STEVENSON, Robert Louis (1850-1894). Autograph letter signed ("Robert Louis Stevenson"), to R. Waidlaw Thompson, Vailima Plantation, 12 July 1892. 2 pages, folio, water stain across portion of four lines at bottom of first page. Matted and framed with an engraved portrait of Stevenson and a small reproduction of St. Gaudens's relief.
STEVENSON TRIES TO SETTLE THE VIOLENT POWER STRUGGLE UNDERWAY IN SAMOA: "THE PLAIN, SHORT WAY TO PEACE LIES THROUGH...RECONCILIATION"
A long, impassioned letter about the civil war in Samoa between rival factions for the throne--a conflict in which Stevenson tries to act as peace-maker. "Of the question of who is to protect the island," he tells Thompson, an official with the London Missionary Society (L.M.S.), "I have the satisfaction to think it is beyond my sphere. As to Mataafa and Laupepa [the rival claimants], it is my fear that neither one can be king to any good end without the countenance and friendship of the other...and I regard all who help to prolong or to embitter the estrangement as enemies to Samoa." Stevenson was a friend of Mataafa Iosefu, while the three imperial powers vying for dominance in Samoa--Britain, Germany and America--installed Malietoa Laupepa as their preferred ruler following the Congress of Berlin in 1889. Stevenson chides Thompson and the London Missionary Society for their apparent opposition to Mataafa: "...Perhaps I may go so far as to say that...I see you are led in some error. Mataafa was not 'set up' by the Germans; he rose against them, and in part by his successes, in part from outside cause, diplomatic and otherwise, prevailed..."
A passage condemning the Catholic Church's role in the conflict is struck through by Stevenson. About another Laupepa supporter, Stevenson writes: "You have at your hand my friend (as I may call him) Mr. Newall. I believe him to be a strong partisan, but I know him to be wholly honest. Ask him if the case is so simple between Laupepa and Mataafa; ask him if there is not hardship and unfairness--if there is not justice and a strong claim--on both sides of this unfortunate dispute..." Stevenson ends by apologizing for his long letter and says, "You should have received in the meantime a book of mine on the recent history of these islands [A Footnote to History, 1892], in which I have handled some subjects with an anxious, perhaps almost a disingenuous eye, to the credit of the L.M.S...." A fine letter showing Stevenson's engagement with political life on Samoa.