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The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884

Chapter III — The Origins of German Interests, 1854–75

page 57

Chapter III
The Origins of German Interests, 1854–75

i. The Copra Trade

It has been shown that until 1855 the commercial value of the islands lay in the supplying of articles of European manufacture to missionaries and to natives under missionary influence. Payment was made by supplying pigs and fruit, and also a little pearl and tortoiseshell. As the natives came under missionary influence there was added to these coconut oil, the production of which was encouraged by missionaries, who taught them to construct presses for the purpose.

Further commercial developments during the century arose from two things: firstly, the increased demand for oil in European markets for the manufacture of candles and soap; and secondly, the readiness and efficiency of the Hamburg merchants, Godeffroy & Son, in availing themselves of this to build up a far-reaching organization for the satisfaction of the demand. Moreover, Samoa became the centre of their activity.

As the copra and oil trade was essentially dependent upon the demand for oil in Europe, it is well to examine the antecedents of that demand. Until the early nineteenth century the chief house illuminants were either wax or tallow candles, the wax dear, the tallow unpleasant. With the rapid increase in the population, and the rise in England, and later all over Europe, of a prosperous middle class, there arose also a demand for candles. Improved methods of illumination caused an increasing tendency to exploit the hours of night, and vice versa the spread of this habit led to a demand for illuminants.

Until the experiments of Chevreul1 had led the way in

1 1811–23; see Encyclopædia Britannica, articles "Chevreul," "Soap," "Oil."

page 58splitting up the constituents of fat, both candles and soap were made from tallow. Chevreul's discoveries made possible the employment of other fats. Spermaceti, it was found, could be used for candles, and the Pacific sperm whaling industries profited. Continued researches threw on the market another Pacific product. In 1829 a certain J. Soames took out a patent (No. 5842) for separating coconut oil into solid and liquid constituents. In 1840 coconut oil was used for soap,1 and in the course of the next decade Price & Field, prominent candle manufacturers to this day, introduced it into their candle manufacture. The demand for it rose rapidly: Ellis, a missionary in Tahiti, wrote in 1831 that oil had recently become an article of exportation, "although the value is so small as to afford but little encouragement to its extended manufacture."2 Within twenty years its price was to rise to £12 a ton in the Pacific and £20 a ton in England—a value which amply repaid not only export but special cultivation. The trade was indeed foster-brother to the whaling industry, not ousting it, but with it helping to meet the needs of the new age. The islands, previously merely picturesque ports of call, now afforded wealth in a more tangible form, and the traders began to reap the fruits of the missionaries' civilizing efforts, to which they had made no contribution.

In Samoa, the first export of coconut oil was by Williams, the son of the missionary, who in 1842 shipped 6 tons of oil.3 In 1859, 592 tons worth £14,0004 were exported, and in the year 1875 the copra export was valued at £121,360.5

The profits of this extensive trade lay partly in the ease with which copra and oil could be produced and partly in

1 R.L. Sturtwant, Patent No. 9230.

2 Ellis, Polynesian Researches, vol. i, p. 57.

3 Murray, Missions in Western Polynesia, p. 466.

4 P.P. 1860, vol. 65, c. 2753. Report on the Navigator Islands.

5 P.P. 1876, vol. 76, c. 1589. Report on the Navigator Islands; 15, 170 tons copra worth $606,800, 20 tons oil worth $2,000.

page 59the ready markets for oil in Europe. The production of oil was in due course supplemented, and then superseded, by copra (about 1868–74).1 The pressing of oil was a laborious task for the idle Samoan. The simplest method of preparing oil, by drying the nut in the sun and allowing the oil to run off, was wasteful. The presses invented by the missionaries were primitive. The transport of oil required barrels, not always easily obtained or manufactured on the islands. Besides, the Samoans jibbed at any work that they could avoid—copra could be much more easily prepared. The nut was opened, the flesh cut in small pieces, allowed to dry in the sun, and so was ready for export. In this form it was easily packed into sacks, and from it not only was oil obtained but the residual cake was found, in Germany, to be suitable for feeding cattle. Another product of the coconut palm, the fibre, found a market in Europe for making mats. In spite of the luxuriant growth of the palm on the coasts of all the tropical Pacific islands, certain disadvantages in its production became manifest to the copra and oil traders by about 1865. The first was the laziness of the natives. Even as late as 1890 the communistic principle of division prevailed. Two influences tended to undermine the ancient custom. The example and teaching of the missionaries separated the converts from their families, and they emulated their teachers' neat plastered houses and civilized garb. Christians, moreover, became the proud possessors of Bibles, books, paper, ink, and clothes, all forms of private property contrary to communal custom. The other influence was that of warfare, which continued to distract the country until the end of the nineteenth century. The Samoans learned that the white man had one thing that he prized—firearms. In the wars of the late 1870's they were even willing to part with their land to obtain guns and gunpowder.2 Spirituous

1 In 1875 oil was still being exported in small quantities.

2 P.P. 1873, vol. 65, c. 828, p. 923. Report of Consul Williams. P.P. 1880, vol. 74, c. 2577. Report of Consul Graves.

page 60liquor, though imported, was not retailed on a large scale to natives.

