Robert Louis Stevenson.

A footnote to history: eight years of trouble in Samoa online

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roads that were made were called the Govern-
ment Roads ; they were six fathoms wide. Their
making caused much damage to Samoa's lands
and what was planted on it. The Samoans
cried on account of their lands which were
taken high-handedly and abused. They again
cried on account of the loss of what they had
planted, which was now thrown away in a high-
handed way, without any regard being shown
or question asked of the owner of the land, or
any compensation offered for the damage done.
This was different with foreigners' land; in

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I02 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

their case permission was first asked to make
the roads; the foreigners were paid for any
destruction made/' The sting of this count
was, I fancy, in the last clause. No less than
six articles complain of the administration of
the law; and I believe that was never satis-
factory. Brandeis told me himself he was never
yet satisfied with any native judge. And men
say (and it seems to fit in well with his hasty
and eager character) that he would legislate by
word of mouth ; sometimes forget what he had
said; and on the same question arising in an-
other province, decide it perhaps otherwise. I
gather, on the whole, our artillery captain was
not great in law. Two articles refer to a mat-
ter I must deal with more at length, and rather
from the point of view of the white residents.

The common charge against Brandeis was
that of favouring the German firm. Coming as
he did, this was inevitable. Weber had bought
Steinberger with hard cash; that was matter
of history. The present government he did not
even require to buy, having founded it by his
intrigues, and introduced the premier to Samoa
through the doors of his own office. And the

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Brandeis 103

effect of the initial blunder was kept alive by
the chatter of the clerks in barrooms, boasting
themselves of the new government and prophe-
sying annihilation to all rivals. The time of
raising a tax is the harvest of the merchant;
it is the time when copra will be made, and
must be sold ; and the intention of the German
firm, first in the time of Steinberger, and again
in April and May, 1888, with Brandeis, was to
seize and handle the whole operation. Their
chief rivals were the Messrs. MacArthur ; and
it seems beyond question that provincial gov-
ernors more than once issued orders forbidding
Samoans to take money from "the New Zea-
land firm." These, when they were brought to
his notice, Brandeis disowned, and he is entitled
to be heard. No man can live long in Samoa
and not have his honesty impugned. But the
accusations against Brandeis's veracity are
both few and obscure. I believe he was as
straight as his sword. The governors doubt-
less issued these orders, but there were plenty
besides Brandeis to suggest them. Every wan-
dering clerk from the firm's office, every planta-
tion manager, would be dinning the same story

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I04 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

in the native ear. And here again the initial
blunder hung about the neck of Brandeis, a
ton's weight. The natives, as well as the
whites, had seen their premier masquerading
on a stool in the office ; in the eyes of the na-
tives, as well as in those of the whites, he must
always have retained the mark of servitude
from that ill-judged passage; and they would
be inclined to look behind and above him, to
the great house of Misi Ueba. The government
was like a vista of puppets. People did not
trouble with Tamasese, if they got speech with
Brandeis; in the same way, they might not
always trouble to ask Brandeis, if they had a
hint direct from Misi Ueba, In only one case,
though it seems to have had many develop-
ments, do I find the premier personally com-
mitted. The MacArthurs claimed the copra of
Fasitotai on a district mortgage of three hun-
dred dollars. The German firm accepted a
mortgage of the whole province of Aana,
claimed the copra of Fasitotai as that of a part
of Aana, and were supported by the govern-
ment. Here Brandeis was false to his own
principle, that personal and village debts should

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Brandeis 105

come before provincial. But the case occurred
before the promulgation of the law, and was
as a matter of fact the cause of it; so the
most we can say is that he changed his mind,
and changed it for the better. If the history
of his government be considered — how it origi-
nated in an intrigue between the firm and
the consulate, and was (for the firm's sake
alone) supported by the consulate with foreign
bayonets — the existence of the least doubt on
the man's action must seem marvellous. We
should have looked to find him playing openly
and wholly into their hands; that he did not,
implies great independence and much secret
friction; and I believe (if the truth were
known) the firm would be found to have
been disgusted with the stubbornness of its
intended tool, and Brandeis often impatient of
the demands of his creators.

