The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845–1884
Chapter VIII — The Experiment of Native Autonomy Proves a Failure. July 1881–November 1884 1
The Experiment of Native Autonomy Proves a Failure.
July 1881–November 1884
1 July 12, 1881—date of Lackawanna agreement when Malietoa was acknowledged by all Samoan parties. November 10, 1884—date of German-Samoan agreement described in the course of this chapter.
The events of the years 1881–84 justified Gordon's and Maudslay's scepticism as to Malietoa's power to govern Samoa. By 1884 Samoan affairs had again fallen into an inextricable tangle. The situation had, however, changed on all sides. No longer was it possible to patch up a peace locally on the spot. After 1884 Samoa became a subject of dispute between Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, a situation which neither her commercial value nor her strategic position and harbours warranted.
The year 1884 is indeed the end of one period, just as it is the beginning of another. By the end of 1884 the British Foreign Office was willing to acknowledge that independent native rule was impossible as well as impracticable. It was impracticable because the natives showed themselves incapable of ruling themselves, let alone foreigners. It was impossible because there was constant interference by Europeans, either as individuals or as representing a body of opinion,2 so that the government, whether good or bad, was not a native government. By 1884 the British Government admitted that Malietoa's rule had proved a failure.3 There was, however, no longer any question of unwillingness on the part of the Powers to annex Samoa. In the intervening page 171years (1881–84) the situation for the three Powers concerned had changed. By the end of 1884 Germany had manifested her intention of embarking upon a colonial policy.1 The Australasian Colonies, also, had vehemently revived schemes for the neutralization if not the direct absorption of the Western Pacific Islands.2 The matter had, in fact, become international. Once the ideal of native autonomy was effectually exploded, the ultimate annexation of Samoa by one or other of the Great Powers was inevitable. The unquiet years that followed the collapse of Malietoa's government (1884–89) were due primarily to a realization of this by the Great Powers and their agents in Samoa. Each Power wished to claim ascendancy and rights over the other two.3 Events in Samoa became of secondary importance to negotiations in Europe and America. The Samoan islands became a pawn in the diplomatic game, their value assessed and exchangeable for rights, privileges, and territory elsewhere.
This part of Samoan history is outside the story of this book. The collapse of Malietoa Laupepa was virtually (though not actually) in November 1884.4 The events to be narrated in this chapter, then, deal with the cause of that final failure of native government of 1881–84, and the effects upon Samoa of the changed attitude of the Great Powers towards annexation.5
3 F.O. 58/199. Bramston to Under-Secretary of State. F.O., May 27, 1884.
3 With Great Britain it was not on her own account, but out of consideration for the strong feeling on this matter that existed in New Zealand.
4 In signing the German-Samoan agreement the Samoan Government was under German control. Malietoa lost prestige among his own people. In 1887 he was deported by the Germans.
5 Particularly the change in Germany and in the Australasian Colonies.
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
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 See chap. vi.
6 This was difficult to carry out, as half-castes—themselves European subjects—often supplied drink to their native relatives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4 F.O. 58/199. Des Voeux to Derby. Confidential, November 19, 1883. Encl. Malietoa to Queen Victoria, November 19, 1883.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3 Townsend, Origins of Modern German Colonialism, p. 86.
Fig. 5.—German, British, and American Imports and Exports of
(From U.S. Monthly Consular Reports, July 1885, No. 54)
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
1 See p. 187, infra.
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.
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.
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.
1 Probably, surveying flags.
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
4 Stevenson, p. 96.
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).
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).
iv. The American Standpoint — A further
bar to Settlement
3 Richardson, J. D., Messages of Presidents, vol. viii, p. 64, December 6, 1880.
The climax in Samoa at the end of 1884 and in 1885 led to an Anglo-German Commission to find a solution to the vexed question of Samoan government. The two Commissioners (the British, Sir J. Thurston and Herr Krauel, the German) presented annexation by a single Power as the only solution. The matter was dropped in view of the Anglo-German negotiations of April 1886 for the division of the Pacific into spheres of influence. In 1886, however, a Commission of American, German, and British representatives was appointed to report upon the situation in Samoa and upon "how to compass an autonomous government in the islands."1 Travers, the German Commissioner, was clear in his assertion that this was not practicable. He recommended annexation by Germany as she had the greatest interests. Bates, the United States Commissioner, recommended annexation by America as she had fewest interests. Thurston did not consider annexation by a single Power permissible as a solution within the scope of his instructions, but he implied its desirability.
