Mr. Tisdel to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Sir: * * * I have the honor * * * * to give you the result of my investigation thus far, although impressing upon you the fact that the information obtained has been gleaned from the official records of the Association, from interviews with gentlemen highly connected therewith, and particularly from specific verbal reports from Mr. Stanley, and while I have gathered the information contained in this report from sources which I believe to be trustworthy, I present it to you merely as the expression of persons more or less interested in the success of the Free States of the Congo and I beg to reserve any distinct personal expression until I shall have satisfied myself of its correctness by direct observations on the ground.
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Barely seven years have elapsed since Mr. Henry M. Stanley, an American citizen, made known the course of the Congo, explored its valley, and published to the world the fact that more than 1,000,000 of square miles of territory of great fertility, and with an estimated population of about 50,000,000, hitherto practically unknown, and with boundless resources, could be made accessible to the commerce of the world. Since that time Mr. Stanley, as the agent of the International African Association, has been engaged in opening the way for this commerce and other civilizing influences, by treaties with the native chiefs and the establishment of means of communication with the remote interior. By the explorations of Mr. Stanley and his subordinates, acting for the International. African Association, it is shown that a territory of inexhaustible resources has been opened to the enterprise of enlightened nations, and the eagerness with which European and American traders and missionaries are rushing into this vast country shows the importance that is attached thereto.[Page 286]
The Congo region would appear to be one of the most fertile on the globe, and with the recognition of the Free States of the Congo by the powers, it would seem that the inducements offered to the bona fide settlers for agricultural or trading purposes are such as will, at no distant date, attract there multitudes from all countries. No word has yet come from the Congo country to refute the statements made as to its enormous resources. On the contrary, I have been shown many letters of recent date which confirm the published reports; we may, therefore, fairly believe that the Congo Valley surpasses in wealth the valley of the Amazon and that the climate in the up-country is as good as that in the southern part of our own country. In this connection I may say that meteorological observations show that the mean temperature on the Upper Congo is 76° F.
We want the products of this country, and its inhabitants want the manufactured goods of our own. How can this interchange be brought about? It will be long years before the native labor can be wholly relied upon to prepare their products for a market, because they have never known the value of the natural productions of their land, nor have they had occasion to know it until now, nature having provided for their every want. At present they find civilization dawning upon them, and they welcome it with a cordiality hitherto unknown in heathen lands. The field would seem to be an inviting one for the colored people of our country, as it is within their power to educate and civilize fifty millions of blacks, who in time must become an important element in the new nation of the Free States which are so surely being brought into political life through the efforts of the International African Association.
I cannot enter much into detail as to the present commerce on the Congo until I shall have first made a visit to each of the factories and trading stations, but I can give you a good illustration as to what is expected. Perhaps the fact which I shall cite may open the eyes of our business men who are suffering from the depressed condition of our export and import trade, and prompt them to investigate the new fields which seem to offer inducements not to be left unnoticed.
In Senate Report No. 393, first session Forty-eighth Congress, there appears a table showing the exports from Banana, at the mouth of the Congo, by the Dutch African Trading Company of Rotterdam, in the year 1879. It has been verified to me that in the year 1883 the export of the same class of products by the same company was more than treble that of 1879. In 1883 the Dutch African Trading Company exported from ports north of Saint Paul de Loando, including the Lower Congo, 4,500 tons of rubber alone, and of this quantity 2,600 tons were sold by the company to New York and Boston merchants, it having been shipped from the coast of Africa to Rotterdam, and thence to the United States. The Dutch African Company trades with the natives wholly by barter, taking from them ivory, palm oil, gum copal, rubber, ground nuts, &c, and giving in return cotton goods, tobacco, rum, gin, powder, fire-arms, hatchets, knives, beads, copper and brass-wire, and notions. Nearly all these goods might be supplied from the United States, yet none come from there to-day.
There are five companies of like character, with numerous subsidiary factories, doing business on the Lower Congo; and if the statement of the business transacted by the Dutch Trading Company is fairly applicable to the other trading companies, it can readily be seen that an enormous trade is already carried on without great effort. We can therefore hardly realize the proportions that this trade is likely to reach when developed on the Upper Congo. The rubber trade of the Dutch [Page 287] company has been done on the sea-coast, and when it is considered that the coast is the poorest part of the whole country, and the valley of the Congo the richest, it may be assumed that the 10,000 miles of coast or shore (two banks) along the great navigable rivers which have been opened up by Mr. Stanley’s explorations, must be capable of yielding greater results than can possibly be obtained along the few hundreds of miles of sea-coast, wherein the trade has thus far been principally confined.
