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The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884

Chapter V — American Interests in Samoa, 1839–76 The Growth of American Trade in the Pacific

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Chapter V
American Interests in Samoa, 1839–76 The Growth of American Trade in the Pacific

The previous chapters have shown how England was drawn into concern over the fate of Samoa by her missionaries and traders, and by the assertions of New Zealand in the 1870's. Germany's political interference followed the extensive interests of her enterprising merchants. The part played by America, which led eventually to her acquisition of Eastern Samoa, is far less easily traced. The numbers of American residents were always small.1 American shipping was less than German or British.2

Yet it was in her relations with Samoa that the United States departed from her traditional policy of non-interference in external affairs. In the early days of the independence of the United States it was a necessity as well as a matter of principle to maintain this freedom. World economic developments—the increase of trade and of rapidity in communications—made this attitude hard to maintain. Nevertheless, the policy had become traditional, and it required some very cogent reason to force an aberration from it. That Samoa should have been an occasion for a departure from this traditional policy is curious. The islands never supported any large volume of American trade or other interests.

1 E.g.—1871, there were only 15 United States citizens reported; 1875, there were 75 English, 33 Germans, and 22 United States; in that year the United States numbers were larger than usual as Steinberger and at least one of his colleagues were on the island.

2 See Figs. 2 and 3, pp. 64–65. Average number of vessels calling annually: American 7; British, 29; German, 42.

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Map IV.—Sketch Map Illustrating the Central Position of Samoa in the Pacific

Map IV.—Sketch Map Illustrating the Central Position of Samoa in the Pacific

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The United States trading interests in the Pacific follow three lines. The earliest is the trade with the Far East which began long before the United States had any Pacific coast line. As early as 1784 three American traders appeared off the China coast laden with ginseng.1 A continuous succession of trading ventures followed the first enterprise. In 1787 five ships were engaged in the China trade carrying furs to exchange for silks and tea. In the course of their voyages American traders came to call at the Sandwich Islands, and also occasionally at the Marquesas. The intercourse with the Sandwich Islands was furthered by the discovery there of sandalwood, for which a ready market could always be found in China. Until 1814, the North Pacific trade with China was entirely in American hands. Whaling, sealing, and pearl fishing also drew Americans to the Pacific in the early half of the century. Wrecked Americans were found early in the century on the Wake, Washington, Tinian, and Fiji Islands.2 In 1812, during the war with England, there was a brief occupation of Maddison Island (Nukuhiua) by American sailors under the U.S. sea captain, Porter.

Official support to the expanding trade may be said to have begun in 1832. In that year President Jackson sent an expedition to obtain trade treaties with Borneo, Siam, Cochin China, and Japan. The acquisition of California and Oregon gave American ships a shorter route by which to cross the Pacific. This persistence, increasing year by year, forced Japan to open her ports to American commerce3 (1852 and 1857). Similarly, treaties were made with China and Korea which enabled American merchants to trade in those countries. It was this trend of American interests that

1 Callahan, American Relations in the Pacific and the Far East, 1784–1900, p. 14. Also Greenhow, History of California and Oregon, chap. x.

2 Callahan, op. cit., p. 160.

3 Callahan, op. cit. Expeditions in 1832, 1846 (Biddle), 1849 (Glyn), to demand the release of United States prisoners; 1851 (Anlick), 1852 (Perry).

page 109drew America into Hawaiian affairs and into the eventual acquisition of Guam and the Philippines.

This intercourse with Asia followed roughly the lines of the old Spanish trade routes between South America and the Philippines. When California and Oregon were included in the United States, there began direct communication between San Francisco and the Australasian ports.1 The line of sailing was through the island archipelagos of the South Pacific. The ships usually called at Honolulu, but chose sometimes a Samoan, sometimes a Tongan or a Fijian harbour as a second stopping place. It was the eminent suitability of the harbour of Pago-Pago at Tutuila as a port of call on this trans-Pacific route that attracted American attention in the 1870's.

The third route of approach to the Pacific was the much-discussed Panama route.2 Although not completed until 1914, the potential importance of the canal was a factor that was taken into account from the middle of the nineteenth century. Had the canal been cut in 1850–55, when the Nicaragua project was put forward, it would have opened the Western Pacific to the eastern and southern states of the United States. The Panama route would, for twenty years at least, have been the principal means of transit to the western states, and it would doubtless also have become a route to New Zealand and Australia. Its failure gave greater importance to the trans-Continental railway of 1869, and the American influence on the Western Pacific was derived largely from the western states, particularly California.3

American interests in the Navigator Islands began with the survey of the islands in 1839 by the U.S. Exploring Expedition under Commander Wilkes.4 One of the principal

1 Principally Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand.

2 See chap. iv, p. 82.

3 On account of the port, San Francisco.

4 Wilkes, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition, 1838–42, vol. ii.

page 110objects of this expedition was to find harbours suitable for whaling boats in the Navigator, Tonga, and Fiji groups, and a careful and scientific survey of the islands was made. The excellent harbour of Pago-Pago was charted and its merits extolled. Wilkes' estimates of area and fertility were quoted forty-five years later by Steinberger,1 and upon this account was based much of the importance which Americans later attached to the harbour.

