Samoa: A Story That Teems With Tragedy
Interest centres on Samoa by reason of the organised effort that is being made throughout New Zealand to create a "public opinion" in favour of annexing the German portion of the unfortunate little archipelago to New Zealand. There are elements in this country—elements that are numerically weak, but financially strong—that would be pie-pared to say that the question of Samoa's future should be made a determining factor in the continuance or ending of the war. And this mischievous element, itself knowing little of the tragic history of the Samoan people during the last half century, assumes a similar lack of knowledge on the part of our people generally, and seeks to trade on it. It is to be noted that at none of the meetings held to further the idea of annexation did the speakers—or any one of them—attempt to deal with the problem from either the historic, the economic, or the social viewpoint. Neither did they approach the subject from the viewpoint of the relationship of Samoa to the world's peace. They were only capable of insularly regarding it, and then again only from the narrow vantage ground of an ignoble class interest. It is the purpose of this pamphlet to outline, as far as limited space will permit, the history of Samoa under British, German, and American control; and the reader will agree that it is a history that teems with interest and towers with tragedy. It reveals a primitive people used like pawns in a game played by trading gamblers, with their respective Governments backing the gamblers.
The Samoan Archipelago consists of 14 islands, about 1560 miles steaming distance from Auckland. The three most prominent of these islands are Upolu, Savaii, and Tutuila. German Samoa has about 36,000 inhabitants, only 500 of whom are whites. About 1000 of the others are half-castes, and 5000 are Chinese (indentured labour). American Samoa has 5750 inhabitants, 3750 of whom are on Tutuila.
The earlier missionaries found the Samoans in the later Stone Age period; and it is well to note that most of the conflicts which have torn Samoa during the past 50 years or so—and emphatically all of the struggles between the natives and the whites—have grown out of the fact that the interests of the traders demanded conformity on the part of the people with the conditions imposed by the necessities of modem Capitalism, and the further fact that the traders, supported by their respective Governments, sought to compel this primitive people to step out of the historical period of the Stone Age and free themselves, almost at the word of command, from the determinism of page 4 an environment that was itself the result of long historical processes. It was, of course, an impossible demand.
To-day we are told by the advocates of annexation that the Samoans are quite incapable of governing themselves, and that this is one strong reason why we should undertake their government. Now, it is indisputable that all peoples are capable of self-government in the light of their own historical development; but it is a self-evident fact that no primitive people could possibly govern itself according to the standards and requirements of Twentieth Century Capitalism. And that is all there is in the argument. If the Government of Samoa is to be in the interests of the Samoans, they are quite able to attend to the matter. But if Samoa is to be controlled and administered so that the interests of either the German, American, or British traders will be the paramount consideration, it follows that the Samoans cannot be entrusted with the Government.
The capacity of the Samoans for self-government may well be gauged by the political system which the whites found in operation, and which has been so well described by the Rev. J. B. Stair (Church of England missionary) in "Old Samoa." Mr. Stair tells us that the Samoan Islands were divided into districts, subdivided into settlements, and these again into villages. The districts—the great divisions—were quite independent of each other, their boundaries were clearly defined, and the care of them committed to the nearest villages on each side. The local affairs of each settlement were under the immediate control of the people, and were discussed and decided in a public assembly composed of the leading men of each village or district. More weighty matters, Such as Declaring War or Making Peace. the appointment and installation of chiefs, or indeed any matters of general importance to whole districts, were deliberated upon in a general fono or parliament of the whole district—composed of representatives of all the different settlements and villages of the district. Each district had a leading settlement called its Laumua, and it was the duty of the Laumua to convene the fono or general assembly of its respective districts. These meetings were usually conducted with much formality and decorum, the general fono of the district being always held in the open air in the great malae —a large open space reserved for public assemblies—of the leading settlement of Laumua.
It follows that a race that has not progressed beyond the Stone Age is a race in its childhood, and it is not surprising to find that the Samoans used to think they and inhabitants of adjacent groups were the only human beings in existence. They thought the world was fiat, and supported by a pillar ascending from the regions below, while the sky was supposed to cover them as a canopy, forming a junction at the distant horizon. They had only seen visitors from other islands come in canoes, and when the first big ship with sails appeared off their coasts they were filled with astonishment and awe. They lined the shore or climbed the tall cocoanut trees to watch the page 5 mystery, and generally concluded that the ship came from the spirit land. They called the sailors "sky-bursters," for, they said, "these people have either burst through the clouds with their ship, or else, lifting them up, they have passed beneath, and come to visit us." They were spellbound to see white men, with feet not divided into toes, and their skin provided with bags into which they could place such articles as they wished. The natives saw portions of a pig hanging up in the ship, and thought it was human flesh. They concluded the whites were man-eaters who had come for a fresh supply of human meat, and the natives hurried off the boat accordingly.
In 1830, when the Rev. John Williams (Wesleyan missionary) visited Samoa and introduced Christianity, the King, Malietoa, agreed to renounce idolatry and become Christian, but he advised his family to wait six weeks before following his example. His sons waited three weeks, and then—seeing that the insulted gods had not wreaked vengeance on their father—"they gathered their horrified friends together, and in their presence ate the sacred fish called anae (mullet), in which their tutelary gods were supposed to dwell." When nothing dreadful followed this act of sacrilege, a great meeting was called, and the chief war god—"an indelibly sacred bit of matting dropping to pieces with age"—was sentenced to be drowned in the depths of the sea. However, it was eventually given to the Rev. Mr. Williams, who sent it to London, and it is now in the museum of the London Missionary Society. Mr. Williams and his friends regarded ibis as the "overthrow of Paganism."
