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Acting Secretary of State Bacon to Minister Wilson.

Department of State, Washington, March 2, 1906.

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 64 [not printed], of the 15th ultimo, transmitting two copies of the full report in French, together with two translations in English, of the committee appointed to investigate the administration of the Independent State of the Kongo, which have also been received.

I inclose, for your information, a copy of 11 letter of the Secretary of State to the Hon. Edwin Denby concerning conditions in the Kongo Free State.

I am, etc.,
Robert Bacon.

Inclosure

The Secretary of State to the Hon. Edwin Denby.

Department of State, Washington, February 20, 1906.

Dear sir: I have your letter of the 15th regarding the widespread feeling among your constituents that our Government ought to do something to bring about an International Inquiry with a view to authoritative adjudication of the Issues to which the conditions supposed to exist in the Kongo Free State are related.

Your inquiry expresses the difficulty in the way. It is not clear that the United States is in a position to bring about such an international inquiry and adjudication. We are parties to a general act for the suppression of the slave trade and the regulation of the firearms and liquor traffics in central Africa, but that act relegates and confines all power and functions to those ends to the several powers having possessions or spheres of influence in Africa. The United States has neither, and its participation in the general act was on the distinct understanding that we had no territorial or administrative interest in that quarter. Our only potential function is in relation to the search and capture of slave vessels within certain waters of the African coast, and no occasion has arisen to exercise that function.

We are not parties to the other more commonly cited general act of the Kongo (signed at Berlin on February 26, 1885). Our treaty relation to the Kongo State is that of one sovereign to another, wholly independent of any relations created by or deducible from the general act of Berlin , which applies only to its signatories. It is questionable whether the treaty rights of the signatories extend to intervention by any one or more pf them in the internal affairs of any of them. The Kongo State absolutely denies any right on their part to intervene in its affairs, and none of the other signatory powers appears to controvert that denial. However this may be, it is certain that the United States has no treaty right of intervention. We could not rightfully summon or participate in any international conference looking to intervention, adjudication, or enforcement of a general accord by other African powers against the Kongo State.

Moreover, we are without opportunity or power to investigate conditions In the Kongo. We have no diplomatic or consular representatives in that country. We could not send anyone there except with the consent of the Government of the Kongo -- to do otherwise would be an Invasion of Its sovereignty. Other powers, being parties to the general act of Berlin, have made investigation through their authorized representatives, and the Kongo Government also has sent Investigating commissions. The information we have on the subject of Kongo misrule comes at second hand through opposed channels.

Whenever complaint bas been made by American interests in the Kongo that the administrative conditions there impair American rights or endanger American establishments the matter has been brought promptly and forcibly before the Kongo Government and bas been met with the assurance of investigation and, if substantiated, full redress. In taking this course we act within our sovereign rights, directly and without subordinating them to the judgment of any third parties. So far as we have rights of our own in the Kongo, it would be Impossible to submit them to an International conference.

I most sincerely wish that some way could be found by which the whole of central Africa could be rightly administered by the several powers ruling or exercising a controlling influence therein, so as to realize the Intention of those powers when they framed the general act of the Kongo. Much may be, and doubtless is, desirable in the way of good government in that vast region elsewhere than in the Kongo. If the United States bad happened to possess in Darkest Africa a territory seven times as large and four times as populous as the Philippines, we, too, might find good government difficult and come in for our share of just or unjust criticism. No such responsibility falls upon us. That pertains to the powers who have assumed control and undertaken, by mutual agreement, to regulate Its exercise.

Very truly, yours,
Elihu Root.

Hon. Edwin Denby, M. C., Washington, D. C.

 
 

Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

[Extracts.]

Legation of the United States, Brussels, March 5, 1906.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose, under separate cover, a copy of a treatise [not printed] a upon the administration of the Independent State of the Kongo, by Félicien Cattier, professor of the University of Brussels. The publication of this book has created a profound sensation in Belgium and has called out an animated discussion by the press and spirited debates in the Belgian House of Representatives.

On February 20 the leader of the Socialist party, Mr. Vandervelde, interpellated the Government as to its attitude toward the charges contained in Mr. Cattier's book and made his interpellation the occasion for a fierce and eloquent attack upon the administration of the Kongo.

