Kamehameha V as recalled by R. A. Lyman and W. D. Alexander, 1902.


Bold and Wise Sovereign as Remembered by R. A. Lyman.

Hawaii has not been known to the world very many years, but during that time a King of whom she may well be proud has reigned over the land, a King who would compare very favor­ably with the monarchs of more en­lightened nations. Kamehameha V., who ascended the throne of the Ha­waiian Islands upon the death of Ka­mehameha IV. in 1863.

Before ascending the throne Kameha­meha V. had acted as Minister of the Interior under Kamehameha IV. He had a very strong will, so that he was not Minister in name alone, but attended faithfully to the duties of his office.

Upon the death of his brother, Ka­mehameha IV., Kamehameha V. show­ed his strong will. He persuaded his sister, Victoria, to give up ascending the throne, and in a few hours had him­self proclaimed as King. He declined to take an oath to the Constitution/ and after making a trip to several parts of the Islands, called a Constitutional Convention to meet in Honolulu, and upon the delegates refusing to impose a property qualification for voters, the King sent them home and promulgated a new Constitution, in which he in­serted a clause that no one could ascend the throne without taking the oath to this Constitution. In after years when I became well acquainted with Kame­hameha, he often told me that he would not take the oath of the old Constitu­tion, as he had made up his mind to set it aside, and he did not wish to commit perjury by swearing to support a Constitution that he had determined to set aside. The King felt that it Would be wrong to commit perjury him­self, and one example will show what he thought of others perjuring them­selves. When Kamehameha received the news that K_____ of Kona had giv­en up being a minister of the gospel, I and several others were present. The King said that he had hoped that K_____ would stand firm as long as he lived; that he was sorry to have to say it of his own people, but too many of them would commit perjury in court, and that the native ministers and church members seemed to think they could take an oath to be ministers of the gospel or followers of Christ, and that when they got tired of that, they could go back to a life of sin as easily as they could put on a new coat; and as long as the Nation does not realize the solemnity of an oath to God, and the sin of breaking that oath, the Na­tion could never amount to anything.

When Kamehameha came to the throne, he found that his late brother owed so much money that most of his lands would have to be sold to settle up the estate. So he had the Act pas­sed setting apart the Crown Lands, the income of which was used to pay his brother’s debts, and after those debts were paid, then the income was to be for the Crown.

Kamehameha V. was not a King sim­ply in name, but took an active part in the Government, and was well inform­ed as to what his ministers were do­ing. He always dictated the programmes for the state funerals which oc­curred during his reign. He always prepared his own speeches for the open­ing and closing of legislatures and for other state occasions. In order to keep himself well informed about other countries, the King took a great many American and English papers and mag­azines. It was his custom to read the speeches made in the English Par­liament and in the American Congress, and he kept himself well informed as to the measures brought forward in those bodies. Several months before the legislature was to meet, Kamehameha would hold a cabinet meeting nearly every day to discuss the measures that the government was going to bring be­fore the legislature. The King said. “I want my Cabinet to know before the legislature meets, what I will support and what I will not support; and I wish the Cabinet to show me before­hand the reasons why the government should bring forward certain measures; and then there will be no surprise to my Cabinet during the session of the legislature from not knowing what my views are.”

Kamehameha was an honorable busi­ness man. and was unwilling to take an unfair advantage of others in business. Several years before he ascended the throne he failed in business and went into bankruptcy. After he had been on the throne over a year he directed Judge Harris, who had been his lawyer when he failed, to pay all his old credi­tors in full, saying. “Although the court has released me from paying these claims in full, I wish to have them all paid, as I am in a position to do it and do not wish any one to lose a cent by my having failed before.”

The King was very particular about the small matters of business, and did not leave everything to others to look after. He always kept the run of any­thing that was purchased for him or by his orders. He would enter the price in his memorandum book. After break­fast he would call his people together, and looking over his book, would pass out the money to those who had made the purchases, saying. “You promised that such and such an article would be paid for today, now go and pay for It.”

Business men in Honolulu have told me that they felt sure of their money on time when the King’s servants made any purchases In his name. On his trips to Hilo, he would direct me to pay all his bills for supplies and to draw on him. I was constantly purchasing hundreds of dollars’ worth of feathers, canoes, olona and other articles, and drawing on him for the money, and dur­ing the seven years that I was doing this I never had a complaint from any one of my drafts not being cashed on presentation.

