Grover Cleveland

Special Message

January 15, 1889

To the Congress:

On the 2d day of April, 1888, I transmitted to the House of Representatives, in response to a resolution passed by that body, a report from the Secretary of State, relating to the condition of affairs in the Samoan Islands, together with numerous letters, dispatches, and documents connected with the subject, which gave a history of all disorders in that locality up to that date.

On the 21st day of December, 1888, this information was supplemented by the transmission to the Congress of such further correspondence and documents as extended this history to that time.

I now submit a report from the Secretary of State, with later correspondence and dispatches, exhibiting the progress of the disturbances in Samoa up to the present date.

The information thus laid before the Congress is of much importance since it has relation to the preservation of American interests and the protection of American citizens and their property in a distant locality and under an unstable and unsatisfactory government.

In the midst of the disturbances which have arisen at Samoa such powers have been exercised as seemed to be within Executive control under our Constitution and laws, and which appear to accord with our national policy and traditions, to restore tranquillity and secure the safety of our citizens.

Through negotiation and agreement with Great Britain and Germany, which, with our own Government, constitute the treaty powers interested in Samoan peace and quiet, the attempt has been made to define more clearly the part which these powers should assume in the Government of that country, while at the same time its autonomy has been insisted upon.

These negotiations were at one time interrupted by such action on the part of the German Government as appeared to be inconsistent with their further continuance.

Germany, however, still asserts, as from the first she has done, that she has no desire or intention to overturn the native Samoan Government or to ignore our treaty rights, and she still invites our Government to join her in restoring peace and quiet. But thus far her propositions on this subject seem to lead to such a preponderance of German power in Samoa as was never contemplated by us and is inconsistent with every prior agreement or understanding, while her recent conduct as between native warring factions gives rise to the suspicion that she is not content with a neutral position.

Acting within the restraints which our Constitution and laws have placed upon Executive power, I have insisted that the autonomy and independence of Samoa should be scrupulously preserved according to the treaties made with Samoa by the powers named and their agreements and understanding with each other. I have protested against every act apparently tending in an opposite direction, and during the existence of internal disturbance one or more vessels of war have been kept in Samoan waters to protect American citizens and property.

These things will abundantly appear from the correspondence and papers which have been submitted to the Congress.

A recent collision between the forces from a German man-of-war stationed in Samoan waters and a body of natives rendered the situation so delicate and critical that the war ship Trenton , under the immediate command of Admiral Kimberly, was ordered to join the Nipsic, already at Samoa, for the better protection of the persons and property of our citizens and in furtherance of efforts to restore order and safety.

The attention of the Congress is especially called to the instructions given to Admiral Kimberly dated on the 11th instant and the letter of the Secretary of State to the German minister dated the 12th instant, which will be found among the papers herewith submitted.

By means of the papers and documents heretofore submitted and those which accompany this communication the precise situation of affairs in Samoa is laid before the Congress, and such Executive action as has been taken is fully exhibited.

The views of the Executive in respect of the just policy to be pursued with regard to this group of islands, which lie in the direct highway of a growing and important commerce between Australia and the United States, have found expression in the correspondence and documents which have thus been fully communicated to the Congress, and the subject in its present stage is submitted to the wider discretion conferred by the Constitution upon the legislative branch of the Government.


Grover Cleveland, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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