Mr. Tripp to Mr. Hay.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the commission arrived in San Francisco on the evening of April 24, 1899, as was expected when we left Washington, and sailed from San Francisco April 26, at 10 o’clock a.m., for Samoa. We arrived at Honolulu May 3, and having taken on a supply of coal, left that port for Apia May 5, arriving here Saturday, May 13, and cast anchor in the harbor about 9 a.m. After the firing of salutes and paying the customary visits the commission organized in the afternoon of May 13, 1899, by electing myself as chairman and Mr. Morgan as secretary. On Monday, the 15th, we secured rooms for sessions of the commission during the day on shore and have held daily sessions since that time.
I have little of progress to report at this time. Our consul has from time to time fully advised you of the rapid succession of events since the decision of the Chief Justice in favor of Malietoa Tanu as King, and I can add nothing new as a matter of historical interest to that which you have already before you.
Open hostilities have ceased and a kind of armistice now obtains; but several thousand of the fighting men of the islands are camped about us. The feeling of insecurity on the part of the whites is very acute, and the strain of nervous tension is almost painful. Mataafa has withdrawn behind his improvised fortifications without the boundaries of Apia and about 1,000 of the native adherents of Malietoa Tanu, commanded by American and English officers, armed with American and English rifles, together with detachments of marines from American and English ships in the harbor, are camped within the town of Apia, patrol its streets, and are instructed to repel any attack of Mataafa’s men and to guard the unprotected property of the people. The feeling existing here between American, English, and German officials has extended itself to those of English and German nationality in private life. There is no apparent disposition toward compromise or concession by those who have taken part with or manifested sympathy for the actors in this terrible tragedy. Every man, woman and child—white and native—seems to have become an adherent of one or the other of these hostile factions contending for the empty honor of being crowned a Samoan king. This complicates and makes more difficult the work of the commission. You must not expect too much from its unanimous action. I shall use every effort to secure such action as may restore peace, disband and disarm these savage tribes, and secure for them a simple, strong, and stable government in the future, so far as it can be done by compromise and concession in matters which will not affect our national honor nor offend our national dignity. If more be demanded I shall aim to make apparent the responsibility of those who shall have defeated the object of the commission by stubborn adherence to immaterial technicalities to the sacrifice of diplomatic principle. I am studying the question from the standpoint of the native as I have studied [Page 617] it on my journey from the standpoint of the nations, and so far I must admit I am unable to see upon what ground the decision of the chief justice can be overturned even though the reasoning by which he came to the conclusion may be open to objection. The jurisdiction of the court from whatever standpoint the case be considered is ample and undoubted, both of the subject-matter and of the parties. If any doubt remained, the express language of the treaty puts it at rest. The decision rendered by the supreme court of Samoa, in the exercise of undoubted jurisdiction, is unmistakably clear and plain. It is a full, complete, and final determination of the issues before the court, and though it gave a wrong reason for a decision it was authorized to render, such fact even would not avoid or affect the decision itself. The proposition is one too elementary to permit of discussion. This proposition has not yet been discussed by the commission, but if my associates agree with me, as it seems to me they must, the questions before us will be simplified and in a measure relieved of the local obstacles which otherwise would tend to impede our progress. I hope to inform you in my next that by easy stages the commission has arrived at this conclusion, and that the results which should naturally flow from such decision have been attained, modified only by such immaterial concessions as must be made to unanimity and to national dignity. The task you have set me is a delicate as well as a difficult one, and I trust my success or failure will be measured by the force and character of the opposition I have had to meet or overcome. I hope to write you more definitely in my next.
I have, etc.,