Forty Years On The Pacific/Samoa
A land of love, of liberty and ease,
Where labor wearies not, nor cares suppress
Th' eternal flow of rustic happiness.
FOR beauty and romance, the Samoan, or Navigator Islands, stand alone, and those who have once visited them are forever haunted with their bewitching charm. They possess all the glory and luxuriance of plant life met within latitudes bordering on the equator, and yet fanned with perpetual sea-breezes. Such a climate makes for a life of delight.
The Samoan Islands lie to the northeast of Fiji. So far as we have any record, the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggewein was the first to sight the group. Captain Cook knew the islands well, and another great navigator, the French naval officer La Perouse, who arrived in Botany Bay, with his two exploring ships, the Boussole and the Astrolabe, when Governor Phillip was there with his first fleet, had a bitter experience on the same islands. Shortly before he visited the Navigator Islands, as they had been named by Bougainville, with his two ships, he sent a boat's crew ashore at Tutuila—now American Samoa—to obtain a supply of fresh water. The natives, who had seemed to be quite friendly, rushed the landing-party in great force and killed eleven of them. A stone marks the graves of the massacred men. There are various accounts as to the cause of this display of hostility, but the one generally accepted, I believe, is that the fight occurred because one of the natives had been caught stealing something from the boat.
Subsequent explorers were Captain Edwards of the Pandora, in 1791, and Otto von Kotzebue, in 1824. In 1830 the celebrated missionary, John Williams, paid his first visit to Samoa. Surveys of the archipelago were made by the American Explorer-Commander Wilkes, of the United States Navy, whose name deserves to be written largely in South Sea history. He was a man much like Captain Cook, and many of the charts that he prepared are used to this day.
The group consists roughly of a dozen islands, lying between 13.30 degrees and 14.20 degrees south latitude and 169 degrees and 173 degrees "west longitude. They are, therefore, thoroughly tropical and lie pretty near that mysterious line where the ship suddenly sails out of one day into the day before. The three principal islands are Savaii, Upolu and Tutuila, Upolu being the most fertile of all and the most picturesque. The total population is in the neighborhood of 39,000, the whites numbering 500. The staple product of the group is copra, of which some 10,000 tons are annually exported. Cocoa and rubber have of late years been largely grown also. A large number of Chinese coolies are at work on the plantations, and labor is also recruited from the other islands, the Samoans themselves not being keen about plantation work, or indenturing themselves to white employers.
The trade of the group used to be largely in the hands of the great German concern, the Deutsches Handels und der Seed inserten Plantagen Gesellschaft, Hamburg, commonly spoken of as the D. H. and P. G., or the "long handle" firm, which vied with Australian firms for the honor of being the biggest trading venture in the Pacific. However, the occupation by the New Zealanders of German Samoa at the outbreak of the war put an end, for the time being at all events, to the activities of the D. H. & P. G., and its Hamburg shareholders no longer draw the huge dividends that its operations used to return.
Germany realized the rich possibilities of the Pacific many years ago. It will be recalled that while England, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland were establishing colonies throughout the world, Germany was only a number of petty kingdoms. After the birth of the German Empire the government realized that if a nation were to be built from the chaotic material at their disposal, it would be necessary to establish colonies for the creation of new markets and the development of new resources for the enrichment of Germany. Emigration from Germany had been increasing, especially to the United States and South America. She had, thereby, been assisting in the development and enrichment of those countries at her own expense. But she was a late comer into the field; all the territory left was a few islands and part of Africa. In the early seventies, shortly after the Suez Canal was opened, she fitted out a large ship with officials and settlers, and the equipment of everything necessary except a throne for the establishment of a seat of government, and dispatched her to Samoa. Owing to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, the ship was recalled at Port Said. Germany's dreams were not abandoned, however, only deferred, as her work in the Pacific in recent years demonstrated.
Samoa has not many good harbors. The best is that of Pago Pago, Tutuila, a possession of the United States. Almost entirely landlocked, it affords the best of anchorage, and in addition is one of the prettiest spots in the Pacific. I shall have more to say about Pago Pago in a later chapter.
There has been more intriguing in Samoa than in any other group of the Pacific, rivaling that of South American countries, and it has been the scene in times gone by of considerable fighting between the various native factions, in which Germany, the United States and Great Britain have all at one time or another had a hand. A good and thoroughly authoritative account of early Samoan history was written some years ago by an old friend of mine, the late Judge Mulligan, of Lexington, Kentucky, who was the United States Consul in Apia, and I take the liberty of quoting a portion of it of special interest. He says:
"On the arrival of the missionaries, about 1833, Malietoa. who was christened Davita, was found to be a most powerful chief, his rule extending over the greater part of Savaii and a part of Upolu, but beyond those districts he had little or no influence. In 1872 the natives of the island applied to General Grant to appoint Colonel A. B. Steinberger, of New York, who had already visited the islands, as a special agent as their general adviser. In 1874 Colonel Steinberger arrived in Samoa with letters of recommendation from General Grant and also with a considerable supply of fire-arms and a fine steam launch.
