A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Chapter 3

The Sorrows of Laupepa, 1883 to 1887

YOU ride in a German plantation and see no bush, no soul stirring; only acres of empty sward, miles of cocoa-nut alley: a desert of food. In the eyes of the Samoan the place has the attraction of a park for the holiday schoolboy, of a granary for mice. We must add the yet more lively allurement of a haunted house, for over these empty and silent miles there broods the fear of the negrito cannibal. For the Samoan besides, there is something barbaric, unhandsome, and absurd in the idea of thus growing food only to send it from the land and sell it. A man at home who should turn all Yorkshire into one wheatfield, and annually burn his harvest on the altar of Mumbo-Jumbo, might impress ourselves not much otherwise. And the firm which does these things is quite extraneous, a wen that might be excised to-morrow without loss but to itself; few natives drawing from it so much as day’s wages; and the rest beholding in it only the occupier of their acres. The nearest villages have suffered most; they see over the hedge the lands of their ancestors waving with useless cocoa-palms; and the sales were often questionable, and must still more often appear so to regretful natives, spinning and improving yarns about the evening lamp. At the worst, then, to help oneself from the plantation will seem to a Samoan very like orchard-breaking to the British schoolboy; at the best, it will be thought a gallant Robin — Hoodish readjustment of a public wrong.

And there is more behind. Not only is theft from the plantations regarded rather as a lark and peccadillo, the idea of theft in itself is not very clearly present to these communists; and as to the punishment of crime in general, a great gulf of opinion divides the natives from ourselves. Indigenous punishments were short and sharp. Death, deportation by the primitive method of setting the criminal to sea in a canoe, fines, and in Samoa itself the penalty of publicly biting a hot, ill-smelling root, comparable to a rough forfeit in a children’s game — these are approved. The offender is killed, or punished and forgiven. We, on the other hand, harbour malice for a period of years: continuous shame attaches to the criminal; even when he is doing his best — even when he is submitting to the worst form of torture, regular work — he is to stand aside from life and from his family in dreadful isolation. These ideas most Polynesians have accepted in appearance, as they accept other ideas of the whites; in practice, they reduce it to a farce. I have heard the French resident in the Marquesas in talk with the French gaoler of Tai-o-hae: “EH BIEN, OU SONT VOS PRISONNIERES? — JE CROIS, MON COMMANDANT, QU’ELLES SONT ALLEES QUELQUE PART FAIRE UNE VISITE.” And the ladies would be welcome. This is to take the most savage of Polynesians; take some of the most civilised. In Honolulu, convicts labour on the highways in piebald clothing, gruesome and ridiculous; and it is a common sight to see the family of such an one troop out, about the dinner hour, wreathed with flowers and in their holiday best, to picnic with their kinsman on the public wayside. The application of these outlandish penalties, in fact, transfers the sympathy to the offender. Remember, besides, that the clan system, and that imperfect idea of justice which is its worst feature, are still lively in Samoa; that it is held the duty of a judge to favour kinsmen, of a king to protect his vassals; and the difficulty of getting a plantation thief first caught, then convicted, and last of all punished, will appear.

During the early ‘eighties, the Germans looked upon this system with growing irritation. They might see their convict thrust in gaol by the front door; they could never tell how soon he was enfranchised by the back; and they need not be the least surprised if they met him, a few days after, enjoying the delights of a MALANGA. It was a banded conspiracy, from the king and the vice — king downward, to evade the law and deprive the Germans of their profits. In 1883, accordingly, the consul, Dr. Stuebel, extorted a convention on the subject, in terms of which Samoans convicted of offences against German subjects were to be confined in a private gaol belonging to the German firm. To Dr. Stuebel it seemed simple enough: the offenders were to be effectually punished, the sufferers partially indemnified. To the Samoans, the thing appeared no less simple, but quite different: “Malietoa was selling Samoans to Misi Ueba.” What else could be expected? Here was a private corporation engaged in making money; to it was delegated, upon a question of profit and loss, one of the functions of the Samoan crown; and those who make anomalies must look for comments. Public feeling ran unanimous and high. Prisoners who escaped from the private gaol were not recaptured or not returned and Malietoa hastened to build a new prison of his own, whither he conveyed, or pretended to convey, the fugitives. In October 1885 a trenchant state paper issued from the German consulate. Twenty prisoners, the consul wrote, had now been at large for eight months from Weber’s prison. It was pretended they had since then completed their term of punishment elsewhere. Dr. Stuebel did not seek to conceal his incredulity; but he took ground beyond; he declared the point irrelevant. The law was to be enforced. The men were condemned to a certain period in Weber’s prison; they had run away; they must now be brought back and (whatever had become of them in the interval) work out the sentence. Doubtless Dr. Stuebel’s demands were substantially just; but doubtless also they bore from the outside a great appearance of harshness; and when the king submitted, the murmurs of the people increased.

