While the commercial activities of the German merchants were raising the intrinsic value of the islands, new discoveries were taking place that affected the Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa groups profoundly. The discovery of gold in America, New Zealand, and Australia produced an increase in trans-Pacific traffic which naturally raised the importance of the three groups on the main route.
The opening up of the Pacific coast of North America began with the gold rush of 1849 in California. Until then communication between East and West had been almost entirely by way of Cape Horn
, or over the Central American Isthmus—a tedious and uncomfortable horseback journey. With the speeding up of communications, plans for an inter-oceanic canal were revived,1
and a company was formed to examine the Nicaragua route. It was called the "American and Pacific Canal Company." Secondarily to this main purpose it conveyed passengers from coast to coast by small steamers which ran up the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua, and by coaches from thence to the Pacific coast.2
This mode of transit proved a most successful venture,3
and even the railway at Panama
, opened in 1855, did not usurp its work. Only the completion of the trans-American railway (1869) diminished its importance. These
two ventures, this steamship and coach company and the Panama
railway, affected private individuals and increased the volume of traffic over the isthmus. Cargo ships, gold-carrying ships, and warships kept to their old routes. Until the canal was completed the value of the islands as strategic points on the route to Panama
By 1869 the trans-Continental railway was completed. This was the culminating point in a series of events that combined to make America a Pacific Power.
The Australian gold discoveries came in 1851. In February Hargraves, a Californian gold miner, first found gold at Summerhill Creek, twenty miles north of Bathurst. By September the great gold fields of Ballarat and Bendigo were opened up. Two years later a new turn was given to affairs by the discovery of gold in Otago, New Zealand.
The importance of these discoveries upon the Pacific Islands is evident. By the increase of wealth of these Pacific countries, by the acceleration of their development, they became capable of a more ambitious policy than previously. America began to look west towards Japan and China. In 1851 the eastern Australian States and New Zealand were given constitutions. Thus at a time when growth was most rapid, a freedom was given which encouraged independence of action. Within the succeeding decades the United States, Australia, and New Zealand began to release themselves from internal problems and to join in the tussle for a share in the island world of the Western Pacific.
The immediate effect of the gold discoveries was the inter-communication between the three countries. Until then Australasian Colonies had communicated with Europe by Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope route. There was no north-east flow of ships.1 Now miners, prospectors, traders, poured from one country to another.
So it was that by the middle of the century Samoa came to have an importance quite unrelated to its commercial value. It was in an advantageous position between the North American Pacific slope and Australia and New Zealand. It was on the main route between the eastern Australian ports and Panama
, important from the aspect of naval defence. Indeed, in his report1
in 1859 on this, Admiral Washington strongly recommended the acquisition of one or other island group. It would be a point from which to defend the main route along which, in the event of the completion of the inter-oceanic canal, the gold ships from Australia would pass. The Home Government, however, did not consider the need urgent. Despite an offered cession of Fiji
and of the Navigators in 1862,3
the British Government determined to support the independence of the various island peoples. The third factor affecting Samoa was the growth of a feeling in Australia and New Zealand of the need to acquire the surrounding islands partly for defence and partly for commercial expansion. The Australasian Colonies, in fact, began to promulgate a Pacific Monroe Doctrine, and they chafed at the British Government which refused to follow their plans and which restrained them from putting their policy into practice. They desired that the whole island world from New Guinea
at least should be reserved for them to develop. The fear of Germany, the United States, or France
stepping in first intensified their impetuosity and annoyance at the hesitation of Downing Street to act. The weakness of the position of
these Colonies, indeed, was that they had not the resources to back up their demands. Thus, while idealists dreamed of a British or perhaps Australasian Western Pacific, the politicians knew very well that they could only raise a small part of the necessary money to help in the materialization of their dreams.1
While Australia was concerned chiefly with New Guinea and the islands in her vicinity, New Zealand's interest lay in Samoa, Tonga, and the Polynesian islands. As early as 1847 Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, envisaged a Pacific peopled by British and governed from New Zealand. At the time New Zealand was too young a colony, and, faced by its own acute problems, could not support the dreams of its enterprising Governor. His idea of a Pacific Empire was first inspired by the appeals of King George Tabou of Tonga for annexation to Great Britain, and by the evident willingness of chiefs at Fiji to come under British protection. He was convinced that the desire was genuine, and he recommended the annexation of the islands by Great Britain.2 They would be a valuable defence for New Zealand and Australia in time of war. The wealth of the islands would make them self-supporting. The natives could augment the military resources of the Empire. The acquisitions would, in short, bristle with advantages.