Another handicap to the growing coconut oil and copra trade, besides the unwillingness of the natives to work, was the reluctance of the natives of certain islands to part with their copra. In the Ellice and Gilbert Islands, for example, coconuts formed the staple food and drink of the natives. They preferred to let the surplus rot than to risk a famine. These disadvantages led to the principal traders, the German firm of Godeffroy & Co., to embark upon the policy of buying land for plantations. The important effects of this step are dealt with later in the chapter in connection with the growth and organization of the Godeffroy firm in Samoa.

So much space has been devoted to copra because it was undoubtedly the most important product of Samoa. It was the demand for oils that had led the enterprise of the Hamburg merchants to the South Seas. The cultivation of cotton was for a time a source of profit second only to copra. In 1859 Williams, the British Consul, reported that cotton grew luxuriantly.1 During the American Civil War, which had important effects upon planting in Fiji, cotton was grown in Samoa. In 1864, when the demand for cotton was great, the first shipment was exported. In 1875, 150,000 1b. to the value of $227,000 was shipped from Apia.2 Two varieties were grown, the sea island cotton which was utilized in the silk factories in Alsace-Lorraine, and the kidney which was used in Saxony.3 Cotton seed was also exported. From 1865 on, cotton was planted on the German coconut plantations for the first seven years, to shelter the young palms. When these were grown the cotton bushes

1 P.P. 1860, vol. 65, c. 2753, pp. 14–15.

2 P.P. 1876, vol. 76, c. 1589.

3 Congress Docs., Hse. Mis. Doc, Cons. Monthly Report, 1881, No. 3, vol. ii, September 18, 1880. Total export 1880, 2,500,000 lb.

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Fig. I.—Exports from Apia, 1859–1875

Fig. I.—Exports from Apia, 1859–1875

page 62were cut down, grass planted, and cattle grazed. Ultimately the labour problem proved to be a bar to the successful cultivation of cotton. By 1895 it was no longer grown in German plantations.1 The fact that no attempt was made to revive its culture may indicate that the islands were not altogether suited to it.

There were in the 1880's and 1890's considerable and hopeful experiments in coffee, cocoa, and india-rubber.2 In 1888 the U.S. Consul-General Sewall reported that the Germans had 450 acres of coffee planted, from which they obtained a crop of 90,000 lb.3 The outbreak of coffee disease in 1895, however, ruined this culture in succeeding years. Cocoa has since become a source of profit to the islands, and a little rubber is exported at the present day.4 These later experiments, however, lie outside the period under consideration. As early as 1880 it was becoming clear that the first estimates of the fertility of the group were exaggerated.5 The failure of successive crops at a time of native disorders in the 1890's and a severe depression in the Australasian Colonies set the islands on a new standard of value. In the negotiations of 1899 the issue for Germany was one involving sentiment and national honour rather than national gain.6

1 P.P. 1893, vol. 101, c. 1587.

2 Ibid.

3 Congress Documents (Hse. Misc.), 50–55, Cons. Report, No. 97, vol. 27, August 15, 1888. Coffee. Attempts to introduce coffee were made in 1863, 1879, and 1882. It was found to thrive on the upland plateau at a height of about 800 ft. above sea-level.

4 Handbook of Western Samoa.

5 F.O. 244/341. Memo, by Maudslay, November 9, 1881.

6 Gooch and Temperley, British Documents on the Origin of the War, vol. i. Lascelles to Salisbury, March 24, 1899.

ii. The Godeffroy Firm

The firm that sprang forward to seize the opportunity of supplying European markets with coconut oil was the page 63Hamburg firm of Johann Cesar Godeffroy & Son. The only other trading concern of importance in the islands was also German, that of Ruge, Hedemann & Co., established in 1875, which was run on a very much smaller scale. Germans, consequently, were constantly bargaining with natives for copra, and buying their land, and later (after 1876) interfering in native affairs to secure peace and justice.

