The above are the first words of the very first law proclaimed upon the villages of Hawaii nei, and those words continue to be spoken by some in authority in our times. This is how the rest of the proclamation of the law truly went:
“Splintered Paddle Law–Let the old men go and lie by the road; let the old women go and lie by the road; let the children go and lie by the road.”
This first law proclamation was spoken by Paiea (Kamehameha I) after his head was struck by some fishermen on a shore at Puna, Hawaii, after he was mistaken for someone else. When his head was hit by the stroke of the paddle, the people fled. There were five of them. And them Paiea rose and grabbed a rock, and he started to chase after them, but one of his feet got stuck in a rock crevasse. And his chase was soon cut short. The rock in his hand was released and there was no time to catch them. And it was this unfulfillment of his intent that led him to proclaim those words of power and fame in our story. The place where Paiea’s foot was caught is still known to this day.
Here, we take what is shown on pages 94 and 95 of “Ka Buke Lapaau me na Mea Pili Kaulana” recently published by Thomas P. Spencer [Kamaki].*
“Right after this battle (Kepuwahaulaula), brought before Kamehameha by the warrior chiefs were the fishermen who struck his head with the paddle to the toward the sea some years prior. That shameless act carried out by them was made known to Kamehameha face to face. His warrior chiefs thus urged him that the fishermen should be killed by stoning.
“Kamehameha’s aloha for people led him to speak for the first time the famous pardon with these words:
“Splintered Paddle Law: You are prisoners of war, but you are being pardoned from your foolishly striking my head–I escaped but was almost in danger.”
Here, O readers, you see,–aloha for people was the cure whereby those rebels of Puna were forgiven by Kamehameha, without him considering the calls for killing them by his warrior chiefs. This is a good example for President Dole of the Republic. He and his Executive Power do not get close to 1/100 of the Splintered Paddle Law for the Hawaiian prisoners of the civil war of January 17, 1895, who remain imprisoned while the lahui is united in their desire for their release. That was a period of ignorance when they were pardoned victoriously by Kamehameha, while this is a period of enlightenment and learning. Still there has been no pardon which Dole has proclaimed for the Hawaiian captives, for the fame of his name and his Nation.”
Our explanation pertaining to this famous story differs from Spencer’s, but the gist of his explanation for Kamehameha’s pardoning those people who hurt him, that is something we want to clarify widely for this time, so that true aloha for people is recognized within them.
(Makaainana, 11/25/1895, p. 5)
*This book by Tamaki Spencer was republished by the Bishop Museum Press twenty years ago, but unfortunately it is out of print today.
Just the other day, I saw that the Hawaiian Historical Society published a reprint of an important book, “Kaluaikoolau,” written by Kahikina Kelekona and first published in 1906.