But Weber was not yet content. The law had to be enforced; property, or at least the property of the firm, must be respected. And during an absence of the consul’s, he seems to have drawn up with his own hand, and certainly first showed to the king, in his own house, a new convention. Weber here and Weber there. As an able man, he was perhaps in the right to prepare and propose conventions. As the head of a trading company, he seems far out of his part to be communicating state papers to a sovereign. The administration of justice was the colour, and I am willing to believe the purpose, of the new paper; but its effect was to depose the existing government. A council of two Germans and two Samoans were to be invested with the right to make laws and impose taxes as might be “desirable for the common interest of the Samoan government and the German residents.” The provisions of this council the king and vice-king were to sign blindfold. And by a last hardship, the Germans, who received all the benefit, reserved a right to recede from the agreement on six months’ notice; the Samoans, who suffered all the loss, were bound by it in perpetuity. I can never believe that my friend Dr. Stuebel had a hand in drafting these proposals; I am only surprised he should have been a party to enforcing them, perhaps the chief error in these islands of a man who has made few. And they were enforced with a rigour that seems injudicious. The Samoans (according to their own account) were denied a copy of the document; they were certainly rated and threatened; their deliberation was treated as contumacy; two German war-ships lay in port, and it was hinted that these would shortly intervene.

Succeed in frightening a child, and he takes refuge in duplicity. “Malietoa,” one of the chiefs had written, “we know well we are in bondage to the great governments.” It was now thought one tyrant might be better than three, and any one preferable to Germany. On the 5th November 1885, accordingly, Laupepa, Tamasese, and forty — eight high chiefs met in secret, and the supremacy of Samoa was secretly offered to Great Britain for the second time in history. Laupepa and Tamasese still figured as king and vice-king in the eyes of Dr. Stuebel; in their own, they had secretly abdicated, were become private persons, and might do what they pleased without binding or dishonouring their country. On the morrow, accordingly, they did public humiliation in the dust before the consulate, and five days later signed the convention. The last was done, it is claimed, upon an impulse. The humiliation, which it appeared to the Samoans so great a thing to offer, to the practical mind of Dr. Stuebel seemed a trifle to receive; and the pressure was continued and increased. Laupepa and Tamasese were both heavy, well-meaning, inconclusive men. Laupepa, educated for the ministry, still bears some marks of it in character and appearance; Tamasese was in private of an amorous and sentimental turn, but no one would have guessed it from his solemn and dull countenance. Impossible to conceive two less dashing champions for a threatened race; and there is no doubt they were reduced to the extremity of muddlement and childish fear. It was drawing towards night on the 10th, when this luckless pair and a chief of the name of Tuiatafu, set out for the German consulate, still minded to temporise. As they went, they discussed their case with agitation. They could see the lights of the German war-ships as they walked — an eloquent reminder. And it was then that Tamasese proposed to sign the convention. “It will give us peace for the day,” said Laupepa, “and afterwards Great Britain must decide.” — “Better fight Germany than that!” cried Tuiatafu, speaking words of wisdom, and departed in anger. But the two others proceeded on their fatal errand; signed the convention, writing themselves king and vice-king, as they now believed themselves to be no longer; and with childish perfidy took part in a scene of “reconciliation” at the German consulate.

Malietoa supposed himself betrayed by Tamasese. Consul Churchward states with precision that the document was sold by a scribe for thirty-six dollars. Twelve days later at least, November 22nd, the text of the address to Great Britain came into the hands of Dr. Stuebel. The Germans may have been wrong before; they were now in the right to be angry. They had been publicly, solemnly, and elaborately fooled; the treaty and the reconciliation were both fraudulent, with the broad, farcical fraudulency of children and barbarians. This history is much from the outside; it is the digested report of eye-witnesses; it can be rarely corrected from state papers; and as to what consuls felt and thought, or what instructions they acted under, I must still be silent or proceed by guess. It is my guess that Stuebel now decided Malietoa Laupepa to be a man impossible to trust and unworthy to be dealt with. And it is certain that the business of his deposition was put in hand at once. The position of Weber, with his knowledge of things native, his prestige, and his enterprising intellect, must have always made him influential with the consul: at this juncture he was indispensable. Here was the deed to be done; here the man of action. “Mr. Weber rested not,” says Laupepa. It was “like the old days of his own consulate,” writes Churchward. His messengers filled the isle; his house was thronged with chiefs and orators; he sat close over his loom, delightedly weaving the future. There was one thing requisite to the intrigue, — a native pretender; and the very man, you would have said, stood waiting: Mataafa, titular of Atua, descended from both the royal lines, late joint king with Tamasese, fobbed off with nothing in the time of the Lackawanna treaty, probably mortified by the circumstance, a chief with a strong following, and in character and capacity high above the native average. Yet when Weber’s spiriting was done, and the curtain rose on the set scene of the coronation, Mataafa was absent, and Tamasese stood in his place. Malietoa was to be deposed for a piece of solemn and offensive trickery, and the man selected to replace him was his sole partner and accomplice in the act. For so strange a choice, good ground must have existed; but it remains conjectural: some supposing Mataafa scratched as too independent; others that Tamasese had indeed betrayed Laupepa, and his new advancement was the price of his treachery.