The Godeffroy agents were not by any means the first Germans to venture to the South Seas. From the beginning of the century Prussian whalers had hunted in Pacific waters, though it was the Hamburg merchants who built up in the Pacific interests of a real and weighty character. In 1837 Hamburg vessels called at Sydney. They were the forerunners of many more, who yearly increased in numbers, and who absorbed a large proportion of the Pacific islands' trade. The first Hamburg merchant ship called at Apia in the Navigator Islands in 1847. Ten years later this port was chosen to be the centre for the trade of the Godeffroy firm.

The founders of the Godeffroy family were originally French refugees who settled in Hamburg,1 possibly at the end of the seventeenth century. Their first enterprises to the South Seas were about the year 1845, in the Sandwich Islands. Within the succeeding five years they had establishments in Valparaiso, Cochin China, and in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. It was from Valparaiso that the first agents came to Polynesia. Tahitian traders had voyaged to Valparaiso for flour, and the success of other traders in Tahiti (e.g. Hort Bros. and Brander) inspired the German firm to set up a rival establishment in the vicinity. The first station in the islands was in the Taumatu Archipelago, but the Navigator Islands offered so many more advantages that within a few years they moved thither. Apia became the

1 Kirchoff, Alfred, Die Sudsee Inseln und der deutche Sudsee handel, p. 261. Frommel und Pfaff, Sammerlung von Vortragen, 1880, vol. iii.

page 64
Fig. 2—Chart Showing Tonnage of Ships—British, German, and American—That Called at Apia, 1858–85(Figures from British Parliamentary Papers)Chief features: (1) Great preponderance of German shipping. (2) German ships were small and numerous (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 2—Chart Showing Tonnage of Ships—British, German, and American—That Called at Apia, 1858–85(Figures from British Parliamentary Papers)
Chief features: (1) Great preponderance of German shipping. (2) German ships were small and numerous (see Fig. 3).

page 65
Fig. 3.—Chart Showing Number of Ships Calling at Apia, 1858–85(Figures from British Parliamentary Papers)

Fig. 3.—Chart Showing Number of Ships Calling at Apia, 1858–85
(Figures from British Parliamentary Papers)

page 66centre of the firm's trade, and the station on the Taumatu Islands was abandoned in 1867.1

August Unshelm, the Godeffroy agent, first visited Samoa in May 1854.2 The advantageous position of the islands could not fail to impress him. In 1856 he came for a second time to Samoa, and strongly recommended it as a commercial centre. By 1857 the firm was established with an agency in Apia for trade amongst the islands. Small vessels were commissioned to collect oil, and later copra, from the surrounding island groups, while bigger ships carried the valuable cargo from Apia to Europe.3

The suitability of Samoa for such a depôt need hardly be emphasized. Its position between the semi-civilized Polynesian and the unexploited Melanesian islands was admirable. The coral atolls4 of the Ellice and Gilbert Islands, the Marshalls and the Carolines were within easy sailing distance for small vessels. The group itself was normally within at most a fortnight's sailing of Sydney or Auckland. It was about midway on the direct route between Valparaiso and Cochin China. Should the Central American Canal, then a much-discussed project, ever become a reality, it would facilitate direct communication with Europe. The natives were unusually docile. The islands were very fertile, and believed to be outside the hurricane track, though exceptional visits could be most devastating. There were two tolerable harbours on Upolu beside that of Apia, those

1 Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, London, 1880, p. 48.

2 Trood, Island Reminiscences; Brunsdon Fletcher, The New Pacific. N.B.—Various dates are given for the establishment of the Godeffroys in Apia, e.g. Scholefield 1857, Zimmermann 1864. Trood himself records landing in 1857 and finding that Unshelm had been established some three years.

3 Hertz, Richard, Das Hamburger Seehandelshaus J. C. Godeffroy und Sohn, 1766–1879. This is vol. iv of Veroffentlichungen des vereins für Hamburgische Geschichte. Hamburg, 1922.

4 Where coconut palms abounded.

page 67of Saluafata and Falealili, and that of Pago-Pago was quite exceptionally good.

