No. 526.
Mr. White to Mr. Bayard.

No. 766.]

Sir: Referring to your instructions numbered 875 of May 17, and to previous correspondence, I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, certain extracts from the Times of June 1, containing the [Page 729] report of speeches made in the House of Commons on the 31st ultimo, by Mr. McArthur, Sir James Fergusson, and Mr. Bryce, with respect to Germany’s action in Samoa.

I have, etc

Henry White.
[Inclosure in No. 766.—The London Times, Friday, June 1, 1888.]

parliamentary intelligence.

The speaker took the chair at 3 o’clock.

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Mr. W. McArthur said that, if we were to maintain a close and intimate connection for the purposes of defense between the colonies and England, it must be made clear by English members that the policy of England was to be a peace policy. The colonists would willingly respond to any call for aid if England were attacked, but they would be quick to see the folly of allowing themselves to be mixed up with quarrels with which they had no concern. They did not care a button about any dynasty or country in Europe except so far as they were themselves affected; and to insure their co-operation our ministers must not act as if they were merely the ministers of their particular part of the Empire. If we did not pay adequate regard to the interests of the whole Empire we should run a risk of the ultimate separation of many of the English-speaking communities of the British Empire. We had lately shamed seriously the loyalty of some colonists by the attitude we had taken on questions affecting their interests, and the results of our indifference and neglect were seen in our present position with regard to Samoa. These islands were in the direct track of mail communication between western North America and New Zealand, and they were the center of a large trade in the Pacific.

English interests in the islands were not to be measured by trade only. To begin with, we discovered the islands, and our men-of war made the charts which rendered the trade safe. The London Missionary Society had been there fifty years, and had established there a training college, from which missionaries were sent to all parts of the Pacific. Seven or eight years ago domestic affairs were in a state of confusion, and Sir Arthur Gordon established the late King Malietoa on the throne. As Her Majesty’s commissioner in the Western Pacific, Sir A. Gordon issued a proclamation in which he said that he had resolved to resume official relations with the party which had been for three years in undisputed possession of the seat of government and supported by a majority of the people. This was followed by a treaty with Malietoa dated August 18, 1879, and by a convention in September, 1879, between Great Britain, Germany, the United States, and Samoa. In 1884 King Malietoa made a treaty with the German Government under protest, that power having for ten years previously made persistent attempts to obtain dominion over the natives of Samoa, and subsequently he sent a petition to the German Emperor, setting forth that the means by which the treaty was accepted were unjust, and protesting against the action of the German agent in Samoa. Following that protest of the Samoan king there was sent through the then governor of New Zealand a petition to Her Majesty the Queen, signed by nearly all the Samoan chiefs, praying for annexation to Great Britain, on the ground, among others, that they were afraid of being forcibly annexed by the Germans. The treaty was not pressed by the German Government, probably in consequence of the remonstrances of the American and British Governments. In 1885, and again in 1886, further attempts were made by Germany to seize the sovereignty of these islands, and each time the attempt was successfully resisted by the British and American representatives. In 1887, however, there arrived a German sqnadron of four or five ships, and the German consul four days later wrote to King Malietoa, complaining that German settlers had been attacked by the natives on the 22d of March of that year, and that from time to time during the previous four years the German plantations had been damaged to the amount of some thousands of dollars a year, and declaring that it was necessary that the Samoan Government should be more severe in the judgments given in the police courts. A heavy demand for compensation was made for the damage to the plantations, without a single item of particulars being given to the Samoan king, while the punishment of offenders had absolutely nothing to do with the Samoan Government, seeing that the cases were dealt with by the [Page 730] consular court. The monstrous demand was made that the sum claimed for the compensation should be paid the next day—a demand which in such a country it was practically impossible to meet. The King wrote, promising an answer in three days, and the reply given by the German commander was that on the next day he landed seven hundred troops from his squadron and issued a proclamation in the name of the Government of Germany, declaring King Ramasese to be King of Samoa. He wanted to know what earthly right the Germans had to declare anybody King of Samoa. It was possible that by this time—August, 1887—we had given mandatory powers to the Germans as regards Samoan affairs, but surely such mandatory powers, if any, did not reach to the extent of allowing Germany to nominate anybody she pleased as King of Samoa. [Hear, hear.]

Sir J. Fergusson pointed out to the honorable member that he did not say we had given the German Government a mandatory power. It was proposed that one of the powers should exercise influence on behalf of the rest, but the proposal was not carried out.

