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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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Tui America

Tui America


(p.186) Chapter 7 Tui America
Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles

Nancy Shoemaker

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how, even though he failed to acquire other Salemites' respect for his business acumen, John B. Williams achieved a different kind of respect by marshaling U.S. warships to attack and threaten Fijians on his behalf. From the moment he had set foot in Fiji, Williams had asked the State Department for military backup. According to him, the “Androphagus Feejee men” would only learn to “pay the proper respect to Commerce” with “the destruction of some of their towns commencing at Bau the seat of mischief.” He made the same request in nearly every despatch thereafter and in the 1850s managed to bring five ships of war to Fiji. Ships of war were Williams's most potent weapon, but he had others. He leveraged his elite connections and local, national, and global networks of power. Ultimately, his use of alliance building and military intimidation within Fiji paralleled the techniques of power employed by Fiji's most formidable turaga. He was thus flattered when Fijians called him Tui America (King of America). Thwarted in his efforts to impress people back home, he took solace in the respect shown him by Fijians, even though this form of respect was rooted in fear.

Keywords:   John B. Williams, U.S. warships, Fijians, Fiji, alliance building, military intimidation, turaga

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