In 1864 August Unshelm was drowned at sea.1 By that time he had woven the outline threads of his web of Pacific trade. The firm was fortunate in having a remarkable man on the spot to consolidate and enlarge his work. In 1861, at the age of only eighteen, Theodore Weber was sent to Apia as his assistant, with a commission for Unshelm as Consul for Hamburg and the North German Confederation. Himself a man of unbounded energy and tact, of foresight, enterprise, and efficiency, he devoted his talents unceasingly to the work of building up Germany's commercial power in the South Seas. It is impossible to say how far his plans at the outset were for political aggrandizement, how far the commercial needs of his firm involved first interference in native politics, and later to ensure the establishment of a stable government. Sterndale2 recounts that prior to 1870 Weber was preparing a scheme for the settlement and colonization of Germans in Samoa. Many more acres of the best land were bought than could immediately be planted. The higher plateau was to be colonized by Germans, the sea-coast by Chinese who were to become indentured labourers. The elder Godeffroy, who was a personal friend of Bismarck's, was to enlist his sympathies. The Hertha was already commissioned to come out when the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War involved the recall of the Hertha and the blockade of Hamburg, and in the succeeding years the Godeffroy firm had too many encompassing difficulties to indulge in any far-reaching schemes. Certainly by 1872 there were rumours in Sydney that the Germans were planning annexation.3 In 1871 Weber suggested to the new

1 P.P. 1866, vol. 69.

2 Appendix to Journal of House of Representatives, New Zealand, 1874, vol. i. Papers relating to South Sea Islands, A. 3. Memo by Sterndale. Also, Lowe, C., Prince Bismarck, 1887, pp. 211–12.

3 C.O. 209/230. Ferguson to Kimberley (No. 10220), August 1, 1873.

page 68

Imperial Government the assumption of guardianship, control, or protection over the Samoan islands.1 Webb states that it was with chagrin that Weber saw, in February 1872, Captain Meade of the U.S.S. Narrangansett make his unauthorized treaty with Mauga, chief of Tutuila, for the acquisition of Pago-Pago harbour as a U.S. naval station.2 Within a short time of this he returned to Germany. While he was at home, and we may certainly assume his influence in the affair, Steinberger drew up his agreement with the Godeffroys.3 This implies that the firm was seeking primarily the establishment of peace, and that only later, as the colonial movement in Germany became stronger, and there was hope of Government support, did Germans work for annexation.

To Weber is due the organization and efficiency of the firm's branch in Samoa. All accounts show him to have been tactful, charming, but of dominating personality. R. L. Stevenson, although he never met him personally, says this of him4: "He was an artful and commanding character; in the smallest thing or in the greatest, without fear or scruple; equally able to affect, equally able to adopt, the most engaging politeness or the most imperious airs of domination. It was he who did most damage to rival traders; it was he who most harried the Samoans; and yet I have never met anyone, white or native, who did not respect his memory. All felt that it was a gallant battle, and the man a great fighter: and now when he is dead, and the war seems to have gone against him, many can scarce remember, without a kind of regret, how much devotion and audacity have been spent in vain. His name still lives in the songs of

1 Townsend, E. M., Origins of Modern German Colonization, p. 47.

2 C.O. 209/226 (No. 8805). Enclosure W. H. Webb to Vogel, April 14, 1872. Webb was owner of the trans-Pacific Steamship line of 1869, and he was considering making Pago-Pago a port of call.

3 See infra, chap, v, p. 119.

4 A Footnote to History, p. 89.

page 69Samoa." He died in 1889, the end in more ways than one of an epoch in Samoan history.

The monument to the man, indicative of himself and his methods, is the organization he built up, an organization of immense importance in Samoan affairs. The distinguishing feature of the Godeffroy Company in the South Seas was the large scale of their activities. From Apia trading vessels radiated to the surrounding islets. The consular report of 1883 (Appendix) shows the preponderance of German trade and shipping over that of other countries. Shipping alone increased from eight vessels in 1859 to one hundred and sixty-one in 1883 (see Fig. 3, p. 65).

The methods of running so far-reaching an enterprise are described by an employee of the firm in 1874.1 Men of all nationalities were engaged to serve as agents at the various depôts. Three questions were asked them: "Can you speak the language? Can you keep your mouth shut? Can you live among natives without quarrelling with them?" Among their instructions was the advice to steer clear of missionaries. "Give no assistance to missionaries by word or deed, beyond what is demanded by common humanity," for the missionary taught that cloth or coin were better than beads and tobacco. Traders were further advised: "Have a woman of your own, no matter what island you take her from, for a trader without a wife is in continual hot water." The firm supplied the trader with materials for his house, and the promise of a commission on his produce. It is hardly to be wondered at that tales should come back of the hard actions of the firm's agents. Stationed on outlying islands among hostile natives, a bullying manner backed by the guns of a visiting man-of-war secured the position of the lonely white man. The men who engaged on such enterprises were such as wanted no questions asked.