In 1839 the American explorer, Charles Wilkes, came and made a survey of the archipelago. Wilkes negotiated the first treaty between the United States and Samoa. It was designed to secure the right to enter the harbour to all American vessels, and to buy stores and refit in general. "At this time," says Mrs. Churchill (wife of one of the American Consuls) in her book, "Samoa 'uma," navies had not begun to see the necessity for coaling stations."
R. L. Stevenson has described how, following closely on the heels of Captain Cook, adventurers swarmed into the Pacific. It was inevitable that the traders should come in the wake of the London missionary and the American explorer; and so, in time, the Samoan islands began to attract American, German, and British capitalists; and (inevitably) with the traders' advent Samoa's real troubles began. Speculators got possession of the lands, and incessant disputes arose.
It might be as well to digress here for the purpose of letting Mrs. Churchill explain how America, Britain, and Germany came to be in Samoa. She says: —
"The reason for the presence of the United States in Samoa is to be found in the annals of the whale fishery. ... Following the whale fleet came consuls to arrange their disputes.
"How it happened that the English had interests in Samoa is one of those things that scarcely need explanation. It is quite the usual thing to find the British Empire, 'morning drum-beat and all,' frac- page 6 tioned off all over the world, protecting this spot, annexing that, and generally with a managing directory concern in the affairs of a weaker people.
"What brought the Germans to Samoa, what gave them that absolute trade supremacy, ... was plain, ordinary commerce, the selling dear and buying cheap, extending credit to a people who never yet have learned that between a bill and a receipt there is any difference worthy of consideration, and who would mortgage anything of the future to obtain the object of present desire."
In 1871 we find another treaty (executed at Washington) between the United States and Samoa, giving the United States (for the first time) exclusive rights to Pago Pago Harbour for a coaling station. To what extent the natives understood the significance of this treaty we are unable to discover. The right thus conferred lay dormant till the war of 1889, when the United States dumped large quantities of coal there.
Dr. Geo. Brown (another missionary) tells us that in 1872 some American gentlemen busied themselves, and got the chiefs to sign a paper asking America to annex the islands. An immense company had been formed, with President Grant as chairman, "and they are buying up land in all directions," the missionary wrote. "And so is Mr. Weber and others." (Mr. Weber was head of the German firm.) The scheme did not succeed, however, for the U.S. Government, refused to take Samoa.
In 1878 the United States made yet a further trading treaty with the natives.
In 1879 there were innumerable disputes between the whites and the natives and between the whites themselves. As a result of these disputes, Germany, Britain, and America formed a Tripartite Government, and took away from the people of Samoa the control of the harbour, town, and neighbourhood of Apia. This control was now vested in a Municipal Board, consisting of the three Consuls and their nominees, and this Board (or Council) took power to "levy rates and issue licenses for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the Municipality, the police, etc, and for carrying on the necessary public works, such as jail, roads and bridges," etc. A magistrate was appointed, with power to fine and imprison, and he also had charge of the police and the prisoners.
This change was brought about principally by the efforts of Sir A. H. Gordon (British Commissioner), "who was cordially assisted by the German Consul."
Under the new arrangement, apparently without the wishes of the natives being considered, Germany was given the harbour of Saluafata as a coaling station, and Britain got Fagaloa Bay—both in the island of Upolu. The United States still had Pago Pago.
In 1881, when Malietoa Laupepa was crowned King (March 19), there were dissensions among the natives; and in April two provinces elected Tamasese and Mataafa to an alternate monarchy, Tamasese page 7 taking first turn. The three Powers were, however, backing Malietoa; and in November a great fono (parliament) was held to receive the German Emperor's official recognition of Malietoa, which was read out by the German Consul In Loud English. The German Consul then shook hands with Malietoa, the British and American Consuls did likewise, and all three Consuls tendered congratulations, after which the German gunboat fired a salute of 21 guns. Stevenson says the natives took no interest in the ceremony, but on the contrary looked rather bored.
Towards the end of 1884, Malietoa and a number of the chiefs signed an agreement, handing Samoa over to the Germans. This document was drawn by the German authorities at Samoa, and the natives were refused a copy for discussion. They were required to sign it on the evening of the second day—the intervening day being Sunday. "Should they fail to do this, they were told, there was one warship in the harbour, and more were coming." They signed under compulsion.
Immediately after, they drew up a petition to Queen Victoria (and forwarded it through the Governor of New Zealand), asking that England should annex the islands. In a letter, dated November 12, 1884. Malietoa tells the British Consul, Churchward, not to take any notice of the agreement he (Malietoa) has made with the Germans, and says he is prepared to tear it up as soon as England is ready to act. England, however, was not then prepared to do anything that would clash with German interests.
Churchward—who was British Consul from 1881 to 1885—says of the Samoans: "Their treaty relations with foreign Powers, the real meaning of which the few who signed did not rightfully understand, while the great majority of the nation know nothing at all of their existence until called to account for some breach of a clause in the treaties of which they were ignorant, only served to involve them in many more complications than ever they were in before.... One treaty has a clause whereby the Samoan Government agrees to ratify all land transactions previous to its existence." These land transactions were mainly of a shady character. "These treaties have never proved of the smallest benefit to the natives; but, on the contrary, have from the time they were made supplied the foundation for many an act of oppression."
