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The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884

ii. New Zealand Intrigue

ii. New Zealand Intrigue

Special blame for this cannot be thrust upon the Germans, though in the later part of the story (October-November 1884 onwards) much attaches to them. Trouble came inevitably upon Samoa. Peace increased the prosperity of the islands, and prosperity brought more traders, from 1880 onwards.

The warning rumble of further upheavals came in 1883. In September of that year there came to the islands a certain Mr. Lundon, a New Zealand ex-M.P.2 His private purpose was to claim back the lands of a notorious New Zealand landowner, Cornwall by name. Failing in his endeavour to get Cornwall's land, he began a series of intrigues with natives to get them to appeal to New Zealand and Great Britain for annexation. "He was a man, as I was informed," writes Bates, United States Commissioner in 1886 to Samoa, "of the class who make continual trouble among the South Sea natives."3 He entirely failed to realize that this was a

2 John Lundon's activities are described in: (a) F.O. 58/199. Dispatches by Acting-Consul Churchward for 1884. (b) United States Papers, 50 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 238. Appendix A. Report by Bates. New Zealand annexation projects, pp. 158–67. (c) Mention also in Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa, pp. 275–77.

3 50 Congress 1. Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 238. Report of Bates, p. 167.

page 175task of no little difficulty, as Samoan chiefs had appealed to Great Britain for annexation intermittently since 1845. The occasion for his action was, however, well chosen. In that same year Sir George Grey, now old and somewhat embittered, had recalled his dream of forty years before. He brought forward a Federation Act by which New Zealand should be enabled to "take steps for the establishment of its rule over such islands in the Pacific as are not already occupied by, or under the protection of, a foreign Power, and the occupation of which by any foreign Power would be detrimental to the interests of Australasia."
It was while this Bill was before the House of Representatives that Lundon began his Samoan intrigues. He sent articles to the New Zealand Herald calculated to stir up the popular feeling in New Zealand.1 Moreover, under his influence Malietoa once again petitioned Great Britain for annexation.2 Malietoa was, however, suspicious of Lundon personally, and asked Churchward for advice as to how to be rid of him.3 The petition expressed rather a general and long-standing wish to be annexed to Great Britain than any new growth of feeling.4 A Samoan resident writing anonymously to the New Zealand papers declared that at no time was there any unanimous or even widespread desire in Samoa to be annexed by New Zealand, and that Lundon's articles in the papers were wilful misinterpretations.5 Had Lundon been disinterested in his efforts, he would have realized that the problem was not in getting the natives to petition Great Britain, but in understanding the position of

1 New Zealand Herald, September 17 and 18, 1883.

2 F.O. 58/199. Malietoa to Her Most Gracious Majesty, November 19, 1883. This petition was never answered—Lord Derby preferred to "shelve the question," and the F.O. only heard of it a year later when another petition (November 5, 1884) arrived.

3 Churchward, op. cit., pp. 275–77.

4 F.O. 58/199. Des Voeux to Derby. Confidential, November 19, 1883. Encl. Malietoa to Queen Victoria, November 19, 1883.

5 New Zealand Herald and Daily Southern Cross, August 8, 1884.

page 176the Germans and in persuading the British Colonial and Foreign Offices that there was occasion to act. Des Voeux, the High Commissioner of the Western Pacific, valiantly attempted to make this clear to the New Zealand Government, while he appealed to them to check this movement in Samoa:

"Whether the annexation of Samoa to New Zealand be desirable or not," he wrote, "it is to be borne in mind that it would not probably be sanctioned without the previous consent of Germany, which has interests in the islands considerably greater than those of any other Power, and which deserves special consideration as having afforded for years past the principal protection to all white settlers by keeping ships of war almost continually in Samoan waters. As Germany is not a colonizing Power, it is not impossible that her Government might regard with favour the annexation of these islands by England, on the assurance that the possession of the private property of German subjects would be thereby guaranteed. But however this may be, a disposition of this kind is not likely to be induced by an agitation which places in immediate peril interests which have hitherto been preserved at so heavy a sacrifice"1 (October 26, 1883).

The British Government indicated its line of policy by withholding its assent to Grey's Act. It had undoubtedly been framed to enable the New Zealand Government to annex Samoa.2 New Zealand did not in the least appreciate the immediate difficulties that arose with Germany and the United States when she began an aggressive line of action in Samoa.

