Mr. Tripp to Mr. Hay.

final report—affairs in samoa.

Sir: In addition to the joint report of the commission made to the three powers, I have deemed it my duty under your instructions to state more elaborately and somewhat more in detail the reasons which have actuated and controlled our action in the determination of the various matters submitted to our consideration.

We were charged with two important and independent duties. First, to restore tranquillity and order and undertake a provisional government of the islands; second, to consider the provisions which might be necessary for the future government of the islands or for the modification of the final act of Berlin and report our conclusions to the three Governments.

In my dispatches already sent you, as well as in the joint report of the commission, the steps taken which happily resulted in the restoration of tranquillity and order have been detailed somewhat at length, and I shall content myself in my final report with referring only in a general way to the work of disarmament and consequent restoration of peace, shall somewhat in detail speak of the causes that led to the unfortunate condition of affairs existing on our arrival, and give some of the reasons for the proposed changes in the final act of Berlin, which it is hoped may tend to prevent the recurrence of such condition of affairs in the future.

We arrived in Apia on the 13th of May, 1899, making the seventh of the fleet of war vessels of the three great powers then anchored in that quiet little harbor—three English, three American, and one German, the Tauranga, the Porpoise, the Torch, the Philadelphia, the Brutus, the Falke, and the Badger, but not the sail or smoke of a single vessel of commerce was to be seen there or about the coasts of these beautiful islands. On land patrolling the streets and at every crossing were soldiers, white and native, demanding the password of resident and stranger. A thousand natives in native uniform, but armed with British rifles and commanded by British officers, paraded past us in response to the salutes from the vessels of war, while as many more natives armed with every species of warlike implement, in command of native officers, came from their camps to witness our arrival. At a distance from the town of perhaps three miles and encircling it on all sides were the native troops of Mataafa, estimated at about 3,000 men armed with rifles, head knives, spears, and such weapons of war as the natives could command, resting upon their arms behind their lines of improvised fortifications under the terms of the armistice which had been proclaimed by the vessels of war pending [Page 649] the arrival of the commission. But a few days prior the English and American ships had shelled the town and the people had left the rear and exposed portions and were huddled together in the houses along the beach and out of the way of and protected by the guns of the ships which had been directed against the forts and lines of Mataafa surrounding the place. Excitement and alarm prevailed everywhere and this condition of nervous excitement had reached its height when the commission arrived.

The commission was met by no warm greeting from natives, whites, or the officers of the men-of-war. The guns thundered their salutes with cold formality, but there followed a frigidity of greeting which too plainly betrayed a want of confidence in the purpose or success of the mission on which we had come. The commanders of the war vessels believed that, but for the enforced armistice under orders from the great powers, the troops of Malietoa Tanu, under British officers and assisted by British and American marines, would have easily conquered the force of Mataafa, ended the contest, and established Tanu firmly upon his throne. The white people whose homes had been pillaged and who had sought refuge in Apia, under the guns of the men-of-war, despondingly awaited events which might again bring peace, and the inhabitants of the unhappy town, whose houses had been unluckily struck by the shells of a friendly fleet, and who sought shelter upon the shore, were about equally divided in their words of censure for the hostile forces of the natives and the vessels of their own fleet. They too awaited our arrival with no assured confidence of immediate relief or of permanent peace. The commission were looked upon as strangers without experience, unacquainted with native manners and customs, and lacking in that ability and education which could restore tranquillity and order, or provide for their maintenance in the future. Outside of the noisy salutes fired by the men-of-war, the reception of the commission on its arrival in Apia was without demonstration, icy and cold. They had not come, however, for pleasure nor as guests, but to learn and to act, and they set themselves immediately to their task. As I have already informed you, they opened rooms on shore, where for many days they consulted with officers of the navy, officials of the powers, private citizens, business men, missionaries, and everyone who could inform them of the situation they had come to meet. From every quarter they received discouragement as to any effort at disarming the native. They then summoned the chiefs themselves of the hostile parties, and finally obtained from them the promise to surrender their arms, which was on the 31st of May, 1899, carried out, and up to this time we have taken up from the natives and have in our possession more than 3,400 native guns, in addition to the British rifles, about 700 in number, returned to the British men-of-war. This was the beginning of peace. There is nothing the Samoan loves more than his gun; there is nothing he will not part with in its purchase; no sacrifice he will not make for its retention. It occupies the most prominent place in his home, and it is his constant companion upon his journeys abroad, and when he surrendered it to the commission, the white man felt and knew that peace was assured, and a feeling of confidence was at once inspired which has never abated, and which had aided the commission in bringing its work to a rapid and successful issue. The naval commanders yielded ready obedience to every request. The whites on shore for the time [Page 650] forgot their national quarrels and their differences of the past, and the natives of both factions vied with each other in anticipation of the commission’s requests, and in the performance of any services desired.

