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as Samoa Times, Samoa News and Pacific Star. In my position I was able to detect a lot of the problems in the territory.

Principally, my main thesis is that the people of American Samoa are ready for an elected governor and lieutenant governor. Moreover, this would be an excellent solution to the "problem" of American Samoa.

It has been objected that such a step should not be taken because the people of American Samoa are not yet educated enough. But what does "educated enough" mean? I maintain that more internal self-government does not depend on the amount of education, but principally on "common sense" and this is what the Samoan leaders in American Samoa have in sufficiency.

The principal problem, as far as the rulers are concerned, is not education though admittedly that would be a help (as well as a handicap) but "integrity". For this reason, the masses must be educated enough to appoint upright, honest men, of the calibre of George Washington etc. to represent them.

In conclusion, I wish to voice my support of your bill. The people of American Samoa are more than ready now to elect their own governor and lieutenant governor.

With Best Wishes,


Samoa Times Newspaper, Apia, Western Samoa.


To: House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs; Attention: Mr. William G. Thomas, Consultant, Subcommittee on Territorial and Insular Affairs.

From: Government and General Research Division; Charles W. Harris, Division Chief.

Research by-William R. Tansill.

Subject-The various forms of government that have operated in American Samoa, and the concepts behind the division of territories into organized, unorganized, incorporated, and unincorporated territories.

In response to your inquiry of February 18, concerning the governing of American Samoa, as well as the institution of categories for differing American territories, we are pleased to report as follows:



The first American contact with the Samoan island group occurred in 1839, when Lt. Charles Wilkes surveyed the area in the course of an exploring expedition. The Islands were then forgotten until President Grant became interested, through the prompting of a steamship magnate who had become cognizant of the commercial possibilities of the harbor at Pago Pago. In 1872 Commander Richard Meade, visiting Samoa in the U.S.S. Narragansett, negotiated with High Chief Mauga of Pago Pago an agreement affording the United States exclusive rights in Pago Pago harbor in return for an American promise of protection for the native government. The treaty, however, was never ratified by the Senate. The aborted venture, nonetheless, was not without positive result: it prevented both Germany and Great Britain from making claim to the harbor.1

In the meantime, President Grant had despatched an American agent, Colonel A. B. Steinberger, to Samoa on an investigation mission. The Samoans took so kindly to Steinberger that they soon made him their "prime minister." He was not nearly so popular with the American and British consular agents, though, and they, indeed, conspired to ride him out of sight on a British cruiser in 1876. But his enforced departure left a power vacuum. Two years later a Samoan delegation appeared in Washington asking for a treaty of either protection or annexation. Informed by the Hayes administration that the Senate would not counte

1 Julius W. Pratt, America's Colonial Experiment (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1950), pp. 7-8; [Governor of American Samoa], 1968 Annual Report to the Secretary of the Interior (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1969), p. 5.

nance such a treaty, the Samoans agreed to a treaty of friendship and commerce, which cleared the Senate on January 30, 1878. In return for promising to use its "good offices" to resolve "any differences" that might arise between the government of Samoa and that of any other nation on friendly terms with America, the United States was awarded the privilege of establishing a coaling station in and on the shores of Pago Pago harbor.2

While the United States had its coaling station in Pago Pago, British and, particularly, German commercial interests were acquiring economic ascendancy in the islands. Within a few years the Germans gained almost complete control of the export business, and by 1887 were threatening to squeeze the British and Americans entirely out of the Samoan picture. When the Germans deported King Malietoa Laupepa and placed his rival on the throne, the Americans took marked umbrage and the possibility of a shooting affay between German and American naval forces became a bit imminent. Fortuitously, and not altogether unfortunately, a devastating hurricane descended in March 1889 upon the American and German warships which had assembled in Apia harbor (Western Samoa) and wrecked nearly every one of them. The disaster accelerated efforts of the three Powers for a just "accommodation"; and on June 14, 1889 a treaty was concluded in Berlin which established a tripartite protectorate over all of Samoa. The United States agreed to the condominium because it represented the only acceptable alternative to war, to a German mandate for the whole Samoan group, or to partition of the islands; and, of course, it preserved American rights in Pago Pago. Washington, indeed, hoped for a quick reestablishment of Samoan independence.