In October of 1884, when a native rising took place, the German gunboat "Hyena" and the British "Miranda" vent out together to deal with the natives. The two flags being seen together, bound on the same errand. if was said, could not fail to impress the Samoans.
In January of 1885, when Sir William Jervois was Governor and Sir Julius Vogel was Prime Minister, the N.Z. Government wanted to annex Samoa, and the Government steamer "Hinemoa" was held in readiness with full steam up. The British Government, however, refused permission, the Earl of Derby replying that Prince Bismarck had threatened that colonial action would lead to German annexa- page 8 tion. Churchward says: "The Germans were ready to formally annex the whole group, and very glad they would have been of the excuse."
In April of the same year, a man arrived in Samoa, claiming to be the accredited envoy of a group of rich merchants at Auckland. The Samoans had recently been fined £100 by the High Commissioner for "riot and damage" at Magia; and the Auckland merchants' envoy had brought the natives a gift of £100—the amount of the fine. This because the Auckland merchants hated oppression, the envoy said.
Churchward, however, says there was a trifling condition attached to the gift. It was that the Samoans should act as a Government, expel the people in possession of certain lands, and put the Auckland merchants' envoy thereon.
The Auckland man failed in his land-grabbing venture, and he then turned his attention to annexation by New Zealand. He organised an agitation, and by means of outrageously misleading statements made it appear that the Samoans were universally anxious—"to the verge of madness"—for colonial attachment. Consul Churchward says; "There was never in my time any movement in the smallest degree approaching a representative desire to belong to New Zealand."
In 1885, a second petition was sent to England by Malietoa and his chiefs asking for annexation; and, "to avoid either complications or explanations," the Samoan leaders determined to start a cricket match. A Samoan cricket match is a fearsome circumstance. From 40 to 100 players may take part in it; and it may last a week or a month. It was proposed to make this particular match last till England's reply was available. If the Germans demanded explanations, the entire Government would be playing cricket and could not be disturbed. The simple-minded Samoans did not know the endlessness of British red tape. The game began; but no one seems to know whether it was ever ended. The fact remains that the letter to England was never answered; and the German authorities issued an order forbidding the King to permit cricket to be played at the seat of Government.
The Samoan chiefs at this time firmly believed that the annexation of their islands by England would mean the ending of their troubles. The British Consul records that he "was persecuted day and night by deputations from the Samoan Government, but could give them no help." The chiefs were ready to hoist the British flag at any moment; "but the British Consul was forced to tell them he had no authority to accept them, and that he could discuss no German subject with them."
In 1886, Malietoa was deposed by the Germans, and Tamasese put in his place. Tamasese raised his flag on January 28, 1886, styled himself king, and began to collect and arm a force. Weber and the Germans were supplying him with weapons; so were the Americans; "so, but for our salutary British law," says Stevenson, "so would have been the British—For Wherever there is a Sound of Battle, There Will the Traders be Gathered Together Selling Arms."page 9
At last, after many vicissitudes, the Germans expressly disowned Tamasese, and a peace was patched up, but was of short duration: and in August of 1887, a German squadron (live warships) arrived at Apia, "and demanded reparation for alleged damage done to certain plantations and for an assault on a German on the Emperor's birthday." By August 24 the Germans had seized Apia; 700 men and six guns were landed from the warships, and the German flag was hoisted on the Government buildings.
Malietoa was fined something more than £2000, and was refused the four days' grace he asked for to gather the money. The fine was inflicted because the Samoans had taken food from the German plantations. Schooled under a system of primitive communism, the Samoans "could only regard as absurd the growing of food just to send it from the land to sell it." They naturally helped themselves to food from the plantations in accordance with their communistic code of ethics.
Malietoa now fled to Afenga, and Tamasese was declared king. On August 25. one of the German warships flew Tamasese's colours, and gave the "new king" a royal salute of 21 guns. The American and English Consuls were notified that Germany recognised Tamasese. They replied by by proclaiming Malietoa—And Advised the Samoans to do Nothing.
A meeting of chiefs was now called, and they were addressed by one Brandeis (instrument of the German firm) in this wise: "Great are my thanks that the chiefs and heads of families of the whole of Samoa are assembled here this day. It is strictly forbidden that any discussion should take place as to whether it is good or not that Tamasese is King of Samoa, whether at this fono or at any future fono. I place for your signature the following: 'We inform all the people of Samoa as follows—(1) The government of Samoa has been assumed by King Tuiaana Tamasese. (2) By order of the King, it was directed that a fono should take place to-day, composed of the chiefs and heads of families, and we have obeyed the summons. We have signed our names under this, 15th September, 1887.'"
Needs must under all these guns (says Stevenson); and the paper was signed, but not without open sullenness. The hearing of Mataafa in particular was long remembered against him by the Germans. "Do you see the King?" said the Commodore, reprovingly. "His father was no king," was the bold answer.
Already villages had been burned, and it was now threatened that war would be made on all who failed to recognise Tamasese as King.
The American and British Consuls protested against the hoisting of the German flag, and to make the protest effective, the U.S. Consul annexed Samoa by hoisting the Stars and Stripes with the Samoan flag beneath. Both the German and American Governments ultimately repudiated the action of their Consuls.
