by Valerie Hoku Holokai
King Kamehameha III's gift to the Hawaiian people was when he granted the common people the right to participate in governing the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Reverend William Richards, a missionary, was respected by the ali'i (chiefs). Although he was not too familiar with the setting up of a government, he felt he knew more about it than the chiefs did. Reverend Richards had already helped King Kauikeaouli set up a "Declaration of Rights" in 1839. This official document guaranteed all the people the right to life, possessions, and equal protection under the law of the nation. Because the "Declaration of Rights" was similar to the law issued to the people of England by their king in 1215, it is sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian Magna Carta.
Reverend Richards thought that the people of Hawaii would probably be more willing to obey their own laws if they had some say in making these laws. The first constitution ever granted to the people of Hawai'i was signed by their king, Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. A constitution is a document in which the basic laws and principles of a government are written down. The declaration of rights was the preamble ,or the introduction, for the Constitution of 1840.
The Constitution of 1840 granted the maka'ainana to vote and to be elected or appointed tooffice and help make laws. These laws were to be made with the king, kuhina nui (prime minister), the ali'i (chiefs), and the maka'ainana (common people). The maka'ainana would also have a say in spending the government's revenue from taxes. The constitution defined the powers and duties of the government officials. No longer would people be confused about who was what in the government.
By signing the Constitution of 1840 Kamehameha the Third also agreed to not just share his powers but also to limit them. With his permission, the constitution officially took away much of the king's power, and gave it to the chiefs and the common people. For the first time, Hawaiian men from the maka'ainana class could now take part in the government. Foreigners who became citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom could also participate in the Hawaiian government. The Constitution of 1840 was a great gift from King Kauikeaouli, Hawaii's third reigning monarch to the citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom.