No. 476.

Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Richmond.

No. 9.]

Sir: Referring to instruction No. 6 of the 27th ultimo, I now inclose a copy of a letter from the secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, giving full details of the base practices which led to the flight of the five missionaries there mentioned, from Bihé and Bailunda to Benguela. It appears that these gentlemen are American citizens, duly provided with passports visaed by the Portuguese officials, and that two of them held in addition the guias of the governor of Benguela. You will see that the case now presents a plain occasion for diplomatic action, and it is desired that you will immediately bring the facts to the attention of His Majesty’s Government.

If, as is understood here, the King of Bailunda is a tributary dependent of Portugal, it is possible that he may already have been disciplined by His Majesty’s authorities in the premises, but should you learn that [Page 633] this correctional jurisdiction extends to the King of Bailunda, and he has not yet been visited by Portuguese justice, you will, while invoking protection for our citizens under international obligations, and their restoration to the scenes from which they have been driven, as well as full restitution on account of the losses and injuries they have sustained, express the desire of this Government that any punitive laws of Portugal pertinent to the case may be carried out against the offenders, to the end of establishing the rights of American citizens peacefully residing in territory under Portuguese control.

The Department has been personally informed by His Majesty’s minister here that he has addressed his Government on behalf of our citizens referred to, with an urgent representation of the facts so far as known to him.

It would seem by the inclosed letter that the governor of Benguela has taken action which deserves the thanks of this Government, and I have to ask that, in case this be confirmed, you will solicit the conveyance to that official of such assurances touching the satisfaction of this Department on being apprised of his favorable action as you may find proper.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 9.]

Mr. Smith to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

Dear Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your esteemed favor of the 23d ultimo, and also that of Acting Secretary Hunter of the 7th instant. And I desire to thank you most heartily in behalf of the great missionary board, in whose name I am charged to conduct this correspondence, for the very prompt and very satisfactory response you have made to the desires expressed in my former communication. I am now in condition to give you full details of the expulsion there referred to and to make one or two further requests.

The five missionaries of this board, who, with their families were stationed in Western Africa, at Bihé and Bailunda, 200 miles inland from Benguela, and who have been driven down to the coast, were all American citizens, and bore with them passports from this Government. All of these passports had been seen and approved by the Portuguese governor of Benguela, so that the mission was under the official recognition and virtual protection of the Portuguese authorities. Two of the missionaries had, in addition, the guias of the governor, and thus were fully recognized as wards of the Portuguese Government. In their violent expulsion, accompanied as it was with the loss of all their personal possessions as well as of all the property of the mission, the honor of this nation is directly concerned, by reason of the grave damage and loss which our fellow-citizens have sustained, and an insult has been thrown upon the local Portuguese authorities.

The story of the expulsion can be told in few words. The mission had two stations in two adjoining kingdoms, Bihé and Bailunda. The native kings had always shown themselves friendly and extended their patronage to their “whites,” as they called these Americans; and the native population was pleased to have these men dwelling among them. A Portuguese trader had for some time been jealous lest in some way these men should interfere with his business. This last spring his jealousy broke out into open opposition, and he seems to have set himself deliberately to effect their expulsion or destruction. He went to these native kings and plied them with gifts, with promises, with countless falsehoods against our men. He failed completely in Bihé, but at length succeeded in turning the King of Bailunda, who is much the more powerful of the two, to his own purpose. The decisive accusation was that these men were criminals, fugitives from justice in their own country, and that he (this trader) had been sent by the governor of Benguela to arrest them and bring them back to their own land. The King’s mind was thus completely won away, and he ordered [Page 634] the missionaries to leave his country immediately and take of their goods only what they could carry.

One member of the mission with great difficulty obtained an interview with the King, but was not suffered to make explanations, and was ordered to leave the camp instantly. In one respect this King showed great honor and manliness, namely, in refusing to take the lives of the missionaries, to which the trader was constantly urging him. July 4, the missionaries packed up the few goods they could carry, and in the midst of the devastation of their homes and the plundering of their goods, began a long and painful flight of 200 miles to the coast, during which they were often brought to great extremities, and out of which they came with the loss of all they had, but happily without the loss of any life.

They at once placed themselves under the protection of the Portuguese governor of Benguela, and made full representation to him of all the facts in the case, and obtained from him permission to reside in Benguela and a promise that he would secure for them redress of wrongs and restitution of their property. He said he had already sent for this trader to give an account of himself, and that he would compel the King of Bailunda to restore everything he had plundered. Two of the missionaries have come home to confer with the missionary board; the other three, with their families, are at Benguela awaiting the course of events.

It is obviously of great importance that the pledges of the governor of Benguela be faithfully and promptly carried out, and that this King who has so ruthlessly plundered our fellow-citizens without the least provocation on their part, should suffer for his misdeed, and give satisfactory pledges for the future, and thus be made to feel that it is not wise or safe to treat American citizens, under Portuguese protection, in this injurious and high-handed way. There is danger that the Portuguese authorities will not act with the energy and purpose which the case requires; and as citizens of the United States, and as officers of this missionary board, we do respectfully solicit your efficient aid in impressing the duty of the case upon the Government at Lisbon and so upon the governor at Benguela. If this King of Bailunda does not suffer in some way for this misdeed it will not be wise or safe for our missionaries to return to his country, or indeed to any country within hearing of that land. And our American citizens engaged in missionary work in other parts of Africa will be exposed to new and greater perils.

We have all needful promises on the part of the Portuguese authorities, if they are only fulfilled with proper promptitude and energy. And we rely very much upon your official aid to make the court at Lisbon realize to what degree the honor and good name of Portugal are at stake how gravely the friendly relations between herself and this Government are affected, and how intimately this question connects itself with the wider question of commercial and political supremacy on the West African coast. The nations of Christendom will surely demand that the authority which claims recognition on the coast show itself disposed and able to hold in check lawless violence and plunder like this which I have recited. But the facts are before you, and their bearing is indicated, and I do not need to argue the case at greater length.

Assured that this appeal on behalf of American citizens, made in the name of this great missionary board, whose membership extends to almost every State in the Union, and calling for action which is in perfect harmony with national interests as well as with the sentiments of humanity, will enlist your personal sympathy and your official intervention in all due forms and degrees,

I am, &c.,

Secretary, &c.