LETTERS TO THE “TIMES,” “PALL MALL GAZETTE,” ETC.
LETTERS TO THE “TIMES,” “PALL MALL GAZETTE,” ETC.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Yacht “Casco,” Hawaiian Islands, Feb. 10, 1889.
Sir, — News from Polynesia is apt to come piecemeal, and thus fail of its effect, the first step being forgotten before the second comes to hand. For this reason I should like to be allowed to recapitulate a little of the past before I go on to illustrate the present extraordinary state of affairs in the Samoan Islands.
It is quite true that this group was largely opened up by German enterprise, and that the port of Apia is much the creation of the Godeffroys. So far the German case extends; no farther. Apia was governed till lately by a tripartite municipality, the American, English, and German Consuls, and one other representative of each of the three nations making up the body. To both America and Germany a harbour had been ceded. England, I believe, had no harbour, but that her position was quite equal to that of her neighbours one fact eloquently displays. Malietoa — then King of Samoa, now a prisoner on the Marshall Islands — offered to accept the supremacy of England. Unhappily for himself, his offer was refused, Her Majesty’s Government declaring, I am told, that they would prefer to see him independent. As he now wanders the territory of his island prison, under the guns of an Imperial war-ship, his independence (if it still exist) must be confined entirely to his bosom.
Such was the former equal and pacific state of the three nations at Apia. It would be curious to tell at length by what steps of encroachment on the one side and weakness on the other the present reign of terror has been brought about; but my time before the mail departs is very short, your space is limited, and in such a history much must be only matter of conjecture. Briefly and roughly, then, there came a sudden change in the attitude of Germany. Another treaty was proposed to Malietoa and refused; the cause of the rebel Tamasese was invented or espoused; Malietoa was seized and deported, Tamasese installed, the tripartite municipality dissolved, the German Consul seated autocratically in its place, and the Hawaiian Embassy (sent by a Power of the same race to moderate among Samoans) dismissed with threats and insults. In the course of these events villages have been shelled, the German flag has been at least once substituted for the English, and the Stars and Stripes (only the other day) were burned at Matafatatele. On the day of the chase after Malietoa the houses of both English and Americans were violently entered by the Germans. Since the dissolution of the municipality English and Americans have paid their taxes into the hands of their own Consuls, where they accumulate, and the German representative, unrecognised and unsupported, rules single in Apia. I have had through my hands a file of Consular proclamations, the most singular reading — a state of war declared, all other authority but that of the German representative suspended, punishment (and the punishment of death in particular) liberally threatened. It is enough to make a man rub his eyes when he reads Colonel de Coetlogon’s protest and the high-handed rejoinder posted alongside of it the next day by Dr. Knappe. Who is Dr. Knappe, thus to make peace and war, deal in life and death, and close with a buffet the mouth of English Consuls? By what process known to diplomacy has he risen from his one-sixth part of municipal authority to be the Bismarck of a Polynesian island? And what spell has been cast on the Cabinets of Washington and St. James’s, that Mr. Blacklock should have been so long left unsupported, and that Colonel de Coetlogon must bow his head under a public buffet?
I have not said much of the Samoans. I despair, in so short a space, to interest English readers in their wrongs; with the mass of people at home they will pass for some sort of cannibal islanders, with whom faith were superfluous, upon whom kindness might be partly thrown away. And, indeed, I recognise with gladness that (except as regards the captivity of Malietoa) the Samoans have had throughout the honours of the game. Tamasese, the German puppet, has had everywhere the under hand; almost none, except those of his own clan, have ever supported his cause, and even these begin now to desert him. “This is no Samoan war,” said one of them, as he transferred his followers and services to the new Malietoa — Mataafa; “this is a German war.” Mataafa, if he be cut off from Apia and the sea, lies inexpugnable in the foot-hills immediately behind with 5,000 warriors at his back. And beyond titles to a great deal of land, which they extorted in exchange for rifles and ammunition from the partisans of Tamasese, of all this bloodshed and bullying the Germans behold no profit. I have it by last advices that Dr. Knappe has approached the King privately with fair speeches, assuring him that the state of war, bombardments, and other evils of the day, are not at all directed at Samoans, but against the English and Americans; and that, when these are extruded, peace shall again smile on a German island. It can never be proved, but it is highly possible he may have said so; and, whether he said it or not, there is a sense in which the thing is true. Violence has not been found to succeed with the Samoans; with the two Anglo-Saxon Powers it has been found to work like a charm.
I conclude with two instances, one American, one English: —
First. — Mr. Klein, an American journalist, was on the beach with Malietoa’s men on the night of the recent German defeat. Seeing the boats approach in the darkness, Mr. Klein hailed them and warned them of the Samoan ambush, and, by this innocent and humane step, made public the fact of his presence. Where much else is contested so much appears to be admitted (and, indeed, claimed) upon both sides. Mr. Klein is now accused of firing on the Germans and of advising the Samoans to fire, both of which he denies. He is accused, after the fight, of succouring only the wounded of Malietoa’s party; he himself declares that he helped both; and, at any rate, the offence appears a novel one, and the accusation threatens to introduce fresh dangers into Red Cross work. He was on the beach that night in the exercise of his profession. If he was with Malietoa’s men, which is the real gist of his offence, we who are not Germans may surely ask, Why not? On what ground is Malietoa a rebel? The Germans have not conquered Samoa that I ever heard of; they are there on treaty like their neighbours, and Dr. Knappe himself (in the eyes of justice) is no more than the one-sixth part of the town council of Apia. Lastly, Mr. Klein’s innocence stands very clearly proven by the openness with which he declared his presence. For all that, this gentleman lay for a considerable time, watched day and night by German sailors, a prisoner in the American Consulate; even after he had succeeded in running the gauntlet of the German guards, and making his escape in a canoe to the American warship Nipsic, he was imperiously redemanded from under his own flag, and it is probable his extradition is being already called for at Washington.
Secondly. — An English artist had gone into the bush sketching. I believe he had been to Malietoa’s camp, so that his guilt stands on somewhat the same ground as Mr. Klein’s. He was forcibly seized on board the British packet Richmond, carried half-dressed on board the Adler, and detained there, in spite of all protest, until an English war-ship had been cleared for action. This is of notoriety, and only one case (although a strong one) of many. Is it what the English people understand by the sovereignty of the seas? — I am, etc.,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Vailima, Upolu, Samoa, Oct. 12, 1891.
Sir, — I beg leave to lay before your readers a copy of a correspondence, or (should that have reached you by another channel) to offer a few words of narrative and comment.
On Saturday, September 5, Mr. Cedercrantz, the Chief Justice of Samoa, sailed on a visit to Fiji, leaving behind him certain prisoners in the gaol, and Baron Senfft von Pilsach, President of the Municipal Council, master of the field. The prisoners were five chiefs of Manono who had surrendered of their own accord, or at the desire of Mataafa, had been tried by a native magistrate, and received sentence of six months’ confinement under “gentlemanly” (sic) conditions. As they were marched to prison, certain of their country-folk of Manono ran beside and offered an immediate rescue; but Lieutenant Ulfsparre ordered the men of the escort to load, and the disturbance blew by. How little weight was attached to this incident by the Chief Justice is sufficiently indicated by the fact of his departure. It was unhappily otherwise with those whom he left behind. Panic seems to have marked them for her own; they despaired at once of all lawful defence; and, on Sunday, the day after the Chief Justice’s departure, Apia was in consequence startled with strange news. Dynamite bought from the wrecker ship, an electrical machine and a mechanic hired, the prison mined, and a letter despatched to the people of Manono advising them of the fact, and announcing that if any rescue were attempted prison and prisoners should be blown up — such were the voices of rumour; and the design appearing equally feeble, reckless, and wicked, considerable agitation was aroused. Perhaps it had some effect. Our Government at least, which had rushed so hastily to one extreme, now dashed with the same speed into another. Sunday was the day of dynamite, Tuesday dawned the day of deportation. A cutter was hurriedly prepared for sea, and the prisoners, whom the Chief Justice had left three days before under a sentence of “gentlemanly” detention, found themselves under way to exile in the Tokelaus.
A Government of this agility escapes criticism: by multiplying surprises it obliterates the very memory of past mistakes. Some, perhaps, forgot the dynamite; some, hearing no more of it, set it down to be a trick of rumour such as we are well used to in the islands. But others were not so sure. Others considered that the rumour (even if unfounded) was of an ill example, might bear deplorable fruit, and, from all points of view of morality and policy, required a public contradiction. Eleven of these last entered accordingly into the annexed correspondence with the President. It will be seen in the crevice of what quibble that gentleman sought refuge and sits inexpugnable. In a question affecting his humanity, his honour, and the wellbeing of the kingdom which he serves, he has preferred to maintain what I can only call a voluble silence. The public must judge of the result; but there is one point to which I may be allowed to draw attention — that passage in the fourth of the appended documents in which he confesses that he was already acquainted with the rumours in question, and that he has been present (and apparently not protesting) when the scandal was discussed and the proposed enormity commended.
The correspondence was still passing when the President surprised Apia with a fresh gambado. He has been a long while in trouble as to his disposition of the funds. His intention to build a house for himself — to all appearance with native money — his sending the taxes out of the islands and locking them up in deposits, and his noisy squabbles with the King and native Parliament as to the currency, had all aroused unfavourable comment. On Saturday, the 3rd of October, a correspondence on the last point appeared in the local paper. By this it appeared that our not too resolute King and Parliament had at last and in one particular defied his advice and maintained their own opinion. If vengeance were to be the order of the day, it might have been expected to fall on the King and Parliament; but this would have been too direct a course, and the blow was turned instead against an innocent municipal council. On the 7th the President appeared before that body, informed them that his authority was lessened by the publication, that he had applied to the King for a month’s leave of (theatrical) absence, and must now refuse to fulfil his duties. With this he retired to his own house, which is under the same roof, leaving the councillors and the municipality to do what they pleased and drift where they could without him. It is reported he has since declared his life to be in danger, and even applied to his Consul for protection. This seems to pass the bounds of credibility; but the movements of Baron Senfft von Pilsach have been throughout so agitated and so unexpected that we know not what to look for; and the signatories of the annexed addresses, if they were accused to-morrow of a design on the man’s days, would scarce have spirit left to be surprised.
It must be clearly pointed out that this is no quarrel of German and anti-German. The German officials, consular and naval, have behaved with perfect loyalty. A German wrote the letter to the paper which unchained this thunderbolt; and it was a German who took the chair which the President had just vacated at the table of the municipal board. And though the Baron is himself of German race, his conduct presents no appearance of design, how much less of conspiracy! Doubtless certain journals will so attempt to twist it; but to the candid it will seem no more than the distracted evolutions of a weak man in a series of panics.
Such is a rough outline of the events to which I would fain direct the attention of the public at home, in the States, and still more in Germany. It has for me but one essential point. Budgets have been called in question, and officials publicly taken the pet before now. But the dynamite scandal is unique.
If it be unfounded, our complaint is already grave. It was the President’s duty, as a man and as a responsible official, to have given it instant and direct denial: and since he neither did so of his own motion, nor consented to do so on our repeated instances, he has shown that he neither understands nor yet is willing to be taught the condition of this country. From what I have been able to collect, Samoans are indignant because the thing was decided between the King and President without consultation with the native Parliament. The thing itself, it does not enter in their thoughts to call in question; they receive gratefully a fresh lesson in civilised methods and civilised justice; a day may come when they shall put that lesson in practice for themselves; and if they are then decried for their barbarity — as they will surely be — and punished for it, as is highly probable, I will ask candid people what they are to think? “How?” they will say. “Your own white people intended to do this, and you said nothing. We do it, and you call us treacherous savages!”
