Friday, November 23, 2007

History Institute 2007: Spanish and German Periods 1885-1914

History Institute 2007: Spanish and German Periods 1885-1914

(Second part of a series)

Text by Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

IN the previous issue of IL Magazine, the lectures of Dr. Brian Butler and Dr. Augusto de Viana were discussed, covering prehistory up to the first part of the Spanish period.

As historical periods sometimes overlap so do lectures of the scholars who delved into these topics for the teachers institute.

Dr. de Viana's lecture focused on the contributions of the Filipinos to the Marianas, and he also talked about the period in which there was a great influx of political exiles from the Philippines.

Complementing the lecture conducted by Dr. Augusto de Viana on the morning of August 25th was Carlos Madrid's afternoon lecture that delved into the Marianas' milestones in the nineteenth century.

Picking up where Dr. de Viana left off, Madrid said in the study of the Marianas in the nineteenth century, there were some complexities.

Recognizing that the nineteenth century as a watershed in NMI history, Madrid said more research is needed on primary sources for this period. He also stressed the need for an island-oriented perspective of Marianas' history.

Madrid mentioned some of the key episodes in the Marianas in the 19th century as settlement and trade in the NMI by Carolinians, resettlement of Saipan by Chamorros, demographic crisis of the 1856 smallpox epidemic on Guam, rise and fall of whalers trade, extension of colonial government to the NMI. He also spoke of accelaration of technological and political developments with thee major powers Japan, Germany, and United States eyeing an interest in the Marianas. He also mentioned the so called division of the Marianas archipelago in 1899 with Guam becoming an American colony while the other half, the Northern Marianas falling under German control.

Madrid divided the history of the Marianas in the nineteenth century into three key periods: 1804-1850, 1850-1885, and 1885-1899.

With the arrival of the colonizers, Madrid said the Carolines-Marianas trade was interrupted for quite some time. It was reopened again in 1804 when Luis de Torres used an American ship to visit the Carolines.

With Saipan repopulated, and with families moving back to the island from Guam, Carolinians from Lamutrek and Satawal also settled in the islands.

Aside from the island repopulation, Madrid also mentioned the arrival of scientific expeditions most notable of which was the expedition captured by Jacque Arago in his prints that comprise the Freycinet Collection.

From 1820s to 1860s, Madrid said there was a ramp up of operations of whalers with the discovery of sperm whale oil as a better alternative to coal. He said this oil from ambergris burns slowly and produces little smoke.

During this time of increased whaling activity in the Pacific, Guam served as a supply station for the whalers.

As for the Galleon Trade, Guam served as a supply station for ships plying the route from Acapulco to Manila. He said the trade was interrupted in 1815.

With the interruption of the trade, Marianas and Spain grew distant with correspondences taking six months. He also said Spanish colonial officials too tend to be assigned for a much longer period of time.

Aside from the economic activity, with the islands repopulated, Madrid spoke of the political structure on island. As in the Philippines, the smallest political unit was the barangay headed by a cabeza de barangay. Madrid said that the cabeza can be elected as gubernadorcillo or head of the town who also serves as a judge.

Madrid also said that only males were allowed to cast vote or to get elected.

He said Casa Real was the seat of power during those times. He said that the Casa Real on Saipan is located on the site where Jollibee stands.

He also said the Casa Real on Rota is the oldest existing building to date in the Marianas.

Madrid pointed out that the two pillars of Spanish administration of the islands were Catholicization and the implementation of the law.

He referred to a debate in the 16th century in Spain concerning the use of religion in conquest and colonization. He said Patronato Real, the agreement between the pope and the king of Spain allowed the colonizers to spread Christianity.

Teaching of religion was part of the Spanish-administered school's curriculum. He said a Jesuit-run school, Colegio de San Juan de Letran operated on Guam at the time until the expulsion of the Jesuits.

As Guam received more ships from the Philippines in the early part of the nineteenth century, there erupted a smallpox epidemic in 1856. Madrid said that the contagion could have come from the ship from the Philippines that pulled into Apra Harbor.

Although the law on Guam then required quarantine, it was never observed when two individuals (who could have been infected with small pox) were not inspected.

Thus, the epidemic spread and claimed the lives of 60 percent of the population.

From 1870s, there was an increase in the number of political prisoners being sent to the islands. After the Cavite Mutiny in the Philippines of 1872, there was a considerable increase in exiles sent to the Marianas that resulted in the disruption of the scarce food supply.

With the Spanish crown restored and an amnesty granted, deportees were sent back to Spain except a few who stayed.

From 1885-1899, imperial interests in the region became apparent. The United States, Japan, and Germany were eyeing the region as colony.

