The Last of the Old-Style Aliʻi: Lot Kapuāiwa

#191 in the Moʻolelo series

Lot Kapuāiwa, was called the “last of the old style aliʻi,” and the “bachelor King” because he never married.

Lota Kapuāiwa – Kamehameha V

Lot Kapuaiwa was clearly the highest ranking ali’i at the time of his brother’s death, and there was little doubt that he would be the next King (Osorio, 2002, p. 113). Kapuaiwa affirmed this when, in his first speech to the legislature in 1864, he said “the right to the throne of this country, originally acquired by conquest and birth, belongs hereditarily to the family of Kamehameha I” (Osorio, 2002, 116). He began to go by the title Lot Kamehameha. He served in the cabinet under his brother Alexander Liholiho. He was known for his strongly pro-Hawaiian position. For example he brought back public hula performances. He was less known for his knowledge of law, but this was considerable. He exercised this skill when he significantly changed the constitution in 1864.

Prince Lot (r) with Crown Prince Alexander Liholiho and Dr. Gerrit Judd, ca. 1845 (source: wikimedia commons)

The new constitution required literacy and property ownership as voting qualifications. This constitution also removed the position of kuhina nui, an appointed political advisor position extending back to Kamehameha the first. Lot promulgated this constitution by dissolving the legislature and, together with the Kuhina Nui, rewriting the constitution. Lot was criticized as a despot in his time and later by historians for doing this. This is a debatable point, as the new constitution eliminated the very power that Lot used. This suggests that Lot was, in fact, reducing his own powers, rather than increasing them. Today, the Prince Lot Hula Festival is held in his honor, evidence of his love of traditional Hawaiian culture.

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