1 Appendix to Journal of House of Representatives, New Zealand, 1874. South Sea Papers, pt. ii. Memo. by Sterndale.

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The masters of the trading vessels were similarly remunerated. They were paid on the low scale of 25 dollars a month, and the ships were not insured, but each master secured a commission of 3 per cent on the profits of every successful voyage.1

It has already been shown how the laziness of Samoans led to the new step of buying and planting land. In this the Germans were pioneers. Even as late as 1883 they were very nearly the only planters.2 The great importance of this was that the possession of land tied down German interests to the islands and that plantations were a proof of this. They further involved a staff of European agents—not by any means always German—but nevertheless in German pay. When the question of annexation by one of the Great Powers came up, the extensive German interests, quite apart from trade, were a deciding factor against British and United States claims. Finally, and perhaps most important, was the fact that native civil wars made planting hopelessly precarious. The constant depredations led to attempts to control the chaos, to insistence on the neutrality of plantations, and so to attempts to control the government. At any rate, until 1879 the evidence seems to show that the German firm wanted primarily peace in order to trade. In 1874 the Godeffroy firm made an agreement with the American adventurer, Colonel Steinberger,3 by which he agreed to establish peace and give the firm certain advantages over other traders in acquiring copra. Yet Steinberger hoped to see the United States establish a protectorate over Samoa. To this the Godeffroy agreement seemed no bar.

The methods by which the Germans obtained their land are for the most part wrapped in mystery. Occasional

1 Gordon Camming, A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War, p. 135.

2 Exceptions were the Roman Catholic plantations and Cornwall's estate—Cornwall was from New Zealand.

3 See infra, chap. v.

page 71allusions in dispatches throw light on their dealings. It is probable that the way in which Germans acquired plantations made them unpopular with natives. We hear, for instance, of land claims being enforced by H.I.M.S. Arcona in 1874,1 and of ammunition being supplied as payment in war time.2 Buying land from natives inevitably involved complications. Samoans, like the Maoris of New Zealand or the Bantu in Africa, held land communally. The chiefs had no right to sell land that belonged to a whole family or tribe. In practice, though, a chief would sell land sometimes without even the knowledge of his family, and the Germans had to resort to bullying methods to oust "the squatters" on the land they had purchased. In 1882 the British Consul speaks of "the native tenure of land so intricate and complicated" and "the inclination of the native to effect wrongful sales with a view to reclaiming the land subsequently." Sometimes the Germans mortgaged the land to natives, obtaining from them a steady supply of copra.
However the Germans obtained their land, there can be no doubt that by 1879 they had acquired by far the greatest trading interests in the group. The German-Samoan treaty of that year stipulated that land sales down to the time of ratification of the treaty in Berlin should be recognized. As the treaty allowed two years for ratification, this gave Weber time to consolidate the firm's plantations if he wished to do so. By the Berlin Act of 1889 the Powers stipulated that land sales prior to 1879 should be regarded as valid. Thus the validity of the greater part of the German land titles came to be established. The appropriation of land gave Germans a tangible proof of their interests, which was extremely important in succeeding negotiations for deciding the ultimate fate of the islands. Though Britishers in the South Seas, particularly in New Zealand, claimed as great

1 F.O. 244/275. Correspondence between Derby and Russell re Arcona affair, October and November 1874.

2 See infra, p. 74.

page 72an import as the German export trade,1 it was upon their plantations that the Germans considered that they had prior rights.
A medium of payment for lands and copra that was introduced by the German firm was Chilean and Bolivian silver. This specie, very much debased, was bought cheaply and circulated as though equivalent to United States currency.2 The unfortunate Samoans were thus defrauded into receiving only three-quarters of the price they bargained for. Incidentally, it also proved an obstacle to the development of American trade. "South American coins," wrote Consul Dawson in 1880, "pass here [Apia] at par, and when a cargo is brought from San Francisco here and exchanged for this depreciated coin the prices must be exorbitantly high, such as cannot always be realized to cover the discount of eighteen cents on the dollar in the former market."3 The British Consul also complains of this in 1879. Goods imported were paid for in this debased currency. The Germans issued drafts at ninety days' notice and gained 5 per cent on the transaction.4 Incidentally, the introduction

1 This is not justified. It seems more probable that German traders imported goods from the Australasian Colonies.

2 Gordon Cumming, A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War, p. 135.

3 Congress Doc., Hse. Misc. Doc., Cons. Monthly Report, 1881, Nos. 3–8, vol. ii. Report of Consul Dawson, September 18, 1880.

