The Diversions of a Prime Minister
I. — A Bloodless Revolution
A Bloodless Revolution.
The High Commissioner had sailed for Tonga in H.M.S. Rapid. His official visits to the island kingdom had generally been so uneventful, that for the first three weeks of his absence from Suva the public interest in his movements had been languid; but when the day appointed for his return had passed, and Saimone of the signal-station had swept the southern horizon in vain for a fortnight, "the beach" began to occupy itself with the usual pessimistic speculations. The Rapid had run short of coal—had broken down—was piled up on a new reef: King George was dead at last, and there was a row among the natives: Baker had been shot at again, and was hit this time. To the professional news-mongers of the beach only one page 2suggestion did not occur—namely, that the "Honourable and Reverend" Shirley Waldemar Baker, First Minister of the king and the State Church, had fallen from his high estate, and had been removed from the little kingdom where he had so long ruled the natives for their good and his own profit.
The tongue of rumour was hushed at last. Suva awoke one morning to find the Red Cross fluttering from the signal-staff, and her Majesty's ship, ironically christened the Rapid, creeping slowly along the reef. Almost before the yellow flag had been hauled down the news flashed along the beach that Baker had indeed fallen, and could not again set foot in Tonga for two years on pain of imprisonment.
A sketch of the events of the last few years cannot be avoided, but it shall be a sketch in outline only.
When George Tubou became king in 1845 his people were in the white-heat of a conversion to Christianity. The missionaries had taught them to read and write, and to pass a simple code of law. They had imbued them with envy of the dignity of civilised States,—their law courts, their police, the uniforms and salaries of their officials, and their other blessings of civilisation—including taxes. All these the Tongans might have if they were shown how to begin. For years there was no one to direct their nascent aspirations. Their teachers had no enterprise, and devoted themselves to the spiritual rather than the temporal needs of their flock; but at last with the necessity came the man. Mr Baker was a genius in his way. None knew better than he how to work upon the feelings of his congregation, or could better gauge the exact page 3moment to send round the collection-plate. None could lay out the funds thus collected in church-building with better effect. None was so jealous of the honour and independence of Tonga, warning her when any of the great nations cast greedy eyes upon her emerald shores. He designed the national ensign, and the royal standard with three club-knives, such as the European officers strap to their sides, and a dove carrying a branch in its beak, and the Great Seal, and many other things that make a nation respected. These were foreigners' things and their meaning was therefore not known to Tongans, but they were the emblems of civilisation. He it was who ordered the timber for the palace and the churches and all the public buildings, which cost a great deal of money. And lastly, it was he who persuaded a German Consul-General to come to Tonga in a man-of-war to make a treaty, so that Tonga was recognised of the Great Powers: for this honour only a small island was given to Germany as a coaling-station, and for his labours as interpreter between the plenipotentiaries Mr Baker received, as was right and proper, a decoration from the German Emperor.
Then Unga, the premier and the king's son, died in Auckland, and Mr Baker, out of his love for the king, brought back the body to Tonga in a German man-of-war, and consented to fill the place that Unga had left empty. For charges had been made against Mr Baker—the great are always envied!—and a committee of his peers in the Methodist Church had advised his removal to Australia. Thus Unga's death saved him from the pain of leaving the Tongans whom he loved.
Now the king had a grievance against the Conference. page 4Every year the mission collected for church purposes large sums that were not spent in Tonga, but were transferred to some other circuit more in need of money. He contended with reason that this money ought to be spent for the benefit of those who had contributed it. Mr Baker, as head of the mission, had been the most active in developing a doubtful method of collecting funds; but as he, too, had a grievance against the Conference who had profited by his ingenuity, and turned round upon him when the facts became too notorious to admit of denial, he threw in his lot with the king. After King George he was now the most powerful man in the kingdom, and his power could be greatly developed, provided that the missionaries left him alone. He had to choose between conciliating or fighting them, and he chose the latter alternative as more consonant with his tastes. If he failed, their opposition to him could not be more bitter than it was before; whereas if he succeeded in driving them from Tonga, his government would be independent of all opposition, while his thirst to avenge his private wrongs would be gratified. It was a bold scheme, and it very nearly succeeded.
