Mr. Bayard to Mr. Tree.
Washington, September 11, 1885.
Sir: Mr. Fish’s No. 349, of the 2d ultimo, transmits certain documents received through Count de Borchegrave d’Alténa, the King’s secretary, concerning the assumption by His Majesty King Leopold II of the sovereignty of the Independent State of the Congo, and the appointment of Mr. Edmond van Eetvelde as the medium of diplomatic communication on the part of that State with other Governments.
The President having been for some weeks absent from the seat of Government, it has not been practicable to convey to him, until his return hither, the autograph letter of His Majesty announcing the assumption of the title of Sovereign of the Independent State of the Congo. I have now the pleasure to transmit, herewith, the autograph reply of the President, with the request that you will cause the same to reach His Majesty’s hands through the proper channel, to which you will apply for that purpose. In this connection due notice is taken of the declaration that the relation between the new State and Belgium is “exclusively personal,” by which it is understood that His Majesty in assuming the sovereignty acts for himself alone, and not as creating a dependency of the State of the Congo upon the Crown of Belgium.
I also transmit my sealed reply to Mr. van Eetvelde’s letter, of 1st of August, announcing his appointment to be administrator general of the department of foreign affairs of the Independent State of the Congo. This reply operates as a full recognition of and entrance upon diplomatic relations with the new State as a member of the family of nations. An office copy of my letter is inclosed, of which you will retain a transcript on the files of your legation.
In addition to these, I transmit with office copy my letter in acknowledgement of the receipt of Mr. van Eetvelde’s notification of the neutrality and boundary limits of the said Independent State.
It is observed that Mr. van Eetvelde informs me that—
In conformity with the tenth article of the general act of the conference of Berlin, the Independent State of the Congo, by these presents, declares itself forever neutral, and that it claims the advantages guaranteed by the third chapter of the said act; at the same time assuming the obligations which pertain to neutrality [and further that]: The régime of neutrality will be applied to the territory of the Independent State of the Congo comprised within the boundaries which appear from the treaties successively concluded by the International Association [of the Congo] with Germany, France, and Portugal, and which treaties have been notified to the conference or Berlin and annexed to the protocols thereof.
Mr. van Eetvelde’s letter thereupon recites the boundaries in question.
As you are aware, the Government of the United States, in authorizing the attendance of Mr. Kasson as a delegate to the conference of Berlin, and of Mr. Sanford as an associate delegate, did so under expressed reservations, among which was the understanding that those gentlemen were without plenipotentiary powers, and that this Government, in its sovereign discretion, reserved wholly the right thereafter to accede or withhold its accession to the results of that conference.
It appears, however, that their signatures were attached to the general act in the same manner as those of the plenipotentiaries of other Governments, and that the United States are thus made to appear as signatories to a general international treaty, imposing on the signatories [Page 61] a common duty in respect of the conservation of the territorial integrity and neutrality of distant regions where this Government has no established interests or control of any kind.
This Government does not, however, regard its prior and entire reservation of liberty of action in the premises as at all thereby impaired. And until the United States shall, by subsequent accession and ratification of the general act of the conference of Berlin in the manner therein provided, and according to their constitutional forms, become a party to the stipulations thereof, it will be impossible to determine the due and proper weight to be given by this Government to the declaration and claim which is thus communicated by Mr. van Eetvelde on behalf of the Independent State of the Congo. But this reservation is wholly distinct from the recognition of the sovereign status of the Independent State of the Congo, which does not rest upon the conventional arrangements contemplated by the conference of Berlin.
I am, &c.,