Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884

iii. The Change in German Attitude

iii. The Change in German Attitude

The intrigues of Lundon gave rise to counter-intrigues by Germans—Weber, Ruge, and even the Consul Stuebel. By 1884 German patriots began to see hope of State support— which in 1880 had not been accorded to their endeavours.

Opinion in Germany was, between 1880–85, undergoing a powerful change. In 1880 the defeat of the Samoan Subsidy Bill had seemed a fatal blow to colonial enterprise. Actually the effect was the reverse. Enthusiasts were stimulated to win popular support. Between 1880 and 1882, for example, no less than forty books and pamphlets were published for this purpose.3 In 1882 the Kolonial Verein, a society for promoting German colonization, was formed (December 6, 1882). The chief promoters in Germany were

3 Townsend, Origins of Modern German Colonialism, p. 86.

page 180
Fig. 5.—German, British, and American Imports and Exports of Samoa, 1884(From U.S. Monthly Consular Reports, July 1885, No. 54)

Fig. 5.—German, British, and American Imports and Exports of
Samoa, 1884

(From U.S. Monthly Consular Reports, July 1885, No. 54)

page 181
Fig. 6.—Foreign Imports and Exports of Samoa, 1880–84(From the report of the German Consulate in Samoa, 1883, in "Parliamentary Papers," 1889. Figures for 1884 from U.S. Monthly Consular Reports, July 1885, No. 56 (except German Imports, 1884), Vol. 86, c. 5672. U.S. Consular Reports give higher figures for Germany's export and lower for her import trade)

Fig. 6.—Foreign Imports and Exports of Samoa, 1880–84
(From the report of the German Consulate in Samoa, 1883, in "Parliamentary Papers," 1889. Figures for 1884 from U.S. Monthly Consular Reports, July 1885, No. 56 (except German Imports, 1884), Vol. 86, c. 5672. U.S. Consular Reports give higher figures for Germany's export and lower for her import trade)

page 182von Maltzan, a celebrated African traveller, von der Brüggen, and Prince Hohenlohe Langenberg. The avowed objects were: "To extend to a larger circle the realization of the necessity of applying national energy to the field of colonization. To form a central organization for the hitherto scattered efforts for expansion—and to create some method for the practical solution of the question."1 By December 31, 1883, there were 3,345 members, and by 1884 numbers had risen 300 per cent to 10,275. It was decided to issue a journal. The aim and appeal of this periodical, Die Deutsche Kolonial Zeitung, was national not political. It was to consolidate the work of German traders. It was affirmed that "it was better to work for a place in the world2 than to complain of illfortune or the Chancellor."3 In the Zeitung, Samoa figured prominently. Long accounts of the islands were given—descriptive, historical, and commercial. There were also frequent short entries and extracts "from a correspondent in Samoa," which served to keep in people's minds the importance of the group to Germans.4 No opportunity was lost to impress the public in Germany with the attractions of the islands and the extent of German interest, and the aggressive and hampering action of the British. The English, ran one article, "might as well say straight out, 'in whatever part of the world there is no acknowledged settlement by a civilized Power, that do we take, and it belongs to us English.'"5
Indeed, the feeling for colonialism became to some extent an anti-English feeling. The field for expansion had been narrowed chiefly by England. The Anglo-French agreement

1 Townsend, op. cit., pp. 140–44.

2 "Frisch einen Griff in der Welt zu thun."

3 Kolonial Zeitung, vol. i, p. 2.

4 E.g. in vol. i; in vol. ii, 1885, there are five articles on Samoa and Pacific trade; in vol. iii, 1886, there are four articles on Samoa and Pacific trade; in vol. iv, 1887, there are six articles on Samoa and Pacific trade.

5 Kolonial Zeitung.

page 183of 1882 was construed as an unfriendly action, and the tardy settlement of the Fiji claims was a further grievance.

The Australasian Inter-Colonial Convention of 1883 further stirred German feelings of anxiety, particularly in the Pacific, lest British colonists and traders should be enabled—by the absence of German State support to German enterprise—to forestall Germany in New Guinea, and perhaps even to secure Samoa. Moreover, England's apparent unwillingness to allow other claims, while she herself was unwilling to undertake annexation,1 had the effect of promoting popular support for a colonial policy. Lord Ampthill, indeed, warned Granville that Bismarck was being driven, "contrary to his convictions and will, into the inauguration of the colonial policy he had hitherto denounced as detrimental to the concentration of German strength and power."2 When Great Britain protested against the Samoan-German agreement of November 10, 1884, Bismarck complained to Malet "that at every point at which Germany had endeavoured to found a colony, England had closed in, making new acquisitions so as to restrict Germany's power of expansion."3 Further: "The Imperial Government intended to place under the direct protection of the Empire, as had been done in West Africa, so now also in the South Seas, those districts in which German commerce had become predominant, or to which expeditions were about to be undertaken."4

Although these extracts belong to the period of diplomatic negotiation (1885–89) that followed the collapse of Malietoa's independent government, they illustrate the support that Bismarck accorded Stuebel in his action of forcing the

