Mr. Bayard to Mr. Gresham.

No. 25.]

Sir: Referring to Mr. Foster’s instruction numbered 988, of December 7, to Mr. White’s dispatch of January 4, numbered 885; and to Mr. Lincoln’s dispatch, No. 910, of February 7 last, I have the honor to inclose herewith the copy of a note which I have received from the Earl of Rosebery, transmitting a report which has been received from Capt. Davis of Her Majesty’s ship Royalist, relative to the charges made against him by Mr. Kustel.

Copies of this report and of the petition referred to in Lord Rosebery’s note are also inclosed.

It is a cause of regret that a claim so groundless should ever have been presented.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 25.]

Lord Rosebery to Mr. Bayard.

Sir: With reference to my note to Mr. Lincoln of the 1st of February last, I have the honor to transmit to your excellency, herewith, copy of a report which has been received from Capt. Davis, R. N., explaining the action taken by him during his recent cruise in the Gilbert Islands, and replying to the charges which have been made against him by Mr. Kustel.

[Page 323]

I inclose, also, copy of the petition alluded to in the report, as having been presented to Capt. Davis by traders at Butaritari, and which bears the signatures of four citizens of the United States, including that of Mr. Kustel himself.

I feel confident that upon a perusal of these papers the U. S. Government will share the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, that the explanation offered by Capt. Davis is perfectly satisfactory, and that there is no ground on which to take exception to his proceedings as regards Mr. Kustel.

I have, etc.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 25.]

A. Wilson et al. to Capt. Davis.

My Dear Sir: We, the undersigned, respectfully petition you, now that the Gilbert Islands are under the protection of the British Government, to further promote the welfare of this and other islands by using your influence with the proper authorities to have appointed here a resident to take charge of the necessary alterations for the better government of these islands.

We have all reason to believe that after your departure the King may prove himself quite unfit to act in accordance with your instructions and to correct and carry out the many changes that are necessary.

We, therefore, beg you, if possible, to leave with us one with some authority to whom we may refer. If that can not be done we take the liberty of asking you to kindly further our wishes by doing what you can to have matters kept in better order. We might venture to suggest that as we pay so high a tax to the King for which we receive little or no benefit it would not be inconsistent with such a state of things to pay at least half of the tax to any one resident here representing Her Majesty’s Government.

Hoping that we have not presumed too much in asking these favors,

We have, etc.,

  • A. Wilson,
  • C. Wan-San,
  • O. Thomsen,
  • Ben, his x mark,
  • J. F. Luttrell.
  • G. Tucht-feldt,
  • W. M. McMillan,
  • A. G. Kustel,
  • C. H. Baer,
[Inclosure 3 in No. 25.]

Gilbert Islands, 1892. Further particulars connected with complaint against Albert Kustel, an American trader.

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of admiralty letter M, 872, No.28, of 2d February, 1893, with your minutes thereon.

Having in my letter No. 24, of 1892, which was forwarded to the commander in chief at Sidney on 9th September, fully reported the details of this case, I can only suppose my complaint had not reached the U. S. Government at the time of their communicating what appears to be a charge against me brought by Kustel instead of what I might have expected, a reply to my complaint, made some months previously, against that man.

I would here mention that during my cruise in Gilbert Group I listened to and endeavored to settle amicably the complaints of traders, irrespective of nationality, and natives alike—no matter of how long standing—knowing how seldom men-of-war visited these islands. I even went so far as to aid traders to recover their debts from the natives.

I beg to make the following remarks upon Albert Kustel’s complaint, dated Butaritari, June 11 (probably meant for July 11, as my interview with him took place on 8 July), (a.) My reason for requesting Kustel to meet me at the King’s house instead of on board the Royalist was especially to avoid any semblance of a trial being attached to my interview with him, concerning the complaint made by the native of Tarawa and reported in writing by the Rev. Mr. A. C. Walkup, American missionary in charge of Gilbert Island work.

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(b) On meeting Kustel at the King’s house, as he states, I read the complaint, also the evidence of Peter Grant, a citizen of the United States (not a Swede, as stated by Kustei). He acknowledged the accounts to be correct, with the exception named—and to Grant’s evidence—that he did not swear, as he never made use of bad language. I distinctly told Kustel that, though this had occurred before the British flag was hoisted, it had been reported after, and that I was anxious to give him the opportunity of settling the affair amicably; and, as he acknowledged committing the assault, I asked what reparation he proposed to make. He asked what I meant, and I suggested that he should make a monetary compensation. He demurred and then offered $10. I told him that I did not consider that sufficient compensation for pointing a loaded revolver at a man and threatening to shoot him. He said he did not intend to shoot him. I replied I did not believe he did. I said the native had acted very rightly in reporting the case to a man-of-war, and not taking the law into his own hands; and that, had this assault occurred in the Solomon Islands, where I had recently been, the natives would probably have murdered him. I also reminded him that all whites living on these islands were doing so on the sufferance of the natives. He refused to make further compensation and requested it might be referred to his Government, which I said should be done. I then read him a copy of a letter I had left at Tarawa for him on June 8 (an inclosure to my letter No. 24, No. 3, p. 114, printed report).