But I may seem to exaggerate the degree of
white opposition. And it is true that before
fate overtook the Brandeis government, it
appeared to enjoy the fruits of victory in Apia ;
and one dissident, the unconquerable Moors,
stood out alone to refuse his taxes. But the

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io6 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

victory was in appearance only ; the opposition
was latent ; it found vent in talk, and thus re-
acted on the natives ; upon the least excuse, it
was ready to flame forth again. And this is
the more singular because some were far from
out of sympathy with the native policy pursued.
When I met Captain Brandeis, he was amazed
at my attitude. "Whom did you find in Apia
to tell you so much good of me .? " he asked. I
named one of my informants. " He } ** he cried.
" If he thought all that, why did he not help
me .? *' I told him as well as I was able. The
man was a merchant. He beheld in the gov-
ernment of Brandeis a government created by
and for the firm who were his rivals. If Bran-
deis were minded to deal fairly, where was the
probability that he would be allowed.? If
Brandeis insisted and were strong enough to
prevail, what guarantee that, as soon as the
government were fairly accepted, Brandeis
might not be removed ? Here was the attitude
of the hour ; and I am glad to find it clearly set
forth in a despatch of SewalFs, June i8th, 1888,
when he commends the law against mortgages,
and goes on : " Whether the author of this law

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Brandeis 107

will carry out the good intentions which he pro-
fesses — whether he will be allowed to do so, if
he desires, against the opposition of those who
placed him in power and protect him in the
possession of it — may well be doubted."
Brandeis had come to Apia in the firm's liv-
ery. Even while he promised neutrality in
commerce, the clerks were prating a different
story in the barrooms; and the late high feat
of the knight-errant, Becker, had killed all con-
fidence in Germans at the root. By these three
impolicies, the German adventure in Samoa was

I imply that the handful of whites were the
true obstacle, not the thousands of malcontent
Samoans ; for had the whites frankly accepted
Brandeis, the path of Germany was clear, and
the end of their policy, however troublesome
might be its course, was obvious. But this is
not to say that the natives were content. In a
sense, indeed, their opposition was continuous.
There will always be opposition in Samoa when
taxes are imposed ; and the deportation of Ma-
lietoa stuck in men's throats. Tuiatua Mataafa
refused to act under the new government from

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io8 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

the beginning, and Tamasese usurped his place
and title. As early as February, I find him
signing himself "Tuiaana Tuiatua Tamasese,"
the first step on a dangerous path. Asi, like
Mataafa, disclaimed his chiefship and declared
himself a private person; but he was more
rudely dealt with. German sailors surrounded
his house in the night, burst in, and dragged
the women out of the mosquito nets — an of-
fence against Samoan manners. No Asi was
to be found ; but at last they were shown his
fishing-lights on the reef, rowed out, took him
as he was, and carried him on board a man-of-
war, where he was detained some while be-
tween-decks. At last, January i6th, after a
farewell interview over the ship's side with his
wife, he was discharged into a ketch, and, along
with two other chiefs, Maunga and Tuiletu-
funga, deported to the Marshalls. The blow
struck fear upon all sides. Le Mamea (a
very able chief) was secretly among the mal-
contents. His family and followers murmured
at his weakness ; but he continued, throughout
the duration of the government, to serve Bran-
deis with trembling. A circus coming to Apia,

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Brandeis 109

he seized at the pretext for escape, and asked
leave to accept an engagement in the company.
"I will not allow you to make a monkey of
yourself/' said Brandeis ; and the phrase had a
success throughout the islands, pungent expres-
sions being so much admired by the natives
that they cannot refrain from repeating them,
even when they have been levelled at them-
selves. The assumption of the Atua name
spread discontent in that province ; many
chiefs from thence were convicted of disaffec-
tion, and condemned to labour with their hands
upon the roads — a great shock to the Samoan
sense of the becoming, which was rendered the
more sensible by the death of one of the num-
ber at his task. Mataafa was involved in the
same trouble. His disaffected speech at a
meeting of Atua chiefs was betrayed by the
girls that made the kava, and the man of the
future was called to Apia on safe conduct, but,
after an interview, suffered to return to his lair.
The peculiarly tender treatment of Mataafa
must be explained by his relationship to Ta-
masese. Laupepa was of Malietoa blood. The
hereditary retainers of the Tupua would see

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no Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

him exiled even with some complacency. But
Mataafa was Tupua himself; and Tupua men
would probably have murmured, and would
perhaps have mutinied, had he been harshly
dealt with.