King George had long been asking that Tonga should be constituted a separate Conference, having control over its own finances; but unsuccessfully, because the Wesleyan authorities felt that an infant Church, whose members were but yesterday practising heathen rites, and who were never remarkable for diffidence or stedfastness of purpose, were scarcely in a fit state to be freed from leading-strings. Mr Baker began to irritate this old sore. He suggested to the king that, if the Conference persisted page 5in resisting his most reasonable demands, he ought to set up a Wesleyan Church of his own, a national Church, ruled by the same laws as those that governed other Methodist churches. He even persuaded his successor in the chairmanship of the district, a Mr Watkin, to betray his trust and secede with him. When all was ready, he telegraphed to the Australian Conference, then sitting, warning them to accept the king's terms, or suffer the consequences. He was probably aware, when he sent this telegram, that there was no time for the receipt of a favourable reply before the date he had fixed in his ultimatum, but he had, he considered, cleared his own character, and he now proceeded to make his coup-d'éptat.
So the new Church was set up, and in a few weeks it had been embraced by a majority of the people and of the native ministers, who joined the new Church "out of their love for Tubou" and received higher salaries for their loyalty to their sovereign. The king's influence was enormous, but Mr Baker had slightly overrated it; for, in spite of all persuasions and threats, a very respectable minority were left who flatly refused to turn, not probably for conscientious motives,—for the tenets of the two Churches were exactly the same,—but because they disliked Mr Baker and were attached to the Wesleyan missionary, and also because their natural obstinacy and dislike of being "hustled" cams to their support. He had now to face the Wesleyans, armed with very good grounds for complaint, and, to save himself from losing ground, he had recourse to persecution, petty at first, but descending later to rather gross out-page 6rages. Unfortunately for the Wesleyan cause, these outrages were much exaggerated by well-meaning but inaccurate friends, so that people grew sceptical as to the truth of any of them.
Being now in the zenith of his power, in the enviable position of a ruler who is his own treasurer and auditor and also controls the law courts, he became, as men of his stamp always do become, a petty tyrant, without the tact or temper to control the disaffection he created. A dangerous feeling against him began to develop itself among the chiefs, and instead of conciliating them, as a shrewder man would have done, he trusted everything to his ascendancy over the king, and treated chiefs and commoners alike as his inferiors in virtue of his office. In 1886 four prisoners, undergoing imprisonment for petty offences, escaped from jail, and hid for months among the caves at the back of the island, living upon such food as the sympathy of the people procured for them under cover of night. On the night of January 5, 1887, they lay in wait for Mr Baker as he drove home in the dusk with his son and daughter. They fired, but the shot missed its mark, breaking the boy's arm as he ran to stop them, and wounding the girl as she tried to screen her father. The horse, not less terrified than its driver, bolted, leaving the two wounded children on the ground, nor could it be stopped until it had carried its master to a place of safety. It was a savage crime, but the revenge taken for it was scarcely behind it in savagery. There were wholesale arrests: there was a trial in the presence of the native Chief Justice, a native jury, and Mr Baker; but as the public was not admitted to the court, and the page 7few Europeans present were ignorant of Tongan, we have only native accounts of the proceedings to rely upon. Several men were condemned to death, including the actual perpetrators of the crime, and four, one of whom was more than probably innocent, were taken to Malinoa island and summarily shot. Others would have followed had not the Europeans interfered and threatened Mr Baker personally, and during the delay thus secured H.M.S. Diamond arrived with the High Commissioner, Sir Charles Mitchell, from Fiji.
Mr Baker had affected from the first to regard the attack upon him as a conspiracy of the Wesleyans, and sought to connect the missionary, and even the English Vice-Consul, with the crime. It was an opportunity for wiping out the remnant of the Wesleyan Church. On the pretence that there was an insurrection against the king's authority in Tongatabu, he summoned the men of Haapai and Vavau to come and restore order. They came with all the savage ruffianism in them aroused by the remembrance that Tongatabu was their ancient enemy. Armed, and with blackened faces, they spread over the country, plundering the houses of the Wesleyans, flogging and insulting all who refused to join the Free Church. The remnant of those who still held out, some two hundred souls, were huddled on board two small schooners, and shipped off to Fiji. They were thus thrust destitute upon the Government of that colony, which was put to no small inconvenience and expense in providing for them. Eventually they were settled on the fertile island of Koro, dissatisfied, and in continual disagreement with their Fijian neighbours. It was their sudden arrival that page 8caused the High Commissioner to visit Tonga. The exhaustive judicial inquiry which he held furnished ample grounds for the removal of Mr Baker under the Order in Council which empowers the High Commissioner to remove any British subject who, in his opinion, is dangerous to the peace and good order of the island in which he is living. But since Mr Baker, in fact, constituted in himself the Tongan Government, it was not clear that his removal would not be followed by anarchy; and as the king undertook to put a stop to the persecution of the Wesleyans, and to adopt certain other reforms, Sir Charles Mitchell preferred allowing them to be effected through Mr Baker's agency to incurring the risk of the chaos that might result from his removal. The ship of war therefore sailed for Fiji, taking with her the rest of the prisoners lying under sentence of death.