Mr. W. McArthur submitted that that made the case so much the worse, and surely it was a monstrous thing for the English Government to allow such an outrage to take place without a word of remonstrance. And if Germany had no mandatory power, he wished to know why our consul was not supported in the proclamation he then issued to the Samoans. Why was it said to him a month ago in this House that our consul made that proclamation simply because he was not informed of the result of the negotiations between Great Britain and Germany?

Sir J. Fergusson was understood to say that as the honorable member referred to a previous answer of his it would be more convenient that he should remind him of what that answer was. He had said that instructions had been sent to the consul to preserve neutrality in the quarrel between the German Government and Malietoa, but the telegraphic message requiring to be forwarded by vessel from New Zealand did not reach him in time, and he did not receive his instructions till after.

Mr. W. McArthur again thought the explanation made the case worse. If Germany had made up her mind to make an attack on Samoa, did the right honorable baronet mean to say that she only gave the English Government so short notice that they had no time to notify our consul on the subject, and give him his instructions in time? Germany, in this matter, had acted in disregard of our rights and with great disrespect to this country. Kiug Malietoa had placed himself under the protection of the British and American consuls, who promised assistance against the rebel Tamasese. But now the unfortunate King had been deposed by the action of Germany. He had surrendered himself to the Germans, who had actually deported him to the Cameroons, 8,000 miles away, and so far were the English Government from carrying out the undertaking given by our consul that six weeks ago they did not actually know whether the German Government had carried the unfortunate King. But he believed that in fact the whole action of the German Government was the result of agreement between them and our own Government, made at a much earlier date than 1887. In 1886 and the beginning of last year the relations of this country and Germany had become somewhat strained on account of our policy in Egypt, and he supposed that we had made some concession to Germany on this Samoan question to conciliate that power. This was not the first time that the interests of our colonies had been sacrificed to our foreign policy at home. The references in the minutes of the conference of last year were obscure and meager, and he did not hear that the delegates were accurately apprised of the facts of German intervention in Samoa. There was a strong feeling on the subject in our Australian colonies, and also in New Zealand. There was ample time to communicate with our consul at Samoa as to the action which he should take and the action which was being taken by the Government. The Germans failed also to communicate their plans to the American Government, and Mr. Secretary Bayard had, in dignified language, protested against the course taken by the German Government. He could tell the committee the secret of Germany’s action in the matter. Certain German traders had largely engaged in operations which had been rightly forbidden in the island, viz, the sale of guns and liquor to the natives. In return they obtained large grants of land from the natives. These grants were not valid without the consent of the King, and, the King rightly refusing his consent, the German Government espoused the cause of the rebel Tamasese, whom they appointed King in place of Malietoa, and to whom they assigned a German prime minister, who, of course, dictated the King’s policy. It was monstrous that the interests of our Australian colonies, who had hitherto been so loyal to the British Crown, should be thus sacrificed to considerations and policy at home. He did not propose to move a reduction of the vote, but desired to enter his earnest protest against the most scandalous violation of an agreement made by a representative of this country with a native monarch against whom we had no cause of complaint. [Hear, hear.]

* * * ** *

Sir J, Fergusson * * * He apprehended it was the sense of the world-wide interests which this country possessed that ought to make Her Majesty’s Government [Page 731] very careful not to make rash declarations and that ought to make them not indifferent to the peace of the world. He would like to know how long we should retain our colonial empire if we had not friends in the world. We went to an enormous expense in making ourselves a military power. We were a member of the comity of nations, and respected other nations too much to make rash declarations about their interests. We were a great power, and we had the sympathies of other nations in maintaining the empire we had inherited. The honorable member for the St. Austell division of Cornwall had referred to the Samoan question, and had said that the colonies ought to be largely consulted in regard to our policy, because they had very large interests involved. The honorable member asked whether the Australian colonies had been consulted. He thought he might say that, generally speaking, the interests of our world-wide empire ought to be our first consideration, but though they should be more prominent in the mind of the Government of this country than the interests of any other country, it would certainly not do to allow any of the colonies to dictate to the Government of this country what their foreign policy should be. [Hear, hear.] He could well believe that there were British subjects in Samoa of the highest standing and respectability who had suffered, and as far as Her Majesty’s Government could control events their interests should not be neglected. By the treaty rights of this country it was intended that the rights of British subjects should be fully protected. The honorable member had referred to a guaranty which he said had been given to Malietoa. Her Majesty’s Government never guarantied any rights to Malietoa. They recognized Malietoa, and he bound himself to govern in conformity with the principles of good government, but no agreement was entered into with him by Her Majesty’s Government to protect him against any other government. He was sure the House would recognize that it was not proper for Her Majesty’s Government to comment in the house on the conduct of another government. The German Government had a quarrel with Malietoa. They considered the German power had been insulted on a certain occasion, he believed the Emperor’s birthday, by subjects of Malietoa, and they demanded a complete apology and redress in the form of compensation for outrages committed on German subjects. There was nothing in any treaty made by Her Majesty’s Government with Malietoa which made it incumbent on them to protect him against Germany.