His enthusiasm met with little response from the Home
Government. Expense alone was a sufficient deterrent. "We are to consider the question," runs one minute,1
"with a deficient Revenue and a distressed Population." A half-hearted suggestion from Palmerston of treaties for protection was whittled down by Earl Grey to a vague proffer of advice to chiefs "without introducing an express condition into the treaties." It was suggested that, for example, the preamble might express Her Majesty's anxiety "to assist in promoting the progress of prosperity, civilization, and religion in those islands," and that she accorded "to their inhabitants her disinterested friendship."2
Grey's scheme languished for some twenty-odd years, when they found a new advocate in Mr. Julius (later Sir Julius) Vogel
What Grey was unable to do in the realm of politics Bishop Selwyn partially achieved in mission work. By a mistake in his Letters Patent3
he was given episcopal jurisdiction over 68 more of latitude than was intended. This Selwyn would not recognize as an error. When he reached New Zealand in 1842 his work in the Colony employed all his energies. After the first five years he determined to take the first step toward launching his cherished plan. The savage inhabitants of the Melanesian islands, especially in the Solomons, New Hebrides
, and New Guinea
, were notorious. Already some fifty missionaries, native and European, had perished.4
Selwyn planned to convert these savage parts by taking boys from the islands, training them at Auckland
, and sending them to their island homes to disseminate the message of Christianity among their own people. On the success of his plans there is no need to dwell here. Voyages were undertaken annually from 1847, and the St. John's College at Auckland
was established. The vital point which concerns this essay is that it was a
scheme originating from New Zealand for the spiritual conquest of Melanesia
. New Zealand was to be the centre from which this new interest in the islands was to spring, and to which the islands would turn in need. In 1853 a Suffragan Diocese of Melanesia
was established, and the Rev. J. C. Patteson
became the first bishop. Fifteen years later his murder at Nukapu of the Santa Cruz group led immediately to the demand for the annexation of the Navigator Islands as a suitable centre for suppressing the labour trade.
Between those years 1847, when Bishop Selwyn made his first voyage round the Melanesian islands, and 1871, when Bishop Patteson
was murdered, the labour trade had grown up. In his account of his voyage in 1847 Selwyn describes a broil on Rotumah, the result of a conflict between traders and escaped labourers that they were deporting from the Loyalty Islands for work in New South Wales
Probably the early experiments in enlisting black men—kanakas—were well organized, and their contracts were explained to natives.2
It was not long, however, before untold abuses crept into the system. Natives were deceived as to the term of their contracts, impressed, kidnapped. They were ill-treated on boat and plantation. They were ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-paid. When their contracts expired, if they were not forced to remain longer they were often shipped to the wrong islands, and with the consequence that they were killed by hostile natives. The almost immediate result was that the natives retaliated by attacking any white man's ship that called at islands where traders had been. It became extremely unsafe for unarmed vessels to venture among those islands. A public outcry was raised in 1871 on Bishop Patteson
's death, which was the direct sequence to the visit of a "blackbirding" ship. The blackguardly traders, unable
to persuade the apprehensive natives to approach their vessels, dressed in cassocks and surplices, and so, in the guise of peaceful missionaries, entrapped the natives into approaching their ship.1
The indignation aroused by the publication of such facts, and the heavy toll of murders on the islands, led to a demand for the control of the labour traffic. It was therefore suggested by the New Zealand Government that the possession of a central point in the area of disorder would facilitate the task. Fiji, already for some years in the running for annexation to Great Britain, was of course proposed. This suggestion was particularly favoured by Australia, who had contributed more in settlers and capital to its development.2 New Zealand from the outset recommended the annexation of the Navigator Islands, inhabited by natives closely allied to the Maoris in race, language, appearance, and customs.
The first petition to the Queen by both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament to annex the Navigator Islands was made in November 1871, soon after the news of Bishop Patteson's death. It did not, however, originate in the Houses of Parliament.