So these two chiefs began to change places like the scales of a balance, one down, the other up. Tamasese raised his flag (Jan. 28th, 1886) in Leulumoenga, chief place of his own province of Aana, usurped the style of king, and began to collect and arm a force. Weber, by the admission of Stuebel, was in the market supplying him with weapons; so were the Americans; so, but for our salutary British law, would have been the British; for wherever there is a sound of battle, there will the traders be gathered together selling arms. A little longer, and we find Tamasese visited and addressed as king and majesty by a German commodore. Meanwhile, for the unhappy Malietoa, the road led downward. He was refused a bodyguard. He was turned out of Mulinuu, the seat of his royalty, on a land claim of Weber’s, fled across the Mulivai, and “had the coolness” (German expression) to hoist his flag in Apia. He was asked “in the most polite manner,” says the same account — “in the most delicate manner in the world,” a reader of Marryat might be tempted to amend the phrase, — to strike his flag in his own capital; and on his “refusal to accede to this request,” Dr. Stuebel appeared himself with ten men and an officer from the cruiser ALBATROSS; a sailor climbed into the tree and brought down the flag of Samoa, which was carefully folded, and sent, “in the most polite manner,” to its owner. The consuls of England and the States were there (the excellent gentlemen!) to protest. Last, and yet more explicit, the German commodore who visited the be-titled Tamasese, addressed the king — we may surely say the late king — as “the High Chief Malietoa.”

Had he no party, then? At that time, it is probable, he might have called some five-sevenths of Samoa to his standard. And yet he sat there, helpless monarch, like a fowl trussed for roasting. The blame lies with himself, because he was a helpless creature; it lies also with England and the States. Their agents on the spot preached peace (where there was no peace, and no pretence of it) with eloquence and iteration. Secretary Bayard seems to have felt a call to join personally in the solemn farce, and was at the expense of a telegram in which he assured the sinking monarch it was “for the higher interests of Samoa” he should do nothing. There was no man better at doing that; the advice came straight home, and was devoutly followed. And to be just to the great Powers, something was done in Europe; a conference was called, it was agreed to send commissioners to Samoa, and the decks had to be hastily cleared against their visit. Dr. Stuebel had attached the municipality of Apia and hoisted the German war-flag over Mulinuu; the American consul (in a sudden access of good service) had flown the stars and stripes over Samoan colours; on either side these steps were solemnly retracted. The Germans expressly disowned Tamasese; and the islands fell into a period of suspense, of some twelve months’ duration, during which the seat of the history was transferred to other countries and escapes my purview. Here on the spot, I select three incidents: the arrival on the scene of a new actor, the visit of the Hawaiian embassy, and the riot on the Emperor’s birthday. The rest shall be silence; only it must be borne in view that Tamasese all the while continued to strengthen himself in Leulumoenga, and Laupepa sat inactive listening to the song of consuls.

CAPTAIN BRANDEIS. The new actor was Brandeis, a Bavarian captain of artillery, of a romantic and adventurous character. He had served with credit in war; but soon wearied of garrison life, resigned his battery, came to the States, found employment as a civil engineer, visited Cuba, took a sub-contract on the Panama canal, caught the fever, and came (for the sake of the sea voyage) to Australia. He had that natural love for the tropics which lies so often latent in persons of a northern birth; difficulty and danger attracted him; and when he was picked out for secret duty, to be the hand of Germany in Samoa, there is no doubt but he accepted the post with exhilaration. It is doubtful if a better choice could have been made. He had courage, integrity, ideas of his own, and loved the employment, the people, and the place. Yet there was a fly in the ointment. The double error of unnecessary stealth and of the immixture of a trading company in political affairs, has vitiated, and in the end defeated, much German policy. And Brandeis was introduced to the islands as a clerk, and sent down to Leulumoenga (where he was soon drilling the troops and fortifying the position of the rebel king) as an agent of the German firm. What this mystification cost in the end I shall tell in another place; and even in the beginning, it deceived no one. Brandeis is a man of notable personal appearance; he looks the part allotted him; and the military clerk was soon the centre of observation and rumour. Malietoa wrote and complained of his presence to Becker, who had succeeded Dr. Stuebel in the consulate. Becker replied, “I have nothing to do with the gentleman Brandeis. Be it well known that the gentleman Brandeis has no appointment in a military character, but resides peaceably assisting the government of Leulumoenga in their work, for Brandeis is a quiet, sensible gentleman.” And then he promised to send the vice-consul to “get information of the captain’s doings”: surely supererogation of deceit.

THE HAWAIIAN EMBASSY. The prime minister of the Hawaiian kingdom was, at this period, an adventurer of the name of Gibson. He claimed, on the strength of a romantic story, to be the heir of a great English house. He had played a part in a revolt in Java, had languished in Dutch fetters, and had risen to be a trusted agent of Brigham Young, the Utah president. It was in this character of a Mormon emissary that he first came to the islands of Hawaii, where he collected a large sum of money for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. At a given moment, he dropped his saintship and appeared as a Christian and the owner of a part of the island of Lanai. The steps of the transformation are obscure; they seem, at least, to have been ill-received at Salt Lake; and there is evidence to the effect that he was followed to the islands by Mormon assassins. His first attempt on politics was made under the auspices of what is called the missionary party, and the canvass conducted largely (it is said with tears) on the platform at prayer-meetings. It resulted in defeat. Without any decency of delay he changed his colours, abjured the errors of reform, and, with the support of the Catholics, rose to the chief power. In a very brief interval he had thus run through the gamut of religions in the South Seas. It does not appear that he was any more particular in politics, but he was careful to consult the character and prejudices of the late king, Kalakaua. That amiable, far from unaccomplished, but too convivial sovereign, had a continued use for money: Gibson was observant to keep him well supplied. Kalakaua (one of the most theoretical of men) was filled with visionary schemes for the protection and development of the Polynesian race: Gibson fell in step with him; it is even thought he may have shared in his illusions. The king and minister at least conceived between them a scheme of island confederation — the most obvious fault of which was that it came too late — and armed and fitted out the cruiser KAIMILOA, nest-egg of the future navy of Hawaii. Samoa, the most important group still independent, and one immediately threatened with aggression, was chosen for the scene of action. The Hon. John E. Bush, a half-caste Hawaiian, sailed (December 1887) for Apia as minister-plenipotentiary, accompanied by a secretary of legation, Henry F. Poor; and as soon as she was ready for sea, the war-ship followed in support. The expedition was futile in its course, almost tragic in result. The KAIMILOA was from the first a scene of disaster and dilapidation: the stores were sold; the crew revolted; for a great part of a night she was in the hands of mutineers, and the secretary lay bound upon the deck. The mission, installing itself at first with extravagance in Matautu, was helped at last out of the island by the advances of a private citizen. And they returned from dreams of Polynesian independence to find their own city in the hands of a clique of white shopkeepers, and the great Gibson once again in gaol. Yet the farce had not been quite without effect. It had encouraged the natives for the moment, and it seems to have ruffled permanently the temper of the Germans. So might a fly irritate Caesar.