In 1898, the Americans defeated the Spanish forces in the Philippines at Manila Bay, resulting in the United States winning the Spanish-American War.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Guam and the Philippines were ceded and sold to the United States while the Northern Marianas was sold to Germany. This made final the split of the Marianas into Guam and the Northern Marianas.

German Administration

The Germans did not administer its other colonies in the same fashion as it did in the Northern Marianas.

For Dr. Dirk Spennemann, visiting scholar from Charles Sturt University in Albury, Australia and an internationally recognized leader in the field of Micronesian history and heritage, the Germans instituted policies in the Marianas which were landmark policies for a colony. No other colonies under the German administration or any other colony of a colonial power enjoyed the same privileges that the Chamorros and Carolinians enjoyed under German rule.

According to Dr. Spennemann, the Germans, in pursuit of attracting back population on island, allowed for the distribution of huge tracts of land.

Dr. Spennemann said, "During the Spanish period, the Spaniards controlled the land on Guam."

They also made education compulsory among the natives with the instruction in their mother tongue: Chamorro and Carolinian.

As giving them land and education were not enough, the Germans even allowed the natives to open savings accounts and apply for loans that would eventually give them financial independence.

These and much more were part of the lecture delivered by Dr. Dirk Spennemann before 32 participants of the history institute at the PSS headquarters.

Dr. Spennemann divided his lecture into the following: overview, context, administration, economic development, social development, ethnic relations, environment, and the German legacy.

Providing an overview of world politics in the late nineteenth century, Dr. Spennemann said the colonial powers of the time divided the Pacific and Germany was a later-comer. Although Spain "controls" the Pacific the time, Dr. Spennemann said other powers were surreptitiously eyeing the region with their explorations.

He said England's interests in the South Seas became apparent after the European settlement in Australia in 1789. As trade between Australia and England developed, its route necessitated to pass through Polynesia and then to China and then to England.

Just as the British were developing interests, so did the French and Americans. The American interests developed as the US Exploring Expedition in 1840 and the US Guano Act.

According to Wikipedia, the Guano Act is "a federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856, which enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other governments. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests, and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States."

The Guano Act empowered any American to discover islands with guano deposits and this also led them to consider the islands in the vast Pacific Ocean including the Marianas.

Russia on the other hand ceased to pursue its interests in the Pacific after the purchase of its Alaska and Californian bases.

As early as 1850s, Dr. Spennemann said that Germans had already been in Samoa and had been trading in the region. Through Goddeffroy and Sons, Germany explored and monopolized trade in the Central Pacific. The company would use small vessels in transporting copra from the islands to the depots that would send copra to Europe.

The Germans were also in the area of New Guinea for trade in the 1870s Fifteen years later, Germany declared New Guinea as a protectorate with an administrator holding office in Rabaul. It was initially run as a concession company and later it was run as a colony in 1898.

A trader, Adolph Capelle had been trading in the region long before the Germans acquired the Northern Marianas from Spain. Capelle traded in the Marshalls, Carolines, and the Marianas in the 1870s.

With the Americans winning the Spanish-American War, by virtue of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the United States ended Spanish colonial power not only in America but also for the most part in the Pacific. With Guam and the Philippines ceded to American rule, Spain sold the Northern Marianas to Germany which took control of the islands on November 17, 1899.

According to Dr. Spennemann, the Germans took the Marianas because they thought of it as a logical extension of the Marshalls which Germany bought from Spain in 1885. He also said claiming the Marianas would add prestige and political clout to Germany. Not only for political reasons, the Marianas, according to Dr. Spennemann, were needed by Germany for economic reasons as well.

Under the leadership of Administrator Georg Fritz, the following socio-economic policies were instituted.

According to Dr. Spennemann, if in the administration of the islands during the Spanish period education was voluntary and church-based, the Germans made education compulsory. On April 1, 1900, compulsory education for 6-12-year-olds began. Dr. Spennemann said. "Every kid has to go to school."

Dr. Spennemann clarified it was only on Saipan where education was made compulsory. He added the education aimed at engendering economic revival.

Schools were built on Rota, Garapan and Tanapag on Saipan. For Dr. Spennemann, it was a "chalk and talk" education structure.

Dr. Spennemann also said the German concept of education was nationalistic. He said the curriculum was localized.

"No where else can you find where locals were not favored. Even Chamorro values are favored," said Dr. Spennemann.

Even the school books, he said, were designed and written for Chamorros.

Even the languages of instruction were neither Spanish nor German. Classes were taught in Chamorro or Carolinians, he said.

He said the study of German language was made optional and offered to adults.

