No. 140.
Mr. Morton to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 408.]

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 known hereafter.

I have, &c.,

[Page 281]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 408.]

Mr. Brulatour to Mr. Challemel Lacour.

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 educate.

“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 tongue.”

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.,

Chargé d’ Affaires.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 408.—Translation.]

Mr. Challemel Lacour to Mr. Morton.

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 before-mentioned decree.

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 examination.

Accept, &c.,