Title: "The Congo Conference."

Journal: Los Angeles Times

Place of Publication: Los Angeles

Date: January 30, 1885

People: Frelinghuysen, Frederick T. (Frederick Theodore), 1817-1885; Kasson, John A. 1822-1910; Sanford, Henry Shelton, 1823-1891

Analysis

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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The Congo Conference.

How the United States was Represented in the Negotiations.

Washington, Jan. 29. -- In response to the House resolution calling for information respecting the participation of the United States in the Congo Conference, the President to-day sent to the House a report submitted by the Secretary of State to the President. The Secretary says that some time must elapse before a full documentary history of the transaction can be laid before Congress, but in view of the general interest taken in the subject, he submits a preliminary report, leaving the transmission of papers, to follow. He then gives in detail the causes and motives of the participation of this government in the Berlin conference all of which is well known to the public. "It being established," the report proceeds, "that Congress was not to have plenipotentiary functions, no special credentials were needed to enable Mr. Kasson to attend as a delegate of this government, he being already accredited as minister in the Imperial court. The instructions sent Kasson were brief, but precise as to the exclusion of questions of territorial jurisdiction. By direction of the President, Mr. Henry Sanford, whose relation to the International Association representing the free States of Congo seemed to fit him for the work, was appointed Associate Delegate in behalf of the United States, his course to be governed by the instructions sent Kasson. Sanford not being an officer of this Government, was accredited by a letter addressed by the undersigned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Germany, as Associate Delegate. The resolution of the House calls for the text of the credentials or powers given the representatives of the United States, and the letter accrediting Sanford will be transmitted with the rest of the correspondence at an early day. It may, however, be here mentioned that it confers no definite powers on him. It merely recites the proposals of the Imperial Government that associate delegates having special knowledge of the condition of affairs in Western Africa and especially in the region of Congo, should assist at the meeting of the conference and formally accredits Sanford as such associate delegate on behalf of the United States." Subsequently, the report says, Henry M. Stanley was invited by the conference itself to appear and give information touching the Congo region, as to which he is admitted the original and sole authority. Stanley's name appears in the protocol of the proceedings as associate delegate of the United States, but he was not accredited otherwise than by Kasson's personal introduction. Neither Sanford nor Stanley have had a vote in the proceedings. The voting has been by countries, the delegation of each voting as a unit, as the fact of voting is quite a matter of form." The latest dispatches received from Kasson, Secretary Frelinghuysen says, being the proceedings to December 15, on which day the conference adjourned until January 5. Up to that time the Department of State has no reason to feel otherwise than satisfied with the discretion, prudence and ability with which Kasson has carried out the instructions given him. besides limited the position of the United States to one of commercial interest dissociated from questions of territorial control, he has been attentive to no act on our part shall deviate from constitutional policy.