No. 178.
Mr. White to Mr. Evarts.

No. 16.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward you, inclosed herewith, translations of the most important parts of the debate in the Reichstag on the 13th instant, upon the treaty of friendship between Germany and the Samoan Islands, the articles of which the Reichstag approved.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 16.—Translation.]

report of debate in the reichstag, berlin, june 13, 1879.

The Reichstag considered for the first time the Treaty of Friendship concluded between the German Empire and the Samoan Islands.

Foreign Minister Von Bülow. The memorandum subjoined to the treaty is probably [Page 389] more explicit than is necessary to enable one to judge the treaty itself. But the government considered it part of its duty, and necessary to the matter in hand, that no leading point, no modifying particulars, nor the ultimate result of the whole transaction should be left unexplained. Should it happen (which God forbid) that German mariners at some future time shall lose, as once the way was lost to the Fortunate Isles, the track to these happy islands, or should all that German work has there sown and planted be gathered by other hands, then the contents of this memorandum will still show the lucid, complete, and able report made by our naval officers on the traffic of the South Sea, from which a world wide commerce can, and will, one day spring; and then the position of these islands, lying as they do between the mighty and growing west of America and Australia, China, and Japan, will insure for these documents an honorable place among the archives of the realm, inasmuch as they give evidence of the fact that the government endeavored in a degree commensurate with its strength, and sense of duty, to further the interests of the empire in those distant, and, until very recent years, almost unknown regions. It is only within about the last six years that this matter, in its entirety, came officially to the knowledge of the government. The German settlements on the Samoan Islands, of whose existence we had heard only through the reports of the vessels trading in those parts, had, it was said, extended themselves bayond expectation; they had also, to a certain extent, become the competitors of other seafaring and trading nations, to whom the importance of the islands now appeared much clearer than it had done before, so that the peace of the islands was apparently endangered.

In order to inform itself of the position of affairs, the government applied to the admiralty, requesting that in future one of its vessels cruising yearly on the west coast of America, through the Pacific Ocean and to the east of Asia, should from time time show its flag at the Samoan Islands as an expression and guarantee of the interest the mother country has for people of its nationality. The commanders of these vessels have on each occasion carried out this order most satisfactorily. We have since considered it our duty to inform the plantation owners that their right of title to the ownership of any landed property which they had become possessed of from the inhabitants must be legally established; and, further, that, notwithstanding our interests in the settlements, and with every desire to protect them, it was possible for us to aim only at the maintenance of law and order, and so far to organize their government that treaties could be entered into with them by us, which treaties, however, should have for their object the preservation of equal rights for all, and should work not for the creation of any monopoly for ourselves nor to the exclusion of others.

They were further informed that no responsibility would be allowed to fall upon us as a consequence of their settlement, but that they could claim from us only this, that what had there been founded and happily developed by faithful German industry and honorable, capable enterprise, should not suffer through any restrictions injurious to German commerce or to the settlements. That throughout has been the leading idea. Incidentally, various other points have arisen. The islands had in part no government whatever, in part too much government, but, for the most part, such as they had was of a kind with which it was impossible to conclude any arrangements regarding equality of jurisdiction, tariffs, the acquisition of landed property, the safety of the person, settlement, &c.

From these difficulties we have been au last fortunately relieved by our able and experienced consuls, aided by our naval officers. From all sides, even from those who competed with us in that quarter, we have received the acknowledgment that the German arrangements are worthy of imitation, not only because of their favorable results so far as trade and the growth of the plantations are concerned, but also on account of the humane and judicious treatment of the laborers employed. Enforced labor has no existence, and free labor is gradually attained upon a basis of voluntary contracts with reasonable provisions. The difficulties, too, in the way of granting: equal rights to various nations have been as far as possible overcome for the present.

The disturbances on the islands have, happily, so far ceased that the legislative bodies of the republic, the senate and house of deputies, were convoked, and on January 24th last signed the treaty now before you.

The treaty is the result of the voluntary action of both parties, and contains provisions which we, according to our knowledge of the condition of things in the South Sea, hold to be indispensable for the maintenance of right. We shall therefore probably adopt the same measures with regard to other treaties which may be made.

I regard it as a happy sign of the success of our efforts that, simultaneously with our conclusion of this treaty, we received from both the great and peaceably related powers who are also represented in Samoa, a friendly acknowledgment of the fact that treaties of this kind are the only means of preventing a competition which can result in no one’s advantage. It is just the granting of equal privileges without interfering with internal affairs further than is necessary for the maintenance of the treaty; the securing of civil rights and free ingress and egress, which forms the only remedy for the great competition between different nations which is constantly developing [Page 390] itself in the South Sea, because it is there that the traffic of the world will find its home. All we desire is to reap the fruits of the silent German industry and valuable labor which have found a place there, and to retain a free scope for them.

Treaties with the small surrounding islands will be framed on the principles laid down in this. We do not desire to establish a colony nor to gain any monopoly; we want only just and equal rights for German shipping and trade.

The results of the treaty with the King of Tonga are in the main satisfactory. The news we have from Samoa since 24th January last gives promise of a peaceable development of affairs there if no tares from without are sown among the wheat.

