to Mr. Pendleton.
Washington, January 17, 1888.
Sir: On the 9th ultimo Baron von Zedtwitz, German chargé d’affaires at this capital, called at the Department of State and read to me a translation of an instruction to him, dated November 18, 1887, from Prince Bismarck, a copy of which is herewith inclosed.*
This communication of Prince Bismarck, after stating that it had been necessary on a former occasion to draw my attention to the anti-German attitude assumed by the American consul-general at Apia, Mr. Sewall, during the recent German hostilities against King Malietoa, complains of similar experience with the predecessors of Mr. Sewall on all occasions when Germany has endeavored, in view of the unsettled state of affairs in Samoa, to obtain better guaranties for the protection of the German subjects there living, and of their commercial interests; declaring, also, that the reports of the German representatives in Apia during the last seven years repeatedly contain the complaint that their American consular colleagues show a tendency to interfere in the relations between Germany and the Samoan government, and to infuse into the latter distrust of Germany, whose efforts in the interest of the establishment of a lawful and orderly condition of affairs in those islands have, without exception, he insists, met with the opposition of the American consular representatives. As an instance of this alleged opposition, the communication of Prince Bismarck states that when, in 1881, upon the outbreak of armed strife among the natives, the commander of His Imperial Majesty’s ship Mëwe, on the request of the German consul at Apia, and in agreement with the municipal administration, occupied Apia in order to protect the foreign settlement, the then American consul, Mr. Dawson, protested against that measure and caused the editor of an Apia paper to publish injurious articles against the German vice-consul and the commander of the Mëwe.
As another instance it is stated that Consul Canisius has been pointed out as the author of two letters which Malietoa addressed to His Majesty the Emperor of Germany on the Imperial representative in Apia, and demanding his recall, with an insulting criticism of German military measures. Another instance cited is the action of Mr. Greene-baum, who, it is said, besides acting in opposition to the German representative, and encouraging Malietoa in his provoking attitude towards Germany, arbitrarily announced, in a proclamation issued on May 14, 1886, an American protectorate over the Samoan Islands, and hoisted as a sign thereof the American flag over the Samoan; a proceeding [Page 595] which, as the communication states, was disavowed by this Government, and resulted in Mr. Greenebaum’s recall. Prince Bismarck observes that it is remarkable that on the remote islands in question, where neither America nor Germany has any political interests to defend, the latter should be exposed to the continual ill-will of a series of American representatives, there being, to explain the fact, no local commercial rivalries, such as exist in many quarters of the globe, and even in proximity to the region of the present difficulties between Germany and Great Britain. He then proceeds to show the preponderance of German over American commercial interests in the islands, notwithstanding which, it is said, Germany has always maintained the principle of equality of rights of nations in Samoa and aspired to no political advantage. Germany, it is said, has never made use of her mercantile preponderance in Samoa to secure commercial privileges as the United States have recently done in Hawaii by the ratification of the recently renewed reciprocity treaty of January 30, 1875. And on the occasion of the recent action against Malietoa, the continuance of whose Government was incompatible with the dignity of Germany, she gave, Prince Bismarck further claims, to both the English and American Governments, before his deposition, the assurance that it was not her intention to change anything with regard to the relation of the treaty powers to Samoa.
Failing to find any reason “in the facts themselves” to explain the continued ill-will shown towards Germany in Samoa by the American representatives in the past and present, Prince Bismarck says he would be thankful if I would lend him my assistance in the investigation of this strange fact, and should his supposition be right that the difficulties referred to have their origin in the personal disposition of the American representatives in Apia, and not in their instructions, he is convinced the American Government will cause the necessary redress to take place, as it can not be conceived that consular officers, who do not respect the limits of their task, and who, by their conduct, and without reason, cause ill-feeling between countries entertaining friendly relations to each other, act in accordance with the wishes of the Government of the United States, with which Germany, since the foundation of the American Union, has been connected by traditional friendship.
I am instructed by the President to say that he fully participates in the regrets of Prince Bismarck that the relations of traditional friendship which have subsisted between the United States and Germany unbroken for so many years should be, in any way or degree, disturbed or affected by occurrences in remote islands in which the material interests of both Governments are comparatively insignificant.
This Government has manifested in the most unmistakable manner its desire to avoid all possibilities of difference with the other treaty powers in Samoa, alike by its action in respect to its consular representation there, and by the exercise of its moral influence to discountenance and prevent those native dissensions which, assuming the form of disaffection towards existing government, have stood as a constant invitation and incentive (of which interested foreigners in the islands have not been slow to avail themselves) to intrigue with native factions to obtain commercial and political supremacy. This policy it has pursued with consistency and good faith, actuated not so much by the idea of any present or probable future commercial interest in that quarter of the globe in which the islands in question lie, as by a benevolent desire to promote the development and secure the independence of one of the [Page 596] few remaining independent territories and autonomous native governments in the Pacific Ocean.
