WITH the hurricane, the broken war-ships, and the stranded sailors, I am at an end of violence, and my tale flows henceforth among carpet incidents. The blue-jackets on Apia beach were still jealously held apart by sentries, when the powers at home were already seeking a peaceable solution. It was agreed, so far as might be, to obliterate two years of blundering; and to resume in 1889, and at Berlin, those negotiations which had been so unhappily broken off at Washington in 1887. The example thus offered by Germany is rare in history; in the career of Prince Bismarck, so far as I am instructed, it should stand unique. On a review of these two years of blundering, bullying, and failure in a little isle of the Pacific, he seems magnanimously to have owned his policy was in the wrong. He left Fangalii unexpiated; suffered that house of cards, the Tamasese government, to fall by its own frailty and without remark or lamentation; left the Samoan question openly and fairly to the conference: and in the meanwhile, to allay the local heats engendered by Becker and Knappe, he sent to Apia that invaluable public servant, Dr. Stuebel. I should be a dishonest man if I did not bear testimony to the loyalty since shown by Germans in Samoa. Their position was painful; they had talked big in the old days, now they had to sing small. Even Stuebel returned to the islands under the prejudice of an unfortunate record. To the minds of the Samoans his name represented the beginning of their sorrows; and in his first term of office he had unquestionably driven hard. The greater his merit in the surprising success of the second. So long as he stayed, the current of affairs moved smoothly; he left behind him on his departure all men at peace; and whether by fortune, or for the want of that wise hand of guidance, he was scarce gone before the clouds began to gather once more on our horizon.
Before the first convention, Germany and the States hauled down their flags. It was so done again before the second; and Germany, by a still more emphatic step of retrogression, returned the exile Laupepa to his native shores. For two years the unfortunate man had trembled and suffered in the Cameroons, in Germany, in the rainy Marshalls. When he left (September 1887) Tamasese was king, served by five iron war-ships; his right to rule (like a dogma of the Church) was placed outside dispute; the Germans were still, as they were called at that last tearful interview in the house by the river, “the invincible strangers”; the thought of resistance, far less the hope of success, had not yet dawned on the Samoan mind. He returned (November 1889) to a changed world. The Tupua party was reduced to sue for peace, Brandeis was withdrawn, Tamasese was dying obscurely of a broken heart; the German flag no longer waved over the capital; and over all the islands one figure stood supreme. During Laupepa’s absence this man had succeeded him in all his honours and titles, in tenfold more than all his power and popularity. He was the idol of the whole nation but the rump of the Tamaseses, and of these he was already the secret admiration. In his position there was but one weak point, — that he had even been tacitly excluded by the Germans. Becker, indeed, once coquetted with the thought of patronising him; but the project had no sequel, and it stands alone. In every other juncture of history the German attitude has been the same. Choose whom you will to be king; when he has failed, choose whom you please to succeed him; when the second fails also, replace the first: upon the one condition, that Mataafa be excluded. “POURVU QU’IL SACHE SIGNER!” — an official is said to have thus summed up the qualifications necessary in a Samoan king. And it was perhaps feared that Mataafa could do no more and might not always do so much. But this original diffidence was heightened by late events to something verging upon animosity. Fangalii was unavenged: the arms of Mataafa were
NONDUM INEXPIATIS UNCTA CRUORIBUS, Still soiled with the unexpiated blood
of German sailors; and though the chief was not present in the field, nor could have heard of the affair till it was over, he had reaped from it credit with his countrymen and dislike from the Germans.
I may not say that trouble was hoped. I must say — if it were not feared, the practice of diplomacy must teach a very hopeful view of human nature. Mataafa and Laupepa, by the sudden repatriation of the last, found themselves face to face in conditions of exasperating rivalry. The one returned from the dead of exile to find himself replaced and excelled. The other, at the end of a long, anxious, and successful struggle, beheld his only possible competitor resuscitated from the grave. The qualities of both, in this difficult moment, shone out nobly. I feel I seem always less than partial to the lovable Laupepa; his virtues are perhaps not those which chiefly please me, and are certainly not royal; but he found on his return an opportunity to display the admirable sweetness of his nature. The two entered into a competition of generosity, for which I can recall no parallel in history, each waiving the throne for himself, each pressing it upon his rival; and they embraced at last a compromise the terms of which seem to have been always obscure and are now disputed. Laupepa at least resumed his style of King of Samoa; Mataafa retained much of the conduct of affairs, and continued to receive much of the attendance and respect befitting royalty; and the two Malietoas, with so many causes of disunion, dwelt and met together in the same town like kinsmen. It was so, that I first saw them; so, in a house set about with sentries — for there was still a haunting fear of Germany, — that I heard them relate their various experience in the past; heard Laupepa tell with touching candour of the sorrows of his exile, and Mataafa with mirthful simplicity of his resources and anxieties in the war. The relation was perhaps too beautiful to last; it was perhaps impossible but the titular king should grow at last uneasily conscious of the MAIRE DE PALAIS at his side, or the king-maker be at last offended by some shadow of distrust or assumption in his creature. I repeat the words king-maker and creature; it is so that Mataafa himself conceives of their relation: surely not without justice; for, had he not contended and prevailed, and been helped by the folly of consuls and the fury of the storm, Laupepa must have died in exile.
