Mr. Herbert to Mr. Foster.

Sir: In accordance with instructions which I have received from the Marquis of Salisbury, I have the honor to transmit copy of a letter from Mr. Thomas Maben, stating the reasons which have led him to accept the appointment of secretary of state in the Samoan Government.

I have, etc.,

Michael H. Herbert.

Mr. Maben to the Marquis of Salisbury.

My Lord: I beg most respectfully to be allowed to address your lordship unofficially on the matter of my taking the position of secretary of state in the Samoan Government. I presume that our consul here has reported the fact by the same mail that takes this. I felt that, as a British subject, I might be permitted to address a letter to your lordship, as well and shortly as I could, stating my reasons for accepting the appointment in the present unsettled state of the country.

It seems that the King, the chief justice, and the president of the municipal council had come to the conclusion that it had become necessary to appoint some one [Page 542] with local knowledge to administer the internal affairs of the country, and their choice fell upon me.

I felt considerable hesitation in accepting the position offered me, because I saw that the time had gone past when a vigorous administrative policy might have welded the different factions in Samoa together, and caused the laws to be obeyed and the taxes paid by all the people on these islands. On the other hand, I thought that as I have held the post of surveyor-general for some time past I might accept the new appointment in addition to the one already held, and if I could succeed in bringing about a better state of affairs, well and good; if I failed, the country would be in a no worse position than when I took office. I am very anxious to make this clear, that the office was not of my asking, and that I am not at all sanguine that I can now effect much improvement in the condition of the country, because I think that the opportunity for vigorous action was lost when the chief justice arrived here.

Had the whole machinery of government been reorganized and carried into effect at that time, I feel sure that the Mataafa opposition would not now be in existence. The Samoans at that time fully believed that the provisions of the final act of the treaty of Berlin would be strictly enforced by the three powers, if necessary. Now they hold a different opinion, and they feel that, with a strong faction in opposition to the Government, they can set the law at defiance.

To attempt to enforce the payment of taxes from the opposition party, without the aid of outside pressure, would, I feel certain, lead to civil war. This the Governments are trying all they can to avoid by not taking aggressive action.

The last year’s taxes are three months overdue, and the attempt is only now being made to collect them. The people are naturally averse to paying taxes, and if, by joining the faction opposed to the Government, they can seeure exemption, they are very likely to take that course.

I will not trouble your lordship with further details, as I have no doubt you are kept well informed from here. My only object in writing is to place the facts in connection with my appointment before your lordship, so that you may judge of the circumstances surrounding the position at the present time.

I have, etc.,

Thomas Maben.