The arrival of a mission from Hawaii would scarce affect the composure of the courts of Europe. But in the eyes of Polynesians the little kingdom occupies a place apart. It is there alone that men of their race enjoy most of the advantages and all the pomp of independence; news of Hawaii and descriptions of Honolulu are grateful topics in all parts of the South Seas; and there is no better introduction than a photograph in which the bearer shall be represented in company with Kalakaua. Laupepa was, besides, sunk to the point at which an unfortunate begins to clutch at straws, and he received the mission with delight. Letters were exchanged between him and Kalakaua; a deed of confederation was signed, 17th February 1887, and the signature celebrated in the new house of the Hawaiian embassy with some original ceremonies. Malietoa Laupepa came, attended by his ministry, several hundred chiefs, two guards, and six policemen. Always decent, he withdrew at an early hour; by those that remained, all decency appears to have been forgotten; high chiefs were seen to dance; and day found the house carpeted with slumbering grandees, who must be roused, doctored with coffee, and sent home. As a first chapter in the history of Polynesian Confederation, it was hardly cheering, and Laupepa remarked to one of the embassy, with equal dignity and sense: “If you have come here to teach my people to drink, I wish you had stayed away.”

The Germans looked on from the first with natural irritation that a power of the powerlessness of Hawaii should thus profit by its undeniable footing in the family of nations, and send embassies, and make believe to have a navy, and bark and snap at the heels of the great German Empire. But Becker could not prevent the hunted Laupepa from taking refuge in any hole that offered, and he could afford to smile at the fantastic orgie in the embassy. It was another matter when the Hawaiians approached the intractable Mataafa, sitting still in his Atua government like Achilles in his tent, helping neither side, and (as the Germans suspected) keeping the eggs warm for himself. When the KAIMILOA steamed out of Apia on this visit, the German war-ship ADLER followed at her heels; and Mataafa was no sooner set down with the embassy than he was summoned and ordered on board by two German officers. The step is one of those triumphs of temper which can only be admired. Mataafa is entertaining the plenipotentiary of a sovereign power in treaty with his own king, and the captain of a German corvette orders him to quit his guests.

But there was worse to come. I gather that Tamasese was at the time in the sulks. He had doubtless been promised prompt aid and a prompt success; he had seen himself surreptitiously helped, privately ordered about, and publicly disowned; and he was still the king of nothing more than his own province, and already the second in command of Captain Brandeis. With the adhesion of some part of his native cabinet, and behind the back of his white minister, he found means to communicate with the Hawaiians. A passage on the KAIMILOA, a pension, and a home in Honolulu were the bribes proposed; and he seems to have been tempted. A day was set for a secret interview. Poor, the Hawaiian secretary, and J. D. Strong, an American painter attached to the embassy in the surprising quality of “Government Artist,” landed with a Samoan boat’s-crew in Aana; and while the secretary hid himself, according to agreement, in the outlying home of an English settler, the artist (ostensibly bent on photography) entered the headquarters of the rebel king. It was a great day in Leulumoenga; three hundred recruits had come in, a feast was cooking; and the photographer, in view of the native love of being photographed, was made entirely welcome. But beneath the friendly surface all were on the alert. The secret had leaked out: Weber beheld his plans threatened in the root; Brandeis trembled for the possession of his slave and sovereign; and the German vice-consul, Mr. Sonnenschein, had been sent or summoned to the scene of danger.

