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Colonial Cases

Simmons, 1889-90

[persecution of British subject]










Source: The National Archives (U.K.), FO964/4.


Foreign Office,

August 9, 1890.


No. 2.




I am directed by the Marquis of Salisbury to transmit to you, herewith, copy of a letter from Mr. J. Simmons of Mare, enclosing copies of correspondence [note in margin. Mr. J. Simmons, April 7, 1890] which has passed between himself and Her Majesty's Consulate at Noumea in regard to his complaint against the French authorities in New Caledonia.

In the course of this correspondence which will be found in the Archives of your Consulate and of which, therefore, a schedule is only enclosed, - Mr. Simmons appears to have frequently requested that an enquiry might be instituted on the spot, with a view to his obtaining compensation for his alleged injuries, the punishment of the offenders, and protection for himself, his family and his property in the future.

I am to request you to make such enquiries into this case as may enable you to furnish His Lordship with a report upon the subject.

I am, Sir, &c.

E. L. Layard, Esqre C.M.G.

H.M. Consul, Noumea.


REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE.  Nouvelle-Calédonie et Dépendances.


ANALYSE : Au sujet du Sr Simmons sujet Anglais.

No  Noumea, le 12 novembre 1890.

Le Gouverneur de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et dépendances Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur


Monsieur le Consul de S. M. Britannique.


Monsieur le Consul,

J'ai l'honneur de vous adresser copie des documents constituant le dossier de l'affaire Simmons, que vous m'avez demandes par votre lettre en date de 23 Octobre écoule.

Je joins à cet envoi trois nouvelles pièces qui sont parvenues récemment à l'Administration et qui concernent cette même affaire.

Comme vous pouvez remarquer, Monsieur le Consul, le Sieur Simmons s'est installe a Mare, sans autorisation, sur une réserve indigène qui, aux termes de notre législation, ne peut être aliène ; il n's pas donc aucun droit sur le terrain qu'il occupe.

Toutefois, je suis prêt à faire examiner par un fonctionnaire du Chef lieu la nouvelle réclamation qu'il a adresse à Lord Salisbury, si vous voulez bien me la communiquer.

Agréez, Monsieur le Consul, l'assurance de ma haute considération.



Mare, 27 December 1889

Leo. Layard, Esq.,

H.B.M. Vice-Consul,


Dear Sir,

Your favour of 3rd Inst. is just to hand, & I hasten to reply, hoping to be able to send by the "Effie Meikle."

Mr. Nan's statements are noted by me.  I have a complete answer to any charges that may be made against me.

You say that" Mr. Gallot has been ordered to inquire into the whole affair." Mr. Gallot has, I believe, been at the head of the native department for a considerable time, and the acts of his subordinates are virtually his acts.  Can it be reasonable that Mr. Gallot shall sit in judgment upon himself?

Pending an Inquiry, which has been promised, I would respectfully ask the Directeur of the Interior if his threat of "expulsion" is in good taste?

Let truth & justice prevail, and I have nothing to fear.

I am, dear Sir, &c. James Simmons.


Mare, 4th November 1889

E. L. Layard, Esq., C.M.G.,

H.B.M. Consul, Noumea.

Dear Sir,

I am more than surprised that I have as yet no reply from you as to statements made & charges laid against the French authorities under date July 12th and August 13th, and which were forwarded per Schooner "Effie Meikle" on the 30th August, probably reaching you about a week or ten days after that date!

The urgency of my case and the dangers of my position were plainly laid down in those letters, but as yet no change has been made here, and I do not even know if the French authorities in Noumea have had my case put before them.

I have not again been subjected to personal violence as I always carry firearms, but my flock of Goats, (on which I principally depend for subsistence for a family of ten) are quickly disappearing, no less than fourteen having been killed since I last wrote you on August 13th, whilst two of my children's' Cows have again been injured, one of them by the man WATRANI, and one of my children, a boy under seven years of age has been severely beaten by a grown native!