"National jealousies likewise figured largely in the case, and after a short reign, not exceeding one year in duration, the Colonel was forcibly deported by a British warship, the United States Consul and King Malietoa Laupepa assisting and approving. The result of these measures was an insurrection in favor of the Colonel, then a prisoner on board the Barracouta. The king was deposed and compelled to flee to Savaii, and an attempt by Captain Stevens and an active and intriguing missionary to reinstate him, resulted in a conflict at Mulinuu, during which a number of British sailors, and some Samoans lost their lives. Malietoa Laupepa's deposition was confirmed and he was succeeded by his uncle Talavou. For several years the faithful natives waited in vain for the return of the Colonel, to whom they were greatly attached.
"During this time another British warship visited the place on a most fanciful pretext, gave the unoffending natives the option of paying a fine of $5,000, or submitting to a bombardment. Previous to this the harbor of Pago Pago had been ceded to the United States as a coaling and supply station for naval purposes, and in 1879 the Samoan ambassador, Le Mamea, returned to the islands from Washington, bearing with him a treaty of peace and amity. This was duly ratified by the Samoan Government, which sought in every way to express its gratitude toward the first of the great powers that treated it with courtesy. Feasts were prepared for the officers of the Adams, which vessel had returned Le Mamea to the islands, and it is safe to estimate that more than two thousand pigs and an immense number of fowl, fish and other native productions, were presented to the ship.
"Upon the death of Talavau, Laupepa again succeeded, and he in turn was again deposed and exiled by a German fleet, in 1888, on grounds as valid as those which had formerly served the British. An insurrection, under the leadership of Malietoa Mataafa and the active interference of the United States in the matter, resulted in the bringing about the Berlin Conference, which declared in favor of Laupepa. The return of Laupepa and his reinstatement was in opposition to the wishes of most of the natives, who were heartily tired of him, and who were strongly in favor of the retention of Mataafa, who had defeated the German forces at Vailili. This gave rise to the troubles which have since operated disastrously upon the general welfare of the group.
"In 1893, Laupepa, with the assistance of a German and British warship, defeated Mataafa, near Apia, and shortly afterward, that brave chieftain surrendered to the British ship rather than continue the struggle against the odds opposed to him. Together with some twenty of his principal chiefs, he was deported to the island of Jaluit in the Marshall group. On the return of Laupepa, after his deportation by the Germans, to the pestilential coast of Africa, his first official act was to abdicate in favor of the great chief Mataafa, who had practically won his release. The Berlin Treaty having provided that an election for king should take place, Mataafa had been induced to waive his claim until such time as the free choice of his countrymen should seat him upon the throne. European diplomacy, however, was too much for this simple and trusting chieftain, and the plain meaning of the Berlin Treaty was perverted, and he was driven into rebellion by the clamor of the great majority of his people, who considered that he had been tricked and deeply injured."
The account of the late Judge Mulligan agrees excellently with the best authorities on Samoan history. But it is nearly twenty years ago since it was written and a great deal has happened since.
For a while Samoan affairs were in a hopeless tangle. Then an arrangement was made by which the English, German and American consuls, together with Mataafa and thirteen of his chiefs, formed a provisional government. This did not last long. The Germans, who had all along supported Mataafa, claimed that the formation of this provisional government broke up the Tripartite agreement. The English and Americans were equally positive that this agreement still held. The trouble came when Chief Justice Chambers, America's representative, and Consul Maxse, representing England, resolved to open the courthouse in Apia, in order to try certain prisoners. Mr. Rose, the German consul, acting on behalf of Mataafa, refused to give up the keys of the courthouse, and a deadlock ensued. H. M. S. Porpoise had arrived in Apia, and Captain (now Admiral) Sturdee, who was in command, landed a body of marines and marched them up to the courthouse, where he was met by Consul Rose and Mataafa, backed by a large number of armed warriors. Captain Sturdee demanded the keys, and said that if they were not produced, he would order his armorer to break open the door.
For a while matters were very critical, and it looked as if there would be a fight, but finally the keys were produced. It is not generally known that the Porpoise and the German cruiser Falke cleared for action on that particular occasion, as it was expected that the German consul would call upon the German warship to uphold him in his refusal to permit the court being opened. Mataafa held possession of Mulinuu for a while, but when the American war vessel Philadelphia and the English war vessels Porpoise, Tauranga and Royalist gathered in Apia Harbor, he and his followers retired to a strong position at the back of Apia. He was called upon to surrender himself and his arms to the British and American authorities, but refused. This commenced the last Samoan war. The English and American vessels bombarded the environs of Apia with 6-inch guns. They sent marines into outlying districts, to attack Mataafaites; they organized the Malietoa party and desultory firing was continued for some time. A small number of English and American sailors were killed or wounded through an ambush. Two American naval officers, Ensign Lansdale, and Ensign Monaghan (of Spokane), and one British officer, Lieutenant Angel Hope, besides several bluejackets, lost their lives, and a monument to their memory was erected near Apia.
