Special Files - Bundle 11: No.12 Letters re activities of Brewer & Evans in Fiji Islands

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Special Files - Bundle 11: No.12 Letters re activities of Brewer & Evans in Fiji Islands is associated with Fiji islands located at these coordinates -18, 178

Special Files - Bundle 11: No.12 Letters re activities of Brewer & Evans in Fiji Islands

Record Citation: PROV VPRS 1095/P0, unit 13
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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 119.jpg Minutes Papers for the Executive Council.

Colonial Secretary's Office,

Sydney, 11th March 1869

With reference to the accompanying copy of a Notice, which has been received from the Acting British Consul at Fiji, and which it is stated is intended to be made public in the Australian Colonies and New Zealand, including Volunteers as Military Settlers, to enrol themselves into a Corps, for the purpose of assisting Thakobau, therein styled King of Bau, to subjugate certain Tribes therein referred to as the rebellious and cannibal tribes of the interior of Viti Levu, and to the enclosed opinions which has been obtained on the subject from the Attorney General,--- I recommend the issue of a Proclamation, in the terms suggested by Sir W. M. Manning, warning all British subjects, who may propose to take such service, of the infraction of the law they will commit, and the consequences they will render themselves liable to by so doing.


119 - Minutes Papers - Covering note

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 120.jpg 2

British Consulate, Fiji,

2nd February, 1869

My Lord,

I have the honor to lay the following matter before Your Lordship, upon which I beg to request Your Lordship's opinion and advice.

For some months past the heathen natives of Viti Levu have manifested a very aggressive spirit towards their Christian countrymen and European settlers. These latter have in many cases recklessly ventured to occupy lands in heathen districts; also, in a few cases they have, by their blustering manners and knaveries, drawn upon themselves the resentment of their aboriginal neighbours. In the exhibition of ill feeling towards settlers, natives are not likely to make distinctions. Owing to the folly of settlers, the natives as a whole are well armed.

During the last month (January) the natives of Navua, South Coast of Viti Levu, drove from their homes and violently assaulted some British settlers at that place.

I am now informed the natives of Siga Lake River, also on the South Coast of Viti Levu, have utterly destroyed the plantations of Messrs. Burt and Underwood, two American settlers, killed their cattle, burnt their cotton (sixty bales of which, worth ₤1,200, was pressed and awaiting shipment.) The members of the establishment mostly escaped, some much wounded, but one at least of the workmen and two of Underwood's children were killed and eaten. Thakobau, the Chief or King of Bau, is quite unable to afford aid to the injured parties. He has no


120 - Despatch - John Thurston to Lord Belmore p1

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 121.jpg 3

sway or control, as I have long warned settlers, out of his immediate neighbourhood. In my Despatch of the 22nd July last I had the honor of stating the same opinion to Your Lordship.

The settlers are now awakening to the truth of this opinion, and, excited by sympathy for Messrs. Burt and Underwood, and personal fears, have forwarded a numerously signed address (Enclosure A), to "Maafu" a Tongese Chief, occupying the Island of Vanua Balavu, situated in the windward part of Fiji.

Maafu, a man of great energy and ambition, has only been restrained from subjugating Fiji by English and American influence; he is the "bete noir" of Thakobau's existence, and till lately has been the object of intense dislike on the part of Europeans in Fiji. This feeling is principally held and fostered by Traders, who find it less easy to secure large profits from the Tongan than the Fijian, owing to the intellectual superiority of the former. This Chief, My Lord, who, by settlers and others, has been threatened, bullied, and loaded with every opprobrious epithet, is now hailed as their saviour and only hope, and, with the title of "Majesty,", invited to descend upon Viti Levu, and declare war on account of the Europeans. For years Maafu has waited an opportunity to enter Fiji with a plausible pretext. It has arrived, and, if some unforseen circumstance does not prevent his taking early action, very serious disturbances will shortly occur.

Your Lordship will see the extreme danger settlers have drawn upon themselves by this act; Thakobau, harassed by his American


121 - Despatch - John Thurston to Lord Belmore p2

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 122.jpg difficulties, defeated at all points in his late war, worried by settlers, and now threatened in a new quarter by the enclosed invitation, may be rendered desperate, and vent his rage upon all whites within his reach.

To counteract the invitation to Maafu, Thakobau has instructed his Secretary to invite Colonists to emigrate hither as Military settlers, and assist in the subjugation of the Viti Levu Tribes, whom he terms rebels.