(c) Throughout this interview I neither swore nor made use of blasphemous language of any description. Long experience in the islands has shown me the necessity of having a witness always present when making inquiries or interviewing traders. I was particularly careful on this occasion, Mr. Grant, assistant paymaster of this ship, being present.

(d) I made no reference to his articles, did not comment on his authority or power to retain his crew, or make any reference to English law concerning the same. This latter must appear improbable, as the assault in question occurred some months previous to the assumption of the British protectorate.

(e) I again emphatically deny having made this a trial, or allowed Kustel to think it was one.

(f) The testimony of witnesses attached to my letter No. 246 of 1892, and additional evidence inclosed (which appears in my letter No. 26 of 1892, “Trial of Eno”) will, I think, conclusively prove the falsity of the statement sworn to by Kustel.

(g) Whilst of opinion that Tarawa would be benefited by Kustel’s absence therefrom, I made no allusion whatever to him concerning it; and if, as he states, the Germans or any other traders are seeking to control the trade of the island by driving him from it, I am not at all surprised, as the opinion held by all the traders was that the civil war, which was in progress at the time of my visit, was only prolonged by the sale of arms, ammunition, and liquor to the king’s party by Kustel; this, of course, was within his rights, but the same applied to all other traders on the island, except British; but they, seeing the disastrous effect to trade caused by their sale, agreed to forego this privilege.

In conclusion, I emphatically state that not only had I no reason to be hostile to American subjects in the group, but that my action was the reverse, as exemplified in my letter, dated 8th September, 1892, to the consul for the United States of America at Sydney, and in his reply (inclosure to Royalist’s letter No. 30 of 1892, p. 146, printed report); also in the dealings I had with many other citizens of the United States, traders in the group, involving questions between them and the natives, and vice versa—and whom I feel confident do not entertain the same opinion of my actions or views regarding United States citizens as held by Kustel.

With reference to the petition presented to me by traders at Butaritari (vide Royalist’s letter No. 36 of 1892) I would draw attention to the fact that of the nine signatures attached thereto four, including A. J. Kustel’s, are those of citizens of the United States.

I shall be glad to be informed that the unjust and untruthful aspersions cast on my conduct by Kustel and backed up in the strongest terms by the U. S. legation are not shared in by Her Majesty’s Government.

I have, etc.,

Ed. H. M. Davis,
[Inclosure 4 in No. 25.]

Deposition of Jacob.

Jacob, a native of Tarawa, having been cautioned to speak the truth, said:

About one year and a half ago, I wanted to work on board Kustel’s schooner for $10 a month pay. Kustel said he would give me $5. I said I would not go for that [Page 325] amount. Kustel caught hold of my hand and forced me to sign a paper, saying I would work on hoard the schooner for one month at $5. I went and stopped one week. I told Kustel I wanted to go down the coast and get my clothes, and I went, telling him I would return; hut that I did not do. I stopped at my place for about a week, when one night I saw Eno, a Honolulu native, go to my house and burn it down. I was too much afraid to speak to him. Tern Macke also saw Eno burn my house down. I have not spoken to Kustel or Eno about it—being afraid to. I did not tell the king about it.

Jacob (his x mark).

S. Beaumont, Lieutenant.

Tekiatowa, Interpreter.

Duncan S. O. Grant, Assistant Paymaster.

Before me:

Ed. H. M. Davis,
Captain and Deputy Commissioner.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 25.]

Deposition of Tern Macke.

Tem Macke, a native of Tarawa, having been cautioned to speak the truth, said: I know Jacob. About one year and a half ago I saw Eno burn Jacob’s house down.

It was done because Jacob did not work in Kustel’s ship, I think. I was by myself at the time. I did not tell anyone about what I saw.

Tem Macke.

S. Beaumont, Lieutenant.

Tekiatowa, Interpreter.

Duncan S. O. Grant, Assistant Paymaster.

Before me:

Ed. H. M. Davis,
Captain and Deputy Commissioner.
[Extract from minutes of a court held for trial of Eno, a British subject (native of Raratonga), trading for Albert Kustel, an American subject.—Ed. H. M. Davis, captain.]

* * * * * * *

4. For that the said Eno did burn down the house of Jacob, a native of Tarawa.

* * * * * * *

The statements of the natives referred to in the charges having been read, the accused was asked whether he admitted or denied the truth of them. He admitted the truth of the charges, but said * * * with reference to the 4th charge, he was ordered to do it by Kustel.

Ed. H. M. Davis,
Captain H. M. S. Royalist, and one of Her Majesty’s Deputy Commissioners.