Malietoa, to save his people from destruction, at last surrendered to the Germans, and was deported to the Cameroons. He bequeathed page 10 the care of his country to Mataafa. to whom his (Malietoa's) supporters now transferred their allegiance. Malietou wrote a letter, full of dignified protest and vibrating with pathos, to the English and American Consuls, pointing out how when he had followed their advice he was deserted by them and left to the mercy of the Germans, and charging them with breach of faith.
Tamasese was pliant in the hands of the Germans, and Great Britain acquiesced in the position. Robert Louis Stevenson says: "Wilson, the English Acting-Consul, is understood to have held strict orders to help Germany."
With Tamasese on the throne, and the German Brandeis behind it, matters became more and more- unsettled; and by September of 1888, German and American warships were menacing Samoa and each other as well. Treaties were repeatedly broken and "the harshness of European and military rule had made Brandeis detested and Tamasese unpopular with many."
The disaffection of the natives became more formidable, and on September 9 Mataafa was crowned King at Faleula. All through the later months of 1888 and the opening months of 1889 Samoa was violently in the throes of revolution.
Seven warships were lying in Apia Harbour in the earlier part of March, 1889. They were the German warships Olga, Eber, and Adler; the U.S. warships Trenton, Nipsic, and Vandalia; and the British Calliope. In addition there were six merchantmen of from 25 to 500 tons, and numerous small craft. The harbour was sufficiently roomy for only four large ships, according to Captain Kane, of the Calliope.
On March 15 the barometer fell to 29.11 degrees. That was the time to make for the open sea; but the American and German gunboats were ready for action—ready to pour shot and shell into one another; and all clung defiantly to their moorings. The blackness of midnight came with the indescribable storm of March 16. "The agitation of the sea surpassed experience and description," says Stevenson; and "before night, with the exception of the Calliope, every ship and craft had been sunk, broken upon the coral reefs, or beached." The Calliope steamed out to sea—averaging a mile an hour. One hundred and fifty lives were lost.
The Samoans had the wrecked sailors at their mercy; but, instead of attacking them, they vied with one another in saving friend and foe alike—and sacrificed their own lives in doing so. They also refrained from taking any property from the wreckage.
Stevenson writes, in the "Footnote to History': "Within the duration of a single day, the sword-arm of the two angry Powers was broken; their formidable ships reduced to junk; their disciplined hundreds to a horde of castaways, fed with difficulty, and the fear of whose misconduct marred the sleep of their commanders. Both paused aghast; Both Had time to Recognise that not the Whole Samoan Archipelago was Worth the Loss in page 11 Men and Costly Ships Already Suffered. The so-called hurricane of March 16 made this a marking epoch in world history; directly, and at once, it brought about the Congress and Treaty of Berlin."
Mrs. Churchill says the Apia disaster "shocked the world into a sense of what was being done in this distant part of the world, and saner thought felt that Samoa was not Worth the Loss of Life."
The three Powers now went into conference at Berlin, and the Treaty of Berlin (or Berlin General Act, 1889) was executed. Article I. of this Treaty declared the islands of Samoa to be neutral territory "in which the citizens and subjects of the three Signatory Powers have equal rights of residence, trade and personal protection." It provided that the three Powers would recognise the independence of the Samoan Government And the Free Right of the Natives to Elect their Chief or King and Choose Their Own Form of Government According to Their Own Laws or Customs. And it further provided that neither of the Powers should exercise any separate control over the islands or in any way interfere with the Government.
The Berlin General Act confirmed America's exclusive right to the coaling station in Pago Pago Harbour, in the same way that it confirmed similar rights of the British in Fagaloa Bay and the Germans in Saluafata Bay. It recalled Malietoa from exile, and restored him to the throne pending an election. At the time the Act was drafted, Mataafa was reigning King of Samoa, Malietoa having formally with-drawn in favour of his greater kinsman, to whom he had given adherence. It was made clear by the Berlin conference that Malietoa's recognition by the Powers was only to hold good until an election could be held.
The ink was hardly dry on the Treary before it was broken by the whole three Powers. The Chief Justice (a Swede named Cedarkrantz) refused to call the election, in spite of repeated requests from the people; and the natives then proceeded lo elect a King in accordance with Samoan methods. They chose Mataafa—and then war came.
Stevenson's friend Moors, in his book, "With Stevenson in Samoa," blames the three Powers for the war. He says: "Mataafa sought to bring about a settlement by peaceful means, and in that endeavour he was supported by Stevenson."
When Mataafa was proclaimed rebel by the Powers, Stevenson, in the Vailima Letters, wrote: "They have shot their bolt; they have made a rebel of the only man (To Their Own Knowledge, On The Report of Their Own Spy) who held the rebel party in check."
While Mataafa was still "outlawed," efforts to effect his capture having failed, a British missionary approached the American Consul with a proposal that he (Mataafa) should be decoyed into Apia with page 12 a safe conduct, and there seized by either the Malietoans or men from the warships. The proposal was indignantly rejected by the Consul, whereupon the missionary suggested that the Consul need not do the dirty work—that it could be done by the Germans, or in such a way as to make it appear that the Germans had done it. Both Stevenson and Moors exposed the author of the "scheme," and both received writs for libel, but the eases never reached Court, and the missionary was eventually dismissed or compelled to resign.
