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Samoa Under the Sailing Gods



It is necessary that I should give some further account of Griffin, the Secretary of Native Affairs. For many years printer to the London Missionary Society in Samoa, and nearing that point where he could retire upon pension, he was offered the post, by Tate, in 1920, of Resident Commissioner (Deputy Administrator) of Savaii. Before assuming office he made a trip to London, and about this time was permitted to assume the rank of missionary. He had not remained for long in Savaii, but had been recalled to Apia, where he was appointed Secretary of Native Affairs; and McDonald, an old resident of Samoa, was relegated thence to the control of the Lands and Survey Department. Cooper, a youngish-looking, fair-haired man, was brought from the Cook Islands—also under New Zealand administration—and in due course took up the post of Resident Commissioner of Savaii, with Griffin as Secretary of Native Affairs, in the position of his superior officer.

The two men were diametrically opposed: Cooper, a precisian; Griffin, its reverse. With Cooper all was on; with Griffin, most beneath (in his case) a bland surface. Cooper was jealous for what he considered his due measure of authority; Griffin apparently determined to retain control of the island where he had recently held sway.

A subject of much correspondence, passing through my page 135hands, between Fagamalo and Apia, was as to who should pay for the kava consumed in the ceremonial entertainment of natives in the Resident Commissioner's office in Savaii. Cooper maintained that the charge was for the Government; the Secretary of the Administration—at the instance of Griffin—that the expense was a personal one. Finally Cooper replied that he could not afford the charge himself, and as the Government would not meet it there would in future be no kava provided in his office for the entertainment of chiefs.

There arose shortly after—Cooper was alleged deliberately to have occasioned it—an occurrence in Savaii involving the political interests of various villages or tribes, which Cooper handled—successfully—by himself. And Colonel Tate was prevailed upon by Griffin to dismiss him, for having presumed to do so. The letter demanding Cooper's resignation was written at, approximately, the end of January 1923; but to my surprise it was not sent, and I supposed the Administrator had thought differently of the matter. But just before Colonel Tate left Samoa, in March 1923, the letter was unearthed by him from between the sheets of his blotting-pad, and posted.