Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President, Transmitted to Congress, December 4, 1893
Mr. Snowden to Mr. Foster.
Madrid , January 30, 1893 . (Received February 15.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose, for the information and files of the Department, the chronological statement of events occurring in the island of Ponapé, from 1852 to 1890, which was read at my interview with the Marquis of Vega de Armijo on 24th instant, and should have been inclosed in my No. 70.
I have, etc.,
Chronological statement of events occurring in the island of Ponapé, one of the eastern Carolines, from its first occupation by the American missionaries in 1852 until they were forced to leave in November, 1890, on account of the persecutions to which they were subjected.
In 1852 an American Protestant mission was established at Ponape Island under the auspices of the American board of commissioners of foreign missions This [Page 566] organization embraces many of the Protestant churches throughout the whole of the United States.
Ponape was then unoccupied by any civilized nation, being peopled by savages.
In 1853 the smallpox raged in Ponapé and adjacent islands, 5,000 deaths occurring before the disease was checked. During the prevalence of this scourge the mission successfully introduced vaccination, which saved the islands from complete depopulation.
In 1854 the Rev. Mr. Doane arrived and took charge of the mission.
From this time forth the work of civilizing and Christianizing the native tribes was earnestly and successfully prosecuted.
No attempt was made, however, to interfere with the government of the island by its tribal chiefs, the policy of the missionaries being at all times confined to educating the tribes and elevating the minds and conscience of the people.
In 1860 the first converts to Christianity were made, and the work of preparing some of them to act as teachers among the tribes was begun.
About this time a written language of the Ponapeian dialect was invented and taught in the native schools by the missionaries.
In 1865 the mission was moved from Kiti, in the southwest part of the island, to Ona, on the east coast, where it remained peacefully and earnestly, carrying on its sacred work for a quarter of a century until forced to leave in 1890.
In 1874 the Reverend Mr. Rand arrived to be Mr. Doane’s colleague. In this year native converts previously prepared were, for the first lime, sent out from the mission to teach among the tribes.
In 1882 Miss Fletcher arrived and established schools for native girls, where they could live for several years at a time, learning to read and write, to sew and cook, and becoming skilled in all domestic work.
Thirty years had now elapsed since the arrival of the missionaries in the island, and their beneficent work was manifest in the results.
A large proportion of the natives had joined the Christian religion, and the entire population were rapidly adapting themselves to peaceful pursuits.
In 1885 Miss Palmer a young girl, who was sent to the island as an assistant to Miss Fletcher, arrived and began her work of teaching the native girls.
In 1885 a German war vessel hoisted the German flag in the Caroline Islands, claiming sovereignty in that archipelago. This being disputed by Spain, the question was referred to His Holiness the Pope of Rome, as arbitrator, who decided that to Spain belonged the sovereignty of the Caroline Islands.
In 1885 the minister of the United States at Madrid, under instructions from his Government, inquired what would be the status of the American missionaries when those islands should be occupied by Spain, and whether they would be protected in their work or whether they would encounter opposition.
In reply to this inquiry the minister of state of Spain, on the 15th October, 1885, informed the U. S. legation at Madrid that “nothing was further from the intention of the Spanish Government than to seek to hamper or embarrass in the slightest degree the work of Christianizing and teaching to which the chargé d’affaires (of the United States) had referred, it being determined, on the contrary, to favor and promote such beneficent results to the extent of its ability.”
Replying to further inquiry from the U. S. Government, Mr. Valera, Spanish minister in Washington, on the 12th March, 1886, in a note to Secretary of State Bayard, alluded to and confirmed the promises of his Government of October 15, 1885.
Again, in respect to the mission lands and other rights acquired before Spanish occupation, Mr. Muruaga, Spanish minister to the United States, on the 4th of May, 1886, in a letter to Secretary of State Bayard, writes as follows:
“Concerning the treatment which American citizens are to receive in the Caroline and Pelew islands, Her Majesty the Queen Regent, in conformity with the resolution of her ministers in council, has been pleased to direct the undersigned to inform the honorable secretary of state that the treatment which American citizens are to receive in those archipelagoes will not be less favorable than that accorded to Germans and other foreigners.”
The rights thus accorded to American citizens, identical with those of Germans, were, as per article 4 of Spain’s treaty with Germany, as follows:
“All their acquired rights of property and land shall be preserved.”