At one time on a short trip to Hilo, he lodged in a native man’s small house at the mouth of the Waiakea stream, instead of going to Keelikolani’s house. Just before going on board of the steamer he called for the owner of the house and gave him twenty dollars in gold. The man exclaimed, “What is this for?” and placed it on the mat. The King said, “I have turned you out of your house for two days and I wish to give you a little present for your kindness to me.” The man declined, saying, “You are my King and every­thing belongs to you, and I do not wish anything.” The King replied, “I am not King to get whatever I can out of the people. I receive my salary so as to pay for what I need. I am not giv­ing this to you as pay, but as a small present;” he then walked off to the boat leaving the money there.

Kamehameha would not take undue advantage of others, but at the same time he would not allow the natives to hang around the palace without work­ing.

About two weeks after his father Kekuanaoa’s funeral, he called his father’s retainers together and said to them, “You have mourned with me for my father, and now it is time for you to go to work. Those of you who want to work for me can have work, and if you need money to buy clothes with I will advance it on account, and I will pay you so many dollars a month for work.” They replied, “Your father fed us all the time, and did not make us work, and you should do the same.” Kamehameha replied, “I am not King to teach the Nation to be idle, but it is my place to teach the people to work and support their families. I do not want anybody to work for nothing: those who want to work for me will be paid for it. and those who do not want to work for me must go elsewhere to live, as after a certain time no food will be given out to those who are able to work and will not work. You have shown great respect for my father, and now you can not do him or the Nation any good by sitting in idleness and say­ing, “We do this out of aloha for your father.” The King kept his men at work, reclaiming marshes at Waikiki and planting taro or fishing, and when at Kaunakakai, on Molokai, would set them building walls or fishing.

Kamehameha always claimed that children should be educated to work as well as in their books. That if they were not taught to work with their hands while in school, they would not work after they left school, but the young men would think that they must be lawyers or something of the kind, and get their living by rascality if money should not come in fast enough to suit them.

Kamehameha may have encouraged the hula in his younger days, but sev­eral years before he came to the throne he found that the natives on his lands on Oahu were travelling thirty miles a day to see the hula dances, and when at home were sleeping around their houses in the day time and going to dances at night, and neglecting to plant and cultivate food for their families. It roused his indignation, and he forbade their having any more dances on his lands, and turned off the hula dan­cers. At the next session of the legis­lature he used all his influence to have the law passed prohibiting the Hawai­ian hula unless a license was first ob­tained, and forbidding any licenses to be granted outside of Honolulu. While he was Minister of the Interior he had the law enforced very strictly, and to the day of his death he often said he found it necessary to stop the hula, as it demoralized the natives all through the country, and broke up all work.

When the King’s sister Victoria died, the natives performed a good many hulas around the palace grounds before the funeral. Afterwards he told me that he was sorry he had allowed it, and that he would have no more of it there. When his father died, the choirs were allowed to sing at night, but there were no scenes of hula like those that had been held there formerly.

Having long known Kamehameha V., and having been in his employ until the time of his death. I can say that I saw nothing in him that led me to think of kahunaism or sorcery. In jus­tice to him it should be said that he was not a kahuna, and that Kalakaua did not inherit his policy of kahunaism from him. That he did not care to have kahunas live on his lands or on the crown lands as squatters, is shown by the following extract taken from one of his letters: “Haa has written to me about his having been ejected from living at Piihonua. Happily ‘squatters’ are not recognized in law, and I see no difficulty in ousting him from the land. As owners of the crown property we can allow or disallow people living as squatters on the crown lands. The question with us is, shall we harbor this man, and by so doing drive off the majority of the people from Piihonua? There can be no doubt in my mind of the authority and right of a Konohiki over a land to object to any squatter living on his land.” True. Kamehame­ha believed in dreams, and had super­stitious ideas like other Hawaiians, but are the Hawaiians the only people who have superstitious ideas and believe in dreams? Have not books about dreams and their meanings been written and printed by foreigners, and have they not in many instances been translated into Hawaiian, which helps to confirm the belief?