4 P.P. 1880, vol. 74, c. 2577. It is only fair to say that the currency had always been somewhat mongrel. The Samoan token money was their mats, the missionaries used oil as a basis of exchange. By 1856 the following specie were in circulation:

Gold.Spanish doubloons= 16 Dollars
Eagle of the United States= 10 Dollars
Chilean piastre= 10 Dollars
English sovereign= 5 Dollars
French 20-franc piece= 4 Dollars
Silver.Spanish dollar= 1 Dollars
Mexican and Peruvian dollar= 1 Dollars
French 5-francs= 1 Dollars
English half-crown= 50 Cents
English shilling= 25 Cents
See P.P. 1860, vol. 65, c. 2753.

page 73and use of this currency enhanced the problem of a peaceful settlement within the islands in the years 1889–99.

Occasional hints show the methods by which the Godeffroys extended trade. Miss Gordon Cumming1 calls them the "grab-all's of the Pacific"—a name which any enterprising firm might covet, if successfully achieved. Their methods of gaining ascendancy are, where traceable, illuminating. In Tonga, for instance, Layard describes the natives mortgaging their copra for ready money that they might outvie each other at the mission meeting contributions.2 It suited the missionaries to obtain ready money, it suited the natives to appear virtuous in their large contributions, and it suited the Godeffroy agents to obtain rights over copra picked or unpicked. Thus the natives fell into debt, the Wesleyans raised £15,000 in a year, and the Godeffroys ousted other traders.

To secure stability to native government and favourable treatment the firm tried to get into touch with, or even to assist in establishing the directors of native governments. In Samoa the Godeffroys made a contract3 with Steinberger by which he was not only to receive German support in his attempt to secure a stable government, but he was to raise taxes in copra which he would sell to the firm.4 Mr. Shirley Baker, the sometime Wesleyan missionary and Tongan Prime Minister, was believed to hold a similar agreement in that island. Consul Liardet of Samoa hints that Weber had the previous Consul Williams "under his thumb" and that he attempted to control any leading member of the community by bribery. He speaks of the U.S. Consul Colmesnil as "constantly in the pay of Mr. Weber."5

Besides enlisting the aid of white men of importance in

1 Gordon Cumming, op. cit., p. 135.

2 F.O. 58/150. Layard to Derby, March 8, 1876.

3 44 Congress, 2nd Sess., Hse. Ex. Doc. 44, Foster to Hunter, March 8, 1876.

4 F.O. 58/150. Layard to Derby, March 8, 1876.

5 F.O. 58/156. Liardet to Wilde, Confidential, October 18, 1877.

page 74furthering their ends, the firm endeavoured to set rules to fall in with their wishes by even less creditable methods. For example, Liardet describes Weber, in time of civil war, threatening one side (the Taimua and Faipule) that he would supply their enemies (the Puletua) with ammunition unless they complied with his demand for an agreement.1 The frequency of such reports, the variety of sources from which they spring, indicate that they are in essence true, even if the details are exaggerated. One fact comes out clearly, that Germany was unpopular with the natives. Great Britain, New Zealand, and the United States were all petitioned frequently to annex the islands between 1870–84, but there was not one such application to Germany. In his report in 1880 Maudslay,2 while stating the case for annexation to Germany, said frankly that there was not any desire for German rule. "Even the chiefs who feel most strongly the impossibility of a native government would be very reluctant to cede their country to Germany."3 This unpopularity was due to the aggressive action of individual Germans, and to a distrust inspired by sharp practice and bullying methods. Much of the work of the firm was carried on secretly, e.g. ships left harbour with sealed orders, and this fermented the distrust of foreigner as well as native. Indicative of this is the letter from the Consul of the Duke of York Islands, who, though himself so remotely situated, writes to the Foreign Office of the fears of German domination in the Pacific.4
In one other activity have the Germans been indicted by Stevenson and later writers,5 i.e. their treatment of

1 F.O. 58/156. Liardet to Wilde, Confidential, October 18, 1877.

2 F.O. 244/341. F.O. to Lord Odo Russell, November 9th, enclosing Memo. by Maudslay, October 20, 1880.

3 Ibid.

4 F.O. 244/308. F.O. to Russell, enclosing Memo. by Palgrave to F.O., July 30, 1877.

5 Brunsdon Fletcher in The New Pacific, Stevenson's Germany, who indicts German methods heavily at a time immediately after the war when he wished to prevent German Colonies—particularly Samoa—from returning to Germany.

