In college, William Richards was a member of the Mills Theological Society and also of the Philotechnian Literary Society, of which he was, for a time, president. He was a superior student, graduating with Phi Beta Kappa rank. At Commencement, he had a Philosophical Oration, the subject of his address being “The Nature and Effects of Dew.”
After graduating in 1819, Richards pursued his theological studies at Andover. In February, 1822, the ABCFM having planned to reinforce the mission at the Hawaiian Islands, Richards offered himself for that service and was accepted.
He was ordained in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 12 of the same year; on October 30, 1822, Richards married Clarissa, daughter of Levi Lyman, of Northampton, Massachusetts. On November 19, he, with his wife, joined the Second Company of American Protestant missionaries to Hawai‘i; they arrived in the Islands on April 27, 1823.
In the spring of 1838, the king and chiefs, who felt the need of reform in their government, asked Mr. Richards to become their teacher, chaplain and interpreter. With the consent of the ABCFM, he accepted this position and resigned his appointment as missionary and then spent his time urging the improvement of the political system.
He prepared a book No Ke Kalaiaina, based on Wyland’s, Elements of Political Economy. This book and Richards interaction with the king and chiefs helped shape the initial Hawaiʻi Constitution (1840).
In 1842, the delegation of Richards, Ha‘alilio and Sir George Simpson traveled to the US, France and Britain seeking recognition and diplomatic ties for Hawai‘i.
Kamehameha III issued a ‘Letter of Credence’ and power of attorney granting to Richards, “though a citizen of the United States of America”, “full and complete powers and perfect right to transact all and every kind of business whatsoever …”
“… for and in my stead and on my account, as fully and as perfectly in all respects and particulars, as I in my own proper person might or could do.” (Kamehameha III)
The Letter of Credence states, in part, “Kamehameha III., King of all the Hawaiian Islands, to Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Great and good friend,”
“We have made choice of Sir George Simpson, Knight, Timoteo Haalilio, our private secretary, and member of the House of Nobles and Rev. William Richards, as our Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary to your Majesty.”
“They are especially charged in relation to certain important objects which have been introduced in letters written by us to your worthy predecessor, and more to your Majesty.”
“The Rev. Mr. Richards is perfectly acquainted with most of the facts mentioned in those letters, and knows all our views and feelings and wishes in relation to them.”
“They are all well informed of the relative interests of the two countries and of our sincere desire to cultivate and strengthen the friendship and good feeling which has existed between us …”
“… and from a knowledge of their probity, fidelity and good conduct, we have entire confidence that they will render themselves acceptable to your Majesty by their persevering endeavors to preserve and advance the interests and happiness of both nations.”
“We therefore request your Majesty to receive them favorably and to give full credence to whatever they shall say on the part of our kingdom, and most of all when they shall assure you of our friendship as* wishes for the prosperity of your Majesty and your Majesty’s subjects.” ((Kamehameha III and Kekauluohi (Premier), April 8, 1842)
The accompanying power of attorney, “Know All Men By These Presents, that I, Kamehameha III., King of all the Hawaiian Islands, have constituted, ordained and made, and in my stead and place put, William Richards, a citizen of the United States …”
“… and by these presents do constitute, ordain and make, and in my stead and place put the said William Richards, to be my true and lawful attorney, for me and in my name and stead to ask, demand, levy, require, recover and receive of and from all and every person or persons whomsoever the same shall and may concern …”
“… all sums of money, debts, goods, wares, merchandize, effects and things whatsoever and wheresoever they shall and may be found due, owing, payable, belonging and coming unto me, the constituent, by any ways and means whatsoever.”
“And moreover, for the well being of my Government, and for divers other good causes and considerations, I have appointed, and by these presents do appoint, the said William Richards, who, though a citizen of the United States of America …”
“…is now in the employ of my Government, my special agent for the purpose of negotiating within the United States of America, Europe, or any other place he may visit, a loan for and in behalf of my Government, to any amount not exceeding fifty thousand dollars …”
“… in such a manner as in his judgment shall best subserve my interest, hereby authorizing him to execute such bonds or obligations as may be necessary therefor, and hereby pledge the full faith and credit of my Government for the approval of all acts of my said agent, and for the payment of the loan at the time and place which shall be stipulated by my said agent.”
“And my said agent and attorney is hereby further endowed with full and complete powers and perfect right to transact all and every kind of business whatsoever, for and in my stead and on my account, as fully and as perfectly in all respects and particulars, as I in my own proper person might or could do.”
“And he is furthermore authorized to sign my name and affix my seal of state, with which he is entrusted, to any and all documents and papers that may be required in the execution of his agency.”
“And he, the said William Richards, is hereby authorized and empowered to revoke, reclaim and nullify and render void, any and every power and document heretofore given under my hand, which I in my own proper person could revoke, nullify and render void …”
“…hereby giving and granting unto my said attorney and agent full and whole strength, power and authority in and about the premises, and to take and use all means and process in law for effecting the same, and of recoveries and receipts thereof in my name to make, seal and execute due acquittance and discharge …”
“… and for the premises to appear, and the person of me the constituent to represent before any governor, judges, justices, officers and ministers of the law whatsoever, in any court of justice, and there on my behalf to answer, defend and reply unto all actions, causes, matters and things whatsoever, relating to the premises.”
“Also to submit any matters in dispute to arbitration or otherwise; with full power to make and substitute one or more attornies under my said attorney, and the same at pleasure to revoke; and generally to say, do, act, transact, determine, accomplish and finish all matters and things whatsoever on all subjects …”
“… as fully, amply and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as I the constituent, if present, ought or might personally, although the matter should require more special authority than is herein comprised …”
“… I the constituent ratifying, allowing and holding firm and valid, all and whatsoever my said attorney or his substitutes shall lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue of these presents.” (Kamehameha III and Kekauluohi (Premier), April 8, 1842)