Mr. McArthur said that what he complained of was that the Government entered into a convention not only with Malietoa but with the United States and Germany also.

Sir J. Fergusson said that those conventions were for the good government of Samoa and the safety of Europeans in that country. Then the honorable member complained that there was some sort of derogation from the dignity of Her Majesty’s Government in their not receiving a intimation of the intention of the German Government to require reparation from Malietoa in time to communicate with their consuls, but he thought it would be manifest to the House that if acts of war were justifiable it was impossible for a government who contemplated them to wait until they had warned all their friends that they found it necessary to undertake them before they commenced operations. ‘He did not know that there was anything that he could add on this subject. All he could say was that Her Majesty’s Government would never shrink from any duty that was imposed upon them, and he trusted that they would never be slow to fulfill their engagements in any part of the world where they really existed in a manner that befitted the Government of a great power. [Hear, hear.]

Mr. Bryce thought the committee would receive with satisfaction the assurance of the right honorable gentleman that the engagements and liabilities of Her Majesty’s Government among European powers were strictly limited to engagements already known to Parliament.

Sir J. Fergusson. The words I used to-night were precisely the same that I used on two previous occasions. [Hear, hear.]

Mr. Bryce said that, although the right honorable gentleman used some similar words on a former occasion, he had qualified those words by the context, and he thought they had obtained a somewhat stronger declaration that night than they had yet had from the right honorable gentleman, Taking the case as it was presented by his honorable friend, and taking the answer of the right honorable gentleman opposite, he certainly did think that the Government had played a sorry part in Samoa. [Hear, hear.] It seemed to him that Malietoa had been harshly treated and that Her Majesty’s Government had not played a very dignified part in the matter. No doubir there was a very good reason why the Government should not remonstrate with Germany, even if they thought the action of Germany somewhat harsh. It would be easy for Germany to retort that Her Majesty’s Government had not given proper treatment to King Ja Ja. [Hear, hear.] He would not go into earlier matters, nor would he consider how far Ja Ja had kept the terms of the treaty, although a good case might be made out on that point, because the one person in England who might be taken as knowing the facts of the case was of opinion that the King had been hardly [Page 732] dealt with, but be submitted that, unless some better defense could be made of the treatment of King Ja Ja than that which they had heard from the under secretary for foreign affairs, the committee must conclude that the fairness and consideration in dealing with native races, which ought to characterize this country, had on this occasion not been observed, and that the great power which the Government exercised had been violated and disgraced. [Hear, hear.] He hoped that the opinion of the committee on this subject would be strongly expressed, and expressed in such a way that the Government would be induced to reconsider the case of King Ja Ja and give him justice. [Hear, hear.]

Dr. Clark observed that it was unfair, when the judge appointed by the Government to consider this case had decided that King Ja Ja was not guilty, that the under secretary for foreign affairs should come down and repeat the charge. [Hear, hear.] The fact was that we had sacrificed Australian for European interests. [Hear, hear.]

Sir R. Fowler, while believing that no very favorable opinion had been entertained by previous governments of King Ja Ja, thought that that petty potentate had been very harshly treated by Vice-Consul Johnson. [Hear, hear.] After all, King Ja Ja had been a faithful ally of the Brithish Government, and he trusted that when his case came to be further considered he would be leniently dealt with. [Hear, hear.] He did not think, however, that a case had been made out that would justify the committee in refusing to sanction the payment of Vice-Consul Johnson’s salary. [Hear, hear.]

Mr. Heaton thought that the action of England in the scramble that was taking place for the islands of the Pacific would not appear in a favorable light in history. Every step which we had taken with regard to those islands had been taken without our having consulted the Australian Government, and against the wishes of our colonies. Unless we determine to alter our course of action we should very soon have to part company with our Australian colonies.

Mr. Anderson, in order to afford those members of the committee who objected to the course which had been adopted with regard to King Ja Ja an opportunity of expressing their views on the subject, moved the reduction of the vote by the sum of £1,000.

The committee divided, and the numbers were: For the reduction of the vote, 62; against, 111 , majority, 49.