Government under this arrangement was hopelessly complicated, with a German "president” of the Apia municipality empowered to advise the restored King Malietoa and an American chief justice serving as the "final legislator" in Apia and being authorized to "recommend" legislation to the general native government-and all the while constituting in himself the court of last resort.

The condominium broke down completely upon the death of King Malietoa in 1898. In the resulting war of succession waged by rival chiefs, disorder engulfed the islands, highlighted by the bombardment of Apia by American and British warships. The three Powers then agreed to appoint a high commission of investigation, which declared an end to the kingship and replaced it, temporarily with a Consular Board."

When Germany proposed partition of all the islands, Great Britain and the United States (which by this time had taken possession of the Philippines and no longer was overly diffident about acquiring overseas territory) posed no objections. In the resultant tripartite convention signed at Washington on December 2, 1899, Germany and Great Britain renounced in favor of the United States "all . . . rights and claims over and in respect to the Island of Tutuila and all other islands of the Samoan group east of Longitude 171° west of Greenwich." In return, the United States renounced in favor of Germany "all . . rights and claims over and in respect to the islands of Upolu and Savaii and all other Islands of the Samoan group west of Longitude 170° west of Greenwich." Great Britain gracefully bowed out of the picture: she had received from Germany a promise of compensation elsewhere in the world.

Without bothering to ask the Samoans what they thought of this rather cavalier disposal of their homelands, President McKinley, by executive order of February 19, 1900, directed that "The island of Tutuila of the Samoan Group and all other islands of the group east of longitude 171° West of Greenwich, are hereby placed under the control of the Department of the Navy for a naval station. The Secretary of the Navy shall take such steps as may be necessary to establish the authority of the United States, and to give the islands the necessary protection.""

2 Pratt, op. cit., p. 14; 20 Stat. 704.

3 Pratt, op. cit., p. 15.

William M. Malloy, comp., Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, protocols and Agreements between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776-1909 (61st Congress, 2d Session, Senate Document No. 357, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. 2, pp. 1576-1589. Whitney T. Perkins, Denial of Empire (Leyden: A. W. Sythoff, 1962), p. 270.

Ibid., p. 271.

7 Id.

831 Stat. 1878.

Captain J. A. C. Gray, Amerika Samoa (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, c. 1960),

p. 107.


President McKinley's directive endowing the Navy with hegemony over American Samoa ignored the fact that the tripartite treaty of 1899 did not afford the United States title to the islands, but merely announced a renunciation of German and British "rights" in the eastern Samoan group. It must be acknowledged, however, that the Samoans were not outraged by this flouting of their independence. In April of 1900 Samoan high chiefs formally ceded the islands of Tutuila and Aunu'u to the United States, and in July of 1904 the cession was expanded to include the islands of Ta'u, Olosega, Ofu, and Rose. (The seventh island, Swains, a privately owned coral atoll, was made part of American Samoa by a joint resolution of the Congress approved on March 4, 1925.)1

Strangely enough, the United States failed officially to recognize the cessions until 1929, when, by a joint resolution approved February 20, 1929, the cessions were "accepted, ratified, and confirmed, as of April 10, 1900, and July 16, 1904, respectively."" The resolution, at the same time, indirectly confirmed the validity of the Navy's jurisdiction, in effect since February of 1900, by asserting that "Until Congress shall provide for the government of such islands, all civil, judicial, and military powers shall be vested in such person or persons and shall be exercised in such manner as the President of the United States shall direct; and the President shall have power to remove said officers and fill the vacancies so occasioned." 12

The Congress has never picked up its option, and the President continues to be the final authority. From 1900 to 1951 he delegated his authority to the Secretary of the Navy, who subdelegated it to Naval Governors; since 1951 the delegated power has reposed in the Secretary of the Interior and in the latter's civilian appointees.

For many years all authority in American Samoa-executive, legislative, and judicial-was combined in the person of the Navy officer serving as Governor of the islands. (At first he was called Commandant, Naval Station, Tutuila; then Governor of Tutuila; and, finally, after 1912, Governor of American Samoa.) Some years before the end of Navy rule, though, the supreme judicial authority was transferred to an American civilian Chief Justice, appointed at first by the Governor but later, beginning in the early 1930's, by the Secretary of the Navy." Beginning in 1905, an annual Fono, or assembly, of chiefs was convened annually; but it was simply a talking assembly. Although it did pass resolutions and petitions from time to time (in 1927 it requested the Governor to curtail the public education system), it was in no sense a true legislature: the Governor was under no compulsion to accept any proposal of the assembly."

