Page images

top of his head, but it would be considered gross disrespect to appear thus in presence of a superior or at a religious service. He must then untie the string and let his hair fall on his shoulders. Rather odd, is it not, that they should have exactly the same idea on this subject as a Chinaman, who dares not venture to appear in presence of a superior with his pigtail twisted round his head? To-day the great chief's half-caste secretary asked me most anxiously when “Arthur Gordon” was coming from Fiji, and whether it was really certain that he would endeavour to force the Samoans to reinstate King Malietoa. I ventured to answer for Sir Arthur having no such intention, which seemed to soothe the inquirer and all his anxious surroundings. You may remember that we have twice had Samoan chiefs in Fiji. Once when they were brought as hostages on board the Barracouta, and once as a deputation to the British Government, to claim a protectorate from England. In each case, though the protectorate was refused, they were most kindly received by Sir Arthur Gordon, and amongst other attentions, were invited to dine at Government House. So several of those here assembled now recognised me as an old acquaintance, and are very friendly in consequence. It really is too sad to see those fine manly fellows, who, if they could but work in concert, might be such a powerful little community, now all torn by internal conflicts and jealousies, continually fanned by the unprincipled whites, who hope to reap their harvest in the troubles of their neighbours. I fear it would be difficult in a few words to explain the position of affairs, but I must give you a rough outline. The old original Tui Samoa-i.e., kings—were of the dynasty of Tupua. Some generations back the Tongans came and invaded Samoa, whose people resisted bravely, and finally expelled the foe. The Wellington of that day was a brave chief, who was thenceforth known as Malietoa, the “Good Warrior,” a title which from that day has been borne by the chief ruler of the isles, even if not in the direct lineal descent. The chiefs of Savaii, and of part of Upolu, with the lesser isles of Manono and Apolima, elected Malietoa their king. The isles of Auna and Atua remained loyal to the

[ocr errors]


Tupua family. They were, however, conquered by a successor of
Malietoa, who reigned as king of the whole group till 1840, since
which period a ceaseless strife has been waged between the con-
tending factions. These became aggravated in 1869 by a split in
the Malietoa camp, when, on the death of the reigning chief, his
two sons contested the succession. The chiefs of Savaii supported
the claims of the elder brother, while those of the isle Monono
elected the second, justly believing that the chiefs of Apia were
becoming mere tools in the hands of the foreigners.
This double civil war, fomented as usual by the whites, raged
till 1872, when the United States assumed a sort of protectorate
over the group, and in the following year a republic was declared,
the supreme power being vested in the hands of a representative
body of seven high chiefs. These were called the Tainua–i.e.,
the “Pioneers.”
I must tell you that the great nobles of Samoa are called Alii,
and the greatest care is taken to preserve their line in direct lineal
descent from the ancient chiefs. It is not necessary that the title
should descend from father to son, only that it should be bestowed
on a member of the family, who can trace back his clear pedigree
to the true source. Therefore, on the death of a high chief, the
minor chiefs of the tribe elect the member of the principal family,
whom they will henceforth acknowledge as their political head,
reserving to themselves the power of deposing him should he
prove unsatisfactory.
These minor chiefs also hold their title as head of the family by
election—a son being often passed over in favour of a cousin, and
sometimes even of one who is no blood relation, but is adopted for
some political reason. These head men are the Faipule, who act
as local magistrates in each village, the affairs of which they dis-
cuss in solemn conclave. They have the name of being great
orators, and much eloquence flows in these legislative assemblies.
The great chiefs never speak in public, that office being deputed
to their official spokesman. In a general way the Samoan isles
have divided themselves into ten districts, each of which has its
distinct fono or parliament, and no action is taken in any matter

till the members of one council have arrived at something very near a unanimous decision. Of course, in times of war like the present, these matters are very irregular. In January 1875, a new experiment was tried. Unheeding the wisdom which forbids having “two queens in Brentford,” the Samoans resolved to have a king of each dynasty, who should reign jointly: so Pulepule of the ancient Tupua race ascended the throne in company with Malietoa Laupepa; and the number of the Taimua was raised from seven to fourteen. How long this amicable arrangement might have continued, it is impossible to say; for on the 1st April 1875, a very serious phase of April fooling was enacted by an American adventurer, known as Colonel Steinberger, who, by some means not clearly explained, obtained a passage to Apia in the United States man-of-war Tuscarora, and on landing stated that he had been sent from Washington to organise a new government. As his sole credentials, he presented the Samoans with four pieces of cannon and a Gatling gun, which, he said, were a gift from President Grant. Utterly ignoring all the foreign consuls, including the representative of the States, he proceeded, under protection of the American man-of-war, to draw up a new constitution, declaring Malietoa sole king, and himself (Steinberger) prime minister, and, in fact, supreme ruler. This matter being settled, the Tuscarora sailed, and Steinberger proceeded to arm the schooner Peerless (which he had purchased in San Francisco) with guns and ammunition, and sailed to Tutuila to put down the disturbances in that island. The American consul (Mr Foster) vainly remonstrated against the proceeding of this unlicensed vessel flying the American flag; and taking advantage of the arrival of H.M.S. Barracouta, commanded by Captain Stevens, he seized the Peerless for breach of the neutrality laws. Then followed a meeting of all the foreign residents, resolving to free themselves from the tyranny of this self-constituted dictator. Many of the Samoan chiefs joined with the foreigners in claiming British protection—the German consul, Godeffroy's representative, being the only one to stand aloof. The Barracouta arrived on the



