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Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal IslesAmericans in Nineteenth-Century Fiji$
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Nancy Shoemaker

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501740343

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501740343.001.0001

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This Hell upon Earth

This Hell upon Earth

Competence and Wealth

(p.161) Chapter 6 This Hell upon Earth
Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles

Nancy Shoemaker

Cornell University Press

This chapter details Salem merchant John B. Williams's frustrated efforts to live up to the legacy of Salem's mercantile culture. Though money was what Williams wanted from Fiji, he valued money not for its purchasing power but as a symbol of his success in business. He hoped that a fortune reaped in Fiji would command respect by demonstrating his superior commercial acumen to the people of Salem, a city renowned for having produced some of the nation's earliest millionaires. The speculations at the heart of American commercial expansion could generate extraordinary returns one day and ruin a person the next. Even if failure was endemic, Williams anguished over the cause of his. He was trapped between two competing cultural values. He believed that self-made wealth would earn him others' esteem, but to exhibit blatant self-interest was despicable. Although Williams never achieved his objective in Fiji, his actions bore consequences for others. More than any other American, Williams influenced the islands' history. Whereas David Whippy sought foremost to protect the foreign enclave at Levuka, Williams belonged to a vast, global economy in which his self-interest constituted one tentacle.

Keywords:   John B. Williams, mercantile culture, Fiji, Salem, American commercial expansion, self-interest, global economy, merchants

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