In 1948 the Fono became a bicameral "legislature," but it was still only an advisory body; its resolutions were effectuated into law only if the Governor were so inclined. The assembly now consisted of a House of Ali' containing 12 chiefs of the highest order and a House of Representatives consisting of 54 members, only two of whom were elected by secret ballot.

The judiciary now comprised a High Court, presided over by a Chief Justice appointed from Washington and assisted by from two to four Associate Judges selected by the Chief Justice from among the District Judges; six District Courts, each presided over by a Samoan judge except when the Chief Justice chose to sit also in that particular court; and numerous village courts, each consisting of a single Samoan magistrate."

Since 1931 a Samoan Bill of Rights has been an integral part of the Code of American Samoa. It provides, among its major guarantees, freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition; protection against unreasonable searches and seizures; and no deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."


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13 Perkins, op. cit., p. 278; Gray, op. cit., p. 232.

14 Perkins, op. cit., pp. 277-280.

18 Navy Department, American Samoa: Information on American Samoa Transmitted by the United States to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Pursuant to Article 73 (e) of the Charter (Washington: June 1948), (OpNav-P22-100D), pp. 5-6

10 Ibid., pp. 7–8.



By Executive Order 10264, signed June 29, 1951, President Truman transferred the administration of American Samoa from the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of the Interior, effective July 1, 1951. Such transfer had been recommended four years earlier by a committee composed of the Secretaries of State, War, the Navy, and the Interior; and on September 23, 1949, the President approved a "memorandum of understanding" between the Department of the Navy and the Interior which outlined plans for the orderly changeover of administration and which recommended that the transfer occur on or about July 1, 1951.17

In Secretarial Order No. 2657, signed on August 29, 1951, by R. D. Searles, Acting Secretary of the Interior, the limits of authority for the Government of American Samoa were outlined anew. Among the changes were the directive that initial contacts of substance by the island government with Federal agencies other than Interior were to go through the Office of Territories of the Department of the Interior (such office is no longer extant); that communications of insular authorities with foreign governments were to be cleared through Interior for transmittal by the Department of State, "unless some other procedures [were] approved by the Secretary of the Interior"; and that the budget for the territorial judiciary was to be drafted by the Chief Justice of American Samoa, and then submitted for Interior's approval by the Governor of American Samoa-and as a separate item in the annual Samoan budget.18

Early in 1953 both the legislature and the judiciary underwent extensive reorganization. The House of Ali'i now became a Senate of 15 chiefs chosen in "open meetings" according to traditional Samoan custom; and the House of Representatives was reduced to a membership of 18 Samoans elected by secret ballot (in the first secret general election in Samoan history), with five elected from each of the three Districts, one from Swain's Island, and two from those permanent residents not living under the matai system. The role of the legislature, however, remained advisory.

The judicial system under the reorganization consisted of a High Court with a Chief Justice assisted by four Associate Judges, and five District Courts, each presided over by an Associate Judge unless the Chief Justice chose to sit simultaneously with him. The Chief Justice, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, was the only "statesider" serving on any of the courts. The Associate Judges were appointed by the Governor, upon recommendation by the Chief Justice.

The High Court had three divisions: trial, probate, and appellate. The trial court was composed of the Chief Justice and at least one Associate Judge from a District Court; the probate court consisted of the Chief Justice only. The appellate court comprised the Chief Justice and at least two Associate Judges. The only appeal from the appellate division was from a decision affirming the death sentence; the appeal went to the Secretary of the Interior. The village courts were abolished.19

In 1953 the Governor (Richard B. Lowe) suggested that the Samoan people consider the drafting of a constitution for the territory. The legislature welcomed the idea, and petitioned the Governor to send the proposal on to the Secretary of the Interior, who promptly approved it. A constitutional committee was then created, and in June of 1954 work began on the fashioning of Samoa's first constitution.20

After six years of stops and starts, the job was completed in 1960. Ratified and approved by Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton on April 27, 1960, and adopted by the Constitutional Convention of the Samoan people that same day, the Constitution went into effect on October 17, 1960.