During 1892, Lady Jersey (wife of the Ws. W. Governor) visited Samoa, and was, of course, officially received. She was most anxious to meet the "rebel King," Mataafa, and that, of course, was something not to be tolerated according to our code of warfare. However, Lady Jersey passed herself off as "Amelia Balfour, cousin of R. L. Stevenson," and in this capacity was entertained by Mataafa. When news of the incident leaked out, the Home authorities sternly re-proved the British Consul and everybody else concerned in the escapade.
On July 18, 1893, Stevenson wrote: "Sunday came the Katoomba (Captain Bickford, C.M.G.). ... He has Orders to Suppress Mataafa at Once." The reader must remember that Mataafa was the people's choice, and the warships of Germany and Britain were at this period employed in preventing the people's will going into effect.
Mataafa succumbed to the superior war methods of his foes, surrendered, and was deported to one of the Marshall Islands, together with about a dozen of his highest chiefs. A large number of other chiefs were thrown into jail. Mataafa's deportation was carried out with the consent of Britain, Germany, and the United States.
Malietoa was now permanently set up as King by the Powers, in defiance of the natives' wishes. The three Consuls paid him official visits, while flags were flown and salutes fired. The people, however, refused to pay taxes, and the men-of-war were utilised as tax-gatherers. Even then Malietoa could not collect his revenues. He became universally detested, and in a few months Tamasese the younger revolted in the eastern districts of Upolu.
The people having refused to pay their taxes, the Government—run by the Chief Justice (Cedarkrantz) and the President of the Municipal Council (Baron von Pilsach)—soon found itself in difficulties. The Chief Justice and President thereupon planned a scheme to seize the Municipal funds. Von Pilsach was treasurer as well as President of the Council; and the first thing he and the Chief Justice did was to abstract surreptitiously from the Municipal treasury a sum of about £600, and with this they purchased the only news-paper in the town, the "Samoan Times," replacing the old editor with a deadbeat, who proceeded to run the paper to suit their purpose.
Stevenson said these two gentlemen (the Chief Justice and the President) "now behaved in a manner worthy of characters in comic opera." Moors describes how they behaved. Without the knowledge of the municipal Council, von Pilsach privately instituted a suit, in page 13 his capacity of adviser to the King, against the Municipality to obtain control of the funds, amounting in all to about four thousand pounds. Chief Justice Cedarkrantz heard the case. Von Pilsach appeared on behalf of the King; the Municipal Council was represented by—von Pilsach. The Baron argued in favour of the plaintiff; the Baron presented the case for the defendant. The Chief Justice listened patiently to what von Pilsach had to say on behalf of the King; he turned to hear what the same learned counsel had to say for the Municipality; and he then left the Court to write a decision diametrically opposed to his own verbal dictum given at a Council meeting a short time previously.
All this took place without a single soul connected with the Municipal Government knowing anything about it. When it was known there was open revolt. A special meeting of the Council was held, with Baron von Pilsach in the chair. Moors moved a motion expressing want of confidence in the President's integrity. The motion was seconded by almost every member of the Council. The President, however, refused to put it to the meeting, and abruptly adjourned the proceedings amid scenes of wild disorder.
Stevenson and Moors now framed a proclamation in the direction of organising forcible resistance to the procedure of the Chief Justice and von Pilsach; but the other Municipal Councillors got cold feet when the time for action came. Stevenson wrote to Andrew Lang: "It is a grind to be interrupted by midnight messengers, and pass your days in writing proclamations that are never proclamated."
On July 1, 1893, Sir John Thurston, British High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, issued a Queen's Regulation "for the maintenance of peace and good order in Samoa." This Regulation made it an act of sedition to do anything by word, deed or writing to make the people dissatisfied with the Government of Samoa—the expression "Government of Samoa" being defined to mean "the Government recognised as such in Samoa by the British Consular Office." Robert Louis Stevenson was convinced that the Regulation was aimed at himself, because of his efforts to protect the Samoans and improve their conditions. Interviewed by the Auckland "Herald," he described the Regulation as an historical curiosity. "The definition of sedition is unique in its way," he said. "It is seditious to say a word likely to bring about discontent or dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs." One wonders what the author of the "Vailima Letters" would have said about our N.Z. War Regulations.
When Sir John Thurston was interviewed later by the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" he darkly hinted that Mr. Stevenson had been, directly or indirectly, inciting the native population or others to resist the payment of their taxes. He further declared that the "unceasing interference and meddlesomeness of irresponsible person was making peace and good order unattainable.
Stevenson had been in the habit of visiting Mataafa at Malie, and this fact was construed as "showing a seditious turn of mind."page 14
In August of 1893. Stevenson wrote in the "Vailima Letters": "Of course, I was very sorry for Mataafa, but a good deal sorrier and angrier about the mismanagement of all the white officials. I cannot bear to write about that. Manono all destroyed, one house standing in Apolima, the women stripped, the prisoners beaten with whips, and the women's heads taken—All Under White Auspices. And for upshot and result of so much shame to the white Powers— Tamasese already conspiring! as I knew and preached in vain must be the case."
In September of 1898, Mataafa was allowed to return to Samoa, conditionally on his signing an agreement to remain at Mulinuu, and not depart therefrom without the written consent of the Consuls of the three Treaty Powers; that he would not encourage or participate in any hostile action against the Government, and that he would up-hold and support the Government of Malietoa.
