to Mr. Fish.
London, April 9, 1874. (Received April 21.)
Sir: The London newspapers of last evening and this morning announce, on the authority of a telegram from Melbourne of the 7th instant, that the sovereignty of the Fiji Islands has been formally ceded by King Thakobau to England; and that Her Britannic Majesty’s consul there, Mr. Edward Leopold Layard, has accepted the cession, subject to the ratification of Her Majesty’s government.
Such a proceeding has been deemed possible here for some time past, and no longer ago than the 30th of last March Mr. William McArthur, member of Parliament for Lambeth, gave notice in the House of Commons that he would call attention on an early day to the present state of affairs with reference to those islands. This was in continuation of his course on the subject last year, when his motion that Great Britain [Page 503] should assume either the protectorate or the sovereignty of the islands received 50 votes in a house of 136members. I was present on the 30th ultimo when he gave notice of his new motion, and it was favorably received.
Her Majesty’s government have no advices from Melbourne or elsewhere confirming the news of the alleged cession.
* * * * * * *
A commission of inquiry was sent to the islands some time ago, and Mr. Layard is a member of it. The cession may have been offered, but the question of acceptance is yet to be decided. I think, however, from the tone of public opinion here that the transfer will be agreed to by this government. The question of the cession of these islands to England as involving the rights of certain American citizens to lands there was brought to Mr. Dallas’s notice by General Cass in his No. 178 of the 16th of May, 1859; and Mr. Dallas, in his numbers 199 and 200 of the 15th and 21st of July of that year, reported his conversations with various members of Her Majesty’s government on the subject.
I send herewith copies of editorial articles touching this probable cession, taken from the leading London newspapers of this morning; and as the transfer of sovereignty may in some way affect private American interests, I have thought it proper promptly to report the present aspect of the affair to you.
I have, &c.,