This is to suppose the story false. Suppose it true, however; still more, suppose the plan had been carried out. Suppose these chiefs to have surrendered to the white man’s justice, administered or not by a brown Judge; suppose them tried, condemned, confined in that snare of a gaol, and some fine night their mangled limbs cast in the faces of their countrymen: I leave others to predict the consequences of such an object-lesson in the arts of peace and the administration of the law. The Samoans are a mild race, but their patience is in some points limited. Under Captain Brandeis a single skirmish and the death of a few youths sufficed to kindle an enduring war and bring on the ruin of the Government. The residents have no desire for war, and they deprecate altogether a war embittered from the beginning by atrocities. Nor can they think the stakes at all equal between themselves and Baron Senfft. He has nothing to lose but a situation; he is here in what he stands in; he can swarm to-morrow on board a war-ship and be off. But the residents have some of them sunk capital on these shores; some of them are involved in extended affairs; they are tied to the stake, and they protest against being plunged into war by the violence, and having that war rendered more implacable by the preliminary cruelties, of a white official.
I leave entirely upon one side all questions of morality; but there is still one point of expediency on which I must touch. The old native Government (which was at least cheap) failed to enforce the law, and fell, in consequence, into the manifold troubles which have made the name of Samoa famous. The enforcement of the law — that was what was required, that was the salvation looked for. And here we have a Government at a high figure, and it cannot defend its own gaol, and can find no better remedy than to assassinate its prisoners. What we have bought at this enormous increase of expenditure is the change from King Log to King Stork — from the man who failed to punish petty theft to the man who plots the destruction of his own gaol and the death of his own prisoners.
On the return of the Chief Justice, the matter will be brought to his attention; but the cure of our troubles must come from home; it is from the Great Powers that we look for deliverance. They sent us the President. Let them either remove the man, or see that he is stringently instructed — instructed to respect public decency, so we be no longer menaced with doings worthy of a revolutionary committee; and instructed to respect the administration of the law, so if I be fined a dollar to-morrow for fast riding in Apia street, I may not awake next morning to find my sentence increased to one of banishment or death by dynamite. — I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
P.S. — October 14. — I little expected fresh developments before the mail left. But the unresting President still mars the quiet of his neighbours. Even while I was writing the above lines, Apia was looking on in mere amazement on the continuation of his gambols. A white man had written to the King, and the King had answered the letter — crimes against Baron Senfft von Pilsach and (his private reading of) the Berlin Treaty. He offered to resign — I was about to say “accordingly,” for the unexpected is here the normal — from the presidency of the municipal board, and to retain his position as the King’s adviser. He was instructed that he must resign both, or neither; resigned both; fell out with the Consuls on details; and is now, as we are advised, seeking to resile from his resignations. Such an official I never remember to have read of, though I have seen the like, from across the footlights and the orchestra, evolving in similar figures to the strains of Offenbach.
R. L. S.
Copies of a Correspondence between certain Residents of Apia and Baron Senfft von Pilsach.
September 28, 1.
Baron Senfft von Pilsach.
Sir, — We are requested to lay the enclosed appeal before you, and to express the desire of the signatories to meet your views as to the manner of the answer.
Should you prefer to reply by word of mouth, a deputation will be ready to wait upon you on Thursday, at any hour you may please to appoint.
Should you prefer to reply in writing, we are asked only to impress upon you the extreme desire of the signatories that no time should be unnecessarily lost.
Should you condescend in either of the ways suggested to set at rest our anxiety, we need scarce assure you that the step will be received with gratitude. — We have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servants,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
E. W. Gurr.
(Enclosed in No. I.)
The attention of the President of the Municipal Council is respectfully directed to the following rumours: —
1. That at his suggestion, or with his authority, dynamite was purchased, or efforts were made to procure dynamite, and the use of an electrical machine was secured, or attempted to be obtained.
2. That this was for the purpose of undermining, or pretending to undermine, the gaol in which the Manono prisoners were confined. 3. That notification of this design was sent to the friends of the prisoners.
4. That a threat of blowing up the gaol and the prisoners, in the event of an attempted rescue, was made.
Upon all and upon each of these points severally the white residents anxiously expect and respectfully beg information.
It is suggested for the President’s consideration that rumours unconnected or unexplained acquire almost the force of admitted truth.
That any want of confidence between the governed and the Government must be fruitful in loss to both.
That the rumours in their present form tend to damage the white races in the native mind, and to influence for the worse the manners of the Samoans.
And that the President alone is in a position to deny, to explain, or to correct these rumours.
Upon these grounds the undersigned ask to be excused for any informality in their address, and they hope and humbly pray that the President will accept the occasion here presented, and take early and effectual means to inform and reassure the whites, and to relieve them from possible misjudgment on the part of the Samoans.
Robert Louis Stevenson.
[and nine other signatures.]
Apia, Sept. 30, 1891.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Esq., E.W. Gurr, Esq.
Dear Sirs, — Thanking you for your kind letter dated 28th inst., which I received yesterday, together with the address in question, I beg to inform you that I am going to answer the address in writing as soon as possible. — I have the honour to be, dear Sirs, your obedient servant,
Apia, Oct. 2, 1891.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Esq., E. W. Gurr, Esq.
Gentlemen, — I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of an address without date which has been signed by you and some other foreign residents and handed to me on the 29th of September.
In this address my attention is directed to some rumours, specified therein, concerning which I am informed that “upon all and upon each of these points severally the white residents anxiously expect and respectfully beg information.”
Generally, I beg to state that, with a view of successfully performing my official duties, I believe it is advisable for me to pay no attention to any anonymous rumour.
Further, I cannot forbear expressing my astonishment that in speaking to me so seriously in the name of “the white residents” the subscribers of the address have deemed it unnecessary to acquaint me with their authorisation for doing so. This omission is by no means a mere informality. There are white residents who in my presence have commented upon the rumours in question in a manner directly opposed to the meaning of the address.
This fact alone will justify me in objecting to the truth of the above-quoted statement so prominently set forth and so positively affirmed in the address. It will also justify me in abstaining from a reply to the further assertions of gentlemen who, in apostrophising me, care so little for the correctness of the facts they deal with.
If, in consequence, according to the apprehensions laid down in the address, those unexplained rumours will “damage the white races in the native mind,” I think the signing parties will then remember that there are public authorities in Samoa officially and especially charged with the protection of “the white residents.” If they present to them their complaints and their wishes I have no doubt by so doing they will get all information they may require.
I ask you, gentlemen, to communicate this answer to the parties having signed the address in question. — I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your obedient servant,
Frhr. Senfft von Pilsach.
Oct. 9, 1891.
The signatories of the address are in receipt of the President’s favour under date October 2. Much of his answer is occupied in dealing with a point foreign to the matter in hand, and in itself surprising to the signatories. Their address was an appeal for information on specific points and an appeal from specific persons, who correctly described themselves as “white residents,” “the undersigned,” and in the accompanying letter as the “signatories.” They were so far from seeking to collect evidence in private that they applied frankly and directly to the person accused for explanation; and so far from seeking to multiply signatures or promote scandal that they kept the paper strictly to themselves. They see with regret that the President has failed to appreciate this delicacy. They see with sorrow and surprise that, in answer to a communication which they believe to have been temperately and courteously worded, the President has thought fit to make an imputation on their honesty. The trick of which he would seem to accuse them would have been useless, and even silly, if attempted; and on a candid re-examination of the address and the accompanying letter, the President will doubtless see fit to recall the imputation.
By way of answer to the questions asked the signatories can find nothing but what seems to be a recommendation to them to apply to their Consuls for “protection.” It was not protection they asked, but information. It was not a sense of fear that moved them, but a sense of shame. It is their misfortune that they cannot address the President in his own language, or they would not now require to explain that the words “tend to damage the white races in the native mind,” quoted and misapplied by the President, do not express any fear of suffering by the hands of the Samoans, but in their good opinion, and were not the expression of any concern for the duration of peace, but of a sense of shame under what they conceived to be disgraceful imputations. While agreeing generally with the President’s expressed sentiment as to “anonymous rumours,” they feel that a line has to be drawn. Certain rumours they would not suffer to remain uncontradicted for an hour. It was natural, therefore, that when they heard a man of their own white race accused of conspiring to blow up the gaol and the prisoners who were there under the safeguard of his honour, they should attribute to the accused a similar impatience to be justified; and it is with a sense of painful surprise that they find themselves to have been mistaken.
(Signatures as to Number II.)
Apia, October 9, 1891.
Gentlemen, — Being in receipt of your communication under to-day’s date, I have the honour to inform you that I have undertaken the re-examination of your first address, which you believe would induce me to recall the answer I have given on the 2nd inst.
From this re-examination I have learned again that your appeal begins with the following statement: —
“Upon all and upon each of these points severally the white residents anxiously expect and respectfully beg information.”
I have called this statement a seriously speaking to me in the name of the white residents, and I have objected to the truth of that statement.
If after a “candid re-examination” of the matter from your part you may refute me in either or both points, I shall be glad, indeed, in recalling my answer.
At present I beg to say that I see no reason for your supposing I misunderstood your expression of damaging the white races in the native mind, unless you have no other notion of protection than that applying to the body.
Concerning the assertion contained in the last clause of your second address, that five Samoan prisoners having been sentenced by a Samoan Judge for destroying houses were in the gaol of the Samoan Government “under the safeguard of my honour,” I ask for your permission to recommend this statement also and especially to your re-examination. — I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your obedient servant,
Frhr. Senfft von Pilsach.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Samoa, April 9, 1892.
Sir, — A sketch of our latest difficulty in Samoa will be interesting, at least to lawyers.
In the Berlin General Act there is one point on which, from the earliest moment, volunteer interpreters have been divided. The revenue arising from the customs was held by one party to belong to the Samoan Government, by another to the municipality; and the dispute was at last decided in favour of the municipality by Mr. Cedercrantz, Chief Justice. The decision was not given in writing; but it was reported by at least one of the Consuls to his Government, it was of public notoriety, it is not denied, and it was at once implicitly acted on by the parties. Before that decision, the revenue from customs was suffered to accumulate; ever since, to the knowledge of the Chief Justice, and with the daily countenance of the President, it has been received, administered, and spent by the municipality. It is the function of the Chief Justice to interpret the Berlin Act; its sense was thus supposed to be established beyond cavil; those who were dissatisfied with the result conceived their only recourse lay in a prayer to the Powers to have the treaty altered; and such a prayer was, but the other day, proposed, supported, and finally negatived, in a public meeting.
About a year has gone by since the decision, and the state of the Samoan Government has been daily growing more precarious. Taxes have not been paid, and the Government has not ventured to enforce them. Fresh taxes have fallen due, and the Government has not ventured to call for them. Salaries were running on, and that of the Chief Justice alone amounts to a considerable figure for these islands; the coffers had fallen low, at last it is believed they were quite empty, no resource seemed left, and bystanders waited with a smiling curiosity for the wheels to stop. I should add, to explain the epithet “smiling,” that the Government has proved a still-born child; and except for some spasmodic movements which I have already made the subject of remark in your columns, it may be said to have done nothing but pay salaries.
In this state of matters, on March 28, the President of the Council, Baron Senfft von Pilsach, was suddenly and privately supplied by Mr. Cedercrantz with a written judgment, reversing the verbal and public decision of a year before. By what powers of law was this result attained? And how was the point brought again before his Honour? I feel I shall here strain the credulity of your readers, but our authority is the President in person. The suit was brought by himself in his capacity (perhaps an imaginary one) of King’s adviser; it was defended by himself in his capacity of President of the Council, no notice had been given, the parties were not summoned, they were advised neither of the trial nor the judgment; so far as can be learned two persons only met and parted — the first was the plaintiff and defendant rolled in one, the other was a Judge who had decided black a year ago, and had now intimated a modest willingness to decide white.