I repeat that I demand from the French Government compensation for the many injuries and losses I have sustained in consequence of my having been denied the first law of civilised nations, viz: protection to life and property, punishment to the wrong-doers, and immediate protection for myself and my property and rights.

Failing these, I have prepared copies of the correspondence for transmission to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and to each of my County representatives.  With these will be sent your reply when it reaches me.

If the French Government have the faintest desire to do justice to me, they will challenge the truth of my statements and charges by acceding to my demand for an immediate Commission of Inquiry, to be held here, on the spot, where my witnesses can be commanded, and where the Commission can also use the evidence of their own senses.

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

I am, dear Sir, &c., James Simmons.

[Wrapper endorsed: "Claims Consul's protection for the second time."]


Mare, July 12th, 1889.

E. L. Layard, Esq., C.M.G.,

H.B.M. Consul, Noumea.

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to call your earnest attention to the following facts.  I shall be as brief as possible in my statements merely premising that the skeletons can be clothed with facts at the necessary time.

I have the written consent of the Chief who owns the land on this side of the Island to use all his ground for the pasturage of my Children's' Cows (4 in number) & a small flock of Goats.  The tribe who live near me are not subjects of this Chief (a hereditary Chief named Goceri, who was imprisoned for a long time for being and remaining an adherent of Mr. Jones,) and are at variance with him in consequence of religious disputes.

For some three years I have been subject to outrage, personal violence and theft from some of these people, and especially from one man named WATRANI.

On Saturday last the 6th Inst. my Cows were at pasture, watched by two of my children, boys aged 12 & 8 years respectively.  One of the boys came to tell me that this man Watrani was spearing the Cows.  On my going to ask him why he did so, he attacked me furiously with a knife in his hand, saying that he would "kill me and the Cows too." Another native named RONECE came up and seized hold of me by the arm.  Watrani succeeded in wounding me on the left arm with the knife.  On my showing and calling Konece's attention to the blood on my arm he took to knife from Watrani's hand.  Watrani then took up a large stone & a piece of wood, and then struck me repeatedly with his fist, Konece still holding me.  My two boys witnesses.

I sent a letter to the acting Resident 25 miles from me demanding protection, as usual, without any result.  In the meantime I am obliged to go about with firearms for the protection of my children, my property, & my life, & to patrol my premises all night for fear of my house being burnt down.  Enfeebled by ill-health, I am suffering very severely from such a continued state of fear.

I have declined to make any further plaint to Mr. Nan, as experience has shown me the utter futility of doing so.  I think the following reasons will also convince you that it would be useless to expect justice or redress from him, even if he has the power to grant it.

On Lifou 1883 a case of Tobacco was stolen (value nearly £20) from my Store.  Thief suspected by me - refusal of Mr. Nan to take him into custody.  No redress.  N.B. The man suspected by me did steal it.  Well known & easily proved by the Chiefs 2 sons & others, and the man's own admission.

Lifou, 1884. A valuable draught Stallion was stolen in the night from my freehold premises & ridden to death.  He was returned to his place early in the morning.  I found the horse very ill & he died two days afterwards.  Man known & witnesses ready.  Was simply told "I could do nothing!"

Mare, Decr 1887. The man now complained of, WATRANI, came into my house with a very large knife & threatened to cut me & my family to pieces.  Plaint to Mr. Nan.  I walked with a witness 50 miles.  Result - the man was told he "must not do it again."

Mare, 3rd April, 1888. Same man WATRANI again came with knife to assault and threaten us.  Wrote to Mr. Nan demanding protection, & saying that he would be responsible if bloodshed occurred in protecting myself.  No redress again.

Mare 1888.  Two men actually caught in the act of stealing two of my Goats (taking them away on their shoulders).)  As usual, no redress.

I could easily multiply instances but surely these will be amply sufficient to convince you that, as an Englishman, a Protestant, & a sympathizer with Mr. Jones, I have not the slightest chance of obtaining justice from the authority existing on the Island.  In fact it appears to me that the present policy of the acting Resident is simply that of abject and servile conciliation with regard to the natives, whilst the first law of civilisation - viz. protection to life & property is denied me.

