Title: "U. S. Not to Mix in Congo Muddle"

Journal: Chicago Daily Tribune

Place of Publication: Chicago

Date: February 7, 1907

Place: Congo Free State


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U. S. Not to Mix in Congo Muddle

Admitted in Senatorial Circles That Lodge Resolution Has No Chance of Being Adopted.

Race Problems at Home

President Roosevelt Said to Be Indifferent and Not Anxious to Stir Up European Trouble.

By Raymond

Washington, D. C. Feb. 6. -- [Special.] -- Just at the present time there is not much prospect of intervention by the United States in the affairs of the Congo Free State. Some weeks ago there was a strong disposition manifested by the administration to do something for the poor people in the part of Africa who seemed to be victims of a horrible oppression. Many members of the senate also were in favor of intervention a couple of months ago because they had been flooded with petitions indicating a widespread public sentiment in this country that the United States should do soothing on humanitarian grounds for the poor black people of the Congo.

If action could have been secured in December it is likely the senate would have passed the Lodge resolution and the president would have taken some diplomatic steps to secure a concert of action by the European nations in some way to bring relief to the Congo natives. Since then, however, danger of European complications and the possible futility of any help for the natives have become more and more apparent until at the present time some of the most prominent of the republican senators seem to have lost interest in the Congo question, and I learned today that disinclination to interfere also is manifested in the vicinity of the White house and the state department.

Problems Enough at Home.

Following out the line of argument presented to the readers of The Tribune by Prof. Frederick Starr that the United States has race problems enough of its own here and in the Philippines without attempting to settle similar problems in far off Congo, a distinguished official of the government said today that in his judgment there was no immediate prospect of interference, and that the administration was not particularly interested now in the passage of the Lodge resolution, which was intended at first to strengthen the hand of the president in case he should find it necessary to make some sharp demands upon European governments, and particularly upon King Leopold, who is supposed to be primarily responsible for conditions in the Congo Free State.

I also was told upon the same authority that even if the senate should pass an amended Lodge resolution, which is more than doubtful, there is no certainty at all the president would deem it advisable to act. The more the question has been studied and the more complete have been the diplomatic exchanges the more evident it has become that it is an extremely delicate one. It is more than doubtful whether any of the nations directly interested in the Congo is at all concerned with the conditions of the natives.

All Fighting for Territory.

They are all presumably fighting for territory, and the partition of the Congo Free State, whether taken on the initiative of the United States or not, would surely be a signal for a scramble for territory. The United States would take no part in this but it is impossible to convince European nations, since we took the Philippines and are about to take Cuba, that any kind of diplomatic intervention on our part would not be prompted by the same kind of selfish motives which have influenced them.

Great Britain may be entirely disinterested, but it is a fact that the English are more interested than any one else, because they have large possessions both in North and South Africa, which can be connected only be carving out a British road across the Congo territory.

Much interest has been manifested here in the more or less positive declarations by Prof. Starr that the ill treatment of natives is racial, and is by no means confined to Leopold's immediate territory. It has been declared all along, but not by authority, that t he blacks have been subjected to cruel treatment by the Germans, French, Belgians, and English indiscriminately. Senators and congressmen therefore have been much impressed by Prof. Starr's argument, based on his personal observation, that we cannot interfere in the Congo on purely humanitarian grounds unless we are ready on the same basis to undertake the moral or material policing of all of European Africa.

Filipinos Not Ill Treated.

With one part of Prof. Starr's conclusion the people here do not seem to agree. That is his suggestion that conditions in the Philippines are in any way such as to preclude us from interfering in the Congo, or that the semi-occasional lynching of a negro in the southern states would prevent our going into the Congo muddle with clean hands.

In the first place, while the retention of the Philippines under the American flag is by no means as popular as it was a few years ago, it is the general understanding in congress and in government departments generally, based on detailed reports from army officers, civilian officials, and, best of all, from school teachers, that the Filipinos, as a nation, never in their lives have been as well off, as humanely treated, or as distinctly set on the road of progress as they are today. There is even a distinct trend of sentiment in administration circles and in congress toward a condition of quasi-independence for the Filipinos. Secretary Taft expects to go back to Manila late in the year to inaugurate a large measure of home rule there, and to participate in the organization of the first native legislative body. Even the most violent opponents of expansion here in Washington now admit that the condition of the Filipinos has been infinitely advanced under American rule. On the other hand, the most fanatical opponents of the hauling down of the American flag in the islands are now prepared to admit that the Philippines will always cost us more than they give us, and that the only problem is not to prevent the independence of the islands, but to prevent their being swallowed by some great European or even an oriental nation.

Southern Senators Opposed.

The disinclination to interfere in the Congo comes most largely from the southern senators. They come from the states where the negro is chiefly settled, and they do not think that the local treatment of black men has disqualified the United States in any way for participation in an international conference over the Congo. The opposition of the southern senators is based on the broad general principle enunciated by Washington and followed closely by this government -- that we should avoid entangling alliances which were chiefly concerned with European policies. Senator Bacon and other senators have fought the Lodge resolution without regard to whether the natives of the Congo were injured or not, and without taking into consideration the color of their skin. They insisted that we had no business there at all, because our commercial relations with the Congo are infinitely smaller than those with Morocco, and the president's interference in the Moroccan question, mild through it was, provoked sharp criticism in the senate.

Many of the senators, both republicans and democrats, insist that the United States cannot possibly play dog in the manger in the American continent by enforcing the Monroe doctrine here and at the same time insisting upon our right to interfere among European nations for the settlement of disputes which do not in any way concern the affairs of this continent, and which have only the vaguest and most remote bearing upon the commerce of the United States.

Lodge Resolution to Die.

It requires a two-thirds vote to ratify a treaty, but only a majority to pass a resolution, which will practically pledge the senate in advance to ratify any action taken by the president in an international question. It is significant, therefore, to find that there is no immediate prospect of the passage of the Lodge resolution. There was a time when the resolution was being pressed as a test of loyalty to the administration. It was said that the president was extremely desirous of interfering in the Congo on the ground of humanity, but he did not desire to take any action which would cause a renewal of the criticism provoked by the Algeciras conference over Morocco. There is scarcely any doubt of the fact that if President Roosevelt had been seriously contemplating active diplomatic intervention in regard to the Congo he could have secured the passage of a resolution pledging the support of the senate to anything he might do. Such a resolution of course is extraordinary, but the senators generally were well aware that the president and Secretary Root necessarily would act in a most conservative manner and would make only such representations of King Leopold as could be directed to that extraordinary monarch without passing the bounds of ordinary diplomatic usage.

If republican senators have lost interest in the Congo it is evidently because they have been informed that the president at the present time is more or less indifferent. He is not the man to hesitate if an emergency should arise. He has never shirked responsibility in his life, nor has he attempted to throw it upon other people to avoid the results of his own actions.

Just now the administration does not seem to think that the facts justify Congo intervention, or that the time has arrived, if it ever can arrive, when the United States safely could take steps to better the condition of the Congo natives. If at any time in the future, near or remote, conditions change or the United States can intervene without producing European complications the president will not hesitate to do so.