Making Mr. Cattier's book the text of his speech, Mr. Vandervelde directly charged the Kongo administration with the maintenance of the institution of domestic slavery in the Kongo regions; with cruel and barbarous practices toward the native tribes; with a system of taxation amounting practically to confiscation; with violation of the stipulations of the treaty of Berlin guaranteeing equal trade facilities and rights to all nations; with perversion of the revenues derived from Belgian loans to the Kongo to the King's private exchequer; with subornation of the press, and the maintenance of an organized bureau of corruption. It is regarded here as peculiarly significant and as confirming in a large measure the serious charges contained in the book of Mr. Cattier, that after interpellation the Government should have made no reply to his radical and serious charges, except in the way of simple denial.

After some days of discussion, Mr. Beernaert, minister of state and conservative deputy, offered the following resolution:

The House, in harmony with the ideas governing the foundation of the Independent State of the Kongo by the act of Berlin, renders homage to all those who have devoted themselves to this work of civilization, and In view of the conclusions of the commission of inquiry into the administration of the State of the Kongo, and relying upon the improvements which the commission on reforms Is at present studying, and also upon the future execution of the same, decides to proceed without delay to the consideration of the project of law of August 7, 1901, for the administration of the colonial possessions of Belgium.

It is to be noted that the resolution of Mr. Beernaert was adopted after the House had rejected an amendment to that motion calling upon the administration of the Kongo for all documents, accounts, and reports bearing upon the matters in debate for the information of Congress.

The debates had in the House, the trend of expression in the press, the discussions in clubs, literary organizations, and at social gatherings indicate that Cattier's book has crystallized the spirit of discontent with the administration of the Kongo which has been for a long time prevalent, but without the opportunity of utterance.

While Mr. Cattier's book is too voluminous to permit of a full translation by this legation, a general outline may be found useful. The author starts out with a statement that the existing maladministration of the Kongo is due essentially to the initial error of attempting to administer the finances of a' colony for the welfare of interests in the motherland rather than for the good of the colony itself.

The character of the administration is thus described:

The clearest and most Incontestable truth resulting from this study is that the State of the Kongo is not a colonizing State; that it is scarcely a State at all; it is in financial enterprise. The primary objects of those in control of its administration have been financial, viz:

Increased revenue by taxation; rapid drainage of the natural richness of the country; the construction of such public works only as would Increase the productivity of the soil, such was the policy of the State. All beyond that has been simply subsidiary. The colony has been administered neither in the interests of its inhabitants, nor yet in the economical interests of Belgium. Procure tor the sovereign King a maximum of revenue, this has been the inspiration ot the Government's zeal.

Nor, according to the evidence offered by Mr. Cattier, does the Government appear to have been very scrupulous in its choice of the means of enlarging the Kongo revenue. He states that the stipulations of the Berlin conference guaranteeing free commerce to all nations have been nullified:

Free commerce does not exist in the Kongo, in any of the five regions just enumerated, and which form the total area of the territory of the State.

Relative to the recruiting of workmen and soldiers by force, Cattier says:

Generally the most tender course of procedure consisted in the purchase of domestic slaves from the native chiefs, who were taken to the stations chained together with Iron collars.

The following letter, published by Consul Casement in his report, is worthy of production In this connection:

"The chief N'Gulu, of Wangata, is sent to Maringa to buy slaves for me. I beg the agents of the Abir (a commercial organization) to kindly report to me any wrongs he may commit while en route.

"(S.) Sarrazzyn.
"The Commandant, "Coquilhatville, May 1, 1896."

It is admitted that since 1896 there has been an improvement in many ways, but the author states, and seems to prove, that taxation has steadily increased and is now exorbitant.

According to the figures of author, the taxation of the native population of the Kongo during the six years passed has amounted to 55.3 per cent of all visible resources.

The rate of taxation for adjacent African colonies is shown to be as follows:

British East African Protectorate, 1902-3, 1.6 per cent; 1903-4, 6 per cent.
German East African Colony, 15 per cent.
Kameroun, 3.5 per cent.
French Kongo, 4-per cent.
Mozambique Company, 11 per cent.

Every native of Mongola yields an annual profit into the treasury of the Kongo companies or to the royal exchequer of 756 francs ($152).

But --

Continues Mr. Cattier--

one of the strangest creations of the sovereign King is the judicial person to whom is given the name of "Domain of the Crown." The domain of the crown was established by a secret decree of March 8, 1896, and was not made public before 1902; in that year an abstract of the decree appeared in the Official Bulletin, together with one of a new decree of December 23, 1901. The texts of these two royal decrees have not been made public, and it is not yet known whether the decree of 1901 simply made additions to the patrimony of the domain of the crown, or whether it completes and modifies its organization. The abstract of the two decrees published In the Official Bulletin gives no details.

