Mr. Vignaud to Mr. Bayard.
the United States,
Paris, August 23, 1886.
(Received September 6.)
Sir: Referring to your instructions No. 67, of
January 13, and No. 142, of July 12, concerning the alleged proceedings of
two officers of the French navy in negotiating and communicating with
certain native tribes within the Liberian territory as independent, I have
the honor to send herewith copy of the correspondence thereon which took
place place between this legation and the French foreign office, viz:
- Mr. McLane to M. de Freycinet (February 3, 1886).
- Mr. Vignaud to the same (August 6, 1886).
- M. de Freycinet to Mr. Vignaud (August 18, 1886), with a
translation of the same.
The interest the Department takes in this matter is well understood by Mr.
McLane and myself, and the legation will lose no opportunity of ascertaining
if really France has any design upon a part of Liberia.
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 1 in No. 267.]
Mr. McLane to M.
Legation of the United States.
Paris, February 3,
Sir: Your excellency is certainly aware of the
peculiar interest the United States take in the independence and
prosperity of the Republic of Liberia, on the west coast of Africa. This
interest is more of a moral character than of a political one. We
exercise no protectorate over Liberia, but the circumstance that this
Republic originated through the colonization of American citizens, and
was established under the fostering sanction of the United States,
entitles it to the sympathy of our people, to their encouragement, and,
when practicable, to their protection. As the next friend of Liberia, my
Government conceives that it has the obligation to aid her when she
needs support, and that it can do so properly without giving offense to
any foreign power.
This legation, acting under instructions from the United States Secretary
of State, has ventured to lay before your excellency’s predecessors
facts or reports which had given occasion to the supposition that France
entertained the idea of extending her political action over Liberia or a
part of her territory.
Appreciating the motives which had prompted these observations, Mr.
Waddington, in 1879, and Mr. Jules Ferry, in, 1884, disclaimed that
France had any design upon the territory which Liberia could claim, and
my Government has not the slightest reason to suppose that such is not
Certain recent proceedings of Commandant Aroux, of the French gunboat
Gabès, however, have led the Liberian Government to fear that France
might now have other views.
It seems that this officer has made a treaty with the native chiefs of
certain Liberian tribes—the Grebce, at Berreby, in the Liberian
territory southeast of Cape Palmas. The nature and character of this
alleged treaty is not known, but the fact that it was entered upon with
tribes which cannot be considered as independent from Liberia, whose
southeastern boundaries extend to the river San Pedro, has very
naturally alarmed the Liberian President, who called the attention of my
Government to the fact.
In the same friendly spirit which has dictated the previous interposition
of my Government in this matter, I am requested by Mr. Bayard to ask
whether there is any foundation for the report that France, through its
officers on the coast, has assumed to treat with Liberian tribes as
independent, and to ascertain, if so, if this treaty is in disparagement
of Liberian sovereign rights.
Trusting that your excellency will not misconstrue the character of this
request, and, that in view of quieting the natural apprehensions caused
by the report above mentioned, it will be found agreeable to furnish the
information applied for,
I avail, &c.,
[Inclosure 2 in No. 267.]
Mr. Vignaud to Mr.
Legation of the United States,
Paris, August 6,
Sir: On the 3d of February of the current year,
Mr. McLane had the honor of addressing a note to your excellency
recalling the circumstances which entitle the Republic of Liberia to the
sympathy and protection of the United States, and also the fact that the
legation had previously laid before your predecessors reports which led
to the belief that France entertained the idea of extending her
political action over the whole or a part of the territory of that
Mr. McLane then stated that, although Mr. Waddington in 1879, and. Mr.
Jules Ferry in 1884, had disclaimed any design upon any territory which
Liberia could claim, certain proceedings of Commandant Aroux, or Arnoux,
of the French gun boat Gabès, had led the Liberian Government to fear
that France might now have other views, and that upon its
representations at Washington, he was directed to ask in a friendly
spirit, whether there was any foundation in the reports that France,
through its officers on the coast, had assumed to treat with Liberian
tribes as independent.
Since the above dispatch was written, the Liberian Government has given
to the United States representative at Monrovia information which shows
that another officer of the French navy, Capt. E. Dumont, of the war
steamer Voltigeur, had also been engaged in negotiating with tribes
under the jurisdiction of Liberia.
It appears from a statement made by Captain Dumont himself to the
President of Liberia, that his ship had stopped at Berreby on her way up
the coast, and that he had communicated with the people of that place by
order of his Government, who had directed him to protect them. On being
informed by the President that Berreby is within the Liberian territory,
Captain Dumont said that the French Government had had some treaty or
agreement with the people of Berreby ever since 1833, before the
establishment of the Republic. He was then shown a French official map
of West Africa, issued by authority in 188£, and furnished to Mr.
Carrance, the Liberian consul-general at Paris, for transmission to
Monrovia, on which the San Pedro River is described as the southeastern
boundary of Liberia. The captain examined closely this map, took notes,
and said he would communicate with his Government with reference to the
The language of Captain Dumont, who expatiated on the benefit that would
accrue to Liberia if she would avail herself of French protection, and
his action following so closely the mission attributed to Lieutenant
Arnoux, have given to the Monrovian Government reason to apprehend that
the French Republic might have now other views than those expressed by
Mr. Waddington and Mr. Jules Ferry. As for my own Government, which
takes a deep interest in the preservation of the territorial integrity
of Liberia, it has learned with much concern that French officers have
been treating with, and considering as independent, tribes within the
long and universally recognized boundaries of the Liberian Republic, and
I am directed to bring the subject to the attention of your excellency
with a view of ascertaining whether or not the proceedings of Lieutenant
Arnoux and Captain Dumont are sanctioned by the French Government.
For the spirit in which this inquiry is made I venture to refer your
excellency to the dispatch of Mr. McLane, above mentioned, to which no
answer has yet been made.
I avail, &c.,
[Inclosure 3 in No.
Mr. de Freycinet to
Sous Vaudrey, August 18,
Sir: In consequence of information communicated
to the Cabinet at Washington by the Government of Liberia, the
representative of the United States at Paris has been charged to inquire
of us as to the value it would be deemed proper to attach to certain
incidents which had marked the passage of two of our cruisers at the
Berreby on the west coast of Africa.
We have been directly informed of the same facts by the interested
Government, and it has not been difficult for us to convince it, through
the intermediary of its representative in France, that the facts
signaled to us had not the character attributed to them by rumors too
easily credited. We have also deemed it necessary, on this occasion, to
recall to the Liberian Government the ties, already old, which unite to
France the populations of Grand and Petit Berreby, in virtue of a treaty
signed with us by their chief February 4, 1868, and which was made
In view of the interest which the Cabinet at Washington appeared to
attach to be advised of the result of the initiative taken near us by
the Republic of Liberia, I had taken care to make known to our chargé
d’affaires at Washington the sense in which the reply to the Government
of Monrovia had been made. I have reason to think, at all events, that
the indications which precede will satisfy the desire manifested by the
Government of the United States.