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The International Association has secured an independent route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Upper Congo.
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Treaties were made with the chiefs of tribes throughout the region drained by the Niada Kwilu and along the coast line for a distance of about 300 miles for the cession or protectorate of this territory, and for the planting therein of a chain of stations, sixteen in all, to establish a connection. Originally the acquisition of this territory was considered as an act of self-protection by the International Association, but now that the powers have practically recognized the Free States of the Congo, this territory becomes a part thereof, and affords besides the Lower Congo another and important outlet for the commerce of the upper country
The International African Association, formed for purely philanthropical purposes, was the outcome of a geographical conference which met at Brussels in 1876. Leopold II, King of the Belgians, was made its president by the unanimous agreement of distinguished representatives, men from nearly all of the European countries and from the United States. The programme which was adopted had the treble end in view “of organizing the scientific exploration of the still unknown regions of Africa, of opening up paths to civilization, and of seeking the means of gradually extinguishing the traffic in slaves.
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Branches of the International Association were subsequently established in most of the European countries and in the United States, the first one in our own country opened in May, 1877, being under the presidency of Mr. Chief Justice Daly, and later, and now, I believe, under the presidency of the Hon. J. H. B. Latrobe.
An executive committee was elected, and was composed of the King of the Belgians, president, Dr, Nachtigall, M. de Quatrefayes, and Mr. Henry S. Sanford, of Florida, formerly the United States minister to Belgium; this committee represented the German, Latin, and English speaking races. Committees were formed in every country represented in the Association to collect the funds necessary to begin and maintain the work laid out, but outside of Belgium the offerings were small, and of the enormous expenses incurred to date (already about $5,000,000) in the prosecution of its work in opening up the Congo Basin to civilization and freedom, the greater part has, it is understood, been provided by Leopold II, King of the Belgians, who, apart from the motives of high philanthropy which prompted this work, has, as is stated, desired to perpetuate by a permanent monument the memory of an only son.
The work of the Association began by sending expeditions by way of Zanzibar to establish a line of stations on the route to Lake Tanganyka, and a principal station on this lake to serve as a refuge and to become the point of departure for a journey of exploration towards the Atlantic [Page 288] Ocean, along which route stations were to be established at convenient distances apart. The Belgian branch was most prominent in this work, but the German and French branches also established each a station. The last station of the Belgian branch was actually opened on the western shore of Lake Tanganyka, opposite Karema, in the very center of Africa. Meanwhile Mr. Stanley, having crossed the continent, discovered and descended the Congo, had returned to Europe, when he was soon after engaged by the International African Association to prosecute its work, as a special branch, under the name of the Comité d’études du Haut-Gongo. This commission, however, soon outgrew its modest programme and was merged into the Association proper. Territory has been acquired, posts have been established, steamers of the Association ply upon the waters both of the Lower and Upper Congo, and the natives flock to the banks of the rivers to barter their crude products. The two flags which are not identified in the eyes of the negroes as having covered the slave trade are those of the International Association and our own, and these two emblems are everywhere received by the natives throughout the entire Congo regions as symbols of freedom and peace.
This work has thus gradually developed into the grand proportions indicated by annexed table, by which freedom of commerce and of religion, and the suppression of the slave trade are assured over a territory of about 1,000,000 square miles; it is certainly the most extraordinary incident of private philanthropy known to history.
The current expenses this year alone in sustaining forty-four stations, founding new ones, giving tributes to chiefs with whom hundreds of treaties have been made, in keeping and in paying for the service of one hundred and fifty American and European officers and employés of color, I am credibly informed amounts to $700,000; and all this is expended with the unselfish purpose of doing good, without any expectation or desire for pecuniary return or profit.
As the Department has been already informed, it is the purpose of the association to establish a political government and administration under the name of the “Free States of the Congo,” the constitution of which I have reason to know has been prepared with the help of eminent jurists, and will, in all probability, be laid before the conference in Berlin before its sittings will have ended. This constitution appears to be based mainly upon the British colonial system, dividing the country into three states or provinces, under a governor-general, himself dependent upon the Executive.
