1875: writer, Anthony Trollope – “Levuka has been the white man’s capital in Fiji”; merchants and the missionaries compelled colonial control

 English writer, postal commissior, Anthony Trollop gives an English view of Fiji in 1875, after visiting Consul Hector Robinson, who quotes Cakobau as he explained his tactic in ceding to Britain..

October 1874: Trollope reported the British flag was hoisted, “with the usual formalities,” by Sir Hercules Robinson, in Fiji. Anthony Trollope, in The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury In 1875 reported on his  round the world trip  reported on events in Fiji, from Sydney, but did not visit. He had been to Fiji in 1871.  Trollope appears to have visited Sir Hercules Robinson, the governor of NSW, in Sydney.

Sir Hercules Robinson had taken control of Fiji in 1874: Trollope wrote “In October, 1874—just one year ago when this letter will reach England—Great Britain was strengthened or burdened, as the case may be, by the possession of a new colony. On the 10th of that month, the British flag was hoisted, “with the usual formalities,” by Sir Hercules Robinson, in Fiji.  Sir Hercules was and is the governor of New South Wales, and had been commissioned by the Home Government to complete the arrangement, if such completion might be possible; and this he did successfully”.

 “Levuka has been the white man’s capital in Fiji”; “In 1835 a few white traders, Englishmen and Americans, probably mixed, first came to Fiji in quest of fortune, and established themselves in a place called Levuka, in one of the smaller islands. From that time to this, Levuka has been the white man’s capital in Fiji; and two years later, missionaries settled themselves among the islands.

Joint desire to make money and to proselytise:  “Such have been the commencements of almost all modern colonisation. There has been the joint desire to make money and to proselytise—with the English as with the Spaniards. Now and again the love of freedom, and the desire to find new homes in which a man might say his prayers as he pleased, have driven wanderers forth and have created new countries; but the merchants and the missionaries have been the great discoverers of the world. It was they who by their joint action forced us to colonise New Zealand, and it is they who have now together compelled the Colonial Office to send a great governor to Fiji”.

Trollope’s view of Cakobau: “The name of Thakombau—here spelt as it is pronounced—will probably be familiar to most of your readers. He was born in 1804, and is still living, and in 1852 succeeded his father as chief of the largest of the Fijian tribes. But he was not then King of Fiji. A few years before the latter date there had appeared among the islands a stranger chief, a Tongan, named Maafu, who succeeded in establishing himself in the eastern or Windward Islands, as a rival to Thakombau.

Trollope dismisses Cak0bau as an ignorant savage: “But it is with Thakombau that we English have chiefly dealt, and whose co-operation with Englishmen has caused Fiji to be this day an English colony. Two years after his father’s death he became a Christian—as far as Christianity was possible to him—and renounced cannibalism. He and his wife were baptised, and he seems, at any rate, to have been convinced that there could be neither peace nor prosperity for his people unless they could be made secure, if not by British rule, at any rate by British protection.

 Cakobau sends warclub to Queen Victoria: “The other day, when the cession of the country was completed, he sent over, as a present to our Queen, his war-club, which had ever been to him the symbol of his authority.

Cakobau’s ‘melancholy conviction’: “There is much in the character of the man which recommends itself to us, though he was a cannibal and a heathen, and though now, in his old age, his Christianity is not very intelligible to himself. He seems ever to have trusted the honesty and power of the British nation, and to have mingled with that trust a melancholy conviction that his own people could of themselves do nothing; and yet the Englishmen he had seen had not always been good specimens of their nationality.

What Cakobau said to Robinson: “Of one thing I am certain,” he said to Sir Hercules Robinson, when they were negotiating the cession: “if we do not cede Fiji, the white stalkers on the beach, the cormorants, will open their mouths and swallow us.” And again he said, “Fijians are of unstable character. A white man who wishes to get anything from a Fijian, if he does not succeed to-day, will try again to-morrow, till the Fijian is wearied out and gives in.” He had learned that the weaker must give way to the stronger, and had perceived that it was better to abandon himself and his country at once to the justice of English rule than to be squeezed out of existence by the rapacity of individuals”.

Maafu v Cakobau: In the early days of chieftainship, various troubles came upon him. Maafu, his rival from Tonga, was strong against him, stirring up rebellion in the islands and separating the people. And then there were misfortunes with the Americans.

1849: In 1849 the house of the American consul was burned down, and compensation was claimed for that.

1853: In 1853, Levuka was burned, and, among other things, the houses and property of certain Americans were destroyed, for which further compensation was demanded.

 1855: In 1855, an American officer came to assess this property, and demanded a payment of £9000 ($45,000). This seems to have been the beginning of Thakombau’s pecuniary troubles. There was no means within his power of paying any such sum! If only England would take the islands and pay the money, things might at any rate be quiet!

1858:  In 1858, the first offer of cession was made. Fiji should belong to England, if England would pay those hard American creditors.

1859: A deed of cession was sent to England in 1859, the British consul resident at Fiji taking it to London. The British residents in the islands were of course quite as anxious for the arrangement as Thakombau could be.

1862: But at that time the British adult residents were only 166 in number, and in 1862 the offer was refused by us. The injury that 166 persons at the other side of the globe could do was not sufficient to induce us to accept the new burden” .

Trollope, Anthony. The Tireless Traveler: Twenty Letters to the Liverpool Mercury. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  [1978,c1941] 1978. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft1d5nb0hv/

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: