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Foreign Policy

With a growing foreign population, it became necessary for Hawaiian kings to construct a "foreign policy" for the first time. Kamehameha I considered himself and his kingdom to be under the protection of Great Britain, a view also held by the king's sucessor, Kamehameha II. As will be seen below, there developed among the great powers a continuous rivalry to assert their rights and influence in the island kingdom.

The king and his chiefs felt threatened by the riotous behavior of the sailors and the demands, mainly for land, of other foreigners. To solidify Hawaii's standing against these encroachments, it was felt that the backing of Great Britain was necessary. Therefore, Kamehameha II travelled to Great Britain to meet with King George V to discuss the possibility of a British protectorate for Hawaii. Unfortunately, a measles epidemic broke out in London and both Kamehameha II and his wife died of the disease in 1824. The meeting with King George never occurred.


The reign of Kamehameha III was the longest in Hawaiian history—from 1825 to 1854. Many changes occurred during this time: the establishment of a system of laws, and, eventually, a constitutional government; formal relationships with foreign governments; land reform; and commercial, social, and educational developments.

Creation of a System of Laws

Kauikeaouli, younger brother of Kanehameha II, was a minor when he succeeded to the throne of Hawaii after the death of his brother in London. The kingdom was still governed by the powerful Kaahumanu until her death in 1832.

The first laws appeared in the kingdom before the death of Kamehameha II, made necessary by the increasing problems involved with reconciling the newly-acquired Christian principles c the natives with the unruly behavior of the sailors in the port areas. The earliest printed laws were the "Notices" of 1822 on disturbing the peace. In 1827, three laws were adopted against murder, theft, and adultery.

During the regency of Kaahumanu, there had been a general tightening of laws and restrictions placed on both natives and foreigners. After her death in 1832, the missionaries worried that, without her powerful support, many of their gains in promoting what they considered a Christian nation would disintegrate. They were not wrong. The king, at eighteen, had no sympathy for the new religion. In his rebellion against the puritanical laws imposed during the regency of Kaahumanu, the king abrogated all laws except those against theft and murder. He embarked on a "kind of inventive guerrilla war on Christian morality." 54/ The commoners followed his example and the missionaries despaired as the moral laws they had worked so hard to have accepted were ignored.

One author attributes this attitude of the king to cultural and political reasons:

In the revival of the hula and ancient games we recognize elements of the racial culture struggling for expression after a long period of forced retirement. There was also during these two years (1833 and 1834) a protracted struggle between the king and the older chiefs resulting from the decision of the king to terminate

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