Under this Constitution, the legislature could no longer be considered merely an advisory body. Article II, Sec. 9, provided, among other changes, that

Every bill, having passed both Houses, shall be signed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, and shall, before it becomes a law,

17 Federal Register, vol. 16, No. 128, July 3, 1951, pp. 6417-6419. 18 Federal Register, vol. 16, No. 173, Sept. 6, 1951, p. 9052.

19 Communication to the author from C. H. Heimsath. Information Service, Dept. of the Interior, dated Sept. 4, 1963; Governor of American Samoa, American Samoa: Information on the Territory of American Samoa for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1954, Transmitted by the United States to the Secretary General of the United Nations Pursuant to Article 73 (e) of the Charter (Prepared in the Office of the Governor of American Samoa [no date]), pp. 6-8.

20 Ibid. (Governor's report), pp. 2-3.

21 House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 87th Congress, 1st Session, Committee Print No. 1, Mar. 6, 1961, p. 50.

be presented to the Governor for his approval. If he approves it, he shall sign it and it shall become a law, and he shall deposit it in the office of the Secretary of American Samoa. But if it be not approved by him, he shall return it with his objections to the House in which it originated, which shall enter the same in their journal. Any bill not returned by the Governor within 20 days, after having been presented to him, shall become a law, whether signed by him or not, unless the Legislature by adjournment prevent such return, in which case it shall not become a law unless the Governor, within 45 days after adjournment shall sign it, in which case it shall become a law in like manner as if it had been signed by him before adjournment; and the Governor shall deposit it in the office of the Secretary of American Samoa.

Not later than 14 months after a bill has been vetoed by the Governor, it may be passed over his veto by a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of each House but may not be so re-passed at the same session at which originally passed.

A bill so repassed shall be re-presented to the Governor for his approval. If he does not approve it within 20 days, he shall send it together with his comment thereon to the Secretary of the Interior. If the Secretary of the Interior approves it within 90 days after its receipt by him, it shall become a law; otherwise it shall not.22


Should the Governor submit "to the Legislature proposed legislation which he [had] designated as urgent, and the Legislature [had] failed to pass the same in its original form or an amended form acceptable to the Governor at the session in which it was submitted, the Governor [might] himself, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, promulgate such proposed legislation as a law." * The membership of the Legislature under the 1960 Constitution consisted of 16 Senators (15 plus an "additional" one elected every two years from different counties in the Western District), all of whom were to be "elected in accordance with Samoan custom by the county council of the county he is to represent"; and Representatives not to "exceed 24" in number and who were to be elected by secret ballot of the "qualified electors." Swains Island was accorded the option of having a Delegate in the House, elected in "open meeting," who would be afforded all privileges save that of voting. Each Senator was to serve for a term of 4 years, except the additional Senator from the Western District, whose term, like that of the Representatives and any Delegate from Swains Island, was limited to 2 years.

No one holding any other public office was to be eligible, while in that post, to membership in either House of the Legislature.

Elections were to be held biennially in each even-numbered year beginning on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and would extend not longer than three weeks thereafter."

In 1966 a new constitutional convention of the Samoan people drafted a revision of the 1960 charter. It was ratified in the general election of that year, approved by the Secretary of the Interior on June 2, 1967, and went into effect on July 1, 1967.25

Among the more significant changes were those affecting the legislature. The Senate was now to consist of 18 members, "three from the Manu'a District, six from the Western District, and nine from the Eastern District." As before, they were to be chosen by county councils. House membership was fixed at 20, elected by secret ballot from 17 specified districts, plus any Delegate from Swains Island elected in "open meeting."

Senators and Representatives alike were to be "reapportioned by law at intervals of not less than five years."

Elections would extend to as much as four weeks following the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, not three weeks as stipulated in the 1960 Constitution.20

Provisions concerning the Governor's veto powers were substantially revised, not only in terms of time limits but also with reference to repassage of vetoed

Emphasis supplied.

23 Id. Emphasis supplied.

24 Article II, sections 2-6.

25 Xeroxed copy given author by Department of the Interior.

20 Article II, sections 2-5.

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