page 75imported labourers. This much-vexed question of the labour trade, the "kanaka"1 trade, or "blackbirding," as it was variously called, which affected English planters in Queensland and Fiji, was in Samoa only the concern of the German firm. In 1882 there was only one British plantation on which imported labourers worked.2 The majority of labourers were in the employ of Germans. At first the kanakas were from the Gilbert and Ellice, or "Line" Islands, as all islands on the Equator were frequently called; later they were brought from the Marshalls, New Britain, Solomons, and the New Hebrides. The onus of importation rested partly on the British, as many contractors were British. At first their treatment seems to have been fairly good. Sterndale, who was employed for a time by the Godeffroy firm and had an intimate knowledge of their methods, speaks highly of their treatment of labourers.3 (1874) "Messrs. Godeffroy and Son deservedly rank among the most enlightened merchants of Europe": the word "enlightened" seems misapplied in view of some of his comments on the organization quoted above.4 "In no respect," continues Sterndale, "is this more apparent than in the wise regulations framed by them for the conduct of their plantations in Samoa." The islanders are described as arriving "filthy, lazy, and ferocious." "They are comfortably lodged, decently clothed, well fed and trained to honesty and peaceful industry. After six months' plantation life, they do not resemble the same beings, and at the expiration of their agreements, they are so far improved as to be as unfit for communion with their brutal brethren in their native isles as they were previously for contact with civilized humanity." The regulations provided that they

1 Polynesian word for "man."

2 That of Cornwall, a New Zealander. The overseer was American and his treatment of labourers notorious.

3 Appendix to Journal of House of Representatives, 1874. Papers relating to the South Sea Islands, pt. iii. Memo. by Sterndale.

4 See supra, p. 69.

page 76should not be engaged without their own consent, backed by that of their chiefs and relatives. The overseers were their own countrymen. They were well housed, well fed, had only nine hours' work daily, and were not allowed to be beaten by overseers. A properly qualified European surgeon supervised their health and supplied needed medicines. "It would be well," Sterndale concludes, "for planters throughout the tropics if the system pursued by Messrs. Godeffroy were more generally known and adopted."

Within the succeeding years, however, these pleasing conditions seem to have disappeared. As contractors used more brutal methods to obtain labourers, they became hostile and difficult to procure. This tempted planters to keep them longer than they had agreed until more arrived to take their places. Churchward states in 18841 that housing and food was insufficient, and that at times they were ill treated. They were kept beyond their contracts, paid in second-rate produce, and had no one to whom they could appeal. The mortality was high, and in one batch only eleven out of eighty were returned. Escaped labourers, an evil described graphically some six years later by Stevenson,2 were becoming a menace to Samoan native districts. Thurston forwarded Churchward's dispatch with the note that he had no reason to doubt its substantial correctness.

The validity of Churchward's report is supported by the evidence from the report of the U.S. Consul Dawson. In 1882 he describes similar conditions.3 Sewell, however, in 1888, though at the time in open antagonism to the German Consul, yet writes favourably of the German treatment of labourers—that they were well housed, well fed and tended.4

1 C.O. 225/15. Churchward to Des Voeux, Confidential, May 20, 1884, enclosed in Des Voeux to Derby, August 25, 1884.

2 Stevenson, A Footnote to History, p. 87.

3 United States Monthly Cons. Reports, No. 25. Cons. Dawson, August 10, 1882.

4 Ibid., No. 97. Cons.-Gen. Sewall, August 15, 1888.

page 77

"As a rule," he says, "the labour trade is humanely conducted by the German labour vessels coming home." This would seem to show that Stevenson's hints imply worse conditions than actually existed.1

By 1877 the firm had reached the point at which its activities had become of political importance. In 1876 the German warships sent to the Pacific concluded a trade treaty with Tonga. In 1877 Weber forced the Samoan Parliament, the Taimua and Faipule, to accept a similar agreement,2 which later was to develop into the treaty of 1879. Until the 1870's the main purpose and aim had been commercial, to bring in profits to Hamburg. Gradually there emerged two contingencies that could not be disregarded. The one was that further development would be impossible without political action. The other3 was the growth of an interest in Germany in colonization which not merely shaped the action of German agents in the Pacific, but which was in itself directed to the South Seas as the most profitable field of German enterprise.

