The Commission to Mr. Hay.
Sir: We have the honor to submit herewith to the consideration of our three Governments the inclosed draft of a modified and amended version of the act of Berlin.
In preparing these modifications and amendments our method has been to consider, first, what are the evils which have caused the recent troubles in Samoa and the generally unsatisfactory condition of the islands, and, secondly, what are the measures most likely to remove or minimize these evils.
The chief evils may be, in our opinion, grouped under four heads:
- Those which appear to inevitably attend the election of a king in Samoa and his subsequent efforts to exert his authority.
- Those which are due to the rivalry of the foreign nationalities between themselves and to their disposition to take sides in the native politics and thus increase the importance and bitterness of the disputes which arise.
- A third class of evils have their origin in the fact that for many years there has been no law or government in Samoa other than native custom outside the limits of the municipality. Murder and other serious crimes have remained unpunished when committed by persons of [Page 637] rank, and the supreme court and the nominal government at Mulinuu have been equally powerless to exert any controlling force.
- The insufficient enforcement of the customs regulations has allowed unscrupulous traders to distribute large numbers of arms among a native population rent by political factions and ready to fight both one another and Europeans.
To meet the first of these evils we have temporarily abolished the kingship and recommend that it be permanently abolished. The action which we have taken in the matter does not appear to have aroused any hostile feeling among the natives.
No doubt many great chiefs regret that they will no longer have an opportunity of gratifying their ambitions and indulging that passion for rank and ceremony which is innate in the breast of every Samoan.
But even the chiefs have acquiesced in the change; some of the most important have stated that they think it is for the good of Samoa, and we believe that the mass of the population, unless worked upon by extraneous influences (which is unhappily not impossible), will assent to the abolition without a murmur and without regret.
Every white man, German, English, and American alike, who has given evidence before the commission (with the exception of one or two lawyers who had private interests in the case) has recommended the commission to do away with the kingship, and we may also refer to the opinion of Sir E. Malet, recorded in the protocols of the conference of Berlin, and of Mr. Bates, in his report on Samoa.
It seems impossible to say of the office any good whatever. It is comparatively modern as an institution. It served no useful purpose. In recent years at any rate the King had no authority or practical power to even collect taxes beyond the limits of the municipality, and within those limits his authority was superfluous. The greater part of the population was for all intents and purposes in permanent rebellion against him, and the mere fact that orders were issued through him was liable to provoke disobedience in many districts.
Further, it seems impossible to devise any plan by which an undisputed or even peaceful succession can be secured. The kingship depends on a grant of certain titles by certain districts. They are in the gift not of the whole population, but of small bodies of electors who owe their position to their rank. Even among these electors the principle that the majority of the vote bestows the title is not accepted, and the gist of all the “laws and customs of Samoa” is that there is nothing to prevent two candidates from being duly elected King at the same time.
Formerly the claims of such rivals were decided by force of arms, but the framers of the act of Berlin, who evidently thoroughly understood Samoan custom and practice in this matter, laid down that “questions respecting the rightful appointment of King shall not lead to war, but shall be presented for decision to the chief justice of Samoa.” Recent experience has unhappily proved that an attempt to settle the question in this way also leads to war, and we are therefore strongly of opinion that the only chance of preventing such dissensions in the future is to abolish the office which provokes them.
In the place of the kingship we propose to create a system of native government, analogous to that which works successfully in Fiji. The islands will be divided into certain administrative districts (corresponding as near as possible with those recognized by Samoan usage) for [Page 638] each of which a chief will be responsible, and these chiefs will meet annually at Apia in a native council to discuss such matters as interest them and make recommendations to the administrator and council. Native courts will be allowed to punish minor crimes according to native law and customs, and every provision has been made to secure the Samoan population complete independence and self-government.
We fear, however, that the same causes which produced rival kings will long continue to produce rival chiefs, who will claim the post of provincial governor and create continual dissension. To guard against this danger we have made provisions in Article III which empowers the administrator to himself appoint the governor in case any dispute should occur.
Perhaps the evils which it is least easy to cure are the second class, those which arise from the rivalry and mutual hostility of the different nationalities. This hostility permeates all departments of life. The traders on one side combine against those on the other. The municipal council is divided into two parties, each determined to support its own programme and defeat that of the other.
Proposed reforms and measures are judged not on their merits, but by party consideration, and officials, however impartial they may wish to be, are considered to belong to one side or the other, according to their nationality, and inevitably end by becoming more or less partisans.
From the very commencement of the late contest for the kingship it was no mere native quarrel between Mataafa and Tanu. On the one side were ranged one foreign nationality and its officials, and on the other side two other nationalities, with their officials; and the contest was prolonged and not allowed to reach its natural termination.