But it is possible to follow more closely these original proceedings. Baron von Pilsach sat down (he told us) in his capacity of adviser to the King, and wrote to himself, in his capacity of President of the Council, an eloquent letter of reprimand three pages long; an unknown English artist clothed it for him in good language; and nothing remained but to have it signed by King Malietoa, to whom it was attributed. “So long as he knows how to sign!” — a white official is said thus to have summed up, with a shrug, the qualifications necessary in a Samoan king. It was signed accordingly, though whether the King knew what he was signing is matter of debate; and thus regularised, it was forwarded to the Chief Justice enclosed in a letter of adhesion from the President. Such as they were, these letters appear to have been the pleadings on which the Chief Justice proceeded; such as they were, they seem to have been the documents in this unusual case.
Suppose an unfortunate error to have been made, suppose a reversal of the Court’s finding and the year’s policy to have become immediately needful, wisdom would indicate an extreme frankness of demeanour. And our two officials preferred a policy of irritating dissimulation. While the revolution was being prepared behind the curtain, the President was holding night sessions of the municipal council. What was the business? No other than to prepare an ordinance regulating those very customs which he was secretly conspiring to withdraw from their control. And it was a piece of duplicity of a similar nature which first awoke the echoes of Apia by its miscarriage. The council had sent up for the approval of the Consular Board a project of several bridges, one of which, that of the Vaisingano, was of chief importance to the town. To sanction so much fresh expense, at the very moment when, to his secret knowledge, the municipality was to be left bare of funds, appeared to one of the Consuls an unworthy act; and the proposal was accordingly disallowed. The people of Apia are extremely swift to guess. No sooner was the Vaisingano bridge denied them than they leaped within a measurable distance of the truth. It was remembered that the Chief Justice had but recently (this time by a decision regularly obtained) placed the municipal funds at the President’s mercy; talk ran high of collusion between the two officials; it was rumoured the safe had been already secretly drawn upon; the newspaper being at this juncture suddenly and rather mysteriously sold, it was rumoured it had been bought for the officials with municipal money, and the Apians crowded in consequence to the municipal meeting on April 1, with minds already heated.
The President came on his side armed with the secret judgment; and the hour being now come, he unveiled his work of art to the municipal councillors. On the strength of the Chief Justice’s decision, to his knowledge, and with the daily countenance of the President, they had for twelve months received and expended the revenue from customs. They learned now that this was wrong; they learned not only that they were to receive no more, but that they must refund what they had already spent; and the total sum amounting to about $25,000, and there being less than $20,000 in the treasury, they learned that they were bankrupt. And with the next breath the President reassured them; time was to be given to these miserable debtors, and the King in his clemency would even advance them from their own safe — now theirs no longer — a loan of $3,000 against current expenses. If the municipal council of Apia be far from an ideal body, at least it makes roads and builds bridges, at least it does something to justify its existence and reconcile the ratepayer to the rates. This was to cease: all the funds husbanded for this end were to be transferred to the Government at Mulinuu, which has never done anything to mention but pay salaries, and of which men have long ceased to expect anything else but that it shall continue to pay salaries till it die of inanition. Let us suppose this raid on the municipal treasury to have been just and needful. It is plain, even if introduced in the most conciliatory manner, it could never have been welcome. And, as it was, the sting was in the manner — in the secrecy and the surprise, in the dissimulation, the dissonant decisions, the appearance of collusion between the officials, and the offer of a loan too small to help. Bitter words were spoken at the council-table; the public joined with shouts; it was openly proposed to overpower the President and seize the treasury key. Baron von Pilsach possesses the redeeming rudimentary virtue of courage. It required courage to come at all on such an errand to those he had deceived; and amidst violent voices and menacing hands he displayed a constancy worthy of a better cause. The council broke tumultuously up; the inhabitants crowded to a public meeting; the Consuls, acquainted with the alarming effervescency of feeling, communicated their willingness to meet the municipal councillors and arrange a compromise; and the inhabitants renewed by acclamation the mandate of their representatives. The same night these sat in council with the Consular Board, and a modus vivendi was agreed upon, which was rejected the next morning by the President.
The representations of the Consuls had, however, their effect; and when the council met again on April 6, Baron von Pilsach was found to have entirely modified his attitude. The bridge over the Vaisingano was conceded, the sum of $3,000 offered to the council was increased to $9,000, about one-half of the existing funds; the Samoan Government, which was to profit by the customs, now agreed to bear the expenses of collection; the President, while refusing to be limited to a specific figure, promised an anxious parsimony in the Government expenditure, admitted his recent conduct had been of a nature to irritate the councillors, and frankly proposed it should be brought under the notice of the Powers. I should not be a fair reporter if I did not praise his bearing. In the midst of men whom he had grossly deceived, and who had recently insulted him in return, he behaved himself with tact and temper. And largely in consequence his modus vivendi was accepted under protest, and the matter in dispute referred without discussion to the Powers.
I would like to refer for one moment to my former letter. The Manono prisoners were solemnly sentenced to six months’ imprisonment; and, by some unexplained and secret process, the sentence was increased to one of banishment. The fact seems to have rather amused the Governments at home. It did not at all amuse us here on the spot. But we sought consolation by remembering that the President was a layman, and the Chief Justice had left the islands but the day before. Let Mr. Cedercrantz return, we thought, and Arthur would be come again. Well, Arthur is come. And now we begin to think he was perhaps an approving, if an absent, party to the scandal. For do we not find, in the case of the municipal treasury, the same disquieting features? A decision is publicly delivered, it is acted on for a year, and by some secret and inexplicable process we find it suddenly reversed. We are supposed to be governed by English law. Is this English law? Is it a law at all? Does it permit a state of society in which a citizen can live and act with confidence? And when we are asked by natives to explain these peculiarities of white man’s government and white man’s justice, in what form of words are we to answer?
Fresh news reaches me; I have once again to admire the accuracy of rumour in Apia, and that which I had passed over with a reference becomes the head and front of our contention. The Samoa Times was nominally purchased by a gentleman who, whatever be his other recommendations, was notoriously ill off. There was paid down for it £600 in gold, a huge sum of ready money for Apia, above all in gold, and all men wondered where it came from. It is this which has been discovered. The wrapper of each rouleau was found to be signed by Mr. Martin, collector for the municipality as well as for the Samoan Government, and countersigned by Mr. Savile, his assistant. In other words, the money had left either the municipal or the Government safe.
The position of the President is thus extremely exposed. His accounts up to January 1 are in the hands of auditors. The next term of March 31 is already past, and although the natural course has been repeatedly suggested to him, he has never yet permitted the verification of the balance in his safe. The case would appear less strong against the Chief Justice. Yet a month has not elapsed since he placed the funds at the disposal of the President, on the avowed ground that the population of Apia was unfit to be intrusted with its own affairs. And the very week of the purchase he reversed his own previous decision and liberated his colleague from the last remaining vestige of control. Beyond the extent of these judgments, I doubt if this astute personage will be found to have committed himself in black and white; and the more foolhardy President may thus be left in the top of the breach alone.
Let it be explained or apportioned as it may, this additional scandal is felt to have overfilled the measure. It may be argued that the President has great tact and the Chief Justice a fund of philosophy. Give us instead a judge who shall proceed according to the forms of justice, and a treasurer who shall permit the verification of his balances. Surely there can be found among the millions of Europe two frank and honest men, one of whom shall be acquainted with English law, and the other possess the ordinary virtues of a clerk, over whose heads, in the exercise of their duties, six months may occasionally pass without painful disclosures and dangerous scandals; who shall not weary us with their surprises and intrigues; who shall not amaze us with their lack of penetration; who shall not, in the hour of their destitution, seem to have diverted £600 of public money for the purchase of an inconsiderable sheet, or at a time when eight provinces of discontented natives threaten at any moment to sweep their ineffective Government into the sea to have sought safety and strength in gagging the local Press of Apia. If it be otherwise — if we cannot be relieved, if the Powers are satisfied with the conduct of Mr. Cedercrantz and Baron Senfft von Pilsach; if these were sent here with the understanding that they should secretly purchase, perhaps privately edit, a little sheet of two pages, issued from a crazy wooden building at the mission gate; if it were, indeed, intended that, for this important end, they should divert (as it seems they have done) public funds and affront all the forms of law — we whites can only bow the head. We are here quite helpless. If we would complain of Baron Pilsach, it can only be to Mr. Cedercrantz; if we would complain of Mr. Cedercrantz, and the Powers will not hear us, the circle is complete. A nightly guard surrounds and protects their place of residence, while the house of the King is cynically left without the pickets. Secure from interference, one utters the voice of the law, the other moves the hands of authority; and now they seem to have sequestered in the course of a single week the only available funds and the only existing paper in the islands.
But there is one thing they forget. It is not the whites who menace the duration of their Government, and it is only the whites who read the newspaper. Mataafa sits hard by in his armed camp and sees. He sees the weakness, he counts the scandals of their Government. He sees his rival and “brother” sitting disconsidered at their doors, like Lazarus before the house of Dives, and, if he is not very fond of his “brother,” he is very scrupulous of native dignities. He has seen his friends menaced with midnight destruction in the Government gaol, and deported without form of law. He is not himself a talker, and his thoughts are hid from us; but what is said by his more hasty partisans we know. On March 29, the day after the Chief Justice signed the secret judgment, three days before it was made public, and while the purchase of the newspaper was yet in treaty, a native orator stood up in an assembly. “Who asked the Great Powers to make laws for us; to bring strangers here to rule us?” he cried. “We want no white officials to bind us in the bondage of taxation.” Here is the changed spirit which these gentlemen have produced by a misgovernment of fifteen months. Here is their peril, which no purchase of newspapers and no subsequent editorial suppressions can avert.
It may be asked if it be still time to do anything. It is, indeed, already late; and these gentlemen, arriving in a golden moment, have fatally squandered opportunity and perhaps fatally damaged white prestige. Even the whites themselves they have not only embittered, but corrupted. We were pained the other day when our municipal councillors refused, by a majority, to make the production of invoices obligatory at the Custom-house. Yet who shall blame them, when the Chief Justice, with a smallness of rapacity at which all men wondered, refused to pay, and I believe, still withholds the duties on his imports? He was above the law, being the head of it; and this was how he preached by example. He refused to pay his customs; the white councillors, following in his wake, refuse to take measures to enforce them against others; and the natives, following in his wake, refuse to pay their taxes. These taxes it may, perhaps, be never possible to raise again directly. Taxes have never been popular in Samoa; yet in the golden moment when this Government began its course, a majority of the Samoans paid them. Every province should have seen some part of that money expended in its bounds; every nerve should have been strained to interest and gratify the natives in the manner of its expenditure. It has been spent instead on Mulinuu, to pay four white officials, two of whom came in the suite of the Chief Justice, and to build a so-called Government House, in which the President resides, and the very name of taxes is become abhorrent. What can still be done, and what must be done immediately, is to give us a new Chief Justice — a lawyer, a man of honour, a man who will not commit himself to one side, whether in politics or in private causes, and who shall not have the appearance of trying to coin money at every joint of our affairs. So much the better if he be a man of talent, but we do not ask so much. With an ordinary appreciation of law, an ordinary discretion and ordinary generosity, he may still, in the course of time, and with good fortune, restore confidence and repair the breaches in the prestige of the whites. As for the President there is much discussion. Some think the office is superfluous, still more the salary to be excessive; some regard the present man, who is young and personally pleasing, as a tool and scapegoat for another, and these are tempted to suppose that, with a new and firm Chief Justice, he might yet redeem his character. He would require at least to clear himself of the affair of the rouleaux, or all would be against him. — I am. Sir, your obedient servant,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Samoa, June 22, 1892.