Now Mr Baker had expected to be removed, and he attributed this leniency to a different motive. He argued, doubtless, that if the High Commissioner had failed to remove him after the wholesale persecution of the Wesleyans and other illegalities, it was because he was afraid to do so, and that he was not likely to take extreme action against him for any lesser cause. So long, therefore, as he restrained himself within certain limits, he might continue his former policy without let or hindrance. The king, who had so often been his scapegoat, could be made to bear the sole blame of breaking the promises made to Sir Charles Mitchell. So the promises were not fulfilled, and things went on very much as before, except that the annoyances to which the Wesleyans were subjected were a little less flagrant. Not content with having escaped page 9retribution, he wanted to celebrate his triumph to the world. He was living in the king's palace, and to some extent at the king's expense. His crippled children were drawing pensions from the Treasury. It was time to settle with his enemies—such, at least, as had not been shot or exiled to Fiji. He called a shorthand writer, and dictated in Tongan a report of the attack on him, which he persisted in calling "the assassination," writing with gross disrespect of the High Commissioner, and accusing the British Vice-Consul, since deceased, of having furnished the musket with which the crime was committed. This document was thereupon taken to the native Chief of Police to be signed as his report to the king, for by this means did Mr Baker innocently suppose that he would protect himself from the penalties for the libels of which he was the author. It was then translated, and published as a Blue-book headed "Private and Confidential," probably with the view of protecting the Auckland printers.
But this time he had gone too far. The High Commissioner at once called upon him to retract the libels or take the consequences, and he apologised in the most abject manner; but, when it came to publishing a refutation of the libel, difficulties arose. The Chief of Police flatly refused to sign it, and when at last he was induced to present it to the king, his Majesty threw it on the ground, declaring that he had been made a fool of. But it was printed all the same, "By his Majesty's command."
The Tongans were beginning to have quite enough of Mr Baker, who lived most of his time in Auckland devising obnoxious laws, travelling backwards and forwards at page 10their expense, and only coming among them accompanied by a retainer armed with a revolver. In 1889 they simply neglected to pay their taxes, and the Premier was in consequence unable to pay the salaries of his numerous officials. Now when a Government, however small, fails to pay its own servants, its time is near. The power to distrain for taxes was useless, for as soon as the sheriff's officer was abroad the defaulter made temporary loans of his property to his relations. The alternative was to sell the defaulter's labour to the highest bidder, but a Government cannot put the whole of its subjects up to auction. So the Premier wisely went to Auckland, and, to tide over his more pressing necessities, floated a loan on the security of copra to be hereafter levied.
But the High Commissioner had not done with him. The king's promises to Sir Charles Mitchell had not been fulfilled: the Wesleyan exiles were still a burden upon the Government of Fiji. It was useless for Mr Baker to shelter himself behind the king, because a Minister whose advice is not taken ought logically to resign. Mr Baker had, however, no intention of resigning, and could not afford to let the High Commissioner see the king in his absence. In May 1890, therefore, he went from Auckland to Tonga to await the expected visit, writing to some friends that he would return as soon as he had disposed of the "champion of the Wesleyans," as he playfully termed Sir John Thurston.