In the prompt and effective disarmament of the two hostile forces lay whatever of success has attended the commission’s work. It was an effective and nearly a total disarmament of both factions. Very few guns remain in the hands of the natives, and these are held under such severe penalties that it will perhaps never be known how many were not surrendered. The commission brought two controlling influences to bear upon the native in effecting this result. Mataafa had returned as an exile from Jaluit under strict promises of obedience to the laws and government of Samoa, which, if the decision of the chief justice were upheld, had been broken. This was diplomatically placed before him in our oral interviews, and while no promise of immunity was made him, he was given to understand that the action of the three powers toward him would be made largely to depend upon his future conduct and attitude toward the commission and the government they might establish. Mataafa is undoubtedly the most sagacious and influential of all the native chiefs. He grasped the situation at once, proclaimed himself friendly to peace and desirous of doing everything deemed requisite by the commission to that end, and has kept his promises, it is believed, to the letter. Second, we found that all the arms were private property, each native being the owner of his own gun, and to assure success in what we deemed a vital point, the commission promised after the restoration of peace to return the guns or pay to the owners a fair compensation therefor. This was an argument ad hominem; it was a stronger argument even than the interested patriotism of Mataafa, but coupled with it became irresistible to the native mind, and almost to a man the Mataafa party surrended its guns, delivering over 1,800 on the 31st of May and in all nearly 2,100 to the commission. It was also agreed that the disarmament should be general; that Tanu men as well as Mataafa should surrender their arms, and this was generally done. These guns, as I have already informed you, were taken by the Badger to San Francisco, to be there held until the three powers shall agree upon their disposition. The commission requested the English and German vessels remaining in the harbor of Apia to take them upon our departure, but these vessels had no room on board, and it was not deemed prudent to store these guns on shore, so the only thing left was to bring them with us. * * * a valuation made by officers detailed by the captains of English, German, and American men-of-war, which I believe places an average value on the entire lot of about $12 each, which is, I am inclined to think, a very large valuation; but it was made as a mere precaution, and not one by which the powers would be by any means bound.

The disarmament was accomplished without any promises made or inducements offered as to the future government of Samoa and before the commission had itself arrived at any conclusion or decision as to who was king. As soon as the disarmament had been concluded, we set to work to determine that important question. Fortunately, after much discussion, citation of such precedents as were at hand, and the application of legal principles which obtain in the jurisprudence of the courts, we unanimously reached the conclusion that under the provisions of the Berlin treaty the decision of the chief justice was valid and binding. It is true that the decision seems to base the judgment [Page 651] of the court upon the ineligibility of Mataafa under the protocols of the Berlin treaty, but the judgment itself, as found in the docket of the court, * * * bases the decision both on the ineligibility of Mataafa and upon the evidence presented to and considered by the court. Such a judgment under the express provisions of the treaty must be held to be valid and binding. When the record shows that evidence to sustain the issues was presented to the court and that such issues were so tried and determined upon the evidence adduced, the judgment is necessarily conclusive though the reasoning of the court by which it reaches such conclusion be ever so fallacious. This proposition is so well sustained as elementary law that it needs only to be stated to be admitted, and if any doubt existed whether the determination of the election of a king is so far a judicial one as to come within the elementary principles, the doubt is removed by the very terms of the act itself which provides that “the signatory governments will accept and abide by such decision.” (Sec. 6, art. 3.)

Having reached this conclusion it was unnecessary to attempt to jointly review the causes that led to the necessity for such decision. By the decision itself Tanu was king, and the correctness or incorrectness, the propriety or impropriety, of the conduct of those who had favored or opposed his election became immaterial in accomplishing the purposes of our mission, viz, the restoration of peace and proposed changes in the existing government of Samoa. Our joint action has therefore been confined to these two great objects, leaving each individual member of the commission at liberty in his separate report to make such reference to the conduct of individuals and citizens resident in Samoa as he might deem proper. I have not, however, under any instructions deemed it necessary for me to go further into the inquiry as to the cause that led to hostilities than to consider such facts as were developed in the legitimate determination of the questions submitted for our decision. It is undoubtedly true that the white people in Apia were in sympathy with one or the other of the rival candidates for king. It is also undoubtedly true that the German residents generally were in sympathy with Mataafa and the English and American residents with Tanu; but outside of some idle rumors there was no evidence adduced before the commission that any citizen of any nationality openly took any part in the proceedings that led to open hostilities or advised measures that led thereto. On the contrary, both the Germans—Marquardt and Hufnagel—who had been arrested and kept in confinement for several weeks prior to our arrival for having advised and aided Mataafa in his rebellion against the Government, were, upon a hearing by the commission, immediately discharged, there being no competent evidence against them. Prior to the decision of the chief justice it is difficult to see why the citizens of one nationality or another might not feel or exhibit a sympathy with the one or the other of the contending parties. Mataafa, though a returned exile and under strict promises to remain at Mulinuu and to maintain obedience to the government, had before the selection of candidates by the chief justice in a private letter to H. J. Moore, been declared eligible for the office of king, and while this unofficial letter could in no way affect the subsequent decision, yet it being made public did give to Mataafa a plausible color of right to become such candidate without apparent breach of the promises he had made. I do not therefore see how white men or the followers of Mataafa are open to censure on [Page 652] account of sympathy or support given to him prior to the decision declaring Tanu king. It may have been bad taste for white men to have espoused the cause of either candidate for native king, but no rule of law or ethics made it wrong.