Sir, — I read in a New Zealand paper that you published my last with misgiving. The writer then goes on to remind me that I am a novelist, and to bid me return to my romances and leave the affairs of Samoa to sub-editors in distant quarters of the world. “We, in common with other journals, have correspondents in Samoa,” he complains, “and yet we have no news from them of the curious conspiracy which Mr. Stevenson appears to have unearthed, and which, if it had any real existence, would be known to everybody on the island.” As this is the only voice which has yet reached me from beyond the seas, I am constrained to make some answer. But it must not be supposed that, though you may perhaps have been alone to publish, I have been alone to write. The same story is now in the hands of the three Governments from their respective Consuls. Not only so, but the complaint of the municipal council, drawn by two able solicitors, has been likewise laid before them.
This at least is public, and I may say notorious. The solicitors were authorised to proceed with their task at a public meeting. The President (for I was there and heard him) approved the step, though he refrained from voting. But he seems to have entertained a hope of burking, or, at least, indefinitely postponing, the whole business, and, when the meeting was over, and its proceedings had been approved (as is necessary) by the Consular Board, he neglected to notify the two gentlemen appointed of that approval. In a large city the trick might have succeeded for a time; in a village like Apia, where all news leaks out and the King meets the cobbler daily, it did no more than to advertise his own artfulness. And the next he learned, the case for the municipal council had been prepared, approved by the Consuls, and despatched to the Great Powers. I am accustomed to have my word doubted in this matter, and must here look to have it doubted once again. But the fact is certain. The two solicitors (Messrs. Carruthers and Cooper) were actually cited to appear before the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court. I have seen the summons, and the summons was the first and last of this State trial. The proceeding, instituted in an hour of temper, was, in a moment of reaction, allowed to drop.
About the same date a final blow befell the Government of Mulinuu. Let me remind you, sir, of the situation. The funds of the municipality had been suddenly seized, on what appeared a collusive judgment, by the bankrupt Government of Mulinuu. The paper, the organ of opposition, was bought by a man of straw; and it was found the purchase-money had been paid in rouleaux from the Government safes. The Government consisted of two men. One, the President and treasurer, had a ready means to clear himself and dispose for ever of the scandal — that means, apart from any scandal, was his mere, immediate duty, — viz., to have his balance verified. And he has refused to do so, and he still refuses. But the other, though he sits abstruse, must not think to escape his share of blame. He holds a high situation; he is our chief magistrate, he has heard this miserable tale of the rouleaux, at which the Consuls looked so black, and why has he done nothing? When he found that the case against himself and his colleague had gone to the three Powers a little of the suddenest, he could launch summonses (which it seems he was afterwards glad to disavow) against Messrs. Cooper and Carruthers. But then, when the whole island murmured — then, when a large sum which could be traced to the Government treasuries was found figuring in the hands of a man of straw — where were his thunderbolts then? For more than a month the scandal has hung black about his colleague; for more than a month he has sat inert and silent; for more than a month, in consequence, the last spark of trust in him has quite died out.
In was in these circumstances that the Government of Mulinuu approached the municipal council with a proposal to levy fresh taxes from the whites. It was in these circumstances that the municipal council answered, No. Public works have ceased, the destination of public moneys is kept secret, and the municipal council resolved to stop supplies.
At this, it seems, the Government awoke to a sense of their position. The natives had long ceased to pay them; now the whites had followed suit. Destitution had succeeded to embarrassment. And they made haste to join with themselves another who did not share in their unpopularity. This gentleman, Mr. Thomas Maben, Government surveyor, is himself deservedly popular, and the office created for him, that of Secretary of State, is one in which, under happier auspices, he might accomplish much. He is promised a free hand; he has succeeded to, and is to exercise entirely, those vague functions claimed by the President under his style of adviser to the King. It will be well if it is found to be so in the field of practice. It will be well if Mr. Maben find any funds left for his not exorbitant salary. It would doubtless have been better, in this day of their destitution and in the midst of growing Samoan murmurs against the high salaries of whites, if the Government could have fallen on some expedient which did not imply another. And there is a question one would fain have answered. The President claims to hold two offices — that of adviser to the King, that of President of the Municipal Council. A year ago, in the time of the dynamite affair, he proposed to resign the second and retain his whole emoluments as adviser to the King. He has now practically resigned the first; and we wish to know if he now proposes to retain his entire salary as President of the Council. — I am, etc.,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Apia, July 19, 1892.
Sir, — I am at last in receipt of your article upon my letter. It was as I supposed; you had a difficulty in believing the events recorded; and, to my great satisfaction, you suggest an inquiry. You observe the marks of passion in my letter, or so it seems to you. But your summary shows me that I have not failed to communicate with a sufficient clearness the facts alleged. Passion may have seemed to burn in my words: it has not at least impaired my ability to record with precision a plain tale. The “cold language” of Consular reports (which you say you would prefer) is doubtless to be had upon inquiry in the proper quarter; I make bold to say it will be found to bear me out. Of the law case for the municipality I can speak with more assurance; for, since it was sent, I have been shown a copy. Its language is admirably cold, yet it tells (it is possible in a much better dialect) the same remarkable story. But all these corroborations sleep in official keeping; and, thanks to the generosity with which you have admitted me to your columns, I stand alone before the public. It is my prayer that this may cease as soon as possible. There is other evidence gone home; let that be produced. Or let us have (as you propose) an inquiry; give to the Chief Justice and the President an opportunity to clear their characters, and to myself that liberty (which I am so often requested to take) of returning to my private business. — I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Apia, September 14, 1892.
Sir, — The Peninsula of Mulinuu was claimed by the German firm; and in case their claim should be found good, they had granted to the Samoan Government an option to buy at a certain figure. Hereon stand the houses of our officials, in particular that of the Chief Justice. It has long been a problem here whether this gentleman paid any rent, and the problem is now solved; the Chief Justice of Samoa was a squatter. On the ground that the Government was about to purchase the peninsula, he occupied a house; on the ground that the Germans were about to sell it, he refused to pay them any rent. The firm seemed to have no remedy but to summon the squatter before himself, and hear over again from the official what they had heard already from the disastrous tenant. But even in Samoa an ingenious man, inspired by annoyance, may find means of self-protection. The house was no part of the land, nor included in the option; the firm put it up for sale; and the Government, under pain of seeing the Chief Justice houseless, was obliged to buy it.
In the meanwhile the German claim to Mulinuu was passed by the Land Commission and sent on to the Chief Justice on the 17th of May. He ended by confirming the report; but though his judgment bears date the 9th of August, it was not made public till the 15th. So far as we are aware, and certainly so far as Samoa has profited by his labours, his Honour may be said to have had nothing else to do but to attend to this one piece of business; he was being paid to do so at the rate of £100 a month; and it took him ninety days, or about as long as it took Napoleon to recapture and to lose again his empire. But better late than never; and the Germans, rejoicing in the decision, summoned the Government to complete the purchase or to waive their option. There was again a delay in answering, for the policy of all parts of this extraordinary Government is on one model; and when the answer came it was only to announce a fresh deception. The German claim had passed the Land Commission and the Supreme Court, it was good against objections, but it appeared it was not yet good for registration, and must still be resurveyed by a “Government surveyor.” The option thus continues to brood over the land of Mulinuu, the Government to squat there without payment, and the German firm to stand helpless and dispossessed. What can they do? Their adversary is their only judge. I hear it calculated that the present state of matters may be yet spun out for months, at the end of which period there must come at last a day of reckoning; and the purchase-money will have to be found or the option to be waived and the Government to flit elsewhere. As for the question of arrears of rent, it will be in judicious hands, and his Honour may be trusted to deal with it in a manner suitable to the previous history of the case.
But why (it will be asked) spin out by these excessive methods a thread of such tenuity? Why go to such lengths for four months longer of fallacious solvency? I expect not to be believed, but I think the Government still hopes. A war-ship, under a hot-headed captain, might be decoyed into hostilities; the taxes might begin to come in again; the three Powers might become otherwise engaged and the little stage of Samoa escape observation — indeed, I know not what they hope, but they hope something. There lives on in their breasts a remainder coal of ambition still unquenched. Or it is only so that I can explain a late astonishing sally of his Honour’s. In a long and elaborate judgment he has pared the nails, and indeed removed the fingers, of his only rival, the municipal magistrate. For eighteen months he has seen the lower Court crowded with affairs, the while his own stood unfrequented like an obsolete churchyard. He may have remarked with envy many hundred cases passing through his rival’s hands, cases of assault, cases of larceny, ranging in the last four months from 2s. up to £1 12s.; or he may have viewed with displeasure that despatch of business which was characteristic of the magistrate, Mr. Cooper. An end, at least, has been made of these abuses. Mr. Cooper is henceforth to draw his salary for the minimum of public service; and all larcenies and assaults, however trivial, must go, according to the nationality of those concerned, before the Consular or the Supreme Courts.
To this portentous judgment there are two sides — a practical and legal. And first as to the practical. For every blow struck or shilling stolen the parties must now march out to Mulinuu and place themselves at the mercy of a Court, which if Hamlet had known, he would have referred with more emotion to the law’s delays. It is feared they will not do so, and that crime will go on in consequence unpunished, and increase by indulgence. But this is nothing. The Court of the municipal magistrate was a convenient common-ground and clearing-house for our manifold nationalities. It has now been, for all purpose of serious utility, abolished, and the result is distraction. There was a recent trumpery case, heard by Mr. Cooper amid shouts of mirth. It resolved itself (if I remember rightly) into three charges of assault with counter-charges, and three of abusive language with the same; and the parties represented only two nationalities — a small allowance for Apia. Yet in our new world, since the Chief Justice’s decision, this vulgar shindy would have split up into six several suits before three different Courts; the charges must have been heard by one Judge, the counter-charges by another; the whole nauseous evidence six times repeated, and the lawyers six times fee’d.
Remains the legal argument. His Honour admits the municipality to be invested “with such legislative powers as generally constitute a police jurisdiction”; he does not deny the municipality is empowered to take steps for the protection of the person, and it was argued this implied a jurisdiction in cases of assault. But this argument (observes his Honour) “proves too much, and consequently nothing. For like reasons the municipal council should have power to provide for the punishment of all felonies against the person, and I suppose the property as well.” And, filled with a just sense that a merely police jurisdiction should be limited, he limits it with a vengeance by the exclusion of all assaults and all larcenies. A pity he had not looked into the Berlin Act! He would have found it already limited there by the same power which called it into being — limited to fines not exceeding $200 and imprisonment not extending beyond 180 days. Nay, and I think he might have even reasoned from this discovery that he was himself somewhat in error. For, assaults and larcenies being excluded, what kind of enormity is that which is to be visited with a fine of £40 or an imprisonment of half a year? It is perhaps childish to pursue further this childish controversialist. But there is one passage, if he had dipped into the Berlin Act, that well might have arrested his attention: that in which he is himself empowered to deal with “crimes and offences,... subject, however, to the provisions defining the jurisdiction of the municipal magistrate of Apia.”
I trust, sir, this is the last time I shall have to trouble you with these twopenny concerns. But until some step is taken by the three Powers, or until I have quite exhausted your indulgence, I shall continue to report our scandals as they arise. Once more, one thing or other: Either what I write is false, and I should be chastised as a calumniator; or else it is true, and these officials are unfit for their position. — I am, etc.,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
P.S. — The mail is already closed when I receive at last decisive confirmation of the purchase of the Samoa Times by the Samoan Government. It has never been denied; it is now admitted. The paper which they bought so recently, they are already trying to sell; and have received and refused an offer of £150 for what they bought for upwards of £600. Surely we may now demand the attention of the three Powers.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “PALL MALL GAZETTE”
September 4, 1893.