Wilkes further took the opportunity of drawing up a trade treaty with the de facto king. King Malietoa, newly converted, and in the regal garments of panteloons, round jacket, and pink and white striped cotton shirt, received him. The regulations agreed upon followed the lines of the British Captain Bethune's treaty of 1838. They were framed to secure safety and good treatment to Consuls, traders, and shipwrecked sailors. In return there were to be harbour and pilotage dues. No spirituous liquor was to be brought ashore, and the natives were not to shelter deserters from ships.2 The agreement was for the benefit of all trading vessels, not merely American ones. That there was in those days at least a little American trade is implied by the fact that Wilkes appointed John Williams (afterwards H.B.M. Consul) to be United States Consul.3

The growth of trans-Pacific traffic in the 1850's and the completion of the trans-American railway (1869) rendered the Pacific Islands accessible to an unprecedented extent. From Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and America on the other, adventurers trickled into the islands hoping to make fortunes in land sales, or in growing profitable tropical products. An American company, for example,

1 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 35. Report on Samoa, by Albert Barns Steinberger, p. 13.

2 Wilkes, op. cit., vol. ii, Appendix.

3 There was a continuous succession of United States Consuls from this time, who were allowed to trade as well.

page 111was started to "grow cotton on the Navigator Islands,"1 another for the purchase of land.2 Besides commercial exploitation, there was also intrigue for political power in the islands. Adventurers in Samoa,3 no less than in other islands, tried to fish fortunes from the troubled waters of native discontents.

The intervention of the United States Government in Samoa was the outcome of the action of individual Americans. The individuals who drew the attention of Congress to Samoa were not traders who needed any general protection or control. They were men who sought the direct interference of the U.S. Government to further their own ends. For example, Webb wished for the ratification of Meade's treaty for the advantages that would accrue to his line if Pago-Pago were developed by Americans. The Polynesian Land Company, likewise, hoped to sell their land to the Government.4 From 1871 onward the United States was each year drawn more closely into the affairs of the islands.

Because the importance of the islands to the Americans was mainly strategic, the American centre of interest was at Pago-Pago. Apia harbour had become the centre of trade because it was on the most important island. Upolu was fertile and carried large stretches of German plantations. The mission churches, the Press, the Malua College were all on that island. The majority of white people lived at Apia. The centre of native government had moved in 1867 from Malie to Mulinuu, the western wing of Apia harbour. Commercially and politically, Apia was more important.

1 C.O. 209/231 (No. 1673). Reported formation of a company for culture of cotton on the Navigator Islands, February 21, 1873.

2 C.O. 209/231 (No. 3131). Polynesian Land and Commercial Co., April 2, 1873.

3 Steinberger (1875), Barclay (1880), Klein (1888), in Samoa all played major parts.

4 C.O. 209/231 (No. 3131). F.O. to C.O., April 2, 1873.

page 112Pago-Pago offered advantages merely as an excellent, safe harbour and port of call. From the first, American private intrigue and public policy were directed rather to securing Pago-Pago than to obtaining political dominion or commercial advantages. The United States did not wish to assume responsibilities outside her territory, but she was willing to accept privileges and advantages when the risk of conflict with other Powers seemed small.

In the events that led to United States interference in island affairs, three adventurers play a part—Webb, Stewart, and Steinberger. The first, W. H. Webb, was the owner and director of the Pacific mail line between San Francisco and New Zealand. The line was opened in 1869, and a contract was made with New Zealand to carry her mails. A certain Captain Wakeman was sent by Webb in 1871 to report upon the harbour. His report includes a good deal more.1 "I know of no other island," he says of Upolu, "with the same form of government, which all chiefs are willing and desirous of ceding to the Americans, and which would in that event be so valuable. From its commanding position in Mid-Pacific, with the control of the commerce of all the islands which are contiguous to this point, with Australia and New Zealand at their door to supply with sugar, coffee, etc., no group affords equal facility for a naval station as well as a coal depôt for steamers, with a most brilliant future for a most lucrative and extensive commercial enterprise. Two places," he continues to Webb, "have been secured in the bay of Pago-Pago for your ships—the best that could be selected. As the trees, stone, earth are close at hand to fill up with and are free, nothing but the long piles for the tenders, and planks for the wharf would be required to be shipped from Puget Sound." The report was published in New York 1871, and so disseminated information of the value and desirability of the group.