1 E.g. at Angra Pequeña in Africa. See Townsend, op. cit., p. 168.

2 Fitzmaurice, Lord E., Life of Lord Granville, vol. ii, p. 355, quoted in Scholefield, The Pacific, p. 291.

3 B.F.S.P., vol. 76, p. 786. Malet to Granville, January 24, 1885.

4 Ibid., p. 789. Count Münster to Granville, January 28, 1885.

page 184agreement of November 1884 upon Malietoa.1 We may, therefore, assume that it was the realization of the change in German popular feeling and Government policy that led Stuebel into taking this action. The Germans in Samoa were, indeed, sanguine that Samoa would shortly be annexed by Germany.2 Further, in his book Churchward declared that had Malietoa's request for annexation by New Zealand been granted, the New Zealanders "would not have had the pleasure of seeing their flag flying over the islands, for on the first report of their arrival in the neighbourhood, the Germans were quite determined formally to annex the whole group, and very glad they would have been of the excuse."3

In this atmosphere, when the Germans saw at last the shaping of a policy of State protection to the trader by annexation of those parts where he had acquired interests, it is hardly surprising that Germans should have looked with irritation upon Lundon's intrigues. The manifest preference of Samoans for English made the annoyance greater.4 So, with hopes for support from Berlin, intrigue was devised to counter intrigue.

Weber's first step in obtaining control of the native government was when he succeeded—to the sorrow of Samoans and to the alarm of the British—in acquiring Mulinuu, the Samoan native capital and seat of government (December 6, 1883). This step gave him indirect control over the Government. "In the event of Malietoa taking any steps that he may consider inimical to his national or private

1 See p. 187, infra.

2 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville, October 28, 1884.

3 Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa, p. 275.

4 This became, at times, somewhat glaring. For example, the Samoans cultivated a habit of wearing the Union Jack as a lava-lava (or waist cloth), an act which certain British residents considered disrespectful. Their attempts to suppress this only made matters worse, and a culminating point was reached when a Samoan gentleman walked the length of the town draped in the Royal Standard. He was, however, run in.

page 185interests," wrote Thurston, "he [Weber] would not hesitate in turning him off the point and putting his opponents in possession,1 thus virtually giving them the traditional right of rule over all Samoa."2

Weber's avowed motive in bullying the Samoan Government was to secure what had for long been a grievance, the due punishment of plantation thieves.3 The Municipal Government had control only over Apia. Neutral territory extended only a little way beyond the bounds of the Municipality. Despite the cessation of war, depredations on German plantations had continued because the Samoan Government was too weak to stop thieves and too lenient to punish offenders.

But though this was Weber's avowed and immediate aim, his general actions as reported by the Consuls leave no doubt that he desired the real and effective control of the islands by Germany. Indeed, it is difficult to say where his efforts for the German commercial firm ended and where his work for the honour and glory of Germany began. To add to the efficiency and power of the firm was to add to the efficiency and power of Germany in the islands. "In such an atmosphere," wrote Stevenson, "commercial sharpness has an air of patriotism."4 Thus, ostensibly for the benefit of the wide plantations of the Deutsche Handels und Plantagen Gesellschaft, Weber set his plans.

According to Churchward's dispatches,5 feeling in Apia was running high by the end of the year 1884. The Germans suspected the British of intrigue for annexation, partly justified and partly because the natives were loud in expressing their wish for British protection. In October, Weber picked a quarrel with Samoans over Mulinuu Point, which

1 An action taken by Weber two years later.

2 A full account of Weber's method of obtaining possession is given in F.O. 58/188. Thurston to Granville January 28, 1884.

3 See chap. vi.

4 Stevenson, A Footnote to History.

5 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville, October 28, 1884.

page 186he had acquired the previous December. The natives had grumbled over his successful acquisition, and he called upon the Samoan Government to vacate or redeem the property. The opinion of a Samoan was "that the Germans wished to pick a quarrel with their Government for annexation purposes. This, they said, was made clear by speeches to them, by the man-of-war placing flags on various parts of their coast,1 and also by planting coconuts on the reef islands…. There can be no doubt," wrote Churchward, "that the natives are really alarmed at the many reports of German annexation, and as a body resent the idea. The increasingly loud talk of German importance impressed upon them every day of their lives, backed up by newspaper reports of German desire for land acquisition, all of which in a more or less distorted condition they obtain knowledge of and formally discuss, naturally cause them to think very seriously of the matter." Churchward further reported rumours current of German annexation. He wrote of the head of the second German firm of Ruge, Hedeman & Co.: "Mr. Ruge spares no opportunity of publicly stating that a German protectorate has been decided upon and will be established very shortly in spite of all opposition."2 The fear of this was further enhanced by the arrival of the German corvette Marie (October 31, 1884) and the expected arrival of H.I.M.S. Elizabeth. Churchward feared that the Samoans would hoist the British flag on their own initiative!
Meanwhile, King Malietoa on the advice of his chiefs wrote another appeal to Great Britain and to the Government of New Zealand for protection (November 5, 1884). In the stress of the moment he appealed to the Governor of New Zealand to cable his petition to England.3 Weak,

1 Probably, surveying flags.

2 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville, November 11, 1884.