The question will naturally be asked, what are the means of providing for the support of this infant state? The same princely founder, as I am informed by good authority, will, in addition to the plant already established, the resources to come from mines, land sales, and rents, excise on liquor, revenue from public works, &c, give a fixed sum of money in perpetuity, to meet the expenses of the government until it shall have become self-sustaining.
At the earliest possible moment I shall give to the Department full reports as to the existing commerce, and the possibilities for the future. At this time no one can speak with certainty upon the subject. Soon, however, these millions of people, inhabiting the interior of Africa, will, under the inspiring influence of civilization, become purchasers of every kind of provisions, manufactured goods, agricultural implements, &c., and I can see no reason why the people of the United States should not come in for a large share of the valuable trade which must soon be developed in this region.[Page 289]
In the course of an address recently delivered by Mr. Stanley before the members of the chamber of commerce in Manchester, he very cleverly referred to the coming demands for cotton cloths alone in the Congo valley, his remarks creating most enthusiastic applause. As a result of the showing made by Mr. Stanley, several manufacturers of cotton goods have dispatched agents to the Congo to investigate and report upon the possibility of their being able to realize the hope which has thus been inspired. I quote as follows, from Mr. Stanley’s address:
I was interested the other day in making a curious calculation, which was, supposing that all the inhabitants of the Congo basin were simply to have one Sunday dress each, how many yards of Manchester cloth would be required, and the amazing number was 320,000,000 yards, just for one Sunday dress. Proceeding still further with these figures, I found that two Sunday dresses and four everyday dresses would in one year amount to 3,840,000,000 yards, which, at 2d. per yard, would be of the value of £16,000,000. The more I pondered upon these things, I discovered that I could not limit these stores of cotton cloth to day dresses. I would have to provide for night dresses also, and these would consume 160,000,000 yards. Then the grave clothes come into mind, and, as a poor lunatic who burned Bolobo Station destroyed 30,000 yards of cloth in order that he should not be cheated out of a respectable burial, I really feared for a time that the millions would get beyond measurable calculation. However, putting such accidents aside, I estimate that, if my figures of population are approximately correct, 2,000,000 die every year, and to bury these decently, and according to the custom of those who possess cloth, 16,000,000 yards will be required, while the 40,000 chiefs will require an average of 100 yards each, or 4,000,000 yards. I regarded these figures with great satisfaction, and I was about to close my remarks upon the millions of yards of cloth that Manchester would perhaps be required to produce, when I discovered that I had neglected to provide for the family wardrobe or currency chest, for you must know that in Lower Congo there is scarcely a family that has not a cloth fund of about a dozen pieces of about 24 yards each. This is a very important institution; otherwise how are the family necessities to be provided for? How are the fathers and mothers of families to go to market to buy greens, bread, oil, ground nuts, chickens, fish, and goats, and how is the petty trade to be conducted? How is ivory to be purchased, the gums, rubber, dye powders, gunpowder, copper slugs, guns, trinkets, knives, and swords to be bought without a supply of cloth?
Now, 8,000,000 families at 300 yards each will require 2,400,000,000. You all know how perishable such currency must be; but if you sum up these several millions of yards, and value all of them at the average price of 2d. per yard, you will find that it will be possible for Manchester to create a trade, in the course of time, in cottons in the Congo basin, amounting in value to about £26,000,000 annually. I have said nothing about Rochdale savelist, or your own superior prints, your gorgeous handkerchiefs with their variegated patterns, your checks and striped cloths, your ticking and twills. I must satisfy myself with suggesting them; your own imagination will no doubt carry you to the limbo of immeasurable and incalculable millions.
I ask your attention particularly to the inclosures numbered 1 to 6, being, 1, map of Equatorial Africa, from the latest surveys and reports, made by the agents of the International Association; 2, names of the presidents of the branch National Committee of the Industrial Association; 3, list of treaties concluded by agents of the International Association and districts wherein territory has been ceded; 4, table showing river and sea coast frontage within the territory of the association, with distances from station to station; 5, names of stations belonging to the International Association, with number of men employed, &c.; 6, manifests of the International Association.
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I have, &c.,