Baron Fava to Mr. Gresham.


Mr. Secretary of State: I have the honor herewith to transmit to you a copy of a dispatch whereby His Excellency Baron Blanc calls [Page 961] the attention of the signatory powers of the general act of Brussels of July 2, 1890, to the provisions of that act concerning the slave trade and the prohibition to introduce arms and ammunition into Ethiopia, and also to the necessity of causing those international provisions to be observed and respected.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,


Baron Blanc to Baron Fava.

Mr. Ambassador: Italy, having occupied the coast of the Bed Sea from Ras Oasar to the Strait of Bab el Mandeb, founded the colony of Eritrea, established and proclaimed her protectorate over Ethiopia and its dependencies, not only took part heartily and in perfect good faith in the Brussels conference, not only signed the general act of July 2, 1890, considering that her honor was thereby pledged, but in the first place she included in her African treaties the obligation to suppress slavery,1 and in the second place desired that all the local chiefs who are her dependents on the coast of the Red Sea and on those of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean from Bender Ziadeh to the mouth of the Juba should conform to the provisions of that act for humanitarian purposes and the promotion of civilization, and should signify their acceptance of the obligations resulting therefrom.

Thus, while we were directly striving to suppress the slave trade on the coasts possessed by us, first Menelik and next all the sultans and chiefs who have treaties of protectorate with Italy—the Dan call chiefs and headmen,2 the Sultan of Obbia,3 the Sultan of the Migertini4—assumed, under the supervision of the Italian Government, the obligation to observe the provisions of the Brussels act so far as it relates to the slave trade and the trade in arms and spirits.

The Italian Government took care to cause that obligation to be respected, and succeeded so well that not only did it free many slaves and cause to be freed many others by those under its protection, not only was the odious traffic brought to an end in both the mediate and immediate possessions of Italy, but even private natives, who derived their main income from the slave trade, finally became convinced that it was best for them to abandon it.

Only one of the African chiefs who are subject to Italy, after abiding for some time by the obligation which he had assumed, again engaged in slave hunting and the slave trade, the very things from which he ought to have abstained, both because he is a Christian and because he personally requested, through Italy, to be admitted to the Brussels conference, at which he was represented by Italy, having approved in advance all the decisions that should be adopted.

[Page 962]

This chief is Menelik.1

As he went on failing to keep faith with Italy he relapsed into barbarism in respect to the slave trade; and, having openly declared himself a rebel, he no longer pays any regard to public law as established by Europe in Africa.

According to concurrent testimony from non-Italian sources,2 Menelik capped the climax in his last expedition against the Vollamo. Leading his hordes even into territories comprised within the other sphere of Italian influence, viz, that of the Indian Ocean, he sought to have the Amharic invasion accompanied not only by plunder and destruction, but by slavery, with all its horrors. Gangs of men were counted like flocks of sheep; here 60,000, there 15,000. And beside those whom he has kept entirely in his own possession, Menelik levies a tax of $1 officially on each slave taken by his soldiers that enters Shoa, or that is sold and leaves it.

The slave trade has never been carried on more extensively than it is now, and the little expeditions to the coast which were first attempted by the Musselmans in a timid, covert way, and which were detected by the vigilance of the Italian authorities, were nothing in comparison with this trade which is openly carried on on so large a scale.

It is consequently not proper to permit any contravention of the provisions of the Brussels act in order to please Menelik; our protectorate renders it our duty to compel him to observe those provisions, but it is especially the duty of all the signatory powers to fulfill the duties that are entailed on all of them by that act as regards Menelik, in view of the obligations assumed by him, in a more solemn manner, perhaps, than by any other African chief, and of the outrages of which he is guilty to a greater extent than others, and also in view of the more extended sovereignty conferred upon him by us, of which he avails himself in order to extend those outrages in a way that is extremely disastrous to the cause of civilization and humanity, to the detriment of tribes whose only fault is that they are exposed to his acts of violence.