Foreigners in these islands know little of the course of native intrigue. Partly the Samoans cannot explain, partly they will not tell. Ask how much a master can follow of the puerile politics in any school; so much and no more we may understand of the events which surround and menace us with their results. The missions may perhaps have been to blame. Missionaries are perhaps apt to meddle overmuch outside their discipline; it is a fault which should be judged with mercy; the problem is sometimes so insidiously presented that even a moderate and able man is betrayed beyond his own intention; and the missionary in such a land as Samoa is something else besides a minister of mere religion; he represents civilisation, he is condemned to be an organ of reform, he could scarce evade (even if he desired) a certain influence in political affairs. And it is believed, besides, by those who fancy they know, that the effective force of division between Mataafa and Laupepa came from the natives rather than from whites. Before the end of 1890, at least, it began to be rumoured that there was dispeace between the two Malietoas; and doubtless this had an unsettling influence throughout the islands. But there was another ingredient of anxiety. The Berlin convention had long closed its sittings; the text of the Act had been long in our hands; commissioners were announced to right the wrongs of the land question, and two high officials, a chief justice and a president, to guide policy and administer law in Samoa. Their coming was expected with an impatience, with a childishness of trust, that can hardly be exaggerated. Months passed, these angel-deliverers still delayed to arrive, and the impatience of the natives became changed to an ominous irritation. They have had much experience of being deceived, and they began to think they were deceived again. A sudden crop of superstitious stories buzzed about the islands. Rivers had come down red; unknown fishes had been taken on the reef and found to be marked with menacing runes; a headless lizard crawled among chiefs in council; the gods of Upolu and Savaii made war by night, they swam the straits to battle, and, defaced by dreadful wounds, they had besieged the house of a medical missionary. Readers will remember the portents in mediaeval chronicles, or those in JULIUS CAESAR when
“Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds In ranks and squadrons.”
And doubtless such fabrications are, in simple societies, a natural expression of discontent; and those who forge, and even those who spread them, work towards a conscious purpose.
Early in January 1891 this period of expectancy was brought to an end by the arrival of Conrad Cedarcrantz, chief justice of Samoa. The event was hailed with acclamation, and there was much about the new official to increase the hopes already entertained. He was seen to be a man of culture and ability; in public, of an excellent presence — in private, of a most engaging cordiality. But there was one point, I scarce know whether to say of his character or policy, which immediately and disastrously affected public feeling in the islands. He had an aversion, part judicial, part perhaps constitutional, to haste; and he announced that, until he should have well satisfied his own mind, he should do nothing; that he would rather delay all than do aught amiss. It was impossible to hear this without academical approval; impossible to hear it without practical alarm. The natives desired to see activity; they desired to see many fair speeches taken on a body of deeds and works of benefit. Fired by the event of the war, filled with impossible hopes, they might have welcomed in that hour a ruler of the stamp of Brandeis, breathing hurry, perhaps dealing blows. And the chief justice, unconscious of the fleeting opportunity, ripened his opinions deliberately in Mulinuu; and had been already the better part of half a year in the islands before he went through the form of opening his court. The curtain had risen; there was no play. A reaction, a chill sense of disappointment, passed about the island; and intrigue, one moment suspended, was resumed.
In the Berlin Act, the three Powers recognise, on the threshold, “the independence of the Samoan government, and the free right of the natives to elect their chief or king and choose their form of government.” True, the text continues that, “in view of the difficulties that surround an election in the present disordered condition of the government,” Malietoa Laupepa shall be recognised as king, “unless the three Powers shall by common accord otherwise declare.” But perhaps few natives have followed it so far, and even those who have, were possibly all cast abroad again by the next clause: “and his successor shall be duly elected according to the laws and customs of Samoa.” The right to elect, freely given in one sentence, was suspended in the next, and a line or so further on appeared to be reconveyed by a side-wind. The reason offered for suspension was ludicrously false; in May 1889, when Sir Edward Malet moved the matter in the conference, the election of Mataafa was not only certain to have been peaceful, it could not have been opposed; and behind the English puppet it was easy to suspect the hand of Germany. No one is more swift to smell trickery than a Samoan; and the thought, that, under the long, bland, benevolent sentences of the Berlin Act, some trickery lay lurking, filled him with the breath of opposition. Laupepa seems never to have been a popular king. Mataafa, on the other hand, holds an unrivalled position in the eyes of his fellow-countrymen; he was the hero of the war, he had lain with them in the bush, he had borne the heat and burthen of the day; they began to claim that he should enjoy more largely the fruits of victory; his exclusion was believed to be a stroke of German vengeance, his elevation to the kingship was looked for as the fitting crown and copestone of the Samoan triumph; and but a little after the coming of the chief justice, an ominous cry for Mataafa began to arise in the islands. It is difficult to see what that official could have done but what he did. He was loyal, as in duty bound, to the treaty and to Laupepa; and when the orators of the important and unruly islet of Manono demanded to his face a change of kings, he had no choice but to refuse them, and (his reproof being unheeded) to suspend the meeting. Whether by any neglect of his own or the mere force of circumstance, he failed, however, to secure the sympathy, failed even to gain the confidence, of Mataafa. The latter is not without a sense of his own abilities or of the great service he has rendered to his native land. He felt himself neglected; at the very moment when the cry for his elevation rang throughout the group he thought himself made little of on Mulinuu; and he began to weary of his part. In this humour, he was exposed to a temptation which I must try to explain, as best I may be able, to Europeans.
The bestowal of the great name, Malietoa, is in the power of the district of Malie, some seven miles to the westward of Apia. The most noisy and conspicuous supporters of that party are the inhabitants of Manono. Hence in the elaborate, allusive oratory of Samoa, Malie is always referred to by the name of PULE (authority) as having the power of the name, and Manono by that of AINGA (clan, sept, or household) as forming the immediate family of the chief. But these, though so important, are only small communities; and perhaps the chief numerical force of the Malietoas inhabits the island of Savaii. Savaii has no royal name to bestow, all the five being in the gift of different districts of Upolu; but she has the weight of numbers, and in these latter days has acquired a certain force by the preponderance in her councils of a single man, the orator Lauati. The reader will now understand the peculiar significance of a deputation which should embrace Lauati and the orators of both Malie and Manono, how it would represent all that is most effective on the Malietoa side, and all that is most considerable in Samoan politics, except the opposite feudal party of the Tupua. And in the temptation brought to bear on Mataafa, even the Tupua was conjoined. Tamasese was dead. His followers had conceived a not unnatural aversion to all Germans, from which only the loyal Brandeis is excepted; and a not unnatural admiration for their late successful adversary. Men of his own blood and clan, men whom he had fought in the field, whom he had driven from Matautu, who had smitten him back time and again from before the rustic bulwarks of Lotoanuu, they approached him hand in hand with their ancestral enemies and concurred in the same prayer. The treaty (they argued) was not carried out. The right to elect their king had been granted them; or if that were denied or suspended, then the right to elect “his successor.” They were dissatisfied with Laupepa, and claimed, “according to the laws and customs of Samoa,” duly to appoint another. The orators of Malie declared with irritation that their second appointment was alone valid and Mataafa the sole Malietoa; the whole body of malcontents named him as their choice for king; and they requested him in consequence to leave Apia and take up his dwelling in Malie, the name-place of Malietoa; a step which may be described, to European ears, as placing before the country his candidacy for the crown.