The area of the domain of the crown, as shown by Mr. Cattier, is immense:

Calculated with the greatest care, If amounts to 289,375 square kilometers, which Is a territory equal to ten times the area of Belgium, to half the area of France, and 21 times that of England. It covers more than one-fourth of the rubber zone worked during the lust ten years (1,026.875 square kilometers).

The revenue of the domain of the crown from 1896 to 1905 makes an enormous total. Mr. Cattier makes two estimates of the sum total, obtaining, respectively, 80,738,000 francs and 85,270,000 francs. The revenue of the domain for that period may therefore be moderately estimated at 70,000,000 francs.

The purposes for which this large accumulation of money: was designed was to some extent explained by the prime minister, Count de Smet de Naeyer, in the Belgian House of Representatives, July 8, 1903. He stated that the present object was the creation ∑and endowment of public institutions and works in Belgium, as well as in the Kongo, it being the ultimate purpose to extend the benefits and privileges now held exclusively by the King to Belgium, and eventually to incorporate the Kongo with Belgium.

Mr. Cattier also presents evidence that the domain of the crown has purchased in the districts of Brussels and Ostend property valued at about 25,000,000 francs.

Commenting on these expenditures, Mr. Cattier says:

It would he a fundamental error to admit that the finances of a colony are not to be administered in its exclusive Interest and solely for its development. Even if the revenues of the domain of the crown had been obtained without abuses and without crimes, the sovereign King should not have the right to expend them in luxurious works In Belgium. Belgium is rich enough to bear the expense of all her useful and necessary works.

Moreover, upon occasions when reforms have been demanded, the government of the Kongo, while admitting their necessity, has declined to realize them on the ground of poverty. Its budget has been closed with a deficit while millions belonging to the same were wasted in Belgium in the execution of works of luxury, in the purchase of consciences, and in dubious and dark dealings.

Analyzing the State of the Kongo budget, Mr. Cattier says:

If we compare the receipts of the State with the expenses. ordinary and extraordinary, the acknowledged deficit is only 27,000,000 francs. Nevertheless, the nominal capital of loans of all kinds made amounts to 130,000,000. The State has thus borrowed 130,000,000 to cover a deficit which by its own estimate amounts to 27,000,000.

Relative to the difference between the official statements of the Kongo government and the report of the commission of inquiry, Mr. Cather says:

Nothing is more striking than the contrast between the official statements of the Kongo government and the report of the commission of inquiry:

"Report of the secretaries-general to the sovereign King.

"The judiciary statistics demonstrate the vigilance exercised by the investigating magistrates, in ascertaining infractions of the law, and their efforts are so directed as to lead to the punishment of all offenses."

July 15, 1900.

"Report of the committee of inquiry.

"The offenses committed under the compulsory system have rarely been referred to justice."

The book of Mr. Cattier gives several illustrations like the above of the difference between the official reports and the report of the committee on inquiry.

Relative to government employees and agents, Mr. Cattier says:

The Kongo State dispenses systematically with the services of the most distinguished of its agents. Valuable services rendered, instead of gaining the recognition and approval of the administration, only engender suspicion, and eventually bring about retirement. Not a single distinguished colonial was placed upon the recently organized reform commission.

Speaking of the attitude of the press toward the Kongo State, Mr. Cattier alleges the existence of a press bureau, and says:

This organization prepares most of the articles appearing In the newspapers friendly to the Kongo State. It is only fair to admit that certain Belgian newspapers belonging to the three great political parties have resisted the solicitations of the Kongo officials, and refused the gold of the domain of the crown. The State has thought it wise and proper to remunerate not only the devotion of newspapers and magazines, but also that of certain correspondents and reporters.

Commenting upon the evidence against the Kongo administration which has recently been accumulated, Mr. Cattier says:

Whosoever would have a year ago charged a tenth part of the facts now definitely established would have exposed himself to prosecution and would have found it practically impossible to prove his accusations. His conscience might have absolved him, but the judges would have convicted him.

That his motives in formulating the charges contained in his book may not be misunderstood, Mr. Cattier says:

To avoid any misunderstanding of my intentions, I wish to declare formally that I have been guided In the work I have presented by a double conviction -- I believe that under prevalent political conditions in Europe the monarchical form of government is that which best serves the interests of the people. I firmly believe that not only is the Kongo useful and necessary to Belgium, but that the latter could not decline to accept its incorporation without incurring the charge of moral decadence and incapacity.

