« VorigeDoorgaan »
interests of these natives with those of the Europeans who have come into the land and made it what it is ; and, more especially in Fiji, to do this with due regard to the susceptibilities of what appears to be the majority of Australians. These, as close neighbours of Fiji, are apt to think they know more of the South Sea Islanders than is known in Downing Street, and, because of their own local training, are still somewhat apt to take a different view of the native' than do the other white subjects of the Empire.
The obstacles in the way of a rapid development of representative institutions, and thereafter of selfgovernment, in a Crown Colony are mainly two. First ---but this, of course, most affects the colony in its youngest stages-is the difficulty of finding within its bounds persons sufficient in number and adequately free from the bias of self-interest to carry on the government; secondly—and this applies, or should apply, until the original natives of the colony, if such survive in the flood of Western influences, are adequately absorbed into the general community—the difficulty and possible danger of entrusting native interests to non-native residents.
Moreover, in Fiji-as is the case also in British Guiana and certain other Crown Colonies—the native question' is complicated by the presence there not only of the real Fijian natives, but also of a large number of members of other coloured races who have been brought in as labourers. It has been pointed out that, even before the cession of Fiji, many native labourers had been brought in under the old system of recruiting from the New Hebrides and other more or less adjacent islands. The old and ill-regulated system of blackbirding' was without doubt accompanied by many terrible evils and by much thoughtless cruelty; and the British nation was right in insisting on its suppression. But its evils were almost entirely due to the deficiency of adequate regulation in the interests of the imported natives. That natives should be brought from distant islands, from a state of otiose but degraded savagery, to another place where they are taught to work and made into useful men and women, useful to themselves and others-this, if done humanely and under proper control, is certainly not an evil but a good thing. It is a benefit to the imported labourer, who is thereby transferred from an uncivilised to a civilised state of life; it is a benefit to the employer, who, except by some such means, could not get his fields cultivated, and it is not least a benefit to the State, in that only by some such means is the development of many new countries, especially tropical colonies, possible.
At the time of the cession of Fiji, and to some extent owing to this very cause, the labour question became more acute. The Fijian native had probably almost always required some more or less forcible persuasion to work for the white man; and, when he gained the liberty to abstain from work if he, or rather his community, wished, he became more than ever difficult to recruit by persuasion. Moreover, owing to causes for which the newly-established British government was not responsible, the native Fijian element was greatly reduced by disease, with the result that there were fewer left to do the work for their own communities; and this communal work was largely increased by the regularisation and enforcement of 'native taxes.' Again, the former practice of bringing in Polynesian' islanders could no longer be countenanced, at any rate under anything like the old blackbirding' methods. Lastly, about this time, cotton cultivation having again become unprofitable, the cultivation of sugar on a large scale was begun. It has ever since become increasingly prosperous; and canecultivation requires more labour than did cotton or any of the former products.
The newly-established government dealt energetically with this situation. The introduction of Polynesians was properly and fairly organised under a strong government department; and, as these Polynesians were more suitable for the cultivation of coco-nuts—which about this time was vigorously undertaken-than for the work, less congenial to them, on the sugar plantations, a new class of native labour was introduced from the British East Indies, under stringent and most efficient government supervision. The result on the labour supply of Fiji has been great. Two years ago—the figures of last year's census appear to be not yet available—the natives, all of course British subjects, were officially estimated as follows: of Fijians proper there were 87,390, of Poly
nesians 3004, and of East Indians 35,406. The numbers of natives who are not British subjects is a negligible quantity. This organisation of the labour supply has been the effective cause of the advance of the colony, and more especially of its sugar industry, without which the Fiji islands would not have passed much beyond the languishing state in which they were at the time of cession.. It is equally certain and gratifying that this has been accomplished with as much material benefit to the introduced labourers, Polynesians' and East Indians alike, as to their employers.
The fact must not be blinked that this introduction into these Pacific Islands of natives from elsewhere as labourers has been strongly reprobated by many persons, and more especially by Australian citizens who, perhaps rightly enough, would reserve Australia for white men, and who, certainly wrongly, would rather see the Pacific Islands undeveloped than worked by natives introduced from elsewhere. Now, no proposition seems more true than that in tropical regions a very large part of the manual labour done must be done by coloured labourers; and that, if for any reason the administration of a tropical region has been undertaken by white men-always provided that the area in question is not deliberately kept undeveloped, as a native sanctuary or as an ethnological specimen-it is one of the first and most important duties of that white administration to provide native labourers to develope that area, if, as is certainly the case in the South Seas, the supply of indigenous labour is insufficient, and the introduction of native labour from regions where it is not wanted is therefore essential to progress. If it be said that this is advocating indentured immigration, and that labour under indenture is an abominable thing, the reply is that not only is it not abominable, but that, if wisely and humanely managed, it is one of the highest and most praiseworthy achievements of the enlightened statesman in the realm of national economy.