It was undoubtedly a mistake that Mataafa was permitted by the powers to return to Samoa at the critical time when a king was to be selected. It should have been foreseen that sympathy for the old man, whose exile had come to be a martyrdom in the minds of his relatives and friends, coupled with the magnetic powers and abilities of the man himself, could not fail to make him a powerful if not a successful candidate for the place he had onced filled. But the powers permitted him to return; the chief justice declared him a proper person to be made king; his admirers espoused his election and declared him king; and undoubtedly by our theory of election where majorities control he was the choice of an overwhelming majority of the Samoan people, but in Samoa the select few and not the people determine the election of chiefs and kings. I have given the matter some thought, and have several times heard the theory explained by which the selection of king is finally made “according to the laws and customs of Samoa”—Faa Samoa—but I have only so far grasped the methods employed as to enable me to definitely conclude that according to such laws and customs it is possible to elect two kings at the same time, and that the one declared elected may or may not be the choice of the majority of the people themselves. Whether, then, Chief Justice Chambers fairly and honestiy found upon the evidence before him that Tanu was elected king in accordance “with the laws and customs of Samoa,” as his docket says he did, I do not think any lawyer of the great powers will ever have the patience or ability to determine, and he will upon a partial investigation of the methods pursued in determining such election feel inclined rather to excuse his honor for seeking to base his decision upon the ineligibility of the opposing candidate than to require him to set forth his reasons for a decision based upon the facts—“Faa Samoa.” In my judgment, then, Mataafa and his supporters are to be blamed, not for what occurred before but after the rendition of the decision. The decision declaring Tanu to be king was the law of Samoa, and all who refused obedience to it violated not the decision alone but the treaty upon which it was based. I need not particularize.

The consuls and all officials of Samoa were bound to recognize Tanu as king. Until annulled by the great powers no consul or official of the great powers was at liberty to deny its binding force. Every act done or word of encouragement given by treaty officials toward approval of resistance to the decision of the court and their subsequent refusal to recognize Tanu as king must be regarded as a breach of treaty rights and a discourtesy toward the other allied powers. It is generally believed by those best informed in Samoan affairs that had the three powers been agreed as to the validity and binding force of the decision, and had the three consuls at once so proclaimed to the native people, the war might have been avoided and peace for the time at least maintained. Whether this be true or not I am quite convinced that the natives were informed that the powers were not agreed and that this fact encouraged them to active and prompt resistance. It is not improbable, however, that war would have come at last, for, according to “Faa Samoa,” he only can be king who can maintain the [Page 653] title by force of arms. The contest between the forces of Mataafa and Tanu in the first instance was a brief one. In less than twenty-four hours the entire force of Tanu was made prisoners and disarmed or driven to its boats and on board the men-of-war. The victory was decisive and almost bloodless. This followed so suddenly and so immediately the decision that it seemed rather its resultant than a revolution against it. Apia and the people yielded to the inevitable, and the consuls of the powers subscribed allegiance to the provisional government whose creation and existence rests rather in rumor than by record and facts. It was, however, a submission to superior force, and the Mataafa faction, so far as the natives were concerned, was in control. The white officials will never be able to agree as to what the provisional government was or what share, if any, the different nations took therein. Whatever trace of it existed at the time the British and American forces ceased fire upon the town, had disappeared when the commissioners themselves arrived. Mataafa and his troops were many miles away; Tanu, as king, was holding his court at Mulinuu, and where military law was not supreme, the old officials of the Government were exercising the functions of their offices. The provisional government was at an end. If it had any existence in fact it lives only in the memory of the past, so that we were by the shells of British and American guns relieved from some difficult questions of international law that might otherwise have arisen had we found it de facto the government of Samoa.

I do not deem it part of my duty to go into the question of the origin and termination of this “provisional government” at length. It was one of those evanescent, kaleidoscopic transitions of the kind of government of which the history of Samoa has furnished many unique examples in the past. It must be admitted that under the view the commission has taken the provisional government was the result of a victorious revolt against the lawful government, its leaders were revolutionists, its officers in the eye of the law were rebels, and the consuls who assumed to act for their Governments in yielding obedience thereto, were acting without the pale of their authority, and until ratified by their Governments, their acts were null and void. I shall not argue the question whether a majority or all the consuls acting together could authorize the naval authorities to shell the camps of Mataafa and break up the provisional government itself. I have always maintained the opinion that whenever the consuls under the Berlin treaty were required to act that a unanimity was not required except in the cases therein enumerated, “The mention of the one to the exclusion of the other,” and when the framers of the Berlin treaty chose to enumerate certain cases in which unanimity of action was required, they declared by implication that in all other cases a majority of the board was authorized to act. I do not think, however, that the admiral and other naval commanders in the harbor of Apia were at all subject to the unanimous or majority control of the consuls, except in so far as they may have been specially instructed by their governments. The naval commanders’ general instructions would have been sufficient to authorize them to fire upon armed rebels in revolt against their lawful government. It would seem to me that Admiral Kautz and the English commanders, acting under their general instructions, were authorized to put down an armed rebellion against the lawful government of the three powers and to sustain by force of arms [Page 654] the decision of its courts, and if their private instructions put them under control of the consuls as to how and when display of force was to be employed, I am still of the opinion that such instructions were not violated by their obeying the orders of a majority of them. I expressly disclaim passing upon these questions other than in a general way, and I must claim that what is here said shall not be regarded as an opinion or report upon these questions made after an investigation of the facts. I desire them to be considered merely as a report upon questions arising incidental to the matters left to our jurisdiction and control.