Kamehameha V. also believed in and knew how to use Hawaiian herbs, many of which are very powerful and the use of which is now very much abused. In early days, and now in many instan­ces, prayers and incantations were made to the various gods, but Kame­hameha V., so far as I know, never practiced any of these arts. People are known to whom some of these medi­cines were given without the use of kahunaism. Some of these receipts were given to others and nothing said about praying to the gods, etc. Though he understood the use of Hawaiian medicines he did not practice their arts.

It has been said that Kamehameha V. did not care to appoint Hawaiians to positions of honor, and that when asked for his reasons he kept silent. This was not the case, as he really de­sired to place the Hawaiians In offices of honor, but he felt that few of them were capable of holding those offices, as he once told Lunalilo, when he ask­ed him why he did not place more Hawaiians in the higher offices. The King replied: “Cousin, you and the natives have only yourselves to thank, for not being in these offices. You know very well, cousin, that you could have the highest office in the kingdom that is in my gift, if you would only keep straight and attend to business.” Lunalilo re­plied, “I know it.” The King then said: “Cousin, when I first came to the throne, I tried filling the higher offices with Hawaiians, and the first thing I knew the men were too big for their offices. I found they were keeping too many people around them, and drink­ing too much and not attending to their duties. Soon the government money was missing, and so I quietly put my hand in my pocket and repaid the money to the government, and dropped those persons and put in their places men who would not disgrace the coun­try by drinking and squandering the government money. There are plenty of natives who know enough and are smart enough to perform the duties of a great many of these offices, but it is hard to find one who will not be upset after a while by being put into office, and disgrace himself and the nation. I feel that it is too bad that it is so, but, cousin, you know it is true.” Lunalilo replied: “Yes, it is so.”

Though Kamehameha had been in the habit of drinking a good deal in his younger days, he was quite temperate before he came to the throne, and was more and more so as long as he lived, and would never screen his servants when they got drunk or broke the laws. When they were arrested he would either pay the fine or let them stay in jail as he thought best. The police were not afraid to arrest his servants, as they knew that the king would approve of their doing their duty.

When S. K_____ was discharged from being a turnkey at the jail, he went to the King and asked him to reinstate him. The King told him that he had been warned not to get drunk, but as he had not listened, he had lost his place; but he offered him another chance. He said to K_____, “You can go up to Kona and look after my lands ther^ as long as you let liquor alone, and I will get other work for you: but if you commence drinking again, I will not give you any further help.” This kept S. K_____ in check as long as Ka­mehameha lived.

After the great earthquake of 1868, when Kamehameha was on his way to Hilo and Kau on the steamer Kilauea, to see if the report was true that the lava had surrounded a number of na­tives on the seashore in Kau, he was suffering with a heavy cold, and one of the passengers urged him to take a little whiskey, but he refused, saying that it would have been better for him if he had left it alone years before. Kamehameha V. really saw the evil caused by liquor and refused to sign a bill allowing liquor to be sold to the Hawaiians.

The King had the welfare of the nation at heart, and tried hard to get a reciprocity treaty negotiated with the United States, and was planning to go himself to the States to work for the treaty. He approved of the establish­ment of a leper asylum on Molokai; took great interest in the building of the Hawaiian hotel in Honolulu and the court house in Hilo, and had the Government building commenced in Honolulu. Kamehameha felt that good roads ought to be made around the Islands, and at the time of his death had formed plans for a wagon road from Hilo directly to Kona, running past Kalaieha and Ahua Umi.

Kamehameha V. spoke well of most of the missionaries, and tried to put good men into office, and did not hesi­tate to place a missionary’s son in of-

(Continued on Page 12.)

(PCA, 12/11/1902, p. 9)

Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume XXXV, Number 6348, Page 9. December 11, 1902.


(Continued from Page 9.)

fice if he thought the young man would fill the office satisfactorily, and he made it a rule to put into office those who would have the interests of Hawaiians at heart.

Kamehameha V. said that Rev. H. H. Parker was a man who was working for the sake of doing good, and not for money. He said he wished there were more men like him in the Islands, and then there would be a great change for the better in the people.

Kamehameha V. was a man who stood by his friends faithfully, and was very strong in his likes and dislikes. He was always very grateful for any kindness shown him while travelling around the Islands or elsewhere, and when any one came to Honolulu who had entertained him on his travels, he always took pains to have something done for him.