The promoter at this time of a wide Pacific policy for New Zealand and Great Britain was the energetic and adventurous Julius Vogel
. Born in 1835 in London, he was in Australia at the time of the gold rush of 1851, and from there he moved to Otago, New Zealand. Here he made a reputation as the editor of a paper and Superintendent of the province. He was returned to the House of Repre-
in 1863, and in 1869 he became a member of Sir William Fox
's Ministry as Treasurer and Postmaster-General.1
As Postmaster-General he did much to secure the inauguration of a new trans-Pacific mail service. As Treasurer his spirited finance caused some stir. The Colony was still suffering severely from the depression caused by the Maori wars. Vogel
's policy was to accelerate the development of the Colony by the institution of public works and public services. Thus, during his term of influence, roads, railways, bridges, and public buildings were constructed, all of which played a big part in opening up the country and increasing its prosperity. He provided for future generations and expected them to pay. It was he who inaugurated the policy of State borrowing which was carried to excess by his followers. His Pacific aims were in line with his domestic policy. The islands might in the future be a source of wealth, they might fall into foreign hands and become a danger. On such grounds he recommended that the Home Government should act without delay, or should authorize the New Zealand Government to do so.
His very impetuosity defeated his ends. "Vogelism" became a byword for wild schemes. Robert Herbert, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, commented on his scheme2 for annexing Polynesia as "a foolish as well as an impudent composition,"3 and he refers to Vogel as "the most audacious adventurer that perhaps has ever held power in a British Colony."4
was regarded with a certain suspicion and distrust not untempered with amusement by the British Colonial Office, in New Zealand he was, to use Herbert's phrase, "everything now." He became Prime Minister in
1872, and the rapid return of prosperity to New Zealand secured him confidence and support. In 1875 his services were rewarded by the Queen with a knighthood, and the following year he resigned1
and became Agent-General for the Colony in England
Subsequently he had to retire from this position. He stood for the English House of Commons as Conservative Member for Penryn in 1880, but was defeated at the polls. In 1884 he returned to New Zealand, and became again Prime Minister for a term of three years.
To him undoubtedly are due the Pacific schemes presented during the years 1871–76. The memoranda of the Ministers are his composition, and they fully express his views. At his departure from New Zealand in 1876, plans for political aggrandizement in the Pacific ceased, and on his return in 1884 there cropped up again an agitation in New Zealand for the annexation of Samoa, and in Samoa for incorporation into the Colony of New Zealand.3 But though the scheme in the main was that of an individual Minister, it was important because he was Prime Minister and carried his Ministers with him. The fact that for five years the New Zealand Government cherished a dream of a Pacific Empire influenced the lines on which her interest in Samoa developed. New Zealand came to regard herself as having a particular interest or right in the group.
, then, launched his Pacific scheme upon a Parliament stirred to its depths over the death of Bishop Patteson
. Another factor conditioning his proposal was the new Pacific mail line of 1869. The New Zealand Government had agreed to subsidize the line if mails were taken to America and to England across the continent by the new railway.
It was run by a certain W. H. Webb of San Francisco
. In 1871 the final route for the line of steamers was still uncertain. The harbour of Pago-Pago was suggested as a very suitable port of call, and Webb sent an agent of his, a certain Captain Wakeman, to report on the harbour and the group generally.1
Wakeman's account was most satisfactory, but subsequently Webb failed to get an American subsidy, and his line of steamships was discontinued. Nevertheless, the potentialities of the islands were brought before public notice in New Zealand and America, and a New Zealand agent, a William Seed of the Customs Office, was also sent to the group to draw up a report upon it.2
A third stimulus to Vogel's plea for urgency in annexation was the frequency of rumours at this time of the designs of other Great Powers upon the islands. The rapid growth of the Godeffroy firm, the secrecy with which all their business was conducted, the hint of the awakening of American interest in Captain Meade's treaty with the chief of Tutuila, and in the appointment of Colonel Steinberger as Commissioner to Samoa, were all actions which gave rise to alarm and suspicion.3 At such a distance from Europe it was often difficult to distinguish between the policy of a Home Government and the action of agents on the spot, and to realize that the two might be very different.
Vogel's proposals followed two main lines. They were in the first place petitions for the direct annexation of the islands. In the second place, as an alternative, he proposed an extensive scheme for the foundation of a trading company with certain privileges and with political as well as commercial aims.
