The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76
I bring this series of articles to a close while the action of the Treaty Powers, with regard to the present situation in Samoa, is still a matter for speculation and conjecture. The orders for another British warship to proceed to Apia; the intelligence that another German man-o'-war is also on her way thither; and the fact that at last an American cruiser is bound for the group, would suggest the idea that a naval demonstration by the Powers is contemplated. But if the report be true that Germany has demanded the recall of Chief Justice Chambers, there is some reason for doubting whether that demonstration would be for the purpose of enforcing the decision of the Chief Justice.
If the Powers choose to hold Mataafa strictly to his promise, the most perplexing and troublesome feature of the present problem would be eliminated, though at what cost it would be impossible to say. That would depend entirely upon Mataafa himself—upon his action when his surrender was demanded. It is freely stated in Samoa that he would resist to the last any attempt to seize him, but it is rather rash to predict what his course of action would be. It may be true, as has been stated by some, that the actual fighting was not sanctioned by him, but he had certainly been for a considerable time massing all his available warriors at Maulinuu, apparently oblivious or regardless of his written promise to use his influence for the promotion of peace in Samoa. Within a few hours of a decision adverse to him being given, his followers, with or without his sanction, were engaged in a bloody strife, and were devastating the villages of their opponents. He agreed, as a condition of his restoration to Samoa, that if he failed in his promises he should be liable to renewed exile, or other punishment. If he page 26 were again deported, the kingship question would, for a time at least, be somewhat less involved. It may, therefore, be that, irrespective of the decision of the Chief Justice, the Treaty Powers are about to seize him again, or attempt to do so, and punish him for disturbing the peace of Samoa, contrary to his obligation to promote it. But are the Powers prepared to hold him strictly to His promise? Is he not entitled to some little indulgence—an indulgence that any generous opponent would at once accord on the ground that, even if the decision against him were sound in law, it was unjust that he should be prevented from aspiring to the throne? There is little doubt that for years Mataafa has suffered from a rankling sense of injustice in this matter, and probably most men, when they had the opportunity, would have acted in a similar manner. Again, if, as appears to be the case, Mataafa's cause has been espoused by Germany, the only Power which had any objection at all to his being appointed king, is it likely that Germany will readily consent to his being punished for doing what the officials of the Imperial German Government are said to have incited him to do? It is true that these officials have denied having given him the active support alleged to have been afforded by them, but they have certainly befriended and adopted him. In the United States he is regarded as a barbaric hero, who defeated the forces of a great military Power; and though his present alliance with the Germans, and the complication between the latter and the American Chief Justice, may have a modifying influence on this feeling, there will probably be a strong sentiment against harsh measures.* Nor is there any reason for supposing that England will desire to treat Mataafa harshly, though there the feeling of the Government would probably be in favour of supporting the Chief Justice's decision, if it can be rightly done.
Supposing that the Powers decide that the decision of the Chief Justice is not in accordance with the Treaty, and that a decision on the merits should have been given, and supposing also that Mataafa is allowed to remain in amoa, the ordinary course would be for a new trial to take place. But here a fresh difficulty arises. The Chief Justice has stated, and the statement has been published, that if he had given a decision on the merits, that decision would also have been against Mataafa. Would Mataafa be likely to consent to submit his case again to the Chief Justice, knowing that the latter had already declared against him on the merits? This statement of the Chief Justice renders it more difficult to understand why a decision on the merits was not given instead of on a point which at least is surrounded with very grave page 27 doubt. It is even still more difficult to understand, when it is remembered that only a few months ago the Chief Justice, in a letter to Mr. Voors, expressed the opinion that Mataafa was as eligible as anyone else. It has been stated, it is true, that when he wrote this letter he was not acquainted with the passage in the protocols upon which his decision was subsequently given, but he does not state this himself apparently, and on the face of it, it seems improbable that he was not familiar with everything in the protocols. Moreover, the question was not a new one, and had been frequently discussed in Apia, yet the objection to Mataafa's candidature was not raised in the proceedings before the Chief Justice until the last day of the trial. Under ordinary circumstances this might have been attributed either to a belief on the part of Malietoa's counsel that the opinion of the Chief Justice had undergone a change, or to a feeling on the part of counsel that they were so weak on the merits that it was necessary, even at that late stage, to raise an objection which should in the regular course have been raised at the outset. But each of these explanations fails in view of the statement that the first opinion of the Chief Justice was given without reference to the protocols, and and that the merits were strongly in favour of Malietoa; one is therefore driven to the conclusion that the eloquence, ingenuity, and reasoning of the counsel opposed to Mataafa were so effective that they prevailed with the Chief-Justice, and I frankly express my admiration of the skill which could out of the extremely flimsy materials to hand weave such a convincing argument as must necessarily have been presented to the Court by Messrs. Carruthers and Gurr. Perhaps a weakness in reply from Mataafa's counsel contribute somewhat to this result. However, the de facto king of Samoa has now secured the services of a counsel who is able, ingenious, persuasive, and persistent, who has, no doubt, already taken steps to prevent a hasty decision being arrived at without a full statement of the case on bell i If of Mataafa. Still, Mataafa is rather severely handicapped by the pledges he gave in Jaluit, and by the verbal understanding of the chiefs representing him in Court that the decision of the Chief Justice would be accepted by them. The Samoan kingship problem is, it seems to me, one of the most interesting and intricate little puzzles ever presented for solution, and the fact that no decision has yet been announced would seem to indicate that its difficulties are being fully appreciated.
What the Powers will do at this present juncture, though an exceedingly interesting question, falls into comparative unimportance before the larger and graver question, What is to be the ultimate destiny of Samoa? The opinion amongst those who have studied the matter is practically unanimous that annexation page 28 by one Power affords the only satisfactory solution of the problem. But annexation by one Power seems at present to be utterly improbable; and there is little doubt that whatever may be done at the present time, the three Powers will still maintain their present relations with Samoa. The present system of control has proved a dismal and disastrous failure, but it is somewhat rash to say that a fairly satisfactory system of tripartite control is an impossibility The existing Treaty requires extensive modification and some radical alterations. A number of amendments were suggested several years ago, and embodied in a memorial from the foreign residents of Samoa to the Powers, but the Powers turned a deaf ear to the petition. Though the Treaty makes express provision for amelioration and modification, and experience has shown that extensive alterations are an urgent necessity, the Powers have steadily refused to make any change, and the Treaty remains unaltered, save in the matter of apportionment of revenue. This is the more regrettable, since it is scarcely possible that a more defective system could be devised than that now in vogue. Almost any alteration would of necessity be an improvement.
* Since this was penned, the cablegrams have announced that the most cordial relations exist between the United States and Germany in connection with the Samoan difficulty. It does not seem likely, therefore, that Germany has been asked to join many hostile movement against Mataafa.