In June it became clear that the King’s Government was weary of waiting upon Europe, as it had been clear long before that Europe would do nothing. The last commentary on the Berlin Act was read. Malietoa Laupepa had been put in ex auctoritate by the Powers; the Powers would not support him even by a show of strength, and there was nothing left but to fall back on an “Election according to the Laws and Customs of Samoa” — by arbitrament of rifle-bullets and blackened faces. Instantly heaven was darkened by a brood of rumours, random calumnies, and idle tales. As we rode, late at night, through the hamlet near my house, we saw the fires lighted in the houses, and eager talkers discussing the last report. The King was sick; he was dying; he was perfectly well; he was seen riding furiously by night in the back parts of Apia, and covering his face as he rode. Mataafa was in favour with the Germans; he was to be made a German king; he was secure of the support of all Samoa; he had no following whatsoever. The name of every chief and village (with many that were new to the hearer) came up in turn, to be dubbed Laupepa, or Mataafa, or both at the same time, or neither. Dr. George Brown, the missionary, had just completed a tour of the islands. There are few men in the world with a more mature knowledge of native character, and I applied to him eagerly for an estimate of the relative forces. “When the first shot is fired, and not before,” said he, “you will know who is who.” The event has shown that he might have gone yet further; for even after shots were fired and men slain, an important province was still hesitating and trimming.
Mataafa lay in Malie. He had an armed picket at a ford some two miles from Apia, where they sat in a prodigious state of vigilance and glee; and his whole troop, although not above five hundred strong, appeared animated with the most warlike spirit. For himself, he waited, as he had waited for two years; wrote eloquent letters, the time to answer which was quite gone by; and looked on while his enemies painfully collected their forces. Doubtless to the last he was assured and deceived by vain promises of help.
The process of gathering a royal army in Samoa is cumbrous and dilatory in the extreme. There is here none of the expedition of the fiery cross and the bale-fire; but every step is diplomatic. Each village, with a great expense of eloquence, has to be wiled with promises and spurred by threats, and the greater chieftains make stipulations ere they will march. Tamasese, son to the late German puppet, and heir of his ambitions, demanded the vice-kingship as the price of his accession, though I am assured that he demanded it in vain. The various provinces returned various and unsatisfactory answers. Atua was off and on; Tuamasaga was divided; Tutuila recalcitrant; and for long the King sat almost solitary under the windy palms of Mulinuu. It seemed indeed as if the war was off, and the whole archipelago unanimous (in the native phrase) to sit still and plant taro.
But at last, in the first days of July, Atua began to come in. Boats arrived, thirty and fifty strong, a drum and a very ill-played bugle giving time to the oarsmen, the whole crew uttering at intervals a savage howl; and on the decked fore-sheets of the boat the village champion, frantically capering and dancing. Parties were to be seen encamped in palm-groves with their rifles stacked. The shops were emptied of red handkerchiefs, the rallying sign, or (as a man might say) the uniform of the Royal army. There was spirit shown; troops of handsome lads marched in a right manly fashion, with their guns on their shoulders, to the music of the drum and the bugle or the tin-whistle. From a hamlet close to my own doors a contingent of six men marched out. Their leader’s kit contained one stick of tobacco, four boxes of matches, and the inevitable red handkerchief; in his case it was of silk, for he had come late to the purchasing, and the commoner materials were exhausted. This childish band of braves marched one afternoon to a neighbouring hill, and the same night returned to their houses, on the ground that it was “uncomfortable” in the bush. An excellent old fellow, who had had enough of war in many campaigns, took refuge in my service from the conscription, but in vain. The village had decided no warrior might hang back. One summoner arrived; and then followed some negotiations — I have no authority to say what: enough that the messenger departed and our friend remained. But, alas! a second envoy followed and proved to be of sterner composition; and with a basket full of food, kava, and tobacco, the reluctant hero proceeded to the wars. I am sure they had few handsomer soldiers, if, perhaps, some that were more willing. And he would have been better to be armed. His gun — but in Mr. Kipling’s pleasant catchword, that is another story.
War, to the Samoan of mature years, is often an unpleasant necessity. To the young boy it is a heaven of immediate pleasures, as well as an opportunity of ultimate glory. Women march with the troops — even the Taupo-sa, or sacred maid of the village, accompanies her father in the field to carry cartridges, and bring him water to drink, — and their bright eyes are ready to “rain influence” and reward valour. To what grim deeds this practice may conduct I shall have to say later on. In the rally of their arms, it is at least wholly pretty; and I have one pleasant picture of a war-party marching out; the men armed and boastful, their heads bound with the red handkerchief, their faces blacked — and two girls marching in their midst under European parasols.
On Saturday, July 8th, by the early morning, the troops began to file westward from Apia, and about noon found found themselves face to face with the lines of Mataafa in the German plantation of Vaitele. The armies immediately fraternised; kava was made by the ladies, as who should say tea, at home, and partaken of by the braves with many truculent expressions. One chief on the King’s side, revolted by the extent of these familiarities, began to beat his followers with a staff. But both parties were still intermingled between the lines, and the chiefs on either side were conversing, and even embracing, at the moment, when an accidental, or perhaps a treacherous, shot precipitated the engagement. I cannot find there was any decisive difference in the numbers actually under fire; but the Mataafas appear to have been ill posted and ill led. Twice their flank was turned, their line enfiladed, and themselves driven with the loss of about thirty, from two successive cattle walls. A third wall afforded them a more effectual shelter, and night closed on the field of battle without further advantage. All night the Royal troops hailed volleys of bullets at this obstacle. With the earliest light, a charge proved it to be quite deserted, and from further down the coast smoke was seen rising from the houses of Malie. Mataafa had precipitately fled, destroying behind him the village, which, for two years, he had been raising and beautifying.
So much was accomplished: what was to follow? Mataafa took refuge in Manono, and cast up forts. His enemies, far from following up this advantage, held fonos and made speeches and found fault. I believe the majority of the King’s army had marched in a state of continuous indecision, and maintaining an attitude of impartiality more to be admired in the cabinet of the philosopher than in the field of war. It is certain at least that only one province has as yet fired a shot for Malietoa Laupepa. The valour of the Tuamasaga was sufficient and prevailed. But Atua was in the rear, and has as yet done nothing. As for the men of Crana, so far from carrying out the plan agreed upon, and blocking the men of Malie, on the morning of the 8th, they were entertaining an embassy from Mataafa, and they suffered his fleet of boats to escape without a shot through certain dangerous narrows of the lagoon, and the chief himself to pass on foot and unmolested along the whole foreshore of their province. No adequate excuse has been made for this half-heartedness — or treachery. It was a piece of the whole which was a specimen. There are too many strings in a Samoan intrigue for the merely European mind to follow, and the desire to serve upon both sides, and keep a door open for reconciliation, was manifest almost throughout. A week passed in these divided counsels. Savaii had refused to receive Mataafa — it is said they now hesitated to rise for the King, and demanded instead a fono (or council) of both sides. And it seemed at least possible that the Royal army might proceed no further, and the unstable alliance be dissolved.
On Sunday, the 16th, Her British Majesty’s ship Katoomba, Captain Bickford, C.M.G., arrived in Apia with fresh orders. Had she but come ten days earlier the whole of this miserable business would have been prevented, for the three Powers were determined to maintain Malietoa Laupepa by arms, and had declared finally against Mataafa. Right or wrong, it was at least a decision, and therefore welcome. It may not be best — it was something. No honest friend to Samoa can pretend anything but relief that the three Powers should at last break their vacillating silence. It is of a piece with their whole policy in the islands that they should have hung in stays for upwards of two years — of a piece with their almost uniform ill-fortune that, eight days before their purpose was declared, war should have marked the country with burned houses and severed heads.
There is another side to the medal of Samoan warfare. So soon as an advantage is obtained, a new and (to us) horrible animal appears upon the scene — the Head Hunter. Again and again we have reasoned with our boys against this bestial practice; but reason and (upon this one point) even ridicule are vain. They admit it to be indefensible; they allege its imperative necessity. One young man, who had seen his father take a head in the late war, spoke of the scene with shuddering revolt, and yet said he must go and do likewise himself in the war which was to come. How else could a man prove he was brave? and had not every country its own customs?
Accordingly, as occasion offered, these same pleasing children, who had just been drinking kava with their opponents, fell incontinently on the dead and dying, and secured their grisly trophies. It should be said, in fairness, that the Mataafas had no opportunity to take heads, but that their chief, taught by the lesson of Fangalii, had forbidden the practice. It is doubtful if he would have been obeyed, and yet his power over his people was so great that the German plantation, where they lay some time, and were at last defeated, had not to complain of the theft of a single cocoa-nut. Hateful as it must always be to mutilate and murder the disabled, there were in this day’s affray in Vaitele circumstances yet more detestable. Fifteen heads were brought in all to Mulinuu. They were carried with parade in front of the fine house which our late President built for himself before he was removed. Here, on the verandah, the King sat to receive them, and utter words of course and compliment to each successful warrior. They were spolia opima in the number. Leaupepe, Mataafa’s nephew — or, as Samoans say, his son — had fallen by the first wall, and whether from those sentiments of kindred and friendship that so often unite the combatants in civil strife, or to mark by an unusual formality the importance of the conquest, not only his head but his mutilated body also was brought in. From the mat in which the corpse was enveloped a bloody hand protruded, and struck a chill in white eye-witnesses. It were to attribute to [Malietoa] Laupepa sentiments entirely foreign to his race and training, if we were to suppose him otherwise than gratified.
But it was not so throughout. Every country has its customs, say native apologists, and one of the most decisive customs of Samoa ensures the immunity of women. They go to the front, as our women of yore went to a tournament. Bullets are blind; and they must take their risk of bullets, but of nothing else. They serve out cartridges and water; they jeer the faltering and defend the wounded. Even in this skirmish of Vaitele they distinguished themselves on either side. One dragged her skulking husband from a hole, and drove him to the front. Another, seeing her lover fall, snatched up his gun, kept the head-hunters at bay, and drew him unmutilated from the field. Such services they have been accustomed to pay for centuries; and often, in the course of centuries, a bullet or a spear must have despatched one of these warlike angels. Often enough, too, the head-hunter, springing ghoul-like on fallen bodies, must have decapitated a woman for a man. But, the case arising, there was an established etiquette. So soon as the error was discovered the head was buried, and the exploit forgotten. There had never yet, in the history of Samoa, occurred an instance in which a man had taken a woman’s head and kept it and laid it at his monarch’s feet.
Such was the strange and horrid spectacle, which must have immediately shaken the heart of Laupepa, and has since covered the faces of his party with confusion. It is not quite certain if there were three, or only two: a recent attempt to reduce the number to one must be received with caution as an afterthought; the admissions in the beginning were too explicit, the panic of shame and fear had been too sweeping. There is scarce a woman of our native friends in Apia who can speak upon the subject without terror; scarce any man without humiliation. And the shock was increased out of measure by the fact that the head — or one of the heads — was recognised; recognised for the niece of one of the greatest of court ladies; recognised for a Taupo-sa, or sacred maid of a village from Savaii. It seemed incredible that she — who had been chosen for virtue and beauty, who went everywhere attended by the fairest maidens, and watched over by vigilant duennas, whose part it was, in holiday costume, to receive guests, to make kava, and to be the leader of the revels, should become the victim of a brutal rally in a cow-park, and have her face exposed for a trophy to the victorious king.
In all this muttering of aversion and alarm, no word has been openly said. No punishment, no disgrace, has been inflicted on the perpetrators of the outrage. King, Consuls, and mission appear to have held their peace alike. I can understand a certain apathy in whites. Head-hunting, they say, is a horrid practice: and will not stop to investigate its finer shades. But the Samoan himself does not hesitate; for him the act is portentous; and if it go unpunished, and set a fashion, its consequences must be damnable. This is not a breach of a Christian virtue, of something half-learned by rote, and from foreigners, in the last thirty years. It is a flying in the face of their own native, instinctive, and traditional standard: tenfold more ominous and degrading. And, taking the matter for all in all, it seems to me that head-hunting itself should be firmly and immediately suppressed. “How else can a man prove himself to be brave?” my friend asked. But often enough these are but fraudulent trophies. On the morrow of the fight at Vaitele, an Atua man discovered a body lying in the bush: he took the head. A day or two ago a party was allowed to visit Manono. The King’s troops on shore, observing them put off from the rebel island, leaped to the conclusion that this must be the wounded going to Apia, launched off at once two armed boats and overhauled the others — after heads. The glory of such exploits is not apparent; their power for degradation strikes the eyes. Lieutenant Ulfsparre, our late Swedish Chief of Police and Commander of the forces, told his men that if any of them took a head his own hand should avenge it. That was talking; I should like to see all in the same story — king, consuls, and missionaries — included.