After the commission had reached the conclusion that Tanu was king it set about to place the wheels of a provisional government in motion. Complaints were frequent and urgent from people of all classes requesting to be relieved from military rule, that sentries be removed, and that civil government be again restored. The city government had lapsed. The councilmen in one of the wards had failed to qualify and in another were illegally elected, and as no quorum of the former government could be obtained the commission itself had to appoint registers and call an election to fill such vacancies. They then installed Dr. Solf as president of the council, withdrew the sentries, and placed the town under a city government and civil law. In the meantime we had canvassed the question of a provisional and permanent government for the islands. The history of Samoa showed that the title of king was of very recent origin and extended no farther back than to the grandfather of Tanumafili, and that his father was really the first to be crowned and anointed king. The title of king is said to have originated with the missionaries, who conceived the idea to unite the islands under one ruler and thereby to make a stronger and better government. On the contrary, it became weaker, there being no heridetary king. The most powerful chiefs of the most aristocratic families and tribes claimed the right of succession and exercised the right of rebellion during every reign. No king was able to maintain his authority over all the districts at the same time. Some of the more powerful chiefs were continually in rebellion. The father of Tanu was twice deposed and three kings assumed the title intermediate his reign as king—Malietoa Talavou, Tamasese, and Mataafa—and the process of the king instead of commanding respect was mocked at and jeered, and could not be enforced in many of the larger districts of the so-called kingdom of Samoa during his entire reign. This was not on some occasion of revolt, but usual and continuous. I am informed by Chief Justice Chambers that during his entire stay in Samoa the writs of his court, running in the name of Malietoa Laupepa as king, could not be enforced in several large districts of Samoa, and this in times of apparent peace. The title of king was an empty honor; the real power was in the district chief, and the native government existed there. Upon consulting with those best acquainted with Samoan affairs we did not find a man not influenced by selfish interests who was not pronounced in favor of abolishing the office of king. It was not only an empty honor but a bauble to be contended for by powerful chiefs, a sort of Samoan prize not to be retained by the victor but to be submitted to new contests and won afresh upon the field of honor. Instead of an element of strength it was an element of weakness and a cause of war and insurrection, and upon consulting with the older and wiser chiefs we were surprised to find that they, too, believed it [Page 655] better that the office should be abolished, that the districts should govern themselves, and the white man should make the laws for Samoa. We became unanimous that the office of king should be abolished, so far as our recommendation could effect such result, and so informed Tanu, the king. He advised with his friends, and subsequently informed the commission that he was yet a boy at school and desired to complete the course of study he had begun, and in oral conversation he further explained that, should the great powers agree with the commission to abolish the office of king in the formation of a permanent government, his temporary holding of the position became a worthless title, and did the powers permit the title in the future to be retained it would be one which could not peaceably be held. It came to him not by descent but by a decision, which many of the great chiefs declared in violation of Samoan law and customs. He could not hope to hold it except by war, and his life would be spent like that of his father in anxiety upon the throne and in the loneliness of exile, and he preferred the hereditary title of district chief to the unmeaning title of Samoan king. * * *

Upon the acceptance of the resignation of Tanu the executive power of the provisional government was placed in the hands of the three consuls with Dr. Solf as adviser, and a proclamation issued to that effect. The provisional government being now in force, the time of the commission was directed to the question of a permanent government and the changes to be recommended in the final act of Berlin. The act itself was the unique work of skillful men, and had it not fallen into the hands of strict constructionists would undoubtedly have served well the purpose of its creation. The same forces which robbed it of the elasticity of construction and expansion of provision still existed in Samoa and might wreck any form of tripartite government that could be conceived. If such a form of government be possible, and I use the word with full understanding of the doubt it implies, it can be made endurable and permanent only by being made applicable to all classes of people through the same agencies of administration. The foreign population to be governed should as far as possible be made homegeneous, and one set of officials should administer the same law in all Samoa. The question of nationality must be lost sight of in the administration of government and the government should be made autonomous as its preamble declares by an administration which treats citizens of every nationality alike. To aid in carrying out this principle of government we have recommended the abolition of that judicial extraterritoriality heretofore existing in the consuls. The exercise of this right has become a weapon of hostility rather than a shield of defense. The consulate had become an asylum from crime rather than a temple of justice and the criminal had come to regard his consul as one who would protect and shield him from the courts rather than as a judge who would punish him for his crime. Not only had the consulate thus become a refuge for criminals, but the courts were continually harassed with questions of jurisdiction which were not always limited to the courts of Samoa, for not infrequently they found their way to the powers themselves and became unpleasant subjects of international complication. Scarcely a case arose in the courts that this vexed question did not present itself in some form and the assertion of consular jurisdiction took on at times such an air of superior power as to create a counter resistance of the court in order to maintain [Page 656] a dignity of demeanor in contrast with the humiliation sought to be imposed. These were some of the evils of the consular extraterritorial jurisdiction. On the other hand, the good effects expected from its exercise did not result. Such judicial powers are never exercised by consuls except in those countries like Turkey, China, etc., where by reason of all religious prejudice or incapacity of native courts foreigners can not, with safety to liberty and property, submit to their jurisdiction. Neither of the reasons obtain in Samoa. Nearly all the inhabitants are Christians, as will be seen by reports of missionaries * * * which show that of the 35,000 estimated population of these islands the Protestants claim about 27,000 and the Roman Catholics 7,000. The courts, too, having foreign jurisdiction are not native, but white. The chief justice is selected by the powers and has jurisdiction, not only in cases where foreigners are parties, but in all cases where foreigner and native are parties.

