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1. Aloha! Our last #50Weeks50Constitution brings us to the last state to be settled (by natives or Europeans) & last to be admitted to the Union. But Hawaii certainly was not the last state in constitutional history.
2. People 1st came to the islands well over 1,000 years ago, & the first identifiable non-Polynesians were Captain Cook & his crew in 1778 (although there’s strong evidence that Japanese sailors were shipwrecked there over the prior couple centuries).
3. When Cook showed up the islands were separate polities, but that quickly changed, & they were unified in 1810. Also, outsiders began settling in the kingdom. Their influence included American constitutionalism, as King Kamehameha III’s 1840 constitution attests.
4. Reforming the previous absolute monarchy, the 1840 constitution established a constitutional monarchy w/ an elected house, a hereditary house of nobles, a Declaration of Rights (actually adopted a year prior), & a supreme court. Kind of a mix of the British & American systems.
5. Just 12 years later a commission recommended major revisions to the constitution, which the King & legislature accepted. Under this new constitution the hereditary house was now appointed, universal male suffrage was granted, & more checks were placed on the King’s power.
6. It’s good to be the King. But, with separation of powers, maybe not so much. So in 1864 the new King Kamehameha V threw out the 1852 Constitution & just instituted his own. There was no more universal suffrage or need for the King to consult the nobles.
7. This proved unpopular. Eventually, in 1887 a group, primarily of non-natives, confronted King Kalakaua with their demands & won. The resulting “Bayonet Constitution” made the legislature fully elected & otherwise pared down royal power.
8. The monarchy tried to take some power back, but when Queen Liliuokalani tried the response from the non-native elite was harsh. A “Committee of Safety” (that name rings a bell . . .) proclaimed the monarchy abolished & seized power. It thought US annexation was the next step.
9. Annexation had to wait a few years, to 1898, so in the meantime the “Committee” adopted, by decree, a constitution for the republic of Hawaii. It was an American-style constitution with a president, but had restrictive voting requirements limiting native Hawaiians & Asians.
10. Annexation led to Hawaii becoming a US territory. And, as often happens, to calls for statehood. It took a long time, & a little something called “Pearl Harbor,” to move that idea along. But when it still didn’t happen, Hawaiians took the law into their own hands.
11. And did what many territories had done before: hold a constitutional convention. With a constitution ready to go, they thought it made it more likely Congress would act. So in 1950 the people elected delegates and got to writing.
12. The delegates were multi-ethnic, with significant portions who were white, native Hawaiian, Japanese, and Chinese. The resulting document was pretty short as state constitutions go—14,000 words—& the people adopted it easily.
13. The constitution banned segregation in the state military, had a voting age of 20 (not the then-common 21), & asked the voters whether to call a new convention every 10 years. A prior federal homesteading program for native Hawaiians was also protected.
14. Did it do the trick & get Congress to act? Well, eventually. A few years later Alaska tried the same thing, & by 1959 it & Hawaii were both allowed into the Union. In doing so the voters had to first approve a couple small amendments that Congress asked for, which they did.
15. Remember that vote every 10 years? There was another convention in 1968, mostly spurred by the US Supreme Court’s one-person-one-vote cases. Then another in 1978, which made a lot of changes, but the state supreme court threw much of it out.
16. Since then the constitution has been changed a number of times, but only through legislative referrals of specific changes to the voters.
17. Sources:

Ann Lee, The Hawaii State Constitution (2011)……
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