Mr. von Mumm to Mr. Blaine.


Mr. Secretary of State: In accordance with my instructions, I have the honor to transmit to you a memorandum concerning the recent occurrences in Apia, with the request that you will be good enough to let me have an expression of opinion on the part of the Government of the United States in regard to the reception of this communication.

I avail myself, etc.,

A. von Mumm.
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[Inclosure in place of an oral communication.—Translation.]

The Imperial Government has noted with satisfaction the contents of the communication which was addressed to the Chief Mataafa by the American consul, Gen. Sewall, in the interests of the rule of Malietoa. In the present complications between the president of the municipal council and the Samoan Government, however, the American representative, Mr. Blacklock, has, through his approval of the Government decree concerning the exclusion of German money in the payments of duties and taxes (which is in express contravention of the provisions of the Samoan act) on his part, contributed to diminish the authority of Freiherr von Senfft, and to increase the difficulty of his performance of the duties of his office.

The Imperial Government expresses the hope that the Government of the United States does not approve the position assumed by its representative in this matter, and that it will instruct Mr. Blacklock in the future to support Freiherr von Senfft in the performance of the duties of his difficult office.

The Imperil Government rests upon the Samoan act, and is ready to carry it out with entire loyalty and in harmony with the other treaty powers; it relies upon their cooperation, as only in this way can civil war in Samoa be avoided. In the present case it only needs a similar instruction to the three consuls to the effect that German money shall not be excluded, in contravention of the treaty, and that Freiherr von Senfft should receive the support of the consular representatives in his efforts to maintain treaty rights and especially to carry out the Samoan act.


Relative to the currency question in Samoa and the return of Freiherr Senfft von Pilsach.

During the provisional administration of the custom duties and taxes at Apia a decree of the consular board of last year established the following equivalence between the other kinds of money receivable for payments of customs duties and taxes, by virtue of section 4 of Article vi of the Samoan act, and the denominations, dollars, and cents used in the said section: £1=$4.86; 20 marks = $4.76; and $7 Chilean currency=$5 American.

In the session of the municipal council of June 3 of the present year the latter, on the motion of the president, resolved, in order to simplify the accounts, to petition the Samoan Government to establish the equivalence of the pound sterling and the 20-mark piece with the $5-piece of American money; and to receive in payment of customs, duties and taxes exclusively English and Chilian silver money, the latter, however, in view of the considerable fluctuations in value, only until November 15 of next year. The consular board, to which the resolution was presented for approval, decided in favor of delay in the treatment of this matter. Nevertheless, the municipal council presented the said resolution to the chief justice for his decision, in accordance with the Samoan act, and stated in the accompanying memorandum that the members of the council were not altogether unanimous on the subject, but that they agreed that the receipt of coins of different value was not in the interest of the inhabitants. At the same time the chief justice was requested to draft propositions in regard to this matter and to lay them before the King for his approval.

Mr. Cedercrantz declined to do this, but left it for the judgment of the municipal council to present the said resolution in the form of a petition to the Government. This was done on July 24, and Freiherr von Senfft on this occasion advised the King to approve the resolution with an amendment that American silver should likewise be receivable for customs duties and taxes. The King expressed his approval, but desired’ to submit the matter for the decision of the faipule (native council), which, in his opinion, would make no objections.

On July 27, Freiherr von Senfft received from the King the surprising information that the faipule had resolved that from November 15 of this year only English and American gold and silver coins should be receivable for payments to the public offices. Freiherr Senfft von Pilsach gave no information of this resolution of the faipule to the municipal council, inasmuch as he proceeded on the supposition that the said resolution of the Government had no validity, since no opportunity had been given to him, as adviser of the King, to call his attention to the results of this resolution. In the session of the municipal council, which took place on the following day, the president, answering a member’s inquiry on the subject, declared that a definitive regulation of the money question had so far not been made.

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At the instance of the German memher of the municipal council, Grevesmuhl, who had entered into private relations with Malietoa, and who was regarded as an opponent of the president, the King sent to Freiherr von Senfft on August 1 a formal approval of the resolution of the Government, communicated on July 27, which Herr von Pilsach again withheld from the municipal council on the ground mentioned. As a result of the remonstrances of Herr von Pilsach, who pointed out to the King that the Government was, owing to Article vi of the act, not justified, without the consent of the treaty powers, in issuing a decree of this character, which alone excluded the German money, Malietoa declared himself ready to urge the faipule to withdraw the resolution in question. In a session of the consular hoard Freiherr von Senfft explained the state of the case, and declared that the decree of the Government was not valid in view of section 4 of Article vi of the Samoan act, owing to the exclusion of German money. The German and the English representatives adopted this view, while Mr. Blacklock, the American consul, made no declaration of his views.

Despite the efforts of Freiherr von Senfft to induce the faipule to withdraw its decree, it was not done. Malietoa informed the three consuls of this in an identic note, and at the same time inquired whether the declarations of the president of the municipal council in regard to the provisions of the Somoan act, which were opposed to the decree, were correct. The three consuls answered this note separately, and only the German declared that the Government’s resolution was in violation of the provisions of the Somoan act. The English consul answered evasively that he was not at present prepared to object to the resolution, and the American approved the resolution.

On August 12 the municipal council resolved that the valuation established by the three consuls in the year 1890 (which was mentioned in the beginning) for payments into the municipal treasury should again come into force, but that payments in silver should be allowed only to an amount of $10. The consular board amended this resolution to read that German and English silver should not be received at all, but that American and Chilean silver should be received to any amount. The municipal council declared its acceptance of this, Freiherr von Senfft voting in the negative, and the consuls informed the King of this resolution, in a joint note dated August 25. Freiherr von Senfft considers this direct communication between the consuls and the King an infringement upon his rights, and on the 5th of the previous month sent to the King his resignation as president of the municipal council, stating that he would remain in service until arrangements had been made for the further management of his office.

This partial resignation is of no effect until it receives the approval of the authority which nominated Freiherr von Senfft as president of the municipal council. The nomination was made by the imperial chancellor, in virtue of an understanding with the treaty powers, and the chancellor regards it as desirable, in the interest of peace and quiet in the Somoan Islands, that Freiherr von Senfft should remain at his post.

As grounds for his request to be relieved, Freiherr von Senfft declares that he can not hope that his labors at Apia will prove beneficial, as he does not possess the confidence of the King, who, following irresponsible advisers, has publicly compromised him. He thinks that this would not have been the case if he had received from the representatives of the three treaty powers the support which he was entitled to claim.

When Freiherr von Senfft opposed the resolution of the Samoan Government by which German money was excluded as a medium of payment of customs dues and taxes, he rested solely upon the Samoan act (Art. vi, sec. 4). The Imperial Government asks for no advantages over the other two treaty powers in Samoa, but it must decidedly oppose any infringement of the rights assured by virtue of treaties, as would be the case if German money should be excluded.

The Imperial Government is convinced that if the representatives of the treaty powers pay loyal regard to the provisions of the Samoan act it will be possible to restore peace and order to Samoa. To accomplish this, however, it is above all necessary that the respective representatives should not work against each other, but together in the interests of peace, and in this sense should also support Freiherr von Senfft.

The position of the latter officer must be modified in two particulars. On the one hand, he is mistaken in wishing to deny to the consular court, when unanimous, communication with Malietoa. On the other hand, Freiherr von Pilsach should not regard his relation to the latter as that of a minister to a European sovereign, and should not resign when he thinks that other influences are prevailing with him.

The president of the municipal council must not forget that he owes his appointment to the treaty powers.