I have carefully refrained from the slightest act of retaliation, and have always suffered in silence or complained to Mr. Nan for protection & redress, and always with the same result.

Indeed I have little hesitation in saying that Mr. Nan's policy has been, and is, to force me into some illegal act of retaliation that may result in my removal from the Island, but I have always acted strictly within the law, and I defy anyone to point out one act or deed of mine which is contrary to law and order.  In some cases "forbearance becomes a crime."

In conclusion I have the honor, as a British subject, earnestly to beg you to demand that an immediate and "independent" inquiry may be held, so that justice may be done and these men adequately punished.  By an "independent" inquiry I mean an inquiry that cannot be "burked" and smothered by the Officials, native and European, existing on the Island - as will inevitably be the case if it falls in any way into their hands.

I may add that both these men are fellow tribesmen of the notorious "Lewis" and are shining lights of his Church, and are consequently bound to have his sympathy & support in any act.

I am, Sir, &c.  James Simmons.


P.S. I have just heard of an outrage by natives on the person of an Englishman named George [Imber], better known as "Jerry."  He was stoned & beaten with pieces of wood.  This occurred at the opening of the new Catholic Church at Titi (La Roche) on this Island.

You may perhaps hear more about it - or it may be "burked."


Mare, 13th August 1889

E. L. Layard, Esq., C.M.G.,

H.B.M. Consul,


Dear Sir,

Please look upon this letter as a supplement to the one which accompanies it, written 12th July, and which I have, as yet, found no means of forwarding.

You will probably be at a loss to understand why this small tribe should persecute me with such devilish malice.  I will supply you with the motive.  The ground upon which I live, & the pasturage for a considerable distance around, was given to me (as before stated) by the Chief, Goceri.  The two men complained of, WATRANI and RONECE, asked Goceri to give them this ground for the use of their tribe - and were refused by him.  Hence their enmity and animosity to me, who live on it and enjoy the use of it. Again.  These people allowed their Pigs to run loose, with the result that they were continually devastating Goceri's people's Plantations, & a great many of them were speared and killed, for so doing, until RONECE, WATRANI and Co. were obliged to remove the remainder of their Pigs into the Bush near their own Plantations.  They dare not seek revenge on Goceri's tribe, as they are much too powerful for them to meet, but (dog in the manger style) they vent their spite and malice on me & my property by spearing [part missing]

[The following page has no heading and no conclusion; it may be part of the above?]

I think you will agree with me that this is almost more then flesh & blood can bear.  Since July 12th six of my Goats have been killed.  Yesterday two more were found dead, evidently speared to death, and this morning a fine Nanny was found dead 100 yards from my House - speared in the abdomen.  The spear had entered at the crutch of the udder & ran lengthwise some two feet into the intestines.

I again earnestly entreat you to insist upon prompt & speedy Inquiry into these matters.  I am about worn out with excitement and terror, (not for myself but for my seven young children).

I am preparing a statement of claims against the Govt., which will include a far more serious claim than any of which I have yet apprised you.

When an Inquiry does take place I trust I shall have the honor of your personal support & protection.  A competent Interpreter must be present as my knowledge of French is very limited.  We have a reliable and intelligent Englishman, Mr. Robertson, residing on Mare, who speaks the language perfectly, and who would act as Interpreter of Mare into English.

I had almost forgotten to say that on June 10th I actually was witness to a theft of money by the man WATRANI on board the ship "C. Walker," and denounced him as the thief directly the robbery was discovered, and also reported the robbery  [Ends]



N. Caledonia,

Apl. 7: 90.

My Lord,

I have the honour to request that Y. L. will cause an minute & careful perusal to be made of the accompanying papers, which consist of copies of letters written by me to H.B.M. Consul at Noumea, & the actual letters recd by me in return.

I trust & believe that after such perusal Y.L. will cause H.M. Consul to institute a careful & searching enquiry into the subject of my complaints, with a view of demanding on my behalf from the French Govt. compensation for the [undressed] injury I have recd, punishmt to the wrongdoers & protectn to my life & property & rights in the future.