I do not know when the proposal was first made. Doubtless the disaffection grew slowly, every trifle adding to its force; doubtless there lingered for long a willingness to give the new government a trial. The chief justice at least had been nearly five months in the country, and the president, Baron Senfft von Pilsach, rather more than a month before the mine was sprung. On May 31, 1891, the house of Mataafa was found empty, he and his chiefs had vanished from Apia, and, what was worse, three prisoners, liberated from the gaol, had accompanied them in their secession; two being political offenders, and the third (accused of murder) having been perhaps set free by accident. Although the step had been discussed in certain quarters, it took all men by surprise. The inhabitants at large expected instant war. The officials awakened from a dream to recognise the value of that which they had lost. Mataafa at Vaiala, where he was the pledge of peace, had perhaps not always been deemed worthy of particular attention; Mataafa at Malie was seen, twelve hours too late, to be an altogether different quantity. With excess of zeal on the other side, the officials trooped to their boats and proceeded almost in a body to Malie, where they seem to have employed every artifice of flattery and every resource of eloquence upon the fugitive high chief. These courtesies, perhaps excessive in themselves, had the unpardonable fault of being offered when too late. Mataafa showed himself facile on small issues, inflexible on the main; he restored the prisoners, he returned with the consuls to Apia on a flying visit; he gave his word that peace should be preserved — a pledge in which perhaps no one believed at the moment, but which he has since nobly redeemed. On the rest he was immovable; he had cast the die, he had declared his candidacy, he had gone to Malie. Thither, after his visit to Apia, he returned again; there he has practically since resided.
Thus was created in the islands a situation, strange in the beginning, and which, as its inner significance is developed, becomes daily stranger to observe. On the one hand, Mataafa sits in Malie, assumes a regal state, receives deputations, heads his letters “Government of Samoa,” tacitly treats the king as a co — ordinate; and yet declares himself, and in many ways conducts himself, as a law-abiding citizen. On the other, the white officials in Mulinuu stand contemplating the phenomenon with eyes of growing stupefaction; now with symptoms of collapse, now with accesses of violence. For long, even those well versed in island manners and the island character daily expected war, and heard imaginary drums beat in the forest. But for now close upon a year, and against every stress of persuasion and temptation, Mataafa has been the bulwark of our peace. Apia lay open to be seized, he had the power in his hand, his followers cried to be led on, his enemies marshalled him the same way by impotent examples; and he has never faltered. Early in the day, a white man was sent from the government of Mulinuu to examine and report upon his actions: I saw the spy on his return; “It was only our rebel that saved us,” he said, with a laugh. There is now no honest man in the islands but is well aware of it; none but knows that, if we have enjoyed during the past eleven months the conveniences of peace, it is due to the forbearance of “our rebel.” Nor does this part of his conduct stand alone. He calls his party at Malie the government, — “our government,” — but he pays his taxes to the government at Mulinuu. He takes ground like a king; he has steadily and blandly refused to obey all orders as to his own movements or behaviour; but upon requisition he sends offenders to be tried under the chief justice.
We have here a problem of conduct, and what seems an image of inconsistency, very hard at the first sight to be solved by any European. Plainly Mataafa does not act at random. Plainly, in the depths of his Samoan mind, he regards his attitude as regular and constitutional. It may be unexpected, it may be inauspicious, it may be undesirable; but he thinks it — and perhaps it is — in full accordance with those “laws and customs of Samoa” ignorantly invoked by the draughtsmen of the Berlin Act. The point is worth an effort of comprehension; a man’s life may yet depend upon it. Let us conceive, in the first place, that there are five separate kingships in Samoa, though not always five different kings; and that though one man, by holding the five royal names, might become king in ALL PARTS of Samoa, there is perhaps no such matter as a kingship of all Samoa. He who holds one royal name would be, upon this view, as much a sovereign person as he who should chance to hold the other four; he would have less territory and fewer subjects, but the like independence and an equal royalty. Now Mataafa, even if all debatable points were decided against him, is still Tuiatua, and as such, on this hypothesis, a sovereign prince. In the second place, the draughtsmen of the Act, waxing exceeding bold, employed the word “election,” and implicitly justified all precedented steps towards the kingship according with the “customs of Samoa.” I am not asking what was intended by the gentlemen who sat and debated very benignly and, on the whole, wisely in Berlin; I am asking what will be understood by a Samoan studying their literary work, the Berlin Act; I am asking what is the result of taking a word out of one state of society, and applying it to another, of which the writers know less than nothing, and no European knows much. Several interpreters and several days were employed last September in the fruitless attempt to convey to the mind of Laupepa the sense of the word “resignation.” What can a Samoan gather from the words, ELECTION? ELECTION OF A KING? ELECTION OF A KING ACCORDING TO THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF SAMOA? What are the electoral measures, what is the method of canvassing, likely to be employed by two, three, four, or five, more or less absolute princelings, eager to evince each other? And who is to distinguish such a process from the state of war? In such international — or, I should say, interparochial — differences, the nearest we can come towards understanding is to appreciate the cloud of ambiguity in which all parties grope —
“Treading the crude consistence, half on foot, Half flying.”
