Dekemaba 8: “He Olelo No Ke Kanawai”

December 8, 1827: A Proclamation of Laws

Credits: Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society (1910) Annual report of the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, 59, p. 14.

Below is an early proclamation known as “He Olelo No Ke Kanawai.” It is dated December 8, 1827 and contains five laws. Another proclamation was published on the same date—however, this version added a sixth law prohibiting adultery. Some historical context for the development of this law may perhaps be gleaned from Levi Chamberlain’s journal.

Chamberlain, a missionary, teacher, and agent for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, served in Hawaiʻi from 1822 until his death in 1849. Typescripts of his journal are available on the Hawaiʻi Mission Houses digital archives website (Digital Archives – Levi Chamberlain Journal). Below are relevant excerpts discussing the development of this early proclamation.

Saturday December 1st. 1827. The chiefs held a council this afternoon to consult respecting the establishment of some general laws for preventing crimes. They invited the attendance of Mr. Bingham that he might be referred to if any law should be proposed upon which they might have doubts concerning its concistency[sic] with the word of God. The Chiefs spent a considerable time in conversation but did not agree upon anything definitely. It was Kaahumanu’s wish that the law of God should be the ground or basis of whatever might be established for the observation of the people.

See Chamberlain, Levi – Journal Vol. 8 at 21On December 7, Chamberlain’s journal describes the laws that were established and the corresponding punishment.

Friday 7th. The Chiefs have this day agreed to the establishment of a law relating to murder, theft, adultery or whoredom, selling spirituous liquors & gambling. These five things are prohibited. The first is punishable with death—the second by imprisonment, the third by a fine, the fourth & fifth imprisonment or confinement in irons. To these enactments the king has affixed his signature & sent them to us for publication.

Id. at 22-23. Chamberlain’s journal explains that on December 14, Native Hawaiians were gathered “by order of the chiefs” to “hear the laws read & the chiefs make remarks upon them.” Id. at 25. He also mentions that “there are six laws to be printed all signed by the King three of them are to go into operation three months the others to be read & learned by the people and to be hereafter considered.” Id.


KE hai aku nei makou i ka olelo, e hoolohe mai, e ko kela aina, a me ko keia aina, e malama no hoi ko keia aina, a me ko kela aina: o ka mea i lohe i keia mau olelo, e malama ia; aka i malama ole e hewa ia.


Ke papa aku nei makou i ka pepehi kanaka; mai pepehi kela aina maenei, mai pepehi keia aina maenei; o ka mea e pepehi maenei, e make ia i ke kaawe ia.


Eia ka lua; ke papa aku nei makou i ka aihue; o ka mea e aihue, e paa ia i ka hao.


Eia ke kolu; ke papa aku nei makou i ke kuai rama maenei: o ka mea e kuai rama, e paa ia oia i ka hao.


Eia ka ha; ke papa aku nei makou i ka hookamakama: o ka mea e hookamakama, e uku ia oia i ke kala.


Eia ke lima: ke papa aku nei makou i ka pili waiwai; o ka mea e pili waiwai, e uku ia oia i ka hao.


Oahu Honolulu, Dekemaba 8, 1827.