We do not think it will ever be possible to do away with this state of things under a tripartite administration, and we take this opportunity of recording our opinion that the only natural and normal form of government for these islands, and the only system which can assure permanent prosperity and tranquillity, is a government by one power. We regard it, however, as beyond our province to make any but a general statement on such a subject, and we have endeavored to amend existing arrangements in such a manner that they may prove, if not entirely satisfactory, at least workable.
We propose to introduce an element of unity and centralization into the government by the appointment of an administrator, who will doubtless be chosen from some disinterested power. He will be assisted by a council of delegates from the three governments, who might exercise such consular functions as are necessary at Samoa. We propose to give this administrator a large measure of authority, which, if exercised by a just and capable man, should enable him to put an end to many disputes.
We propose that the administrator and the three delegates should form a legislative council, and we have introduced into the act several clauses giving them the power to modify existing laws and ordinances.
We are of opinion that the original act of Berlin was drafted and has been construed in too rigid a manner, and that greater elasticity in its provisions would have a beneficial effect. We have therefore empowered the council to make such alterations as it may think fit in the boundaries of districts, the details of native government, and other matters enumerated in the proposed amended act.[Page 639]
Thirdly, we hope to create a greater harmony among the white residents by abolishing consular jurisdiction. We believe that in other parts of the world such jurisdiction prevails only where the laws of a country are, for religious or other reasons, not suitable for application to foreigners. But the chief justice of Samoa is an American or European and administers American and European law; it would appear therefore that there is no reason why he should not take cognizance of all suits brought against foreigners, nor why foreigners should enjoy privileges of extraterritoriality except that of being amenable to the jurisdiction of native courts which will deal only with such matters as are decided according to native custom. Hitherto consular jurisdiction has been a powerful means of embittering international strife in Apia. Each nationality has had its own law, and the consul who administered that law was popularly regarded not as an impartial judge, but as the protector of his own nationality.
We believe that by abolishing this outward sign of separate national institutions and by submitting all nationalities to one court and one law a great advance will be made in the direction of removing petty rivalries and jealousies and restoring good relations between the various white colonies.
The third class of evils arises from the lawlessness now prevailing in Samoa outside the municipality. For many years there has been no law in these districts, and native institutions permitted chiefs to commit crimes with impunity. Murder, theft, and other offenses were left unpunished, and trade suffered, owing to the difficulty of affording planters adequate legal protection in their dealings with the aborigines. We hope to improve this state of things by giving the chief justice an enlarged jurisdiction over all the islands, so as to include all cases between natives and foreigners, as well as the higher grade of crimes committed by natives against each other.
To lighten the work of the supreme court we have made the municipal magistrate a court of first instance within the limits of the municipality.
Fourthly, we have felt it our duty to deal somewhat severely with the importation of arms and ammunition into Samoa. The prohibition existing in the treaty has become a dead letter; the management of the customs has been exceedingly lax, having been largely in the hands of merchants who naturally found it convenient to have easy regulations. Private commercial houses have been allowed to discharge goods direct into their own receiving sheds without any examination, and, though we make no specific accusations, it is clear that there can have been no difficulty in introducing large quantities of arms and that arms were so introduced.
We therefore feel it essential that the customs regulations should be stringently enforced under the supervision of the administrator, and that adequate customs accommodation with an adequate staff shall be provided with as little delay as possible.
The amendments to the treaty of Berlin, which are herewith submitted for the consideration of the great powers, have been determined upon after consultation with all the leading white inhabitants of Apia, and after conferences with all the leading chiefs on the islands.
The commission visited every district of the islands in person, and held meetings of the natives, brought about reconciliations between [Page 640] the Tanu and Mataafa factions, and learned the views of the people in regard to the forms of native government most acceptable and best adapted to their requirements.
The commission thereafter, on the 14th of July, 1899, so soon as it had formulated its views and determined upon the amendments necessary and proper to be made, called a meeting of all the leading and common chiefs of both Malietoa and Mataafa factions at Apia, at which meeting about 450 chiefs of all rank were present, and the commissioners there explained the general propositions contained in the proposed amendments, and the same were then and there agreed to and unanimously adopted, and thirteen chiefs from either side were selected to ratify and adopt such proposed amendments by affixing their names thereto, and their names will be found appended to the copy of the amended general act which is herewith submitted.
We have the honor to be, with expression of the highest consideration,
Your obedient servants,
Commissioner of the United States.
High Commissioner of Germany.
C. N. Elliot,
Her Britannic Majesty’s High Commissioner.