Now, in one part of Mataafa’s behaviour his purpose is beyond mistake. Towards the provisions of the Berlin Act, his desire to be formally obedient is manifest. The Act imposed the tax. He has paid his taxes, although he thus contributes to the ways and means of his immediate rival. The Act decreed the supreme court, and he sends his partisans to be tried at Mulinuu, although he thus places them (as I shall have occasion to show) in a position far from wholly safe. From this literal conformity, in matters regulated, to the terms of the Berlin plenipotentiaries, we may plausibly infer, in regard to the rest, a no less exact observance of the famous and obscure “laws and customs of Samoa.”
But though it may be possible to attain, in the study, to some such adumbration of an understanding, it were plainly unfair to expect it of officials in the hurry of events. Our two white officers have accordingly been no more perspicacious than was to be looked for, and I think they have sometimes been less wise. It was not wise in the president to proclaim Mataafa and his followers rebels and their estates confiscated. Such words are not respectable till they repose on force; on the lips of an angry white man, standing alone on a small promontory, they were both dangerous and absurd; they might have provoked ruin; thanks to the character of Mataafa, they only raised a smile and damaged the authority of government. And again it is not wise in the government of Mulinuu to have twice attempted to precipitate hostilities, once in Savaii, once here in the Tuamasanga. The fate of the Savaii attempt I never heard; it seems to have been stillborn. The other passed under my eyes. A war-party was armed in Apia, and despatched across the island against Mataafa villages, where it was to seize the women and children. It was absent for some days, engaged in feasting with those whom it went out to fight; and returned at last, innocuous and replete. In this fortunate though undignified ending we may read the fact that the natives on Laupepa’s side are sometimes more wise than their advisers. Indeed, for our last twelve months of miraculous peace under what seem to be two rival kings, the credit is due first of all to Mataafa, and second to the half-heartedness, or the forbearance, or both, of the natives in the other camp. The voice of the two whites has ever been for war. They have published at least one incendiary proclamation; they have armed and sent into the field at least one Samoan war-party; they have continually besieged captains of war-ships to attack Malie, and the captains of the war-ships have religiously refused. Thus in the last twelve months our European rulers have drawn a picture of themselves, as bearded like the pard, full of strange oaths, and gesticulating like semaphores; while over against them Mataafa reposes smilingly obstinate, and their own retainers surround them, frowningly inert. Into the question of motive I refuse to enter; but if we come to war in these islands, and with no fresh occasion, it will be a manufactured war, and one that has been manufactured, against the grain of opinion, by two foreigners.
For the last and worst of the mistakes on the Laupepa side it would be unfair to blame any but the king himself. Capable both of virtuous resolutions and of fits of apathetic obstinacy, His Majesty is usually the whip-top of competitive advisers; and his conduct is so unstable as to wear at times an appearance of treachery which would surprise himself if he could see it. Take, for example, the experience of Lieutenant Ulfsparre, late chief of police, and (so to speak) commander of the forces. His men were under orders for a certain hour; he found himself almost alone at the place of muster, and learned the king had sent the soldiery on errands. He sought an audience, explained that he was here to implant discipline, that (with this purpose in view) his men could only receive orders through himself, and if that condition were not agreed to and faithfully observed, he must send in his papers. The king was as usual easily persuaded, the interview passed and ended to the satisfaction of all parties engaged — and the bargain was kept for one day. On the day after, the troops were again dispersed as post-runners, and their commander resigned. With such a sovereign, I repeat, it would be unfair to blame any individual minister for any specific fault. And yet the policy of our two whites against Mataafa has appeared uniformly so excessive and implacable, that the blame of the last scandal is laid generally at their doors. It is yet fresh. Lauati, towards the end of last year, became deeply concerned about the situation; and by great personal exertions and the charms of oratory brought Savaii and Manono into agreement upon certain terms of compromise: Laupepa still to be king, Mataafa to accept a high executive office comparable to that of our own prime minister, and the two governments to coalesce. Intractable Manono was a party. Malie was said to view the proposal with resignation, if not relief. Peace was thought secure. The night before the king was to receive Lauati, I met one of his company, — the family chief, Iina, — and we shook hands over the unexpected issue of our troubles. What no one dreamed was that Laupepa would refuse. And he did. He refused undisputed royalty for himself and peace for these unhappy islands; and the two whites on Mulinuu rightly or wrongly got the blame of it.
But their policy has another and a more awkward side. About the time of the secession to Malie, many ugly things were said; I will not repeat that which I hope and believe the speakers did not wholly mean; let it suffice that, if rumour carried to Mataafa the language I have heard used in my own house and before my own native servants, he would be highly justified in keeping clear of Apia and the whites. One gentleman whose opinion I respect, and am so bold as to hope I may in some points modify, will understand the allusion and appreciate my reserve. About the same time there occurred an incident, upon which I must be more particular. A was a gentleman who had long been an intimate of Mataafa’s, and had recently (upon account, indeed, of the secession to Malie) more or less wholly broken off relations. To him came one whom I shall call B with a dastardly proposition. It may have been B’s own, in which case he were the more unpardonable; but from the closeness of his intercourse with the chief justice, as well as from the terms used in the interview, men judged otherwise. It was proposed that A should simulate a renewal of the friendship, decoy Mataafa to a suitable place, and have him there arrested. What should follow in those days of violent speech was at the least disputable; and the proposal was of course refused. “You do not understand,” was the base rejoinder. “YOU will have no discredit. The Germans are to take the blame of the arrest.” Of course, upon the testimony of a gentleman so depraved, it were unfair to hang a dog; and both the Germans and the chief justice must be held innocent. But the chief justice has shown that he can himself be led, by his animosity against Mataafa, into questionable acts. Certain natives of Malie were accused of stealing pigs; the chief justice summoned them through Mataafa; several were sent, and along with them a written promise that, if others were required, these also should be forthcoming upon requisition. Such as came were duly tried and acquitted; and Mataafa’s offer was communicated to the chief justice, who made a formal answer, and the same day (in pursuance of his constant design to have Malie attacked by war-ships) reported to one of the consuls that his warrant would not run in the country and that certain of the accused had been withheld. At least, this is not fair dealing; and the next instance I have to give is possibly worse. For one blunder the chief justice is only so far responsible, in that he was not present where it seems he should have been, when it was made. He had nothing to do with the silly proscription of the Mataafas; he has always disliked the measure; and it occurred to him at last that he might get rid of this dangerous absurdity and at the same time reap a further advantage. Let Mataafa leave Malie for any other district in Samoa; it should be construed as an act of submission and the confiscation and proscription instantly recalled. This was certainly well devised; the government escaped from their own false position, and by the same stroke lowered the prestige of their adversaries. But unhappily the chief justice did not put all his eggs in one basket. Concurrently with these negotiations he began again to move the captain of one of the war-ships to shell the rebel village; the captain, conceiving the extremity wholly unjustified, not only refused these instances, but more or less publicly complained of their being made; the matter came to the knowledge of the white resident who was at that time playing the part of intermediary with Malie; and he, in natural anger and disgust, withdrew from the negotiation. These duplicities, always deplorable when discovered, are never more fatal than with men imperfectly civilised. Almost incapable of truth themselves, they cherish a particular score of the same fault in whites. And Mataafa is besides an exceptional native. I would scarce dare say of any Samoan that he is truthful, though I seem to have encountered the phenomenon; but I must say of Mataafa that he seems distinctly and consistently averse to lying.
