Mr. Tripp to Mr. Hay.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that in accordance with the correspondence between this commission and the high chiefs Malietoa Lanu and Mataafa, we received them on board our vessel, the Badger, Malietoa Tanu on Friday afternoon and Mataafa yesterday forenoon, each being accompanied by six of his principal chiefs and interpreters. The interview in each case was most satisfactory. We explained to each of them that the great powers had heard with much regret that the Samoans had failed to agree as to who should be their king to succeed Malietoa Leufiefa and had gone to war with each other, destroying life and property, until the war ships, sent here for their protection, were obliged to fire upon them to restore peace; that the great powers (great voices, as they call the three great powers) had sent the commission to inquire into the cause of this conduct on the part of the Samoans, to restore to each of the islands and to give them in future a strong government which should prevent the recurrence of such condition of things; that the powers were united in this and would enforce the action of the commission with the guns of the great war ships in the harbor, and, if necessary, would send others hither for that purpose. And we asked them to tell us frankly and freely why they were in arms, what they desired, and whether they would in all things obey the commands of the commission; that the commission deemed it necessary, in order to prevent further bloodshed and destruction of property, that all Samoans should give up their arms, disband their armies, and return at once to their homes and await the decision of the commission as to who should be their king and what form of government it would adopt.
Both Malietoa Tanu and Mataafa, together with the chiefs present, assented to these propositions with promptness and apparent willingness. Mataafa especially was profuse in his declaration of allegiance to the great voices. He said that while his soldiers—the soldiers of Mataafa—owned their arms, and had bought them with their own money, and while they did not belong to the great powers as did the arms now in the hands of Malietoa Tanu, yet if the great nations of Germany, the United States, and Great Britain believed it right and necessary to demand them in the interest of peace and good government they would obey. The commission replied that the great powers would never deprive any man of his property unnecessarily nor without just compensation; that if they would voluntarily surrender their arms and ammunition to the commission a detachment of soldiers would be sent to receive them, and when peace was restored and a good government established the arms should be returned to them, or they should be paid for both arms and ammunition at their full value. This seemed to please them, and all the chiefs present promised that they would do so at once.[Page 621]
The commission then told them that it would be best for them to call a meeting of their chief s—a “fono” as they say—and submit to it what the commission required, so that there might be no misunderstanding nor disobedience on the part of any chiefs on the adjoining islands. Mataafa went away promising to send for all chiefs not already in his camp, to tell them what the commission had said, and to give the commission an early answer as to disbanding and delivering arms. The force of Malietoa Tanu is armed with guns belonging to England and the United States, and their disarmament, when necessary, will be a matter of form.
The commission also asked both Malietoa Tanu and Mataafa if they and each of them would submit to and acknowledge as their king either Malietoa Tanu, Mataafa, or any other chief that might be selected by the commission, and each of them, as well as their chiefs present, promised that they would do so. All of these chiefs were profuse in their words of submission and of gratitude, that the great voices had sent the commission to make peace, and they assured us again and again that they would obey every command of the united powers.
We are all much gratified with the result of these two interviews, the more so on account of the fact that we had been previously informed by those best acquainted with Samoan character, including missionaries and others who have been many years among them, they would never consent to deliver up their arms. The spirit of apparent confidence in the great powers and willingness to obey any requests of the commission sent to them also gave us great satisfaction, especially as every one tells us that they will keep all promises made. We take these statements with many grains of allowance and congratulate ourselves that we have made more rapid advances toward a peaceful settlement of these matters than those better experienced here gave us hope of so soon accomplishing. We expect within the next week to receive favorable answers from both these opposing factions and immediately to follow up the advantage gained by progressive results. These people are far from being savages. They are splendid specimens of physical manhood and all are well informed about matters of general information. They are nearly all Christians and very devout in their attachment to their church and religion. They have a very high appreciation of the power and civilization of the white nations but are slow to adapt themselves thereto. The climate makes them sluggish and content with what nature has supplied, while their love and fear of the whites lead them to rely upon and submit to what is required without inquiry or complaint.
The Philadelphia, which is just leaving for Honolulu, kindly consents to take this dispatch, and I must close with a promise to advise you at every opportunity of the progress made.
I have, etc.,