Mr. Tripp to Mr. May.
Sir: The Brutus leaves here to-morrow for Guam, via Honolulu, and, hoping this may intercept the San Francisco regular mail, so as to reach you sooner than by the regular steamer from Auckland, I improve the opportunity to continue the thread of political events and to inform you generally of such matters of interest as have occurred since my last.
Everything remains quiet on the island, except some disturbances of a local character, growing out of personal and individual animosities, an example of which occurred last week. A wounded man was brought into Apia, with the report that upon his attempted return to his village and home, in accordance with the previous order of the commission, he had been attacked and severely injured. We immediately sent the Torch, a small English gunboat of light draft, around to the scene of difficulty, had the chiefs and parties engaged in the disturbance brought on board, and found, upon inquiry, that the trouble had grown out of an old feud antedating the recent hostilities, although intensified by them; that when the wounded man and his friends sought to return home his former enemy personally attacked him, and the quarrel was taken up by friends of either party, and would have become general but for the timely arrival of the high chief, who succeeded in putting an end to it, but not before several were wounded. The chief who caused the trouble was asked by the captain of the Torch why he had disobeyed the orders of the commission, and he excused himself by declaring that he was personally avenging his wrongs, not disobeying the commission. The captain then informed him that he must apologize, shake hands, kiss, and make up, according to Samoan fashion, or he would be obliged to bring him before the commission. The high chief, Suetale, who was present, told the chief that he must make up and promise to allow this man and all other Malietoa men to live peacefully at their homes, or he would be deported or in some other way punished by the commission. The chief yielded at once, and all present representing the two factions—high chiefs, chiefs, and common people—made up, kissed, rubbed noses according to Samoan fashion, and left the ship promising to obey the orders of [Page 632] the commission in all things. One or two other smaller personal encounters have occurred, but we have treated them all in a similar manner, and nothing serious has resulted therefrom.
A few days ago we invited all the leading chiefs of the islands on board the Badger, and having first addressed them separately, and having obtained from them the expression of a desire to make up and to live in peace with the people of the opposite party, we brought the chiefs of both sides together and witnessed their reconciliation. It was indeed an affecting scene. They are very emotional people, and, after a few speeches made on either side in reply to our address, they extended hands, then fell on each other’s necks and kissed and made all the demonstration of children in emphasizing their promises to live in peace and to use every effort with their people to induce every member of each tribe within their districts to forgive and forget and to be good friends in the future. This war, unlike those of the past, has divided nations, tribes, and kin. Tamasese, who belongs to the Tupua or Mataafa side, has been the right-hand man of Malietoa Tanu, while Faalata, the cousin of Tanu, has been an ardent supporter of Mataafa. Families, even, have been divided, and it is no unusual thing to find a father and some of his sons on the one side, while the remaining sons have been ardent partisans of the other. This will aid and make more permanent any reconciliation we may be able to bring about; for, as “blood is thicker than water,” so are relations of the same blood more easily and permanently reconciled than strangers and enemies. We shall immediately bring together Mataafa, Tamasese, and Tanu, the royal chiefs, who have already manifested a willingness to meet each other. Should this prove successful, we propose to go around the islands and meet the people of each separate district in “fonos,” as they call such meetings, have public reconciliations, explain the purpose of the commission in reference to the future government, and exact obedience and loyalty of the chiefs and leading men of each tribe and district. Should this terminate successfully, we hope to be able to leave the islands in such peaceful condition that it may continue until the permanent government shall have come into effective operation.
Our plan of permanent government comprises three commissioners or councilors, appointed one by each of the three great powers, and an administrator or chief executive officer of all the islands, to be appointed from some neutral nation, unless the nations agree upon some person of the nationality of one of the powers. These three councilors are to have a limited legislative power. They shall also form an executive council, advisory to the administrator, and individually may perform, at the designation of the administrator, the duties of assessor and collector of customs, treasurer, attorney-general, and other quasi-executive duties, and may also, if desired, exercise consular functions for their respective nations. The administrator will have strong executive powers, appoint all minor officers, etc., and have general supervision of the islands. The King, who was a mere figurehead, and the reasons for whose retirement I shall give at length in my final report, has forever retired, and his office has been forever abolished, with the approval of everybody, the whites as well as the natives themselves.