1 Wakeman, Report on the Navigator Islands. New York, 1871.

page 113

The next step taken by Webb at the time of the publication of the report was to persuade Captain Meade of the U.S.S. Narrangansett to conclude a treaty with Mauga, chief of Pago-Pago, for the acquisition of the harbour.1

Webb was concerned at this time in the Polynesian Land Company, and the acquisition of the harbour by the United States Government would have given him advantages of selling the land and rights he had acquired.

Meade negotiated his treaty with Mauga2 in February 1872. In return for the "friendship and protection of the great Government of the United States of America," the United States were to have "the exclusive privilege of establishing in the said harbour of Pago-Pago on the island of Tutuila a naval station for the use and convenience of the vessels of the U.S. Government."3

In itself the validity of the treaty was dubious. It was questionable whether Mauga as one of the several chiefs on Tutuila had the right to grant such privileges. Meade had, on his side, no authority to offer the protection of the United States. Indeed, it was the implied promise of protection that proved fatal to the ratification of the treaty. President Grant himself received the treaty favourably, but it was thrown out by the Senate.4 But in the ensuing years Mauga sincerely believed that the treaty held good, and that the United States would intervene on his behalf against foreign Powers if occasion should arise.

Although the treaty was not ratified, and the petition of the chiefs for direct annexation, which arrived in April, was refused, the matter was not allowed to drop. "About that

1 Meade wrote to Webb informing him of the action taken. C.O. 209/226 (No. 8805), encl. in Bowen to Kimberley, April 4, 1872.

2 Mauga had petitioned England for annexation in 1865. F.O. 58/105. Williams to Earl Russell, July 14, 1865.

3 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 2. Fish to President Grant, May 1, 1876.

4 Ibid., p. 6. Message of President to the Senate, May 22, 1876.

page 114time," wrote the Secretary of State, Fish, to Steinberger1 a year later, "the attention of the Government was directed by highly respectable commercial persons, to the importance of the growing trade and commerce of the United States with the islands in the South Pacific Ocean, and to the opportunities of increasing our commercial relations in that quarter of the globe." It was pointed out that Samoa lay in the direct track of that trade. It was decided to prosecute further inquiries, and Colonel A. B. Steinberger was chosen as agent to report upon the islands.

It seems highly probable that the "highly respectable commercial persons" referred to above were acting in conjunction with the second venture that attracted American interests to the islands.

In conjunction with Webb was a certain James Stewart, who also attempted to draw the United States into intervention in Samoan affairs. After some association with his brother in a shady venture in Tahiti2 he fell out with him, and turned his attention to a new enterprise. He proposed, and carried through, the formation of a company known as "The Central Polynesian Land and Commercial Company." From his own account to the trustees,3 it was incorporated under the laws of California for "(a) the purchase and acquisition of lands in the Navigator Islands, and the cultivation, sale, lease or otherwise disposing of the same: (b) the formation of a coaling station for the United States, New Zealand and Australian mail steamship line: (c) the establishment of a central Polynesian depôt to be connected with the varous groups of the South Pacific." He hoped to raise capital of $100,000 in a thousand shares of $100 each. Webb had the option of taking at cost price an interest amounting to fifty-four hundredths of the lands purchased,

1 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 2. Fish to President Grant, May 1, 1876.

2 Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, vol. ii, p. 30.

3 Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, p. 30.

page 115and he also had the advantage of the harbour chosen by his agent for his steamship line. Consequently Stewart planned to buy land round Pago-Pago harbour at a low price. When the harbour became an important coaling station his company would, of course, reap the benefit by selling their land at a profit.

Stewart arrived in Samoa to buy land just after Captain Meade's departure (February 1872). He purchased "from the chiefs of Upolu, Savaii, Manono and Tutuila 414 square miles of land" which, with previous purchases, amounted to 300,000 acres. He made arrangements for establishing a commercial depôt at Tutuila, and during his stay the petition of the chiefs of Tutuila for annexation was sent to President Grant1 (April 17, 1872). The petition was duly received and acknowledged, but was not granted.2

The success of the Central Polynesian Land and Commercial Company depended upon the rapid development of the islands which would enable them to dispose of their land profitably. With the United States acquisition of Pago-Pago harbour they hoped to make Tutuila the centre for a big American trading concern. The failure of Congress to ratify Meade's treaty, the discontinuation of the steamship line, and the withdrawal of all Webb's interests in 1872, threatened destruction to Stewart's plans. He made another bid for official support in 1874. In that year a Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives for the purchase of Pago-Pago harbour.3 The Bill expressly provided that the purchase should "not be construed to authorize any negotiations for the annexation or political control of the islands" which might seem contrary to United States policy. As Herbert noted in a minute,4 the passing of the Bill depended upon

1 See p. 113.

2 C.O. 209/228 (No. 9440). F.O. to C.O., May 20, 1873. Encl. Thornton to F.O., November 18, 1872.

3 C.O. 209/233 (No. 6966). F.O. to C.O., June 19, 1874. Encl. dispatch from Thornton.

4 Ibid.

page 116"the amount of influence which the powers who desire to make a good sale of their property in Samoa can bring to bear upon members." The Bill, however, was indefinitely postponed,1 and the Polynesian Land and Commercial Company disappeared for a time. In 1877 Stewart reappeared in some discreditable intrigues in native affairs.

