to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
the United States,
Paris, September 18, 1883.
(Received October 2.)
Sir: Your dispatch No. 317, of July 26, 1883,
transmitting a letter from Mr. John C. Lowrie, secretary of the board of
missions of the Presbyterian Church, in relation to a decree of the French
Government enforcing the exclusive use of the French language in the primary
schools at Gaboon, instructed Mr. Brulatour to endeavor to obtain a
modification of this decree, which could not be strictly enforced without
great hardship to the American missionaries in that part of Africa.
With reference to this subject Mr. Brulatour, on August 11, addressed to the
minister of foreign affairs the note of which a copy is inclosed herewith,
to which Mr. Challemel Lacour has made the answer of which a copy and
translation are also inclosed.
Mr. Challemel Lacour states substantially that his colleague, the minister of
marine and of the colonies, cannot modify the decree, but that in deference
to the desire expressed by the United States Government he will see how far
it is possible to tolerate the simultaneous use, with the French language,
of local dialects, and that the result of this examination will be made
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 1 in No. 408.]
Mr. Brulatour to
Mr. Challemel Lacour.
Legation of the United States,
Paris, August 11,
Sir: I am instructed by my Government to call
your excellency’s attention to the facts stated in the letter herewith
inclosed 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, and to ask if it
would not be possible to relieve the mission from the embarrassment it
will suffer from its application.
The object of the decree is to enforce the use of the French language in
that part of Africa. Now the self-sacrificing American citizens, men and
women, who are engaged in the benevolent labor of extending the benefit
of Christian education amongst the natives of Africa, have learned that,
to make this teaching effective, it must be imparted in the native
language. To this end, the best talent and greatest experience of the
mission have been given to the work of translating and compiling
text-books in the vernacular languages of the country, but the American
missionaries make use of the native languages only because it is
absolutely necessary to their special object.
The enforcement of the decree above mentioned will evidently embarrass
the prosecution of the self-imposed task of these worthy persons in
leading into civilization the nations whom they are endeavoring to
“It would seem,” says Mr. Frelinghuysen, in the dispatch he has addressed
to me on the subject, “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 tongue 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
I am therefore instructed to submit the matter to your excellency, “with
a view of obtaining any concessions which may properly be granted
modificatory of the decree, and which may relieve the hardships
otherwise to be suffered by the agents of the board of foreign missions
of the Presbyterian Church, in a work which cannot fail to obtain the
approval and sympathy of the French Government.”
I avail, &c.,
E. J. BRULATOUR,
[Inclosure 2 in No.
Lacour to Mr. Morton.
Paris, September 12,
Sir: Mr. Brulatour, by his note of August 11
last, communicated with my department in reference to an application
made to the federal Government by the board of foreign missions of the
Presbyterian Church of New York consequent upon a decree rendered by the
French Government, and having for object to render obligatory the
exclusive employment of the French language in the primary schools of
Gaboon. In calling my attention to the difficulties which would result
for the American missionaries from the obligation to rigorously submit
to the provisions of this decree, Mr. Brulatour asked me whether it
would not be possible to moderate them somewhat.
I did not fail to submit the question to my colleague, the minister of
marine and the colonies, upon whom depends the administration of Gaboon.
While rendering justice to the efforts made by the Presbyterian missions
to propagate the benefits of civilization, Admiral Peyron writes tome
that it is not possible for him, in principle, to modify the
However, in order to take into account the wish expressed by the
Government of the United States in favor of the New York missions, my
colleague shows a disposition to examine how far the administration
might tolerate the employment of local dialects for teaching
simultaneously with the French language, and he informs me that he is
consulting the commandant of our colony upon the subject.
I will have the honor to inform you later the result of this