It will thus be seen that before the occupation of Ponapé Island by the Spanish Government in July, 1886, repeated assurances had been given in the most solemn manner as to the full protection of the missionaries and their rights in the island—not only as to their religious and educational work in which they had been engaged for thirty-five years, but also as to their persons and property.
In 1886 a Spanish war vessel hoisted the Spanish flag in the Carolines and assumed the sovereignty of that archipelago.
In March, 1887, a Spanish transport arrived, bringing a governor, 6 priests, and 75 soldiers. The seat of Government was established at Jamestown harbor, on the [Page 567] north side of the island of Ponapé. In making this establishment, certain lands belonging to the American Protestant mission were taken by the governor for the use of his headquarters, with the intent to occupy these lands permanently with houses, barracks, and other buildings and inclosures. The American mission held the proper deeds for these lands, its right and title to them having been fairly and justly required from the native chiefs before the occupation of the island by Spain.
The Rev. Mr. Doane having notified the governor that the American mission owned these lands, and having submitted to the governor’s inspection the “deeds” and other proofs of his statement, and having thereafter failed to receive any satisfactory reply, wrote to the governor a respectful letter, reminding him of the pledges made by Spain to the United States concerning the acquired rights of American citizens, and protesting against being deprived of this property without compensation and without due consideration for the rights of the mission.
In this letter Mr. Doane made use of the word “arbitrary,” in speaking of the governor’s acts, without any intention to give offense. The governor, however, declared the use of the word to be an act of disrespect to him, and on April 14, 1887, he ordered Mr. Doane to be arrested and imprisoned on board the transport, and later he sent him a prisoner to Manila for trial by the governor-general there.
Thus, after thirty-five years of arduous and faithful labor, this worthy and then venerable clergyman was removed by force 3,000 miles from the scene of his life’s work, and subjected to long delays and fatiguing examinations and trials.
That these persecutions, injurious to his health and involving at his advanced age fatal consequences, were without justification, is a fact which subsequent events clearly established.
In July, 1887, three months after Mr. Doane’s deportation from the island, the natives rose and killed the governor (Señor Posadillo) and many of the Spanish troops.
The discontent which led to this sad event was a natural result of the domination of a civilized nation over tribes hitherto accustomed to a life of perfect freedom. They disliked the idea of taxes, were unwilling to labor for the Government without pay, and especially feared being conscripted to serve as soldiers in the Spanish colonial army.
In September, 1887, the Rev. Mr. Doane was acquitted by the governor-general at Manila and was sent back with honor to Ponapé, being entirely exonerated from all blame. His health, however, was broken, and he never entirely recovered from this shock to his aged system.
In November, 1887, Governor Cadarso assumed the government of the Eastern Carolines, with his headquarters at Jamestown Harbor, Ponapé Island.
In January, 1889, the Rev. Mr. Rand departed for the United States on a long leave.
In February, 1890, the Rev. Mr. Doane departed for Honolulu on sick leave, his health not having been restored.
In May, 1890, Mr. Doane died in Honolulu. In the same month a force of one lieutenant, one priest, one assistant, and 30 soldiers left the headquarters at Jamestown Harbor, proceeded to Ona, and there began the building of a Catholic church and priest’s house on the land which belonged to and had been occupied by the American Protestant mission for a quarter of a century. They here selected a site for the Catholic church, in immediate proximity to the Protestant mission church.
Ona is 7 miles distant from Jamestown Harbor. A rough and mountainous country intervenes, covered with almost impassable forests.
In fact, the two localities are completely separated, and there appears to have been no reason for the establishment of a Catholic mission at Ona, except the fact that the American mission was already there, as the whole island was open to their occupancy.
Attention is now invited to the fact that at this time the Rev. Mr. Doane had been absent from the island for five months, and had just died in Honolulu; and further, that his colleague, the Rev. Mr. Rand, had been absent in a far distant part of the world for one year and five months. There had been for a long time past only Miss Palmer and Miss Fletcher at the Ponapé mission, and at this time Miss Palmer was then alone with her native girls.
She was teaching these girls to read and sew; she knew nothing of political affairs in the island. She had no power nor influence among the natives. Such was the state of affairs when on June 25, 1890, the natives who were working at the foundation of the Catholic church at Ona, embittered by the enforced and unpaid labor demanded of them and by the insults and menaces of the soldiers that guarded them, rose in the night and massacred the whole force at Ona, except 6 soldiers, the priest, and his assistant.