The account given by Steinberger in his report of the activities of Stewart's company is not to its credit.2 "I found," he wrote, "in Pago-Pago and Apia the representatives of the 'Polynesian Land Company.' Of the originators of this scheme of speculation in these islands I know but little, and that not creditable to their antecedents nor their more recent acts in connection with it. The San Francisco stockholders, and one James McKee of the Sandwich Islands, are certainly innocent and highly respectable gentlemen, whose money has been squandered and their reputation stained by adventurers representing them on the islands. Trading posts were established by the Company at Pago-Pago and Apia, and large tracts of land purchased from the natives during the war, arms and ammunition given to the belligerents in trade for valuable property—a far-off cousin giving a deed for land belonging to the family with whom he was at war; contracts were made for immense tracts of land at nominal prices, a paltry sum in guns and powder and lead being paid as a bonus, the remainder to be paid in two years."

Nothing eventually came of this company. Much of their lands they attempted to dispose of by auction—and a good many of their sales lapsed.3 The political significance of the venture ceased with the failure of the Bill to purchase the harbour.

The third adventurer to attempt to enmesh the United

1 C.O. 209/234 (No. 2454). F.O. to C.O., July 15, 1875. Encl. dispatch from Thornton to F.O.

2 43 Congress 1. Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 45, p. 36. Steinberger's report on the Navigator Islands.

3 Ibid.

page 117States Government in Samoan affairs was Colonel A. B. Steinberger. For a brief three years he flashed brightly across the pages of Samoan history, and then disappeared into the obscurity from, which he emerged. Stonehewer Cooper, who knew the islands well, and who gives some account of Stewart, states that Steinberger had been a clerk in Stewart's office in San Francisco.1 It seems probable that it was on Stewart's suggestion that Webb recommended Steinberger as "a competent person to visit the Navigator Islands and report upon their condition."2 Whatever expectations Stewart and Webb had hoped from Steinberger, he on his part determined to play his own game, as the report on Stewart's company quoted above shows. It seems highly probable that it was this that caused Steinberger's failure in 1875. His most persistent antagonist was the U.S. Consul Foster, and Foster was on occasion auctioning the land of the Polynesian Land Company.3 This and his advent from Tahiti in 18724 about the same time as Stewart, who also came from Tahiti, seem to show that they may have been working in conjunction. This would account for Foster's hostility to Steinberger during his brief period of influence in Samoa.
It was thus probably through the influence of Stewart and Webb that Steinberger was appointed as Special Commissioner to report on the Navigator Islands. He received his final instructions in March 1873.5 He was to give full information on the islands, products, inhabitants, and harbours. "It is not unlikely," wrote Fish, "that perhaps

1 Stonehewer Cooper, Coral Lands, p. 38.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 111. No. 2, Stewart to Webb, June 28, 1872.

3 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44, p. 2. No. 1, Steinberger to Fish, October 30, 1875.

4 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 75. No. 16. Steinberger to Fish, November 19, 1874.

5 Ibid., p. 5. Fish to Steinberger, March 29, 1873.

page 118in the most distant future the interests of the United States may require, not only a naval station in the Samoan group, but a harbour where steam and other vessels also may freely and securely frequent. Full and accurate information in regard to the islands will be necessary to enable the Government here to determine as to the measures which may be advisable toward attaining that object." There was indeed the definite consideration of the first step, that of winning favours with the natives, that later committed America to a virtual condominium with Germany and Great Britain—quite contrary to her usual policy.
Steinberger left San Francisco in June 18731 and returned in December. His mission had been accomplished with success. His observations were minute and probably accurate. His tact with natives and Europeans won him confidence. He had helped to promulgate laws and draft a constitution. Letters from various residents teem with friendship and hope for his speedy return as a representative of a United States protectorate. "Your honest kindly spirit," wrote Dr. Turner2 of the London Missionary Society, "has won their [the natives'] esteem and love, and you leave with the hearty good wishes of the entire native population. You may feel assured that you have the hearty co-operation of all honest men, and all who have the welfare of the native race at heart." "Providence," wrote the Roman Catholic Bishop Elloy,3 "seems to show that the Government of the United States is to take on the matter" of bringing to an end the unsettled state of the islands. The Wesleyan minister, the Rev. George Brown,4 wrote that he rejoiced when he "heard of the petition sent by the chiefs asking for a protectorate from the Government of the United States."

