Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Samoan Islands

SAMOAN ISLANDS, a group in the South Pacific Ocean, formerly known as the Navigator's Islands.

Location.—They are located about 2,000 miles S. and 300 miles W. of the Hawaiian Islands and 14° S. of the equator.

The group consists of 12 inhabited and 2 uninhabited islands, with an area of 1,700 square miles; aggregate population, (1917) 41,128. The islands are of volcanic origin, but fertile, producing cocoanuts, cotton, sugar, and coffee, the most important, however, being cocoanuts, from which the copra of commerce is obtained by drying the kernel of the cocoanut, the copra, which is exported to Europe and the United States, being used in the manufacture of cocoanut oil.

Government.—The government of the Samoan Islands had been from time immemorial under the two royal houses of Malietoa and Tupea, except on the island of Tutuila, which was governed by native chiefs. In 1873, at the suggestion of foreign residents, a house of nobles and a house of representatives were established, with Malietoa Laupepa, and the chief of the royal house of Tupea as joint kings. Subsequently Malietoa became sole king. In 1887 he was deposed by the German Government on the claim of unjust treatment of German subjects, who formed the bulk of the foreign population on the island, and was deported first to German New Guinea and then to the Cameruns, in Africa, and finally in 1888 to Hamburg, Tamasese, a native chief, being meantime proclaimed by the Germans as king, though against the protest of the British and American consuls at Samoa. Mataafa, a near relative of Malietoa, made war upon Tamasese and succeeded to the kingship.

In 1889 a conference between the representatives of the American, British, and German governments was held at Berlin, at which a treaty was signed by the three powers guaranteeing the neutrality of the islands, in which the citizens of the three signatory powers would have equal rights of residence, trade, and personal protection. They agreed to recognize the independence of the Samoan Government and the free rights of the natives to elect their chief or king and choose a form of government according to their own laws and customs. A supreme court was established, consisting of one judge, styled the chief justice of Samoa.

Malietoa, who had been deported, was restored as king in November, 1889, and continued as such till his death, which occurred Aug. 22, 1898, when the consuls of the three powers, with the chief justice as president, took charge of the administration pending the election of a successor. Out of the election and recognition of this successor to King Malietoa, deceased, serious disagreements between the local representatives of the three governments maintaining the joint protectorate over the islands occurred. These were followed in 1899 by a new agreement between the three nations: the United States, Germany and Great Britain, whereby each nation assumed control over certain islands. Great Britain afterward ceded her share to Germany for concessions in Africa and elsewhere. In the first year of the World War (1914), German Samoa was captured by New Zealand troops and by the terms of the Peace Treaty of 1919 New Zealand was awarded control of this territory. A volcanic eruption, begun in 1905, in the interior of Savaii, continued until 1909, the greatest volcanic disturbance in the history of the world.