In the prime of life, in the midst of a successful reign, death crept upon Kamehameha V. He had been confined to the house several months from an internal abscess. On the morning, of his birthday preparations were going on for the celebration of the day, and natives were coming and going. Dr. Hutchinson, Minister of the Interior, was his physician, and called in Dr. Trousseau for e consultation. Dr. T. said that if the King had any business to settle he had better do it at once, as he would not live through the day. Kamehameha was told this by some one, and he bowed his head as if in prayer. After a while he said, “It is hard to die on my birthday, but God’s will be done.” Presently he started to go into another room, but stumbled and fell upon his knees, while some of his attendants held on to him and steadied him. He remained on his knees and said, “This is the way our Saviour fell on his way to die on the Cross.” They helped him back to the room that he came from. Before he became insensi­ble he offered the throne to Mrs. Ber­nice Pauahi Bishop, but she declined it, saying, “There is your sister Keelikolani.” Kamehameha said, “She will not do;” and turning to Gov. P. Nahaolelua asked, “Whom shall I appoint to the throne? Which of these four, Pau­ahi, Queen Emma, Lunalilo or Keelikolani?” Nahaolelua would not answer at first, and finally declined to say which one he thought ought to have the throne. Kamehameha then said, “I thought you were a man of common sense, but it seems you have none:” kainoa he kanaka naauao, manao paa oe, aka aole ka!

Soon his spirit took its flight from its earthly tenement, before the King had signed the will which had been hastily drawn up, or had appointed his successor to the throne.



As some of those present may not be familiar with the history of Kameha­meha V., whose characteristics will form the subject of the next paper, a brief introductory statement of some of the leading facts in his career may be in place.

He was born December 11, 1830, in Honolulu, and christened Lot Kapuaiwa Kamehameha. His mother, Kinau, was the daughter of Kamehameha I. by Kalakua, a sister of Kaahumanu. She was Kuhina Nui or Premier, from the date of Kaahumanu’s death, June 5th, 1832, until her own death April 4th, 1839, and in this position showed more than ordinary discretion and firmness. His father, Kekuanaoa, a chief of sec­ondary rank, but of great force of char­acter, and executive ability, acted for many years as Governor of Oahu and police magistrate of Honolulu.

Kamehameha was educated with the other young chiefs in the Royal School under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Cooke from 1839 till 1849. In 1849 he and his younger brother, Alexander Liholiho, accompanied Dr. Judd on an embassy to France and England, and spent a year abroad, visiting the United States also. The manuscript journal of that embassy is one of the treasures in the files of this Society. When from ill health John Young resigned the po­sition of Minister of the Interior in June, 1857, Prince Kamehameha was appointed in his place and retained the office during the remainder of this reign. Prince Kamehameha inherited a good deal of his grandfather’s strength of will and practical shrewdness, and showed considerable administrative ability in his management of the Inter­ior Department.

In the year 1862 he made a voyage to Victoria, and travelled in California, where he was the guest of Governor Downey. He was a conservative in his political views, and had opposed some of the changes which were made during his uncle Kamehameha III.’s reign, be­lieving them to be too sudden and too sweeping.

Upon his brother’s death. November 30, 1863. he was immediately proclaimed King under the title of Kamehameha V.

The circumstances under which he abrogated the Constitution of 1852, are perhaps sufficiently explained in the paper which is about to be read. After a prosperous reign of nine years he suddenly died December 11, 1872. and with him ended the line of the Kamehamehas.

The lapse of time has softened the asperity of the party contests of that day, and has thrown additional light on the characters and motives of those who took part in them.

Many who opposed Kamehameha V.’s policy at the time, have since learned to judge him more charitably, and to admit that he understood his own peo­ple, and was a sincere patriot according to his lights. When in 1865 a bill was brought before the Legislature to repeal the law making it a penal of­fense to sell or give intoxicating liquor to natives, and was strongly supported by Hons. R. C. Wyliie and David Kalakaua, contrary to their expectations, Kamehameha said, “I will never sign the death warrant of my people,” and the bill was defeated on its second reading.

None will deny that he possessed certain manly and honorable traits of character. No one ever accused him of a lack of courage or of dishonesty or duplicity. It was his policy to place the ablest men that could be procured at the head of affairs, and to give them a steady support, which insured a sta­ble and consistent administration. It may truly be said of him that he was the last great chief of the olden type.


(PCA, 12/11/1902, p. 12)

Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume XXXV, Number 6348, Page 12. December 11, 1902.

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