The native opposition, I say, was in a sense
continuous. And it kept continuously growing.
The sphere of Brandeis was limited to Mulinuu
and the north central quarters of Upolu — practi-
cally what is shown upon the map in this volume.
There the taxes were expanded ; in the out-dis-
tricts, men paid their money and saw no return.
Here the eye and hand of the dictator were
ready to correct the scales of justice; in the
out-districts, all things lay at the mercy of the
native magistrates, and their oppressions in-
creased with the course of time and the experi-
ence of impunity. In the spring of the year,
a very intelligent observer had occasion to visit
many places in the island of Savaii. *■ Our lives
are not worth living," was the burthen of the
popular complaint. "We are groaning under
the oppression of these men. We would rather
die than continue to endure it.*' On his return
to Apia, he made haste to communicate his im-

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Brandeis , 1 1 1

pressions to Brandeis. Brandeis replied in an
epigram : " Where there has been anarchy in a
country, there must be oppression for a time."
But unfortunately the terms of the epigram
may be reversed; and personal supervision
would have been more in season than wit
The same observer who conveyed to him this
warning thinks that, if Brandeis had himself
visited the districts and inquired into com-
plaints, the blow might yet have been averted
and the government saved. At last, upon a'
certain unconstitutional act of Tamasese, the
discontent took life and fire. The act was of
his own conception; the dull dog was ambi-
tious. Brandeis declares he would not be dis-
suaded; perhaps his adviser did not seriously
try, perhaps did not dream that in that welter
of contradictions, the Samoan constitution, any
one point would be considered sacred. I have
told how Tamasese assumed the title of Tuiatua.
In August, 1888, a year after his installation, he
took a more formidable step and assumed that
of Malietoa. This name, as I have said, is of
peculiar honour; it had been given to, it had
never been taken from, the exiled Laupepa;

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112- Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

those in whose grant it lay, stood punctilious
upon their rights ; and Tamasese, as the repre-
sentative of their natural opponents, theTupua
line, was the last who should have had it And
there was yet more, though I almost despair to
make it thinkable by Europeans. Certain old
mats are handed down, and set huge store by ;
they may be compared to coats of arms or heir-
looms among ourselves; and to the horror of
more than one-half of Samoa, Tamasese, the
head of the Tupua, began collecting Malietoa
mats. It was felt that the cup was full, and
men began to prepare secretly for rebellion.
The history of the month of August is unknown
to whites ; it passed altogether in the covert of
the woods or in the stealthy councils of Samoans.
One ominous sign was to be noted ; arms and
ammunition began to be purchased or inquired
about ; and the more wary traders ordered fresh
consignments of material of war. But the rest
was silence ; the government slept in security ;
and Brandeis was summoned at last from a
public dinner, to find rebellion organised, the
woods behind Apia full of insurgents, and a
plan prepared, and in the very article of execu-

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Brandets 113

tion, to surprise and seize Mulinuu. The
timely discovery averted all; and the leaders
hastily withdrew towards the south side of the
island, leaving in the bush a rear-guard under
a young man of the name of Saif aleupolu. Ac-
cording to some accounts, it scarce numbered
forty; the leader was no great chief, but a
handsome, industrious lad who seems to have
been much beloved. And upon this obstacle
Brandeis fell. It is the man's fault to be too
impatient of results; his public intention to
free Samoa of all debt within the year, depicts
him; and instead of contmuing to temporise
and let his enemies weary and disperse, he
judged it politic to strike a blow. He struck
it, with what seemed to be success, and the
sound of it roused Samoa to rebellion.