Such enquiry can only be made here on the spot, where my numerous witnesses can be commanded.

I may say that I have lived on the Loyalty Isles for some 17 years, having held for many years a leading position as a merchant & Importer.  I also claim to be one of the pioneers of legitimate trading on these Isles in which I have sunk a capital.

I have, &c., James Simmons.


Schedule of letters.

Mare, 28th Decr 1889

Leo. Layard, Esq.,

H.B.M. Vice-Consul,


Dear Sir,

The few lines sent yesterday per "Effie Meikle" were hastily written in order to catch the vessel which was just leaving.

You say that "Monsr Nan avers that he has several times investigated the matter."  By this I suppose he means the stabbing case and the whole of the matters of which I complain.

I do not hesitate to say that this is a pure fabrication on the part of Mr. Nan.  The only investigation conducted by him was at Ro on the 7th April 1888, with the result mentioned in my first letter to you.  (The 3 cases are headed "Mare, Decr 1887," "Mare 3rd April 1888," and "Mare 1888," and are consecutive.

I have not seen or spoken to Mr. Nan since 11th October 1888.  (I keep a Diary, so I know what I am writing.)

I distinctly deny that I owe a single penny to any person on the Island, and I challenge the proof.

In 1888 I brought a claim against a man for money lent, goods supplied, and maize destroyed by his Pigs.  As a counter-charge the man tried to make out that I owed him money, and that my Goats had injured his Cocoanut and Bread Fruit Trees.  The affair was investigated by Mr. Nan at my house, and was dismissed by him, as the native failed to prove his charges.

It is an easy thing to make assertions and to "trump up" charges, but another matter to prove them by reliable evidence.

As the authorities have apparently assumed the position of debt collectors for the natives, they will doubtless confer the same favor upon the European Residents.  I have thousands of francs owing to me on the Loyalty Islands which I have been unable to collect.  Amongst my debtors will be found a late acting Resident, who figures for some 1600 francs, and a present prominent native official for a still larger sum.  This money would be of the greatest service to me and my family.

It is not true that Mr. Nan has written to me more than once about "Jalo's" affair.  I have a complete answer to that charge, and am now in pacific communication with him respecting it.

Please mark the answers of the Directeur of the Interieur, who threatens me with expulsion before an Inquiry has been held!

The man who stabbed and otherwise maltreated me on the 6th of last July, is still at large, as also the man who held me while the assault was bring committed.

The destruction of my Goats, numbering about 180, and valued at more than 1000 francs, is about complete, the few remaining being dispersed in the bush as a consequence of their being hunted down.  So far as I have heard, or can learn, not even a remonstrance has been made to the wrongdoers, whilst a report is being industriously circuited amongst the natives that no Inquiry will be held.

You will observe that all these wrongs have taken place during the rule of Mr. de [Dollon], for 14 years Resident of the Loyalty Islands.  This is the chivalrous and high minded gentleman who, one day in the year 1883, went into the house of [Naisilene], the principal Protestant chief on this Island, and, seeing a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen hanging on the wall, tore it down and threw it on the floor, and compelled the chief to sign a written apology for having dared to commit such a seditious and treasonable crime as to hang in his house a likeness of the Queen of England!

Imagine to yourself what chance or hope of justice there has been for an Englishman under the rule of this man and his subordinates?

Yours obediently, &c.  James Simmons.

P.S. You are doubtless aware that many Goats and a Bullock, the property of the Rev. Mr. Jones, have been killed by the natives without any interference by the authorities.  I am informed by Mr. Jones' Agent here that the names of 21 of the offenders have been sent to Mr. [Dezaenaul] of Noumea, who has been instructed to prosecute.

I am, Sir, &c., J.S.


Received 14.3.91.

No. 2.


Foreign Office,

 January 17, 1891.


With reference to your despatch No. 8 of the 25th November last, I am directed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to transmit to you herewith, for your information, a letter under Flying Seal, as marked in the margin, [To Mr. J. Simmons, Jan. 17.] to be forwarded to its destination, which His Lordship has caused to be addressed to Mr. James Simmons.