It would seem that no good reason could exist why a court that has jurisdiction to try cases between Englishmen and Americans might not be qualified to try cases between Americans themselves, nor why it should not be authorized to try and punish an American as well as a Norwegian or a person of another nationality in a country declared to be autonomous and independent, and where all men are supposed to be free and equal. It developed also upon inquiry that this consular jurisdiction was unpopular with the people themselves. The consuls even condemned it and we found but one man, an attorney who had shown some skill in entangling the courts upon this vexed question, who attempted to defend such jurisdiction. No reason therefore seeming to exist for further insistence upon the rule, and its exercise having been found to be prolific of the evils sought to be controlled, we have recommended the abolition of this extraterritorial jurisdiction heretofore exercised by the consuls and have conferred such jurisdiction upon the chief justice, and have at the same time, to relieve his court and to expedite the hearing of petty cases, enlarged the jurisdiction of the municipal magistrate so as to allow him to try civil cases involving an amount not exceeding $50 and misdemeanors where the penalty does not exceed a fine of $200 or one hundred and eighty days imprisonment, with right of limited appeal to the supreme court. We have also made a few specifications of the powers of the courts to issue certain writs, such as mandamus, injunction, etc., which would probably exist without enumeration, and have retained the former provision of the Berlin treaty making the decisions of the chief justice final, adding, however, a clause which reserves to the powers the right to annul all decisions involving executive and administrative rights or principles of international law. This clause relieves the powers from the annoyance of appeals by litigants which might be frequent and annoying, and at the same time saves to them the right of annulment in all cases where the decision is not strictly judicial. We have also extended the jurisdiction of the supreme court to felonies committed by natives against each other, upon the advice of missionaries and those better versed in Samoan laws and usages. It is believed that such jurisdiction, though exercised only in extreme cases, will have a beneficial effect in restraining the commission of crime and advancing the condition of morality among the natives themselves. Much complaint existed also among American and English settlers especially, that the Berlin act contained no provision for a trial by jury, which citizens of [Page 657] those nations regard as one of their dearest rights. We found, however, that it would be quite impracticable to provide for a jury of twelve men, where perhaps not one hundred men qualified for jury duty could be found on the entire islands, and we therefore have compromised the matter by providing for a jury of three to be allowed in the discretion of the court in civil cases and as an absolute right in criminal cases. This in lieu of the provision for assessors, which we were informed was a dead letter, it never having been attempted to be used but once since the organization of the court and which then proved a failure. With these exceptions the powers of the supreme court have not been changed. This court has proved to be the strongest and best part of the mechanism of the Berlin treaty and we have felt it proper therefore to strengthen rather than to weaken its powers.

In place of the king and his advisers we have provided an executive officer whom we have designated as an administrator. To the administrator, who it is presumed will be an upright and experienced man of affairs, we have given real powers of administration. He will be the center and focus of the Samoan government, a real executive; and in reply to any objection which may be urged that we have established a protectorate instead of a Samoan government, we have, at the request of the natives themselves, taken away the prop from the king—the white adviser, who was expected and intended to be the actual king—and given them a real executive in his place—replaced the shadow with the object itself.

It can with no more propriety be urged that an assault has been made upon the independence of Samoa by furnishing it an able executive than where the native court was replaced by the supreme court, and what has proved such a necessity and bulwark of strength in the judicial department, it is believed will be developed in the executive by the substitution of the administrator for the king and his white adviser, and the one strikes no more at the independence of Samoa or assumes a greater protectorate power than the other. The question becomes one of good government and not a mere dream of the sentimentalist, the humanitarian, or the charlatan. If a government is to be maintained in these islands it must be a strong, simple, and economical one. It must be so strong as to be respected and feared, so simple as to be understood by the native and white, and so economical as to impose neither too heavy a burden upon the people nor the powers that must be responsible for its failure or success. Along these lines, without sentiment or imagery of thought, we have centered in the administrator and his council such power and simplicity of action as will give in our judgment to it the strength and elasticity which, under the strict construction of the Berlin treaty, robbed the government of the powers intended to he conferred. Small powers of legislation are given to the council, well guarded in their enumeration and in the reservation which gives to the powers entire right to modify or annul. In this way the treaty, instead of being a codification of law, assumes more the character of a written constitution which both grants and limits the powers of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the government, and provides thereby an elasticity of action with sufficient checks and balances to guard the safety of its action without interfering with its strength or economy. The white man has provided a white man’s government over the whites, and so far [Page 658] over the natives as to insure peace and to protect the business relations existing between native and white upon these islands. The natives in their intercourse with each other are governed by the laws and customs of Samoa as administered by the district chiefs. We have preserved all there has ever been of native government and given to the central government simplicity and strength which it is believed will insure stability and permanence of character. The administrator and chief justice are given such salaries as is believed will command respectability, and the office of councilor is left to be filled by each nation at such salary as may be deemed adequate and just. Provision is also made for their acting in the capacity of collectors of customs, treasurer, attorney-general, and such other executive offices as may be found expedient and proper, it being clearly shown that their employment in the role of councilors will not be so onerous but that a large share of the executive work of the islands can be performed by them; and if desired, no objection is seen to their acting in the additional capacities of consuls or consular agents of the different powers, and in this way the salaries now paid for king, collector of customs, etc., would be saved and a fair salary could be afforded by the powers to command for these places such ability as their importance demands.