About two in the morning of August 31st,
Apia was wakened by men marching. Day
came, and Brandeis and his war-party were al-
ready long disappeared in the woods. All morn-
ing belated Tamaseseites were still to be seen
running with their guns. All morning shots
were listened for in vain ; but over the top of
the forest, far up the mountain, smoke was for

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1 14 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

some time observed to hang. About ten a dead
man was carried in, lashed under a pole like a
dead pig, his rosary (for he was a Catholic) hang-
ing nearly to the ground. Next came a young
fellow wounded, sitting in a rope swung from a
pole ; two fellows bearing him, two running be-
hind for a relief. At last about eleven, three
or four heavy volleys and a great shouting were
heard from the bush town Tanungamanono; the
affair was over, the victorious force, on the
march back, was there celebrating its victory
by the way. Presently after it marched through
Apia, five or six hundred strong, in tolerable
order and strutting with the ludicrous assump-
tion of the triumphant islander. Women who
had been buying bread ran and gave them
loaves. At the tail end came Brandeis himself,
smoking a cigar, deadly pale, and with perhaps
an increase of his usual nervous manner. One
spoke to him by the way. He expressed his
sorrow the action had been forced on him.
" Poor people, it's all the worse for them ! *' he
said. " It'll have to be done another way now."
And it was supposed by his hearer that he re-
ferred to intervention from the German war-

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Brandeis 115

ships. He meant, he said, to put a stop to
head-hunting ; his men had taken two that day,
he 9.dded, but he had not suffered them to bring
them in, and they had been left in Tanunga-
manono. Thither my informant rode, was at-
tracted by the sound of wailing, and saw in a
house the two heads washed and combed, and
the sister of one of the dead lamenting in the
island fashion and kissing the cold face. Soon
after, a small grave was dug, the heads were
buried in a beef box, and the pastor read the
service. The body of Saifaleupolu himself was
recovered unmutilated, brought down from the
forest, and buried behind Apia.

The same afternoon, the men of Vaimaunga
were ordered to report in Mulinuu, where Ta-
masese's flag was half-masted for the death of
a chief in the skirmish. Vaimaunga is that dis-
trict of Tuamasanga, which includes the bay and
the foothills behind Apia ; and both province
and district are strong Malietoa. Not one man,
it is said, obeyed the summons. Night came,
and the town lay in unusual silence; no one
abroad ; the blinds down around the native
houses, the men within sleeping on their arms ;

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1 1 6 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

the old women keeping watch in pairs. And
in the course of the two following days all
Vaimaunga was gone into the bush, the very
jailer setting free his prisoners and joining
them in their escape. Hear the words of the
chiefs in the 23d article of their complaint :
" Some of the chiefs fled to the bush from fear
of being reported, fear of German men-of-war,
constantly being accused, etc., and Brandeis
commanded that they were to be shot on sight.
This act was carried out by Brandeis on the 31st
day of August, 1888. After this we evaded these
laws ; we could not stand them ; our patience
was worn out with the constant wickedness of
Tamasese and Brandeis. We were tired out
and could stand no longer the acts of these two

So through an ill-timed skirmish, two severed
heads, and a dead body, the rule of Brandeis
came to a sudden end. We shall see him a
while longer fighting for existence in a losing
battle ; but his government, take it for all in all,
the most promising that has ever been in these
unlucky islands, was from that hour a piece of

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Battle of Matautu 1 1 7


September 1888

The revolution had all the character of a
popular movement. Many of the high chiefs
were detained in Mulinuu ; the commons trooped
to the bush under inferior leaders. A camp was
chosen near Faleula, threatening Mulinuu, well
placed for the arrival of recruits and close to a
German plantation from which the force could
be subsisted. Manono came, all Tuamasanga,
much of Savaii, and part of Aana, Tamasese's
own government and titular seat. Both sides
were arming. It was a brave day for the trader,
though not so brave as some that followed,
when a single cartridge is said to have been sold
for twelve cents currency — between nine and
ten cents gold. Yet even among the traders
a strong party feeling reigned, and it was the
common practice to ask a purchaser upon
which side he meant to fight

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1 1 8 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