The first scheme was put forward ostensibly by the Prime
Minister, Sir William Fox
, in November 1871.1
The chief reasons given in support of this proposal were: (a
) to acquire Pago-Pago, which would afford a suitable coaling station for the Pacific mail line of steamers; (b
) to assist the chiefs to maintain order on the islands, and to do justice to European interests likely to grow up there; and (c
) to stop "the frightful system of slavery" in the islands. The anarchical condition of Fiji
was cited as an example of the lawlessness that might well spring up if there was no controlling Government. Moreover, it was considered that a foreign country in possession of the group "with a small fleet at command might inflict great injury upon the Australasian Colonies."2
To which remark Herbert could not resist a laconic "Stuff!" in the margin.
The Colonial Office did not seriously consider the proposal. Information regarding Samoa was extracted, for the benefit of Lord Kimberley, from a geographical magazine that "the islands possess the greatest advantages of soil and climate—clothing is unnecessary—the natives are thievish, treacherous, and ferocious. The islands are much more advanced in internal policy than any in the Pacific"!—a remark either meaningless or untrue. The matter was considered, and it was suggested that some arrangement similar to that of Cape Colony and Penguin Island might be arrived at. Lord Kimberley was unwilling. The islands were too distant from New Zealand for government from there to be satisfactory. "I suppose," he said, "Penguin Island is probably only inhabited by penguins, which are not ferocious natives. New Zealand had better rest contented with the task of dealing with the Maoris, which is quite enough for them at present. We
have quite isolated stations enough to defend in case of war, and by adding to them shall only add to the points open to an enemy's attack. They are only
too numerous already, and will tax our powers to the very utmost to maintain."1
Six months later Governor Sir George Bowen dispatched a second memorandum by Vogel.2 In February 1872, Captain Meade of the U.S. ship Narrangansett had concluded a treaty with the chief Mauga of Tutuila for the cession of Pago-Pago harbour to the United States as a coaling station for the United States' ships of war, and for the trans-Pacific mail line. In return, Captain Meade had promised the vague protection of the U.S. Government. Webb, the owner of the steamship line, wrote to Vogel of this and of the indignation it had caused in German circles, as, so he stated, the Germans had hoped to anticipate his action.3 Vogel considered that there were grave possibilities of danger in this treaty. The various island groups might some day unite4; it might be detrimental in case of war with the United States. He felt none the less that the treaty was not inspired by ill-feeling toward Great Britain, and that the United States would probably not object to Great Britain obtaining similar privileges. Kimberley was unwilling to interfere. "I don't see," he wrote in a minute to the memorandum, "how we are to interfere unless we are to lay down and enforce the doctrine that no European or American Power is to interfere in any part of the South Pacific but ourselves"5 (September 4, 1872).
Correspondence with Sir Edward Thornton in Washington showed that Meade had acted on his own initiative.6
Thornton believed that little attention would be paid to a petition for an American protectorate which had been received. When the matter was brought up in Congress, though President Grant was favourably disposed, the treaty was not ratified.