Although the Germans did not teach the classes in German, they also discouraged the teaching of English.

For Fritz, according to Dr. Spennemann, providing education to the natives meant making the economy better. Dr. Spennemann echoed Fritz by saying the better educated the people are, the better the economy (becomes).

As natives were becoming educated, they later became translators or intermediaries of the German administration. Dr. Spennemann said the Chamorros were used to administer other colonies at German bidding.

In other words, Dr. Spennemann said the Chamorros became middle-level administrators.

Education provided the impetus for the emergence of a new social class-the Chamorro elite.

Dr. Spennemann said one of the local people who became part of the elite was Ada who earned the friendship of Administrator Fritz.

As for his work in the environment, Fritz commanded the people to plant trees and during his term as administrator, thousands of trees had been planted on Saipan.

During the German period, Dr. Spennemann said the church structure was Guam and the NMI combined under one prefecture. The Spanish Recollect monks headed the church in the region until 1908. As the Germans had a confrontational course with United States authorities on Guam, a new apostolic vicariate was formed in 1911.

Dr. Spennemann said the Spanish Recollect monks were allowed to hear mass until 1908 and were subsequently replaced by German Cappuchin monks.

Dr. Spennemann said the presence of Carolinian immigrants posed a challenge to the church at that time.

Morever, the health system on island was being administered from Pohnpei by Dr. Girscher who did linguistic work in Pohnpei.

Dr. Spennemann said Dr. Girscher, the longest-serving German administrator in the Pacific, showed ability to marshall support from other communities. He made possible vaccination of the islanders for small pox from 1901-1905.

He also encountered conjunctivitis cases or pink eye (as they are called on Saipan today) which was introduced by Carolinians who evacuated to Saipan after a strong typhoon.

In 1909, the islands had the opportunity to have permanent physicians: Dr. Schnee, Dr. Mayer, and Dr. Salecker.

In 1911, Dr. Spennemann said a hospital was finally established.

Land ownership

If there is one groundbreaking policy that the Germans instituted in their colonies, it is ceding to the natives the right to own land.

Historically, the Article XII of the Northern Mariana Islands Constitution may have taken a cue from the German administrator Georg Fritz. After acquiring the islands from the Spaniards who instituted that land be distributed among Chamorros and Carolinians only.

Despite the huge tracts of land left to the Germans by the Spanish government at their disposal, Administrator Fritz chose to distribute the land among the natives.

As the German administration was actively seeking new settlers and returnees, Fritz realized that to encourage settlers, he needed to bribe them. And given the huge tracts of unoccupied land on Tinian and large tracts on Saipan, Fritz knew that he could distribute these lands so he could entice people to repopulate the islands. With people, Fritz could now begin reviving the economy.

At about the same time, Dr. Spennemann said, many Chamorros on Guam were beginning to be dissatisfied with the American administration. According to Dr. Spennemann, the Americans prohibited the people from celebrating fiestas and from acquiring religious education in schools. Predominantly catholic, the Chamorros also were not receptive to the American introduction of civil marriages.

Fritz pioneered the homesteading on Saipan where one hectare of land was granted to every family. To further induce repopulation of the islands, he also offered newlyweds a hectare of land so they could start building a family.


Now that he had people, Fritz introduced taxation whereby natives who do not have money to pay for taxes may opt to pay taxes through labor.

Each unmarried male, Dr. Spennmann said, was obligated to work 20 days while married males were allowed to work only 12 days. Dr. Spennemann then asked his audience what the tax break was for?-incentive for married males to make children.

Dr. Spennemann also said Fritz also offered tax exemptions. According to Dr. Spennemann, Fritz exempted the following from paying taxes: those certifiably unable to work, clerics, choral singers, father of more than five children (labor exempt), and father of more than eight children (labor and tax exempt).

As for those who would want to buy out their labor obligations, each male pays 50 Pfennig per work day. For the equivalent of 20 days, either the native pays 10 Reichsmark or the equivalent of 325 copras.

For head tax, Dr. Spennemann said the rate was 3 Marks per adult male.

According to Dr. Spennemann, Fritz collected taxes that would be ploughed back into public works. He also said labor obligations on public works were geared at building roads and water pipelines.

Moreover, money raised from cash buyouts of labor obligations and from taxes remitted were also used to pay work contracts offered at the rate of 50 Pfennig per day and was subsequently increased to 75.

Private finance

"If you want to get the economy going, you need money," Dr. Spennemann told the his students at the history institute.

The use of money in exchange for goods made obsolete the barter system on island. Dr. Spennemann said, "Money was swapped instead of goods."

