Mr. Tree to
Brussels, February 28, 1887. (Received March 14.)
Sir The Belgian minister of finance laid a bill before the Chamber of Deputies a few days since to authorize the Congo Free State to issue bonds in Belgium with a view to contracting a loan. Without a law to this effect it would seem that such an issue within the jurisdiction of the Kingdom by a foreign state would be unauthorized.
The bill provides that the loan shall be issued in 100-franc bonds. That they will bear no interest, but must be reimbursed at par with an augmentation of 5 francs per year up to the date of the reimbursement. The redemption of the bonds must be secured by the deposit in a Belgian [Page 34] financial establishment of a capital represented by first-class funds, and the successive issue of bonds shall not exceed 150,000,000 francs. The bonds are exempted from stamp duty.
The bill, I understand, has been offered by the ministry in deference to the wishes of the King, who has testified his devotion to and faith in the success of the Congo State by contributing to it 30,000,000 of francs already from his private fortune, and who now allows it each month 100,000 francs from his own purse.
In offering the bill the minister of finance also submitted with it a letter addressed to him by Mr. Yan Eetvelde, the administrator-general of foreign affairs of the Congo State, in which the advantages to Belgium that would accrue from this financial operation are set forth.
He states that the revenues of the State are now considerable, derived chiefly from duties on exports, registrations, and the postal service, but that the resources must be necessarily augmented in order to assure the present and the future of the State; that among the newly settled or savage countries where it is sought to create new markets, the State of the Congo is certainly one of those which, presents the best field and where commercial enterprises have the greatest chance of success and promise the most considerable profits; that the central seat of the Congo Government is located at Brussels, and is composed of Belgians, and that the greater part of its officials in Africa are also Belgians; that the State makes large purchases in Belgium every year, and that it has awakened a spirit of enterprise amongst its people to whom it is opening up a large commercial and industrial field; that a direct service by steamers has been established between Antwerp and the western coast of Africa, and the “Compagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l’Industrie” organised, which is examining the construction of the railway to connect the Upper Congo with the sea; lastly, that while Antwerp will become the emporium of the produce of the State, the young men of Belgium will have careers opened to them in that country like those which are furnished to the sons of England and Holland by their colonies.
It will be observed that the basis of the reasoning of the administer tor-general for the indorsement by the Belgian Government of his scheme for a loan is that the drift of the Congo State is towards becoming something in the nature of a colony of Belgium.
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I think the bill offered by the minister of finance will become a law without any serious opposition.
I have, etc.,