GREAT MAHELE

(1848)

 

I.  Overview

         A.  What was it? = a change in land tenure system

                  1.  from communal trusteeship

                           a) all have access

                           b) coordinated cultivation

                  2.  to private ownership

                           a) denial of access

                           b) separate interests

         B.  What were the consequences?

                  1.  severed traditional relationship to ‘āina

                  2.  changed relationship between ali‘i & maka‘āinana

                           a) ali‘i no longer

                                    -- direct entire community

                                    -- demand goods or services

                           b) maka‘āinana no longer

                                    -- have rights to resources 

                                    -- look to ali'i for protection

                  3.  the "great dispossession" 

II.  Why did it occur?

         A.  Factors contributing to Mahele

                  1.  capitalist intrusion

                  2.  Western imperialism

                  3.  disease & depopulation

         B.  Missionaries' "peculiar argument"

                  1.  Hawaiians were . . .

                           "licentious, indolent, improvident and ignorant"

                  2.  to preserve the native race, needed to make them . . .

                           "industrious, moral and happy"

                  3.  How?

                           a) accept Christianity

                           b) own land

                  4.  What did they disregard?

                           a) Hawaiian system of land tenure

                           b) psychological malaise

                           c) cultural generosity

III.  How did it happen?

         A.  Land Commission (est. 1845)

         B.  Privy Council meetings in 1847

                  1.  Mō‘ī want to Kālai‘āina

                  2.  Foreign Advisors (Wyllie & Lee)

                           a) don't want Ali‘i to create own rules

                           b) commutation fees

                           c) Prussian example

                  3.  Buke Mahele

         C.  Land Division (begins Jan. 1848)

                  1.  Crown lands (for king & his heirs)

                  2.  Chiefs' lands (for Ali‘i Nui)

                  3.  Government lands (for general public)

         D.  Kuleana lands

                  1.  to qualify  . . .

                           -- must live on ‘āina continuously since before 1839

                  2.  reluctant to claim

                           a) dependency

                           b) paper work & land survey

                           c) limited time

                           d) very foreign idea

                  3.  maka‘āinana awarded ownership in fee (Aug. 1850)

IV.  Final Analysis

         A.  Who benefited?  

                  1.  merchants

                  2.  missionaries

                  3.  foreign advisors

         B.  Who didn't benefit?

                  1.  Ali'i Nui

                           a) only left with 1/3 of original lands

                                    -- gave up 1/3 to form government lands

                                    -- paid 1/3 as commutation fees

                           b) didn't know how to complete the process

                                    -- "mystifying Western transactions" 

                  2.  maka‘āinana

                           a) average kuleana = 3 acres

                           b) only 8,421 kuleana awarded

                                    -- out of 14,195 applications

                           c) total acres = 28,658

                                    (less than 1% total acreage of Hawaii)

 

 

Think/Write Question

Do you think the missionaries who recommended capitalism & private ownership of land truly did so because they believed it would benefit the Hawaiian people? Or do you think their advice reveals an ultimately self-serving agenda?