I offer no remark, my Lord, as to the reception of this Notice in the Colonies, but in this Group it is patent adventurous whites, ambitious warlike Tongans, and savage, desperate Fijians, are preparing to put, sooner or later, their interests, passions and rights to the issue of war. I beg leave to enclose copy of Notice intended to be made public in the Australian and New Zealand Colonies. (Enclosure B).

Having been directed by the Foreign Office to inform His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, of all matters likely to be of interest, I have less hesitation in requesting your Lordship's advice on a subject, which possibly requiring early notice, precludes the possibility of laying the matter before Lord Stanley, and receiving his instructions in time to avail myself of their contents.

I have the honor to be,

My Lord,

Your Lorship's most obedient humble Servant,



The Right Honorable the Earl of Belmore.

Governor General of New South Wales,

&c., &c., &c.

Enclosure A.

122 - Despatch - John Thurston to Lord Belmore p3

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 123.jpg 5

Enclosure A.

To Maafu, King of the Windward Islands,

Greeting :-

We, the undersigned inhabitants of Rewa and surrounding country, have, with great sorrow, heard of the fearful murder and cannibalism committed by the mountaineers of the Upper Siga Lake, together with the total destruction of Messrs. Burt and Underwood's plantation, also, the driving out of the settlers in the Navua, pray that Your Majesty may be pleased to listen to our prayer for assistance of you and your warriors, in conjunction with the good Chief Ratu Kini, to bring the mountaineers of the head waters of Siga Lake to peace and subjection. And your Petitioners, feeling every confidence in your power, ability and humanity, will as in duty bound, ever pray, &c., &c., &c.

Enclosure B.

Chief Secretary's Office, Bau, Fiji,

31 January, 1869.

Volunteers, as Military Settlers, are hereby invited to enrol themselves into a Corps, for the purpose of assisting Thakobau, King of Bau, to subjugate the rebellious and cannibal tribes of the interior of Viti Levu.

Each man enrolling must sign a declaration he will faithfully serve King Thakobau, his heirs and successors, in person, crown, and dignity, against all native enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of King Thakobau, his heirs and successors, and of the


123 - Despatch - Enclosures

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 124.jpg 6

European Generals and Officers set over him, until the subjugation of the rebellious and cannibal tribes releases him from active service. In consideration of the effective rendering of such service, each Volunteer will receive in fee simple, a grant of land of an area proportionate to their rank, to be selected by themselves in the districts subjugated, provided such selection does not interfere with Government towns, their occupation and tenure of said grants rendering them liable to the service and obligations of military settlers generally.

Volunteers will provide their own arms.

Scale of Grant proportionate to rank:-

Field Officer 2,000 acres

Captains 1,500 “ Subalterns 1,500 “

Sargeants 500 “

Rank and File 250 “

Sir W. Manning, A. G. on Mr. Thurston's letter.

I have given immediate attention to the letter of Acting Consul Thurston, of Fiji, dated the 2nd February, in this year, which His Excellency the Governor was pleased to place in my hands yesterday, and I have the honour to report thereon as follows:-

1. As regards the invitation by British subjects to Maafu, the so-called King of the Windward Islands to bring his warriors into Rewa, Fiji, for the purpose of subjugating certain savage tribes, who have shown themselves hostile to the European settlers, and whom their nominal Chief, Thakobau, is unable to control,- I am unable to


124 - Despatch - Comment by Sir W Manning p1

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advise that His Excellency, as the judicial authorities of this Colony have any power to interfere in the matter. I cannot take upon myself to advise whether the naval authorities, acting under the instructions of the Home Government, should take any steps to prevent the adoption by Maafu of the measures which such invitation proposes.

2. It seems to me that the enlistment of British subjects, as military officers and soldiers, for service under the so-called King Thakobau, of Fiji, without the leave and license of Her Majesty, is a violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act 59 Sec 3, c. 69, sect. 2, and a misdemeanour. That enactment is not confined to cases of service under Potentates recognised by civilized States, but extends to cases of military service under “any person or persons exercising, or assuming to exercise, the powers of Government in or over any Foreign Country, Colony, Province, or part of any province or people.”

