Like a lei floating on the surface of the sea, a young chain of islands, the pearls of the Pacific, came to grace the middle of the ocean. Rising up from the depths to become the world’s tallest mountains, the Hawaiian Islands with a warm tropical climate and soft flowing trade winds became a unique natural environment for plants, animals and finally human culture.
This is our story, this is the story of Hawai’i….
After the death of Kamehameha V, who had not named a successor, the constitution required the next ruler be chosen by a vote of legislators. Overwhelmingly supported by the general population, William Charles Lunalilo easily won the vote over his opponent, David Kalakaua, and took the throne in January 1873. When Lunalilo assumed the duties of the king, a huge change in the government’s policy began to form. His predecessor, Kamehameha V, had spent his reign increasing the powers of his office and trying to restore the absolute monarchy of his grandfather, Kamehameha I. Lunalilo, however, spent his reign trying to make the Hawaiian government more democratic. He started by writing to the legislature, recommending that the constitution be amended. He wanted to undo some changes that his predecessor had made when he enacted the 1864 Constitution. As king, Lunalilo wanted to improve Hawaii’s economic situation. The Kingdom was in an economic depression, with the whaling industry rapidly declining. Commerce groups asked the king to look at sugar to improve the economy and recommended that a treaty be drawn with the United States to allow Hawaiian sugar to enter the nation tax-free. To make such a treaty, many thought that the Kingdom would have to offer the Pearl Harbor area to the United States in exchange. There was much controversy over this, with both the public and in the legislature. When Lunalilo saw this opposition, he dropped the proposal.
During Lunalilo’s reign, a mutiny took place in the small Hawaiian army. Some members of the army revolted against the drillmaster and the adjutant general. The king interviewed the troops involved in the mutiny and he persuaded them to lay down their arms. Following this, the king disbanded the army. From that point on, the Kingdom had no armed forces until they were restored by King Kalākaua. King Lunalilo did not enjoy good health during his reign. At about the time of the mutiny in the army, Lunalilo developed a lung infection. In hopes of regaining his health, he moved to Kailua-Kona. A few months later, on February 3, 1874, he died from tuberculosis at the age of 39, at Haimoeipo, his private residence in Honolulu. Lunalilo had reigned for one year and 25 days.
Lunalilo stipulated that he be buried in a tomb separate from the Royal Mausoleum he said, He wanted to be “entombed among (my) people, rather than the kings and chiefs”. His resting place still stands inside the grounds of Kawaiahao Church. He left his property to establish Lunalilo Home, a haven for poor, elderly, and infirm Hawaiians.
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