Title: "Proceedings in Congress."

Journal: Evening Bulletin

Place of Publication: Maysville, Kentucky

Date: January 31, 1885

People: Kasson, John A. 1822-1910; Sanford, Henry Shelton, 1823-1891

Place: Congo Basin


Most Americans did not have access to Congressional debates about whether the U.S should recognize the sovereignty of King Leopold II of Belgium's Congo Free State—which prompted the convening of the Berlin Conference—or discussions of U.S. engagement with the "African Question." [note 1] They turned to newspapers to glean any information about the major international issue for the West at the time—the present and future state of African affairs. U.S. media coverage of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 was extensive, with articles published in the major coastal newspapers and dailies in the South, West, and Midwest, attesting to the scope of American interest in European designs on Africa.

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Proceedings in Congress.

A Document From the Secretary of State on the Congo Question.

Washington, Jan. 31 -- At the opening of the house a letter was read from the speaker, designating Hon. J. C. S. Blackburn (Ky) as speaker protem for the day. Speaker Carlisle's absence is in consequence of an invitation to Albany to confer with the president-elect.

Mr. Townshend (Ill), from the committee on appropriations, reported the postoffice appropriation bill, which appropriates $52,253,200, being nearly $4,000,000 less than the estimates.

The chair laid before the house a communication from the secretary of state, giving information respecting the participation of the United States in the Congo basin conference, the motives which led this government to participate, the manner in which it participate, the manner in which it participated, and the views which may have been expressed by its delegates at the conference. The secretary refers to the resolution adopted by the senate in April last, advising the president to recognize the flag of the international association of the Congo and the appointment of a commercial agent for the Congo basin, as the first steps toward an international expression of the view of this government with regard to the Congo country. In carrying out these measures the government recorded its share in the general conviction that the prospective rich trade of the Congo valley should be open to all nations on equal terms while avoiding any prejudgment of conflicting territorial claims in that region. Last October the German Minister at Washington, speaking for Germany and France, called upon the secretary and proposed to arrange in a spirit of mutual good understanding the conditions which would tend to assure the development of commerce with the Congo valley, and the United States was asked to take part in the Berlin conference. Subsequently Minister Kasson was instructed to report upon the advisability of this government being represented at the conference. Mr. Kasson reported in favor of representation, and he together with Mr. Henry S. Sanford were appointed delegates from the United States. As the conference is still in session, no final view of the results can be given. So far Mr. Kasson and Mr. Sanford have continued they propositions to matters affecting commercial intercourse with the whole Congo region -- freedom of navigation of the rivers and land communications between the coasts of the interior without advancing any plan affecting the political tenure of the diverse territories. A proposition advanced by Mr. Kasson making not only the Congo river and tributaries, but the whole territory of the Congo basin neutral in times of war is still under consideration in the conference, and so far as known it has the approval of all the powers represented there except France and Portugal. Up to this time the department has seen no reason to feel otherwise than satisfied with the discretion, presence and ability with which Mr. Kasson has carried out the instructions given to him. Beside limiting the position of the United States to one of commercial interest, dissociated from question of territorial control, he has been attentive that no act on our part shall deviate from consistent national policy. He has been careful no expression should be found of record in the agreements in the conference which might imply that its results are to be binding upon any power which may not formally accept them. Other papers and correspondence bearing upon this subject and reports of the proceedings of the conference will be transmitted to congress as soon as received and translated at the department.