It was after dark, prayers had been said and the hymns sung through all the village, and Strong and the German sat together on the mats in the house of Tamasese, when the events began. Strong speaks German freely, a fact which he had not disclosed, and he was scarce more amused than embarrassed to be able to follow all the evening the dissension and the changing counsels of his neighbours. First the king himself was missing, and there was a false alarm that he had escaped and was already closeted with Poor. Next came certain intelligence that some of the ministry had run the blockade, and were on their way to the house of the English settler. Thereupon, in spite of some protests from Tamasese, who tried to defend the independence of his cabinet, Brandeis gathered a posse of warriors, marched out of the village, brought back the fugitives, and clapped them in the corrugated iron shanty which served as gaol. Along with these he seems to have seized Billy Coe, interpreter to the Hawaiians; and Poor, seeing his conspiracy public, burst with his boat’s-crew into the town, made his way to the house of the native prime minister, and demanded Coe’s release. Brandeis hastened to the spot, with Strong at his heels; and the two principals being both incensed, and Strong seriously alarmed for his friend’s safety, there began among them a scene of great intemperance. At one point, when Strong suddenly disclosed his acquaintance with German, it attained a high style of comedy; at another, when a pistol was most foolishly drawn, it bordered on drama; and it may be said to have ended in a mixed genus, when Poor was finally packed into the corrugated iron gaol along with the forfeited ministers. Meanwhile the captain of his boat, Siteoni, of whom I shall have to tell again, had cleverly withdrawn the boat’s-crew at an early stage of the quarrel. Among the population beyond Tamasese’s marches, he collected a body of armed men, returned before dawn to Leulumoenga, demolished the corrugated iron gaol, and liberated the Hawaiian secretary and the rump of the rebel cabinet. No opposition was shown; and doubtless the rescue was connived at by Brandeis, who had gained his point. Poor had the face to complain the next day to Becker; but to compete with Becker in effrontery was labour lost. “You have been repeatedly warned, Mr. Poor, not to expose yourself among these savages,” said he.

Not long after, the presence of the KAIMILOA was made A CASUS BELLI by the Germans; and the rough-and-tumble embassy withdrew, on borrowed money, to find their own government in hot water to the neck.

THE EMPEROR’S BIRTHDAY. It is possible, and it is alleged, that the Germans entered into the conference with hope. But it is certain they were resolved to remain prepared for either fate. And I take the liberty of believing that Laupepa was not forgiven his duplicity; that, during this interval, he stood marked like a tree for felling; and that his conduct was daily scrutinised for further pretexts of offence. On the evening of the Emperor’s birthday, March 22nd, 1887, certain Germans were congregated in a public bar. The season and the place considered, it is scarce cynical to assume they had been drinking; nor, so much being granted, can it be thought exorbitant to suppose them possibly in fault for the squabble that took place. A squabble, I say; but I am willing to call it a riot. And this was the new fault of Laupepa; this it is that was described by a German commodore as “the trampling upon by Malietoa of the German Emperor.” I pass the rhetoric by to examine the point of liability. Four natives were brought to trial for this horrid fact: not before a native judge, but before the German magistrate of the tripartite municipality of Apia. One was acquitted, one condemned for theft, and two for assault. On appeal, not to Malietoa, but to the three consuls, the case was by a majority of two to one returned to the magistrate and (as far as I can learn) was then allowed to drop. Consul Becker himself laid the chief blame on one of the policemen of the municipality, a half-white of the name of Scanlon. Him he sought to have discharged, but was again baffled by his brother consuls. Where, in all this, are we to find a corner of responsibility for the king of Samoa? Scanlon, the alleged author of the outrage, was a half — white; as Becker was to learn to his cost, he claimed to be an American subject; and he was not even in the king’s employment. Apia, the scene of the outrage, was outside the king’s jurisdiction by treaty; by the choice of Germany, he was not so much as allowed to fly his flag there. And the denial of justice (if justice were denied) rested with the consuls of Britain and the States.

But when a dog is to be beaten, any stick will serve. In the meanwhile, on the proposition of Mr. Bayard, the Washington conference on Samoan affairs was adjourned till autumn, so that “the ministers of Germany and Great Britain might submit the protocols to their respective Governments.” “You propose that the conference is to adjourn and not to be broken up?” asked Sir Lionel West. “To adjourn for the reasons stated,” replied Bayard. This was on July 26th; and, twenty-nine days later, by Wednesday the 24th of August, Germany had practically seized Samoa. For this flagrant breach of faith one excuse is openly alleged; another whispered. It is openly alleged that Bayard had shown himself impracticable; it is whispered that the Hawaiian embassy was an expression of American intrigue, and that the Germans only did as they were done by. The sufficiency of these excuses may be left to the discretion of the reader. But, however excused, the breach of faith was public and express; it must have been deliberately predetermined and it was resented in the States as a deliberate insult.

By the middle of August 1887 there were five sail of German war — ships in Apia bay: the BISMARCK, of 3000 tons displacement; the CAROLA, the SOPHIE, and the OLGA, all considerable ships; and the beautiful ADLER, which lies there to this day, kanted on her beam, dismantled, scarlet with rust, the day showing through her ribs. They waited inactive, as a burglar waits till the patrol goes by. And on the 23rd, when the mail had left for Sydney, when the eyes of the world were withdrawn, and Samoa plunged again for a period of weeks into her original island-obscurity, Becker opened his guns. The policy was too cunning to seem dignified; it gave to conduct which would otherwise have seemed bold and even brutally straightforward, the appearance of a timid ambuscade; and helped to shake men’s reliance on the word of Germany. On the day named, an ultimatum reached Malietoa at Afenga, whither he had retired months before to avoid friction. A fine of one thousand dollars and an IFO, or public humiliation, were demanded for the affair of the Emperor’s birthday. Twelve thousand dollars were to be “paid quickly” for thefts from German plantations in the course of the last four years. “It is my opinion that there is nothing just or correct in Samoa while you are at the head of the government,” concluded Becker. “I shall be at Afenga in the morning of to — morrow, Wednesday, at 11 A.M.” The blow fell on Laupepa (in his own expression) “out of the bush”; the dilatory fellow had seen things hang over so long, he had perhaps begun to suppose they might hang over for ever; and here was ruin at the door. He rode at once to Apia, and summoned his chiefs. The council lasted all night long. Many voices were for defiance. But Laupepa had grown inured to a policy of procrastination; and the answer ultimately drawn only begged for delay till Saturday, the 27th. So soon as it was signed, the king took horse and fled in the early morning to Afenga; the council hastily dispersed; and only three chiefs, Selu, Seumanu, and Le Mamea, remained by the government building, tremulously expectant of the result.