Before passing from this part of the subject, it is only necessary here to remark further that, for reasons which may be deduced from what has already been said, a tropical colony, to be successful, must start as a Crown Colony, because otherwise that perfectly unprejudiced treatment of the native question, which is essential, cannot be secured.
Let us now ascertain how far Crown Colony government has advanced in Fiji since the time when the Governor was a benevolent despot. Two Councils, respectively executive and legislative, were originally provided for the colony by the Queen's Letters Patent. The Executive Council consists of the Governor and a variable number of members, at first five, but at present seven, selected from the heads of departments or from other of the higher officials; and this Council, either directly or through the whole body of public officers subordinate to it, is responsible for the whole administration of the colony. Within this Council of officials the Governor, as president, is predominant, to an extent which naturally depends on his own tact, discretion, and previous experience. He is guided by the royal instructions issued to him on his first appointment. He alone may bring a subject before the Council; and he is bound so to submit any subject which he deems of sufficient importance. He must either accept the decision of the majority in council or must at once report to the Secretary of State, for subsequent confirmation or disallowance, his reason for making order against the advice of the majority. On the other hand, any other Executive Councillor may require that his dissent from the order shall be submitted for the information of the Secretary of State.
An uncommon, though not unprecedented, feature of the Executive Council in Fiji is that the Chief Justice, whose proper duty it is to hear and decide on any question which may be duly raised as to the legality of any action by the Executive Council, has sometimes recently occupied a seat on that Council. He might thus be placed in the difficult position of having to decide, as a judge, on action for which he is himself partly responsible as an administrator. The arrangement is due to the fact that it has been customary for the Chief Justice, in the absence from the Colony or the ill-health of the
Governor, to act in his place as administrator; and that it is consequently advisable that even during the times when the Chief Justice is not acting as Governor, he
South Sea Islanders. That Dillon undoubtedly found traces and threw light on the mysterious fate of the French Admiral La Perouse is little to our present point; what interests us is that he gives much information touching the then condition of Fiji. He also gives a notable account of the great fight around a rock, called to this day • Dillon's rock,' on the coast of Vanua Levu in the Fijis, in which, in 1816, various factions of the natives, certain beach-combers, and certain sandalwood traders, among whom was Dillon himself, took part, and at least one notorious beach-comber, Charles Savage by name, was slain and eaten.
The next important authority on Fiji in early days is the French Admiral Dumont d’Urville, who, during the course of his voyage on the corvette · Astrolabe' in 1826–9, carried out what would now be called a punitive expedition ’in Fiji. Still more thrilling and horrible is the authentic tale of one Jackson, which is appended to Captain (afterwards Admiral) Erskine's 'Journal of a Cruise among the Islands of the Western Pacific including the Feejees
..in H.M.S. Havannah.” The actual date of Jackson's adventure, the tale of which was pub. lished by Erskine only in 1853, seems uncertain ; but it must have been well within the dark ages of Fiji.
The few accounts by eye-witnesses, such as Dillon, Dumont d'Urville, and Jackson, may be supplemented by accounts recorded from hearsay by the missionaries after their arrival in Fiji in 1837, and by other visitors of the same early time. Two books by missionaries, though written and published at rather a late date, contain many records ; these are ·Fiji and the Fijians' by the Rev. Thomas Williams, and The King and People of Fiji, containing a life of Thakombau, with notices of the Fijians, their manners, customs, and superstitions previous to the great religious reformation in 1854,' by the Rev. Joseph Waterhouse. But the best book of all is the strangely rare Life in Feejee; Five Years among the Cannibals. By a Lady.' The authoress, a Mrs M. D. Wallis, the wife of the captain of a vessel from Salem (Oregon) which traded among the Fiji Islands for bêche de mer, accompanied her husband during his trading expeditions, and collected much information useful as throwing light on the early history of Fiji.