Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Brulatour.
Washington, July 21,
Sir: I inclose herewith a copy of a letter (with
its inclosure) from Mr. John C. Lowrie, secretary of the board of foreign
missions of the Presbyterian Church, in relation to a decree of the French
Government concerning primary schools at Gaboon. Mr. Lowrie states that
similar regulations have been published at Kangwe, on the Ogove River. The
object of this decree is to enforce the use of the French language
exclusively in that part of Africa. The secretary states that the board has
reason to fear that this policy will seriously embarrass the benevolent work
in which it is engaged in that region, of which education is an important
element. The self-sacrificing agents of the society usually use the
vernacular languages of the country as a medium of instruction, and they
have reduced two of the languages to written form, prepared grammars and
vocabularies and translated the Scriptures, all of which, with some small
books, have been printed. Through their schools and [Page 273] these books they hope to extend the benefit of
Christian education amongst the native African tribes in their own every-day
speech, for to most of these tribes both English and French must remain
foreign tongues, known to but few. In the service of the board engaged in
prosecuting this praiseworthy work are twenty-three self-sacrificing
American citizens, men and women, aided by some of the natives who have been
trained as teachers. The enforcement of the decree will evidently embarrass
the prosecution of the benevolent and self-imposed task of the board, in
leading into civilization the natives whom they are endeavoring to educate.
It would seem that a mild application of the decree would lead sooner to the
result aimed at by France than a strict and literal enforcement of its
provisions, and that by first educating the natives in their own tongues and
training their minds by study in a dialect familiar and easy to them, the
way would be prepared for acquiring the French language more easily and with
less distaste to the pupil than were his untrained mind immediately directed
to the study of a foreign tongue.
You will confer with Mr. Challemel Lacour on this subject, with a view of
obtaining any concessions which may properly be granted modificatory of the
decree, and which may relieve the hardship otherwise to be suffered by the
agents of the society, who are engaged in a work which cannot fail to obtain
the sympathy and approval of the French Government.
I am, &c.,
[Inclosure 1 in No. 317.]
Mr. Lowrie to Mr.
Sir: I am directed by the board of foreign
missions of the Presbyterian Church to lay before you the inclosed
paper, the copy of a decree concerning primary schools at Gaboon, West
Africa, by the French Government. Similar regulations have been
published at Kangwe, on the Ogove River, in the same dependency of
France. Their object is to enforce the use of the French language
exclusively in the schools of that part of Africa.
The board has reason to fear that this policy would severely embarrass
the benevolent work in which, under its charge, some of our countrymen
have been employed for a period of about forty years as missionaries.
Education forms an important part of their work. At first our friends
make use of their own language in some of their schools, but their main
purpose is to employ the vernacular languages as the medium of all
instruction. They have reduced the Benga and Upongwe languages to a
written form, prepared grammars and vocabularies in both, translated the
sacred Scriptures, and prepared some small books, all of which have been
printed in these tongues. And they hope by their schools and books
gradually to extend the benefits of Christian education amongst the
native African people in their own every-day speech. To the great mass
of these tribes English and French must always remain foreign languages,
learned by comparatively few persons.
In the service of the board there are now twenty-three of our American
citizens, men and women, aided by twenty-five Bengas, Upongwes and other
natives, in some degree trained to be useful to their own people as
teachers, &c., and having under instruction about two hundred
children and young persons. The pecuniary outlay of the hoard for this
good work last year was about $30,000, the gift of benevolent people in
The board takes pleasure in acknowledging the courtesy and favor of many
French gentlemen in public service in the colony of Gaboon, as shown to
its missionaries. It cannot doubt that these missionaries will always be
found worthy of the respect and confidence of the rulers of that part of
the world; and it ventures to hope that the embarrassment now brought to
your attention may soon be removed. Such a result would be welcomed by a
large part of the people in this country who are represented [Page 274] by the board, no less than by
its members, many of whom must be well known by the President, yourself,
and other officers of the Cabinet. The board therefore feels the greater
liberty in requesting the good offices of our Government, in so far as
may be considered advisable, to obtain from the honored rulers of France
the relief sought in this memorial.
With great respect, &c.,
JOHN C. LOWRIE,
[Inclosure 2 in No.
Decree conceding primary schools at
According to a dispatch of the 29th of April, 1883, is promulgated in the
colony of Gaboon the decree of the President of the Republic, dated
April 9, 1883, as follows:
“The President of the French Republic, on the report from the
minister of navy and colonies, according to the eighteenth
article of the Senatus consulate, of May 3, 1854, considering
the notice from the minister of public instruction dated April
4, 1883, it is decreed:
- “Article 1. In the primary
schools of Gaboon, teaching must be done exclusively in
the French language. Half at least of the school time
must be spent in studying French.
- “Art. 2. All persons wishing
to open a school or infant school must ask the
commandant for permission.
- “Art. 3. Primary schools for
boys are to be under the direction of men. Primary
schools for girls, mixed schools, and infant schools are
to be under the direction of women.
- “Art. 4. There is instituted
a diploma of primary studies. This diploma is given
after public examination, where the children are present
themselves, from the age of eleven years. The jury of
examination is appointed by the commandant.
- “Art. 5. All violations of
the regulations in the present decree are to be
prosecuted before the tribunal
correctionnel (police court), and the director
of the school fined from 50 to 100 francs ($10 to $20).
In case of a sentence being passed, an order from the
commandant can pronounce the closing of the
- “Art. 6. The minister of
navy and colonies has charge of the execution of the
present decree, which will be inserted in the Bulletin des Lois and official
report of the colony.
“Done at Paris, on the ninth of April, eighteen hundred and
[Signatures of President, minister of navy and colonies, &c.]