Had the Government of the United States entertained any designs of territorial aggrandizement or of political control in Samoa, they could have been accomplished, it is believed, with much satisfaction to a majority of the natives, and with little opposition from any of them, long prior to the date of either the British or the German treaty. But another and widely different policy has guided the action of the United States in respect to the native communities in the Southern Pacific, and it is not, I apprehend, claiming too much credit for this Government to express the opinion that the example it exhibited of treating with Samoa as an independent state led to a similar course and a similar acknowledgment of native independence in that island group by Germany and Great Britain.
Since that time a regard for the subsequently acquired conventional rights of Germany and Great Britain has been an additional reason for continuing the policy of this Government of respect for native independence. The disinterested position of the United States is strongly emphasized by the promptitude with which the action of Mr. Greenebaum was disavowed by this Government, when he proclaimed an American protectorate over Samoa, in order to counteract the disintegrating and destructive effect upon the then native government, not only of prior acts of the German consul, Dr. Stuebel, which had been protested against by the British consul as welt as by Mr. Greenebaum, and some of which, at least, I understood, were not sustained by the Imperial Government, but also of the active and substantial support given by German subjects there resident to those in arms against the government of Malietoa. Without waiting for representation or remonstrance, I at once caused both Germany and Great Britain to be informed of this Government’s entire disapproval of Mr. Greenebaum’s action, as being unauthorized and at variance with his instructions and he was soon after recalled.
This Department has never been furnished with evidence as to the reported authorship of the two letters of Malietoa to the Emperor of Germany of the 18th and 28th of May, 1885, nor as to the alleged origin of certain articles in Samoan newspapers, which I have never seen; but in respect to the alleged action of the American consul, Mr. Dawson, in 1881, on the occasion of the landing of a force from His Imperial Majesty’s ship Mëwe, the documents in the possession of this Department lead to a very different impression of that incident from that which Prince Bismarck has been led to entertain. Not only was the action of the German consul on that occasion, as I am informed, not in agreement with the Samoan Government and the municipal administration, but it was taken without consultation with the acting head of the municipal government, after the disturbance had actually been quelled by the local police, and was complained against by the Samoan King, a copy of whose complaint, dated July 14, 1881, and addressed to Mr. Dawson, as the acting head of the consular and municipal body, is herewith inclosed. But, whatever may be the precise circumstances of the affair, it appears at most merely to involve a personal difference of opinion as to the measures required by an unforseen but brief commotion, and to have had no connection whatever with subsequent disorders in the islands.
While it is doubtless true that the German and American consuls at Apia have not always been found acting in concert, yet unless the information derived from various sources and in the possession of this [Page 597] Department is wholly unreliable, the absence of harmony in consular action has not in any respect been due to hostility to Germany on the part of the consuls of the United States. This fact is strongly illustrated by recalling certain incidents which preceded the landing of the forces from the Möwe, when it is alleged the American consul exhibited an attitude of hostility to Germany.
When Sir Arthur Gordon, in August, 1879, came to negotiate the treaty between Great Britain and Samoa, which was concluded on the 28th of that month, and consulted the foreign consuls and captains of men-of-war then present upon the point whether he ought to treat with Malietoa as King of Samoa, they unanimously advised him to do so, which he did; and among the foreign representatives who concurred in that advice was Mr. Theo. Weber, then German consul at Apia, but now the leading representative of German commercial and landed interests there, and, as such, long an active promoter of the native opposition under Tamasese to the government of Malietoa. On the following day the German and American consuls joined with Sir Arthur Gordon in proclaiming the government of Malietoa as the only real government in the islands. At the same time the municipality convention was entered into by the American, British, and German consuls with Malietoa as representing the Government of Samoa. The consular representative of the United States then consistently, supported the government of Malietoa, and it is understood that the German consul was under instructions from his Government to pursue the same course. And yet, in November, 1880, the American consul, Mr. Dawson, advised the Department that the then German consul-general, Captain Zempsch (of whose overbearing and inconsiderate conduct towards himself personally he frequently complained), was openly advocating a division of the kingdom, and thus contributing to weaken the native government of Malietoa, to whom personally, so far as this Department is advised, the Government of Germany made at that time no objection. About this time the native opposition to the government of Malietoa had begun to assume a warlike attitude, which the expressed views of the German consul-general encouraged.