While Mr. Cattier does not demand the abandonment of the Kongo, he believes that the present régime of operating it through the juridical person, called the domain of the crown, should be abolished, and that free commerce should be established.

The salvation of the natives and the economical prosperity of the State can be obtained only in this way.

The author pronounces himself categorically for the annexation of the Congo to Belgium:

Immediate annexation is the sole honorable Issue of the present situation. This question will demand solution very soon under difficult circumstances for the dynasty, when the problem of the succession to the thrones of Belgium and the Kongo must be determined. To-day the whole matter might be adjusted without danger.

It is probable, on account of the great interest taken in the Kongo question in England, that an English translation of Mr. Cattier's interesting work will be made. If I learn of the existence of an English translation I will obtain the same and forward it to the department.

I have, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson.

 
[. . .]

Mr. Henry Lane Wilson to the Secretary of State.

American Legation, Brussels, March 5, 1906.

Sir: In acknowledging the receipt of the department's No. 55, of March 2, inclosing a copy of a letter of the Secretary of State to the Hon. Edwin Denby concerning conditions in the Kongo Free State, I have the honor to report that this letter had, prior to the receipt of the department's No. 55, been given general circulation by the Belgian press. The full text has been printed by almost every respectable newspaper in Belgium, and the editorial comments have been uniformly expressive of high appreciation and approval of the position assumed by Mr. Root.

I inclose a copy and translation of an editorial excerpt from Independence Belga, the leading daily paper of Brussels, and also a translation of a part of an article by Kurt Wolff in the German magazine Handel und Industrie, bearing upon the subject treated by Mr. Root in his letter to Mr. Denby. [Not printed.]

The Kongo Government are greatly pleased with the attitude of the United States, as outlined by Mr. Root, as it has recently had to meet attacks not only from foreign sources but also from Belgium. It has issued a pamphlet in English containing Mr. Root's letter, and has had the same translated into French and German.

I have, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson.

 
[. . .]

Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

[Extracts.]

American Legation, Brussels, April 24, 1906.

Sir: The department has been advised in my No. 70 of the agitation in Belgium against the present administration of the Kongo, of the debates in Parliament precipitated by the interpellation of Socialist and Liberal members, and of the rapidly growing sentiment in favor of the annexation of the Kongo to Belgium.

Soon after the publication of Mr. Cattier's book on the Kongo, and the debates and agitation following, Senator Wiener, the King's "avocat" and his special and most trusted adviser, was summoned to the Riviera, where the King has been passing the last four months, for consultation and review of the existing situation. Senator Wiener returned to Brussels yesterday, and to-day paid me a visit for the purpose of discussing some method of allaying the severe and apparently unjust criticisms made by a certain portion of the American press of the administration of the Kongo.

As the opposition in Parliament are almost unitedly in favor of annexation, and as the Government will naturally throw its influence in favor of a policy agreeable to the King, it may be assumed that we are upon the eve of a definite and authoritative movement by all the Belgian political forces looking to the solution of the existing difficulties in the administration of the Kongo by its annexation and political incorporation with the Kingdom.

I have, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson.

 

Acting Secretary of State Bacon to Minister Wilson.

April 28, 1906

Sir: I inclose a copy of a letter from Mr. A. McLean, President of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, of Cincinnati, in which he complains that the officials of the Kongo Free State are not willing to sell land to the society for the location of schools, chapels, homes, and hospitals.

You are requested to inquire as to this matter, and report to the department the results of your investigation.

I am, etc.,
Robert Bacon, Acting Secretary.

[Inclosure.]

Mr. A. McLean to the Secretary of State.

April 16, 1906.

Dear Sir: The Foreign Christian Missionary Society, the representative of the Disciples of Christ, has been engaged for some ten years in mission work on the Kongo. Our station is at Bolgeni. We wish to branch out, but the State officials are not willing to sell us any land upon which to erect schools and chapels and homes and hospitals. This Is to confine our labors to one station. We believe that the action of the officials is in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the treaties. This Society respectfully asks you to use your good offices to the effect that we may be able to buy land where needed tn the prosecution of our work. We shall be very grateful to you for any assistance you may render us In this time of need.

On behalf of the society, I remain, etc.,
A. McLean.

 
 
[. . .]

Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

[Extract.]

American Legation, Brussels, June 14, 1906.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith to the department two copies of the Bulletin Officiel de L'Etat Indépendant du Congo, containing in the French text the report of the committee on reforms in the Kongo State, the decrees carrying the same into effect, and a letter from His Majesty King Leopold addressed to the secretaries general.

