Two Captains, Two Regimes: Benjamin Franklin Tilley and Richard Phillips Leary, America’s Pacific Island Commanders, 1899-1901


By 1900, with the acquisition of Guam in Micronesia and eastern Samoa in Polynesia, the United States had successfully expanded its borders into the Pacific Ocean. The Department of the Navy ruled these islands for fifty years and assigned Commander Benjamin F. Tilley to eastern Samoa and Captain Richard P. Leary to Guam as the first American officials. 1 Tilley worked with the islanders to secure their traditional culture and lands, while simultaneously developing a kinship with the Samoans that is still celebrated. Leary, on the other hand, sent his second in command to work with the people, while he remained aloof, longed to return to the mainland, and is rarely remembered. The straightforward, law-abiding governor of Guam left the island in less than a year with nary a person bidding him farewell, while the controversial governor of American Samoa left Samoans longing for his return.


History and Political Science

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© 2013 International Journal of Naval History, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2013