1 June 24, 1873.

2 43 Congress 1. Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 45, p. 52. Turner to Steinberger, October 7, 1873.

3 Ibid., p. 53. Elloy to Steinberger, September 29 1873.

4 Ibid., Brown to Steinberger, September 1873.

page 119It was evident that there was a widespread desire on the part of natives and whites that there should be some political organization authorized by one or other foreign Power in the islands. Secondly, the general impression was undoubtedly that Steinberger's mission was primarily political. Thirdly, Steinberger himself believed that his Government was seriously contemplating a direct influence over Samoa. Though he was guarded and non-committal in his speeches to the Samoan chiefs, they evidently believed as he did. They sent to President Grant a present of a staff and fly-flap, symbols of authority in Samoa, and they prayed him to allow Steinberger to return and to help them to rule.1

By December 1873 Steinberger had returned to Washington apparently confident that the United States would accept this new responsibility. "They seek American protection." he wrote of the Samoans to Fish. "It seems to be a matter of moment that the Government will send a Minister or Commissioner with plenipotentiary powers to recognize their Government and treat them as an independent people,"2 He estimated the requirements of a protectorate and suggested an extension of interests to the "Gilbert, Ellice and Kingsmill groups."3 Some months elapsed. Steinberger was determined to return to the islands where before he had been so well received and which offered scope for his ambitions. In the autumn of 1874 he left for Europe and entered into negotiations with the Godeffroy firm at Hamburg.

The political importance of his transactions with the German firm is difficult to gauge. He mentioned his action in a dispatch to Fish. "In the interests of the Samoans I have conferred with Messrs. Godeffroy of Hamburg," he

1 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 56. Chiefs to President, October 3, 1873 (see Appendix).

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 71. Steinberger to Fish, April 8, 1874.

3 Ibid., p. 72. Incidentally Gilbert and Kingsmill are different names for the same group of islands.

page 120wrote. He considered he had secured promises that the action of the Arcona1 would not be repeated; land sales must cease. The Godeffroys further would use their influence "to secure the recognition of the Samoan Government by Germany."2 But the agreement which came to light at the time of his deportation from Samoa shows that he was playing a double game.3 It assumed that he would return as U.S. Commissioner to established a fixed government. He pledged himself to further the interests of the German firm, and to avoid connections with American or English. Steinberger later declared that on becoming Samoan Premier he was excused the execution of these pledges to the Germans. But surely if they were compromising for a Samoan Premier they would have been far more so for a United States Commissioner! There were also various conditions in the agreement for trading: free trade but for a tax on spirits and pilot dues, harbour dues. The firm were to have a monopoly of paper mulberry. The taxes of the Samoan Government were to be raised in copra and sold to the firm—for which Steinberger was to receive a 10 per cent commission. Further, they lent sums of money up to $1,400, so that Steinberger could purchase a steam yacht, the Peerless, to use for governmental purposes.

Though the terms were to further the commercial interests of the Godeffroy firm, Germany gained no political advantages. The establishment of civil order was in the interests of trade. Steinberger on the other hand genuinely considered that annexation by America was a probability in no long time.4

1 Chap. iii.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 75. Steinberger to Fish, November-19, 1874.

3 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44, pp. 128–34. Foster to Hunter, March 18, 1876, enclosing Steinberger's correspondence with J. C. Godeffroy.

4 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 71. Steinberger to Fish, April 8, 1874.

page 121

On his return to America, Steinberger reminded the Secretary of State of affairs of Samoa. "The Samoan islands," he wrote to Fish,1 "lie directly in the track of commerce between San Francisco and the English Colonies; their population is about a quarter less than that of the Sandwich Islands, and is increasing. The natives are mild and tractable and Christianized." Further, by the offer to the United States President of the sacred "staff and fly-flap," they virtually "tender their country in parting with these symbols. Further legislation will determine the action of the United States in this, but I am confident of my ability and the devotion of the natives to make Samoa valuable, creditable and popular." Steinberger hinted that he should be allowed to return with "such diplomatic powers" as would give him precedence over the American and other Consuls. He suggested suitable presents to give the Samoan Government.

Fish replied in December 1874, authorizing him to proceed to the islands at his own expense with a letter of friendship from President Grant and presents for the chiefs.2 But though he commented on the advantages which the group had to offer, he concluded: "It is more than doubtful, however, whether these considerations would be sufficient to satisfy our people that the annexation of those islands to

1 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 75. Steinberger to Fish, November 19, 1874.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 76. Fish to Steinberger, December 11, 1874. The presents consisted of: 1 Gatling gun and 1,000 cartridges; 2 12-lb. bronze guns and 200 rounds of ammunition; 1 3-lb. Parrot gun and 100 rounds of ammunition; 1 Broyle boat howitzer with ammunition; 1 forge, 100 sailor suits, flannel clothing, and caps; 3 United States flags and bunting, some band instruments; 12 revolvers.