These persons were saved by Miss Palmer and the native teachers, who hid them in the buildings of the American mission until an opportunity occurred to help them to escape. This was done by Miss Palmer at the risk of her life, for the rebel tribes were enraged at the escape of the Spaniards and suspected Miss Palmer of giving them shelter.[Page 568]
During June and July, 1890, the native rebels held their position at Ona. Spanish troops attacked them without success and, with further loss of men, Governor Cadarso sent to Manila for reinforcements. Miss Palmer, alarmed by the threatening attitude of the Spanish troops and their menaces, wrote to the U. S. consul at Manila, who informed Rear-Admiral Belknap, U. S. Navy, at Yokohama, and the latter ordered the war vessel Alliance to proceed to Ponapé.
Miss Palmer labored continually during this period to persuade the rebels to submit loyally to Spanish authority, but without effect.
It should here be noted that the worst troubles and disturbances in Ponapé occurred during the absence of the missionaries from the island, their presence and influence with the natives having always worked against rebellion and disorder and in favor of peace and loyalty to Spain.
It is evident that the Spanish authorities also held this opinion of the missionaries, for when on the 20th of August, 1890, the Rev. Mr. Rand returned after nineteen months’ absence, he was at once employed by Governor Cadarso to act as intermediary between himself and the rebels, and during the period from August 20 to September 10 he was continually passing between the governor and the rebels, carrying letters and messages and using the most earnest efforts to prevent further bloodshed and to induce the rebels to submit to the governor’s authority.
On September 1, 1890, three war vessels arrived from Manila with a reinforcement of 600 soldiers.
On September 11 some of the mission, principally ladies, who had arrived August 20 in the vessel with Mr. Rand, sailed for Strongs Island to await cessation of hostilities. On that date, September 11, Mr. Rand, despairing of peace and fearing another battle at Ona obtained permission of the governor to take the remaining people of the mission from Ona to Kiti, in the southwest part of the island.
About this time Governor Cadarso began, without reason or evidence, to accuse Mr. Rand of treachery to Spain, of assisting rebels with military advice, and of inciting them to rebellion, and of supporting the rebellion in various ways.
On September 12, 1890, Governor Cadarso proclaimed martial law in Ponapé.
On September 13, 1890, the Spanish ships began shelling the villages of the Metalamin tribe of rebels south of Ona.
On this day occurred the death of the colonel commanding the troops and of other officers and men. On September 19, 1890, the Spanish war ships and the transport anchored at Ona.
On September 20, 1890, 300 troops landed at Ona, dispersed the rebels, and subsequently burned the property of the American mission there.
On October 1, 1890, Miss Palmer, fearing for her life, requested the governor’s permission to leave the island, which was refused by him.
On October 11, 1890, the governor forbade the missionaries to hold any meetings with any of the natives, rebel or loyal, whether for religious, educational, or other purposes, thus stopping all the mission education and the church services.
On October 15, 1890, the U. S. S. Alliance arrived. Governor Cadarso assured her captain that the American mission was the cause of the whole rebellion. The captain of the Alliance demanded suspension of any action against the missionaries until he could investigate the affair. He examined the case thoroughly from all sides, native, foreign, missionary, and Spanish. He found the charges against the missionaries absolutely without foundation, they having taken no part except to urge the natives to submit to Spanish authority.
The captain of the Alliance informed the governor on October 23, 1890, of the missionaries’ entire innocence, and called his attention to the destruction of their property and to other persecutions. He reminded the governor of Spain’s former pledges to the Government of the United States of protection to United States citizens in Ponapé, and he made formal inquiry as to when these persecutions were to cease.
The governor replied, reiterating charges against the missionaries, but giving no proof, while the captain of the Alliance offered unquestioned proof of their innocence.
Considering the governor’s answer to be entirely unsatisfactory, the captain of the Alliance, on October 30, 1890, informed the governor officially that he would not permit these missionaries to remain any longer in a position unworthy of citizens of the United States, and would therefore remove them from the Island of Ponapé, waiving none of their claims or rights, and would refer the matter to his Government.
On November 3, 1890, the Alliance sailed from Jamestown Harbor for Kiti, in the southwest of the island, and then embarked the missionaries and their followers.
On November 4, 1890, the Alliance sailed for Strongs Islands, landed the missionaries there, and having seen as far as possible to their comfort, sailed on November 10, 1890, for Nagasaki, Japan.
Thus closes a chapter of events the perusal of which must be as painful to His Majesty’s Government, as the events themselves have been distressing to the Government and people of the United States.