1 50–51 Hse. Ex. Doc. No. 238: Travers' Report, p. 261, Appendix B; Thurston's Report, p. 268, Appendix C; Bates' Report, p. 137, Appendix A.
This, it may be added, was not the German interpretation of American action. "By the Monroe Doctrine," said Count Herbert Bismarck to Salisbury, "they seem to wish the Pacific Ocean to become an American lake. They not only want Hawaii (where England has no interests) under their influence, but also Samoa and Tonga as stations on a route through a future Panama Canal to Australia; there are, indeed, Americans who dream of a future republican union and federation of the various Australasian Colonies with the United States."2
1 B.F.S.P., vol. 79. Protocols of Conferences between Great Britain, Germany, and the United States.
2 Die Grosse Politik, vol. iv, p. 175. H. Bismarck to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, August 24, 1887.
Whatever arrière-pensée Bayard may have had in the Washington Conference, his refusal to consider the proposed mandatory government postponed the solution of the Samoan problem until 1889.
v. A Résumé of the Years 1885–99
In Samoa, meanwhile, affairs had moved fast. After his submission to the Germans in November 1884, Malietoa was no longer of any account with either Samoans or whites. In January (January 23, 1885) Stuebel hoisted the German flag at Mulinuu, and it remained flying despite the protests of the American and British Consuls. In December (December 31, 1885) Stuebel proceeded to haul down the Samoan flag. A climax was reached when the Germans accorded their whole-hearted support to Tamasese, the vice-king, who was a puppet in their hands, and declared war on Malietoa. For the sake of his people, and to prevent civil strife, Malietoa magnanimously gave himself up to the Germans, and was deported. Tamasese was installed as king, but with little native support. This, however, did not lead to peace. Another scion of the Malietoa family, Mataafa, won the support of a large party in Samoa, and civil war continued in 1887–88 and the beginning of 1889. It seems probable that but for the German support to Tamasese, Mataafa might have established himself. As it was, the Americans and British lent Mataafa moral if not material support, while German marines openly fought for the German nominee. At this stage, in March 1889, when the harbour was filled with the hostile warships, American, German, and British, a hurricane swept down like an avenging power upon the harbour, and of the seven men-of-war, the British ship, the Calliope, alone escaped by steaming out into the open ocean in the teeth of the gale.
This disaster sobered hotheads in Samoa and politicians page 193in Europe and America. The magnitude of the losses in men and shipping was out of all proportion to the value attached to the islands. The delegates at the Berlin Conference (April–June 1889) were consequently sincere in their desire to come to a reasonable and just settlement for Samoa. All the same the arrangements made at the Berlin Conference of 1889 were unsatisfactory. Autonomous government was no longer considered possible, and that certainly showed an advance on previous discussions. But annexation by a single Power was precluded. So Samoa was for ten years under an arrangement by which the two principal officials should be neither German nor British nor American, but appointed by the King of Sweden. For ten years Samoa laboured under this unsatisfactory government. Further serious outbreaks of hostilities (1898–99) led to the much more satisfactory arrangement of 1899 when Western Samoa (Savaii and Upolu) fell to the lot of Germany and Eastern Samoa (Tutuila, Manua, and Rose Island) to America.1 And only then did the distraught islands have peace.
1 The events of the years 1884–94 in Samoa, told sympathetically from the native point of view, are in R. L. Stevenson's Vailima Letters and A Footnote to History. Other outline sources for the events of these years are: Scholefield, The Pacific; Watson, R. L., A History of Samoa; Henderson, American Diplomatic Questions on Samoa.