For the affair of the Manono prisoners, the chief justice is only again in so far answerable as he was at the moment absent from the seat of his duties; and the blame falls on Baron Senfft von Pilsach, president of the municipal council. There were in Manono certain dissidents, loyal to Laupepa. Being Manono people, I daresay they were very annoying to their neighbours; the majority, as they belonged to the same island, were the more impatient; and one fine day fell upon and destroyed the houses and harvests of the dissidents “according to the laws and customs of Samoa.” The president went down to the unruly island in a war-ship and was landed alone upon the beach. To one so much a stranger to the mansuetude of Polynesians, this must have seemed an act of desperation; and the baron’s gallantry met with a deserved success. The six ring-leaders, acting in Mataafa’s interest, had been guilty of a delict; with Mataafa’s approval, they delivered themselves over to be tried. On Friday, September 4, 1891, they were convicted before a native magistrate and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment; or, I should rather say, detention; for it was expressly directed that they were to be used as gentlemen and not as prisoners, that the door was to stand open, and that all their wishes should be gratified. This extraordinary sentence fell upon the accused like a thunderbolt. There is no need to suppose perfidy, where a careless interpreter suffices to explain all; but the six chiefs claim to have understood their coming to Apia as an act of submission merely formal, that they came in fact under an implied indemnity, and that the president stood pledged to see them scatheless. Already, on their way from the court-house, they were tumultuously surrounded by friends and clansmen, who pressed and cried upon them to escape; Lieutenant Ulfsparre must order his men to load; and with that the momentary effervescence died away. Next day, Saturday, 5th, the chief justice took his departure from the islands — a step never yet explained and (in view of the doings of the day before and the remonstrances of other officials) hard to justify. The president, an amiable and brave young man of singular inexperience, was thus left to face the growing difficulty by himself. The clansmen of the prisoners, to the number of near upon a hundred, lay in Vaiusu, a village half way between Apia and Malie; there they talked big, thence sent menacing messages; the gaol should be broken in the night, they said, and the six martyrs rescued. Allowance is to be made for the character of the people of Manono, turbulent fellows, boastful of tongue, but of late days not thought to be answerably bold in person. Yet the moment was anxious. The government of Mulinuu had gained an important moral victory by the surrender and condemnation of the chiefs; and it was needful the victory should be maintained. The guard upon the gaol was accordingly strengthened; a war-party was sent to watch the Vaiusu road under Asi; and the chiefs of the Vaimaunga were notified to arm and assemble their men. It must be supposed the president was doubtful of the loyalty of these assistants. He turned at least to the war-ships, where it seems he was rebuffed; thence he fled into the arms of the wrecker gang, where he was unhappily more successful. The government of Washington had presented to the Samoan king the wrecks of the TRENTON and the VANDALIA; an American syndicate had been formed to break them up; an experienced gang was in consequence settled in Apia and the report of submarine explosions had long grown familiar in the ears of residents. From these artificers the president obtained a supply of dynamite, the needful mechanism, and the loan of a mechanic; the gaol was mined, and the Manono people in Vaiusu were advertised of the fact in a letter signed by Laupepa. Partly by the indiscretion of the mechanic, who had sought to embolden himself (like Lady Macbeth) with liquor for his somewhat dreadful task, the story leaked immediately out and raised a very general, or I might say almost universal, reprobation. Some blamed the proposed deed because it was barbarous and a foul example to set before a race half barbarous itself; others because it was illegal; others again because, in the face of so weak an enemy, it appeared pitifully pusillanimous; almost all because it tended to precipitate and embitter war. In the midst of the turmoil he had raised, and under the immediate pressure of certain indignant white residents, the baron fell back upon a new expedient, certainly less barbarous, perhaps no more legal; and on Monday afternoon, September 7th, packed his six prisoners on board the cutter LANCASHIRE LASS, and deported them to the neighbouring low-island group of the Tokelaus. We watched her put to sea with mingled feelings. Anything were better than dynamite, but this was not good. The men had been summoned in the name of law; they had surrendered; the law had uttered its voice; they were under one sentence duly delivered; and now the president, by no right with which we were acquainted, had exchanged it for another. It was perhaps no less fortunate, though it was more pardonable in a stranger, that he had increased the punishment to that which, in the eyes of Samoans, ranks next to death, — exile from their native land and friends. And the LANCASHIRE LASS appeared to carry away with her into the uttermost parts of the sea the honour of the administration and the prestige of the supreme court.
The policy of the government towards Mataafa has thus been of a piece throughout; always would-be violent, it has been almost always defaced with some appearance of perfidy or unfairness. The policy of Mataafa (though extremely bewildering to any white) appears everywhere consistent with itself, and the man’s bearing has always been calm. But to represent the fulness of the contrast, it is necessary that I should give some description of the two capitals, or the two camps, and the ways and means of the regular and irregular government.
