Mr. Day to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
Washington, July 18, 1898.
Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 12th instant, in which, with reference to the return of the exiled chief, Mataafa, and the unsatisfactory condition of the health of the present king, Malietoa, whose early demise may reasonably be [Page 608] expected, “it is suggested that the treaty powers should consider the arrangements to be made for the selection of a successor.” You accordingly inquire, at the instance of Her Majesty’s Government, what view the Government of the United States takes of the matter.
The inquiry of Her Majesty’s Government is evidently prompted by a desire to insure, if possible, the permanent peace of the Samoan Islands in case of the death of King Malietoa. In this aspect of the case the Government of the United States is equally solicitous and is willing to exert its influence by all legal and equitable means.
It is desirable and necessary, however, in this connection to refer to the provisions of the general act providing for the neutrality and autonomous government of the Samoan Islands, concluded at Berlin June 14, 1889.
Article I of the general act, after declaring that those islands are neutral territory, in which the citizens and subjects of the three signatory powers have equal rights of residence, trade, and personal protection, says:
The three powers recognize the independence of the Samoan government and the free right of the natives to elect their chief or king and choose their form of government according to their own laws and customs. Neither of the powers shall exercise any separate control over the islands or the government thereof.
The same article defines the status of Malietoa Laupepa, who was recognized by the three powers as king, and adds:
His successor shall be duly elected according to the laws and customs of Samoa.
Nowhere in the general act is authority conferred upon the treaty powers to appoint or agree upon a successor to King Malietoa. The right of the natives to elect their chief or king according to their own laws and customs is clearly conceded and recognized.
When they shall have done this, by reason of the death of Malietoa, the Government of the United States will be most willing to cooperate with the interested powers to recognize the natives’ choice and to do all that lies in its power to strengthen his hands for the preservation of peace and the maintenance of good government in the Samoan Islands.
I have, etc.,