ʻOnipaʻa: to be immovable, firm, steadfast, determined.
This was Kamehameha V's motto; It was a fitting motto for someone firmly rooted in Hawaiian values. Throughout his life, the King was ʻonipaʻa in all he did and worked diligently for his people and the Hawaiian Kingdom. He encouraged his people to work and not be idle.
Lot Kapuāiwa Kalanimakua Aliʻiōlani Kalani Kapuapaikalaninui was born in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, on December 11, 1830. He was given the Christian name Lot, Meaning "covering, veil" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament, the Hawaiian name Kapuāiwa means "mysterious kapu" or "the sacred one protected by supernatural powers." Lot's mother was High Chiefess Kīna'u, daughter of Kamehameha the Great and chiefess Kalākua. His father was Chief Mataio Kekūanaoʻa, who served as governor of Oʻahu for many years.
Shortly after birth, Prince Lot was entrusted to Chief Hoapili, a relative. Hoapili lived in Lahaina, Maui, where he raised Lot as his grandchild and as the hānai, or foster, child of Princess Harriet Nāhiʻenaʻena, daughter of Kamehameha the Great and Keōpūolani.
At the request of Kamehameha III and Kīnaʻu, Prince Lot and his siblings went to study at the royal school on Oʻahu. This school was reserved for the children of Aliʻi that would one day lead as monarchs or nobles of the kingdom. Even though he and his siblings held the status of aliʻi, it doesn't mean they were also normal children trying to enjoy life. 1841 while Lot was only ten years old, He, his three brothers, and Princess Pauahi were caught sneaking fish and poi into their rooms to enjoy. Anyone who has attended a Kamehameha school summer program knows a thing or two about sneaking snacks back into their dorm.
As time went on, Lot and his schoolmates grew into young gentlemen and ladies, and from the time they were children, Prince Lot and Princess Pauahi were expected to marry each other. Their parents had arranged this. It had traditionally been the custom for chiefs to choose suitable partners for their aliʻi children. When Pauahi was about sixteen years old, however, she fell in love with Charles Reed Bishop, who she would later Marry, and they founded Kamehameha Schools together.
After an extensive tour of the United States, France, and England, Lot and his brother Kamehameha III returned in 1850. By this time, Lot continued his leadership training, and at the age of Nineteen-year-old, he was appointed a member of the House of Nobles. It was much like being a senator in Hawaiʻi's legislature today. He was also made general of a division in the Hawaiian kingdom's army.
Only three years following their return from the US and Europe tour, Kamehameha III died in 1854. Alexander Liholiho, his hānai son and chosen heir to the throne, became Kamehameha IV. During this time, Lot served as the Minister of Interior during Alexander's reign as Kamehameha IV. This put Lot in charge of all government matters not involving foreign countries. For one year, he also directed the Department of Finance.
Kamehameha IV ruled for nine years and passed on November 30, 1863. At this point, Lot ascended to become Kamehameha V. Lot was proclaimed King by their sister, Princess Victoria Kamāmalu. She was named the kuhina Nui, or regent, at that time. Kamehameha V modeled his leadership style on the kingdom's first ruler, Kamehameha the Great, his grandfather. Historian William D. Alexander, who knew Kamehameha V described the King as "the last great chief of the olden type." Like his grandfather, Kamehameha V believed "it was the right and duty of the chiefs to lead and direct the common people."
One of Lot's first challenges during his reign was that he did not agree with these liberal laws. That may explain why he refused to take the oath to support the constitution of 1852. What Kamehameha V wanted was a constitution based on his ideas and beliefs. The 1852 constitution had taken many powers away from the King, and Kamehameha V wanted these powers returned to the crown.
The Constitution of 1864 was signed on August 20 of that year. It contained the changes Kamehameha V wanted. Some of these changes were aimed at Increasing the monarch's power, Abolishing the office of kuhina Nui, Abolished requirement of Privy Council approval for official acts of the monarch, Requiring voters to be males twenty years old or older and to be literate and own property.
During the reign of Kamehameha V, there were already pushes from some Americans for annexation. The King wanted to keep Hawaiʻi free and independent, especially from the United States. Like Kamehameha IV, he felt that many Americans living in Hawaiʻi were trying to undermine his royal power. He did not trust them and questioned their intentions.
Many of the Americans in Hawaiʻi supported annexing Hawaiʻi with the United States. They had three primary reasons. First, taxes would not have to be paid on products such as the mass amounts of sugar grown in the islands and exported to the United States. Second, the Americans were not satisfied with the kingdom's government and the new constitution, and America strategically valued the ministers appointed by Kamehameha V. Third, Hawaiʻi's location in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor would be ideal as a military and commercial port for American ships. This would increase the business in Hawaiʻi and an overall American-dominated presence.
Along with economic and political challenges, King Lot faced a public health crisis among his people. The types of ships that brought Captain James Cook and other foreigners to Hawaiʻi also brought measles, mumps, smallpox, and venereal diseases. These diseases were new to the Hawaiian people, so they never developed any immunities, or resistance, to these ailments. As a result, the diseases spread quickly throughout the kingdom, decimating population numbers. The King was worried that In his lifetime, the native Hawaiian population had fallen nearly sixty percent it once was. In 1831 there were about 125,000 Hawaiians. Forty-one years later, in 1872, that number had dropped to less than 52,000. On top of the many other diseases, leprosy had a significant impact on Hawaiian history.
During Kamehameha V's reign, leprosy became another primary health concern. Leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease, is an infectious disease causing lumps, spots, and open sores. It attacks the skin and nerves. It weakens muscles and sometimes disfigures parts of the body. The first diagnosed case of leprosy in Hawaiʻi was noted in 1840. A captain in Kamehameha III's royal guard had the disease. By 1863 many more Hawaiians had leprosy. Kamehameha V had to make an important decision to quarantine the infection from spreading further. He enacted a law to send people known to have leprosy to an isolated part of Molokaʻi. On January 6, 1866, people with this disease were taken to the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokaʻi to live out their lives. This was a time of great sadness for the kingdom. Families were separated, and many died from a slow, debilitating disease. It's moments in history such as this that we can reflect on the hard decisions and the resilience of the Hawaiian people to face calamity after calamity and still be here today.
Despite facing adversity during his reign, Lot was able to rule during a time of great Huli. He was challenged politically, needed to make hard decisions for public health, and even needed to manage to protect his people from lava flows and earthquakes. Many of us might not know that Lot is still honored on Kamehameha Day. When he became King in 1863, December 11 was proclaimed Kamehameha Day as a birthday celebration for him. In December 1871, the King changed this celebration to June 11. Kamehameha V wanted to honor the memory of his grandfather, Kamehameha the Great. He chose June 11 as Kamehameha Day for his grandfather. The King always strived for his people to model themselves after their hard-working ancestors. In many ways, Kamehameha V himself was much like his grandfather. By celebrating Kamehameha Day, Hawaiians would remember the example of this noble and hard-working leader. Today June 11, is observed as a state holiday by the people of Hawaiʻi.
Kamehameha V respected the ancient culture of his kupuna (ancestors) and encouraged the revival of ancient Hawaiian practices. Beloved by the Hawaiian people and citizens of the Kingdom, Kamehameha V died on December 11, 1872 at the age of forty-two.
-Lotʻs 1844 new years resolution at the age of 13