Within Samoa itself political interference arose directly from the need to control the disorders that were destroying the plantations and ruining the native crops. Immediately around Samoa events were pointing to the advantages of a policy of acquisition. Until 1870 there had been a strong feeling that while there was free trade, colonies were unnecessary responsibilities. By 1877 there were indications that this might not always be so. In 1875 the United States concluded a Reciprocity Treaty with Hawaii. German traders suffered by the annexation of Fiji to Great Britain

1 Numbers of imported labourers in Samoa: 1874, 475; 1880, 1,600; 1881, 1,847; 1888, 1,320.

2 See chap. vii.

3 Townsend, op. cit., chap. iv, quotes "Weissbuch, 1885," ii, p. 4.

(a)By statute of limitations which cancelled all debts by Fijians.
(b)By the dispossession and eviction of German settlers without indemnity. The Fiji claims were not settled by England until 1884.

page 78(1874). So long as it had seemed likely that the islands would be autonomous and free trading, or at any rate in no sense monopolistic, there was no need for colonization schemes. In the early 1870's schemes, very definitely monopolistic, were put forward by New Zealand, partly indeed directed in envy against the German merchants. Although they wilted under Foreign Office scrutiny, they none the less indicated to the Germans the possible antagonists that might arise in the fast-growing southern British Colonies. America, too, was becoming a Pacific Power, aware more and more of the potentialities in the islands of the Pacific.
During this time the body of opinion that favoured a colonial policy in Germany was small. The building up of German interests in the South Seas and in Africa was the work of a few individuals. When the Government began to adopt a policy favouring colonization, there was already an empire in embryo. It took time and a change in political and economic affairs before the German Government could or would back up the activities of Germans in the South Seas, with political interference or an assertion of rights. Theorists like List in 1840,1 and Treitschke in 1870, expounded the need for colonies into which Germany could pour her emigrants and upon which to build her future greatness. Other economists derided overseas possessions as anachronisms.2 Prior at any rate to 1877, Bismarck was opposed to the extension of territory overseas.3 "All colonial enterprise must be left to individuals…. Germany has no navy and conflicts with other Powers are inevitable" (1868). Or again: "For Germany to possess colonies would be like a poverty-stricken Polish nobleman acquiring a silken sable coat, when he needed shirts."4 Weber in 1871 was counselled "to avoid scrupulously anything which might

1 List, A National System of Political Economy.

2 Townsend, op. cit., p. 17, quoted from Lammer, Deutchland nach dem Krieg. 1870.

3 Ibid.

4 Poschinger, Bismarck als Volkswirt, vol. i, p. 63. Berlin, 1889.

page 79lead to a misunderstanding with the United States."1 In November 1874 Odo Russell was commissioned to inquire into German aims with regard to Samoa—the outcome of some local indignation at the arbitrary treatment of some natives by a German man-of-war, H.I.M.S. Arcona. The reply was definite: "Herr von Bülow avails himself of the opportunity to say that his Government has no desire to acquire the Samoan islands, nor indeed any colonies for Germany." "A similar assurance," continues Russell, "was again lately given me by the Prince Chancellor, who said that all the insinuations of the Foreign Press respecting the desire of the German Government to acquire colonies were totally unfounded."2

Nevertheless, the years between 1870 and 1877 were critical ones in the growth of colonialism in Germany. Tingling with a new consciousness of triumph and unity after the Franco-Prussian War, she was suffering from abnormal economic conditions, over-production, an increase in industries needing raw materials, and a great flow of emigration resulting from the overstocked labour market. During these years the visits of warships to the Pacific became more frequent. After 1875 German interests were considered important enough to warrant the allocation of two warships there at a cost of 700,000 marks a year, and of two cruisers at 271,000 marks.3 The support of commercial interests by the warships was a real one. For example, in 1874, at the instance of Weber, the Arcona burned down a Samoan village. In 1875, a year after the annexation of Fiji, H.I.M.S. Gazelle went to the Pacific to report. In 1876 the Hertha was ordered off the Asian coast to Samoa and Tonga to negotiate trade treaties. With the negotiations for treaties began the era of political interference.

1 Zimmermann, Geschichte Deutsche Kolonialpolitik. Berlin, 1914, p. 6.

2 F.O. 244/275. Russell to Derby (No. 275), November 6, 1874.

3 Zimmermann, Geschichte Deutsche Kolonialpolitik, p. 1.

page 80
Map III.—Map of the Island of Upolu, 1884(For explanation of shading see p. 81)

Map III.—Map of the Island of Upolu, 1884
(For explanation of shading see p. 81)

page 81
Map III—Map of the Island of Savaii, 1884

Map III—Map of the Island of Savaii, 1884