The three Powers have at last taken hold here in Apia. But they came the day after the fair; and the immediate business on hand is very delicate. This morning, 18th, Captain Bickford, followed by two Germans, sailed for Manono. If he shall succeed in persuading Mataafa to surrender, all may be well. If he cannot, this long train of blunders may end in — what is so often the result of blundering in the field of politics — a horrid massacre. Those of us who remember the services of Mataafa, his unfailing generosity and moderation in the past, and his bereavement in the present — as well as those who are only interested in a mass of men and women, many of them our familiar friends, now pent up on an island, and beleaguered by three warships and a Samoan army — await the issue with dreadful expectation.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Vailima, Apia, April 23, 1894.
Sir, — I last addressed you on the misconduct of certain officials here, and I was so far happy as to have had my facts confirmed in every particular with but one exception. That exception, the affair of the dynamite, has been secretly smuggled away; you shall look in vain in either Blue-book or White-book for any mention even of the charge; it is gone like the conjurer’s orange. I might have been tempted to inquire into the reason of this conspiracy of silence, whether the idea was conceived in the bosoms of the three Powers themselves, or whether in the breasts of the three Consuls, because one of their number was directly implicated. And I might have gone on to consider the moral effect of such suppressions, and to show how very idle they were, and how very undignified, in the face of a small and compact population, where everybody sees and hears, where everybody knows, and talks, and laughs. But only a personal question remained, which I judged of no interest to the public. The essential was accomplished. Baron Senfft was gone already. Mr. Cedercrantz still lingered among us in the character (I may say) of a private citizen, his Court at last closed, only his pocket open for the receipt of his salary, representing the dignity of the Berlin Act by sitting in the wind on Mulinuu Point for several consecutive months — a curious phantom or survival of a past age. The new officials were not as yet, because they had not been created. And we fell into our old estate of government by the three Consuls, as it was in the beginning before the Berlin Act existed; as it seems it will be till the end, after the Berlin Act has been swept away.
It was during the time of this triumvirate, and wholly at their instigation and under their conduct, that Mataafa was defeated, driven to Manono, and (three warships coming opportunely to hand) forced to surrender. I have been called a partisan of this chief’s, and I accept the term. I thought him, on the whole, the most honest man in Samoa, not excepting white officials. I ventured to think he had been hardly used by the Treaty Powers; I venture to think so still. It was my opinion that he should have been conjoined with Malietoa as Vice-King; and I have seen no reason to change that opinion, except that the time for it is past. Mataafa has played and lost; an exile, and stripped of his titles, he walks the exiguous beach of Jaluit, sees the German flag over his head, and yearns for the land wind of Upolu. In the politics of Samoa he is no longer a factor; and it only remains to speak of the manner in which his rebellion was suppressed and punished. Deportation is, to the Samoan mind, the punishment next to death, and thirteen of the chiefs engaged were deported with their leader. Twenty-seven others were cast into the gaol. There they lie still; the Government makes almost no attempt to feed them, and they must depend on the activity of their families and the charity of pitying whites. In the meantime, these very families are overloaded with fines, the exorbitant sum of more than £6,600 having been laid on the chiefs and villages that took part with Mataafa.
So far we can only complain that the punishments have been severe and the prison commissariat absent. But we have, besides, to regret the repeated scandals in connection with the conduct of the war, and we look in vain for any sign of punishment. The Consuls had to employ barbarous hands; we might expect outrages; we did expect them to be punished, or at least disowned. Thus, certain Mataafa chiefs were landed, and landed from a British man-of-war, to be shamefully abused, beaten, and struck with whips along the main street of Mulinuu. There was no punishment, there was even no inquiry; the three Consuls winked. Only one man was found honest and bold enough to open his mouth, and that was my old enemy, Mr. Cedercrantz. Walking in Mulinuu, in his character of disinterested spectator, gracefully desipient, he came across the throng of these rabblers and their victims. He had forgotten that he was an official, he remembered that he was a man. It was his last public appearance in Samoa to interfere; it was certainly his best. Again, the Government troops in the field took the heads of girls, a detestable felony even in Samoan eyes. They carried them in procession to Mulinuu, and made of them an oblation to that melancholy effigy the King, who (sore against his will) sat on the verandah of the Government building, publicly to receive this affront, publicly to utter the words of compliment and thanks which constitute the highest reward known to Samoan bravery, and crowned as heroes those who should have been hanged like dogs. And again the three Consuls unanimously winked. There was no punishment, there was even no inquiry.
Lastly, there is the story of Manono. Three hours were given to Mataafa to accept the terms of the ultimatum, and the time had almost elapsed when his boats put forth, and more than elapsed before he came alongside the Katoomba and surrendered formally to Captain Bickford. In the dusk of the evening, when all the ships had sailed, flames were observed to rise from the island. Mataafa flung himself on his knees before Captain Bickford, and implored protection for his women and children left behind, and the captain put back the ship and despatched one of the Consuls to inquire. The Katoomba had been about seventy hours in the islands. Captain Bickford was a stranger; he had to rely on the Consuls implicitly. At the same time, he knew that the Government troops had been suffered to land for the purpose of restoring order, and with the understanding that no reprisals should be committed on the adherents of Mataafa; and he charged the emissary with his emphatic disapproval, threats of punishment on the offenders, and reminders that the war had now passed under the responsibility of the three Powers. I cannot condescend on what this Consul saw during his visit; I can only say what he reported on his return. He reported all well, and the chiefs on the Government side fraternising and making ava with those on Mataafa’s. It may have been; at least it is strange. The burning of the island proceeded, fruit-trees were cut down, women stripped naked; a scene of brutal disorder reigned all night, and left behind it, over a quarter of the island, ruin. If they fraternised with Mataafa’s chieftains they must have been singularly inconsistent, for, the next we learn of the two parties, they were beating, spitting upon, and insulting them along the highway. The next morning in Apia I asked the same Consul if there had not been some houses burned. He told me no. I repeated the question, alleging the evidence of officers on board the Katoomba who had seen the flames increase and multiply as they steamed away; whereupon he had this remarkable reply — ”O! huts, huts, huts! There isn’t a house, a frame house, on the island.” The case to plain men stands thus: — The people of Manono were insulted, their food-trees cut down, themselves left houseless; not more than ten houses — I beg the Consul’s pardon, huts — escaped the rancour of their enemies; and to this day they may be seen to dwell in shanties on the site of their former residences, the pride of the Samoan heart. The ejaculation of the Consul was thus at least prophetic; and the traveller who revisits to-day the shores of the “Garden Island” may well exclaim in his turn, “Huts, huts, huts!”
The same measure was served out, in the mere wantonness of clan hatred, to Apolima, a nearly inaccessible islet in the straits of the same name; almost the only property saved there (it is amusing to remember) being a framed portrait of Lady Jersey, which its custodian escaped with into the bush, as it were the palladium and chief treasure of the inhabitants. The solemn promise passed by Consuls and captains in the name of the three Powers was thus broken; the troops employed were allowed their bellyful of barbarous outrage. And again there was no punishment, there was no inquiry, there was no protest, there was not a word said to disown the act or disengage the honour of the three Powers. I do not say the Consuls desired to be disobeyed, though the case looks black against one gentleman, and even he is perhaps only to be accused of levity and divided interest; it was doubtless important for him to be early in Apia, where he combines with his diplomatic functions the management of a thriving business as commission agent and auctioneer. I do say of all of them that they took a very nonchalant view of their duty.
I told myself that this was the government of the Consular Triumvirate. When the new officials came it would cease; it would pass away like a dream in the night; and the solid Pax Romana, of the Berlin General Act would succeed. After all, what was there to complain of? The Consuls had shown themselves no slovens and no sentimentalists. They had shown themselves not very particular, but in one sense very thorough. Rebellion was to be put down swiftly and rigorously, if need were with the hand of Cromwell; at least it was to be put down. And in these unruly islands I was prepared almost to welcome the face of Rhadamanthine severity.
And now it appears it was all a mistake. The government by the Berlin General Act is no more than a mask, and a very expensive one, for government by the Consular Triumvirate. Samoa pays (or tries to pay) £2,200 a year to a couple of helpers; and they dare not call their souls their own. They take their walks abroad with an anxious eye on the three Consuls, like two well-behaved children with three nurses; and the Consuls, smiling superior, allow them to amuse themselves with the routine of business. But let trouble come, and the farce is suspended. At the whistle of a squall these heaven-born mariners seize the tiller, and the £2,200 amateurs are knocked sprawling on the bilge. At the first beat of the drum, the treaty officials are sent below, gently protesting, like a pair of old ladies, and behold! the indomitable Consuls ready to clear the wreck and make the deadly cutlass shine. And their method, studied under the light of a new example, wears another air. They are not so Rhadamanthine as we thought. Something that we can only call a dignified panic presides over their deliberations. They have one idea to lighten the ship. “Overboard with the ballast, the main-mast, and the chronometer!” is the cry. In the last war they got rid (first) of the honour of their respective countries, and (second) of all idea that Samoa was to be governed in a manner consistent with civilisation, or Government troops punished for any conceivable misconduct. In the present war they have sacrificed (first) the prestige of the new Chief Justice, and (second) the very principle for which they had contended so vigorously and so successfully in the war before — that rebellion was a thing to be punished.
About the end of last year, that war, a war of the Tupuas under Tamasese the younger, which was a necessary pendant to the crushing of Mataafa, began to make itself heard of in obscure grumblings. It was but a timid business. One half of the Tupua party, the whole province of Atua, never joined the rebellion, but sulked in their villages and spent the time in indecisive eloquence and barren embassies. Tamasese, by a trick eminently Samoan, “went in the high bush and the mountains,” carrying a gun like a private soldier — served, in fact, with his own troops incognito — and thus, to Samoan eyes, waived his dynastic pretensions. And the war, which was announced in the beginning with a long catalogue of complaints against the King and a distinct and ugly threat to the white population of Apia, degenerated into a war of defence by the province of Aána against the eminently brutal troops of Savaii, in which sympathy was generally and justly with the rebels. Savaii, raging with private clan hatred and the lust of destruction, was put at free quarters in the disaffected province, repeated on a wider scale the outrages of Manono and Apolima, cut down the food-trees, stripped and insulted the women, robbed the children of their little possessions, burned the houses, killed the horses, the pigs, the dogs, the cats, along one half of the seaboard of Aána, and in the prosecution of these manly exploits managed (to the joy of all) to lose some sixty men killed, wounded, and drowned.
