Critique of S. M. Kamakau by “A Hawaiian,” 1868.

History of Kamehameha.

Mr. Editor:—I see that you have taken up S. M. Kamakau’s “History of the Kamehamehas,” published in the Kuokoa. It was intended by Kamakau to take the place of a work on the same subject commenced some time ago but never finished.

It is well known among the Hawaiians that some of Kamakau’s historical facts are not authentic, and that his imagination supplies the material of other statements. This is evident by the controversy lately entered into by the native newspapers.

To undertake a history of this kind requires, according to the ancient usages of this country, the sanction of the King, or of some one high in authority appointed by him, to collect materials, and the assistance of those persons whose office has always been to keep the Royal pedigree secure from the encroachments of the multitude of plebian chiefs, claiming a higher rank than the ruling one.

By these persons, called kuauhaus, the oral traditions have been secretly kept and handed down to us, of the present day. The old meles do give some account of the past history of the country, but to understand them, and avoid errors, requires a guide who can explain and correct their figures of speech and sift out the facts. the kuauhaus, and not the kahus, alone can do this.

Kamakau, through a diligent student, does not belong to this class of people, and his work cannot be thoroughly authentic, although arts of it agree substantially with the oral history given by the kuauhaus, such as Kepookulou, David Malo, Auwae, Kaoo, Unauna, Kamokuiki and others. But to him the credit is due for introducing the subject to public notice, when otherwise it might have been entirely overlooked. The history published is very incomplete, and requires revision and addition to make it accurate.

One important omission exists in the last paragraph published last week: “So at Mokulau the succession of the Kingdom was settled by the decision of Kekaulike, the dominion of Maui was confirmed to Kamehameha, because his rank was superior to that of other high chiefs.” The omission is in not attaching the word nui or great after the name Kamehameha. This Kamehameha is not the same person as Kamehameha I of Hawaii. The Kamehameha mentioned here is Kamehameha Nui of the Great, son of Kekaulike, King of Maui, and ot Kamehameha I the Conqueror, King of Hawaii and son of Keoua.

Again, “because his rank was superior to that of other high chiefs,” should read, “because the rank of his (Kamehameha Nui’s) family takes precedence of that of Kekaulike’s other children.”

And again, “So that both on the side of the chief families of Maui and Hawaii, the Kamehamehas were highest in rank,” &c. This alludes tothe late reigning families of Kamehameha II, Kamehameha III, and Princess Nahienaena, and not to the present family, who properly belong to the Hawaii line of chiefs.

Kamehameha Nui of Maui has been ranked as highest by partisan chiefs under him, but during his reign a dispute arose between him and the Oahu chiefs, which nearly cost him his life. The matter was left undecided, and still remains an open question to this day.

I remain, etc.,

A Hawaiian.

Honolulu, Aug. 28, 1868.

(Hawaiian Gazette, 9/2/1868, p. 3)


Hawaiian Gazette, Volume IV, Number 33, Page 3. September 2, 1868.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s