The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

The Kingdom of Fiji 1871-1874

The Years of the Cakobau Government

Founded by Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau in June of 1871 and with its capital at Levuka, the Cakobau Government initially consisted of an Executive Council of five Europeans and two Fijians. An elected House of Delegates later worked out a constitution whereby legislation was passed by a Privy Council of Fijian chiefs and governors and a Legislative Assembly of European members. Cabinet ministers belonged to both houses and the country was divided into provinces under Fijian governors. Although it was widely accepted at first, the Government’s inability to reconcile Fijian and European viewpoints led to widening settler disenchantment, open defiance and armed resistance. Frequent Cabinet changes and defections to the opposition, financial chaos, punitive expeditions and mounting dissent plagued the Government, with intervention in local affairs by British and American warships further undermining the Government's position.

Ratu Seru Cakobau was eventually forced to ask for British annexation of Fiji. Having investigated the situation in Fiji and being given an offer of unconditional cession of sovereignty, British Commissioners E.L Layard and Commodore Goodenough recommended the annexation of Fiji by Great Britain. In July of 1874, Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor of New South Wales, was instructed to independently investigate the Fiji situation, with authority to annex the islands if this was warranted and on 10 October 1874 Fiji became a British colony.