"The roads that were made were called the Government Roads; they were six fathoms wide. Their making caused much damage to Samoa's lands and what was planted on it. The Samoans cried on account of their lands, which were taken high-handedly and abused. They again cried on account of the loss of what they had planted, which was now thrown away in a high-handed way, without any regard being shown or question asked of the owner of the land, or any compensation offered for the damage done. This was different with foreigners' land; in their case permission was first asked to make the roads; the foreigners were paid for any destruction made." The sting of this count was, I fancy, in the last clause. No less than six articles complain of the administration of the law; and I believe that was never satisfactory. Brandeis told me himself he was never yet satisfied with any native judge. And men say (and it seems to fit in well with his hasty and eager character) that he would legislate by word of mouth; sometimes forget what he had said; and, on the same question arising in another province, decide it perhaps otherwise. I gather, on the whole, our artillery captain was not great in law. Two articles refer to a matter I must deal with more at length, and rather from the point of view of the white residents.

The common charge against Brandeis was that of favouring the German firm. Coming as he did, this was inevitable. Weber had bought Steinberger with hard cash; that was matter of history. The present government he did not even require to buy, having founded it by his intrigues, and introduced the premier to Samoa through the doors of his own office. And the effect of the initial blunder was kept alive by the chatter of the clerks in bar-rooms, boasting themselves of the new government and prophesying annihilation to all rivals. The time of raising a tax is the harvest of the merchants; it is the time when copra will be made, and must be sold; and the intention of the German firm, first in the time of Steinberger, and again in April and May, 1888, with Brandeis, was to seize and handle the whole operation. Their chief rivals were the Messrs. MacArthur; and it seems beyond question that provincial governors more than once issued orders forbidding Samoans to take money from "the New Zealand firm." These, when they were brought to his notice, Brandeis disowned, and he is entitled to be heard. No man can live long in Samoa and not have his honesty impugned. But the accusations against Brandeis's veracity are both few and obscure. I believe he was as straight as his sword. The governors doubtless issued these orders, but there were plenty besides Brandeis to suggest them. Every wandering clerk from the firm's office, every plantation manager, would be dinning the same story in the native ear. And here again the initial blunder hung about the neck of Brandeis, a ton's weight. The natives, as well as the whites, had seen their premier masquerading on a stool in the office; in the eyes of the natives, as well as in those of the whites, he must always have retained the mark of servitude from that ill-judged passage; and they would be inclined to look behind and above him, to the great house of Misi Ueba. The government was like a vista of puppets. People did not trouble with Tamasese, if they got speech with Brandeis; in the same way, they might not always trouble to ask Brandeis, if they had a hint direct from Misi Ueba. In only one case, though it seems to have had many developments, do I find the premier personally committed. The MacArthurs claimed the copra of Fasitotai on a district mortgage of three hundred dollars. The German firm accepted a mortgage of the whole province of Aana, claimed the copra of Fasitotai as that of a part of Aana, and were supported by the government. Here Brandeis was false to his own principle, that personal and village debts should come before provincial. But the case occurred before the promulgation of the law, and was, as a matter of fact, the cause of it; so the most we can say is that he changed his mind, and changed it for the better.

Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa Page 29

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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