As people began to use money, Fritz raised the bar several notches higher with another groundbreaking policy-allowing the natives to invest their money in a savings bank where they could also apply for loans.

Dr. Spennemann said the bank was the only one of its kind in the entire German possessions.

Although the natives were allowed to apply for loans, Fritz made sure that the pieces of land that were granted to them would not be mortgaged.

In spite of the fact that the new policy empowered the local population, Berlin was not at all impressed with this policy. The government in Germany saw it as a threat to their colonial rule.

Dr. Spennemann said Berlin didn't like it because it would grant locals the financial independence. He also said that had the Germans stayed on and ruled the islands for 30 more years, the locals would have clamored for political independence.

Meanwhile, Dr. Spennemann tackled the finances of the German Islands Territories-Carolines, Marianas, Palau.

Based on the figures of public finance shown by Dr. Spennemann, in the Germans' first year of administering the islands as a colony, expenditure rose to 259,000 marks yet income was 7,000. The following year, expenditures were slashed by 47,000 while income rose by 26,000. However, in the years that followed up to 1910, expenditures and incomes increased. In 1910, expenditure was 659,000 and income was 362,000.

Dr. Spennemann also discussed the conduct of operations of trading companies involved in leases of coconut plantations, Tinian cattle, and bird islands.

According to Dr. Spennemann, leases entailed land development obligations such as planting of coconuts. He said the Germans planted 95,000 palms and they kept planting. He also said there was a huge systematic planting scheme and production was going up.

Dr. Spennemann provided a summary of figures pertaining to copra production in the islands in 1905. Copra production on Saipan alone reached 60,000 while Pagan and Agrigan had 32,000 and 26,400.

In all of the islands, the total copra production reached 168,800 with 95,600 young palms and 73,200 producing palms.

Public works

Dr. Spennemann also discussed the major public works in the islands like government buildings, harbors, and roads.

As for the German administration building, Dr. Spennemann said it was during the German period that the replica latte stones were first used in a non-traditional setting. Showing a photo of the German administration building perched on top of a hill in Garapan, Dr. Spennemann said the use of replica latte stones as columns at the base of the hill issued a message: German power rests on local support. Dr. Spennemann said this symbolizes continuity between traditional Chamorro past and the new colonial power.

When a strong typhoon hit the islands in 1905, it devastated the plantations and destroyed the administration building. When the building was rebuilt, it was made into a school. The school

Dr. Spennemann said when the Germans came, they inherited the islands with little examples of Spanish architecture.

Expressing concern over forces of nature such as earthquakes and typhoon, Fritz requested that his own residence on Saipan be made following the Japanese design which he believed could withstand earthquakes.

Dr. Spennemann also talked about town planning.

Moreover, Dr. Spennemann also talked about communications from Berlin to the German possessions in the Pacific and communications between the colonies themselves. Dr. Spennemann said shipping and communication difficulties allowed the district officers to make direct contact to the government in Berlin instead of going through the chain of command in the Pacific.

Dr. Spennemann also talked about shipping whereby the only shipping connections at the time of the German acquisition of the Northern Marianas were Japanese traders operating out of Yokohama.

He said these traders would conduct trade on Saipan on an irregular basis in one year.

So, mails would be sent via the traders that pass by Yokohama.

However, Dr. Spennemann said there was no efficient mail delivery due to this irregularity of traders plying the route to Saipan.

He also talked about two German trading companies in Jaluit: Jaluit Gesselschaft and Norddeutscher Lloyd. Dr. Spennemann said Jaluit Gesselschaft was first and foremost a shipping company and shipping, second. Norddeutscher Lloyd, on the other hand, was a shipping line only. He discussed the importance of the two companies for the colonies, specifically for Saipan.

Given the complexities of running the entire German colonies, and given that two major typhoons destroying the coconut plantations that would have otherwise exceeded Samoan production of copra, the German colonial authorities realized administering the islands was a losing proposition.

In 1907, the German administration demoted Saipan from district to a station. It was also during this time that Fritz, who instituted groundbreaking policies on Saipan, vacated his post as administrator.

As the Japanese were already trading with Saipan during this period, little did the authorities on island knew that it was eyeing it as a colony.

Unknown to the rest, Japan and England made an alliance and the latter sought Japan's help. At the time, Germany invaded Belgium that signaled the start of World War I.

On August 4, 1914, England declared war on Germany after the invasion of Belgium and Japan followed suit. Ten days later, Japanese ships were in the waters off Saipan. A month later, on November 5th, the Germans were deported.

For helping England during World War I, Japan was given the administration of the islands previously ruled by the Germans.

And the Northern Mariana Islands passed on to Japanese hands.

(to be continued)

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