The exterritoriality of the consuls, which has produced more difficulty and aroused and fostered more national animosity than any other [Page 633] one thing permitted under the Berlin act, has been abolished also, with perhaps the unanimous approval of every foreigner on the islands, and the jurisdiction of the consuls conferred upon the supreme court, which will consist of a chief justice, as under the Berlin act. We have also enlarged the jurisdiction of the municipal magistrate, giving him jurisdiction of civil cases, which he did not before possess, to the extent of $50, and abolished the office of president of the municipal council, providing in his place a mayor, appointed by the administrator, upon the nomination of the municipal council. You will, therefore, see that we have preserved all the main features of the Berlin act, making here and there amendments found necessary by experience and the too strict interpretation of its provisions. The principal amendments are the abolition of the kingship and the consular jurisdiction, and the granting of a limited power of legislation conferred upon the legislative council. This was found absolutely necessary under the strict construction given to the Berlin act. We found after our arrival that, as commisioners, we were obliged several times to make rules having the force of law, to prevent anarchy and punish crime in cases not provided for at all by the treaty, and it requires no argument to maintain the self-evident proposition that an act of the brevity of the Berlin treaty can not provide for every contingency that may arise in the government of islands like these. There must be provided somewhere a certain expansion or elasticity which will make the act self-adjusting. This we have aimed to provide for in the limited power of legislation given to the legislative council, subject to the control at all times of the three powers themselves. We have endeavored to retain, as far as possible, the general plan, scope, and symmetry of the Berlin act, and we believe if it be possible to maintain a tripartite government of the three great powers over these islands—I use the word “possible” with a full understanding of the doubt it implies—we are quite unanimous that it must be along the lines suggested. Such a government must be strong, simple, and economical.
The character of the people to be governed is of primary importance in the consideration of the form of government best adapted to their requirements. In these islands the government must be so simple as to be easily understood, and so strong that disobedience can be immediately punished; besides, their financial condition does not permit that the number of officials exceed those absolutely needed for a ready and intelligent administration of its functions. We have examined the question with care and can see no possible objection, should the powers so elect, to make use of the members of the legislative council as consular agents, and thereby relieve the Samoan treasury of a large part of the salary to be paid them as councilors, while their employment as treasurer, customs officers, attorney-general, etc., will give to them the advantage of the salaries paid similar officers under the present government, so that on the whole the plan proposed will be even less expensive than the present one. To obviate the possible objection that the government proposed partakes of the character of a protectorate and makes no provision for education of the natives in the matter of self-government, looking to their future autonomy or independence, we have provided for a governor in each district, to be selected by the natives, and for a native government within each district, leaving to the natives within their several districts the largest amount of individual [Page 634] liberty and the right of governing themselves according to their Samoan laws and customs, reserving to the Samoan government only the right to protect the natives of one district against those of another, where the rights or liberties of either are violated, or where felonies are committed by natives against each other and are permitted to remain unpunished.
We have further provided for a native assembly, composed of the governors of the different districts, which is authorized to meet in Apia each year, and to frame such laws and make such recommendations in reference to native affairs as they may desire, and such recommendations, when approved by the administrator and council, shall have the force of law. In this way it is believed the native can be at least interested, and perhaps so far benefited that he may be able to give promise of such ability in the future as may enable him to take some part in the affairs of the general government. So far any attempt at government by the King and his councilors has been such a lamentable failure that no time has existed in the past when a large number of the most populous districts were not in open rebellion against them, and when the so-called government has not been one of violation and of easy if not corrupt control. A few gunboats may be necessary here yet for some time to give moral and perhaps effective support to the commands of the new government, but it is believed that the strong central government herein provided will not only be most acceptable to the natives themselves, but also the only government that will protect the rights and liberties of the white people, who have suffered so much from maladministration of native government in the past. In my report to the Department I shall review somewhat at length the causes that led to the unfortunate state of affairs in these islands and the reasons that actuated us in proposing the changes and amendment to the Berlin act in forming the permanent government. We shall leave the provisional government in the hands of the three consuls, with an administrator, if one can be found here satisfactory to all the commission. I shall come to Washington immediately upon my return, to make my final report and urge immediate action upon our work, so that in case the government proposed be approved it can be put in operation at the earliest possible moment.
I am happy to inform you that, while at first the minds of the different members of the commission were not quite unanimous upon all questions that came before it, by the exercise of some forbearance and the wisdom that comes from diplomatic experience we have on the whole reached conclusions reasonably satisfactory to each member of the commission. I can not speak too highly of the conduct of the German member of the commission. With one less experienced, less honorable and conscientious, representing the great Empire of Germany, our task would not only have been difficult, but I fear a hopeless and unprofitable one. We are now nearly through with our labors here, and should nothing occur to indicate that peace is not fully restored, we shall hope to leave here about July 14 for San Francisco and home, bringing with us a unanimous report of our work, supplemented by individual and confidential reports each to his own Government.
You will therefore not probably hear from me again until my arrival in America, and not again as to matters here except as may be contained in my final report. I hope, however, to have the pleasure of saying [Page 635] to you orally some things so difficult and some perhaps not well to be committed to paper, which will give you a better understanding of our work than my dispatches or report can possibly do.
I have, etc.,