The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884
While the commercial activities of the German merchants were raising the intrinsic value of the islands, new discoveries were taking place that affected the Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa groups profoundly. The discovery of gold in America, New Zealand, and Australia produced an increase in trans-Pacific traffic which naturally raised the importance of the three groups on the main route.
2 Henderson, American Diplomatic Questions, p. 72, "The Inter-Oceanic Canal Problem."
3 Although the attempts to prosecute their original projects for a canal failed.
By 1869 the trans-Continental railway was completed. This was the culminating point in a series of events that combined to make America a Pacific Power.
The Australian gold discoveries came in 1851. In February Hargraves, a Californian gold miner, first found gold at Summerhill Creek, twenty miles north of Bathurst. By September the great gold fields of Ballarat and Bendigo were opened up. Two years later a new turn was given to affairs by the discovery of gold in Otago, New Zealand.
The importance of these discoveries upon the Pacific Islands is evident. By the increase of wealth of these Pacific countries, by the acceleration of their development, they became capable of a more ambitious policy than previously. America began to look west towards Japan and China. In 1851 the eastern Australian States and New Zealand were given constitutions. Thus at a time when growth was most rapid, a freedom was given which encouraged independence of action. Within the succeeding decades the United States, Australia, and New Zealand began to release themselves from internal problems and to join in the tussle for a share in the island world of the Western Pacific.
The immediate effect of the gold discoveries was the inter-communication between the three countries. Until then Australasian Colonies had communicated with Europe by Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope route. There was no north-east flow of ships.1 Now miners, prospectors, traders, poured from one country to another.
1 As has been mentioned, individual people travelled via the West Indies, Panama, and Callao, but it was a laborious and uncertain journey (e.g. Pritchard describes his journey by this route in 1845. F.O. 58/38).
2 Scholefield, The Pacific, p. 77.
3 F.O. 58/96. Williams to Earl Russell, May 14, 1862.
4 See N.S.W. Papers, Legislative Assembly, 1883–84, 3rd Session, vol. 9, "Proceedings of Inter-Colonial Convention of 1883." Australasian Colonies wanted islands from New Guinea to the New Hebrides. New Zealand wanted, especially, Samoa and Tonga.
1 In 1883 at the Sydney Convention (N.S.W. Papers, 1883–84, 3rd Session, vol. 9), all the Colonies consented to "bear such share of the cost" of annexing New Guinea "as may be deemed fair and reasonable." This was, however, only a part of the total sum annexation would involve, and New Guinea was only part of their total scheme, which included Samoa and Tonga. The British Government was, however, cautious after the refusal of the Colonies to contribute toward the cost of the government of Fiji (see infra, p. 103).