initiated, was carried out with renewed zeal; nevertheless idolatry had many supporters in secret. The half-heartedness of the reforming policy was more unfortunate; the Hawaiians had been deprived of paganism, but nothing tangible was put in its place.

The visits of European and American squadrons during this period induced the monarch to seek an alliance with England, particularly since Russia and the United States had already shown signs of establishing themselves permanently in the archipelago. Kamehameha I, in order to increase his dignity at home by the support of the great world power, had made over his kingdom to England in February, 1794, but his offer did not meet with any cordial response. In 1823 Liholiho and his consort, Kamamalo, went to London, in order in this way to anticipate the wishes of others. They both died in 1824 in England, but were buried in their native country. Liholiho's successor, his brother Keaukeauouli (Kauikeouli, Kiukiuli), was only nine years old when he was placed on the throne under the name of Kamehameha III.

The regency during his minority was held by Kaahumanu and the old and tried Kaleimoku. Both found work enough in the succeeding years. It is true that Protestant missionaries had labored since 1820 with good results; but all their efforts were stultified by a faction of morally and physically corrupt white immigrants, whose numbers grew from year to year. Drunkenness and prostitution became so rampant that no improvement of the conditions could be hoped for except by means of legislation. Toward the end of the " twenties " the contest of the Christian missions for supremacy began on Hawaii. The Protestant mission was under the protection of the Americans: the Catholic only gained ground after numerous threats from the French warships under Dupetit-Thouars. In the year 1837 the French extorted a declaration of universal religious liberty, which put an end to the violent persecutions often suffered by the Catholic Christians.

The wise Kaleimoku died in 1827, and the death of the energetic queen-regent, Kaahumanu, followed in 1832. Kamehameha III declared himself of full age in 1833, when he chose another woman, Kinau, for his co-regent, and nominated her son, Alexander Liholiho, heir to the throne.

The first newspapers printed in the Hawaiian language appeared in 1834. Churches and schools of every sort were erected in large numbers. At the same time the first sugar plantations were laid out, and silkworm-breeding introduced on the part of the English. Soon cotton-growing was added as a new branch of industry. In October, 1840, the kingdom received its first constitution. It was drawn up by the American, Richards, and presented, as Karl Emil Jung expresses himself, a strange mixture of ancient feudalism and Anglo-American forms. The ministry consisted entirely of foreigners. Richards became minister of public instruction; Wylie, a Scotch doctor, represented the Foreign Office.

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Page last modified: 13-07-2017 19:08:43 ZULU