An Order or Order of Merit is a visible honor (in many cases represented in some form of medal and/or ribbon) awarded by a monarch, government or organization to an individual. Most historic orders imply a membership in a group.
Modern Orders of Merit and other Decorations can be traced back to the monarchical and honorific orders of chivalry as established in the Middle Ages. These were societies, fellowships and colleges of knights created by European monarchs in imitation of the military orders of the Crusades.
Fast forward to 1863 and Hawaiʻi; with the death of his younger brother (Alexander Liholiho – Kamehameha IV,) Prince Lot Kapuāiwa became Kamehameha V. He sought a new constitution to restore more powers to the king. In 1864, when it appeared that a new constitution could not be agreed upon, he declared that the Constitution of 1852 be replaced by one he had written himself.
Consistent with the prior constitution, Article 35 of the Constitution of 1864 (identified as Article 37 in the prior Constitution of 1852) states, “All Titles of Honor, Orders, and other distinctions, emanate from the King.”
The King’s Decree noted he was “desirous to cultivate and develop among (his) subjects the feelings of Honour and loyalty to Our Dynasty and its institutions…”
It also expressed his “wish to confer honorary distinctions upon such of Our subjects and foreigners as have rendered, or may hereafter render, to Our dynasty and People important services …”
Privy Council meeting minutes state:
“His Majesty stated that it was his intention to make Known to the Privy Council that it is his desire to institute an order of merit. Having read the 35 article of the Constitution he asked the advice of the members of the P. C. as to the propriety of creating an order, and read a Decree which he had prepared. Members Varigny, Harris and Andrews spoke in favor of the Institution and the following resolution Passed unanimously.”
“Res 2. Resolved that this Council fully concurring in the views embodied in the preamble of a decree instituting an order of merit, respectfully advises His Majesty to promulgate the proposed decree.”
The King made himself an ex officio Grand Chancellor of the Order of Kamehameha I; he also conferred the Order to a number of people, including, Mataio Kekūanāoʻa and Richard Wyllie (Grand Cross;) CG Hopkins, GM Robertson and EH Allen (Commander;) and a number of Knights.
His Decree and subsequent Statutes and meeting notes of what appears to be an organizational meeting, held March 16, 1867, note that there were initially three classes and limits on the number of (living) members in each class: Knights Grand Cross (10-members,) Knights Commanders (30-members) and Knights Companions (Knight) (50-members.) (Admittance fees were $250, $140 and $75, respectively.)
Participants in the 1867 meeting included King Kamehameha V, Mataio Kekūanāoʻa, Elisha H Allen, E Varigny, CC Harris, John O Dominus, Paul Kanoa and HP Staley.
The class and membership limitations did not include the King’s right to make appointments to foreigners (Foreign Exchanges) or as complementary to foreign sovereigns or powers.
Prior to admittance, prospective members were required to state the following oath: “I do hereby solemnly swear to remain faithfull to the principles of honor, obedient to the rules of the Order of Kamehameha I and to be a true and faithfull Knight of the said order of which I am this day a member.”
Commissions issued to members of the Order were signed by the King and countersigned by the Chancellor of the Order.
In the duration of the issuance of Order medallions under the Hawaiian monarchs (1865-1886) the Order of Kamehameha was awarded 57-times by King Kamehameha V and 82-times by King Kalākaua.
The insignia, worn on the left breast, consists of a Maltese surmounted by the Hawaiian crown. Rays of gold or silver are found between the arms of the cross. Enameled in blue and white and centered on the cross is a circular shield, the center of which is inscribed and elaborate “K”.
On the periphery of the shield, in a blue band, is the inscription “Kamehameha I”, on the badge’s reverse, around the shield is inscribed “E Hookanaka” (To be a man.)
In 1893, after the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani, the Order operated as a secret society until 1903, when under Prince Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole it returned into the public light.
“Credit for the founding of this order, which dates from May, 1903, or a little more than ten years after the close of the monarchy and a little less than five years after annexation to the United States, belongs to Dr George H Huddy, who has served the territory faithfully and well as a representative in the legislature, first from Kauaʻi and then from Hawaiʻi … Prince Jonah Kūhio Kalanianaʻole, delegate to congress, was the first aliʻi ʻaimoku, or sovereign head of the revived order.” (Star-Bulletin; June 10, 1913)
In 1905, the Order of Kamehameha brought solemnity to the holiday (Kamehameha Day) by draping a lei on the statue of Kamehameha in front of Aliʻiolani Hale and standing watch throughout the day. (Stillman)
On July 16, 1907, Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, George H Huddy, Nagaran Fernandez, Carlos A Long, James H Boyd, George E Smithies, Charles H Rose and Abraham Fernandez petitioned for a Charter for the Hawaiʻi Chapter No. 1, Order of Kamehameha.
“… the object for which the same is organized is as follows, 1. To inculcate the cardinal principles of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence; to provide for Sick and Funeral Benefits; to aid the widows and orphans; and to improve the social and moral conditions of its members.” (Hawaii Chapter No. 1, Order of Kamehameha; Petition for Charter, July 16, 1907) (An announcement in the Hawaiian Star shortly after noted similar language for the Māmalahoa Chapter. No. 2 )
In 1912, members of the Order of Kamehameha invited representatives of other fraternal and civic organizations to participate in a commemorative ceremony to honor Kamehameha I; in 1914, the planning committee opted to organize a parade to process from ‘A’ala Park to ‘Iolani Palace as a prelude to the ceremony at the Kamehameha statue. Thus, the inception of the Kamehameha Day parade. (Stillman)
“The Order of Kamehameha ought to endure as long as social order and fraternal amenities prevail in these fair Islands. This organization has changed fitful and voluntary homage to the memory of Kamehameha the Great to bounden and regular service on each anniversary of his birth. That the foremost young men of the rare are attending to this patriotic office is one of the best omens of the time.”
“It shows that their ideals are those of unity courage and progress. As they decorate the statue of Kamehameha, this day of his, with the fragrant wreaths that have long been world-known as the regalia of the warmest human hospitality, let it be believed that they dedicate themselves anew to the social and political betterment of the still potent remnant of their wondrously Interesting race.” (Star-Bulletin; June 10, 1913)
A preface to on-line application for membership in Royal Order of Kamehameha I (Moku O Kona) states, “The Order interferes neither with religion nor politics, but has for its foundation the great basic principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.”
“The Order strives to teach a man the duty he owes to God, his neighbor, and himself. It inculcates the practice of virtue, and makes an extensive use of symbolism in its teachings.” (It also notes, “The Order is not a benefit society.”)
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