Government by the Treaty of Berlin was still erect when, one fine morning, in walked the three Consuls, totally uninvited, with a proclamation prepared and signed by themselves, without any mention of anybody else. They had awoke to a sense of the danger of the situation and their own indispensable merits. The two children knew their day was over; the nurses had come for them. Who can blame them for their timidity? The Consuls have the ears of the Governments; they are the authors of those despatches of which, in the ripeness of time, Blue-books and White-books are made up; they had dismissed (with some little assistance from yourself) MM. Cedercrantz and Senfft von Pilsach, and they had strangled, like an illegitimate child, the scandal of the dynamite. The Chief Justice and the President made haste to disappear between decks, and left the ship of the State to the three volunteers. There was no lack of activity. The Consuls went up to Atua, they went down to Aána; the oarsmen toiled, the talking men pleaded; they are said to have met with threats in Atua, and to have yielded to them — at least, in but a few days’ time they came home to us with a new treaty of pacification. Of course, and as before, the Government troops were whitewashed; the Savaii ruffians had been stripping women and killing cats in the interests of the Berlin Treaty; there was to be no punishment and no inquiry; let them retire to Savaii with their booty and their dead. Offensive as this cannot fail to be, there is still some slight excuse for it. The King is no more than one out of several chiefs of clans. His strength resides in the willing obedience of the Tuamasaga, and a portion — I have to hope a bad portion — of the island of Savaii. To punish any of these supporters must always be to accept a risk; and the golden opportunity had been allowed to slip at the moment of the Mataafa war.
What was more original was the treatment of the rebels. They were under arms that moment against the Government; they had fought and sometimes vanquished; they had taken heads and carried them to Tamasese. And the terms granted were to surrender fifty rifles, to make some twenty miles of road, to pay some old fines — and to be forgiven! The loss of fifty rifles to people destitute of any shadow of a gunsmith to repair them when they are broken, and already notoriously short of ammunition, is a trifle; the number is easy to be made up of those that are out of commission; for there is not the least stipulation as to their value; any synthesis of old iron and smashed wood that can be called a gun is to be taken from its force. The road, as likely as not, will never be made. The fines have nothing to say to this war; in any reasonably governed country they should never have figured in the treaty; they had been inflicted before, and were due before. Before the rebellion began, the beach had rung with I know not what indiscreet bluster; the natives were to be read a lesson; Tamasese (by name) was to be hanged; and after what had been done to Mataafa, I was so innocent as to listen with awe. And now the rebellion has come, and this was the punishment! There might well have been 400 a doubt in the mind of any chief who should have been tempted to follow the example of Mataafa; but who is it that would not dare to follow Tamasese?
For some reason — I know not what, unless it be fear — there is a strong prejudice amongst whites against any interference with the bestial practice of head-hunting. They say it would be impossible to identify the criminals — a thing notoriously contrary to fact. A man does not take a head, as he steals an apple, for secret degustation; the essence of the thing is its publicity. After the girls’ heads were brought into Mulinuu I pressed Mr. Cusack-Smith to take some action. He proposed a paper of protest, to be signed by the English residents. We made rival drafts; his was preferred, and I have heard no more of it. It has not been offered me to sign; it has not been published; under a paper-weight in the British Consulate I suppose it may yet be found! Meanwhile, his Honour Mr. Ide, the new Chief Justice, came to Samoa and took spirited action. He engineered an ordinance through the House of Faipule, inflicting serious penalties on any who took heads, and the papers at the time applauded his success. The rebellion followed, the troops were passing to the front, and with excellent resolution Mr. Ide harangued the chiefs, reiterated the terms of the new law, and promised unfailing vengeance on offenders. It was boldly done, and he stood committed beyond possibility of retreat to enforce this his first important edict. Great was the commotion, great the division, in the Samoan mind. “O! we have had Chief Justices before,” said a visitor to my house; “we know what they are; I will take a head if I can get one.” Others were more doubtful, but thought none could be so bold as lay a hand on the peculiar institution of these islands. Yet others were convinced. Savaii took heads; but when they sent one to Mulinuu a messenger met them by the convent gates from the King; he would none of it, and the trophy must be ingloriously buried, Savaii took heads also, and Tamasese accepted the presentation. Tuamasaga, on the other hand, obeyed the Chief Justice and (the occasion being thrust upon them) contented themselves with taking the dead man’s ears. On the whole, about one-third of the troops engaged, and our not very firm Monarch himself, kept the letter of the ordinance. And it was upon this scene of partial, but really cheering, success that the Consuls returned with their general pardon! The Chief Justice was not six months old in the islands. He had succeeded to a position complicated by the failure of his predecessor. Personally, speaking face to face with the chiefs, he had put his authority in pledge that the ordinance should be enforced. And he found himself either forgotten or betrayed by the three Consuls. These volunteers had made a liar of him; they had administered to him, before all Samoa, a triple buffet. I must not wonder, though I may still deplore, that Mr. Ide accepted the position thus made for him. There was a deal of alarm in Apia. To refuse the treaty thus hastily and shamefully cobbled up would have increased it tenfold. Already, since the declaration of war and the imminence of the results, one of the papers had ratted, and the white population were girding at the new ordinance. It was feared besides that the native Government, though they had voted, were secretly opposed to it. It was almost certain they would try to prevent its application to the loyalist offenders of Savaii. The three Consuls in the negotiations of the treaty had fully illustrated both their want of sympathy with the ordinance and their want of regard for the position of the Chief Justice. “In short, I am to look for no support, whether physical or moral?” asked Mr. Ide; and I could make but the one answer — ”Neither physical nor moral.” It was a hard choice; and he elected to accept the terms of the treaty without protest. And the next war (if we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of the Berlin Act) will probably show us the result in an enlarged assortment of heads, and the next difficulty perhaps prove to us the diminished prestige of the Chief Justice. Mr. Ide announces his intention of applying the law in the case of another war; but I very much fear the golden opportunity has again been lost. About one-third of the troops believed him this time; how many will believe him the next?
It will doubtless be answered that the Consuls were affected by the alarm in Apia and actuated by the desire to save white lives. I am far from denying that there may be danger; and I believe that the way we are going is the best way to bring it on. In the progressive decivilisation of these islands — evidenced by the female heads taken in the last war and the treatment of white missionaries in this — our methods of pull devil, pull baker, general indecision, and frequent (though always dignified) panic are the best calculated in the world to bring on a massacre of whites. A consistent dignity, a consistent and independent figure of a Chief Justice, the enforcement of the laws, and above all, of the laws against barbarity, a Consular board the same in the presence as in the absence of warships, will be found our best defence.
Much as I have already occupied of your space, I would yet ask leave to draw two conclusions.
And first, Mataafa and Tamasese both made war. Both wars were presumably dynastic in character, though the Tupua not rallying to Tamasese as he had expected led him to cover his design. That he carried a gun himself, and himself fired, will not seem to European ears a very important alleviation. Tamasese received heads, sitting as a King, under whatever name; Mataafa had forbidden the taking of heads — of his own accord, and before Mr. Ide had taken office. Tamasese began with threats against the white population; Mataafa never ceased to reassure them and to extend an effectual protection to their property. What is the difference between their cases? That Mataafa was an old man, already famous, who had served his country well, had been appointed King of Samoa, had served in the office, and had been set aside — not, indeed, in the text, but in the protocols of the Berlin Act, by name? I do not grudge his good fortune to Tamasese, who is an amiable, spirited, and handsome young man; and who made a barbarous war, indeed, since heads were taken after the old Samoan practice, but who made it without any of the savagery which we have had reason to comment upon in the camp of his adversaries. I do not grudge the invidious fate that has befallen my old friend and his followers. At first I believed these judgments to be the expression of a severe but equal justice. I find them, on further experience, to be mere measures of the degree of panic in the Consuls, varying directly as the distance of the nearest war-ship. The judgments under which they fell have now no sanctity; they form no longer a precedent; they may perfectly well be followed by a pardon, or a partial pardon, as the authorities shall please. The crime of Mataafa is to have read strictly the first article of the Berlin Act, and not to have read at all (as how should he when it has never been translated?) the insidious protocol which contains its significance; the crime of his followers is to have practised clan fidelity, and to have in consequence raised an imperium in imperio, and fought against the Government. Their punishment is to be sent to a coral atoll and detained there prisoners. It does not sound much; it is a great deal. Taken from a mountain island, they must inhabit a narrow strip of reef sunk to the gunwale in the ocean. Sand, stone, and cocoa-nuts, stone, sand, and pandanus, make the scenery. There is no grass. Here these men, used to the cool, bright mountain rivers of Samoa, must drink with loathing the brackish water of the coral. The food upon such islands is distressing even to the omnivorous white. To the Samoan, who has that shivering delicacy and ready disgust of the child or the rustic mountaineer, it is intolerable. I remember what our present King looked like, what a phantom he was, when he returned from captivity in the same place. Lastly, these fourteen have been divorced from their families. The daughter of Mataafa somehow broke the consigne and accompanied her father; but she only. To this day one of them, Palepa, the wife of Faamuina, is dunning the authorities in vain to be allowed to join her husband — she a young and handsome woman, he an old man and infirm. I cannot speak with certainty, but I believe they are allowed no communication with the prisoners, nor the prisoners with them. My own open experience is brief and conclusive — I have not been suffered to send my friends one stick of tobacco or one pound of ava. So much to show the hardships are genuine. I have to ask a pardon for these unhappy victims of untranslated protocols and inconsistent justice. After the case of Tamasese, I ask it almost as of right. As for the other twenty-seven in the gaol, let the doors be opened at once. They have showed their patience, they have proved their loyalty long enough. On two occasions, when the guards deserted in a body, and again when the Aana prisoners fled, they remained — one may truly say — voluntary prisoners. And at least let them be fed! I have paid taxes to the Samoan Government for some four years, and the most sensible benefit I have received in return has been to be allowed to feed their prisoners.
Second, if the farce of the Berlin Act is to be gone on with, it will be really necessary to moderate among our five Sovereigns — six if we are to count poor Malietoa, who represents to the life the character of the Hare and Many Friends. It is to be presumed that Mr. Ide and Herr Schmidt were chosen for their qualities; it is little good we are likely to get by them if, at every wind of rumour, the three Consuls are to intervene. The three Consuls are paid far smaller salaries, they have no right under the treaty to interfere with the government of autonomous Samoa, and they have contrived to make themselves all In all. The King and a majority of the Faipule fear them and look to them alone, while the legitimate adviser occupies a second place, if that. The misconduct of MM. Cedercrantz and Senfft von Pilsach was so extreme that the Consuls were obliged to encroach; and now when these are gone the authority acquired in the contest remains with the encroachers. On their side they have no rights, but a tradition of victory, the ear of the Governments at home, and the vis viva of the war-ships. For the poor treaty officials, what have they but rights very obscurely expressed and very weakly defended by their predecessors? Thus it comes about that people who are scarcely mentioned in the text of the treaty are, to all intents and purposes, our only rulers.
Robert Louis Stevenson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “TIMES”
Vailima, Samoa, May 22, 1894.
Sir, — I told you in my last that the Consuls had tinkered up a treaty of peace with the rebels of Aána. A month has gone by, and I would not weary readers your with a story so intricate and purposeless. The Consuls seem to have gone backward and forward, to and fro. To periods of agitated activity, comparable to that of three ants about a broken nest, there succeeded seasons in which they rested from their labours and ruefully considered the result. I believe I am not overstating the case when I say that this treaty was at least twice rehandled, and the date of submission changed, in the interval. And yesterday at length we beheld the first-fruits of the Consular diplomacy. A boat came in from Aána bearing the promised fifty stand of arms — in other words, a talking man, a young chief, and some boatmen in charge of a boat-load of broken ironmongery. The Government (well advised for once) had placed the Embassy under an escort of German blue-jackets, or I think it must have gone ill with the Ambassadors.
So much for Aána and the treaty. With Atua, the other disaffected province, we have been and are on the brink of war. The woods have been patrolled, the army sent to the front, blood has been shed. It consists with my knowledge that the loyalist troops marched against the enemy under a hallucination. One and all believed, a majority of them still believe, that the war-ships were to follow and assist them. Who told them so? If I am to credit the rumours of the natives, as well as the gossip of official circles, a promise had been given to this effect by the Consuls, or at least by one of the Consuls. And when I say that a promise had been given, I mean that it had been sold. I mean that the natives had to buy it by submissions.