As to the native government, we have given it especial study. We visited every island except Manua, the extreme eastern islands of the group, which have but few inhabitants and are almost inaccessible except during the smoothest sea. We held meetings in every district, at which nearly every chief and native was present. We discussed with them their theories of government. We drank kava and ate with them. We listened to their speeches. We talked with their chiefs and explained our own theories of the central and native governments, and we found them not only quite unanimous, but at the last enthusiastic in favor of the central government as contained in the amendments proposed. The form of district government is quite their own, and was agreed upon after our tour of the islands, and is a consensus of the views of the chiefs and those most familiar with native laws and customs. Our aim has been to leave to the native the largest freedom and liberty within the districts and to teach him self-government through the native assembly, which meets each year at Apia, whose teachings will disseminate and make its impressions felt in the district governments until in time the native will be able to take his part in the government of the islands with an intelligence equal if not superior to that of the white man now there. But at present he is unfitted for extended self-government, and no one appreciates this fact better than himself. He is anxious to learn. He wants a white man’s government. Thanks to the missionaries the great bulk of the natives and nearly every chief can read and write and are adopting the habits of civilization with great alacrity. They are entirely satisfied with the form of government we have proposed, and while we have not permitted our draft to be published or read until it shall have been presented to our Governments, we have taken occasion at these private meetings with chiefs, at which no white man or reporter was permitted to be present, to explain its principles at length, and on the 14th of July, just before our departure, we called the chiefs together at Apia from all the islands, about four hundred and fifty being present—every high chief, in fact, except Mataafa and Tanu, the former being kept away by sickness and the latter because it was not deemed proper for him to be present during [Page 659] Mataafa’s absence. To these chiefs we fully explained the proposed government, and were surprised to find that the Mataafa chiefs had anticipated us by themselves proposing in brief a form of government much our own, which they had prepared and which was read by one of the Mataafa chiefs. * * * At the close of the meeting so harmonious were the views of all the chiefs, both of the Mataafa and Tanu factions, that it was agreed that 13 chiefs from either side should be selected to sign the proposed form of government, to show to the powers that it met with their entire approval. Accordingly the 26 chiefs, 13 of the Mataafa and 13 of the Tanu party, came on board the Badger on the morning of July 15, 1899, and signed the proposed plan of government, and their original signatures will be found appended to the draft of government forming a part of our joint report which is herewith submitted.

In the form of government presented we have endeavored as far as possible to preserve the symmetry and theory of the Berlin treaty. The provisions as to reservation of lands to the native people, the principle of taxation, the restriction as to introduction of firearms and intoxicating liquors, have all been preserved and in some respects emphasized. The courts, as I have already stated, are retained and their jurisdiction enlarged, and the executive power has been changed only by abolishing the puppet king and creating out of his white adviser a real executive, as the adviser was expected to be. In short, the only change in principle has been to take away the consular judicial powers and confer them upon the chief justice, and to give elasticity to the act by conferring such legislative powers as would seem to be impossible to be exercised by the powers themselves, or which results could not be embraced in an act so brief as the treaty itself. We have endeavored in the short time at our command to ascertain the weaknesses of the treaty in its administration, to learn the requirements of the native people, and to suggest such changes as it is hoped will best retrieve the errors of the past and maintain a strong and stable government in future.

I am by no means sanguine that the form proposed will produce the effect desired, for while I have no doubt that any one of the great powers could easily govern these islands in the manner proposed, I fear their ability to do so when acting together, and I can not forbear to impress upon my Government not only the propriety but the necessity of dissolving this partnership of nations which has no precedent for its creation nor reason for its continuance. It will produce national jealousies and endanger the friendly relations that have so long existed between the powers. Considerations of national welfare should terminate this unusual alliance at the earliest moment that it can be done with proper regard for the rights and interests of the powers concerned. Should the plan of government recommended by the commission meet with approval I can not urge too strongly that it be put into operation at the earliest moment. The provisional government is now in the hands of the consuls. We have delegated to them all the executive power vested in the commission so far as we were able to do so under our power to establish a provisional government. * * * Mr. Hamilton Hunter represents England, Luther W. Osborn the United States, and Mr. Grunow, formerly vice-consul, the Empire of Germany. Mr. Hunter is a man of considerable experience in the Pacific islands and has some knowledge of native character. Mr. Osborn has been [Page 660] “through the war,” but seems unobjectionable to all parties. He is a good lawyer and his knowledge derived from past experience will be of service in the future. Mr. Grunow is a young man, but of some experience and ability. He, too, was in Apia during the recent troubles and brings with him into his office as consul not only recollections but some prejudices also as to the post. It is generally better that new men fill these places, for while they may lack in experience they are free from bias and prejudice, fostered and strengthened by recent events, which often color their action and lessen their influence. Chief Justice Chambers expressed his desire to return home immediately on my arrival. I did not object, but deemed his action a wise one. The judge is a good lawyer and an honest man, but it would have taken years for him to have overcome the prejudice which his decision raised against him among the native people. Mr. Osborn has been temporarily appointed to fill his place, but his duties as consul, to which have been added the executive duties of the government, require that the place of chief justice should be immediately filled. Dr. Solf, president of the municipality, acts as adviser to the consuls under the provisional government, as he did to the king under the former government.

