The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Early Experiments in Government

The Fiji Confederacy 1865-1867

By the early 1860s, while he still called himself the Tui Viti, Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau, the Vunivalu of Bau, really only held sway over the eastern coastlands of Viti Levu and of Lomaiviti. Real power in Lau and Vanua Levu was held by the extraordinary Tongan chief Ma’afu, from his headquarters at Lomaloma, Vanuabalavu. Highland and western Viti Levu were ruled by various independent chiefs. The number of foreign settlers owing no allegiance to the traditional chiefs was growing rapidly and the need for a centralised government was becoming apparent. Urged by the British Consul, Captain H.M. Jones VC and by their European advisors and laying claim to authority over all Fijians, the high chiefs of Bau, Rewa, Lakeba, Bua, Cakaudrove, Macuata and Naduri formed the Fiji Confederacy in 1865. First presidency of the General Assemble of these allied but internally independent chiefdoms went to Seru Cakobau. In 1867 Ma’afu’s determined effort to become President collapsed the Confederacy.

Confederation of North and East Fiji 1867-1871

Following the collapse of the Fiji Confederacy, Ma’afu, Tui Cakau and Tui Bua formed this Confederacy, more often called the Lau Government because of Ma’afu’s dominance. With good advisors and the Tongan chief’s grasp on what was happening in Fiji this confederation governed well, especially in Lau.

Kingdom of Bau 1867

With the fall of the Fiji Confederacy, Ratu Seru Cakobau declared and crowned himself King of Bau. With poor advisers, an impractical constitution based on the Hawaiian one and a leader bewildered by the unprecedented turn of events, the Bau Government was a confused shambles. The British Consul and most settlers and Fijians refusing to recognise the assumption of royal power by the Vunivalu of Bau.

The Cakobau Government 1871

By 1870 there were 2500 European settlers in Fiji, the need for central government to regulate both European and Fijian interests being overwhelmingly obvious. In June 1871, Ratu Seru Cakobau, backed by a team of European advisers, declared himself King of Fiji and established a government with Levuka as its capital. Recognition by Ma’afu and other high chiefs allowed this government to establish itself, but there were turbulent times ahead.