Judging by the past I am led to conclude that the instability of the native Government of Samoa, and the tendency exhibited in a marked degree during the past two years towards civil commotions there, can not be justly imputed to any action on the part of the consular representative of the United States, but is to be attributed, among other important causes, to the failure of the German consular representatives to give consistent support to existing native government. This, I am led to suppose, has not been owing to hostility to the United States on the part of the German representatives, but rather to a natural susceptibility on their part to the desire of the local German element for such a native government as would be disposed to advance its commercial and landed interests. On no other hypothesis am I able to account for the support given, especially during the past two years, to the natives in rebellion against the existing government; for, whatever may have been the grounds of complaint on the part of Germany against Malietoa personally, the support of Tamasese, or of any other opposing chief, could certainly form no part of a plan of redress against Malietoa.
Another important cause of native unrest and dissension in Samoa has been the agitation in certain neighboring British colonies, and especially in New Zealand, for the annexation of the islands to Great Britain.
Moreover, I am wholly unable to share in Prince Bismarck’s impression [Page 598] that the efforts of Germany to establish a lawful and orderly condition of affairs in Samoa have generally, not to say without exception, met with the opposition of American consular representatives.
I could readily point to many instances of co-operation of American consular representatives with those of Germany, when the efforts of the representatives of the latter were directed simply to the maintenance of peace and order. As an instance of such co-operation reference may be made to the important incident of the treaty of peace signed in December, 1879, on board of His Imperial German Majesty’s ship Bismarck, between contending native parties, in which the co-operation of the consular representatives of the United States and Great Britain with Captain Deinhardt, the German commander, is expressly recited. Again, as late as the 8th of June, 1886, we find the consuls of the United States, Germany, and Great Britain witnessing an agreement of peace between the “representatives of Malietoa and his Government,” and the “representatives of Tamasese and his party.” And in the intervening seven years, during which Prince Bismarck has found a few incidents which seem to him to contain evidence of enmity on the part of the consular representatives of the United States toward Germany, there were frequent acts of co-operation of those representatives with the consular representatives of Germany and Great Britain, with a view to the maintenance of a lawful and orderly condition of affairs under an autonomous native government.
Should the opinion which has been expressed as to the part taken by the United States in seeking to preserve the independence of the Samoan Islands seem in any degree extravagant, it will no longer appear to be so when what has taken place in the last three years in regard to other island groups in the Pacific is considered.
Prior to that period Spain was holding the Ladrone or Marianne and the Phillipine Islands, and had also laid the basis of a claim of title to the Caroline Islands, although she did not maintain an active government there.
Between the years 1842 and 1847 France established a protectorate over the Marquesas, Society, and Paumota groups, and in 1853 occupied New Caledonia. In 1864 she formerly assumed control of the Loyalty Islands, and in 1880 added Tahiti to the list of her colonies in the Pacific.
In addition to the continent of Australia, to which Great Britain holds a comparatively ancient title, that Government had also acquired the Fiji Islands and New Zealand the sovereignty of the latter being ceded in 1840 and that of the former on the 10th of October, 1874.
Germany had not then entered upon her present active policy of colonization in the Pacific, although her subjects had carried on a considerable commerce there, and had established places of trade on various islands, including the Samoan.
Such was the condition of affairs at the beginning of the present decade, nor was there observable at that time any marked evidence of the desire for new territorial acquisitions; but, beginning in 1884, numerous island groups have, in rapid succession, passed in whole or in part under the control of various European powers, until almost the last vestige of native autonomy in the islands of the Pacific has been obliterated.
The year 1884 witnessed the occupation by Germany of the northern side of New Guinea, from Cape King William to Astrolabe Bay, the Imperial ting being hoisted at twelve different points. Almost coincidently Great Britain occupied the south coast of the island, and in the [Page 599] months of November and December, in the same year, seized and occupied the Louisiade group, Woodlark Island, and Long and Rook Islands.
In the following year arose the dispute between Germany and Spain over the Carolines, which was terminated by the protocol signed at Rome on the 17th of December, 1885, under which Germany acknowledged the sovereignty of Spain over these islands and the Pelew group; and they have now passed finally under Spanish control.
But these events were merely the precursors of others, of which the seizure by France in 1886 of the New Hebrides was not the most significant. On the 6th of April of that year a joint declaration was made by Germany and Great Britain, which contemplated the absorption by those two powers of almost all the independent territory in that part of the Pacific Ocean called the West Pacific, lying between the the 15th degree of north and the 30th degree of south latitude, and between the 165th degree of longitude west and the 130th degree of longitude east of Greenwich, which had not already been occupied by some foreign power. Through that part of the Pacific included in those bounds of latitude and longitude a line of division was drawn to mark the respective spheres of British, and German influence and annexation; and each joint declarant agreed not to make any acquisitions of territory, nor to establish protectorates, nor to oppose the operations of the other in the sphere of action respectively assigned to it.
Under this declaration and agreement, from which Samoa, Tonga, and Niné Island were excepted, and by the line of division drawn as above stated, New Ireland, New Britain, and the adjacent western half of the Solomon group passed under the dominion of Germany, and certain islands west of the line to Great Britain.