Of these Thornton wrote: "It is said, moreover, that the guns are very old and are more likely to do harm to those who use them than to anyone else!" C.O. 209/234 (No. 2166). Encl. Thornton to Derby, February 8, 1875.

page 122the United States is essential to our safety and prosperity. In any event, supposing that the general sentiment should be favourable to such a measure, I am not aware that it has received such an expression as would require an acknowledgment by the Government and warrant measures on our part accordingly. It is deemed inexpedient without such a call from the public to originate a measure adverse to the usual traditions of the Government, and which, therefore, probably would not receive such a sanction as would be likely to secure its success. Under these circumstances, your functions will be limited to observing and reporting upon Samoan affairs, and to impressing those in authority there with the lively interest which we take in their happiness and welfare."1

Steinberger executed this simple mission in Samoa with the necessary discretion. The sequel came quickly. A new constitution was drawn up by the natives, and he was asked to become Prime Minister in July 1873. This he accepted,2 and it seems probable that he considered that this would be a step welcome to the American Government.

As Prime Minister, Steinberger served his newly acquired country with admirable zeal, seeking first the welfare and protection of the natives and teaching them how to organize their lives with a minimum of friction with foreign residents. An elaborate constitution was drawn up with two representative Houses of Parliament—the Taimua of seven chiefs and the Faipule of elected representatives.3 The king was only to hold his office for four years, and he was to be chosen alternately from the two royal families of Malietoa and Tupua. The underlying ideas were undoubtedly American, and the preamble to the laws was a veritable

1 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 76.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 81. Steinberger to Fish, July 4, 1875.

3 In 1873 the Taimua had 15 chiefs, but this was reduced later to 7. In the Faipule there was roughly 1 number for every 2,000 persons.

page 123Declaration of Rights, entirely out of keeping with Samoan customs and thought.1

For administrative purposes the chiefs were given special powers in their own districts. The whole spirit of his administration seems genuinely inspired with a desire to teach these people principles of rule based on Christianity. The country was quiet and willing to be ruled. Later verdicts on Steinberger's government witness to its efficiency. "He appears," says Mr. Griffin, the United States Consul2 to succeed Foster, his contemporary, "he appears to have realized … every just expectation of the Government and people who had invested him with all but absolute power…. He was self-denying, earnest and enthusiastic in his efforts to ameliorate the condition of the people and to raise their government and country to the dignity and independence of a well-ordered and independent nation." He was afterwards "looked upon by the natives as the wisest and safest ruler and best friend that their country has ever had." In fact, although his deportation involved immediate confusion and rebellion, his system of government lingered on and was the basis of subsequent governments. It was, however, his own guidance that had made it efficient for a short time, and when that was withdrawn the confusion was worse than before.

The good reception that Steinberger was accorded by the Europeans in 1873 was due in large measure to the belief that the United States intended to undertake the government of the country. It is probable that between 1873–75 the opinions of British residents changed. Before that date the prime need was some power to establish order. England would have been preferred, but England had already refused to consider any annexation schemes. In the meanwhile (1873–75) the New Zealand proposals were becoming

1 50 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 238, p. 194. Report by Bates. Encl. Bl., Samoa Times, August 17, 1878.

2 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. 44. Griffin to Fish, February 2, 1877.

page 124known. A New Zealand Commissioner1 had reported upon the islands to the New Zealand Government, and in 1874 the New Zealand Government published a Blue Book on the South Sea Islands.2 The annexation of Fiji by Great Britain in 1874 may further have given rise to hopes among British residents that British authority might some day be extended to Samoa. Further, America's attitude seemed remarkably vague. It gradually came to be realized that Steinberger, in his assumption of rule in Samoa, was not acting under the authority of the United States Government. Foster, the U.S. Consul,3 wrote to Washington and asked for a statement of Steinberger's official position. The answer, which arrived January 1876, was explicit. "Any official or semi-official connection he [Steinberger] may have had with this Government is terminated";4 and further, "On neither occasion did his visit have any diplomatic or political significance whatever. Colonel Steinberger was not authorized or empowered by the United States to form a Government in Samoa, or to pledge the United States to sustain, in any way, directly or indirectly, any Government that he might form or assist forming…. The U.S. Consul is the only representative of the United States in the Samoan islands, and you will so inform the missionaries and others interested."
This left Steinberger at the mercy of his antagonists. It seems probable that apart from reasons given above, his influence with natives and his advocacy of religious toleration incurred the jealousy and opposition of the missionaries.5 His laws and regulations detracted from the influence of the

1 William Seed.

2 Appendix to the Journal of the New Zealand House of Representatives, 1874. Papers relating to the South Sea Islands.

3 See p. 119. He may have been connected with the Polynesian Land Company and opposed Steinberger because of his opposition to it.