On September 5 th, Brandeis published a
letter : " To the chiefs of Tuamasanga, Manono,
and Faasaleleanga in the Bush : Chiefs, by
authority of his majesty Tamasese, the king
of Samoa, I make known to you all that the
German man-of-war is about to go together
with a Samoan fleet for the purpose of burning
Manono. After this island is all burnt, 'tis
good if the people return to Manono and live
quiet. To the people of Faasaleleanga I say,
return to your houses and stop there. The
same to those belonging to Tuamasanga. If
you obey this instruction, then you will all be
forgiven; if you do not obey, then all your
villages will be burnt like Manono. These
instructions are made in truth in the sight of
God in the Heaven." The same morning,
accordingly, the Adler steamed out of the bay
with a force of Tamasese warriors and some
native boats in tow, the Samoan fleet in ques-
tion. Manono was shelled ; the Tamasese war-
riors, under the conduct of a Manono traitor,
who paid before many days the forfeit of his
blood, landed and did some damage, but were
driven away by the sight of a force returning

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battle of Matautu 1 1 9

from the mainland ; no one was hurt, for the
women and children, who alone remained on
the island, found a refuge in the bush ; and the
Adler and her acolytes returned the same even-
ing. The letter had been energetic ; the per-
formance fell below the programme. The
demonstration annoyed and yet re-assured the
insurgents, and it fully disclosed to the Germans
a new enemy.

Captain von Widersheim had been relieved.
His successor. Captain Fritze, was an officer of
a different stamp. I have nothing to say of
him but good; he seems to have obeyed the
cor iuFs requisitions with secret distaste; his
despatches were of admirable candour; but
his habits were retired, he spoke little English,
and was far indeed from inheriting von Wider-
sheim's close relations with Commander Leary.
It is believed by Germans that the American
officer resented what he took to be neglect.
I mention this, not because I belieye it to
depict Commander Leary, but because it is
typical of a prevailing infirmity among Ger-
mans in Samoa. Touchy themselves, they
read all history in the light of personal affronts

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I20 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

and tiffs; and I find this weakness indicated
by the big thumb of Bismarck, when he places
** sensitiyeness to small disrespects — empfind-
lichkeit uebcr mangel an respecty^ among the
causes of the wild career of Knappe. What-
ever the cause, at least, the natives had no
sooner taken arms than Leary appeared with
violence upon that side. As early as the 3d,
he had sent an obscure but menacing despatch
to Brandeis. On the 6th, he fell on Fritze
in the matter of the Manono bombardment.
" The revolutionists," he wrote, ** had an armed
force in the field within a few miles of this har-
bour, when the vessels under your command
transported the Tamasese troops to a neighbour-
ing island with the avowed intention of making
war on the isolated homes of the women and
children of the enemy. Being the only other
representative of a naval power now present
in this harbour, for the sake of humanity I
hereby respectfully and solemnly protest in
the name of the United States of America
and of the civilised world in general against
the use of a national war-vessel for such ser-
vices as were yesterday rendered by the Ger-

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Battle of Matautu 121

man corvette Adler'' Fritze's reply, to the
effect that he is under the orders of the consul
and has no right of choice, reads even humble ;
perhaps he was not himself vain of the exploit,
perhaps not prepared to see it thus described
in words. From that moment Leary was in
the front of the row. His name is diagnostic,
but it was not required; on every step of his
subsequent action in Samoa Irishman is writ
large; over all his doings a malign spirit of
humour presided. No malice was too small
for him, if it were only funny. When night
signals were made fron; Mulinuu, he would
sit on his own poop and confound them with
gratuitous rockets. He was at the pains to
write a letter and address it to "the High
Chief Tamasese " — a device as old at least as
the wars of Robert Bruce — in order to bother
the officials of the German postoffice, in whose
hands he persisted in leaving it, although the
address was death to them and the distribution
of letters in Samoa formed no part of their
profession. His great masterwork of pleas-
antry, the Scanlon affair, must be narrated in
its place. And he was no less bold than comi-

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122 Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa

cal. The Adams was not supposed to be a
match for the Adler; there was no glory to
be gained in beating her; and yet I have
heard naval officers maintain she might have
proved a dangerous antagonist in narrow
waters and at short range. Doubtless Leary
thought so. He was continually daring Fritze
to come on ; and already, in a despatch of the
9th, I find Becker complaining of his language
in the hearing of German officials, and how he
had declared that, on the Adler again interfer-
ing, he would interfere himself, " if he went to

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Online LibraryRobert Louis StevensonA footnote to history: eight years of trouble in Samoa → online text (page 6 of 18)