By seven the letter was received. By 7.30 Becker arrived in person, inquired for Laupepa, was evasively answered, and declared war on the spot. Before eight, the Germans (seven hundred men and six guns) came ashore and seized and hoisted German colours on the government building. The three chiefs had made good haste to escape; but a considerable booty was made of government papers, fire-arms, and some seventeen thousand cartridges. Then followed a scene which long rankled in the minds of the white inhabitants, when the German marines raided the town in search of Malietoa, burst into private houses, and were accused (I am willing to believe on slender grounds) of violence to private persons.

On the morrow, the 25th, one of the German war-ships, which had been despatched to Leulumoenga over night re-entered the bay, flying the Tamasese colours at the fore. The new king was given a royal salute of twenty-one guns, marched through the town by the commodore and a German guard of honour, and established on Mulinuu with two or three hundred warriors. Becker announced his recognition to the other consuls. These replied by proclaiming Malietoa, and in the usual mealy-mouthed manner advised Samoans to do nothing. On the 27th martial law was declared; and on the 1st September the German squadron dispersed about the group, bearing along with them the proclamations of the new king. Tamasese was now a great man, to have five iron war-ships for his post-runners. But the moment was critical. The revolution had to be explained, the chiefs persuaded to assemble at a fono summoned for the 15th; and the ships carried not only a store of printed documents, but a squad of Tamasese orators upon their round.

Such was the German COUP D’ETAT. They had declared war with a squadron of five ships upon a single man; that man, late king of the group, was in hiding on the mountains; and their own nominee, backed by German guns and bayonets, sat in his stead in Mulinuu.

One of the first acts of Malietoa, on fleeing to the bush, was to send for Mataafa twice: “I am alone in the bush; if you do not come quickly you will find me bound.” It is to be understood the men were near kinsmen, and had (if they had nothing else) a common jealousy. At the urgent cry, Mataafa set forth from Falefa, and came to Mulinuu to Tamasese. “What is this that you and the German commodore have decided on doing?” he inquired. “I am going to obey the German consul,” replied Tamasese, “whose wish it is that I should be the king and that all Samoa should assemble here.” “Do not pursue in wrath against Malietoa,” said Mataafa “but try to bring about a compromise, and form a united government.” “Very well,” said Tamasese, “leave it to me, and I will try.” From Mulinuu, Mataafa went on board the BISMARCK, and was graciously received. “Probably,” said the commodore, “we shall bring about a reconciliation of all Samoa through you”; and then asked his visitor if he bore any affection to Malietoa. “Yes,” said Mataafa. “And to Tamasese?” “To him also; and if you desire the weal of Samoa, you will allow either him or me to bring about a reconciliation.” “If it were my will,” said the commodore, “I would do as you say. But I have no will in the matter. I have instructions from the Kaiser, and I cannot go back again from what I have been sent to do.” “I thought you would be commanded,” said Mataafa, “if you brought about the weal of Samoa.” “I will tell you,” said the commodore. “All shall go quietly. But there is one thing that must be done: Malietoa must be deposed. I will do nothing to him beyond; he will only be kept on board for a couple of months and be well treated, just as we Germans did to the French chief [Napoleon III.] some time ago, whom we kept a while and cared for well.” Becker was no less explicit: war, he told Sewall, should not cease till the Germans had custody of Malietoa and Tamasese should be recognised.

Meantime, in the Malietoa provinces, a profound impression was received. People trooped to their fugitive sovereign in the bush. Many natives in Apia brought their treasures, and stored them in the houses of white friends. The Tamasese orators were sometimes ill received. Over in Savaii, they found the village of Satupaitea deserted, save for a few lads at cricket. These they harangued, and were rewarded with ironical applause; and the proclamation, as soon as they had departed, was torn down. For this offence the village was ultimately burned by German sailors, in a very decent and orderly style, on the 3rd September. This was the dinner-bell of the fono on the 15th. The threat conveyed in the terms of the summons — “If any government district does not quickly obey this direction, I will make war on that government district” — was thus commented on and reinforced. And the meeting was in consequence well attended by chiefs of all parties. They found themselves unarmed among the armed warriors of Tamasese and the marines of the German squadron, and under the guns of five strong ships. Brandeis rose; it was his first open appearance, the German firm signing its revolutionary work. His words were few and uncompromising: “Great are my thanks that the chiefs and heads of families of the whole of Samoa are assembled here this day. It is strictly forbidden that any discussion should take place as to whether it is good or not that Tamasese is king of Samoa, whether at this fono or at any future fono. I place for your signature the following: ‘WE INFORM ALL THE PEOPLE OF SAMOA OF WHAT FOLLOWS: (1) THE GOVERNMENT OF SAMOA HAS BEEN ASSUMED BY KING TUIAANA TAMASESE. (2) BY ORDER OF THE KING, IT WAS DIRECTED THAT A FONO SHOULD TAKE PLACE TO-DAY, COMPOSED OF THE CHIEFS AND HEADS OF FAMILIES, AND WE HAVE OBEYED THE SUMMONS. WE HAVE SIGNED OUR NAMES UNDER THIS, 15TH SEPTEMBER 1887.” Needs must under all these guns; and the paper was signed, but not without open sullenness. The bearing of Mataafa in particular was long remembered against him by the Germans. “Do you not see the king?” said the commodore reprovingly. “His father was no king,” was the bold answer. A bolder still has been printed, but this is Mataafa’s own recollection of the passage. On the next day, the chiefs were all ordered back to shake hands with Tamasese. Again they obeyed; but again their attitude was menacing, and some, it is said, audibly murmured as they gave their hands.

