Author: John A. Kasson

Title: "The Congo Conference and the President's Message"

Journal: The North American Review

Date: February 1886


John A. Kasson held diplomatic posts as U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary from 1877-1881 and to the German Empire from 1884–1885. It was during this latter assignment, that he attended the Berlin Conference (a.k.a. the Kongokonferenz) of 1884-85 and subsequently persuaded the United States to recognize the sovereignty of the Congo Free State and to ratify the General Act of the Berlin Conference . Kasson proved successful in the first endeavor, but failed to convince President Cleveland to present the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

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The Conference at Berlin on the West-African Question.

Daniel De Leon

[. . .]

This declaration constitutes an agreement on the part of all the governments adhering to it that the commerce of each of their nations shall enjoy complete liberty in all the region drained by the Congo and its affluents, including therewith Lake Tanganyika and its eastern tributaries: also in the Atlantic zone lying on both sides of the Congo basin proper between latitude 2° degrees 30' south, and the river Logé, prolonging these lines eastward from the Atlantic until they reach the Congo basin also: in the zone lying eastward of the Congo basin and situate between the 5th degree of north latitude and the river Zambesi on the south and extending to the Indian Ocean on the east. But it was expressly understood that the provisions should only apply to the territories of any independent power in this eastward zone (like Zanzibar) after such Government should give its assent; and the Conference powers agreed to use their influence to obtain this consent.

[. . .]

The fourth and fifth of the resolutions of the Conference establish an agreement that the two greatest commercial rivers of Western Africa, the Niger and Congo, as well as all artificial water ways or railroads connecting their waters respectively, shall forever remain open to the navigation and commercial use of all nations, on terms of perfect equality. No embarrassing or discriminating regulations shall be applied; and other national interests shall have the same liberty and rights on these rivers as those of the possessory powers. No nation may create a monopoly on either river. This navigation is to remain forever free and open to neutral commerce, even in time of war.

[. . .]