Let me take an example of these submissions. The native Government increased the salary of Mr. Gurr, the natives’ advocate. It was not a largesse; it was rather an act of tardy justice, by which Mr. Gurr received at last the same emoluments as his predecessor in the office. At the same time, with a bankrupt treasury, all fresh expenses are and must be regarded askance. The President, acting under a so-called Treasury regulation, refused to honour the King’s order. And a friendly suit was brought, which turned on the validity of this Treasury regulation. This was more than doubtful. The President was a treaty official; hence bound by the treaty. The three Consuls had been acting for him in his absence, using his powers and no other powers whatever under the treaty; and the three Consuls so acting had framed a regulation by which the powers of the President were greatly extended. This was a vicious circle with a vengeance. But the Consuls, with the ordinary partiality of parents for reformed offspring, regarded the regulation as the apple of their eye. They made themselves busy in its defence, they held interviews, it is reported they drew pleas; and it seemed to all that the Chief Justice hesitated. It is certain at least that he long delayed sentence. And during this delay the Consuls showed their power. The native Government was repeatedly called together, and at last forced to rescind the order in favour of Mr. Gurr. It was not done voluntarily, for the Government resisted. It was not done by conviction, for the Government had taken the first opportunity to restore it. If the Consuls did not appear personally in the affair — and I do not know that they did not — they made use of the President as a mouthpiece; and the President delayed the deliberations of the Government until he should receive further instructions from the Consuls. Ten pounds is doubtless a considerable affair to a bankrupt Government. But what were the Consuls doing in this matter of inland administration? What was their right to interfere? What were the arguments with which they overcame the resistance of the Government? I am either very much misinformed, or these gentlemen were trafficking in a merchandise which they did not possess, and selling at a high price the assistance of the war-ships over which (as now appears) they have no control.
Remark the irony of fate. This affair had no sooner been settled, Mr. Gurr’s claims cut at the very root, and the Treasury regulation apparently set beyond cavil, than the Chief Justice pulled himself together, and, taking his life in his right hand, delivered sentence in the case. Great was the surprise. Because the Chief Justice had balked so long, it was supposed he would never have taken the leap. And here, upon a sudden, he came down with a decision flat against the Consuls and their Treasury regulation. The Government have, I understand, restored Mr. Gurr’s salary in consequence. The Chief Justice, after giving us all a very severe fright, has reinstated himself in public opinion by this tardy boldness; and the Consuls find their conduct judicially condemned.
It was on a personal affront that the Consuls turned on Mr. Cedercrantz. Here is another affront, far more galling and public! I suppose it is but a coincidence that I should find at the same time the clouds beginning to gather about Mr. Ide’s head. In a telegram, dated from Auckland, March 30, and copyrighted by the Associated Press, I find the whole blame of the late troubles set down to his account. It is the work of a person worthy of no trust. In one of his charges, and in one only, he is right. The Chief Justice fined and imprisoned certain chiefs of Aána under circumstances far from clear; the act was, to say the least of it, susceptible of misconstruction, and by natives will always be thought of as an act of treachery. But, even for this, it is not possible for me to split the blame justly between Mr. Ide and the three Consuls. In these early days, as now, the three Consuls were always too eager to interfere where they had no business, and the Chief Justice was always too patient or too timid to set them in their place. For the rest of the telegram no qualification is needed. “The Chief Justice was compelled to take steps to disarm the natives.” He took no such steps; he never spoke of disarmament except publicly and officially to disown the idea; it was during the days of the Consular triumvirate that the cry began. “The Chief Justice called upon Malietoa to send a strong force,” etc.; the Chief Justice “disregarded the menacing attitude assumed by the Samoans,” etc. — these are but the delusions of a fever. The Chief Justice has played no such part; he never called for forces; he never disregarded menacing attitudes, not even those of the Consuls. What we have to complain of in Mr. Ide and Mr. Schmidt is strangely different. We complain that they have been here since November, and the three Consuls are still allowed, when they are not invited, to interfere in the least and the greatest; that they have been here for upwards of six months, and government under the Berlin Treaty is still overridden — and I may say overlaid — by the government of the Consular triumvirate.
This is the main fountain of our present discontents. This it is that we pray to be relieved from. Out of six Sovereigns, exercising incongruous rights or usurpations on this unhappy island, we pray to be relieved of three. The Berlin Treaty was not our choice; but if we are to have it at all, let us have it plain. Let us have the text, and nothing but the text. Let the three Consuls who have no position under the treaty cease from troubling, cease from raising war and making peace, from passing illegal regulations in the face of day, and from secretly blackmailing the Samoan Government into renunciations of its independence. Afterwards, when we have once seen it in operation, we shall be able to judge whether government under the Berlin Treaty suits or does not suit our case. — I am, Sir, etc.,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
FROM THE “DAILY CHRONICLE,” March 18, 1895.
[Subjoined is the full text of the late Robert Louis Stevenson’s last letter to Mr. J. F. Hogan, M.P. Apart from its pathetic interest as one of the final compositions of the distinguished novelist, its eloquent terms of pleading for his exiled friend Mataafa, and the light it sheds on Samoan affairs, make it a very noteworthy and instructive document. — ED. D.C.]
Vailima, Oct. 7, 1894.
J. F. Hogan, Esq., M.P.
Dear Sir, — My attention was attracted the other day by the thoroughly pertinent questions which you put in the House of Commons, and which the Government failed to answer. It put an idea in my head that you were perhaps the man who might take up a task which I am almost ready to give up. Mataafa is now known to be my hobby. People laugh when they see any mention of his name over my signature, and the Times, while it still grants me hospitality, begins to lead the chorus. I know that nothing can be more fatal to Mataafa’s cause than that he should be made ridiculous, and I cannot help feeling that a man who makes his bread by writing fiction labours under the disadvantage of suspicion when he touches on matters of fact. If I were even backed up before the world by one other voice, people might continue to listen, and in the end something might be done. But so long as I stand quite alone, telling the same story, which becomes, apparently, not only more tedious, but less credible by repetition, I feel that I am doing nothing good, possibly even some evil.
Now, sir, you have shown by your questions in the House, not only that you remember Mataafa, but that you are instructed in his case, and this exposes you to the trouble of reading this letter.
Mataafa was made the prisoner of the three Powers. He had been guilty of rebellion; but surely rather formally than really. He was the appointed King of Samoa. The treaty set him aside, and he obeyed the three Powers. His successor — or I should rather say his successor’s advisers and surroundings — fell out with him. He was disgusted by the spectacle of their misgovernment. In this humour he fell to the study of the Berlin Act, and was misled by the famous passage, “His successor shall be duly elected according to the laws and customs of Samoa.” It is to be noted that what I will venture to call the infamous Protocol — a measure equally of German vanity, English cowardice, and American incuria — had not been and has never yet been translated into the Samoan language. They feared light because their works were darkness. For what he did during what I can only call his candidature, I must refer you to the last chapter of my book. It was rebellion to the three Powers; to him it was not rebellion. The troops of the King attacked him first. The sudden arrival and sudden action of Captain Bickford concluded the affair in the very beginning. Mataafa surrendered. He surrendered to Captain Bickford. He was brought back to Apia on Captain Bickford’s ship. I shall never forget the Captain pointing to the British ensign and saying, “Tell them they are safe under that.” And the next thing we learned, Mataafa and his chiefs were transferred to a German war-ship and carried to the Marshalls.
Who was responsible for this? Who is responsible now for the care and good treatment of these political prisoners? I am far from hinting that the Germans actually maltreat him. I know even that many of the Germans regard him with respect. But I can only speak of what I know here. It is impossible to send him or any of his chiefs either a present or a letter. I believe the mission (Catholic) has been allowed some form of communication. On the same occasion I sent down letters and presents. They were refused; and the officer of the deck on the German war-ship had so little reticence as to pass the remark, “O, you see, you like Mataafa; we don’t.” In short, communication is so completely sundered that for anything we can hear in Samoa, they may all have been hanged at the yard-arm two days out.
To take another instance. The high chief Faamoina was recently married to a young and pleasing wife. She desired to follow her husband, an old man, in bad health, and so deservedly popular that he had been given the by-name of “Papalagi Mativa,” or “Poor White Man,” on account of his charities to our countrymen. She was refused. Again and again she has renewed her applications to be allowed to rejoin him, and without the least success.
It has been decreed by some one, I know not whom, that Faamoina must have no one to nurse him, and that his wife must be left in the anomalous and dangerous position which the Treaty Powers have made for her. I have wearied myself, and I fear others, by my attempts to get a passage for her or to have her letters sent. Every one sympathises. The German ships now in port are loud in expressions of disapproval and professions of readiness to help her. But to whom can we address ourselves? Who is responsible? Who is the unknown power that sent Mataafa in a German ship to the Marshalls, instead of in an English ship to Fiji? that has decreed since that he shall receive not even inconsiderable gifts and open letters? and that keeps separated Faamoina and his wife?
Now, dear sir, these are the facts, and I think that I may be excused for being angry. At the same time, I am well aware that an angry man is a bore. I am a man with a grievance, and my grievance has the misfortune to be very small and very far away. It is very small, for it is only the case of under a score of brown-skinned men who have been dealt with in the dark by I know not whom. And I want to know. I want to know by whose authority Mataafa was given over into German hands. I want to know by whose authority, and for how long a term of years, he is condemned to the miserable exile of a low island. And I want to know how it happens that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander in Samoa? — that the German enemy Mataafa has been indefinitely exiled for what is after all scarce more than constructive rebellion, and the German friend Tamasese, for a rebellion which has lasted long enough to threaten us with famine, and was disgraced in its beginning by ominous threats against the whites, has been punished by a fine of fifty rifles?
True, I could sympathise with the German officers in their embarrassment. Here was the son of the old King whom they had raised, and whom they had deserted. What an unenviable office was theirs when they must make war upon, suppress, and make a feint of punishing, this man to whom they stood bound by a hereditary alliance, and to whose father they had already failed so egregiously! They were loyal all round. They were loyal to their Tamasese, and got him off with his fine. And shall I not be a little loyal to Mataafa? And will you not help me? He is now an old man, very piously inclined, and I believe he would enter at least the lesser orders of the Church if he were suffered to come back. But I do not even ask so much as this, though I hope it. It would be enough if he were brought back to Fiji, back to the food and fresh water of his childhood, back into the daylight from the darkness of the Marshalls, where some of us could see him, where we could write to him and receive answers, where he might pass a tolerable old age. If you can help me to get this done, I am sure that you will never regret it. In its small way, this is another case of Toussaint L’Ouverture, not so monstrous if you like, not on so large a scale, but with circumstances of small perfidy that make it almost as odious.
I may tell you in conclusion that, circumstances co-operating with my tedious insistence, the last of the Mataafa chiefs here in Apia has been liberated from gaol. All this time they stayed of their own free will, thinking it might injure Mataafa if they escaped when others did. And you will see by the enclosed paper how these poor fellows spent the first hours of their liberty. You will see also that I am not the firebrand that I am sometimes painted, and that in helping me, if you shall decide to do so, you will be doing nothing against the peace and prosperity of Samoa.
With many excuses for having occupied so much of your valuable time, I remain, yours truly,
Robert Louis Stevenson.
P.S. — On revisal, I observe some points: in the first place, I do not believe Captain Bickford was to blame; I suspect him to have been a victim. I have been told, but it seems incredible, that he underwent an examination about Mataafa’s daughter having been allowed to accompany him. Certainly he liked his job little, and some of his colleagues less.
R. L. S.
Latest intelligence. We have received at last a letter from Mataafa. He is well treated and has good food; only complains of not hearing from Samoa. This has very much relieved our minds. But why were they previously left in the dark?
R. L. S.
i.e. in building a section of a new road to Mr. Stevenson’s house. The paper referred to is a copy of the Samoa Times, containing a report of the dinner given by Mr. Stevenson at Vailima to inaugurate this new road.