Now, it was for the express purpose of suppressing the slave trade that the powers whose representatives met at Brussels determined to restrict the importation of firearms (Art. I, par. 7, of the general act of July 2, 1890)3 and pledged themselves (Art. III)4 not only to repress the traffic in human beings in their possessions, but to “lend their good [Page 963] offices to such powers as, with a purely humanitarian object, may be engaged in Africa in fulfillment of a similar mission;” it was for this reason that the prohibition of the importation of firearms and ammunition was extended in Article VIII1 from the twentieth parallel of north latitude to the twenty-second parallel of south latitude; it was for this reason that severe restrictions were laid in Article IX2upon the introduction of arms and ammunition, when it was authorized in the possessions of the signatory powers that exercised rights of sovereignty or protectorate in the zone which is defined in Article VIII; it was for this reason that the aforesaid Article IX, by providing for the few slight personal exceptions to the prohibition, decided (in addition to the most thorough control) that the regions in which the slave trade was carried on should be excluded from those exceptions; it was for this reason that the right of transit was regulated in Article X;3 [Page 964] it was for this reason that Article XI1 provided that the signatory-powers should “communicate to one another information relating to the traffic in firearms and ammunition, and that Article XIII2 extended the precautions to territories situated outside of the specified zone, but in contact therewith.

Now, the Italian Government is responsible to the powers that have recognized its protectorate over Ethiopia for the observance of the Brussels act in those territories consequently while it takes measures to prevent Menelik from continuing to violate the act in question it is under strict obligation to call the attention of the signatory powers to this condition of things, to the end that, even independently of Menelik’s hostility to Italy, those powers, by prohibiting the introduction of arms and ammunition into Ethiopia, may enforce the observance of those international provisions of the disregard of which Menelik has taken, and is still taking, advantage with a view to opening up to the slave trade regions in which Europe sought to abolish it.

  1. Treaty of amity and commerce with Sultan Mohammed Anfari, of Haussa, dated December 9, 1888 (Art. VIII).
  2. Solemn declaration of August 2, 1893, made before the civil commissioner of Assab by Abdelrahman Sheikh Yusef and by Ahmed Dini. representing Sultan Mohammed Anfari, and by the principal Dancali chiefs and headmen.
  3. Declaration of November 20, 1891.
  4. Declaration of November 16. 1894.
  5. As I have learned that a congress is to be held at Brussels, I beg your excellency to be pleased to telegraph to the Italian ambassador residing in that city requesting him to discuss in my name all questions that may concern my State, and as you know that I do not object to any reforms that may be adopted by the Christian powers of Europe, and that I do not reject anything that can benefit the Christians, I beg you to take measures to prevent my State from being deprived of the necessary arms and ammunition. (Extract from a letter from Menelik to His Excellency M. Crispi.)
  6. Mr. Venderheyn, a French citizen, was expelled from Ethiopia because he had been guilty of publishing certain truths in the newspapers in relation to the affairs of that Empire and to Menelik’s slave-hunting expeditions among the Vollamo.
  7. Art. I. The Powers declare that the most effective means of counteracting the slave trade in the interior of Africa are the following:

    * * * * * * *

    Par. 7. Restriction of the importation of firearms, at least of those of modern pattern, and of ammunition throughout the entire extent of the territory in which the slave trade is carried on.