H.M.S. Rapid anchored at Nukualofa on the 25th June 1890, and on the 27th Sir John and his suite paid an official visit to King George at his house, the greater part of which was occupied by Mr Baker and his family. He page 11found the king supported on the one side by his Prime Minister, and on the other by Mr Watkin, the missionary who had deserted his employers to become the head of the Free Church of Tonga. After the usual interchange of courtesies the High Commissioner asked the king to appoint some of his chiefs to represent him in a Conference on matters of State, and especially on the subject of the promises made to his predecessor two years before. After a long and painful hesitation, King George said that he would like the proposal to be put in writing, and that he would see him again in a few days. In taking his leave Sir John desired Mr Baker to visit him on board the Rapid that afternoon. This interview must have been a painful one for Mr Baker, whose system of diplomacy, being founded upon habitual concealment of the truth, was quite unsuited for an encounter with one who knew as much about the secret history of Tonga as he did himself. To the question whether he intended to support Sir John's proposal for the appointment of a council of native chiefs, he would at first give no definite reply, hinting that if he were a party to the return of the exiles from Fiji he would be himself giving an opportunity for another attempt upon his life; but when further pressed, he affected to pity the High Commissioner's ignorance of native matters in thinking that he could go to the king and virtually tell him that he was thought too old or too foolish to manage his own affairs. He at any rate would refuse to attend any such meeting. Sir John assured him that he was free to attend or not as he pleased, but that as it was clear that he meant to prevent any Conference taking place, he would not be accepted as an intermediary page 12between the High Commissioner and the king or any of the native chiefs. Then Mr Baker tried to retrieve his lost ground, and asked what he had done to forfeit the confidence of the High Commissioner, receiving his answer in the form of a catalogue of his more notorious breaches of faith.
War was declared, and Mr Baker's only resource was to cut off stragglers and impede the baggage-train of the enemy. He would not, he said, interfere in any way, but he ought to mention that the king was much annoyed at the employment of Mr Moss as interpreter, and had instructed him to write a complaint to the Vice-Consul. It subsequently appeared that the ingenuous Premier had invented this difficulty in order to hamper the High Commissioner in the choice of an interpreter; for besides Mr Moss, there was no one well versed in the Tongan language who was not either a creature of the Premier or a persona ingrata to the king. After waiting some days for the letter of complaint, Sir John sent an apology to the king by the hands of the Vice-Consul and Mr Moss himself. They found him sitting on the verandah of his house in the best possible humour. He denied ever having complained about Mr Moss, for whom, he said, he had the most friendly regard, emphasising this by pinching him and laughing heartily. Indeed from a native point of view King George would regard Moss as his grandson, for he had adopted his father under the name of Tubou Haapai.
The same afternoon the High Commissioner with his staff waited on the king by appointment. To their great surprise they found him looking very ill and abstracted, page 13attended only by two chiefs of the third rank, and by Mr Watkin as interpreter. Sir John did his best to explain the object of the visit, but it was quite evident that the king could not follow what was said. He seemed to hear the last sentence—that the High Commissioner came as a true friend to Tonga—and said after a long silence that every good thing came from Britain, adding several times, "Thank you! Thank you!" He was again asked whether he would appoint a council of chiefs, but he remained silent, and was so evidently suffering from illness that Sir John Thurston rose, telling Mr Watkin that he could not think of troubling the king in his present state of health. Mr Watkin replied that the king was suffering from la grippe, and the party retired, convinced that, though his Majesty was certainly unwell, his complaint was not la grippe.
The king's relations were very angry at the ill-success of this interview, and indulged in the most threatening language towards the Premier. The High Commissioner had now to consider whether, in view of the continual acts of oppression committed with Mr Baker's sanction and authority, and the dangerous irritation of the natives against him, his presence in Tonga would not almost certainly lead to the murder of himself and others after the ship of war had left the group. His life had already once been attempted before the higher chiefs had declared their hostility towards him. He decided — and after-events have proved the wisdom of his decision — that the case demanded the exercise of his authority under the Western Pacific Order in Council in prohibiting Mr Baker from remaining in Tonga after the 17th of page 14the month, when the mail-steamer would leave for New Zealand.
On the following morning Mr Collet, the Secretary to the High Commissioner, and Mr Leefe, the Vice-Consul, called on Mr Baker at Mr Watkin's house, and handed to him the written intimation. He was doubtless congratulating himself at the moment on the success of his diplomacy, feeling secure that if Sir Charles Mitchell could not deport him in 1887 for fear of anarchy, none of his successors in office would dare to take such a step in the present embarrassed and disturbed state of the country. The letter came upon him like a thunder-clap: he turned very red, and asked if a reply was expected. "None," was the answer, "but we are to say that the High Commissioner will be glad to afford you protection from personal violence on board H.M.S. Rapid."