MULINUU. Mulinuu, the reader may remember, is a narrow finger of land planted in cocoa-palms, which runs forth into the lagoon perhaps three quarters of a mile. To the east is the bay of Apia. To the west, there is, first of all, a mangrove swamp, the mangroves excellently green, the mud ink-black, and its face crawled upon by countless insects and black and scarlet crabs. Beyond the swamp is a wide and shallow bay of the lagoon, bounded to the west by Faleula Point. Faleula is the next village to Malie; so that from the top of some tall palm in Malie it should be possible to descry against the eastern heavens the palms of Mulinuu. The trade wind sweeps over the low peninsula and cleanses it from the contagion of the swamp. Samoans have a quaint phrase in their language; when out of health, they seek exposed places on the shore “to eat the wind,” say they; and there can be few better places for such a diet than the point of Mulinuu.
Two European houses stand conspicuous on the harbour side; in Europe they would seem poor enough, but they are fine houses for Samoa. One is new; it was built the other day under the apologetic title of a Government House, to be the residence of Baron Senfft. The other is historical; it was built by Brandeis on a mortgage, and is now occupied by the chief justice on conditions never understood, the rumour going uncontradicted that he sits rent free. I do not say it is true, I say it goes uncontradicted; and there is one peculiarity of our officials in a nutshell, — their remarkable indifference to their own character. From the one house to the other extends a scattering village for the Faipule or native parliament men. In the days of Tamasese this was a brave place, both his own house and those of the Faipule good, and the whole excellently ordered and approached by a sanded way. It is now like a neglected bush-town, and speaks of apathy in all concerned. But the chief scandal of Mulinuu is elsewhere. The house of the president stands just to seaward of the isthmus, where the watch is set nightly, and armed men guard the uneasy slumbers of the government. On the landward side there stands a monument to the poor German lads who fell at Fangalii, just beyond which the passer-by may chance to observe a little house standing back-ward from the road. It is such a house as a commoner might use in a bush village; none could dream that it gave shelter even to a family chief; yet this is the palace of Malietoa-Natoaitele — Tamasoalii Laupepa, king of Samoa. As you sit in his company under this humble shelter, you shall see, between the posts, the new house of the president. His Majesty himself beholds it daily, and the tenor of his thoughts may be divined. The fine house of a Samoan chief is his appropriate attribute; yet, after seventeen months, the government (well housed themselves) have not yet found — have not yet sought — a roof-tree for their sovereign. And the lodging is typical. I take up the president’s financial statement of September 8, 1891. I find the king’s allowance to figure at seventy-five dollars a month; and I find that he is further (though somewhat obscurely) debited with the salaries of either two or three clerks. Take the outside figure, and the sum expended on or for His Majesty amounts to ninety-five dollars in the month. Lieutenant Ulfsparre and Dr. Hagberg (the chief justice’s Swedish friends) drew in the same period one hundred and forty and one hundred dollars respectively on account of salary alone. And it should be observed that Dr. Hagberg was employed, or at least paid, from government funds, in the face of His Majesty’s express and reiterated protest. In another column of the statement, one hundred and seventy-five dollars and seventy-five cents are debited for the chief justice’s travelling expenses. I am of the opinion that if His Majesty desired (or dared) to take an outing, he would be asked to bear the charge from his allowance. But although I think the chief justice had done more nobly to pay for himself, I am far from denying that his excursions were well meant; he should indeed be praised for having made them; and I leave the charge out of consideration in the following statement.
ON THE ONE HAND
Salary of Chief Justice Cedarkrantz $500 Salary of President Baron Senfft von Pilsach (about) 415 Salary of Lieutenant Ulfsparre, Chief of Police 140 Salary of Dr. Hagberg, Private Secretary to the Chief Justice 100
Total monthly salary to four whites, one of them paid against His Majesty’s protest $1155
ON THE OTHER HAND
Total monthly payments to and for His Majesty the King, including allowance and hire of three clerks, one of these placed under the rubric of extraordinary expenses $95
This looks strange enough and mean enough already. But we have ground of comparison in the practice of Brandeis.
Brandeis, white prime minister $200 Tamasese (about) 160 White Chief of Police 100
Under Brandeis, in other words, the king received the second highest allowance on the sheet; and it was a good second, and the third was a bad third. And it must be borne in mind that Tamasese himself was pointed and laughed at among natives. Judge, then, what is muttered of Laupepa, housed in his shanty before the president’s doors like Lazarus before the doors of Dives; receiving not so much of his own taxes as the private secretary of the law officer; and (in actual salary) little more than half as much as his own chief of police. It is known besides that he has protested in vain against the charge for Dr. Hagberg; it is known that he has himself applied for an advance and been refused. Money is certainly a grave subject on Mulinuu; but respect costs nothing, and thrifty officials might have judged it wise to make up in extra politeness for what they curtailed of pomp or comfort. One instance may suffice. Laupepa appeared last summer on a public occasion; the president was there and not even the president rose to greet the entrance of the sovereign. Since about the same period, besides, the monarch must be described as in a state of sequestration. A white man, an Irishman, the true type of all that is most gallant, humorous, and reckless in his country, chose to visit His Majesty and give him some excellent advice (to make up his difference with Mataafa) couched unhappily in vivid and figurative language. The adviser now sleeps in the Pacific, but the evil that he chanced to do lives after him. His Majesty was greatly (and I must say justly) offended by the freedom of the expressions used; he appealed to his white advisers; and these, whether from want of thought or by design, issued an ignominious proclamation. Intending visitors to the palace must appear before their consuls and justify their business. The majesty of buried Samoa was henceforth only to be viewed (like a private collection) under special permit; and was thus at once cut off from the company and opinions of the self respecting. To retain any dignity in such an abject state would require a man of very different virtues from those claimed by the not unvirtuous Laupepa. He is not designed to ride the whirlwind or direct the storm, rather to be the ornament of private life. He is kind, gentle, patient as Job, conspicuously well-intentioned, of charming manners; and when he pleases, he has one accomplishment in which he now begins to be alone — I mean that he can pronounce correctly his own beautiful language.
