Mr. Hay to Sir Julian Pauncefote.

No. 1217.]

Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your notes of September 1 and 28, 1898. In the former you refer to the death of Malietoa, King of Samoa, and say that Her Majesty’s Government is of the opinion that his successor should be elected strictly in accordance with the provisions of Article I of the general act of Berlin of June 24, 1889, and that the return of Mataafa and his exiled companions should be deferred until after the election. In the latter note you repeat this recommendation and ask the views of the Government of the United States upon the subject.

The conclusion of the British Government touching the election of a successor to the recently deceased king coincides with the views expressed in the Department’s note of July 18, 1898, No. 1094.

It is observed, however, that the further suggestion is made in your note of September 1 “that the consuls of the three powers should be instructed by telegraph to submit suggestions relative to the manner of procedure.”

I am disposed to sanction, on the part of the Government of the United States, as a wise and perhaps necessary precaution to insure the peace of Samoa, that the election of Malietoa’s successor should precede the return of Mataafa and followers to Samoa. But I fail to see with what propriety the consuls of the treaty powers could be instructed to “submit suggestions relative to the manner of procedure. “It should be borne in mind, as was pointed out in the Department’s note of July 18 last, that the three powers recognize Samoan independence and “the free right of the natives to elect their chief or king * * * according to their own laws and customs.” Again, Article I declares, referring to Malietoa, “his successor shall be duly elected according to the laws and customs of Samoa.”

It is true the Department is not advised as to the manner and procedure to be followed in the election of a new king, under Samoan laws and customs, but it fails to comprehend the necessity for telegraphic instruction to the consuls, in the sense of your suggestion, since it appears to be a case in which neither power is called upon to interfere beyond what may reasonably be done to conserve the peace of Samoa, should it be threatened by a failure of the natives to exercise their free right to choose their king according to their own laws and customs.

As a matter of interest perhaps it might have been well had the consuls apprised their Governments of the method of native procedure, but in all probability the election will have taken place and the result thereof, including the manner of procedure, will have been reported on by each consul to his Government before such information could now be sought and availed of.

The return of the exiled chiefs is a question to be seriously considered. [Page 611] The assent of this Government for their return was given while yet Malietoa lived. His death, entailing the election of a successor, put an entirely new phase upon the matter. This Government is still of opinion that they should be returned to Samoa, but it believes that all interests would be best conserved, if it be not now too late, by withholding their return until after a new king has been elected and installed.

In this connection, for convenience, reference is made to the Department’s notes of June 25 and July 29, Nos. 1066 and 1110, respectively, respecting the return of these exiled chiefs. This correspondence was promptly brought to the attention of the consul-general of the United States at Apia and two dispatches from Mr. Luther W. Osborn, No. 50 of August 9 and No. 55 of August 31, 1898, treat of this subject.

In the first dispatch he remarks that his colleagues have not received instructions as full as his own, but that the Imperial German consul was in daily expectation of receiving his, and that consequently a joint meeting was temporarily deferred. Mr. Osborn says:

Neither consul has any definite instructions as to the return of the chiefs who are in exile with Mataafa though it is presumed that Her Majesty’s Government consented and that we will be advised by the next mail. Instruction No. 46 was written July 8, which was probably the latest date on which a communication would have reached me by the July boat.

At that time I believe that the British ambassador had cabled to his Government, but no answer had been received. We have thought best that we should take no action before receiving advices that all concur in consenting to the return of all. In that event whatever boat is sent to Jaluit can take the protocols, and if properly signed and agreed to by Mataafa and the other chiefs, the same boat can bring them to Samoa and thus make but a single trip, and this is desirable, as the distance is great.

At that date the only vessel at Samoa was the German Bussard. It was not, however, thought prudent to dispatch her for the exiles in view of the precarious condition of the late King’s health. Again, Mr. Osborn writes:

In view of the possible death of Malietoa, we are somewhat interested in the question of the selection of his successor.

It was agreed to-night that we would meet soon in consultation with the chief justice and endeavor to decide what action should be taken by the consuls in the matter, should any action become necessary.

In the second dispatch Mr. Osborn refers to the fact that the three powers, while agreeing to the return of these chiefs, had not decided as to the means to be adopted to that end. Mr. Osborn adds:

By the last mail from San Francisco the German consul-general received telegraphic instructions that it was agreed that the Bussard should at once proceed to the Marshall Islands and return the exiles, provided they should sign the protocols as to future conduct, substantially as heretofore agreed upon by the powers. As these exiles are in German territory, I suppose this arrangement to be the only one that could be made. Owing to the death of Malietoa the protocols had to be changed or modified to conform to changed conditions, and this was accordingly done by the agreement of all parties, and I send herewith, as inclosure 1, the protocol designed for Mataafa and, as No. 2, the protocol prepared for the other chiefs.

The Bussard started for the islands at 8.30 on August 29, and it is supposed that it will return in about twenty-five days, as the distance is about 1,600 miles, and the Bussard is not expected to make more than 200 miles per day. We have arranged that the Bussard shall deliver the exiles at Mulinuu, as there would otherwise be contention as to what consular boat should deliver them, and under what flag. The consuls and the chief justice will then receive them on shore at Mulinuu—also the president.

This is a peculiar country, existing under peculiar conditions, and the utmost care must be taken to avoid friction

This we shall seek to avoid. By first mail after the arrival I will make full report.

[Page 612]

These extracts give the Department the latest and most authentic information on the subject. It may be too late to prevent the return of these chiefs, but I am willing to telegraph Mr. Osborn as follows:

Unless exiled chiefs have been returned Samoa, join your colleagues in preventing their landing until after election new king.

Awaiting your pleasure before taking further action on the subject, I have, etc.,

John Hay.