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The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884

i. Samoa

page 172

i. Samoa

The general acknowledgment of Malietoa, by the Lackawanna agreement of July 12, 1881, and a widespread desire for peace, produced a temporary lull in Samoa. It had been hoped that a suitable white man might be found to help Malietoa in his task of governing—a disinterested protagonist of native rights who would become a Samoan Pooh-Bah1 and assume every onerous duty of government—adviser-inchief, treasurer, head of police, of native troops, interpreter— in fact, all the tasks that Samoans appeared unable to do adequately. He would hold his position at the caprice of the natives, with no guarantee, or even mention of emolument. Sooner or later he would inevitably fall foul of either Samoans or whites, so that the risk was of murder or deportation.

Sir Arthur Gordon offered this position to W. B Churchward in 1881. Churchward indeed went to Apia to inquire further, but on learning the nature of his duties declined the position. So Malietoa, who was disgusted at Churchward's refusal, was left unwillingly to conduct the affairs of his kingdom unaided. He acknowledged that his invitations to become Prime Minister had never before been refused, but all previously had been rogues.2

The principal activity of the native Government during these years was the production in 1882 of a code of laws. These were approved by Des Voeux, the British High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, who succeeded Gordon, as "generally unobjectionable,"3 and it seems that they were also generally unenforced. By 1883 Churchward was able

1 Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa.

2 E.g. Hunt, Woods, Bartlett. Churchward became H.B.M. Acting-Consul in March 1882, when Graves went on furlough to England. He retained this position until 1885. Throughout a difficult period (1884–85) his action was wise and conciliatory.

3 F.O. 58/177. Churchward to Des Voeux, F.S., July 5, 1882.

page 173to say that "all warlike feeling toward the present King and Government has subsided into a sullen opposition in council."1 The islands seemed quiet and new native houses were being built—always an indication in Samoa of native expectation of peace.2 It was, indeed, the foreigners by their intrigues who, when the time came, unloosed the dogs of war.
A further change in the condition of Samoa was wrought by the Municipal Government within Apia. Before its establishment in 18793 Apia had a reputation as "the Hell of the Pacific!"4 It had a population of some hundred or more half-castes, and many of the white men were the riffraff from the Australasian Colonies and Fiji who upon the establishment of law and order in those parts had fled to Samoa. The urgency of the need was well recognized by all the more respectable white inhabitants, and these combined to improve the state of the township. The Municipal Board raised some $5,000 a year by rates, licences, and fines. Regulations for the health, cleanliness, the safety and convenience of residents were issued and carried through, and Apia emerged "into a well-ordered district, with a community particularly jealous of the maintenance of law and order; where property and persons were as safe as they would be anywhere in England, and whose criminal record would compare most favourably, in proportion to its inhabitants, with any seaport town in the world."5 Sale of alcohol to natives was strictly forbidden,6 and the sale of arms regulated. Some light is thrown upon the difficulty of this task by an account by Churchward of an incident in Apia. Some months after this regulation came into force an

1 F.O. 58/182. Churchward to Granville, May 6, 1883.

2 Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa, p. 164.

3 See chap. vi.

4 Churchward, op. cit., p. 71.

5 Churchward, op. cit., p. 75.

6 This was difficult to carry out, as half-castes—themselves European subjects—often supplied drink to their native relatives.

page 174inspection of a store "brought to light over 600 breechloading rifles, 63,000 rounds of ball cartridges, 3 tons of powder, and a large quantity of cast bullets!"1

Such regulations were only carried through amidst a scorching fire of criticisms from the disgruntled "beach." The success of the Municipal Government was possible only so long as the Consuls acted in unison. The departure of the German Consul, Stuebel, from this common accord in 1884. effectively dislocated the Municipality.

1 Churchward, op. cit., p. 75.