The New American Monarchy in the Pacific

The New American Monarchy in the Pacific (1875)

(Frank  Leslies Weekly August 21, 1875) – The phrase, American Monarchy, will, no doubt, sound strange to many of our readers. The words, to most minds, imply a contradiction. Our separate nationality grew out of a deadly and destructive war against monarchical power and monarchical principles, and the most notional American never dreamed that the national flag would float over a kingdom created and sustained by American power. We live, however, in extraordinary times; and things the most wonderful and apparently impossible do come to pass.

Far away in the Southern Pacific, and a little to the northeastward of the Tonga groups, lie the Samoan or Navigator’s Islands. The Samoan group, which forms and extended chain running east and west, consists of the four larger islands of Manua, Tutuila, Upolu and Savaii, with several of smaller size. The islands are beautiful and fertile, the largest, Savaii, being about forty miles long by twenty-five broad. As far back as 1839 these islands were visited and surveyed by Lieutenant Wilkes and the other officers of the United States Exploring Expedition. About three years ago a friend of President Grant, by name Steinberger, and a “Colonel,” went to Samoa in a ship-of-war, on what he himself called a “mission.” At the time, very considerable mystery was associated with this mission. It now appears, however, that Colonel Steinberger’s real object was to induce the natives to sign a petition asking the assistance of the United States in their efforts to organize a government of their own, with the special request that he himself be sent out in the capacity of general superintendent. The “mission” was successfully accomplished; and, armed with the petition, Colonel Steinberger reappeared in Washington. Of course he must have reported, although to whom we are left at liberty to form our own opinion. Congress was in session, but Congress was left in as much ignorance of the whole affair as was the general public. As yet, nothing was made of the affair, because nothing was known about it. The people were indifferent, because the people were uninformed.

The second phase of the affair is greatly more interesting than the first. The prayer of the petitioners is granted; and Colonel Steinberger, in a ship-of-war which had been placed at his disposal, well supplied with cannon, small-arms and ammunition, and with numberless articles intended as presents to the native chiefs, is off again for Samoa. It was not possible now for the secret much longer to be preserved. Nor have we any reason to believe that there was any intention longer to maintain the mystery. The work had been done, and mystery was no longer a necessity in the case. Arrived at Samoa, Commander Erben, from the quarter-deck of the United States Steamer Tuscarora, spoke to the assembled people as follows: “I am sent by the Government of the United States to convey, in the vessel-of-war Tuscarora, Colonel A. B. Steinberger, sent by the President of the United States to remain among you.”

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

The Colonel’s own address, after being introduced, is worthy, of reproduction:

“I hand to you a letter from His Excellency the President of the United States of America, a translation of which has been read, and you will preserve it.

“It is an answer to your letter, written by yourselves, addressed to our great chief, and which I was proud to be the bearer of.

“I now come to remain with you, delegated by our President to aid you and report your material progress. With me are a few gentlemen whom you will come to know, and you will find them earnest and willing in their efforts in your behalf.

Frank Leslies Weekly August 21, 1875

Frank Leslies Weekly August 21, 1875

“In bringing you presents from our Government, I made such selections as I honestly thought would be of the greatest service to you. It may have seemed a strange selection, but I believed that I knew Samoa and the Samoans. I know that you can build Government houses and begin the work of law-making, but I knew that such presents you could not create; that they would be not only acceptable, but that it was a recognition of the Taimua; that artillery around your Government house, a dressed and armed guard, and police force, would dignify your Government and speak a decided language to all Samoans. It means that the central Government here at Mullinua is the recognized authority of the islands. The senseless argument which has been advanced at other places that this looked warlike is scarcely worthy of comment.”

Subsequently, it appears, a King, selected from among the native chiefs, was set up, and Steinberger was made Prime Minister. The King’s term of office is limited to four years, and he cannot be re-elected, but the Prime Minister holds his office for life. Good for Steinberger! He knows what he is about. There is a coolness, a nonchalance, about this arrangement, which justifies us in pronouncing the Prime Minister of the new American kingdom of Samoa the very prince of carpet-baggers.

Altogether, the affair is exceedingly comical. It is the latest outcropping of Cæsarism. General Grant in the character of king-maker! He is a tenacious man of his purpose, is General Grant. If he cannot be a king himself, he can make kings. It is his ambition to add to the republic some island territory. He tried Santo Domingo, but failed. The brave are never daunted by defeat, and so General Grant tries again, and this time with more success. Samoa is, no doubt, far away; and it is difficult to discover of what value it is to be to the republic, but it is an island kingdom, and the United States have undoubtedly as good a right to annex Samoa as Great Britain had to annex Fiji. The whole transaction, however, is so foreign to the spirit of our institutions, that it furnishes matter for sorrow and indignation, rather than for amusement or ridicule. What is President Grant, that he should dare to assume such authority? Without consent of Congress, he has no right to take a gun or cartridge for his own use. In fitting up and sending out the Tuscarora to Samoa he has committed a grave offense against the laws of the United States, and set an example which is pregnant with danger for the future; and in setting up a kingdom in those southern seas he has made the Great Republic of the West a laughing-stock and a disgrace before the civilized world. When Congress meets, it will not be doing its duty if President Grant is not called to account for his own conduct, and for the conduct of his henchman, Steinberger.

Source: Frank Leslies Weekly August 21, 1875

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

Related Posts

Tags: ,

Stay Connected

Connect with Accessible Archives on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin to stay up to date on news and blog posts or get our latest blog posts by email.

Positive SSL