Franceville, New Hebrides
|Independent Commune of Franceville
Commune Indépendante de Franceville
1905 map of New Hebrides, still showing Franceville as alternative name for Port Vila
|-||1890?||R. D. Polk|
|Deputy (legislator)||Comte Maurice de Nolhac|
|Historical era||New Imperialism|
|-||Established||August 9, 1889|
The municipality of Franceville (present-day Port Vila) on Efate or Sandwich island was established during the period when the New Hebrides were a neutral territory under the loose jurisdiction of a joint Anglo-French naval commission. In order to gain basic legal status, it declared itself independent for a few months in 1889.
In 1878 the United Kingdom and France declared all of the New Hebrides to be neutral territory. The Convention of 16 October 1887, established a joint naval commission for the sole purpose of protecting French and British citizens, but claimed no jurisdiction over internal native affairs.
The lack of a functional government led to rising discontent among the colonists. The French were especially inconvenienced because French law recognized marriages only when contracted under a civil authority (the nearest being in New Caledonia), whereas British law recognized marriages conducted by local clergy. On August 9, 1889, Franceville declared itself an independent commune under the leadership of elected mayor/president Ferdinand-Albert Chevillard and with its own red, white and blue flag with five stars.
This community became the first self-governing nation to practice universal suffrage without distinction of sex or race. Although the district's population at the time consisted of about 500 natives and fewer than 50 whites, only white males were permitted to hold office. One of its elected presidents was one R. D. Polk, a native of Tennessee and relative of James K. Polk.
The new government was soon suppressed, and by June 1890 Franceville as a commune was reported to have been "practically broken up." In 1906, the naval commission was replaced by a more structured British-French Condominium.
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- Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 26, 1889
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- Cawsey, Katherine Stirling Kerr (1998). The Making of a Rebel: Captain Donald Macleod of the New Hebrides. pp. 391–403. ISBN 978-982-02-0140-8.
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