The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64
I must now bring the paper to an end. The subject upon which it treats is so extensive that the great difficulty under which I have laboured in, not to find what to say, but what to leave unsaid. In a paper such as this it is almost impossible to do justice to so great a subject. Many important matters have been omitted. But slight reference has been made to New Guinea; the civilization and colonization of that island must be a task of time. In my opinion, the various groups of islands referred to require far more immediate attention than New Guinea. Their colonization is forcing itself upon our attention, although it has taken nearly a hundred years for the question to ripen into its present importance.
New Guinea, as I have before remarked, is a terra incognita; there is not much danger of any Great Power attempting to colonize it for some time to come. All that we require at present is the protection of our trade through Torres Straits, and the Royal Colonial Institute has duly brought that important point before the notice of the Imperial Government. That the civilization of New Guinea will be found a more easy task than that of page 88 the Malay islands is true, but there is no necessity for us immediately to perform the task. Our missionaries will first lead the way. I notice that in May last the Wesleyan missionary barque, "John Wesley," left Fiji withal deputation of white missionaries, and about fifteen native teachers, for the purpose of taking the first steps to implant Christianity on the north-west of the island, and at the same time on the islands of New Britain and New Ireland. The London Missionary Society have selected the south coast There is very little doubt but that these noble efforts will succeed, yet the task is a difficult one. The natives are somewhat fierce and treacherous, and the climate, so far as we are acquainted, very unhealthy. It would be of much advantage if the Home Government directed our war schooners to visit the new stations occasionally. Nothing has been found more hurtful to missionary enterprise than the isolated condition of the clergy. For many months they are left to themselves to struggle with their numerous difficulties. The one or two mission vessels cannot perform the necessary work of visiting all the stations. I trust the societies at home will seek a little co-operation in this matter from the Imperial Government.
In the body of the paper it will be observed that reference has often been made to the West India Islands. In my opinion, the past history of those islands will be found a very valuable precedent for future action in Polynesia. The opening of the Isthmus of Panama by a canal has a most important bearing upon the future of the Pacific. The successful accomplishment of that great work will vastly increase the value of the islands. Through them will pass a great trade to Australasia and Eastern Asia, and back again to the Western Hemisphere. Great circle tracks are almost certain to be followed, and one or two of these tracks cut the islands. Such a traffic must greatly benefit the Pacific. The opening of the canal will also permit the island trade going direct to English markets, as the distance will then not be much greater than to any other.
That the canal will be constructed is almost a certainty; a late American commission upon the subject does not consider the difficulties insurmount able. The cause of civilization would be greatly advanced if America, France and England warmly took up the subject;—our own Government, I believe, is fully alive to its importance. In conclusion, I may be allowed to express an earnest wish that the Imperial Government will consider the advisability of pursuing some definite policy. Action in Polynesia should not be made to depend upon the mere question of the suppression of slavery. It is not too much to consider that the islands will eventually form a great con federation; but much depends upon the manner in which they are acquired by the great powers. The tendency of late years in the West Indies has been towards such a confederation. Under a federal system the cost of page 89 government will not be so great, taxes will be more uniform, and the labour supply can be better regulated—three very important considerations in tropical countries. I trust that Great Britain will act in such a manner as to enable the islands eventually to form a powerful confederation. I cannot close this paper without adding one tribute of respect to the memory of the latest martyr to the cause of civilization in the Pacific—James Graham Goodenough, commodore of the Australian station. Admired and respected by all who knew him, loved and esteemed by all his officers, his loss will be deeply felt. He fell a martyr in the attempt to restore confidence in the minds of the savage natives of Santa Cruz, after having successfully brought about the annexation of Fiji to the British Crown. Few events, since the death of Captain Cook, have created so powerful an impression upon the public mind. Bishop Patteson and Commodore Goodenough have both fallen victims to the treachery of these particular islands. When are these losses to cease? Almost a century since, La Perouse and his unfortunate comrades were cast away upon these very islands, and not one returned to tell the tale. Is it not time for us to regard these natives as dangerous to humanity? The lives of our sailors and traders in the Pacific are at their mercy. The late commodore would not allow them to be punished; but have we not a duty to perform? Should we not at once take steps to prevent the future loss of valuable lives? England cannot afford to lose such sons as John Coleridge Patteson and James Graham Goodenough.