Malietoa died on August 22, 1899; and Mataafa (according to the Parliamentary Papers) does not appear to have taken any overt steps to claim the vacant throne, but a section of the natives pronounced in his favour, and announced on November 12 to the Consuls and Chief Justice that Mataafa had been elected King. An opposing faction disputed the election, and announced that they had chosen Malietoa Tanu.
Now, at the fifth sitting of the Berlin Conference of 1889, Bismarck had made a statement to the effect that he regarded Mataafa as ineligible for election to the Kingship because in the fighting in December, 1888, outrages had been committed by his followers against the German marines. A detachment of Germans had been landed to "protect the German plantations" during a native rising, and the Germans were attacked and defeated by the Samoans, more than 50 of the former being killed and wounded. It was alleged that the heads of some of the slain were taken.
It is recorded that soon after the German heads were taken in 1888. Mr. Carne, Wesleyan Missionary, had occasion to visit Mataafa's camp, and spoke of the practice with abhorrence. "Misi Kane," said one chief, "we have just been puzzling ourselves to guess where that custom came from. But, Misi, is it not so that when David killed Goliah, he cut off his head and carried it before the King?"
The Chief Justice (now a Mr. Chambers) declared Mataafa ineligible, and based his decision on Bismarck's 1889 objection. He declared Malietoa Tanu the elected King. "Mataafa was the one exception in the principle of the Samoans having the right to elect their King."
Mataafa's supporters refused to accept the Chief Justice's decision; and in the conflict which followed Samoans, Germans, Americans, and British laid down their lives.
In 1902, King Oscar, of Sweden, acting as arbitrator between the Powers, gave an award in which he held that Great Britain and America were liable for damage resulting from The bombardment of page 15 Apia and neighbourhood during March and April, 1899. King Oscar outlines the events of those months in his award, which is included in Parliamentary Papers, 1902, No. 130. He sets forth that on March 15, 1899, the U.S. Philadelphia and the British Porpoise and Royalist opened fire across the town of Apia and on the land situate in the rear of the said town, the fire being directed against the forces of the High Chief Mataafa, the greater part of the adherents of the newly-appointed King of Samoa, Malietoa Tanu, having in those days been brought to Apia from different parts of the Samoan Islands by the British and American naval commanders, landed at Mulinuu, and supplied by them with arms and ammunition, when active hostilities ensued between the Malietoans and the Mataafa party. From the 15th March up to the 25th April the said ships frequently bombarded the rear of Apia as well as other localities in the island of Upolu, and destroyed villages by landing parties, assisted therein from March 24 by the British ship Tauranga. The British and U.S. forces made frequent expeditions into the interior, reinforced by Malietoa's native forces—for the purpose of fighting and also to seize food supplies, while in Apia itself a severe control of the Street traffic was established by the British and American military authorities through the posting of sentries, with orders to allow only bearers of passports issued by the said authorities to pass. This was done in violation of the Berlin Treaty of June 14, 1889, which provided that "neither of the Powers shall exercise any separate control over the islands or the Government thereof"—in short, that the Powers could only proceed by common accord. Ammunition was distributed to the Malietoans from the reserve stock, which was to be kept for the use of the Samoan Government and served out to the natives only by the unanimous request of the three Consuls, and such distribution was made by the British and American authorities without the consent of the German Consul.
King Oscar says: "We have found nothing in the evidence before us to show that the general condition of affairs was such as to render the military action necessary for the protection of lives and property."
Mataafa and his people proved themselves victorious in battle; and Malietoa, Tamasese (his principal supporter), and Mr. Chambers (Chief Justice) took refuge on a British ship.
After various conferences between the Consuls of the three Powers, the Chief Justice and the President of the Municipal Council, it was decided on June 4, 1899, to establish a Provisional Government, and a Proclamation was issued recognising Mataafa and thirteen chiefs as the Provisional Government, pending instructions from the Treaty Powers.
In the meantime, a Special Commission—consisting of an American, a German, and a British representative—was set up to report on Samoa. The outcome of this report was that early in 1900 the Berlin General Act was abrogated.page 16
Mrs. Churchill, who had no halting sentiments about the rights of small nationalities to look after their own affairs, explains the new development: "At last the absurd fiction of Samoan independence was laid aside, the Powers looked fairly upon the Archipelago as something to be divided—divided into three parts because there were three of them. This was accordingly done. To Germany was allowed Upolu, because of the preponderance of German interests in trade and inhabitants. Great Britain was assigned Savaii, with the statement that it was given to the British because it was the largest; no one ventured to dispute the suggestion that of a thing which has no value it better profits to have a large parcel than a small one. To the United States was assigned Manu'a and Tutuila. There can be no doubt ownership of Pago Pago Harbour is the really solid value of the whole Archipelago."
Almost as soon as this partition had been ratified, "another agreement was filed, whereby Great Britain conveyed Savaii to Germany for similarly transferred territory in the Solomon Islands and the extinction of German rights in the adjacent kingdom of Tonga, which thereupon became a British protectorate. Thus," says Mrs. Churchill, "the settlement of the Samoan question availed to wipe out the last two independent kingdoms on the face of the globe—Samoa and Tonga."
What strikes the leader is the way in which these territories and peoples were bartered with little or no consideration for their own wishes.