"Oh, that's all bunkum," replied the fallen Minister, heatedly. He then went off to see the king, but there he found the redoubtable Tungi, Lord of Hahake, and Speaker of the House of Assembly. The torrent of Tungi's vituperation, aided by an excellent memory for Mr Baker's delinquencies during the past thirteen years, was too much for him. It was an inauspicious moment in which to approach the king, seeing that his most influential enemy had the royal ear.
During the evening a message was delivered from the chiefs that they wished Mr Baker to leave the king's house, as they feared he would do him some mischief. The High Commissioner tried to reassure them, but, two hours later, they returned with a sworn statement that they feared he would do the king some serious harm. page 15It is probable that their real fear was that he would use the night to regain some of his lost influence, and that the progress of events would be arrested by some unforeseen action on the part of the king; but, as it was quite possible that, in the present temper of the people, Mr Baker might be roughly handled, the captain of the Rapid was asked to land a few marines and station them for the night at the palace already vacated by Mr Baker. Accordingly seven marines were landed unarmed under the command of a lieutenant. The verandah was occupied by a number of chiefs, and the night passed quietly.
Mr Baker had unfortunately time to remove several packages of papers from the palace, and he and his children were seen late in the night burning papers, perhaps those for which a diligent and unsuccessful search was made by his successors. At daybreak he made an attempt to enter the Palace, but went away when refused admission by the marines. He was met at the gate by Taufaahau, the king's great-grandson and heir, who, with the title of "Crown Prince of Tonga," had been sent to school in Auckland under Mr Baker's supervision. Infuriated at the ingratitude of his old protégé, he cried out, "You shall pay me for your keep in my house in Auckland."
"And you," shouted the boy, "shall pay for living for years in my grandfather's house!"
A few weeks later Taufaahau received the bill for his entertainment in Auckland; but I have reason to fear that the debt is still owing, although he has long ago come into his kingdom and the command of his privy purse.
A little later his Majesty himself came forth for his morning bath in the sea. One of the marines, having page 16orders to allow no one to pass, and seeing nothing in an elderly native gentleman to betoken royalty, interfered. King George, much amused, attempted to explain the situation in the vernacular, but the marine was obdurate. The poor king had to go without his bath, but his admiration for the sentry outweighed any annoyance on that score. "No wonder," he said, "that Britain is so powerful: these soldiers obey their officers and no one else. Ah! if the Tongans were like that."
This day being Sunday, the High Commissioner attended church with the king, and after service accompanied him home by invitation. He had made a wonderful recovery from la grippe, and was in the same high health and spirits as he had been forty-eight hours before when visited by the Vice-Consul without notice, and as he had not been when seen by the High Commissioner by appointment. He spoke for some time with great animation, repeatedly expressing his thankfulness for the action taken by his chiefs and his release from Mr Baker. He also cordially accepted an invitation to visit the Rapid, which he had previously declined on the advice of Mr Baker. The marines were now withdrawn, and on the following day the Premier was formally dismissed from office by the king.
The vacancies thus created were rather numerous, for Mr Baker was Premier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of the Court of Appeal, Auditor-General, Minister of Lands, Judge of the Land Court, Minister of Education, Agent-General, and Medical Attendant to the king.
His Majesty at first wanted to appoint Josateki Tonga to the post of Premier, because, though a chief of inferior page 17rank, he had so long acted for Mr Baker in his absence that the king had a great belief in his knowledge of affairs. Sateki (as he is commonly called) declined, saying that he was more fit to follow than to lead. Tungi was then proposed, but he excused himself on the ground of age and infirmity. The choice, therefore, fell on his son, George Tukuaho, the ablest young chief in Tonga. Tungi became Minister of Lands, and Asibeli Kubu, a young chief of Vavau of high rank on his mother's side, took the portfolio of Minister of Police, an important office including the control of Crown prosecutions and prisons. The other offices remained unchanged. The new Ministers at once took charge of their respective departments. The Premier's office was found to be in a state of the greatest confusion, and Mr Smart, one of the Customs clerks, was employed in endeavouring to set the papers in order, when Mr Baker appeared on the scene, anxious to remove some of his account-books. He was stopped by a native sentry, and for the moment he forgot that the reins of office had fallen from his hands—indeed at this time his dismissal from office, though already signed, had not yet been handed to him. His temper gave way. "By whose orders was he prevented from entering his office?"