In consideration of the great importance of the matter to German traffic, in just recognition of the work which the officials of the empire have accomplished in Samoa, and in acknowledgment of the honorable precedents and endeavors of our marine officers and the officials of the foreign office, I ask you to give your approbation to this treaty.

Deputy Mosle. The Reichstag has every reason to be satisfied with the explicit and weighty manner in which the memorandum is placed before it. In March, 1877, the government laid before us two similar documents, viz, the treaty with the Tonga Isles and an agreement with Spain concerning the trade of the Sulu (Sooloo) Archipelago, situated on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the latter of which documents has enabled the German Government, in co-operation with Great Britain, to attain in the Sulu district unconditional freedom for trade and shipping. I quite agree with the proposal that our government should not acquire any trade monopoly in Polynesia. Should it, however, find it desirable, in carrying out this policy, whether it be in Polynesia or any other part of the world, to advance from treaties of friendship to treaties of protection, to occupying, or even to possessing, for the formation of colonies, other groups of South Sea Islands, I should hail such a step with pleasure. I represent a constituency which would receive from such a policy immediate benefits, and would have the satisfaction of knowing that the government has already begun this policy energetically and with good results so far, aiding considerably in the protection of German commerce and shipping, especially in those districts winch have not yet passed into the possession of other powers. If the government has put aside its past policy with regard to colonization, it is yet highly desirable, and even necessary, for the prosperous development of the German Empire in general—not for industry and trade alone, but for all interests—that it should, under certain conditions, found colonies. The contrary opinion, that a colonial policy is an impossible one for Germany, and an old and abolished fogyism, I take to be highly foolish and altogether without good reason.

This treaty with the Samoan Islands insures us against the disadvantages German commerce must suffer from in foreign colonies and upon islands of this character which, by reason of prior treaties, are prevented from according to us the right of the most favored nation. How valuable this right is can be seen from the rapid progress of the Tonga Islands. German trade, pure and simple, carried on under the German flag, has suffered wherever a most-favored nation clause could not be obtained—in the Hawaiian Isles, as also in the English colony of New Zealand, and in the Fiji Islands. It is not the Hamburg house of Godeffroy alone which has large possessions in the Samoan Isles; in Fiji and Hawaii the principal traders are natives of Bremen. Of these I may mention Messrs. Hockfeld & Co., and Hennings Bros., who are engaged very largely in trade and shipping, but are suffering from the fact that these islands have already concluded treaties with England, and especially with America.

If I am rightly informed, the Imperial Government is endeavoring to bring about a treaty with Hawaii. In the Tahiti and Paumoto Islands German interests are suffering from the there prevailing French influence. Long before the Fiji Islands were annexed by England, Germans had settled there and acquired large tracts of land. But their title to this property was not respected by England in the annexation treaty. On the contrary, the whole of their property was taken possession of as crown land, and nothing more was done but to appoint a commission, which was to investigate the titles and talk matters over. I should like to be informed how far this plan succeeded, and whether the Germans, especially Consul Hennings and those belonging to him, are likely to recover their rights. At the same time, I would express the hope that the consul-general who is to be sent to the Samoan Islands be authorized to extend the sphere of his official duties to the neighboring Fiji Islands.

As regards Samoa, the treaty before us supplies the security for property which has hitherto been wanting there; but while the good results of this are still growing, the English and Americans are making strenuous efforts to bring into existence powerful land companies in order that they may, with the aid of abundant capital, compete successfully with the German traders. In London the proposal to form a Fiji bank has been renewed. It is to be a kind of funded credit company, and is to extend its sphere of operations from Fiji to the adjacent islands, and of course to Samoa and Tonga. It is to be hoped that German business men will know how to meet this competition, although the British Government is to exert itself on behalf of the proposed institution.

Remembering the confidence which our government has shown in that of England, [Page 391] I hope that the latter will endeavor in the future to see that the rights acquired by Germany through this treaty are not encroached upon by any desire for annexation on the part of the English. We Germans have always respected English possessions, and even supported them with personal aid. We have never attempted to drive the English from their possessions, and I hope, therefore, that our cousins across the channel will respect the rights which Germany now acquires. I would add a few words on another part of the subject. Our imports of colonial produce from the Samoan Islands and from the Tonga Isles, and our exports thither, might be materially increased if the government were to bestow in its tariffs certain advantages upon imported products which have been acquired in those islands by Germans. I cannot ask for an exemption from duty, but I ask only for a diminution of the duties on such goods. It was in this way that other nations fostered their colonies.

As a consequence of our former impotence as a state, customs have taken root with us which a national self-consciousness can endure only with difficulty. I allude to the false reverence we have had for what is strange. This, as well as the former economical isolation of the Hanseatic towns which developed itself through no fault of theirs, must now, according to my ideas cease, and make way for the new era in which the welfare of the whole empire as well as that of each integral part shall be fostered. Krefeld, for instance, exports a large portion of its productions to Polynesia, but only through the agency of English merchants, and if you examine the statistical reports you will find no mention of German imports, although Krefeld alone exports to Polynesia goods to the value of from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 marks. A large number of German mercantile firms are established in London, Amsterdam, &c., which carry, on business only with Germany and for German firms. These emigrated countrymen must be drawn back to us, and I shall, therefore, always support measures which tend to raise a national feeling in trade, in which I include the introduction of higher tariffs as against indirect imports. And I fondly hope that sooner or later I shall find this idea recognized as a sound policy by the thinking part of the nation.