12th December; and on the 7th February, Malietoa appealed to the United States consul to aid him in getting rid of his arrogant premier. Mr Foster forwarded this petition to the British consul and Captain Stevens, who, after an interview with the king and the Samoan representatives—the Taimua and the Faipule—agreed to arrest Steinberger, who, accordingly, was carried on board the Barracouta for safe keeping. His right hand, Jonas Coe, was however left at large, and by his advice the Steinberger faction proceeded that night to seize the king and carry him off to the isle of Savaii, where they forced him to sign a deed of abdication, vesting all power of government in the Taimua and Faipule. Within a week Malietoa contrived to send a message to Captain Stevens, acquainting him with these circumstances, and requesting his further aid. The Barracouta accordingly went to the rescue, and brought the king back to Apia, where he was landed with a salute of twenty-one guns, and a guard of marines was told off to protect him. The town was now full of armed mobs, who surrounded the British consulate in a threatening manner, so that Mr Williams, the consul, was obliged to swear in special constables for its protection. So matters went on till the 13th March, when the king, wishing to explain to his people his reasons for dismissing Steinberger, summoned all the chiefs to meet him at the neighbouring village of Mulinunu, which lies on a green peninsula beyond Apia. Malietoa was escorted by his principal chiefs, the consuls, and foreign residents, and Captain Stevens, with a guard of sailors and marines; the latter with unloaded arms, which were piled on reaching the village. Then, in their rear, appeared a strong party of armed natives, cutting off their retreat, and evidently meditating an attack. An officer, with a small party of marines, advanced to parley with these men, but were received with a volley of musketry, which killed and wounded several. Then followed a sharp skirmish, in which the sailors fought at a great disadvantage—the enemy being 500 strong, and concealed by the dense thickets of bananas and sugar-cane. Eleven sailors and marines were killed and wounded, and the assailants lost about double that number. Grave fears were entertained that the British and American consulates would be attacked; so they were put in a state of defence, which proved a sufficient precaution. Next day Mr Jonas Coe was tried by his consul and countrymen, and sentenced to be deported. So he enjoyed the privilege of joining his chief on board H.M.S. Barracouta, which soon afterwards sailed for New Zealand, calling at Fiji on the way (on which occasion I made friends with the three Samoan chiefs whom Captain Stevens had brought away as hostages for the good behaviour of their party). Much oil having been poured on these troubled waters by the soothing intervention of both French and English missionaries, and especially by the personal influence of the bishop, a superficial peace was established, and Malietoa Laupepa once more reigned as king. How soon disturbances have broken out, we now see too plainly." After our evening meal at the Fathers' house, I took a turn in the moonlight with M. Pinart and M. de Kerraoul, hoping to see a Samoan dance, which was to come off soon after sunset. But the council having again met, the dance was deferred till so late that I thought it better to come back here, where I found all the pretty little school-girls adorned with garlands, singing and acting very pretty quaint songs and dances, illustrating their geography, arithmetic, &c. Then about twenty grown-up women, who had come in from the village, sprang to their feet, and volunteered to show me some of the real old Samoan night dances—Po ulu fuka Samoa.

* The struggle lasted for some time. Finally, Malietoa again got the upper hand, and was acknowledged king by the foreign Powers, General Bartlett, U.S., being his prime minister. In August 1879, the Hon. Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon, Commissioner for the Western Pacific, arrived at Apia, and concluded a treaty with the king and Government of Samoa, declaring perpetual peace and friendship between the people of their respective isles. The Samoans ceded to Britain the right to establish a naval station and coaling depot, as had previously been granted by treaty both to Germany and America. On the 8th November 1880 King Malietoa died. He was barely forty years of age, and a man greatly loved by all his own people. Probably but for the disturbing presence of the meddling whites, he might still be reigning over a happy and prosperous people. As it is, the country is once more in a state of anarchy; and the good bishop, whose heart yearned for the peace and prosperity of the people, has himself passed away to the world where all is peace.

« PreviousContinue »