"By the king's."
"But I insist on removing my private property from the office."
Consent was given provided that nothing was removed without the permission of a Government officer. They passed through the outer office to Mr Baker's elegantly furnished sanctum. Behind this was a "holy of holies" into which no Tongan had ever been known to penetrate. page 18There had always been a mystery about this inner room with barred windows. All that was known of it was that Mr Baker frequently retired thither during office hours, and returned to his work with renewed vigour and inspiration; and that large and heavy cases, marked "T. G.," were periodically landed by the steamer to be carried into this inner chamber. When they reached the door they found that Mr Smart had succeeded in opening it, and that the secret lay disclosed. Straw pyramids littered the floor: there were empty cases and cases yet unemptied; and a terrible array of "dead marines," square-shouldered, round-shouldered, and sloping-shouldered, shocked the eye as they lay in unblushing and uncompromising evidence in every corner. The ex-Premier blushed deeply. "This is all my private property," he said, angrily. But Mr Smart had been examining the cases. "I think not," he said, with conviction; "the cases are marked 'T. G.,' which stands for Tongan Government."
"But I paid for them," retorted Mr Baker.
"In that case," said Smart, "they must have evaded Customs duty,—private goods imported as Government property!"
Mr Baker was speechless with indignation. "I'll make you pay for this some day," he said, and turned away to claim other property. If views differ regarding Mr Baker's abilities as an administrator, no one who has since visited that inner room has thought of denying his genius as a judge of champagne. More than once have I heard a Cabinet Minister, the bitterest of his enemies, say with real conviction after repairing the tedium of a weary debate in the House, "Misa Beika was a wise man!"page 19
He now wanted to remove his account-books, which were, he said, his private property; but the writing was the writing of Otto Lahnstein, who was paid with Government money, and the books had been paid for from the same funds. So he took his last view of the scene of his labours, and withdrew protesting. His son, who had been his Private Secretary, gazed with pride at the havoc of the clerk's office, and remarked to Smart, "Well, at any rate you fellows can't say that we haven't done a lot of work here."
A day or two later the king visited the Rapid in his State barge, and the High Commissioner paid an informal visit to him the same afternoon. He found him attended by thirty or forty chiefs in the ordinary native dress, a sure sign that they felt at ease. After a warm greeting the conversation turned upon Tongan affairs. Sir John expressed a hope that all petty oppression and persecution would now cease, and that the people would be allowed to return to their normal state of quietude. The king replied that he felt sure that a time of peace had arrived. The opportunity for testing the sincerity of his promises had come, and the High Commissioner decided to ask him to do that which Mr Baker had persisted in declaring he would never do—namely, to allow those exiled to Fiji for their religious views to return. He referred to the chiefs present who had relations among them — to Fatafehi, Governor of Haapai, whose mother, Charlotte, the king's daughter, was among the exiles, though past sixty years of age. The king was visibly affected, and said, "I never sent them away: I did not want them to go. Let them come back. They were driven away. Bring them back page 20to their friends." After a short silence the High Commissioner said, "Will you also release the people at Tofua and other places who have been deprived of their liberty for years past, in some cases for no other reason than that they attended prayers at the house of a Wesleyan missionary; others who have been unjustly convicted by illegal sentences being passed upon them; and others who are in confinement upon the personal order of Mr Baker, after being duly discharged by a judge of the Tongan Supreme Court?" The king answered, "Why go on? This is a day of joy. I do not want them to be imprisoned. Let us rejoice at what has happened, and let all prisoners be set free." The High Commissioner explained that he had not asked for the release of prisoners properly convicted of offences against the law, and that the wholesale liberation of such people might be inconvenient; but, nevertheless, every convict who had more than twelve months of his sentence to serve was turned loose upon society.
