“By immortalizing Kamehameha to mythical proportions we have also idealized his standards of leadership and conduct, his pono, as the measure of leadership in the Native Hawaiian community …”
“Unlike aliʻi before him, Kamehameha forges a new way of governance that might meet the challenges enabling his people to survive in a greater world, but one based in continuity with traditions”.
“The success of that formulation has challenges each generation since his time to uphold or surpass it, until there comes another who will remake it in a way never done before, Until that time his pono endures.” (Chun)
“This idealization, and now myth, of Kamehameha is still very pervasive and may take on further epic and popular proportions”. (Chun)
“However, it would be clear to anyone who thought about it that Kamehameha was only human, and it is not hard, if we look a bit closer at the accounts of his life, to discover his frailties and faults. One of the younger wives of Kamehameha (Kalākua) informed Hiram Bingham of his abusive nature.” (Chun)
“Kalākua, the late governess of Maui, who gave me much of Kamehameha’s domestic history, says of him, ‘He kanaka pepehi no ia; aole mea e ana ai kona inaina. He was a man of violence, – nothing would pacify his wrath.’”
“She said she was once beaten by him, with a stone, upon her head, till she bled profusely, when in circumstances demanding his kindest indulgence and care, as a husband.”
Bingham later noted, “His admirers speak freely of a peculiar edict which he put forth, and which gives a striking view of the state of society, that if any man should have illicit intercourse with Kaʻahumanu, however high his rank might be, he should be put to death.”
“But the severe and bloody penalty, the pointed specification, the jealousy, watchfulness, and partial love of the king, and the queen’s love of influence, power, and reputation, and her attachment to her husband, all proved ineffectual as a safeguard, without moral principle or the fear of God.” (Bingham)
“Kaʻahumanu was a woman of the chiefly stature and of celebrated beauty … her husband (Kamehameha) cherished her exceedingly. He had the indelicacy to frame and publish an especial law declaring death against the man who should approach her, and yet no penalty against herself.”
“And in 1809, after thirty-four years of marriage, and when she must have been nearing fifty … Kanihonui, was found to be her lover, and paid the penalty of life”. (Stevenson)
Kanihonui was a handsome 19-year old. Reportedly, Kaʻahumanu had seduced the boy while she was intoxicated; in addition, the boy was the son of Kamehameha’s half-sister – and, Kamehameha and Kaʻahumanu raised him.
“Naihe and other chiefs who feared their sovereign’s frown, and knew not how soon they might feel its force, at his command, put their hands to the work of strangling Kanihonui, one of their compeers, who was alleged to have exposed himself to the action of that despotic edict.” (Bingham)
Kanihonui was put to death at Papaʻenaʻena Heiau on Leʻahi (Diamond Head) for committing adultery with Kaʻahumanu.
“Kamehameha used a similar strategy of imposing fear upon a population during his war campaigns. It was this fear held by the commoners of the raiding parties of Kamehameha that led to his near death in Puna at the hands of the fishermen there.” (Chun)
Kamakau notes, “… Kamehameha and Ka-hakuʻi paddled to Papaʻi and on to Keaʻau in Puna where some men and women were fishing, and a little child sat on the back of one of the men.”
“Seeing them about to go away, Kamehameha leaped from his canoe intending to catch and kill the men, but they all escaped with the women except two men who stayed to protect the man with the child. During the struggle Kamehameha caught his foot in a crevice of the rock and was stuck fast; and the fishermen beat him over the head with a paddle.”
“Had it not been that one of the men was hampered with the child and their ignorance that this was Kamehameha with whom they were struggling, Kamehameha would have been killed that day. This quarrel was named Ka-lele-iki, and from the striking of Kamehameha’s head with a paddle came the law of Mamala-hoe (Broken paddle) for Kamehameha.” (Kamakau)
“An English resident, who enjoyed his confidence as fully and long as any foreigner, says, he has seen (Kamehameha) beat Kaahumanu with severity for the simple offence of speaking of a young man as ‘handsome.’”
“Captain Douglass speaks of his violent temper and rashness, judging that ‘those about him feared rather than loved him;’ and says, ‘Conceiving himself affronted, one day, by the chiefs who were on board, he kicked them all by turns, without mercy, and without resistance.’”
“His energy, ambition, and success, which gained admirers among natives and strangers; his liberal attention to public vessels, after the establishment of his power …”
“… his readiness to meet the views of foreigners in the pursuit of mercantile gains and low pleasures, under his protection, secured for him a higher reputation than his conduct and disposition would justify, when tried by the laws of morality.”
“When multitudes in the nation who regarded him as an invader, tyrant, and oppressor, had perished before him, it was natural that those who escaped death, and were afterwards protected, should learn to respect and obey him …”
“… and that those whom he led to victory and to enlarged possessions, should highly honor him as a good chief, compared with predecessors and contemporaries, though there was much to be censured in his temper, his principles and his policy.” (Bingham) Kamehameha died May 8, 1819.