It is time to follow the poor Sheet of Paper (literal meaning of LAUPEPA), who was now to be blown so broadly over the face of earth. As soon as news reached him of the declaration of war, he fled from Afenga to Tanunga-manono, a hamlet in the bush, about a mile and a half behind Apia, where he lurked some days. On the 24th, Selu, his secretary, despatched to the American consul an anxious appeal, his majesty’s “cry and prayer” in behalf of “this weak people.” By August 30th, the Germans had word of his lurking — place, surrounded the hamlet under cloud of night, and in the early morning burst with a force of sailors on the houses. The people fled on all sides, and were fired upon. One boy was shot in the hand, the first blood of the war. But the king was nowhere to be found; he had wandered farther, over the woody mountains, the backbone of the land, towards Siumu and Safata. Here, in a safe place, he built himself a town in the forest, where he received a continual stream of visitors and messengers. Day after day the German blue-jackets were employed in the hopeless enterprise of beating the forests for the fugitive; day after day they were suffered to pass unhurt under the guns of ambushed Samoans; day after day they returned, exhausted and disappointed, to Apia. Seumanu Tafa, high chief of Apia, was known to be in the forest with the king; his wife, Fatuila, was seized, imprisoned in the German hospital, and when it was thought her spirit was sufficiently reduced, brought up for cross-examination. The wise lady confined herself in answer to a single word. “Is your husband near Apia?” “Yes.” “Is he far from Apia?” “Yes.” “Is he with the king?” “Yes.” “Are he and the king in different places?” “Yes.” Whereupon the witness was discharged. About the 10th of September, Laupepa was secretly in Apia at the American consulate with two companions. The German pickets were close set and visited by a strong patrol; and on his return, his party was observed and hailed and fired on by a sentry. They ran away on all fours in the dark, and so doing plumped upon another sentry, whom Laupepa grappled and flung in a ditch; for the Sheet of Paper, although infirm of character, is, like most Samoans, of an able body. The second sentry (like the first) fired after his assailants at random in the dark; and the two shots awoke the curiosity of Apia. On the afternoon of the 16th, the day of the hand-shakings, Suatele, a high chief, despatched two boys across the island with a letter. They were most of the night upon the road; it was near three in the morning before the sentries in the camp of Malietoa beheld their lantern drawing near out of the wood; but the king was at once awakened. The news was decisive and the letter peremptory; if Malietoa did not give himself up before ten on the morrow, he was told that great sorrows must befall his country. I have not been able to draw Laupepa as a hero; but he is a man of certain virtues, which the Germans had now given him an occasion to display. Without hesitation he sacrificed himself, penned his touching farewell to Samoa, and making more expedition than the messengers, passed early behind Apia to the banks of the Vaisingano. As he passed, he detached a messenger to Mataafa at the Catholic mission. Mataafa followed by the same road, and the pair met at the river — side and went and sat together in a house. All present were in tears. “Do not let us weep,” said the talking man, Lauati. “We have no cause for shame. We do not yield to Tamasese, but to the invincible strangers.” The departing king bequeathed the care of his country to Mataafa; and when the latter sought to console him with the commodore’s promises, he shook his head, and declared his assurance that he was going to a life of exile, and perhaps to death. About two o’clock the meeting broke up; Mataafa returned to the Catholic mission by the back of the town; and Malietoa proceeded by the beach road to the German naval hospital, where he was received (as he owns, with perfect civility) by Brandeis. About three, Becker brought him forth again. As they went to the wharf, the people wept and clung to their departing monarch. A boat carried him on board the BISMARCK, and he vanished from his countrymen. Yet it was long rumoured that he still lay in the harbour; and so late as October 7th, a boy, who had been paddling round the CAROLA, professed to have seen and spoken with him. Here again the needless mystery affected by the Germans bitterly disserved them. The uncertainty which thus hung over Laupepa’s fate, kept his name continually in men’s mouths. The words of his farewell rang in their ears: “To all Samoa: On account of my great love to my country and my great affection to all Samoa, this is the reason that I deliver up my body to the German government. That government may do as they wish to me. The reason of this is, because I do not desire that the blood of Samoa shall be spilt for me again. But I do not know what is my offence which has caused their anger to me and to my country.” And then, apostrophising the different provinces: “Tuamasanga, farewell! Manono and family, farewell! So, also, Salafai, Tutuila, Aana, and Atua, farewell! If we do not again see one another in this world, pray that we may be again together above.” So the sheep departed with the halo of a saint, and men thought of him as of some King Arthur snatched into Avilion.