The commissioners are not satisfied with the form of government we were obliged to leave provisionally in force. We would have preferred to have assimilated it more to the form of the permanent government proposed, but with the material at hand the members of the commission were wholly unable to agree upon a person for administrator, and we leave the matter to the powers, trusting they will recognize the fact that the present government must be treated as a provisional one in the literal sense and that immediate action should be taken to replace it with one of greater strength and influence. The Samoans are not a difficult people to govern; they are a volatile, emotional people; they are suddenly angered, but harbor no resentment or revenge; their reconciliation is as rapid and demonstrative as their anger is sudden and violent. They require a prompt and energetic government rather than a strong and powerful one. A few small vessels with rapid-fire guns can reach every village of the islands and a few detachments of soldiers for police duty on shore would maintain peace everywhere. The islands are in shape not unlike that of a hat; the interior, representing the crown, is mountainous and uninhabited; the rim, or shore, is covered with cocoanut palms, bread fruit, pineapples, bananas, and all the tropical fruits which furnish the native food. Around this rim or shore line are situated all the villages and homes of the native people, so that the islands are easy to patrol on shore or by sea, and a government in which the native has confidence and is taught to respect can be administered with small display of force and little expense. Battle ships and large cruisers are worthless in these waters. The harbors are small and difficult of access, but vessels not exceeding 1,500 tonnage—better 1,000—can enter and anchor in most of the harbors of the islands. Our vessel, the Badger, we found too large for the island trip and we accepted the kind offer of the Tutanekai, a New Zealand vessel of about 1,000 tons, which took us around Savaii, Apolima, Manono, and a portion of the island of Upolu, anchoring in places where larger vessels would not dare approach.

These islands have been described so many times in the very able reports of consuls and former commissioners that I shall not attempt to go over the ground they have so well and so fully covered. They [Page 661] are very beautiful in appearance, and the climate in winter—our summer at the north—is indeed charming. The level and mountain land is covered with trees and timber of every variety. Unlike the Hawaiian Islands the mountains are green to their very tops. But little is known of the interior; beautiful waterfalls are seen from the harbor of Apia, said to be more than 400 feet in height, which are still inaccessible for want of roads. Virgin forests of splendid timber are yet untouched by native hand. The finest tropical fruits in the world, including oranges, limes, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, cocoanuts, and breadfruit grow wild and in abundance. Outside of the great German and a few other plantations, everything is in a state of nature. The soil is fertile but rocky, and fitted only for growth of shrubs and trees. The soil is decomposed lava and scoria. Much of the lava rock is still undecomposed, so that cultivation in the ordinary manner is impracticable and quite impossible. Such implements as plows, drags, drills, and cultivators are useless here and, indeed, unknown. Trees of all kinds throw down their roots into the loose, porous lava rock, and a kind of low vine in the forest of cocoanut and other trees creeps over the low lying rock, so that until disturbed the ground appears level and not unlike the dark soil of our Western land, but in most parts of the islands when disturbed it is found to be a broken mass of lava rock. Where it has been attempted to be removed in constructing roads through one of the German plantations, at the western end of Upolu, and where we spent a very pleasant Sunday, the rock removed from the roadway was sufficient in amount to construct a high wall on either side. The cultivation of cotton was at one time attempted by planting in hills from which the rock was removed, but the labor was found too great and it has been practically abandoned. Shrubs of all kinds thrive in the lava rock. Coffee, it is believed, will yet be cultivated with success. Cocoa thrives, and the plantations are being largely increased. Copra, the product of the cocoanut, is still the principal article of export. All the tropical fruits which grow here in their wild state improve much by cultivation. The natives are not inclined to labor, and nearly all the laborers on the great plantations are brought from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

It is believed that as the native becomes better educated and more and more adopts the habits of civilization he will devote his attention more to the raising of copra, cocoa, and other commercial products, and in this way his time will be better occupied than in the discussion of native politics and the propagation of island or tribal war. The greatest impediment to civilized progress has hitherto been the communal character of property. The land of the natives and much of their personal property is held in common, and their government is largely patriarchal. Their chiefs are heads of one great family. If one member of the family is more successful than another, the rest claim as a right, which he is not at liberty to deny, that he should share with them. There is, therefore, no incentive to individual activity. Punishments by fine are paid by the tribe, so that the only real punishment which a native fears is imprisonment with hard labor. The latter is not only a disgrace, but a real punishment. The result is that most misdemeanors in Samoa are punished by hard labor. The missionaries and other humanitarians here are using every effort to induce the natives to abandon this communal plan and to become, like the whites, individuals and men. Some laws looking to the allotment of [Page 662] lands, retaining still the prohibition upon alienation, would go far in aid of well-directed efforts to overcome this obstruction to native progress.