In August 1873 Governor Sir James Fergusson was requested to forward another memorandum to the Colonial Office. The line of steamships had been discontinued, and therefore the United States cession was temporarily valueless. It was urged that Great Britain should step in before the United States took further action. Vogel added that "there is good reason to believe that the German Government have contemplated annexing these islands and would have done so but for Captain Meade's action."1 "It would occasion a profound disappointment," wrote Fergusson, "to the people of this Colony, were the present opportunity to be lost, and in spite of the preference manifested in our favour by their inhabitants were a port of great commercial and possibly great political importance … to fall into the hands of a foreign power."2
Kimberley remained firm. "I am entirely opposed to the annexation of these islands," his minute runs. "It might be judicious to obtain a treaty granting equal advantages to British subjects trading with the Navigator Islands, but the present moment seems unfavourable for such action, as it might lead to a controversy with the United States. Considering the number of points in the world which we have annexed, we cannot object to other maritime Powers seeking to obtain some stations of their own. If we multiply our stations too much, we really weaken ourselves by multiplying the points open to attack beyond our power to defend."3
The answer was guarded and non-committal, worded so as
"not to offend the susceptibilities of our Colonists." H.M. Government were "not prepared to take any steps which would lay this country under any obligation to interfere."1
would not let the matter drop. In October, Fergusson
was again requested to forward a ministerial memorandum,2
advising this time not merely the annexation of the Navigator Islands, but the whole of Polynesia. "If Great Britain means to extend her dominion in Polynesia,"3
ran the memorandum, "it will be better, for abundantly evident reasons, for her to do so comprehensively, than to allow herself to be forced into it, the choicest islands being, in the meanwhile, appropriated by Foreign Powers. Unless she agree with Foreign Powers—say with Germany, the United States and perhaps France and Holland
—to jointly protect all Polynesia, and in that case it is to be presumed Australasia would have to be included [C.O. 'Why?'], she would find it easier to deal with the whole of the unappropriated islands herself, rather than submit to taking the leavings of other Powers, and run the risk of having to deal with complicated international questions." The arguments given in support of this policy are an elaboration of previous ones—the suppression of the labour trade, the lawless acts of British subjects committed "for want of the extension of that authority, which they think should follow them wherever they may go"! The profits of the trade should go to the Colonies. They pressed, too, to be allowed to enter into treaties with chiefs "rather as an expedient than as an equivalent for the far more effectual influence at the disposal of the imperial government."4
claimed a special aptitude for dealing with native people—a claim that the Colonial Office hesitated to endorse. As for the financial burden involved, "New Zealand might be willing to shoulder the burden but with the heavy cost of their own development … they would undertake it at great disadvantage and … infinitely inferior prospects of benefit to the subject races."1
The minutes made in the Colonial Office leave no doubt as to the feelings of the Home Government. Herbert commented on it as "a foolish as well as an impudent composition," and recommended that the scheme should need at least to be passed by both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament before it should be sent back to London for reconsideration. Lord Kimberley remarked that "one would have supposed that the New Zealand Government would have thought it as well first to get possession of the whole of New Zealand before undertaking to govern other territories. They will have enough to do for years to come without embarking on these quixotic schemes. Amongst other things they might build or purchase two or three armed steamers to relieve the 'burdened Englishman'2 whom Mr. Vogel so much pities, from having to provide ships to patrol the New Zealand coast."
Simultaneously with the ministerial memorandum drawn up by Vogel
arrived a confidential dispatch from Governor Fergusson3
containing a proposal of a different nature. A certain Mr. Coleman Philips, an English barrister engaged in mercantile pursuits, and who had played a large part in establishing the Bank of Fiji,4
proposed the formation under Government auspices of a trading company in the South
Pacific. The trade was to be primarily in the staple products of the various islands. "But," continued Fergusson
, "he looks for a much more important object, viz. the acquisition of dominion by the Company in the fashion of the East India Company by such steps as the willingness of the local chiefs, Governments and populations will agree to." He hoped, strange to say, for support in Germany, as "several German mercantile houses are already carrying on a trade similar to what he proposes, but that he knows that they are not succeeding owing to their competition and to the expense attending small operations." In face of the successful Godeffroy establishment, we can only assume that Philips was ill-informed himself, or was deliberately misinforming the Governor to gain his support.1
Before the Colonial Office could digest this proposal a second and more elaborate one arrived (January 1874).2
The details were as follows. A company should be formed to colonize the islands of the South Pacific. The New Zealand Government should guarantee 5 per cent interest for four years on the capital. Settlers should go out, factories be established and lands acquired, arrangements made with chiefs, the labour trade effectually suppressed. Missionaries should be supported ("Monstrous cant!" says Mr. Herbert) and inter-island steamship lines financed. In New Zealand factories would be built to absorb the raw products of the islands, and all goods going to the islands should go through New Zealand. New Zealand should get 5 per cent royalty from the company on all products from the islands, and 7½ per cent on all goods shipped to the islands other than New Zealand manufactures. "The ultimate object," said Vogel
, "which I have in view is the establishment of the
Polynesian islands as a Dominion with New Zealand the centre of the Government, and the Dominion, like Canada
, to be a British Dependency."1
Vogel's castles in the air were rudely shaken by a telegram to Fergusson that H.M. Government was not prepared to enter upon the consideration of the questions involved in this proposal.2 In a dispatch it was hinted that the "self-government which has been accorded to the Colonists does not extend to the power of legislating on subjects which may largely affect and compromise this country or foreign Powers, as well as the islands which are the more immediate objects of the scheme."
