Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Tisdel.
Washington, September 8, 1884.
Sir: The act making appropriations for the diplomatic and consular service, approved July 7, 1884, provides “for an agent to the States or the Congo Association, $5,000, said agent to be charged with introducing and extending the commerce of the United States in the Congo Valley, and for such purpose the further sum of $10,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary; and the President is hereby authorized to appoint, in the recess of the Senate, such agent, whose commission shall expire at the end of the next session of the Senate.”
Pursuant to this provision you have been appointed, and you are instructed to proceed, at the earliest practicable moment and by the most available route, to your field of duty.
You are charged by the act with “introducing and extending the commerce of the United States in the Congo Valley” but you are well aware that in view of the present political, economical, and commercial conditions there existing, your inquiries, being directed strictly to the end contemplated by the act, must of necessity, and to accomplish the object sought, cover a broad field, and your reports must be full upon three principal divisions, viz, the political, the geographical, and the commercial situation; for on all these points must we have trustworthy information, if we are to introduce and extend our commerce in that region.
Your field of investigation will therefore commence at the mouth of the Congo, by which you will reach the States of the Association, and you will prosecute your inquiries as high up the river as you may find it advisable without exceeding the appropriation made by Congress.
The following points are given as an outline of what is expected, but your inquiries need not necessarily be confined within the limits thus laid down. The geography of the Congo Valley in its relations to trade is not well known in this country. With the exception of Mr. Stanley’s book, and some few other and comparatively brief descriptions, there [Page 283] is but little to which reference can be had for information on the subject. These books do not contain that practical information necessary to the merchant and trader, and this is especially true because of the changes in the facilities for transportation, which the rapid opening of the country is effecting. This want, it is hoped, you may be able in some measure to supply, directing your attention more particularly to that class of geographical information necessary and interesting to those engaged in commerce, rather than to more scientific and technical matters. The depth of water in the river at different points, the available harbors and landings at and near its mouth, with their advantages, disadvantages, and peculiarities, the amount of river navigation in the upper river and its tributaries, how, where, and how often it is interrupted, and how these interruptions are practically overcome, the roads (where there are any) and their character, and the methods and cost of transportation over them; all these and other matters which will undoubtedly occur to you may be advantageously embraced in the report.
In connection with the commercial condition of the country, the topography, the soil, climate, education, organization of society, morals, statistics of population, finance, extent and location of stations and settlements available to oceanic or inland transportation, the production, consumption, and trade of the country, as well as the prices of labor and living, the money in use, and the methods of barter or sale, are legitimate subjects of inquiry and investigation.
Commerce cannot flourish except under enlightened methods of political government. The economical methods and administrative systems of a country have an immediate and vital effect upon trade. Therefore the political condition of the Congo country comes within the scope of your mission as outlined by Congress.
An American citizen first traced the Congo to the sea, and were we to admit the validity of a claim to sovereignty over this region based on discovery, the United States might well assert certain rights which they have not set up. The policy of this country has been consistent in avoiding entangling alliances and in refraining from interference in the affairs of other nations. From that policy there is no intention of departing; at the same time the rights, commercial and political, of our citizens must be protected, and in the valley of the Upper Congo we claim those rights to be equal to those of any other nation. In speaking of the Upper Congo I do not mean to prejudge the political position at its mouth.
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While this country has not committed itself as to the conflicting political claims over the Lower Congo, it has recognized the flag of the International Society by an agreement dated the 22d of April, 1884, of which I inclose a copy, which is so full in its statement of our position that it seems unnecessary to now add anything in explanation of this point.
You will therefore report upon the political situation of both the Upper and Lower Congo Valley, explaining the Portuguese claims, those of France and the International Association, and anything else in this direction which you may deem of interest, especially as to any commercial or political agreements, should such exist, with native tribes or between the nations, or any of them, and the International Association. You will also report as to the system of laws in force upon different portions of the river, and where no code of laws exist what system is in force for the protection of the rights of the individual. The system of executive and judicial administration, the system of customs and dues, the [Page 284] charges on shipping, and other forms and methods of financial administration and taxes on trade should also receive your attention.
Everything that relates to the political or commercial condition of the International Society, and their relations to the natives, their tenure of power, and relations with foreign nations will be read with interest.
This Government, in its anxiety to obtain its proper share of the commerce of the Congo, has deemed it proper to intrust the preliminary work to your keeping.
Your report should not only show the actual political and commercial condition and geographical extent of the country occupied by the International Association of the Congo, but should also show the natural advantages of that region for agriculture and commerce, and what steps seem necessary in order to obtain our share of the commercial advantages offered.
While it is important that accurate information as to the political, the geographical, and the commercial situation of the Congo should be obtained, the effort should be made to find out without delay what articles the inhabitants of the Congo Valley are in need of, or what American manufactures or products would there find a market, and thus, in the language of the act, introduce and extend the commerce of the United States in the Congo Valley. Both the people and the Government of the United States will be much better satisfied with the early extension and increase of our commerce there than by any other result of your mission.
You are expected to be diligent in the prosecution of your duty, and to finish it with all convenient speed.
At the end of your mission you will make a full report upon it for transmission to Congress, but prior to that time you will keep the Department fully informed as to your movements, sending in time for communication to Congress at the opening of its next session a preliminary report containing such information as you may have been able to obtain up to that time.
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I am, &c.,