The government of Brandeis accomplished a good deal and was continually and heroically attempting more. The government of our two whites has confined itself almost wholly to paying and receiving salaries. They have built, indeed, a house for the president; they are believed (if that be a merit) to have bought the local newspaper with government funds; and their rule has been enlivened by a number of scandals, into which I feel with relief that it is unnecessary I should enter. Even if the three Powers do not remove these gentlemen, their absurd and disastrous government must perish by itself of inanition. Native taxes (except perhaps from Mataafa, true to his own private policy) have long been beyond hope. And only the other day (May 6th, 1892), on the expressed ground that there was no guarantee as to how the funds would be expended, and that the president consistently refused to allow the verification of his cash balances, the municipal council has negatived the proposal to call up further taxes from the whites. All is well that ends even ill, so that it end; and we believe that with the last dollar we shall see the last of the last functionary. Now when it is so nearly over, we can afford to smile at this extraordinary passage, though we must still sigh over the occasion lost.
MALIE. The way to Malie lies round the shores of Faleula bay and through a succession of pleasant groves and villages. The road, one of the works of Brandeis, is now cut up by pig fences. Eight times you must leap a barrier of cocoa posts; the take-off and the landing both in a patch of mire planted with big stones, and the stones sometimes reddened with the blood of horses that have gone before. To make these obstacles more annoying, you have sometimes to wait while a black boar clambers sedately over the so-called pig fence. Nothing can more thoroughly depict the worst side of the Samoan character than these useless barriers which deface their only road. It was one of the first orders issued by the government of Mulinuu after the coming of the chief justice, to have the passage cleared. It is the disgrace of Mataafa that the thing is not yet done.
The village of Malie is the scene of prosperity and peace. In a very good account of a visit there, published in the AUSTRALASIAN, the writer describes it to be fortified; she must have been deceived by the appearance of some pig walls on the shore. There is no fortification, no parade of war. I understand that from one to five hundred fighting men are always within reach; but I have never seen more than five together under arms, and these were the king’s guard of honour. A Sabbath quiet broods over the well — weeded green, the picketed horses, the troops of pigs, the round or oval native dwellings. Of these there are a surprising number, very fine of their sort: yet more are in the building; and in the midst a tall house of assembly, by far the greatest Samoan structure now in these islands, stands about half finished and already makes a figure in the landscape. No bustle is to be observed, but the work accomplished testifies to a still activity.
The centre-piece of all is the high chief himself, Malietoa — Tuiatua-Tuiaana Mataafa, king — or not king — or king-claimant — of Samoa. All goes to him, all comes from him. Native deputations bring him gifts and are feasted in return. White travellers, to their indescribable irritation, are (on his approach) waved from his path by his armed guards. He summons his dancers by the note of a bugle. He sits nightly at home before a semicircle of talking-men from many quarters of the islands, delivering and hearing those ornate and elegant orations in which the Samoan heart delights. About himself and all his surroundings there breathes a striking sense of order, tranquillity, and native plenty. He is of a tall and powerful person, sixty years of age, white-haired and with a white moustache; his eyes bright and quiet; his jaw perceptibly underhung, which gives him something of the expression of a benevolent mastiff; his manners dignified and a thought insinuating, with an air of a Catholic prelate. He was never married, and a natural daughter attends upon his guests. Long since he made a vow of chastity, — “to live as our Lord lived on this earth” and Polynesians report with bated breath that he has kept it. On all such points, true to his Catholic training, he is inclined to be even rigid. Lauati, the pivot of Savaii, has recently repudiated his wife and taken a fairer; and when I was last in Malie, Mataafa (with a strange superiority to his own interests) had but just despatched a reprimand. In his immediate circle, in spite of the smoothness of his ways, he is said to be more respected than beloved; and his influence is the child rather of authority than popularity. No Samoan grandee now living need have attempted that which he has accomplished during the last twelve months with unimpaired prestige, not only to withhold his followers from war, but to send them to be judged in the camp of their enemies on Mulinuu. And it is a matter of debate whether such a triumph of authority were ever possible before. Speaking for myself, I have visited and dwelt in almost every seat of the Polynesian race, and have met but one man who gave me a stronger impression of character and parts.
About the situation, Mataafa expresses himself with unshaken peace. To the chief justice he refers with some bitterness; to Laupepa, with a smile, as “my poor brother.” For himself, he stands upon the treaty, and expects sooner or later an election in which he shall be raised to the chief power. In the meanwhile, or for an alternative, he would willingly embrace a compromise with Laupepa; to which he would probably add one condition, that the joint government should remain seated at Malie, a sensible but not inconvenient distance from white intrigues and white officials. One circumstance in my last interview particularly pleased me. The king’s chief scribe, Esela, is an old employe under Tamasese, and the talk ran some while upon the character of Brandeis. Loyalty in this world is after all not thrown away; Brandeis was guilty, in Samoan eyes, of many irritating errors, but he stood true to Tamasese; in the course of time a sense of this virtue and of his general uprightness has obliterated the memory of his mistakes; and it would have done his heart good if he could have heard his old scribe and his old adversary join in praising him. “Yes,” concluded Mataafa, “I wish we had Planteisa back again.” A QUELQUE CHOSE MALHEUR EST BON. So strong is the impression produced by the defects of Cedarcrantz and Baron Senfft, that I believe Mataafa far from singular in this opinion, and that the return of the upright Brandeis might be even welcome to many.
I must add a last touch to the picture of Malie and the pretender’s life. About four in the morning, the visitor in his house will be awakened by the note of a pipe, blown without, very softly and to a soothing melody. This is Mataafa’s private luxury to lead on pleasant dreams. We have a bird here in Samoa that about the same hour of darkness sings in the bush. The father of Mataafa, while he lived, was a great friend and protector to all living creatures, and passed under the by-name of THE KING OF BIRDS. It may be it was among the woodland clients of the sire that the son acquired his fancy for this morning music.