The Malietoa party, under Lieutenant Gaunt, fought some exciting battles, but finally Mataafa agreed to surrender.
By the Anglo-German agreement of November 14, 1899, ratified by the United States in January, 1900, and signed in Washington, Great Britain renounced all rights in the islands of Savaii and Upolu, and certain smaller islands near by, in favor of Germany. Germany relinquished in favor of Great Britain her claim to the harbor of Vavau in Tonga, and to territory in the Solomon Islands, and the hinderland rights in Zanzibar (East Africa), the United States securing the island of Tutuila, and islets of the Manua group, so the dividing line between the United States and Germany is the 171st meridian of west longitude.
A good story is told about the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Williams, with whom I had spent many hours on the Pacific, who had been the "guide, philosopher and friend", of the Samoan natives of the island of Savaii. He was from Tipperary. I mention this, as most Irishmen abroad like to boast that they are from Dublin. So successful had he always been in his dealings with natives, that the Germans made him governor, though he could not speak German. Later Mr. Williams visited Germany and interviewed the Kaiser.
"Well, you are a phenomenon—a German official who does not know a word of our language," the Kaiser said laughingly.
"Oh, I know one word, your Majesty," Mr. Williams replied with a broad smile, "Prosit; your Majesty." ("Prosit" is the German equivalent of "Here's to your health.") This pleased the Kaiser, who said, "That's a good word to know, Mr. Williams," as he called for a decanter.
When Samoa was captured by the New Zealand troops, Mr. Williams was again appointed an official. He described to our party a native's method of taking Seidlitz powders. Disregarding the advice of Mr. Williams, who was acting as medical adviser, the native took the powders in the wrong order, with the result that he immediately became the proprietor of a first-class active volcano.
On August 30, 1914, a New Zealand force took possession of German Samoa. This was the first time in the history of the British Empire that one of its dominions had sent an invading force across the ocean, and had captured foreign territory. The appearance on that date of seven British ships of war and a number of transports laden with troops was a great surprise to the resident Germans, the British and the natives; for of course at that time German cruisers were somewhere in the Pacific, and they had sent word that they were coming. At Apia the Germans had erected a powerful wireless station second only in power to the wireless at Yap in the Carolinas, which was 30 kilowat.
H. M. S. Psyche steamed on ahead under a flag of truce and entered the harbor, after it had been swept of mines. She promptly landed an officer with a demand for the surrender of the islands within half an hour. In the temporary absence of Governor Schultz from the town, this demand was made to his deputy, who intimated that no resistance to the landing of an armed force would be made. The disembarkation of the troops commenced, and in a few minutes after the landing of the covering party, the German flag, that for fourteen years had flown over these islands, had been hauled down and the capture and occupancy of the German possession was completed without the firing of a single shot. The cost to New Zealand of the military occupation in Samoa up to September, 1918, was given at £380,914 ($2,000,000).
Samoan authorities set examples in some matters for older communities. A shrub called "lantana" grows thickly on some Pacific islands and on the Australian coast. The seed is carried by birds and ruins thousands of acres of splendid land. Several years ago the rulers of Apia passed a law compelling small land owners to destroy lantana growing on their land. Twenty years ago the hills about Honolulu were covered with lantana and the government introduced a parasite to attack it, with the result that it has almost disappeared in some Hawaiian islands. Those possessing time and means, who wish to visit interesting scenes and enter into the life of the islanders off trade routes, can leave the large steamers at Honolulu, Suva, Apia, Papeete or Pago Pago and hire a small steam launch, secure a native crew and cruise about at leisure.
In March, 1918, Messrs. Burnett and Kelly, of Vancouver, hired a launch at Suva and were able to reach many points in the interior of the Samoan, Tongan and Fijian groups, to see life among the natives, and to remain as long as they wished at different villages where the native life is almost as primitive as it was half a century ago. The farther back they traveled, the more hospitable the natives became. Food was placed before them in abundance, consisting mostly of yams, cocoanuts, bananas, pineapples, also taro (edible root) -and roast pig. The latter was not cooked to their taste.
In crossing Savaii, the travelers proceeded on foot about one hundred miles in ten days, and the weather, it being March, was pleasant. At night they were made welcome in the houses of the natives and mats placed at their disposal for sleeping. Upon entering a house, silence is observed until "Kava" is served to the visitors, and later on during the evening the native girls danced for their entertainment, the males retiring outside. If the traveler is tired, the native women will apply "lomi lomi," a form of massage in the shape of rubbing the limbs with the hands. No money is expected, but presents can be made, consisting of scent, combs, beads or print "lavas lavas," which are worn about the loins.