I also inclose printed extracts in the English text of the decrees of the Sovereign, which have just been published in an English paper here. These decrees practically embody the whole of the measures advocated by the committee, and by the Sovereign's signature have de facto passed into law.

From a study of the decrees it will be noted that two important principles are laid down. The first of these secures to the natives the possession of the soil already occupied by them. The second principle prohibits the exercise of force in the collection of rubber, and substitutes therefor detention within certain limitations until the labor tax is discharged.

Concurrently with the issuance of the decrees His Majesty has published an open letter to the secretaries general, which is considered in diplomatic circles to amount to a manifesto to the powers. It certainly is susceptible of that interpretation, but it may also -- and perhaps with more accuracy -- be described as an autocratic declaration to the Belgian people.

Here follows a translation of the most significant parts of the King's letter:

I grant you the situation is without precedent and unique, but so also was the creation of the Free State. All the responsibilities and the organization of a government unfettered by other authority have been left to my care. The Kongo is essentially a personal undertaking. There is no more legitimate or honorable right than that of reaping the fruit of one's own labor. The powers accorded their good will to the birth of the new State, but not one was called upon to participate in my efforts; hence it follows that none has the right of intervention, which nothing could justify. The powers were duly notified of the choice made by the State as to the régime of neutrality and other limitations. No objections were raised at the time. The law of nations regulates the relations between sovereign powers; there is no special international law for the Kongo State. The Berlin act made certain stipulations with respect to the conventional basin of the Kongo. These regulations apply equally to other states with holdings there, but they in no sense affect the rights of possession. The questions of territorial sovereignty -- that is, precisely those which underlie the constitution of states -- were expressly and by common accord omitted from the programme of the Berlin conference. My rights In the Kongo are indivisible; they are the product of personal labor and expense. You must miss no opportunity of proclaiming these rights; they alone can render possible and legitimate my bequest of the Kongo to Belgium, which has no title but what reverts to her through my person. If I allow them to be contested, Belgium would be deprived of any power to make good such title.

The letter cites the immense extension of internal communication by rail and water, and the great progress made in the moral and material welfare of the native population.

By a codicil, of which the text is pl1blished with the decrees, His Majesty confirms his bequest of the Kongo to tie nation, and instructs his legatees to continue unchanged his administrative policy.

I have the honor, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson.

[. . .]  

Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

[Extract.]

American Legation, Brussels, June 17, 1906.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of department's dispatch No. 61, of April 28, inclosing a copy of a letter from A. McLean, president of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society of Cincinnati, and instructing me to bring to the attention of the Independent State of the Kongo the matters therein complained of.

Upon receipt of the department's dispatch I immediately addressed a note [copy inclosed] to Secretary-General de Cuvelier, inclosing a copy of the letter of Mr. McLean. After a long delay an answer has just been received [copy inclosed].

I have the honor, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson

[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Wilson to Mr. de Cuvelier, secretary-general of the Independent State of the Kongo, May 19, 1906.

Mr. Secretary-General: I am in receipt of a dispatch from the Department of State at Washington, inclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. McLean, president of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, of Cincinnati, in which the complaint is made that the officials of the Kongo Free State decline to sell land to the society for the location of schools, chapels, homes, and hospitals. The station of this society is at Bolengi, but no information is furnished as to the location of the land desired.

I will thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for information as to the present attitude of the Kongo Free State relative to applications of this character. I Inclose herewith a copy of the letter of Mr. McLean.

Please accept, etc.,
Henry Lane Wilson.

 

[Inclosure 2 -- Translation.]

Mr. de Cuvelier to Mr. Wilson, June 16, 1906.

Mr. Minister: By your letter of May 19 last, your excellency has kindly brought to my knowledge the contents of a letter addressed by Mr. McClean, president of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, of Cincinnati, to his excellency the Secretary of State at Washington, in which Mr. McLean complains of the refusal of the authorities of the Independent State of the Kongo to sell land to the society in question.

After investigation I am able to state that there is no trace in the archives of the Government of a request for land addressed by the authorities of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, and not more than your excellency have I any information as to the land desired by this association. I have not failed to request Information on this point from the local government.

I may add, Mr. Minister, that the interpretation of Mr. McLean of the "spirit If not the letter of the treaties" calls for some reserves: It, in virtue of these treaties, American citizens enjoy in the Kongo the right of purchasing land, these treaties do not establish for them nor others the right to compel owners to sell.

I avail myself of this opportunity, etc.,
de Cuvelier.