A Moʻolelo on Enlightenment and Law

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Photo: Devin Forrest

By Devin Kamealoha Forrest, J.D. Research Specialist, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation

On Sept. 23, 1845, five years following the passage of the first constitution of Hawaiʻi, Hōʻināʻinau authored an article in the Hawaiian Newspaper, Ka Elele, explaining his thoughts on the law.

The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was undergoing great changes, driven by significant growth in immigration and related transformations of peoples’ lifestyles and uses of the land. Many laws adopted to manage and enable these changes mimicked laws of foreign empires.

Hōʻinaʻinau compared employing these laws in Hawaiʻi to placing all the equipment of a three-masted ship aboard a single-masted ship. Since the size of a three-masted ship is exceptionally larger than that of a single-masted, the lines and equipment necessary for the smaller ship to operate would become tangled and confused by the excess equipment.

Hōʻināʻinau forecasted that foreign imperial laws applied in Hawaiʻi would be similarly problematic. “Clear laws which are also suited for the lifestyle of these people are the proper types of laws to be passed, as this government slowly moves toward enlightenment, so too do we move toward more confusing laws.”

This thought rings true today. There are a multitude of laws that are not intuitive to kānaka nor a good fit for the lāhui’s needs as this government becomes more “enlightened.” We must continue our vigilance over the lines, the sails, and our steering paddles to keep our ship afloat.