On board the BISMARCK, the commodore shook hands with him, told him he was to be “taken away from all the chiefs with whom he had been accustomed,” and had him taken to the wardroom under guard. The next day he was sent to sea in the ADLER. There went with him his brother Moli, one Meisake, and one Alualu, half-caste German, to interpret. He was respectfully used; he dined in the stern with the officers, but the boys dined “near where the fire was.” They come to a “newly-formed place” in Australia, where the ALBATROSS was lying, and a British ship, which he knew to be a man-of-war “because the officers were nicely dressed and wore epaulettes.” Here he was transhipped, “in a boat with a screen,” which he supposed was to conceal him from the British ship; and on board the ALBATROSS was sent below and told he must stay there till they had sailed. Later, however, he was allowed to come on deck, where he found they had rigged a screen (perhaps an awning) under which he walked, looking at “the newly-formed settlement,” and admiring a big house “where he was sure the governor lived.” From Australia, they sailed some time, and reached an anchorage where a consul — general came on board, and where Laupepa was only allowed on deck at night. He could then see the lights of a town with wharves; he supposes Cape Town. Off the Cameroons they anchored or lay-to, far at sea, and sent a boat ashore to see (he supposes) that there was no British man-of-war. It was the next morning before the boat returned, when the ALBATROSS stood in and came to anchor near another German ship. Here Alualu came to him on deck and told him this was the place. “That is an astonishing thing,” said he. “I thought I was to go to Germany, I do not know what this means; I do not know what will be the end of it; my heart is troubled.” Whereupon Alualu burst into tears. A little after, Laupepa was called below to the captain and the governor. The last addressed him: “This is my own place, a good place, a warm place. My house is not yet finished, but when it is, you shall live in one of my rooms until I can make a house for you.” Then he was taken ashore and brought to a tall, iron house. “This house is regulated,” said the governor; “there is no fire allowed to burn in it.” In one part of this house, weapons of the government were hung up; there was a passage, and on the other side of the passage, fifty criminals were chained together, two and two, by the ankles. The windows were out of reach; and there was only one door, which was opened at six in the morning and shut again at six at night. All day he had his liberty, went to the Baptist Mission, and walked about viewing the negroes, who were “like the sand on the seashore” for number. At six they were called into the house and shut in for the night without beds or lights. “Although they gave me no light,” said he, with a smile, “I could see I was in a prison.” Good food was given him: biscuits, “tea made with warm water,” beef, etc.; all excellent. Once, in their walks, they spied a breadfruit tree bearing in the garden of an English merchant, ran back to the prison to get a shilling, and came and offered to purchase. “I am not going to sell breadfruit to you people,” said the merchant; “come and take what you like.” Here Malietoa interrupted himself to say it was the only tree bearing in the Cameroons. “The governor had none, or he would have given it to me.” On the passage from the Cameroons to Germany, he had great delight to see the cliffs of England. He saw “the rocks shining in the sun, and three hours later was surprised to find them sunk in the heavens.” He saw also wharves and immense buildings; perhaps Dover and its castle. In Hamburg, after breakfast, Mr. Weber, who had now finally “ceased from troubling” Samoa, came on board, and carried him ashore “suitably” in a steam launch to “a large house of the government,” where he stayed till noon. At noon Weber told him he was going to “the place where ships are anchored that go to Samoa,” and led him to “a very magnificent house, with carriages inside and a wonderful roof of glass”; to wit, the railway station. They were benighted on the train, and then went in “something with a house, drawn by horses, which had windows and many decks”; plainly an omnibus. Here (at Bremen or Bremerhaven, I believe) they stayed some while in “a house of five hundred rooms”; then were got on board the NURNBERG (as they understood) for Samoa, anchored in England on a Sunday, were joined EN ROUTE by the famous Dr. Knappe, passed through “a narrow passage where they went very slow and which was just like a river,” and beheld with exhilarated curiosity that Red Sea of which they had learned so much in their Bibles. At last, “at the hour when the fires burn red,” they came to a place where was a German man-of-war. Laupepa was called, with one of the boys, on deck, when he found a German officer awaiting him, and a steam launch alongside, and was told he must now leave his brother and go elsewhere. “I cannot go like this,” he cried. “You must let me see my brother and the other old men” — a term of courtesy. Knappe, who seems always to have been good-natured, revised his orders, and consented not only to an interview, but to allow Moli to continue to accompany the king. So these two were carried to the man-of-war, and sailed many a day, still supposing themselves bound for Samoa; and lo! she came to a country the like of which they had never dreamed of, and cast anchor in the great lagoon of Jaluit; and upon that narrow land the exiles were set on shore. This was the part of his captivity on which he looked back with the most bitterness. It was the last, for one thing, and he was worn down with the long suspense, and terror, and deception. He could not bear the brackish water; and though “the Germans were still good to him, and gave him beef and biscuit and tea,” he suffered from the lack of vegetable food.

Such is the narrative of this simple exile. I have not sought to correct it by extraneous testimony. It is not so much the facts that are historical, as the man’s attitude. No one could hear this tale as he originally told it in my hearing — I think none can read it as here condensed and unadorned — without admiring the fairness and simplicity of the Samoan; and wondering at the want of heart — or want of humour — in so many successive civilised Germans, that they should have continued to surround this infant with the secrecy of state.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stevenson/robert_louis/s848fh/chapter3.html

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