On the 1st of August, in the same year, the latter Government took possession of the Kermadec Islands, and by the imperial decree of the 13th of the ensuing month the Marshall, Brown, and Providence Islands and groups were occupied by Germany.
As the result of what has been above detailed, of the vast aggregate of territory in the Pacific Ocean, but a few island groups, containing a few thousand square miles, remain to-day as independent and autonomous.
Long anterior the United States had acquired, by discovery and occupation, the uninhabited island, or ocean reef, of Midway, as a possible coaling station.
In view of these facts, it is unnecessary to emphasize the importance attached by this Government to the maintenance of the rights to which the United States has become entitled in any of the few remaining regions now under independent and autonomous native governments in the Pacific Ocean.
Prince Bismarck has referred to this Government’s treaty with Hawaii of the 30th of January, 1875, which has lately been renewed, and which is said by him to give the United States commercial advantages in those islands superior to those possessed by any other foreign power. In respect to this it needs only to be observed that that treaty was one of special reciprocity which both the contracting parties were alone competent to make, and that the United States has at no time, since the convention was concluded, sought to use it to control the native government of the islands or to regulate their internal affairs against the wishes of the inhabitants, although the geographical and historical relations of the group to the United States necessarily give this Government [Page 600] an interest in the future of the islands such as no other foreign Government can possible possess.
In Samoa, on the contrary, the action of the German representatives, especially during the last three years, has been such as to raise grave doubts in regard to the future relations of the treaty powers respecting the islands, and these doubts have only been relieved by expected assurances from Berlin of the absence of any intention on the part of Germany to unsettle former understandings, and take control of the native Government and assume a protectorate, As an example of this may be cited the signing on the 10th of November, 1884, by Dr. Stuebel, then German consul-general at Apia, with Mr. Theo. Weber, whose connections in the islands have been above described, as witness, and by Malietoa as King of Samoa, of a treaty under which substantially the entire control of Samoan affairs was to be handed over to the Germans. It has never been maintained, so far as I am aware, that the Samoan King’s signature of this treaty was a voluntary act. On the contrary, I am informed that it was executed by him under duress; that it was read to him only once by an interpreter; that the German consular representative refused to give him a copy for consideration; and that on the day following the signature of the instrument, Malietoa secretly renewed an urgent petition to the Government of Great Britain for annexation. Against this convention the British Government protested, and the Government of Germany has not insisted upon its execution.
In January, 1885, less than three months after the incident above narrated, Dr. Stuebel, under the form of reprisal for certain acts of the native Government, among which was its refusal to execute the instrument of the 10th of the preceding November, seized or attached the sovereign rights of the King in the municipality of Apia, and raised the German flag on Mulinuu point, the seat of the native Government. Coincidently, the flag of the native faction hostile to the then existing Government was displayed a few miles down the coast, and the Vice-King Tamasese, left the Government of Malietoa to put himself at the; head of the movement.
This action of the German consul was not sustained by his Government; but the causal connection of the act, and of the long-existing and active local influences by which it was doubtless inspired, with subsequent disorders in the islands, needs no argumentative exposition.
The earnest desire of the Government of the United States to perpetuate the native Government of the Samoan Islands and to place it on a secure basis is further evidenced, and its views upon the present situation may be more clearly understood by a review of its action subsequently to the proclamation by Mr. Greenebaum, United States consul, of a protectorate over the islands.
Immediately upon being informed of the consul’s action, identical instructions were sent by telegraph, on the 1st of June, 1886, both to yourself and to our minister at London, to say to the Governments to which you were respectively accredited, that the claim of an American protectorate over Samoa by the United States consul there was wholly unauthorized and disapproved, no protectorate by any foreign nation being desired; and further, to suggest to those Governments to authorize their ministers at this capital to confer with me with a view to the establishment of order. Following this were certain practical suggestions which it is unnecessary here to enumerate, the last of which, however, was that a joint declaration should be made by the three powers, against annexation or the assumption of a protectorate by any of them.[Page 601]
On the 2d of June Mr. Phelps, United States minister at London, telegraphed that Lord Rosebery had authorized him to say that he would assent to the proposed conference if Germany also would, his lordship promising at the same time to confer with the German ambassador on the subject; and on the following day Mr. Coleman, cbargé d’affaires of the United States at Berlin, informed me by telegraph that my proposal had been received at Berlin ad referendum On the 7th of the same month Mr. Coleman wrote me that in conversation with Count Berchem, he was informed that Prince Bismarck, with whom Count Berchem had been in correspondence respecting the suggestion made in my telegram of the 1st of June, had accepted those suggestions as tendered; and Count Berchem added that it could not be decided as yet when the proposed discussion at Washington could take place, as owing to the lack of telegraphic communication with Samoa some time must elapse before the German Government could instruct its consul there to avoid further complications, and, to preserve the status quo. It would also, he said, be necessary to obtain full information as to the existing situation on those islands.