The king then invited his guests to drink kava in another part of the house, and seated the High Commissioner near himself. He asked more than once whether there was anything more that he wished done, and begged him to help his Government to keep clear of the disturbances and embarrassments into which they had been led by Mr Baker. Then one of the chiefs seated near the bowl cried out, "We, too, have something to ask. We want to break up this kava-party, that we may go out into the roads and cry the good news to all the people." There was a shout of applause, and the High Commissioner shook hands with the king and took leave. Except the page 21children, scarcely any one in Nukualofa went to sleep that night.
The Europeans living in Tonga were apparently not above kicking their enemy when he was down, for the High Commissioner received information that they were preparing to make Mr Baker run the gauntlet of a shower of rotten eggs as he went along the wharf to embark. There was also a growing disposition among the natives to make an attack on him before he left the country. The native Government undertook to restrain its subjects; and to control Mr Baker's compatriots, Sir John made it known through the Vice-Consul that the order of prohibition would not be served upon him till he embarked, and that if any European attempted to insult him it would probably not be served at all. One of these gentry told me afterwards how disappointed he was. He said that the High Commissioner seemed first to take one side and then the other. "If Baker was a rascal, what did he want to take his side for?"
The mail-steamer Wainui anchored on July 17, and Mr Baker embarked before any one in Nukualofa was stirring. At ten o'clock the order of prohibition was served on him, and at half-past two he left the islands for New Zealand. At ten o'clock the High Commissioner and his staff landed at the king's invitation to receive the thanks of the people for his exertions on their behalf. They were conducted to seats on the lawn that separates the public offices from the sea. The native band of the king's Guards played "Rule Britannia" when they arrived, and continued to play while thousands of natives of both sexes filed past, laying their offerings before their visitors. The procession page 22seemed interminable, and the pile of gifts—mats, fans, combs, ngatu, and yams—grew to unmanageable dimensions, while the visitors' arms ached with the exercise of shaking hands. The barge had to be sent to bring off the presents; and one of the blue-jackets, with his mouth full of fresh pork and yam, was heard to sum up the situation in the evening, "Tell yer what, Jack, I wish we'd a Baker to de-port every day."
- "What is your office?"
- "I am Minister of Finance."
- "What is the revenue of Tonga?"
- "I don't know."
- "But what is your office?"
- "Minister of Finance" (warmly).
- "Well, who knows what is the revenue of Tonga?"
- "Misa Beika."
- " Who takes care of the money?"
- "I do."
- "How much have you got in the Treasury?"
- "I don't know."
- "But you are Minister of Finance?"
- "Yes; I have told you that I am."
- "Well, where's the money?"
- "In the safe."
- "Who knows how much there is?"
- "Misa Beika."
- "Yes; but he's gone. Can't you go and count it?"
- "No; I haven't got the key."
- "Why, who keeps the key of the Treasury?"
- "Misa Beika."
It was clear that before the country could emerge from its difficulties some fuller information was required. Junia must have an assistant. On the High Commissioner's advice Mr Campbell, the Collector of Customs, was appointed Assistant to the Minister of Finance, and a better selection could not have been made.
The liabilities were believed to be very large, and the balance in the Treasury, on being counted, proved to be less than £2000. The ex-Premier was believed to have page 25made a number of yet unfulfilled contracts, for which his successors would be liable; and the new Cabinet, competent though they were to conduct kava-bowl diplomacy, were filled with an unconcealed awe of the mysteries of office-work. "Was the High Commissioner," they asked, "going to leave them to themselves before their path was clear?" They were not afraid of Tongans, "but what about the white men? Could he send no one to help them for a time?" Sir John Thurston was prepared for the request. It was clear that they must have help without involving the Imperial Government in any direct responsibilities on their account. He told them that if the king made a formal request to him he would send them an officer not altogether unknown to them; but that if he came they must follow his advice, and he must have a seat in the Privy Council.
There being nothing more to do, the Rapid sailed for the northern groups of Haapai and Vavau, touching at each place, and telling the people the good news of the "Jikota's"1 fall, and of the return of the exiles. In Vavau they received it with mixed feelings, for, while they hated Mr Baker, they could not forget that the exiles were Wesleyans, and Vavau is staunch Free Church.
1 Mr Baker had a number of nicknames—such as Kingfisher (Jikota), Empty Bottle, &c. The jikota of Tonga is an irrepressibly active and pugnacious bird, and Mr Baker seemed to be proud of the comparison. Of some of his other sobriquets he had less reason to be proud.