The importance of the Samoan Islands, however, lies not so much in their commercial advantage as in their geographical location. They are in the great future pathway of commerce, and their importance in this respect can not be overestimated. Savaii, the largest of the group, has no good harbors. Upolu has several small harbors and open road-steads, for most of the harbors are mere openings in the coral reef. This reef extends around each island at a width varying from a few feet or rods to several miles. Wherever the fresh water comes down to the sea, the coral insect has abandoned his work, and here are found the harbors of the islands. If the stream is small, the opening in the reef and harbor is also small. Generally the projecting headlands near the mouth of the stream, if any, are low, so that these so-called harbors are mere open roadsteads. Some of these are too deep for an anchorage, others too small, so that of all these reef openings but few can be called harbors. We spent several days at Pago-Pago. This, unlike the other reef openings, is a landlocked harbor, a beautiful inland harbor. It resembles one of those picturesque Swiss lakes. The mountains on every side are precipitous and in places perpendicular, and the level land around the water’s edge is very narrow and small in extent. Baron Sternburg, my colleague, kindly made me a set of drawings giving a panorama of the entire harbor, which are wonderfully accurate, and I had them photographed (taking the precaution to bring away the negatives), and I inclose you a set corresponding with a set1 sent also to the Navy Department. You will see marked thereon the place occupied by our projected wharf and coal sheds. The contractors were there and were at work at the time of our visit. I can not impress upon my Government too strongly the necessity of its undivided possession of this harbor. It is the only one worthy of the name in the islands. Tangeloa, on the island of Upolu, the only other harbor, has an open mouth and is too deep for anchorage. In Pago-Pago, after entering the inner harbor, it is as calm as an inland lake. Not a ripple was visible upon the surface of the bay, although a storm was raging at sea and we could hear the waves roaring and the surf breaking in the outer harbor about 2 miles away. The harbor and the entire island should be under our individual control. A coaling station within the harbor or the harbor alone would be of little value. The modern coaling station must be fortified, and to do this the adjoining bay of Leone must be had, with its connecting peninsula. In short, the whole island must be had; and it would, in my judgment, be a wise policy to give our allies and the world to be informed that our interests in Samoa center most closely about Pago-Pago and the island of Tutuila, and that we should not look with favor upon any effort on the part of any nation to interfere with our rights or make them less available for future requirements of the nation by curtailment of our interests in the harbor or in the island itself. Negotiations between England and Germany have been several times had to exchange the undivided interests of the one for the sole possession of other island properties. So far as I am informed, the proposition has been only to surrender to Great Britain the German interests. This Germany will probably decline to do so long as the German firm retains its interests [Page 663] in the large German plantations; but recently, it is said, large offers have been made by British capitalists for these properties. Should this result be brought about, it would undoubtedly follow that Germany would exchange her Samoan interests for some British island interests, and the United States, which has so long been the buffer power between these two great nations, would be in a position to ask for a severance of the joint rule we have so long maintained contrary to all our former national policies and traditions.

* * * * * * *

Not having the opportunity of seeing Mataafa and Tanu in person at the time of our departure, we deemed it a wise precaution to address to each of them a letter from the commission direct, advising them of the provisional government which we were leaving in charge of the affairs of the islands, acknowledging the valuable services they each had rendered the commission in its efforts to promote peace and establish a stable and permanent government, and reminding them of their promises of obedience and allegiance to the government so established. These letters * * * were left with the consuls with instructions that they should be translated into Samoan and transmitted to Mataafa and Tanu as directed. It will be observed that no promises have at any time been held out to Mataafa of immunity or otherwise further than that he may have the right to expect, should his future action continue to be one of loyalty to the government, and should he continue to use his great influence with the native Samoans in behalf of peace and honest allegiance to the government, that he may be permitted to spend the remainder of his days on his native island and with his family and friends. Mataafa is a strong factor in the politics of Samoa, an all-powerful element in determining the question of peace or war. Should he keep his promises in the future, the government will be benefited by his presence; otherwise he should be removed at once. I have every reason to believe that Mataafa will in future honestly and faithfully keep every promise he has made. He is an old man, in poor health, and over his own signature he has declared “there should be no more king.” His ambition is at an end, and the desire to die at home and not in exile he knows can be gratified only by the strict observance of every promise of obedience and loyalty that he has made. Tanu is but a child and does not promise any development of strength for good or evil in the immediate future, and unless he be made the tool of some designing white man, no fears are to be entertained of his hostile action against the provisional or permanent government of the islands.

Trusting that the peace we have been able to establish may be permanent and the changes in the form of government we have proposed may meet in some degree with your approval,

I remain, etc.,

Bartlett Tripp.
  1. Not printed.