During the late 1800s, the United States, Germany, and Britain all valued the Samoan archipelago for its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean. The three countries signed the General Act of Berlin in 1889, which preserved an independent and autonomous government for the islands. The preservation of neutrality of the islands was intended to alleviate hostility among the three powers over control of the islands. As the 1888 petition from the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco indicates, Germany in particular was eager to flex its muscles as a new empire, and had recently increased its military intervention on the islands. As a “representative of the commercial interests of the Pacific Coast,” the Chamber of Commerce had a vested interest in preserving neutrality on the islands. War between the three countries was avoided only by a typhoon that struck the islands, sinking all the warships anchored there except for one.
In just 10 years, the General Act of Berlin was annulled when the Tripartite Convention was held in 1899. Britain gave up its interest in the islands, and they were divided between Germany (western islands) and the United States (eastern islands). Today, the eastern islands are a territory of the United States known as American Samoa, and the western islands are the independent nation of Samoa. Fofó Iosefa Fiti Sunia was elected to Congress in 1981 as the first Delegate from American Samoa.