to Mr. Frelinghuysen
Paris , December 6, 1882. (Received December 22.)
Sir: I have the honor to send you herewith the text and translation of a convention concluded in the name of France by M. de Brazza with an African King who answers to the name of Makoko.
The convention was signed—if such expression is applicable here, for His Majesty could only make his mark—on the 10th of September and the 3d of October, 1880, but it was approved by the Chambers only two weeks ago, and promulgated on the 4th instant.
Mr. Rouvier, deputy from Marseilles, who reported in the Chamber the bill ratifying the convention, said that it assures to Makoko the protection of France over his Kingdom, and secures to France the possession of a portion of that Kingdom. The text of the instrument conveys little more, for it states distinctly that Makoko cedes his territory to France, together with all his hereditary rights. The treaty, however, is drawn up in such language that it is not easy to understand exactly its meaning. * * * *
Mr. Rouvier also called attention to the fact that the treaty was not exacted by any military demonstration; that the natives solicited it voluntarily, and simply in the hope that the presence of France would bring some advantage to them. He said:
No complications are likely to arise from this action of ours, nor can any he foreseen coming from European powers, because we are the first occupants, and also because our colonial organization, which is eminently liberal, assures to the commerce of all nations the same advantages that are assured to ours wherever our flag floats. There is another reason to remove the contingency of any difficulty of this kind; it is that neither your committee nor the Government contemplate, at present, any military establishment on the banks of the Congo; it is simply proposed to found there scientific, hospitable, and commercial stations, with no other military forces but what are strictly necessary for the protection of the establishments which shall be successively created. It is to the peaceful character of his mission that M. de Brazza owes the friendly reception he received from the natives. We desire to maintain this character for our occupation.
It is necessary for the extension of our influence in those distant regions that France should appear to the populations of Central Africa, not as a conquering power, but as a commercial nation, aiming more to increase its commercial facilities and its civilizing influence than to extend its domination.
The geographical data conveyed by the convention are so meager, and the French orthography of the local names is often so different from the ones used in English, that the exact location of the Kingdom of Makoko remains somewhat uncertain. It seems, however, that it is situated near the Stanley Pool, on the right bank of the Congo River, and that it extends over all the country inhabited by the native tribes called Batekes.
The territory specially transferred to France, where a station called Brazzaville is established, with a guard of three men, has been described in the Chamber as being located between the rivers Djné and Impila, just above the last cataract of the Congo; that is to say, at the precise point where that great stream is navigable and where it will be easy to command its whole course.
This territory [said Mr. Rouvier] is the key of the Congo. This magnificent stream runs for 5,000 kilometers through a country admirably fertile. Our commerce will [Page 260] find there india-rubber, gums, oil, seeds, peltries, ivory, precious metals and precious woods; our manufactures will have there new outlets, which will increase, as the millions of people inhabiting this admirable river will become civilized.
This immense commercial movement of our days, the future of which can hardly be measured, will certainly profit those who have first penetrated these unknown regions recently opened to the world. France, which is nearer Africa than most of the other nations, and which is more directly interested in the future of that continent by the numerous stations she has on the western coast, would disregard her interests and duty if she permitted herself to be distanced in the move which now carries the civilized world in the direction of these regions, until yesterday shrouded in mystery.
In the Senate the question of possible embarrassment to which this annexation might lead having been raised, Senator Zavier Blanc, chairman of the committee to which the convention had been referred, replied that the committee did not stop to consider such objection. “No colonial enterprise,” said he, “could be attempted and made successful if such consideration were to be noticed.”
He insisted on the peaceful character of this establishment, and on the fact that it could not conflict with the rights of any one, particularly with those of the International Association (Stanley), whose seat was on the other side of the river, and whose promoter, the King of Belgium, was the chief of a friendly power.
Speaking of the Portuguese, he said the French establishments on the Congo could not give them umbrage; that their establishments were not within the range of their historical pretensions, which do not go beyond the territory placed under the effective control of Portugal. He added:
At all events, your committee has received from the president of the council, minister of foreign affairs, most satisfactory assurances and explanations in relation to our occupation of this African territory.
It is proper to add here that the existence of this Brazza convention is flatly denied by Mr. Stanley. In a public speech which he made here about six weeks ago he said that the most influential of the Makoko chiefs, represented by de Brazza as having agreed to this treaty, declared to him (Stanley) in the most emphatic terms that he had never seen the treaty and had not even heard of it; that the only thing he had granted to the French envoy was a lease of a piece of land.
I have dwelt rather at length on this affair because it is a good illustration of the policy of colonial extension which is now evidently favored by the French Government.
I have, &c.,