Quoted from a short biography of
MAJOR-GENERAL HENRY RONALD DOUGLAS MACIVER
“Here is one story, as told by the scrap-book, of an expedition that failed. That it failed was due to a British Cabinet Minister; for had Lord Derby possessed the imagination of the Soldier of Fortune, his Majesty’s dominions might now be the richer by many thousands of square miles and many thousands of black subjects.
On October 29, 1883, the following appeared in the London Standard: “The New Guinea Exploration and Colonization Company is already chartered, and the first expedition expects to leave before Christmas.” “The prospectus states settlers intending to join the first party must contribute one hundred pounds toward the company. This subscription will include all expenses for passage money. Six months’ provisions will be provided, together with tents and arms for protection. Each subscriber of one hundred pounds is to obtain a certificate entitling him to one thousand acres.”
The view of the colonization scheme taken by the Times of London, of the same date, is less complaisant. “The latest commercial sensation is a proposed company for the seizure of New Guinea. Certain adventurous gentlemen are looking out for one hundred others who have money and a taste for buccaneering. When the company has been completed, its share-holders are to place themselves under military regulations, sail in a body for New Guinea, and without asking anybody’s leave, seize upon the island and at once, in some unspecified way, proceed to realize large profits. If the idea does not suggest comparisons with the large designs of Sir Francis Drake, it is at least not unworthy of Captain Kidd.”
When we remember the manner in which some of the colonies of Great Britain were acquired, the Times seems almost squeamish.
In a Melbourne paper, June, 1884, is the following paragraph:
“Toward the latter part of 1883 the Government of Queensland planted the flag of Great Britain on the shores of New Guinea. When the news reached England it created a sensation. The Earl of Derby, Secretary for the Colonies, refused, however, to sanction the annexation of New Guinea, and in so doing acted contrary to the sincere wish of every right-thinking Anglo-Saxon under the Southern Cross.
“While the subsequent correspondence between the Home and Queensland governments was going on, Brigadier-General H. R. MacIver originated and organized the New Guinea Exploration and Colonization Company in London, with a view to establishing settlements on the island. The company, presided over by General Beresford of the British Army, and having an eminently representative and influential board of directors, had a capital of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and placed the supreme command of the expedition in the hands of General MacIver. Notwithstanding the character of the gentlemen composing the board of directors, and the truly peaceful nature of the expedition, his Lordship informed General MacIver that in the event of the latter’s attempting to land on New Guinea, instructions would be sent to the officer in command of her Majesty’s fleet in the Western Pacific to fire upon the company’s vessel. This meant that the expedition would be dealt with as a filibustering one.”
In Judy, September 21, 1887, appears:
“We all recollect the treatment received by Brigadier-General MacI. in the action he took with respect to the annexation of New Guinea. The General, who is a sort of Pizarro, with a dash of D’Artagnan, was treated in a most scurvy manner by Lord Derby. Had MacIver not been thwarted in his enterprise, the whole of New Guinea would now have been under the British flag, and we should not be cheek-by-jowl with the Germans, as we are in too many places.”
Society, September 3, 1887, says:
“The New Guinea expedition proved abortive, owing to the blundering shortsightedness of the then Government, for which Lord Derby was chiefly responsible, but what little foothold we possess in New Guinea, is certainly due to General MacIver’s gallant effort.”
Copy of statement made by J. Rintoul Mitchell, June 2, 1887:
“About the latter end of the year 1883, when I was editor-in-chief of the Englishman in Calcutta, I was told by Captain de Deaux, assistant secretary in the Foreign Office of the Indian Government, that he had received a telegram from Lord Derby to the effect that if General MacIver ventured to land upon the coast of New Guinea it would become the duty of Lord Ripon, Viceroy, to use the naval forces at his command for the purpose of deporting General MacI. Sir Aucland Calvin can certify to this, as it was discussed in the Viceregal Council.”
Just after our Civil War MacIver was interested in another expedition which also failed. Its members called themselves the Knights of Arabia, and their object was to colonize an island much nearer to our shores than New Guinea. MacIver, saying that his oath prevented, would never tell me which island this was, but the reader can choose from among Cuba, Haiti, and the Hawaiian group. To have taken Cuba, the “colonizers” would have had to fight not only Spain, but the Cubans themselves, on whose side they were soon fighting in the Ten Years’ War; so Cuba may be eliminated. And as the expedition was to sail from the Atlantic side, and not from San Francisco, the island would appear to be the Black Republic. From the records of the times it would seem that the greater number of the Knights of Arabia were veterans of the Confederate army, and there is no question but that they intended to subjugate the blacks of Haiti and form a republic for white men in which slavery would be recognized. As one of the leaders of this filibustering expedition, MacIver was arrested by General Phil Sheridan and for a short time cast into jail.”