In the suggestion that time should be allowed to gather information, I at once concurred; and when, a few days later, a proposal was communicated to me by the German minister that agents or commissioners should be sent out by the three powers to Samoa to obtain information respecting the situation there, as a preliminary to the discussion to take place at Washington, I at once accepted the plan as being in the line of the suggestion originally made by this Government, that the then representatives of the three Governments at Apia should be replaced by persons having no connection with past events there, and be the more able consequently to view the situation impartially.
In pursuance of this understanding, and with no other impression on the part of this Government than that the three powers were perfectly in accord that the status quo should be maintained pending the execution of their common benevolent purpose of assisting the natives of Samoa to form and administer their Government, agents were respectively sent at once to the islands, and in due time made their reports, which were exchanged by the three treaty powers.
On the 25th of June last the first formal session of the conference was held in this city, the British and German ministers and myself being present as the representatives of our respective Governments.
Other sessions were held from time to time during the following month, and some points of agreement reached; but owing to my inability to concur in the German proposition, which was substantially assented to, though not in all respects explicitly supported, by the British minister, the conference was, on the 26th of July, adjourned by unanimous consent until the autumn, in order that the members might consult their respective Governments with a view to an agreement on some other scheme of co-operative action.
In substance, the German Government proposed to commit the actual control of the islands to a person to be appointed for a term of five years by the power having the preponderating commercial interests there, the appointment to be renewed on the same terms, and the other powers merely to have the concurrent privilege of approving or refusing to approve the nominee.
The plan proposed by me on behalf of this Government was to commit the administration of the laws to an executive council, to be composed of the Samoan King and vice-King and three foreigners, of whom one was to be designated by each of the treaty powers, but who were [Page 602] to hold their commissions and receive their compensation from the native Government, so as to be independent of the control and influence of the powers designating them.
This proposal was based upon the recommendation of the British commissioner sent to investigate and report on the condition of the islands, a gentleman of long and extensive experience in Oceania, and seemed to me to meet the requirements of foreign assistance, and at the same time to be consistent with that equality of rights of the treaty powers which was the admitted basis 01 the conference. My opposition to the German plan, as I stated at the time it was presented, was not due in any degree to the fact that under it the appointment of the actual governor of the islands would be given to Germany. My objection to the plan was based upon the opinion, which was confirmed as the scheme was unfolded and discussed in the conference, that it was inherently defective and objectionable in that it involved the union of complete political control with commercial preponderance in the same hands, and, by supplanting instead of aiding the native government, tended to diminish rather than to develop the capacity of the native inhabitants of the islands for the management of their affairs.
This objection was not supported by the British representative, but in view of the desire so often previously expressed by Great Britain to uphold an actual native government in Samoa, I am utterly unable to account for her instructing her representative in the conference to advocate a plan which gave to the representative of a single foreign power much greater control over the native government than was contemplated by the German-Samoan treaty of the 10th of November, 1884, to which Great Britain so strenuously objected. In a note of the 16th of February, 1885, to the embassador of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Germany at London, Earl Granville, then Her Britannic Majesty’s principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, referring to that convention, said:
If, M. l’Ambassadeur, this agreement had been confined to the establishment of a court, and of the procedure to be observed in civil and criminal cases, and the punishment of offenses in which German subjects are connected, for which alone Article VII of the German treaty in 1879 provides, its provisions would not, in the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, have been open to criticism; but the creation of a state council, the appointment of a German officer of the Samoan Government, and the enrollment of a German police to protect the plantations of German subjects, appear to place Her Majesty’s subjects at a disadvantage and will prevent the Samoan Government from acting independently in matters which affect the whole community. The arrangement seems in fact to give to Germany alone much of the influence with which in 1880 it was proposed to invest an executive council, to be composed of one English, one German, and one United States member. To this arrangement Her Majesty’s Government declined to accede on the ground that it involved too great an interference with the government of the island(s) to allow of its being assumed by the representatives of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States conjointly.
It will not be possible for Her Majesty’s Government to accept a position of less influence and consideration than is given to Germany by the agreement under discussion.
It is not necessary further to discuss the plans of settlement proposed in the conference, as I am informed that the German Government, while declining the plan proposed by me, does not insist upon its own, and I am therefore not without hope that a satisfactory solution may yet be found.
I have already stated that when the conference was suspended in July last until the autumn, it was done with the concurrence of all the members, and solely for the purpose of enabling the representatives of Germany and Great Britain to consult their respective Governments. No intimation was then given that the status quo would be changed, or [Page 603] that any acts of hostility against the Samoan Government, or King Malietoa personally, were in contemplation.