At this juncture the defeat of Gladstone's Ministry brought Lord Carnarvon to the Colonial Office. His comments were no more favourable.3 He considered the proposal was "crude and undigested," and he objected to the New Zealand monopoly and the risk of complications with foreign countries. Further, it was obvious that "this country cannot fairly resist, were it indeed for her interest to do so, the establishment within a reasonable distance of her own Colonies of other settlements which may hereafter become centres of foreign commerce, and the present circumstances of the South Pacific form no exception to this." He therefore recommended delay and that the draft of the proposed Bill should be sent to England.
The detailed report arrived in May 1874 together with the Heads of Agreement.4
There was little that was new in it. "It seems to me," wrote Vogel
, "that New Zealand may earn for a reluctant Great Britain—without committing her to the responsibilities she fears—a grand island Dominion,
and in the meanwhile save the Mother Country much trouble and danger and risk. I speak, of course," he added sarcastically, "of the danger and risk of expenditure, which weigh so much with the rulers of Great Britain."1
His importunity alarmed the Colonial Office lest he should take it upon himself to act without authority. "This highly speculative scheme," reads a minute, "should be promptly snuffed out." Yet the same mail brought another dispatch2
with the news that the company was in process of formation, and requesting permission to be freed from having to reserve Bills in the matter. "Mr. Vogel
's unscrupulousness and Sir James Fergusson
's placability," wrote Herbert, "threaten us with a more awkward difficulty than we have in Fiji
And a telegram was hastily dispatched to Fergusson
reaffirming his instructions to reserve any Bill on the subject.
July brought to Carnarvon a dispatch marked "Secret" answering his objections.4 The tone, whether intentionally or not, was a little threatening. "I trust," said Fergusson, "that I may not presume in representing that it would be a policy of doubtful expediency, in view of the relations of the Mother Country with a dependency so progressive and energetic as this, to check its efforts for the development of its external relations, because it may be more enterprising than others…. I submit that it would be a mistaken policy on the part of H.M. Government to throw obstacles in the way of Colonial commercial enterprise." Further came the illogical statement of the need to control the islands "when civilization be preceded by its questionable representatives, the overflowings of Colonial Society"!
Again, before Carnarvon had formulated a reply, Fergusson
wrote of alarm that was caused by Steinberger
's arrival at Samoa, and that the New Zealand Ministers begged liberty "to make arrangements if only with a view of staving off for a few years the entrance of a foreign Power into the group."1
The wearied Colonial Office, sceptical both of dangers of foreign aggression and of the extent of New Zealand interests, were not persuaded. Carnarvon did not consider his objections had been answered. Further, the cession of Fiji to Great Britain altered the whole situation. "It is obviously undesirable for the present to give a decision either in favour or against any particular scheme on so important a question."2
The matter was dropped for the time. Mr. Coleman Philips came to England and offered the Government his services and a little pamphlet on British Colonization and Commerce. The latter was "read with interest by Lord Carnarvon" and returned.3 Vogel presented another lengthy elaboration of his Pacific Island Commercial Company scheme in October,4 but with no more success than on previous occasions.
Although this somewhat lengthy correspondence had not the results hoped for by New Zealand, it is in itself significant, not merely of the policy of England, but also of a change in New Zealand's attitude.
While the actions of Weber or Steinberger
fear in New Zealand of annexations in the Pacific, the British Government was reassured by messages from Washington1
that neither the United States
nor Germany had designs upon the islands. Nor indeed would Carnarvon have shown alarm if they had3
"It must be doubtful," Herbert wrote, "whether the United States will assume the Protectorate of the Navigator Islands, but if they are now for the first time disposed to assume responsibilities so far from home, they will by all accounts find the Navigators better property than Fiji
…. As it is not likely that we shall take possession in any form of the Navigator Islands, we may be well satisfied to see the Americans there." The nearest approach to an expression of a desire for Samoa is in a minute by Herbert, in which he suggests that if the Bill for the purchase of Pago-Pago harbour4
did not pass Congress, it might be advisable for Great Britain to acquire the harbour.5
The Bill did not pass, neither did England acquire the harbour.