In the same year (1883) the question of the annexation of Pacific Islands to the Australasian Colonies came into

1 P.P., c. 3863, quoted in Scholefield, The Pacific, p. 153.

2 In 1885 the Samoan native Government passed an Act annexing themselves to New Zealand. Had Grey's Act been law this would have caused a difficult situation with Germany.

page 177prominence, through the Inter-Colonial Convention held in Sydney (November 28-December 6, 1883). Chester's abortive act of annexing New Guinea on behalf of the Queensland Government, and the repudiation of that Act by Great Britain, had caused irritation and bitterness in the Australasian Colonies. It was felt that the British Government was not only unsympathetic to the demands of Colonies, but also blind to dangers that in the Pacific seemed very real— the dangers of German aggression. The Prime Minister of Queensland, McIlwraith, wrote to the other Australasian Colonies to test their feelings in this matter.1 The Colonies also felt that while they were independent and separate their opinion carried less weight with the Home Government than if they had been a single federated unit. It was suggested that the Convention should discuss Federation as well as the annexation of Pacific Islands. The Convention accordingly met in Sydney in November 1883.2 Representatives from all the Australasian Colonies and from New Zealand took part, and Sir William Des Voeux, Governor of Fiji (and High Commissioner of the Western Pacific), who was in Sydney at the time, was invited to attend as representative for Fiji.
The avowed purpose in proposing the annexation of Pacific Islands was to exclude the possibility of foreign Powers, in occupation of adjacent islands, proving a menace or inconvenience to the Colonies. The two points uppermost in the minds of Australian Ministers were (a) the possible occupation of New Guinea by Germany, (b) the great inconvenience caused by the French convict settlements in New Caledonia and the immediate likelihood of French

1 Victoria 2nd Session, 1883. Papers presented to Parliament, vol. 3. Correspondence relating to the Australasian Convention of Annexation of adjacent islands and the Federation of Australasia.

2 N.S.W. Parliament. Votes and Proceedings, 1883–84, vol. 9. Proceedings of the Inter-Colonial Convention, November 28–December 6, 1883.

page 178transportation of habitual criminals to New Hebrides. The former point was keenly pressed by Queensland, the latter by New South Wales and Victoria. The question of Samoa did not directly come up. The resolutions were framed to apply only to islands, unoccupied by any European Power, south of the Equator, and where there were no treaty limitations. Sir William des Voeux contributed an important memorandum upon this.1 He threw a new light upon the matter by emphasizing the small value of the islands. Tropical products, especially sugar, could be grown in a small and concentrated area. The demand for copra was diminishing.2 His earnest hope, however, was that by absorption into the Empire of the Pacific Islands the native races might be preserved from exploitation. This, he said, "is the only rational hope that they will, in centuries to come, prove of any substantial benefit to the world at large." First and foremost, he recommended the discouragement of settlers and of the buying of native land. Here, indeed, at the end of our period we find in a representative of the British Crown the same spirit as permeated the Aborigines Committee of 1837, that the work of the British in the Pacific should be to protect and preserve the weaker races.

The importance of the Convention lay in the unanimity with which all the Colonies supported this measure, and in their offer to "defray, in proportion to the population, such share of the cost … as Her Majesty's Government, having reasonable regard to the importance of Imperial and Australasian interests, may deem fair and reasonable."3

1 N.S.W. Parliament. N.S.W. Papers, 1883–84, vol. 9, p. 177. Memo. by Des Voeux.

2 This was not the case. There was a slight falling off in its importation in Great Britain, but since then the import of copra has steadily risen. The estimates are inaccurate and based only upon knowledge of sugar culture in the West Indies and Fiji. Nevertheless, the report is interesting as illustrating a new point of view.

3 N.S.W. Parliament. First day proceedings, November 28, 1883.

page 179

The importance of the Convention in Samoan affairs was not direct. It had, however, an immediate influence upon German opinion and activity.1 Further, it may also safely be inferred that the British Colonial Office, with Lord Derby as Secretary of State for Colonies, realizing that the feeling in the Colonies was undoubtedly genuine, became more sympathetic to their demands, and in succeeding discussions upon the fate of Samoa the feeling in the Australasian Colonies was put forward as a bar to German annexation of Samoa.2

1 E.g. the Consuls at Apia and Sydney protested against the Australian proposals in their Home dispatches, and Weber and Hanshem pressed the claims of their trading establishments. See German Weissbuch (Auswartiges Amt.), 1885, pt. 2, pp. 95–185. Deutsche Interessen in der Süd See.

2 F.O. 58/199. Branston to Under-Secretary of State. F.O., February 23, 1884. Derby put the case of the Colonies in such a way as to preclude Granville's assent to Germany obtaining preponderating influence in the islands. Granville, therefore, proposed what in 1881 had been rejected as a solution, i.e. tripartite government.