With this understanding, which had not changed from the moment the proposal for a conference was made and accepted, at the suggestion of the British and German ministers, I renewed, on the very eve of the formal opening of the conference, the instructions already given theretofore to the consul of the United States at Apia to use his influence to prevent violence between the native factions. The text of these instructions, which were telegraphic, and bore date the 20th of June last, was as follows:
Treaty powers endeavoring to secure permanent native government for Samoa. Strongly advise natives to avoid resort to force, which would endanger Samoa’s best interests.
That the Government of Her Britannic Majesty fully concurred in the importance of a careful maintenance of the status quo, and in the understanding that no step should be taken to change it, appears from the declaration of the British minister at the first session of the conference, when, in presenting the plan of his Government, he said that, in view of the native dissensions, a new election of King seemed to be “imperatively called for,” and that Her Majesty’s Government expressed “no opinion, favorably or adversely, to the election of Malietoa.”
On the same subject the German minister said:
King Malietoa having notoriously violated his treaty obligations towards Germ an y> and having even among the natives comparatively but few partisans, while a completely organized counter-government has been formed under Tamasese, a new election of King will have to take place according to the customs of the country. This election is to be freely made by the chiefs and the people of Samoa.
It is unnecessary to cite other statements, equally pertinent, to show the apparently complete concurrence of view as to the peaceful and benevolent purpose of the conference.
It is not strange, therefore, that I was taken wholly by surprise when the German minister called at this Department on the 29th of August last, and left with me a memorandum stating that his Government proposed to independently protect its own interests and rights in Samoa and obtain the satisfaction and reparation deemed to be due to its national honor, and, in case Malietoa was either not willing or not powerful enough to give the necessary satisfaction for the past and sufficient guaranties for the future, to declare war against him and refuse to recognize his Government.
Coupled with this declaration was an assurance that the Imperial Government was far from intending to bring about any change in the political relations which the three powers represented there entertained to Samoa; that, on the contrary, it maintained unaltered the existing treaties and stipulations between Germany, Great Britain, and the United States with regard to Samoa, as well as the equality of the three treaty powers, and proposed to continue its endeavors to arrive at an understanding as to the reforms necessary to establish lasting peace in these islands.
On the 23d of September the German minister called again and left a memorandum stating that Germany had declared war “against Malietoa personally,” and that as soon as she had obtained by his abdication due satisfaction the state of war would cease.
It is not my purpose to enter into an examination of the question how far hostilities of this type can be reconciled with settled principles of [Page 604] international law, or with the independence and autonomy of the country against which such measures are aimed. But it may be stated, as a matter well known, that on the 23d of August last, in less than a month from the date of the adjournment of the conference till the autumn, and before any notification to this Government of such resolve on the part of Germany, the German consul at Apia demanded of Malietoa satisfaction in the form of an apology and indemnity, together ‘with the punishment of alleged Samoan offenders, for certain injuries said to have been suffered by German subjects at the hands of Samoans on the evening of the 22d of March preceding, during the celebration by the former of the anniversary of the birth of His Majesty the Emperor of Germany, as well as a considerable pecuniary indemnity for robberies alleged to have been committed on German plantations during the past four years.
To these demands the King was notified to make reply on the following day, which he did by asking that he be given until the 27th of the month, three days, in order that he might have time to consult his Government and chiefs and make a formal answer.
To this request no reply was made by the German consul, and on the same day, the 24th of August, war was declared.
On the following day Tamasese was proclaimed by the German consul as King of Samoa, against the formal and public protest of the American and British consuls. And on the 17th of September, after having been, since the declaration of war against him, a fugitive, Malietoa gave himself up to the German consul, and was taken on board of the Bismarck, the flag ship of the German squadron.
It is not my purpose to comment upon the grounds of the recent German action in Samoa, as they have been above stated, although I regret that the powerful Government of Germany did not find it possible to take a more liberal view of the conditions of Samoan life and civilization, and the unfortunate situation of the native King, who, in regarding himself as the rightful ruler of the islands, could point, in confirmation of his title, to a long series of acknowledgments of his authority by all three treaty powers.
But it is impossible to ignore the fact that all the grounds for hostile action on the part of Germany above stated existed long prior to the meeting of the conference in this city, and some of them even anterior to its proposal, the acceptance of which was followed, as I was informed, by appropriate action to maintain the status quo in the islands. During all the sessions of the conference nothing was said to disturb this impression, nor was intimation given of any other course being contemplated when the conference was temporarily adjourned. The first intimation of belligerent intent on the part of Germany against Malietoa was, as I have already stated, given to me by the German minister on the 29th of August last, five days after war was actually declared against him, and necessarily several weeks after it was determined upon; and my first notification that war had been declared and that Germany intended to depose Malietoa was also post factum, being given to me by the German minister on the 23d of September last, six days after the Samoan King was taken on board of the Bismarck.