As regards the Samoan Islands, the postal department must take steps to introduce steamship communication with Polynesia, China, and Japan, and the department must not fear to devote large grants to this. This treaty forms an important step towards the protection of German trade and shipping, and moreover, is evidence of the interest the imperial chancellor takes in the commerce of the realm. I beg you, therefore, to give it your support.

Federal Commissioner and Private Counselor of Legation, von Kuserow. The previous speaker justly acknowledged the protocol of the treaty with Tonga as regulating the ocean traffic with the Sulu (Sooloo) Archipelago, and was correct in pointing out the similarity which that system has with that which the government has consciously followed in the treaty, the purposes of which Herr von Bülow has just now explained. The government sympathizes with the desire for the establishment, in order the better to equip Germany for trade, of a direct line of steamship communication. Wishes of that kind have been expressed again and again by those immediately interested in the matter, but have not always been so favorably received as was desirable for the interests of trade.

With regard to the previous speaker’s proposal to favor the products of the South Sea Islands in our import tariff, he must introduce a motion to that effect to the tariff committee, who will investigate it thoroughly. According to the latest consular reports from Samoa the total traffic has risen considerably, that is to say, the German portion of it, during 1878. While the total number of vessels decreased from 136 to 120, the number of German vessels among them increased from 65 to 72. In 1870, of 70 vessels plying there, only 28 were German. This probably unprecedented rate of increase shows that German trade finds better and freer scope for development in districts not as yet belonging to great colonial powers, or which have not yet made most-favored-nation treaties, as Hawaii has, with America. As regards the treaty between Hawaii and the German Empire, in which Bremen is most interested, a treaty was concluded as early as 1870. From our side this was duly ratified; but not so on the side of Hawaii, which had in the mean time entered into negotiations with the United States concerning a so-called reciprocity treaty, by which Hawaii was to receive many advantages from America, in consideration of which Hawaii undertook to forego certain privileges with regard to the free admission of a large number of articles from other countries.

At the time the treaty with us was ratified on our side, notice was received by the Hanse towns to terminate the treaties between them and Hawaii, so that Germany would be entirely without any treaty relations with Hawaii, and would, in comparison with other countries, which, with the exception of America, had treaties of the kind Germany had had, be placed at great disadvantage. In order to reduce this disadvantage, the Hawaiian Government sent us last year a minister to negotiate a treaty with us. A preliminary protocol was signed with him; and this, in the beginning of the present year, obtained the sanction of the federal council. Treaty documents based on this protocol were sent to Hawaii to be signed and ratified. It appears, however, [Page 392] from a report received some days ago from the consul at Honolulu, that the decree of the foreign office, containing the necessary directions for the conclusion of the treaty, has arrived alone, the draft of the treaty itself not having come to hand, so that the signing and ratifying cannot possibly take place. According to this, it is doubtful whether our hope to be able to lay the treaty before the Reichstag during the present session will be fulfilled. Still, the government has, in order to provide against this contingency for the benefit of German commerce, ordered the consul to request that the agreement to the protocols—which come immediately into force, and insures for Germany the right of the most favored nation, with the one exception of America—should remain in force for one year longer, so that we shall not be materially affected if the treaty is not completed within the present year.

The previous speaker has dwelt upon the destiny of the German settlements on the Fiji Islands, and with regard to this I may mention that the government availed itself of the presence in London of the governor of those islands (Sir Arthur Gordon), in order to arouse to action the land commissioners, who, during three or four years back, have rested from their labors; and it is to be hoped that the German settlers will soon again be in a position to realize on their landed property, which is a difficult problem so long as an investigation of their title to the land hangs over their heads. If the previous speaker has shown himself concerned regarding Tonga, fearing that our agreements with subordinate English officials will be prejudiced through their arbitrary preferences, I can assure him, should that prove to be so, that the loyal manner in which the English Government has always expressed itself on the subject, justifies us in the confident expectation that the English Government will never knowingly allow any such preferences on the part of its servants. The readiness with which that government has co-operated with us in this as in other questions of transatlantic interest, absolves us from all fear in that direction. I believe that from this point of view there can be no danger as regards the treaty, and ask that you approve it.

In a subsequent part of the debate, Deputy Dr. Bamberger declared that to come to the point, the object of the treaty was to prevent other states from incorporating themselves with these territories on which German industry and ability had been applied for the last thirty years; and the interests of the Germans there would assuredly be damaged if America or England fixed themselves as colonial powers upon those territories.

Still later in the debate, when Article V of the treaty, which provides that German ships of war shall be free to enter the harbor of Saluafata, was being discussed, the foreign minister, von Bülow, stated that the American Government had also established a harbor for itself, and that consequently this article of the treaty could give no offense.

The Reichstag then approved each separate article of the treaty without alteration.