“LAW OF THE PADDLE BLOW.”
This above are the initial words of the very first law promulgated in the communities of Hawaii, and those words spoken by one in authority still remain. Here below is the the law in its entirety:
“MAMALAHOE KANAWAI—Let the old men go forth and lie upon the roads; let the old women go forth and lie upon the roads; let the children go forth and lie upon the roads.”
This first law was proclaimed by Paiea (Kamehameha I) after his head was struck by some fishermen at the seashore in Puna, Hawaii, because they mistakenly thought he was someone else. When his head was struck with the blow from a canoe paddle, the men fled, there being five of them; that was when Paiea rose, picked up a rock, and made to chase after them, however, his foot was caught in a rock crevice, and his chase was cut short. The rock in his hand fell, and there was no getting it back. And it was this disappointment which caused him to proclaim these famous and powerful words in our history. The place where Paiea’s foot was caught can be seen to this day.
Here, we take what is shown on pages 94 and 95 of “Ka Buke Lapaau me na Mea Pili Kaulana” which was published by Kamaki [Thomas P. Spencer]:¹
“Soon after this battle (Kepuwahaulaula), the fishermen who years earlier struck the head of Kamehameha with a paddle near the sea were brought before him by his officers. This shameful act of theirs was made known to Kamehameha face to face, for which his officers demanded that they be killed by stoning them to death.
“The aloha Kamehameha had for his fellow man was expressed for the first time in his famous pardon by announcing:
“‘Mamalahoe Kanawai: you are prisoners of war, but you are forgiven for unwittingly striking my head–I escaped, but nearly was in trouble.’
“Here, O Reader, do recognize–love for his fellow man was the cure² for which allowed for the release of these rebels of Puna by Kamehameha, and him not giving regard to the calls by his officers to put them to death. This is a fine comparison to President Dole of the Republic; he with his Executive Powers does not come close to a hundredth of the Kanawai Mamalahoe, in his treatment of the Hawaiian prisoners of the revolution of January 17, 1895 who continue to be imprisoned albeit the lahui are united in wanting them released. That was an uncivilized time when [the men] were triumphantly released by Kamehameha, and this is a knowledge and civilization, and yet Dole has not given clemency to the Hawaiian prisoners for the fame of his name and that of his Nation.”
Our elucidation of this famous story is not like that of Spencer’s, but the basis of his explanation of Kamehameha’s forgiving those who injured him, that is what we want to make clear at this time, so that true love of one’s fellow man is seen by them.
¹This book was republished in 2003 by Bishop Museum Press as: Buke ‘Oihana Lapa’au me na ‘Apu la’au Hawai’i (Book of Medical Practices and Hawaiian Prescriptions). See here for further description.
²”Laau lapaau” [medicinal cure] is the word chosen here because this story appears in a book of traditional medicinal practices.
(Makaainana, 11/25/1895, p. 4)