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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 7 (October 1, 1936)

A South-Sea-Bubble Republic

A South-Sea-Bubble Republic,

Here I must explain that one of Ben Boyd's bright ideas was a quixotic kind of scheme for a South Sea Republic. A proposal had been made to form a South Sea Islands Confederation, political and commercial. Boyd's untimely death disposed of this; but about 1855 the scheme was revived, a federation of Western Pacific Islands under the protectorate of the Government of Hawaii, then more generally called the Sandwich Islands. The Solomon Islands were, to be the nucleus of the State. Mr. Webster was appointed “Sovereign Chief” of Eastern San Christoval; Mr. Charles F. Julian, of New South Wales, Chief of Marau, and Mr. C. G. de Ross Reeves ruler of Malo. King Kamehameha, of Hawaii, created Webster a “Knighf Commander” of some nebulous order. There were flags and gorgeous seals, all very fine and beautiful. The Confederation remained a castle in the air. Boyd was in a way a Cecil Rhodes of the Pacific, but a less practical and less fortunate Rhodes. It was just as well the rulers of the fantastic sub-kingdom never attempted to put their Honolulu-made authority to the test. The spearsmen and tomahawk-wielders of the Solomon Islands would have had a short way with it. Mr. Webster never took the Rajah Brooke-like scheme very seriously; still it was all in the way of adventure, and that is the salt of life.

After the wreck of the Wanderer, Mr. Webster went to England, taking with him his series of sketches depicting the Pacific cruise of the schooner, and he had the honour of showing them to Queen Victoria. She was interested in hearing about Boyd. and his tragic end; he was High Steward of Scotland at the ceremony of Her Majesty's Coronation.

Louis Napoleon of France, who had been a guest of Ben Boyd when in exile in England, was also concerned about his old friend's fate, and being now in power in his country offered to send a French warship to the Solomon Islands to clear up the mystery of his death and deal out punishment to the natives. However, this was not necessary; the British Naval authorities in the Pacific were already investigating the circumstances.

“The Last Cruise of the Wanderer,” a now very rare little book written by Webster and illustrated by himself, preserves the story of the pleasure cruise that ended in tragedy. In his old age he put together his reminiscences, and these were published in a limited edition.