The Davis Diaries
Captain Davis of H.M.S. Royalist a ship of the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron was sent to the Gilberts (Kiribati) in 1892 to declare a British Protectorate. It was one of the last acts of what has been termed 'British Imperialism'. Davis did more than bring 'The Flag'. He settled disputes amongst traders of various nationalities then operating in the Gilberts and between traders and islanders. He ended a civil war on Tarawa. He met and talked with all manner of people. What he saw and heard he recorded, and his observations are detailed and shrewd. This publication should provide invaluable source of material for anyone engaged in a study of Gilbertese history. The Royalist is a major work. The papers collected here give a rare and vivid picture of the islands in the 1890's when there was little law and even less order
SCHEDULE OF ENCLOSURES TO ROYALIST'S LETTER NO. 36 OF 1892
Copy of Proclamation.
P R O C L A M A T I O N
Queen Victoria through Her Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies
to declare that Her Majesty has this day assumed a Protectorate over the Group
of Islands known as the Gilbert Islands situated between 4 degrees north and
three degrees south latitude and l70 degrees east and 177 degrees longitude
and that the following islands and all small islands or islets depending upon
them are included in such protectorate viz. -
ARORAI, TAMANA, ONOTOA, PERU, NUKUNAU
TAPUTEWEA, NONUTI, ARANUKA, KURIA, APAMAMA,
MAIANA, TARAWA, APIANG, MARAKI, BUTARITARI, MAKIN
NOW THEREFORE I Edward Henry Meggs Davis Captain in Her Majesty's fleet and Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific commanding Her Majesty's Ship Royalist do hereby proclaim and declare to all men that from and after the date of these presents the above mentioned islands have been placed under British Protection.
Given under my hand at APAMAMA this 27th day of May,
One thousand eight hundred and ninety two
(Signed) Ed. H.M. Davis
Her Majesty Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India having this day - . - assumed a Protectorate over the Gilbert Islands I would remind all residents in the Group other than natives that it is contrary to Law to supply firearms, ammunition, explosive substances or intoxicated liquors to any natives of the Pacific Islands.
- This is hereby made known for general information.
- Given under my hand at APAMAMA
- This 27th day of May one thousand eight
- hundred and ninety two.
- (Signed) Ed. H.M. Davis
- Captain H.M.S. Royalist
- And Deputy Commissioner.
G I L B E R T I S L A N D S
Traders and natives emigrating in steamer Montserrat are not deducted from the number shown herein.
- ROBERT. D. CORRIE British. Own account.
- GEO. Mc. MURDOCK, Jaluit Gesellschaft
- MICHAEL SHEA, American Crawford & Co.
- M.B. MAHOE, Hawaiian Own account
- On my return to this Island 15th July finding the native debts to Traders had not been reduced as he promised they should be I sent a message to the King about it advising him to see it done. I handed to Mr. CORRIE $17.50 from the Jaluit Gesellschaft being the half passage money of some natives who had paid for a passage in a vessel belonging to that company and had not taken it.
- From Mr. CORRIE I learnt that the King was desirous a white Resident should be appointed to the Group whose support he was willing to contribute to.
- I ascertained that Mr. MURDOCK a Trader and some seventy natives had left in the steamer MONTSERRAT having accepted engagements on coffee plantations in GUATEMALA.
APAMAMA (now called Abemama) - Visited 25 & 27 May 16 July
Tem Binoko, the "Old King" died at the end of l891 and was succeeded by his brother Simon who after ruling for four and half months died of drink. He was succeeded by Paul, who, on my arrival had only been King ten days. They evidently do not wish for traders to reside on the island. The King has a number of European built boat. His house is clean and partially furnished with European furniture. He has some forty wives left him by his predecessors. Everything on the island belongs to the King. The village is very clean and has good coral paths. Maneaba large and very neat and suspended to the roof of the building was the massive platform on which Tem Binoko - who weighed 20 stones - was carried. It is the custom on this island that the King shall always be carried.
On my second visit on 16th July, I did not see the King but sent a message to him telling him the other islands in the Group were willing to support a resident and hope he would do the same.
Whilst here, I found the native wife of the late JAMES BURNE of MARIKI Island and from her obtained evidence concerning BURNE'S suspicious death. JACK the pilot at Entrance Island can at any time find this woman (NEKURIA) should she be required. British Protectorate established 27th May 1892 over the Gilbert Islands. Flag hoisted at Apamama. Copy of Proclamation and notice re supply of intoxicated liquors, arms, etc. to natives enclosed.
ARANUKA - Visited 6th June 1892Name of King or Chief. His religion. No King. Dependency of Apamama.
DISEASES, CLIMATE, ETC. OF THE GILBERT ISLANDS
Popoi an inferior kind of taro which has a large bulbous root; it only grows in swampy soil consequentlyits cultivation is limited as the natives have to sink pits of considerable depth to gain the requisite moisture for its growth.
7th July 1892
- Notwithstanding the above conditions Europeans lived to old age frequently in these islands. In Nonoati one old gentleman who had been recently stricken with paralysis was reputed to be over eighty and another on the same island was hale though over seventy. There are no malarial fevers here as the narrow strips of land have no swamps nor is there any decaying vegetation. There is no venereal disease as far as I could ascertain. I saw one case of elephantiasis in the person of a white trader. In some islands ringworm is moderately prevalent. This disease is susceptible of speedy cure. Epidemic catarrh seems to come periodically; this the traders say is due to change of wind i.e. when it becomes somewhat colder. The natives sleep on a shingle floor of their houses on a mat. The houses have no side walls merely a sloping roof to within about three feet off the ground all round so that at night they are exposed in a marked degree to every change of temperature.
- The natives are a healthy looking, well nourished race. On all the islands there is a good supply of the younger generation coming on.
- (Signed) Geo. D. Twigg
- Staff Surgn, R.N.
My dear sir,
We the undersigned respectfully petitioned you now that the Gilbert Islands are under the protection of the British Government to further promote the welfare of this and other islands by using your influence with the proper authorities to have appointed here a resident to take charge of the necessary alterations for the better government for these Islands.
We have all reasons to believe that after your departure the King may prove himself quite unfit to act in accordance with your instructions and to correct and to carry out the many changes that are necessary.
We therefore beg you if possible to leave with us one with some authority to whom we may refer. If that cannot be done we take the liberty of asking you to kindly further our wishes by doing what you can to have matters kept in better order. We might venture to suggest that as we pay so high a tax to the King for which we receive little or no benefit it would not be inconsistent with such a state of things to pay at least half of the tax to anyone resident here representing H.M.S. Government.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of 7th July 1892. I shall have much pleasure in forwarding your petition to the proper authorities. I regret I am unable to accede to your request viz:- to leave behind me anyone from my ship in authority, to whom you might refer.
Before leaving Butaritari, I impressed on the King as strongly as possible my wishes on the subject of reforms, and the carrying out of the same. At the same time, telling him that in my absence, he was the only authority on the island now that the protectorate had been established and that he was to protect the interest of all traders on the island, alike.
I note your suggestion as to the payment of half your present license towards the support of a resident, appointed by Her Majesty's Government.
sub-enclosure No 2. To Enclosure No. 10.
Suggestions made to the King of Butaritari by me before leaving the island on 8th July 1892.
10.* No card playing permitted * omitted to be mentioned to the King by me before sailing.
On receipt please have the above interpreted to the King and inform him that any departure from these rules, which he promised me to carry out, will be reported by you to me.