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Kamehameha The Great
Jon Burch Photography
Photograph - Digital Capture
King Kamehameha I (1758-1819), also known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaiʻi's independence under his rule. Kamehameha is remembered for the Kanawai Mamalahoe, the "Law of the Splintered Paddle", which protects human rights of non-combatants in times of battle.
The Law of the Splintered Paddle has origins derived from before the unification of the Island of Hawaiʻi, in 1782, when Kamehameha, during a raid, caught his foot in a rock. Two local fishermen, fearful of the great warrior, hit Kamehameha hard on the head with a large paddle, which actually broke the paddle. Kamehameha was stunned and left for dead, allowing the fisherman and his companion to escape. Twelve years later, the same fisherman was brought before Kamehameha for punishment but King Kamehameha, instead of punishing the fisherman, blamed himself for attacking innocent people. The king gave the fisherman gifts of land and set him free declaring the new law, "Let every elderly person, woman, and child lie by the roadside in safety". This law, which provided for the safety of noncombatants in wartime, is estimated to have saved thousands of lives during Kamehameha's campaigns. It became the first written law of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was included in the state constitution, and has influenced many subsequent humanitarian laws of war.
Judging from the length of Kamehameha's robe, which was extremely long, the King's height is estimated to be seven feet tall.
Photograph copyright Jon Burch Photography
February 24th, 2013
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