BARON MACLAY AND THE NEW GUINEA NATIVES.
The following letter appeared in the S. M. Herald of the 22nd instant. It was written in answer to an article in that journal questioning Baron Maclay's right to speak for the natives of New Guinea, as he assumed to do in the telegram to Lord Derby, which was recently published:—
Sir, — I find in a sub-leader of the Sydney Morning Herald (19th November) some questions which induce me to write a few lines to satisfy more or less those who take an interest in the matter.
In my last note to the editor of the Herald (6th November) I mentioned: "I have since written to Lord Derby, explaining to him the expressions used in the telegram."
This letter of mine will be published very soon in the "Transactions of the Aborigines Protection Society", so that there is no necessity to repeat here the explanations concerning the meaning of my cablegram. I shall now try to clear up the question how "the savages living in tho most inaccessible and least visited part of New Guinea (the Maclay coast) understand and realise the importance of the probable invasion of white men in their land." During my stay among the natives of the Maclay coast (the stretch of the north-east coast of New Guinea between Cape Croisille and Cape King William) I had ample time to make acquaintance with their character, their customs, and institutions. Speaking their language sufficiently, I thought it my duty as their friend (and also as a friend of justice and humanity) to warn the natives of this coast — as far back as 1871 and '72 — about the arrival, sooner or later, of the white men, who, very possibly, would not respect their rights to their soil, their homes, and their family bonds. Assembling the Tamo-Boros (the de facto chiefs) of different villages from time to time near my hut, or the village next to it, I warned them very seriously against kidnappers of different kinds — by force or deceit. They understood me very well, and implored me not to leave them, but to protect them against the unscrupulous white intruders. Leaving the Maclay coast — the first time in December, 1872; the second time in November, 1877 — I promised the natives to look after their interests, because I know that they are not able at present to claim their own rights. As their "spokesman" I wrote at different times (1879, 1881, 1882, 1883) letters to Sir Arthur Gordon, as British High Commissioner of the Western Pacific, and received from him favourable answers and
realisations of my requests. During my stay in London in January of this year, I had the chance of meeting Sir Arthur several times, and was happy to find that his opinions about the treatment of natives agreed completely with
As regards the question in the sub-leader namely, "It will be interesting also to many
of us in these colonies to know when this demand was made, and in what manner it was sent to sent to Baron Maclay," I may mention that on my way from Europe to Sydney in March of this year I had the opportunity of paying a visit to tho Maclay coast. One of the objects of this visit was my wish to again warn the natives about the impending possible change in their quiet life, which prospect greatly alarmed them, so that they again unanimously reminded me of my promise to protect them. I told them that I should never forget my promise given in 1873, and that I should do all I could to help them when necessary. I explained to them that a protectorate "of white men was indispensable." The natives understood me perfectly, and of one accord requested me again to stay with them,
them, or to send somebody to stay with them, to prevent new-comers from robbing them of their land and altering their customs. How to do it they left completely in my hands, repeating
"Maclay knows it better." Being at that time on board of a Russian man-of-war, it would have been very simple to have requested the admiral, who was the admiral, who was on board, to grant the
general wish of the natives of the Maclay coast, among whom I have been living for about four years, and whose language I perfectly understand, that the Russian flag should protect the natives of this part of New Guinea, &c., &c. Very possibly the request would have been granted, or only delayed until the ship would have reached a place in telegraphic communication with Europe.
Being of the opinion, however, that, on account of the geographical position of New Guinea, the British protectorate would be
more effective for the benefit of natives who
wished my help in the matter, I did not ask then in their name for a Russian protectorate;
I preferred to wait until a decided danger of intrusion should be imminent. The conviction
also that the Maclay coast, as a dependence from the Russian Empire, would be only a useless burden to Russia, induced me to abstain from the plan, which to others would have appeared the nearest and the simplest. I did not hasten the step for asking for a protectorate from another Government, being of the decided opinion that a protectorate for the dark races is only a malum necessarium. The telegraphic news (23rd October) of the projected expedition of General M'lvor to Port Constantine, one of the harbours of the Maclay coast, induced me, as representative of the natives of tho Maclay coast, not to delay any longer in informing the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London about tho general wishes of the natives of the said coast. It was quite natural that I should communicate their requests in a comprehensible form, and in sending a cablegram, compress them in a few words. I hope that a protectorate will be granted which will not interfere with the self-government of the natives; and, should annexation of the south-eastern half of New Guinea be decided by the British Government, I trust it will not mean taking wholesale possession of the land and its inhabitants without
knowledge or wish of the natives, and utterly regardless of the fact that they are human beings and not a mob of cattle. I am perfectly convinced that acts of injustice from the white men, and disregard of their customs and family life, will lead to an irreconcilable hatred, and to an endless struggle for independence and justice.
My book, which I intend to make ready for publication during my stay in Sydney, will by-and-by give a correct idea about the natives of the Maclay coast, their life, customs, and institutions, and also explain the great interest I feel for their future welfare. In the mean time, I hope that I shall not be misunderstood. The sense of justice and humanity alone causes me to place myself in the position of their representative (pro tem. ) until they ate able to look out for their own interests, as do the Sandwich Islanders, the Tongans, Samoans,
Fijians, and others.
— I am, &c.,
N. DE MIKLOUHO-MACLAY. Australian Club, 22nd November.