William Richards arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1823 with the second company of missionaries. At the direction of Keōpūolani, he, his wife, the Stewarts, and Betsey Stockton moved with her to Maui, founding the mission in Lahaina. Richards became fluent in Hawaiian. Soon after he arrived, Richards was targeted by rioting foreign sailors, who blamed the missionaries for the new morality laws imposed by the aliʻi.
At the request of Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III), Richards taught a seminar in law, politics and economy for the ruling aliʻi. These pivotal sessions led to the Declaration of Rights of 1839 and the 1840 Constitution, the foundation for Hawaiʻi’s constitutional monarchy.
In 1842, the king sent Richards, Timothy Haʻalilio and British merchant George Simpson to secure official recognition of Hawaiʻi’s independence from its major trading partners. They succeeded in gaining recognition from the United States, Britain, France and Belgium. Richards passed away on November 7, 1847, in Lahaina, Maui.