Since this partition, America has established a permanent coaling station at Pago Pago, and now administers Tutuila and the Manu'a group as a naval station under executive command of the commandant of the station, employing the Samoan chiefs as governors of their districts. There is no democratic rule; it is in every sense a military administration.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote with intense bitterness of the treatment of the natives by the trading interests and by the Powers at the back of those interests. German faults and aggressions made up the burden of his story; but the Germans in no wise stood alone. "Three nations were engaged in this infinitesimal affray, and not one appears with credit. They figure but as three ruffians of the older play-wrights. The United States have the cleanest hands, and even theirs are not immaculate."
Here is the root of all the trouble, as Stevenson seems to see it in the "Footnote to History": "There is so much copra in the islands, and no more; a man's share of it is his share of bread; and commerce, like politics, is here narrowed to a focus, shows its ugly side, and be-comes as personal as fisticuffs. Close at their elbows, in all this contention, stands the native, looking on…He looks at the rude career of the dollar hunt, and wonders. He sees these men rolling in a luxury beyond the mere ambition of native kings; he hears them page 17 accused by each other of the meanest trickery; he knows some of them to be guilty; and what is he to think?"
Theodor Weber (who was at one time both head of the firm and Consul for Samoa) did most damage to rival traders, and most harried the Samoans. "And yet," says Stevenson, "I never met anyone who did not respect his memory." "Weber lives in Samoan song. "One song tells plaintively, how all things, land and food and property, pass progressively, as by a law of Nature, into the hands of Misi Ueba, and soon nothing will be left for Samoa."
Out of this condition comes the shelling of villages "oh very trifling grounds by the Germans." And we are told "the like has been done of late years, though in a bitter quarrel, by ourselves of England. We read "how the Germans landed and shed blood at Fagalii"; and are reminded that "it was only in 1876 that we British had our own conceived little massacre at Mulinuu." We are told "how the Germans bludgeoned Malietoa with a sudden call for money"; and are again reminded that "it was something of the suddenest that Sir Arthur Gordon himself, smarting under a sensible public affront, made and enforced a somewhat similar demand."
And, in the "Footnote to History," we find Stevenson exclaiming: "Here, then, is a singular state of affairs: all the money, luxury, and business of the kingdom centred in one place, that place excepted from the Native Government and administered by whites for whites; and the whites themselves holding it not in common, but in hostile camps, so that it lies between them like a bone between two dogs, each growling, each clutching his own end."
Dr. H. I. Jensen (of N.S.W.), who visited Samoa some 13 or 14 years ago making geological researches, found the German firm quite as powerful in Samoa as the C.S.R. Co. is in Fiji. "The German firm makes its 50 per cent, before the smaller traders get their whack," he wrote in a series of articles in the "International Socialist." Most of the traders had faked balances and scales—and the natives knew it, but dared not prosecute, for most of them were kept in debt by the storekeepers. One storekeeper used to sell bags of bones to the natives as corned beef, using the meat himself. The natives conceived the happy idea of paying him out by half-filling bags with cocoanut shells and putting copra on top, and selling these to the trader as copra.
The magnitude of the cacao, cocoanut and rubber plantations at Samoa is shown by the following: Three British companies had an aggregate capital of £180,000. Seven German companies aggregated £350,000. One German plantation of 4000 acres is already tapping 2500lbs. of rubber a month. In the vicinity of Apia, land in cocoa or cocoanuts is now worth from £50 to £60 an acre.
The Germans developed Samoa, it is true, but hundreds of thousands of pounds of English money were sunk in the magnificent estates, the managers of which were nearly always German. Imported Chinamen and Solomon Islanders slaved on these estates "on contracts page 18 of three or of five years, and at a hypothetical wage of a few dollars a month"; and one writer declared: "It is said that primitive extra labour, by which the thrall's term of service is extended, has grown to be an abuse." These forced labourers used to escape, and take to the bush, where they harboured in a state partly bestial. They were hunted down and sometimes shot.
Behind the New Zealand movement for annexation is undoubtedly the trade incentive. In 1912 the export values from Samoa were divided almost wholly between Australia and Germany, £ 102.223 going to the former country and £126,790 to the latter; and one writer (Jeffery: "Samoa: Its History and Legend") has not hesitated to say: "Had the present war not eventuated, in a short time the German Pacific trade would have been materially increased and ours correspondingly decreased."
Since our military occupation of Samoa, the imports to that country from N.Z. have risen to £56,000 in 1915, and to £71,781 in 1916. The imports are chiefly haberdashery, kerosene, provisions, etc. Mainly From Australia And New Zealand. Our local capitalists see in the troubled little islands a field for exploitation, and our militaristically-minded rulers know that if they could only make New Zealand an Imperialistic colonising agency a much stronger case than at present exists could be made for the retention of Conscription and a permanent militarism after the Continental idea when the war is over. Indeed, one has only to look at the evidences of permanency which Trentham provides to understand the things the Tories have in contemplation—if the people should prove unwise enough to give them the opportunity.
It is, of course, quite understood that New Zealand is merely in military occupation of Samoa while the war lasts. Our voice in the matter of what is to be done with it when the war is ended will not amount to much more than a whisper. In the meantime, it is the German law—not British law—that we are administering at Savaii, Upolu, and the smaller islands.
"Our" taking of German Samoa makes most interesting reading. One of our very blatant Patriots has declared that because we "took" Samoa we are entitled to keep it. But did We take it?
