Tuesday, November 14, 2023









When Lāhainā Was the Capital
After his victory at the Battle of Nuʻuanu in 1795, the archipelago (except for Kauaʻi and Niʻihau) came under the singular rule of Kamehameha the Great, King of the island of Hawaiʻi. Thus, was born what eventually became known as the Hawaiian Kingdom.

In an absolute monarchy, the King is the government. Wherever the King is, thatʻs where the government is. This means wherever the king lived, that was the capital. To make sure Oʻahu was firmly under control, after the Battle of Nuʻuanu, King Kamehameha remained on Oʻahu for a year (1795-1796). Because he lived in Waīkikī, the seat of government, the first capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, was Waīkikī.

When King Kamehameha relocated from Waīkikī to Hilo in 1796, Hilo became the capital.

In 1802 Kamehameha moved to Lāhainā, and that became the capital until 1812 when Kamehameha set up his home at Kamakahonu in Kailua-Kona (where the Kailua Pier, Ahuʻena Heiau and the King Kamehameha Hotel are now located) making Kailua-Kona the capital. There, in May of 1819 King Kamehameha the Great joined his ancestors, and his son, Liholiho, ascended the throne as Kamehameha II. The next year, after welcoming the first party of missionaries from America at Kamakahonu, King Kamehameha II relocated to Mokuʻula in Lāhainā and Lāhainā again became the capital.

After the death of Liholiho in 1824, King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) and the royal family continued to live in and rule from Lāhainā as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Thus, Lāhainā was the nation’s capital during the crucial, formative years of the Hawaiian Kingdom. King Kamehameha III oversaw the transformation of his domain, the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands, into an independent, highly enlightened, literate, progressive sovereign country.

Literacy and education was a high priority and hundreds of schools sprang up all over the islands. The first high school “west of the Mississippi River” was Lahainaluna High School, overlooking Lāhainā. The first Hawaiian scholars (in the western sense) like historians David Malo and Samuel Kamakau and Kamehameha III’s closest friend and consummate diplomat, Timoteo Haʻalilio, were graduates of Lahainaluna School.

During those years at Lāhainā Kamehameha III issued the Hawaiian Declaration of Rights (1839); promulgated the first Constitution for the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands (1840); converted His government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy; dispatched the envoys Haʻalilio, Richards and Simpson to Europe to petition for recognition of the Hawaiian Kingdom as a sovereign nation; weathered the “Paulet Affair” which ended peacefully with Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day.

It was while the Kingdom’s capital was in Lahaina that King Kamehameha III received the news that his envoys were successful in securing the recognition of Hawaii’s sovereignty through the Joint Proclamation by the United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of France (followed by the USA, Belgium, and so forth).

The day became known as Lā Kuʻokoʻa (Independence Day), and later this month, on November 28th, Hawaiians and friends in Hawaiʻi and around the world will be celebrating the 180th anniversary of our independence. Eo!

“Love of country is deep-seated in the breast of every Hawaiian, whatever his station.” — Queen Liliʻuokalani
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono. The sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

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Malama Pono,

Leon Siu

Hawaiian National