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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64



Until October, 1874, English action in the Pacific was confined to private energy and enterprise. The Imperial Government paid no attention to the hoisting of ensigns and taking possession of islands in England's name by discoverers and captains of men-of-war; Pitcairn Island, however, being an exception. On November 29, 1838, Captain Elliot, in H.M.S. "Fly," took possession of this island, memorable for having afforded refuge to the mutineers of the Bounty. A brief account of the matter may be interesting. Captain Bligh stated that the original cause of the mutiny was the connection formed by the crew, while at Tahiti, with the Tahitian women; but the islanders flatly deny the assertion, and attribute it to his own perverse temper and tyrannical conduct. Putting Bligh and seventeen of the crew in an open boat, off Tofoa, one of the Friendly islands, April 28, 1789, the mutineers sailed for Toubouai, where they attempted to establish themselves, but the natives were too hostile. Returning to Tahiti, some of the mutineers landed, but the remaining (Christian and eight men), keeping then place of destination secret, took the vessel on to Pitcairn Island, where they burnt her, January 23, 1790. Those who remained at Tahiti were; picked up by the "Pandora," which frigate was sent out in search as soon as Bligh returned to England. In 1808 the American ship "Topaz" discovered the retreat of the mutineers, and in 1814 H.M. ships "Britain" and "Tayus" touched at the island. In 1838 it was taken possession of by England, and in 1850 the greater number of the inhabitants, at then own request, were removed to Norfolk Island, having outgrown then diminutive home.

Norfolk Island is also British territory, the English Government having twice used it as a convict station. Captain Cook was its discoverer. Until 1788 the island had remained uninhabited, but in that year a small number page 74 of convicts, with a party of marines, were sent there from Australia. It was finally abandoned in 1855, and is now the head-quarters of the Melanesian Mission, and the residence of the Pitcairn islanders. Norfolk Island is included in the commission of the Governor of New South Wales.

In 1864 the inhabitants of Rarotonga, the principal island of the Hervey or Cook's Group, petitioned Her Majesty, through the Governor of New Zealand, for protection, but the prayer was not granted.

On October 10, 1874, Fiji was unconditionally ceded to the British Crown. Want of space forbids my referring to the history of this cession. A few private individuals, British subjects, claim certain islands by right of purchase or occupation. For example, Messrs. Houlder Brothers, of London, own three small guano islands in Eastern Polynesia; Mr. Brander, of Tahiti, Palmerston Island, in Central Polynesia; one Eli Jennings owns and lives upon Quiros Island; and Messrs. Godefroy and Co. claim and own many others. There are hundreds of similar uninhabited islands in the Pacific, which may thus be acquired. In what manner the title to such acquisitions will be treated by the Great Powers is a question for the purchaser or occupier to consider.

At the present time, therefore, Spain actually possesses and occupies the Ladrone and Bonin groups, together with a few islands in the Pelew and Caroline Groups; France, Tahiti and a few of the Georgian Islands, the Paumotas, Marquesas, Toubouai, and New Caledonia Groups; England, the Fiji Group, Pitcairn, and Norfolk Islands; and America has, or has not, a certain claim upon the Navigator Group, according to the decision of the United States Government.