I am, Sir, &c.  XXX

Colonel H. de Coetlogon,

Her Majesty's Consul,



Received 8.4.91

No. 3.


Foreign Office,

February 9, 1891.


With reference to my despatch No. 2 of the 17th ultimo, I am directed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to transmit to you herewith, for your information, a copy of a letter, as marked in the margin, [Mr. Simmons, Dec. 4, 1891] respecting Mr. Simmons' complaints against the French authorities in New Caledonia.

I am, Sir, &c.  xxx

Colonel de Coetlogon,

Her Majesty's Consul, Noumea.



Received 8.4.91.


No. 1.

Mr. Simmons to the Marquis of Salisbury. - (Received February 2, 1891.

Mare, New Caledonia, December 4, 1890.

My Lord,

On the 3rd October I had the honour to acknowledge receipt of your Lordship's favour saying that Her Majesty's Consul at Noumea had been instructed to make inquiry as to my complaints against the French authorities, and to report the result to your Lordship.

As my letter reached here on the 3rd October, the instructions to Her Majesty's Consul would have been received by him some few days earlier.

Not having received from Her Majesty's Consul any communication with regard to such inquiry, on the 5th November I addressed a letter to him, a copy of which I have the honour to inclose for your perusal.  No reply whatever had been vouchsafed to my letter, although it has happened that boat and mail communication between this place and Noumea has been frequent, and I have written evidence that my letter to him was duly delivered.

I do not hesitate to say that, had the late Consul done his duty, I should not now be left in such a position of suspense and anxiety.

And now, again, it appears that the lives and property of British subjects are of little consequence as compared with the ease and dignity of the present Consul.

My Lord, I am not exaggerating when I say that this has become a question almost of life and death to me.  The constant apprehension and anxiety under which I have suffered for so long a time has had its effect on my health.  From a man of almost 14 stones weight I have become reduced to about 10 stones and emaciation, whilst I have suffered mentally in the same degree.  To save my life I must soon quit this island, and then I may say farewell for ever to any chance of my obtaining compensation and redress, as it would be impossible for me to find the means of transporting my numerous witnesses to Noumea, whilst every obstacle would certainly be placed in the way of my doing so by the Government officials.  Even now intimidation and threats are rife on the islands.  And one of my principal witnesses is dead.

I have the honour most respectfully to beg your Lordship's earnest and instant assistance, and I have, &c.  JAMES SIMMONS.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Inclosure in No. 1.

Mr. Simmons to Consul de Coetlogon.

North Bay, or Jones' Bay, Mare, November 5, 1890.


ON the 3rd of last month I had the honour of receiving a communication from the Marquis of Salisbury, saying that Her Majesty's Consul at Noumea had been instructed to make inquiry as to my complaints against the French authorities of New Caledonia, and to furnish his Lordship with a Report on the subject.

Since that date I have been anxiously expecting a communication from you upon the subject of such inquiry, but as yet, none has been received.

If, as I presume has been the case, my letters to Her Majesty's late Consul, dating from the 12th July, 1889, to the 7th April, 1890, have been at your disposal, you can scarcely fail to have observed the extreme urgency of my case.

It is no mere figure of speech to say that, since I was stabbed and otherwise maltreated some sixteen months since, I have lived in a continual state of apprehension and anxiety, and that my nerves have become shattered and my general health seriously impaired.

Permit me to take the liberty of pointing out, as has already been done in the correspondence placed before the Marquis of Salisbury, that the only place where the truth can be elicited is here, on the spot, where my numerous witnesses can be commanded, and where you can use the direct evidence of your own senses.

A most reliable Englishman can be found on the island as interpreter.

May I venture to suggest, as about the only practicable way in which you can visit these islands, that one of Her Britannic Majesty's gun-boats which frequently call at Noumea might be placed at your disposal?

The bearer of this letter leaves again shortly for Mare, and the favour of a reply will be greatly esteemed.

I am, Sir, &c.  JAMES SIMMONS.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School