3 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville (No. 23), November 11, 1884. Encl. Malietoa to Queen Victoria and to Governor of New Zealand, November 5, 1884.

page 187indecisive, the king hoped to shuffle the burden of government to other shoulders. The petition, he still optimistically hoped, might be answered and his difficulties solved. The next day, after dispatching the petition, he publicly performed before the German Consulate the most severe abasement permitted by Samoan custom, but he let it be known that it was only in atonement for sins committed, and not as a sign of any wish to belong to Germany.1 He hoped, indeed, by this implied submission to deceive Weber as to his real hopes.

Weber, however, wished for a more definite assurance. Four days later, on November 10, 1884, he forced Malietoa and Tamasese the vice-king to sign an agreement for the future regulation of the government of Samoa. Malietoa submitted for the sake of peace, but the next day appealed again to England. "Your Majesty," he wrote to Queen Victoria, "we are in distress on account of the Government of Germany lest they should take our islands. Therefore we have accepted another treaty with Germany. I wish to make clear to Your Majesty in consequence that I have accepted the treaty against my will, likewise against the will of my Government, but I have accepted it on account of my fear, for I have thought that if your Government should be set up in these islands, then that treaty will be of no effect."2

Unfortunately for Malietoa the Germans heard of this. Churchward recounts that a scribe sold the document to them for $30.3 "The Germans may have been wrong before; they were now in the right to be angry. They had been publicly, solemnly and elaborately fooled."4 From that moment Malietoa was of no account to them. From that incident dates the confusion into which Samoan affairs were

1 Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa, p. 373.

2 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville (No. 24). Encl. No. 2. Malietoa to Queen Victoria, November 17, 1884.

3 Churchward, op. cit., p. 378.

4 Stevenson, p. 96.

page 188plunged. The agreement to which the unwilling Malietoa had assented (November 16, 1884) virtually handed the control of the Samoan Government to Germany. There was to be a Samoan-German Council consisting of the German Consul and two Germans (appointed by him) and two Samoans (appointed one by Malietoa and one by Tamasese—therefore from opposite parties). Arrangements were made for the punishment of Samoans committing injuries to German life and property. An adequate and well-guarded prison was to be built to receive such offenders. There was to be a German Secretary and advisor to the king, who would also possess magisterial powers and be able to punish for any term up to two years.1
The strife which arose in Samoa as the result of this document, and the reception which it received by the British and American Governments, placed Samoan affairs on a new footing. Indeed, by the end of 1884 the British Government was forced into an awkward position. In 1881, unwilling to be driven into too great concern in the islands and feeling safe in their assured neutrality, Granville had refused to entertain the idea of a tripartite condominium. Now in 1884 Germany had suddenly shown a willingness to annex on the grounds of interests which were indubitably preponderant. This was particularly awkward as New Zealand had manifested a great anxiety to annex Samoa since 1883,2 and had made an offer to share in the expenses that might be involved. Further, native autonomy, the British standby during the century, had proved in Samoa

1 F.O. 58/199. Churchward to Granville (No. 14), November 19, 1884.

2 November 19, 1884. Jervois telegraphed New Zealand Ministers, hoping Great Britain would claim Samoa and Tonga in the negotiations that were proceeding with Germany (F.O. 58/199. Telegram. Jervois to Derby, November 19, 1884). The attitude of the C.O. is illustrated by a memo. by Herbert that "as far as the C.O. were concerned, they would not be sorry if Germany took Samoa, and perhaps Tonga also" (F.O. 58/199. Memo, for F.O., C.L.H., December 16, 1884).

page 189an acknowledged failure. The aggrieved tone of the Australasian Colonies over German annexation of Northern New Guinea was only a foretaste of what the bitterness in New Zealand would be if Germany annexed Samoa. England, therefore, had to resort to reciprocal assurances with Germany that both would regard the integrity of Samoa,1 a solution that satisfied neither Germany nor New Zealand nor Samoa, but it saved England the unpleasantness of either annexing or allowing Germany to do so.2

1 F.O. 58/199. Granville to Malet. Cons. 29, December 2, 1884. On the receipt of assurances from Berlin, Derby cabled to New Zealand that "foreign interests in the islands precluded H.M. Government from accepting the cession of the Navigator Islands" (F.O. 58/199. F.O. to C.O., December 11, 1884).

2 This had been strongly urged by Des Voeux. "It would be far better for the interests not only of British subjects but of the Samoans, that the country should be altogether taken by Germany rather than that the government should be carried on under the conditions indicated in the agreement, which attaches to Germans all the advantages without the corresponding responsibilities of annexation" (F.O. 58/199. Des Voeux to Granville, No. 23, December 10, 1884).