4 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 125. Campbell to Foster, January 12, 1876.

5 The Rev. Mr. Whitmee and Dr. Turner in particular. Both had received him well at first.

page 125Consuls,1 and annoyed beachcombers and publicans.2 Indeed, there were very few white residents who supported him.3

The Samoans, on the other hand, were delighted with his rule. "We are pleased," wrote Malietoa to President Grant,4 "because by the laws we know what is bad…. We are thankful that Colonel Steinberger has arrived here…. It is like the love of God to our country. Our wish is still to have this gentleman with us because these people are so obstinate," and again, "We are pleased with this wise and kind-hearted gentleman." Poppe, the German Consul, also testifies to his good rule.5

Nevertheless, by December 1875 there had grown up intense hostility to Steinberger's government. He was criticized and abused. Prisoners tried under his government were claimed by Foster and liberated. The arrival of H.M.S. Barracouta (December 12, 1875) rang up the curtain on the last act of his little drama. Steinberger feared British annexation of Samoa. Foster and Williams hoped to get support in their determination to remove Steinberger from Samoa. On December 17th Foster seized Steinberger's yacht, the Peerless, for transgressing the United States neutrality laws.6 It had been used entirely for the benefit of the Samoan Government, and flew both Samoan and United States flags. Steinberger's protests were of no avail, and it was only after many months had elapsed that Foster's action received the cold disapproval of the Government at Washington.

1 The two who opposed him were the United States Consul Foster and H.B.M. Consul S. F. Williams—the grandson of the missionary.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 70. Turner to Steinberger, October 29, 1873. He writes of the anger of free publicans at the liquor laws directed against grog-selling on Sunday.

3 Only the German Consul Poppe and his associates, Jonas Coe, an American, who was deported with him, and one or two in his service.

4 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 96. Malietoa to President Grant, October 19, 1875.

5 Ibid., p. 97.

6 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44. Steinberger to Fish, January 8, 1876. Enclosures C. Correspondence re Yacht Peerless.

page 126
Further, the Consuls persuaded Captain Stevens of the Barracouta to hold an inquiry into Steinberger's conduct. The accusations against him were at first petty. The real inquiry was into his position on the islands. "I cannot understand," said Stevens.1 "how Steinberger can hold office under the Samoan Government, be a special commissioner of the United States, and at the same time be an American citizen; because I observe on p. 77 of Acts of 43 Congress ch. 294 that no ambassador can hold office under any foreign Government."2 Steinberger gave instances. He was asked to show his papers. He produced the somewhat inadequate evidence of a passport and the letter from Secretary Fish. Malietoa made a valiant attempt to defend him.3 "We now wish to impress truly on you," he said, "that he is neither an adventurer nor a schemer, but he is a gentleman whom we requested the President of the United States to send us … to assist us in establishing our government…. We do not wish him to have a commission for the United States to establish our government; he has taken the oath of allegiance to our government, and we will protect him." Alas! for the vain boast! The King himself was inveigled into betraying him. Into the midst of these inquiries arrived Campbell's letter4 explaining that Steinberger had now no official connection with the United States. Steinberger was in the hands of the Consuls. Natives could be wheedled and hoaxed. Malietoa was persuaded to write an appeal to Stevens to remove Steinberger. He was consequently seized and imprisoned on the Barracouta. The

1 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44, p. 8. Proceedings of meeting at Mulinuu, December 24, 1875.

2 Ibid., December 27, 1875.

3 Ibid, p. 20.

4 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 124. Campbell to Foster, January 12, 1876. Also 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44. Campbell to Griffin, June 23, 1876. Campbell expresses the Government's disapproval of Foster's conduct.

page 127natives could do nothing to save him, but they turned on Malietoa and drove him from the seat of government. Thus civil war again broke out—a war that lasted until 1880–81. Captain Stevens, misguided but well meaning, once more dipped a ponderous finger into the Samoan pie. A last effort to reinstate the feeble Malietoa over his contemptuous Government resulted in an affray in which three British sailors were killed and eight injured (March 11, 1876).1 With that Stevens retired, not merely from the scene of his endeavour, but also eventually from his position in the navy.

Steinberger, pained, bitter, penniless, poured his grievances into the abysmal files of the Government, but he never returned to Samoa. His memory was kept green by the natives for many years. Foster, too, was replaced, and the islands returned from a temporary lapse into order to their more wonted anarchy.

