to Mr. McLane
Washington , March 22, 1887.
Sir: Referring to previous correspondence respecting reported French aggressions on the territory of Liberia lying between the Cavally and San Pedro Rivers, I briefly state the facts on which Liberia’s title to the territory in question is based.
An association called “The Maryland State Colonization Society” was duly incorporated in the State of Maryland by an act of its legislature (Acts of 1831, chap. 314), and was authorized to purchase lands in Africa for the purpose of assisting the colonization of negroes in that country. It was aided by grants of money from the treasury of the State, as well as by voluntary contributions from private persons.
Certain lands lying between Cape Palmas and the Cavally River, immediately south of the territory purchased by the American Colonization Society, were bought from the native chiefs by deed of February 14, 1834, and a colony was established at Cape Palmas.
A succession of other purchases followed; and on February 23, 1840, by deed made to the governor of the colony by Kings Darbo and Tom of Grand Berriby, and duly witnessed, signed, sealed, and delivered, the following-described territory was obtained, bounded “east by the Atlantic Ocean, west by Half Berriby” (called in the French treaty Petit Berriby)” and Majo-Najo Nation of Bushmen, north by the Yappo Nation of Bushmen, and south by the Atlantic Ocean.”[Page 290]
On March 13, 1846, a similar deed was made to the agent and governor of the colony by Ourippi, alias King William and Hugo, governor of Half Berriby (Petit Berriby), and, on the same date, one from King George, of Bassa (apparently the Bassa or Bassa Wappoo of the French treaty), and the Kings of G, Tabou and Tabou. By other purchases all the territory between Cape Palmas and Grand Berriby was obtained.
Certified copies of these deeds,* which have been preserved since the dissolution of the Colonization Society by the Maryland Historical Society, are inclosed.
The territory lying between Grand Berriby and the San Pedro River is marked on Anderson’s map of Liberia (1879) as purchased in 1850, but as appears from a certificate (a copy of which is inclosed) of James Hall, governor of Maryland, in Liberia, from the founding of the colony, it was in fact purchased in 1846, being the country mentioned in deed 38b. 8, page 115, of the accompanying pamphlet,† the river there called Padro being unmistakably the San Pedro.
In 1854, by agreement with the parent society, the colonists organized the Independent African State of Maryland, possessing all the territory purchased by the society, and in 1857 the State was by consent annexed to Liberia as Maryland County, ail its territory passing to that Republic, which has been recognized by all the Governments of Europe and America, France among the number.
In respect to the southeast boundary, your attention is called to a report on Liberia, made in 1850, at the instance of this Government, by Rev. R. R. Gurley, and published in Senate Ex. Doc. No. 75, first session Thirty-first Congress, vol. 14, 1849 and 1850. He shows that at that date the Republic of Liberia owned by purchase the territory from Mannah Point to Grand Sesters or Cester’s River, and the Maryland colony the territory extending from the latter river to the San Pedro.
Sailing Directions of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, 1849 (p. 75 of same Ex. Doc.), describe the coast of Liberia as extending from Mannah Point to the San Pedro River. Reclus (Nouvelle Geographic Universelle, 1887, vol. 12, p. 572) gives the same boundary. Saint Martin (Nouveau Dictionnaire de Géographic Universelle, 1885, fasc. 29, p, 347) also adopts the San Pedro boundary, but states that France now claims the Krou coast up to Cape Palmas, and quotes from a decree published in the Bulletin des Lois, 1885, declaring the villages of Grand et Petit Biribi, Tahou, Bacha, etc., up to and including the mouth of the Garroway, west of Cape Palmas, French possession. This information, if correct, is the first we have had that the French Government was disposed to enforce the provisions of the long dormant treaty of 1868, inclosed in your legation’s No. 298, which, as you will have observed, was not ratified by it till 1883.
It appears, however, from a dispatch from Mr. Carrance, Liberian consul-general at Paris, to his Government, dated June 8, 1883, and published by the Liberian department of state in that year, that the French Government then admitted that the territory of the African Republic extended to the San Pedro. He says:
I beg to inform you that the war office has just had maps of the greater part of the western shore of, Africa sketched, * * * I was asked for information, and you may be sure, Excellence, that I did my best to give to the war office the most careful and complete information. On this occasion I saw the secretary several times. The map drawn up by the Hon. Benjamin Anderson found his approval, and was taken as the basis of the work of these gentlemen, and especially of those intrusted with the Republic of Liberia part.
This map (which is among the records of this Department) justifies the Liberian claim, and was no doubt the basis of the French map of 1883, which, as stated, also sustained the said claim.
As mentioned in your note of February 3, 1880, to Mr. de Freycinet, Mr. Waddington in 1879, and Mr. Jules Ferry in 1884, disclaimed that France had any design upon any territory which Liberia could claim.
It is not, therefore, apparent how, in view of these declarations, the French Government has been able to ratify in 1883 the treaty of 1868, nor to decree in 1885 the annexation of the villages which were recognized in 1883 as part of Liberia.
The relations of the United States Government with Liberia have not changed. It still feels justified in using its good offices in her behalf. These have been repeatedly exercised and its moral right to their exercise admitted by Great Britain in 1843 (see House Ex. Doc. No. 162, first session Twenty-eighth Congress, vol. 4, 1843–’44), and again in 1882, 1883, 1884, in the controversy concerning the northwestern boundary of Liberia, and by France in the answers of Mr. Waddington in 1879, and of Ferry in 1884, above referred to. We are unwilling to believe that it is now the intention of the French Government to act inconsistently with the spirit of these declarations.
You are requested to lay the facts proving the validity of the Liberian title to the territory in question before the French Government, accompanied by such observations as may seem, in your discretion, best calculated to promote the end in view, namely, the recognition of Liberia’s right. If it be impossible to obtain this, a definite declaration in regard to the line dividing French and Liberian territory may be made, which will fix a boundary such as France and all the powers can recognize and respect.
I am, etc.,