Australasia 1877: British Western Pacific Territories
In 1871 Cakobau united Fiji and proclaimed himself king. However, growing debt and continued social unrest persuaded the new king to cede his island kingdom to the British just three years later. To better administer their expanding holdings in the region, the British used Fiji as a base from which to form their Western Pacific Territories in 1877.
21 Aug 1873 Kingdom of Samoa▲
In the face of growing British, US, and German ambitions and to put an end to internal conflict, a central government was inaugurated in the Samoan islands as the Kingdom of Samoa in 1873. For the first two years it was under the administration of a council of high chiefs (the Ta‘imua). In 1875 Malietoa Laupepa was proclaimed king.
22 Feb 1874 Barrow Creek attack▲
In what papers of the time called “the Barrow’s Creek outrage”, a group of Aboriginal men attacked the staff of the repeater station at Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, killing two men and seriously wounding two others (one of the latter an Aboriginal youth employed at the station) but were ultimately driven away from the station by the defenders. Security along the Overland Telegraph Line was increased and several punitive expeditions were mounted until mid-April, resulting in the deaths of perhaps a dozen Aboriginal men.
10 Oct 1874 Colony of Fiji▲
In March 1874, facing economic and political difficulties in his country, King Cakobau of Fiji offered to cede his islands to the British government. In September Sir Hercules Robinson, appointed to be the British governor of Fiji, arrived aboard HMS Dido and received Cakobau with a royal 21-gun salute. After talks, Cakobau renounced his Tui Viti (king) title, formally ceding Fiji to became a British colony on 10 October.
1 Jan 1875–9 Dec 1877 Australian East-West Telegraph▲
In 1874 the governments of the British colonies of Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA) agreed to the funding and construction of a telegraph line from Port Augusta, SA, to Albany, WA (thereby linking the colonial capitals of Adelaide and Perth). The financial cost of the line, which had to cross the vast waterless Nullarbor Plain, was huge for the two lightly populated colonies (SA had a population of 210,000 at the time, WA a mere 27,000). Nonetheless the line was completed, becoming operational in December 1877.
4 Nov 1875 Kingdom of Tonga▲
Having established himself as the undisputed ruler of Tonga in 1852, Tāufaʻāhau I—baptized in 1831 as Siaosi (George)—abolished serfdom in 1862. Twelve years later, on 4 November 1875, he promulgated the Constitution of Tonga and officially proclaimed Tonga as a kingdom. Tāufaʻāhau took the name George Tupou I, King of Tonga, marking the beginning of a dynasty which would continue into the 21st century.
12 Apr–Oct 1876 Little War in Fiji▲
In 1875 an Anglo-Fijian expedition to Sydney returned to Fiji with measles, resulting in an epidemic which killed over 40,000 Fijians (about one-third of the population). The disease was partly spread by British representatives formalizing their rule, prompting highland villagers in Viti Levu to launch a full scale revolt. The colonial administration responded with an invasion of the highlands, destroying a number of villages, and bringing the so-called ‘little war’ to an end by October 1876.
Jun 1877–11 Aug 1879 Te Ao Mārama▲
Hipa Te Maiharoa—a Waitaha chief and prophet of the Kaingarara religion (a fusion of Christian and traditional Māori teachings)—brought perhaps two hundred of his people up the Waitaki River to establish the settlement of Te Ao Mārama, near Omarama in New Zealand’s South Island. The occupation was viewed with alarm by local runholders and closed down by New Zealand’s armed constabulary in August 1879.
13 Aug 1877 British Western Pacific Territories▲
With the Western Pacific Order in Council 1877, the Privy Council of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland established the British Western Pacific Territories. Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon was appointed as the first High Commissioner. Initially consisting of just the Colony of Fiji, the Western Pacific Territories soon expanded to include much of the Solomon Islands and southwestern Polynesia.