I have now sought to render without extenuation the impressions received: of dignity, plenty, and peace at Malie, of bankruptcy and distraction at Mulinuu. And I wish I might here bring to an end ungrateful labours. But I am sensible that there remain two points on which it would be improper to be silent. I should be blamed if I did not indicate a practical conclusion; and I should blame myself if I did not do a little justice to that tried company of the Land Commissioners.
The Land Commission has been in many senses unfortunate. The original German member, a gentleman of the name of Eggert, fell early into precarious health; his work was from the first interrupted, he was at last (to the regret of all that knew him) invalided home; and his successor had but just arrived. In like manner, the first American commissioner, Henry C. Ide, a man of character and intelligence, was recalled (I believe by private affairs) when he was but just settling into the spirit of the work; and though his place was promptly filled by ex-Governor Ormsbee, a worthy successor, distinguished by strong and vivacious common sense, the break was again sensible. The English commissioner, my friend Bazett Michael Haggard, is thus the only one who has continued at his post since the beginning. And yet, in spite of these unusual changes, the Commission has a record perhaps unrivalled among international commissions. It has been unanimous practically from the first until the last; and out of some four hundred cases disposed of, there is but one on which the members were divided. It was the more unfortunate they should have early fallen in a difficulty with the chief justice. The original ground of this is supposed to be a difference of opinion as to the import of the Berlin Act, on which, as a layman, it would be unbecoming if I were to offer an opinion. But it must always seem as if the chief justice had suffered himself to be irritated beyond the bounds of discretion. It must always seem as if his original attempt to deprive the commissioners of the services of a secretary and the use of a safe were even senseless; and his step in printing and posting a proclamation denying their jurisdiction were equally impolitic and undignified. The dispute had a secondary result worse than itself. The gentleman appointed to be Natives’ Advocate shared the chief justice’s opinion, was his close intimate, advised with him almost daily, and drifted at last into an attitude of opposition to his colleagues. He suffered himself besides (being a layman in law) to embrace the interest of his clients with something of the warmth of a partisan. Disagreeable scenes occurred in court; the advocate was more than once reproved, he was warned that his consultations with the judge of appeal tended to damage his own character and to lower the credit of the appellate court. Having lost some cases on which he set importance, it should seem that he spoke unwisely among natives. A sudden cry of colour prejudice went up; and Samoans were heard to assure each other that it was useless to appear before the Land Commission, which was sworn to support the whites.
This deplorable state of affairs was brought to an end by the departure from Samoa of the Natives’ Advocate. He was succeeded PRO TEMPORE by a young New Zealander, E. W. Gurr, not much more versed in law than himself, and very much less so in Samoan. Whether by more skill or better fortune, Gurr has been able in the course of a few weeks to recover for the natives several important tracts of land; and the prejudice against the Commission seems to be abating as fast as it arose. I should not omit to say that, in the eagerness of the original advocate, there was much that was amiable; nor must I fail to point out how much there was of blindness. Fired by the ardour of pursuit, he seems to have regarded his immediate clients as the only natives extant and the epitome and emblem of the Samoan race. Thus, in the case that was the most exclaimed against as “an injustice to natives,” his client, Puaauli, was certainly nonsuited. But in that intricate affair who lost the money? The German firm. And who got the land? Other natives. To twist such a decision into evidence, either of a prejudice against Samoans or a partiality to whites, is to keep one eye shut and have the other bandaged.
And lastly, one word as to the future. Laupepa and Mataafa stand over against each other, rivals with no third competitor. They may be said to hold the great name of Malietoa in commission; each has borne the style, each exercised the authority, of a Samoan king; one is secure of the small but compact and fervent following of the Catholics, the other has the sympathies of a large part of the Protestant majority, and upon any sign of Catholic aggression would have more. With men so nearly balanced, it may be asked whether a prolonged successful exercise of power be possible for either. In the case of the feeble Laupepa, it is certainly not; we have the proof before us. Nor do I think we should judge, from what we see to-day, that it would be possible, or would continue to be possible, even for the kingly Mataafa. It is always the easier game to be in opposition. The tale of David and Saul would infallibly be re-enacted; once more we shall have two kings in the land, — the latent and the patent; and the house of the first will become once more the resort of “every one that is in distress, and every one that is in debt, and every one that is discontented.” Against such odds it is my fear that Mataafa might contend in vain; it is beyond the bounds of my imagination that Laupepa should contend at all. Foreign ships and bayonets is the cure proposed in Mulinuu. And certainly, if people at home desire that money should be thrown away and blood shed in Samoa, an effect of a kind, and for the time, may be produced. Its nature and prospective durability I will ask readers of this volume to forecast for themselves. There is one way to peace and unity: that Laupepa and Mataafa should be again conjoined on the best terms procurable. There may be other ways, although I cannot see them; but not even malevolence, not even stupidity, can deny that this is one. It seems, indeed, so obvious, and sure, and easy, that men look about with amazement and suspicion, seeking some hidden motive why it should not be adopted.
To Laupepa’s opposition, as shown in the case of the Lauati scheme, no dweller in Samoa will give weight, for they know him to be as putty in the hands of his advisers. It may be right, it may be wrong, but we are many of us driven to the conclusion that the stumbling-block is Fangalii, and that the memorial of that affair shadows appropriately the house of a king who reigns in right of it. If this be all, it should not trouble us long. Germany has shown she can be generous; it now remains for her only to forget a natural but certainly ill-grounded prejudice, and allow to him, who was sole king before the plenipotentiaries assembled, and who would be sole king to-morrow if the Berlin Act could be rescinded, a fitting share of rule. The future of Samoa should lie thus in the hands of a single man, on whom the eyes of Europe are already fixed. Great concerns press on his attention; the Samoan group, in his view, is but as a grain of dust; and the country where he reigns has bled on too many august scenes of victory to remember for ever a blundering skirmish in the plantation of Vailele. It is to him — to the sovereign of the wise Stuebel and the loyal Brandeis, — that I make my appeal.
MAY 25, 1892.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00