This examination of correspondence shows a continuity in the policy of the Home Government which is not broken by changes of office holders. Aberdeen and Palmerston in the 1840's showed a disinclination to increase England
's responsibilities. Lord Carnarvon followed Kimberley's policy in discouraging New Zealand in her desire to extend the British Empire in the South Seas. England was too concerned with problems of domestic policy, with Ireland
, the Near and Far East, with Europe, and with India
, to concern herself with the doubtful advantages that might be gained from Vogel
's plan. Carnarvon, it is true, consented to the annexation of Fiji
, but that was the result of a long series of events and not a change of policy. Had there been no
change of Ministry it would have been accomplished by Kimberley.
The unwillingness of the Home Government to consider New Zealand's propositions for annexing the islands was bitterly resented by Vogel. Yet it was a characteristic caution that can be defended on several grounds. In the 1870's New Zealand had only just emerged from drawn-out and expensive Maori wars which had cost England men and money. In South Africa the native problem threatened expense and unrest. Her past experiences with black and brown races were no good augury for the assumption of further responsibilities of that nature. The feeling in the British Government was indeed put concisely by Derby when he affirmed in a speech that "the Queen has black subjects enough."1 Besides the question of military defence, an extended island empire would need an extended navy. It was the English taxpayer who suffered every time.
The South Sea Islands in themselves had not enough intrinsic value for England. She had dominions enough in which to produce coffee, coconuts, cacao, rubber, cotton, and other tropical products. For Germany, sadly lacking colonies, they might indeed be tempting. As for strategic value, it was considered that Fiji
was sufficient for guarding the main ocean routes. In time of war further acquisitions would be a nuisance to defend and no advantage. The suggestion of the danger that might accrue to New Zealand from the possession of Samoa by some foreign Power was treated with contempt.2
Besides, the Home Government did not at this time believe that there was any likelihood of either Germany or the United States annexing islands in the Pacific. The most cogent argument in favour of acquiring
Samoa was that it might be an excellent centre from which to suppress the labour trade. Fiji
was, however, considered better placed for this.1
An attempt to control the traffic in Samoa would very probably have led to undesirable broils with the German planters.
By 1876 New Zealand was beginning to assume a new attitude toward the question of annexation. In 1871 the Colonial Government had petitioned Great Britain to annex Samoa. A year later they asked permission to be allowed to make trade treaties with island chiefs. The Colony further suggested a willingness to contribute towards costs. In 1875, however, the British Government suggested that as the annexation of Fiji
was due in some measure to the long-continued agitation of the Australasian Colonies for it, they might help to shoulder the burden. Lord Carnarvon suggested that each Colony concerned2
might contribute £2,000 a year towards the cost of government.3
They one and all refused. Sir Julius Vogel
, replying for New Zealand, stated his case. New Zealand was anxious to take part in the government of Fiji
, but he deplored the suggestion that the Colonies should be asked to contribute money and have no part in the policy. Great Britain should have asked for contributions before, not after, annexation.4
"To ask for contributions from the Colonies," wrote Vogel
, "was a novel proceeding, connected only with the presumed policy of casting the Colonies adrift, and that to acquiesce in it would argue an acceptance by the Colony of the new position it was desired to assign them."5
He continued by arguing that if the Colonies were to pay for annexations that were made for their benefit, they should be allowed to control the policy
of what was to be annexed. He recommended that New Zealand should be required to make a statement of the pecuniary aid she would be prepared to render if further annexations, particularly the Navigator Islands, were considered.
There were no immediate results. In that year Vogel went to England as Agent-General, and in his absence the matter was dropped.
Although Vogel was the chief promoter at this time of a policy of the annexation of Samoa, yet it became a genuine desire of many in New Zealand. The feeling in the Colony in 1886 was sufficiently strong to deter Great Britain from consenting to German annexation. Similarly in 1899 the Colonial Office reminded the Foreign Office that the Samoa question was one that affected the Australasian Colonies very deeply.1 When in 1899 the group fell into foreign hands it became a terra irredenta to New Zealand, and in 1914 her first action in the Great War was to seize Western Samoa from Germany. This persistent interest was thus of no new growth, and its origin was in the remote dreams of Sir George Grey and the plans of Vogel in the 1870's.
Fig. 4.—Total Imports and Exports of Samoa, 1855–83