This statement of recent occurrences should suffice to exhibit the earnest efforts of this Government to effect a peaceable settlement of Samoan affairs, honorable to all concerned, and just and equitable not only as between the treaty powers, but also as between them and the natives; and, further, to show that if those efforts have, after acceptance, [Page 605] been suddenly disregarded and defeated, the fact is one for which this Government can not be regarded as in any degree responsible.
Being solicitous, however, still to accomplish in the direction indicated all that the altered situation in Samoa would admit of, I sent identical telegraphic instructions on the 11th of October last to yourself and the United States minister at London stating that the United States consul-general at Apia, reported a most distressing condition of affairs, which continued war would only make worse; that the consul had been instructed to observe strict neutrality, but this Government was anxious, pursuant to its treaty with Samoa, to urge a peaceful adjustment and considerate treatment of Samoans. You were further instructed to propose to the Governments to which you were respectively accredited the immediate election of a King and a Vice King as agreed on in conference, “and the issuance by the treaty powers of identical instructions to their representatives in the islands to promote such an election, leaving other measures which had been discussed, but not agreed upon, to be hereafter arranged.
Two days later I received from yon a report that it was not understood at Berlin that a new election had been agreed on in conference, but that a new election had actually taken place.
Subsequently, I was informed by the United States minister at London that he had submitted my proposal to the British Government, but had withdrawn it, before receiving a reply thereto from Lord Salisbury, upon a report from you that an election had occurred.
How this misconception on the part of the German Government arose I am at a loss to understand. For at the first session of the conference the British and German ministers both proposed a new election of a King. The plan submitted by me, which was drawn up after a careful consideration of the report of the American special agent to Samoa, suggested the continued recognition of Malietoa, as most likely to insure a native Government at once stable and acceptable to the natives. But after hearing the objections of the German minister to that course, and his statements to show that Malietoa was supported only by a minority of the natives, I readily assented, at the second session of the conference, to the proposal made on the part of Germany, and concurred in on the part of Great Britain, that a new election of King should be held.
As proposed by the German minister, this election was “to be freely made by the chiefs and the people of Samoa.” As put forward by the. British minister the view of his Government was “that a fresh appeal should be made to the native population for the election of a new King.” As assented to by me, the new election was to be a “native election, free and unawed.” At the fifth session of the conference, the election also of a Vice-King was, by unanimous consent, placed among the agreed points, with a view to consulting native customs. And by reference to the protocols it will appear that throughout all the discussions the fundamental principle was kept in view and distinctly agreed upon and maintained that the election should be made freely by the natives themselves without the interference of any of the treaty powers or their representatives.
The recent installation of a new Government by the German consul is not considered by this Government as satisfying the conditions of that acknowledged principle; nor are they regarded as haviug been fulfilled by the subsequent signature, on the 15th of September, by Samoan chiefs, under the eye and direction of German representatives, of a paper [Page 606] acknowledging the Government which had been so set up, and which, as information derived from various sources has led me to conclude, is still upheld and controlled by those who brought it into existence.
In its general features it appears to be far more objectionable than the plan of government proposed by the German minister at the conference in this city. For, although that plan was one of foreign control of the islands, yet it carried with it the guaranties of the Imperial Government. But the Government of Tamasese can be regarded as nothing else than the government of the islands by the local German commercial and landed interests, through Herr Brandeis, Tamasese’s sole minister.
On the 1st of November last Baron von Zedtwitz, the German chargé d’affaires, called at this Department and made complaint that the American consul at Apia gave active expression to an anti-German policy by conduct in excess of his powers and competency, incompatible with neutrality, having, under the form of reference to municipal institutions “recognized by Germany and England, but not by the United States,” arbitrarily intervened and liberated prisoners, and consequently compelled the commander of the German squadron to occupy Apia. And the complaint closed with the request that the consul-general be set straight, and also instructed to observe a strictly neutral attitude in order that the evacuation of Apia by the German forces might be effected.
This reference to the idea of neutrality was not clear to me, as the deposition of Malietoa, which was the avowed purpose of Germany’s declaration of war against him “personally,” had already been accomplished.
He had not only been deposed, but was then actually a prisoner on a German ship of war, and a new government had been set up by the German consul in the place of that which had been maintained by Malietoa. The German occupation of Apia was, as then and now stated on German authority, at the request of the new government, for its own purposes, and not as an act of war on the part of Germany.
But the point that caused my greatest surprise was the objection made to the consul of the United States taking any part in the municipal government of Apia, and the statement that the municipal institutions were not recognized by the United States.