On August 14, one writer informs us, "the Moeraki and Monowai dressed in grey and altered beyond recognition, and sinking their identity under cabalistic designations, anchored in the stream in Wellington Harbour, and stole silently away at dawn next morning." The Moeraki had 25 officers, 3 nurses, and 674 other ranks; the Monowai, 28 officers, 3 nurses, and 677 other ranks—1410 in all. These transports were convoyed by the Psyche, Pyramus, and Philomel. At Noumea, where they arrived on August 20, they were joined by the Australia (19,200 tons) and the Montcalm (9367 tons). On August 26 they were joined at Fiji by the Sydney and the Melbourne, each of about 8000 tons. This formidable expedition reached Samoa on Sunday morning, August 30. After the harbour had been swept for page 19 mines, the Psyche entered under a flag of truce, hearing a message from Admiral Paty demanding surrender of the territory. Dr. Schultz (Governor of Samoa) was absent; and his deputy refused to surrender, but intimated that in the face of the superior force brought he would not oppose a landing. A covering boat then landed Colonel Logan; and next day, August 31, the British flag was hoisted. Dr. Schultz surrendered with his officials, and is now a prisoner of war in New Zealand.
Colonel Logan's subsequent proclamation contains a paragraph clause 10) that is extremely interesting. It reads: "All officials of the German Government who desire to continue to carry out their functions under the present military Government must report themselves forthwith to the commander of the occupying force, and such as may be retained in their employment will receive the same rate of remuneration as was received by them prior to the occupation."
What shall be Labour's attitude towards the proposal that Samoa should be annexed to New Zealand? Is it not clearly defined in the 1917 Conference Peace resolution?
Because Socialism proclaims itself against the oppression of a race or of a sex or of an individual, the Labour Movement may be relied on to stand firm in its opposition to the annexation of Samoa or any other country. It is true we do not want to see Western Samoa handed back to Germany, notwithstanding that "our" diplomats sold—or rather swapped—it to Germany. We do not want to see Germany with a naval base in the Pacific; Equally We do not Want to See Any Other Country with a Naval Base in the Pacific. We look beyond the trading interests of the handful of economic undesirables who exploit the needs of their own and every other country, and who want Samoa annexed because of the additional opportunities it presents for profiteering. We look beyond the smaller national interests, and recognise that the future of Samoa must be determined not from any narrow viewpoint, not even from the view-point of the commercial or other interests of New Zealand, but from the larger viewpoint of world interests. We maintain, what is self-evident, that no people whatever is good enough to hold any other people in subjection; that all peoples are capable of governing themselves according to their own genius and in the light of their own historical period. We point to Fiji, which is under "our" control, and which abundantly proves "our" inability" to protect a primitive people from the depredations of British Capitalism—Fiji, which its allotment of two women to one man, and its legal subversion of the white code of morals to the requirements of trade and profiteering. Let the revelations made by the Rev. C. F. Andrews, M.A., who visited Fiji for the Women's Council of India, be read; and also the exposures contained in the "Call of the Pacific" by the Rev. J. W. Burton. The Australasian "Intercollegian," March 1, 1918, in dealing with this question, insists that certain legislation passed by responsible Governments has led inevitably to immoral results, and says: "The enactment of the Gov- page 20 ernment of India, first that 33 women, and then later that 40 women should go out to live in the crowded coolie lines in Fiji with every 100 men, was such a regulation." What guarantee is there that we would hold Samoa in subjection and not permit the same awful horror to develop there that was allowed to develop in Fiji? What guarantee is there that we would not make Samoa a miniature Ireland?
We of the Labour movement look at the casualty lists—at the long record of the men who went out in the morning of life and died heroically, "theirs not to reason why"; we look at the maimed and broken men and boys returning—the lads who, in the fullness of health and strength, went forth to battle, and who come back to us physically wrecked and prematurely aged and blind and crippled; and we do not hesitate to proclaim criminal the mere suggestion that the future of Samoa should be permitted to prolong this mad business of war, this wholesale slaughter of men. We insist that when the plenipotentiaries of Britain and her Allies meet those of the enemy countries at the Peace Conference they shall not be embarrassed with the little demands arising out of narrow class interests that centre around a thousand square miles of isolated territory, and that is at best a fly-speck on the map of the world.
This is the answer, then, that the Labour movement in New Zealand can be depended on to give to the interests that clamour for annexation. We insist on the right of every people to determine its own destiny—to choose the country under whose flag it will range itself, or to remain a separate nationality. We stand uncompromisingly for the principle of No Annexations—and in this we do not stand alone. The Labour and Socialist movement of all the world stands for the same principle. We insist that when Peace is made, the fullest rights of internal self-government must be guaranteed to the Samoan people—as well as to the people of all other countries. Otherwise the Allies' claim to stand for the rights of small nationalities would be counted for sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. In so far as its international relationships are concerned, we declare that the safety of Samoa and of the World's Democracy as well would be best served by international organisation. This does not apply to Samoa alone. It applies to the international relationships of all peoples. It involves the destruction of Secret Diplomacy and the introduction of daylight methods. And it leads at last to the ending of Capitalism and its machinery of Imperialism and Militarism, with its inevitable arbitrament of War.
Finally, we of the Labour movement will be found to be unanimous and emphatic in our insistence that the question of the future of Samoa must not be permitted in any way to delay the Peace settlement or prolong for a single day the present appalling slaughter of the world's best manhood.
"Worker" Print. 290 Wakefleld St., Wellington.