However, it is stated, upon high authority, to be a high misdemeanor at Common Law, for any British subject to enter into the service of any Foreign State, as to contract with any Foreign State any engagement which subjects him to an influence or control inconsistent with the allegiance due to his own Sovereign; and I conceive that the position of Thakobau, on the one hand, and that which the person enlisting would take on the other hand, by virtue of the declaration of allegiance, &c, which he is to be required to sign, would bring the latter within this breach of the law.

I have considered this matter also, in reference to the question, whether a British subject, taking service with such a Chief as Thakobau, and in the cause of such service killing any of


125 - Despatch - Comment by Sir W Manning p2

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 126.jpg 8

Thakobau’s enemies, would thereby become guilty of murder, and be subject of the criminal jurisdiction of our Courts; and I see so much of both legal and practical difficulty in the law and as to its enforcement, that I cannot recommend any action by this Government on the assumption of jurisdiction in this form.

The course that I take leave to recommend is, the issue of a Proclamation by His Excellency (with the advice of Executive Council, if given), warning all British subjects that by taking service in the manner proposed, they will render themselves liable to conviction for misdemeanour.

With this I send a sketch of the terms of such Proclamation or notice.


March 4 1869.

126 - Despatch - Comment by Sir W Manning p3

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 127.jpg SUPPLEMENT





No. 57. WEDNESDAY, 17 MARCH. 1869


By His Excellency the Right Honorable SOMERSET RICHARD, EARL OF BELMORE, a Member of Her Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council in Ireland, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Colony of New South Wales, and Vice-Admiral of the same.

Whereas intelligence has been received of the intended publication of a notice, purporting to have been issued by the so-styled Chief Secretary at Bau, Fiji, and dated the 31st day of January now past, wherein Volunteers are invited to take Military Service under Thakobau, therein styled King of Bau, for the purpose of assisting him in subjugating certain tribes in the interior of Viti Levu, and thereupon to sign a declaration, faithfully to server the said so-styled King Thakobau, his heirs and successors, against all native enemies, and to obey all his and their orders, and the orders of the European Generals and Officers set over such Volunteers, and whereby inducements to such service are held out by promises of large grants of land : And whereas it is contrary to the laws of Great Britain that such service should be entered upon by British subjects, without the leave or license of Her Majesty : Now, therefore, I, SOMERSET RICHARD, EARL OF BELMORE, the Governor aforesaid, with advice of the Executive Council, do hereby warn all and sundry Her Majesty’s subjects in the Colony of New South Wales, that all persons, being British subjects, who shall, without the leave or license of Her Majesty in that behalf obtained, enter into such service, and sign such declaration as aforesaid, or shall contract or engage to enter to take or accept such service, will be guilty os a misdemeanour, and will render themselves liable to prosecution according to law.

Given under my Hand and the Seal of the Colony at Government House, Sydney, this sixteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine, and in the thirty-second year of Her Majesty’s Reign.


By His Excellency’s Command,




Printed and published by THOMAS RICHARDS, Government Printer, Phillip-street, 17th March, 1869.

127 - Proclamation - Government Gazette

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1095 P0 13 Bundle 11 12 128.jpg Confidential

For the Honble The Chief Secretary

No notice such as that referred to by Lord Belmore as having been published in Sydney has, so far as I am aware, been published here. And so far as I hear, the prospectus of the Polynesian Company does not directly or indirectly [ ? ] the Guarantees of Land. fr Military service. But of course the possession of Land [ ?under? ] a Chief, [ turns? makes? ] the holder of it interested in the maintenance of the Authority of that Chief. I should be glad to hear confidentially whether any [ ?endeavours? ] have been made, or are in contemplation, by the Polynesian Company or otherwise to enrol here Military or quasi Military settlers in support of Thackombau of his Enemies

J. H. [ illegible ]

March 30 69

These papers were handed to me by the late C. Secretary on his retirement from Office with instructions that they were to be returned to His Excellency the Governor.

Forwarded to H. Es Private Secretary

[ signature illegible ]

22. 9. 69.

128 - File note

The King of Bau, Thakobau, is now known as:- Seru Epenisa Cakobau also spelled Cacobau or Thakombau. There is a good summary of his "reign" on Wikipedia at:-


There are some articles from Australian Newspapers in the Australian National Library's digital archive Trove. A few have already been tagged by someone. Search for tags: "Fiji", "Cakobau", and "Polynesian Company".Otherwise search for:- Polynesian Company AND "Brewer and Evans"

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