Less than a month previously complaint had been made to me by the German chargé d’affaires that the consul of the United States, in his capacity as member of this municipal board, had Claimed jurisdiction for that body in a suit not properly belonging to it, but to the German consul independently; and I telegraphed instructions to the American consul not to assume control in that case, the jurisdiction of the municipal court over it being questionable.
While it is true that the United States had not become formally a party to the municipality convention, with the advice and consent of the Senate, yet, although this Government was not bound by treaty obligation in the matter, it had always given the municipal organization the fullest practical support and recognition, as an existent local government; and the American consul, being clothed by the laws of the United States and our original treaty with Samoa with judicial powers, had discharged through that organization, from its commencement eight years ago, judicial functions for the common advantage of all the treaty powers, and with their full assent and co-operation. And Americans, as well as the members of other foreign nationalities represented in Apia, had paid taxes to support the municipal government.
It is therefore difficult to understand why complaint against the [Page 607] American consul should have taken the form or been placed upon the grounds above stated.
At the present time the municipal government has been declared in abeyance by the German consul. It does not, however, appear to be disputed that the only reason avowed for the consul’s action was the fact that the American consul, Mr. Sewall, was fifteen or twenty minutes late at a special meeting of the board, which was called for the hour of ten o’clock in the morning instead of the customary hour in the afternoon, and that when the government was so declared to be in abeyance for the alleged refusal of Mr. Sewall to attend he was on his way to and already near the place of meeting. It is admitted that the British consul stated to His Imperial Majesty’s consul his “impression” that Mr. Sewall was coming to the meeting, and I have reason to believe that Her Majesty’s consul might authoritatively have stated from Mr. Sewall himself a positive assurance that he was coming.
Immediately upon the municipal government being so declared in abeyance by the German consul, the German naval forces took possession of Apia upon the request of Tamasese, and on the ground of the absence just then, and in such manner created, of the regular form of government of the municipality.
The conclusion at which I am forced to arrive from this review of recent events in Samoa is that the present unfortunate situation there is due not to any action on the part of the representatives of the United States, but to the fomentation by interested foreigners of native dissensions, and to the desire exhibited in a marked degree by those in charge of local German interests to obtain personal and commercial advantages and political supremacy.
But this communication ought not to be concluded without the statement that, in the opinion of this Government, the course taken by Germany in respect to Samoa upon the temporary adjournment of the conference in this city, as above detailed, can not be regarded as having been marked by that just consideration which the ancient friendship between the United States and Germany entitles this Government to expect; that the present condition of affairs in the islands can not, in view of the circumstances under which it was brought about and is still maintained, be regarded by the United States as satisfactory; and that, to the end of creating a more acceptable situation in the islands, the native Government should be placed upon a basis more compatible with independence and impartiality in the discharge of its duties to all the treaty powers.
Prince Bismarck has referred in his note, as the German minister did in the conference, to “guaranties.” to be demanded and obtained from the Samoan Government. Whenever these guaranties have been explained they have been found virtually to involve the foreign control of that Government, as was proposed in the German-Samoan convention of the 10th of November, 1884, and also in the plan presented by the German minister in the conference.
The ground upon which such control has been deemed essential is the weakness of the native Government. And it can not be doubted that if the Government of Samoa were now administered by any one of the treaty powers the islands would be governed more nearly in accordance with the forms and usages of civilized states, and order be better assured.
But, for the very reason that the native Government of Samoa is weak, it has seemed all the more clear to the United States that the [Page 608] control of the islands by any strong foreign power, or its representatives, would defeat the great object of securing native independence and autonomy, and the practical neutralization of the group. Under such control a native government would necessarily cease to have more than a nominal existence; the native element in the islands, deprived of voice and influence in the management of their affairs, would quickly succumb to the aggressive and exclusive tendencies of the foreign residents; and, under these circumstances, the islands would inevitably become a colony of the foreign power by which, or by whose representatives, the Government was actually administered.
These general observations are made because, notwithstanding the efforts of the Government to state its views in respect to Samoa in a spirit of entire frankness, it has sometimes seemed that they had not been fully apprehended; or else that the Governments of the United States and Germany, while agreeing to the same general principles, differed as to their relative importance and the order in which they should be applied. Owing, doubtless, to her commercial preponderance in the islands, to Germany the primary object has seemed to be the establishment of a stronger government. To the United States, the object first in importance has seemed to be the preservation of native independence and autonomy. And so regarding the matter, this Government, while not questioning Germany’s assurances of the absence of any intention on her part to annex or establish a protectorate over the islands, has been compelled to dissent from propositions which seemed to subordinate all other considerations to the strengthening of the German commercial and landed interests in the islands, and correspondingly to diminish, if not entirely to destroy, the probability of the establishment of a Samoan Government, and of the neutralization of the group, at least in respect to the powers now immediately concerned.
You are at liberty to communicate a copy of this instruction to the German Government.
I am, etc.,