JUNE 7, 1839


Traditionally, the Hawaiian Islands were ruled based upon a system of common law consisting of ancient kapu (taboos) and the traditional practices of the celebrated Chiefs.  On June 7, 1839, King Kamehameha III proposed and signed the Declaration of Rights–the first departure from the ancient ways.  The Declaration recognized three classes of persons having vested rights in the lands: The Government; the Chiefs; and the native Tenants.  The Declaration protected rights to both the Chiefly and native Tenant classes that included the rights to life, limb, liberty, freedom from oppression; earnings and the productions of one’s mind.  One year later, on October 8, 1840, Kamehameha III voluntarily relinquished his absolute powers and attributes, by promulgating a constitution that recognized three grand divisions of a civilized monarchy; the King as the Chief Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary.  The Constitution defined the duties of each branch of government and promoted industry and commerce. 

Source:  “Political History,” The Hawaiian Kingdom.  Retrieved 7/2/2019, https://www.hawaiiankingdom.org/political-history.shtml
Portrait:  Alfred Thomas Agate (1812-1846), between 1836-1842.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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