1840: Land corruption: US rep, John Brown Williams; uncontrolled arms and land-dealer

Dealings in land were becoming more frequent. In December, 1840, Cakobau sold Wakaya Island to Houghton, the owner of the schooner Currency Lass, which was a frequent visitor to Fiji and was then lying at Levuka.

Land-grabbing prize goes to US agent in Fiji: The traders, also had been acquiring land from old Tui Levuka, and his son’s regret and alarm were among the causes of his hostility. In land-grabbing, however, the United States commercial agent outdistanced all others. John Brown Williams of Salem, U.S.A., formerly United States consul in New Zealand, was appointed commercial agent for Fiji about the year 1840.

Arrives in 1846: After a preliminary visit to the islands, he obtained permission in 1845 to remove to Fiji, leaving a vice-consul in New Zealand. He arrived early in 1846, settling first Naqara Island, near Mau; and within a few months he and his associates began to buy land.

•  acquired Nukulau Island and Laucala Point in June; and

•  Nukubalavu (on the Namosi coast) in the following October .. at thirty dollars for Nukulau, and fifty dollars twenty cents for Laucala, all paid in muskets, ammunition, and trade goods.

Obvious corruption: Williams was frequently involved in disputes … about his boundaries, and his title deeds, which were registered by himself and with himself (acting as American consul) ten years later, were the most irregular that (later) came under the notice of the Lands Commission.

Simple technique: He became sole owner of the Nukulau and Laucala properties by the simple process of scratching out the names of his partners without any note or explanation. In June, 1846, he moved to Nikulau Island, where he built a two-storied wooden house, with a cellar beneath, which he used as office and store; for, in addition to his official duties, he held profitable agencies for several business houses in Salem and Boston.

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