The rule of Steinberger in Samoa, though in itself but an incident of brief duration, is nevertheless not without significance. It reveals the attitude of the United States. Taken as a whole the policy is one of non-interference, but there is also a forecast of her later actions which were to draw her into taking an active part in Samoan affairs. When the United States consented to become party in the condominium of 1899, or even in the co-operation in restoring order between 1881–85, this was a departure from her accustomed policy.

The part played by the United States Government in 1872–75 shows a desire to inquire into the resources of the islands—an inquiry which, it was hinted,2 might lead to further steps. This is in continuation of Seward's line of thought, when he saw the Pacific as an important factor in

1 44 Congress 2. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 44. Le Mamea to President, May 1, 1876.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, p. 5. Fish to Steinberger, March 29, 1873

page 128future history. "Its shores, its islands and the vast regions beyond," he said, "will become the chief theatre of events in the world's great hereafter."1 Yet Steinberger's commission was informal, special, and confidential.2 Though he wished to go under the mantle of authority, the Government was emphatic in denying that he had any official position.3 Sir Edward Thornton, the British Minister in Washington, it is true, reported that Steinberger had "confidential instructions from the President with a view to his instilling into the minds of the Samoans a desire for a Protectorate by, or perhaps even annexation to, the United States."4 Steinberger succeeded in instilling a desire for annexation to America into the Samoan mind, but the appeals to America for annexation that were made in 1872, and again in 1876 and 1877, were all refused. Though Fish and Grant may have favoured the prospect of spreading the wings of United States protection over Samoa, Congress would not sanction departure from her policy of aloofness from foreign entanglements. "Our policy of non-intervention," Seward had written when he was Secretary of State,5 "straight, absolute, and peculiar as it may seem to other nations, has thus become a traditional one which could not be abandoned without the most urgent occasion, amounting to a manifest necessity."
Of the general opinion in America there are but few indications. The unpopularity of Grant, and the cloud under which the Government existed, partly account for the derision with which Steinberger's commission was treated by opposition newspapers. Indeed, it was suggested that the President should be called to account the next session for

1 Callahan, J. M., American Relations in the Pacific and the East, chap, ix, p. 160.

2 44 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 161, March 29, 1873.

3 Ibid. Fish to Foster, January 12, 1876.

4 CO. 209/234 (No. 2116). Thornton to Derby, February 8, 1875.

5 Henderson, American Diplomatic Questions, 111, "The United States and Samoa," p. 207.

page 129having taken it upon himself to send a vessel of war with Colonel Steinberger to the islands. "That President Grant should lend the credit of the United States to such an undertaking is simply astounding," wrote the New York Herald.1 "Every tradition of the Republic is wantonly outraged for the sake of a little silly by-play in the presence of a mob of naked savages. The American President in secret and without the consent either of Congress or the country sends off an adventurer in a vessel belonging to the American navy to make one breechclout king of the breechclouts. An American officer assists in these degrading performances…. The American people cannot look with favour upon the silly farce he has led the country into playing before the eyes of all the world."
The abrupt termination of Steinberger's rule is not the end but the beginning of American interests. Besides revealing to some extent the opinion of Grant and Fish and of Congress, the affair defined the lines of future American policy. Steinberger and his associates drew notice to the Californian adventurers who hoped to make fortunes by the sale of land round Pago-Pago harbour and the latter's extremely favourable position. The implication of Foster in the deportation of Steinberger led to his removal, and the United States Consul who replaced him spoke warmly of the deported Premier. There grew up a feeling among American residents in Samoa, and probably to a small extent too in California, that America had an especial interest in Samoa. Although quite unauthorized to do so, on two occasions when there was fear of German or British aggression, United States Consuls hoisted the Stars and Stripes2 as an indication that America was considered to

1 New York Herald, July 21, 1875. Also CO. 209/234 (No. 9282). Thornton to Derby, July 26, 1875.

2 May 23, 1877, United States Consul Colmesnil; February 22, 1878, United States Consul Griffin (see infra, chap. vi). 50 Congress 1, Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 238.

page 130have the right to annex. There was a very strong pro-American feeling among the natives. The party that represented Steinberger's Government, the Taimua and Faipule, remained loyal to him. It was they who sent an embassy in 1877 to plead for annexation by the United States. The outcome of this deputation was the treaty of 1878 which, by promising the Samoans the vague "good offices" of the United States, drew America into the tangle which thickened into a condominium, and which was not unravelled until 1899 when the eastern islands were apportioned to America.

Indirectly the deportation of Steinberger hastened the interference of Germany and England in native affairs. The civil war that followed Malietoa's dethronement intensified insecurity of life and property. The German treaty of 1877 was largely a protest against this, and the eventual joint interference of Germany and Great Britain in 1879 was the direct outcome.