Title: "Hands Off Congo; Starr Points Way"

Journal: Chicago Daily Tribune

Place of Publication: Chicago

Date: February 6, 1906

Place: Congo Free State


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Hands Off Congo; Starr Points Way

Senate Likely to Refuse to Interfere Owing to Truth as Told by Professor in "Tribune."

Scent Big British Grab.

Agitation Begun, It Is Charged, to Get the Right of Way for Its Cape to Cairo Road.

By Raymond.

Washington, D. C., Feb. 5. -- [Special] -- It Is extremely doubtful if the senate will pass at this session any resolution such as that proposed by Senator Lodge pledging the support of the senate in advance to any steps President Roosevelt may take to interfere for the benefit of tho unfortunate inhabitants of the Congo Free State.

Senator Lodge has modified his original resolution once or twice, but there apparently is no strong desire on the part of the republican members to press it to a vote, while several of the democrats, and notably Senator Bacon of Georgia, one of the brainiest of southern men, are bitterly opposed to intervention in the Congo in any way or for any purpose.

Prof. Starr's articles in The Tribune, written as they evidently were at first hand, have had a great deal of influence in consolidating opinion in congress on the Congo question. Various reports have reached the senate committee on foreign relations, and they are diametrically opposed.

Belgians Quiet; British Active.

There was a time, not long ago, when agents of King Leopold were supposed to be at work in Washington, although, as a matter of fact, these representatives of the Belgian monarch were invisible, to the naked eye and certainly their work was never palpable. On the other hand, there has been a distinct British influence apparent at times, which seems to urge the United States toward intervention.

The senate at first was flooded with petitions reciting cases presented by trustworthy Protestant missionaries showing horrible atrocities which were practiced upon some of the Congo natives. These petitions were all in favor of intervention, they were almost all of them printed on the same forms, and were evidently part of a concerted movement. They had an influence upon the senate and upon the administration alike, because they came from excellent people, including many strong religious bodies, church workers, clergymen, and substantial business men.

Petitions on Other Side Strong.

Later on, however, petitions began to arrive on the other side. They were equally strong, equally entitled to consideration, and, unfortunately, seemed to be equally concerted. Apparently the petitions against intervention represented certain Roman Catholic influence as opposed to the previous flood of Protestant petitions.

Naturally enough, American and British missionaries, almost all of whom were Protestants, favored intervention, while French, German, and Belgian missionaries, most of whom were Catholics, were more than content to let things stay as they are.

So many arguments were made on each side, and danger of religious controversy seemed to be so great, that senators and members of the house were more than ready to receive the unbiased testimony of a student like Prof. Starr, who had been on the ground, who had studied the condition of the natives at first hand, and who was prepared to report without bias.

At present the condition of affairs is that the state department, and presumably President Roosevelt as well, is desirous of taking some concerted action in harmony with Great Britain which will put an end to certain awful conditions among the black people of Congo.

Grab Behind British Sympathy?

Neither the president nor Secretary Root is in any way ignorant of the fact that Belgians, French, and Germans are pretty well allied together in opposition to the pretensions of Great Britain in the Congo country. The charge that Great Britain is influenced by its usual land grabbing motives generally comes from French and Belgian sources. They allege that the English are endeavoring to use the United States as a cat's paw to draw their international chestnuts out of the fire.

The nations of continental Europe generally are suspicious of Great Britain and have industriously spread abroad the assertion that all the English are after is to secure a broad right of way for their Cape-to-Cairo railroad. On the other hand, the British themselves have repeatedly disallowed any motive except their humane desire to better the condition of the natives and to free them from the horrible effects of the rule of such a man as King Leopold is alleged to be.

Starr Articles Dispel Doubts.

With all of these contradictory allegations affecting the motives of the European parties to the dispute, the articles of Prof. Starr have been particularly valuable because he cannot be suspected of having any other motive than to advise the United States properly as to its duty. He has said positively that England is acting alone, except for the indefinite aid of Turkey, so that if the United States allies itself with the British in the Congo, even indirectly, it will produce strained relations with France and Germany, two of the greatest consumers of American products.

This international point of view of Prof. Starr is that which is generally held in the senate, and it is the view which is more than likely to control the disposition of the Lodge resolution, which just now does not seem to have nay strength behind it except the fact that it is desired by the administration to strengthen its hand in any negotiations the president may see fit to institute.

Party Not Backing Lodge.

Up to the present time the republicans have not been active in behalf of the Lodge resolution, and Prof. Starr's articles, and more particularly his concluding one, help out the belief in the senate that it would be unwise at this stage to commit the United States to the policy of intervention.

Senator Bacon and others on the democratic side are extremely positive in their point of view and say they will fight the resolution to the bitter end. They take the same view that Prof. Starr does, which is that there is a strenuous dispute between European nations regarding the proper course to be pursued in the Congo, it would be folly for the United States to intervene on any pretext, because by so doing we must make enemies of people who have been our good friends, whereas by keeping out of the dispute we shall merely be following our traditional policy of avoiding entangling alliances. The COngo might easily provoke war in Europe, and the United States might be drawn into it if it had intervened in advance in behalf of one of the contestants.

Senators Would Know Plans.

The situation in the senate is an extremely peculiar one. It is not proposed to ratify the convention or treaty made by the secretary of state under authority of the president.

Senator Lodge has adopted an extraordinary course of endeavoring to induce the senate to give the administration diplomatic carte blanche in the Congo matter. The Lodge resolution pledges the senate to support the president in anything he may do in the Congo.

Of course, no one expects President Roosevelt to do anything rash, because his foreign policy has been singularly temperate and successful. Nevertheless, senators do not like the idea of pledging themselves in the dark.

When the resolution was first introduced by Senator Lodge it specifically declared "that in the opinion of the senate of the United States the time has come when the affairs of the Congo Free State should be made the subject of international inquiry."

This declaration coming from the United States senate might easily have given deep offense to King Leopold, because it expressed an opinion in advance that the condition there was such as to justify investigation by a nation which had only a humanitarian interest.

Move Might Arouse Europe.

We have so little trade with the Congo that any interference on our part must necessarily be based on the belief that the natives have been treated in such a shocking manner that other nations are justified in coming to their relief. This is a serious charge from a diplomatic point of view and it would probably be resented by some of the European nations which were parties to the Berlin agreement, which fixed the status of the Congo Free State.

To meet this objection, which was likely to kill the whole resolution, Senator Lodge recently eliminated this declaration of opinion on the part of the senate and put the preamble and the resolution in the following form:

Whereas, Reports of inhuman treatment inflicted upon native inhabitants of the Congo Free State have been of such nature as to draw the attention of the civilized world and excite the compassion of the people of the United States, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the senate respectfully advises the president that he will receive its cordial support in any steps he may deem it wise to take in cooperation with or in aid of any of the powers signatories of the treaty of Berlin for the amelioration of the condition of the inhabitants of the Congo Free State.

May Vote to Support President.

The preamble, or course, will be stricken out and the resolution, if passed at all, which is doubtful, will merely be a notice to the president that if he sees fit to join with Great Britain or to intervene on behalf of the United States alone, anything he does will be supported by the senate. The proceeding is unusual in the extreme, but it has occasionally been done in important cases.

If the senate sees fit to vote down the resolution, it does not tie the hands of the president in any way. He may intervene or not as he sees fit, but he could not take any action in the way of negotiating a treaty or convention with any certainty that the senate might not, in its wisdom or unwisdom, upset all his work.