Kauikeaouli appeared to be stillborn, but was revived. He was the second son of Kamehameha I. His birth site is at the head of Keauhou Bay (the Daughters of Hawaiʻi own and maintain the area.)
His exact birth date is not known; however, the generally accepted date is August 11, 1813. Never-the-less, Kauikeaouli was apparently an admirer of Saint Patrick and chose to celebrate his birthday on March 17.
Kauikeaouli spent the first 5-years of his life with Chief Kaikioʻewa in the ‘O‘oma ahupuaʻa in Kona (the place where he first learned to be a king.)
Other early education the infant Prince received was at Kailua-Kona, from the Rev. Asa Thurston and Thomas Hopu, a native Hawaiian who had been educated on the continent and who came with the first missionaries to Hawaiʻi. In Honolulu, the Prince was the pupil of Rev. Hiram Bingham.
The younger brother of Liholiho, he served as Hawai‘i’s King from 1825 to 1854 – the longest ruling monarch over the Hawaiian Kingdom. Kauikeaouli was a pre-teen when he ascended to the throne; in the early years of his rule, he served under a regency with Kaʻahumanu, his father’s favorite queen, as joint ruler.
During the early- to mid-1800s timeframe, there were significant changes occurring that greatly affected the Hawaiian people:
- his mother Keōpūolani and Kaʻahumanu convinced Liholiho to effectively break the Kapu system
- the health of many Hawaiians was weakened by exposure to new diseases, common cold, flu, measles, mumps, smallpox and venereal diseases
- as more ships came in, many of those who came to Hawaiʻi chose to stay and settle
- Hawaiʻi changed from a land of all Hawaiians to a place of mixed cultures, languages and races
- many new plants and animals were brought to the islands, both on purpose and by accident
- new products by foreign ships were traded
- the economy and everyday life was changing from a subsistence way of life to a commodity-based economy that started with barter and trade, that eventually changed to a monetary system
- there was growth of business centers, where people ended up living closer to one another, typically surrounding the best seaports for western ships (small towns soon grew into large cities)
There is scarcely in history, ancient or modem, any King to whom so many public reforms and benefits can be ascribed, as the achievements of his reign. Yet what King has had to contend with so many difficulties as King Kamehameha III? (The Polynesian, 1855)
“That the existence of the King, chiefs and the natives, can only be preserved by having a government efficient for the administration of enlightened justice, both to natives and the subjects of foreign powers residing in the islands, and that chiefly through missionary efforts the natives have made such progress in education and knowledge, as to justify the belief that by further training, they may be rendered capable of conducting efficiently the affairs of government; but that they are not at present so far advanced.” (Kamehameha IV, In Obituary to the departed King)
In private life, Kamehameha III was mild, kind, affable, generous and forgiving. He was never more happy than when free from the cares and trappings of state. He could enjoy himself sociably with his friends, who were much attached to him. (The Polynesian, 1855)
Having associated much, while a boy, with foreigners, he continued to the last to be fond of their company. Without his personal influence, the law to allow them to hold lands in fee simple could never have been enacted; neither could conflicting claims to land have been settled and registered by that most useful institution, the Board of Land Commissioners. (The Polynesian, 1855)
It is hardly possible to conceive any King more generally beloved than was Kamehameha III; more universally obeyed, or more completely sovereign in the essential respect of independent sovereignty, that of governing his subjects free from any influence or control coming from beyond the limits of his own jurisdiction. (The Polynesian, 1855)
Under his leadership, Hawaiʻi changed from an isolated island kingdom to a recognized member of the modem world. Many of the things he did as king still influence life in Hawaiʻi today. (Kamehameha Schools Press)
The following are only some of the many accomplishments of Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli:)
- On June 6, 1825, Kauikeaouli was proclaimed king of Hawaiʻi. To the people he said, “Where are you, chiefs, guardians, commoners? I greet you. Hear what I say! My kingdom I give to God. The righteous chief shall be my chief, the children of the commoners who do you right shall be my people, my kingdom shall be one of letters.” (Kamakau – Kamehameha Schools Press)
- June 7, 1839, he signed the Declaration of Rights (called Hawai‘i’s Magna Charta) that, in part, noted, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the earth, in unity and blessedness. God has also bestowed certain rights alike on all men and all chiefs, and all people of all lands.”
- June 17, 1839 he issued the Edict of Toleration permitting religious freedom for Catholics in the same way as it had been granted to the Protestants.
- June 28, 1839 he founded Chief’s Children’s School (The Royal School;) the main goal of this school was to groom the next generation of the highest ranking chiefs’ children of the realm and secure their positions for Hawaiʻi’s Kingdom. (Missionaries Amos and Juliette Cooke were selected to teach the 16 royal children and run the school.)
- October 8, 1840 (the King was about 27-years-old) he enacted the Constitution of 1840 that, in part, changed the government from one of an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. It provided for a separation of powers between three branches of government, with executive power in the hands of the king, the kuhina nui (similar to a prime minister) and four governors; a bicameral legislative body consisting of a house of nobles and a house of representatives, with the house of representatives elected by the people; and a judiciary system, including a supreme court.
- April 27, 1846 he declared that “the forests and timber growing therein shall be considered government property, and under the special care of the Minister of the Interior …;” effectively starting the process of protecting our mauka watersheds.
- January 27, 1848 through March 7, 1848 he participated in what we refer to as the “Great Māhele” that was a reformation of the land system in Hawaiʻi and allowed private ownership
- June 14, 1852 he enacted the Constitution of 1852 that expanded on the Declaration of Rights, granted universal (adult male) voting rights for the first time and changed the House of Nobles from a hereditary body to one where members served by appointment by the King. It also institutionalized the three branches of government and defined powers along the lines of the American Constitution.
- Toward the end of Kauikeaouli’s reign there were 423 schools in Hawaiʻi with an enrollment of over twelve-thousand-students. Most of the schools were elementary schools using Hawaiian as the language of instruction.
Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) died December 15, 1854 (at the age of 41.)
Happy Birthday and Cheers to Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. I think I’ll have a Guinness (or two) tonight in his honor. (Happy St Patrick’s Day.)