  8. Art. III. The Powers exercising a sovereignty or a protectorate in Africa confirm and give precision to their former declarations and engage to proceed gradually, as circumstances may permit, either by the means above indicated or by any other means that they may consider suitable with the repression of the slave trade, each State in its respective possessions and under its own direction. Whenever they consider it possible they shall lend their good offices to such powers as, with a purely humanitarian object, may be engaged in Africa in the fulfillment of a similar mission.
  9. Art. VIII. The experience of all nations that have intercourse with Africa having shown the pernicious and preponderating part played by firearms in operations connected with the slave trade as well as internal wars between the native tribes, and this same experience having clearly proved that the preservation of the African population, whose existence it is the express wish of the powers to protect, is a radical impossibility if measures restricting the trade in firearms and ammunition are not adopted, the Powers decide, so far as the present state of their frontiers permits, that the importation of firearms, and especially of rifles and improved weapons, as well as of powder, ball, and cartridges is, except in the cases and under the conditions provided in the following article, prohibited in the territories comprised between the twentieth parallel of north latitude and the twenty-second parallel of south latitude, and extending westward to the Atlantic Ocean and eastward to the Indian Ocean, and its dependencies, including the islands adjacent to the coast within 100 nautical miles from the shore.
  10. Art. IX. The introduction of firearms and ammunition, when there shall be no occasion to authorize it, in the possessions of the signatory powers that exercise rights of sovereignty or of protectorate in Africa, shall be regulated, unless identical or stricter regulations have already been enforced, in the following manner in the zone defined in Article VIII:

    All imported firearms shall be deposited at the cost, risk, and peril of the importers in a public warehouse under the supervision of the State government. No withdrawal of firearms or imported ammunition shall take place from such warehouses without the previous authorization of the said government. This authorization shall, except in the cases hereinafter specified, be refused for the withdrawal of all arms for accurate firing, such as rifles, magazine guns, or breech-loaders, whether whole or in deatched pieces, their cartridges, caps, or other ammunition intended for them.

    In seaports, and under conditions affording the needful guaranties, the respective Governments may permit private warehouses, but only for ordinary powder and for flintlock muskets, and to the exclusion of improved arms and ammunition therefor.

    Independently of the measures directly taken by Governments for the arming of the public force and the organization of their defense, individual exceptions may be allowed in the case of persons furnishing sufficient guaranties that the weapon and ammunition are intended for their personal defense exclusively.

    All arms, in the cases provided for in the preceding paragraph, shall be registered and marked by the supervising authorities, who shall deliver to the persons in question permits to bear arms, stating the name of the bearer and showing the stamp with which the weapon is marked. These permits shall be revocable in case proof is furnished that they have been improperly used, and shall be issued for five years only, but may be renewed.

    The above rule as to warehousing shall also apply to gunpowder.

    Only flintlock guns, with unrifled barrels, and common gunpowder known as trade powder, may be withdrawn from the warehouses for sale. At each withdrawal of arms and ammunition of this kind for sale, the local authorities shall determine the regions in which such arms and ammunition may be sold. The regions in which the slave trade is carried on shall always be excluded. Persons authorized to take arms or powder out of the public warehouses shall present to the State government every six months detailed lists indicating the destinations of the arms and powder sold, as well as the quantities still remaining in the warehouses.

  11. Art. X. The Governments shall take all such measures as they may deem necessary to insure as complete a fulfillment as possible of the provisions respecting the importation, sale, and transportation of firearms and ammunition, as well as to prevent either the entry or exit thereof via their inland frontiers, or the passage thereof to regions where the slave trade is rife.

    The authorization of transit within the limits of the zone specified in Article VIII shall not he withheld when the arms and ammunition are to pass across the territory of the signatory or adherent power occupying the coast, toward the inland territories under the sovereignty or protectorate of another signatory or adherent power, unless this latter power have direct access to the sea through its own territory. If this access be wholly interrupted, the authorization of transit can not be withheld. Any application for transit must be accompanied by a declaration emanating from the government of the power having the inland possessions, and certifying that the said arms and ammunition are not intended for sale, but are for the use of the authorities of such power, or of the military forces necessary for the protection of the missionary or commercial stations, or of persons mentioned by name in the declaration. Nevertheless, the territorial power of the coast retains the right to stop, exceptionally and provisionally, the transit of improved arms and ammunition across its territory if, in consequence of inland disturbances or other serious danger, there is ground for fearing lest the dispatch of arms and ammunition may compromise its own safety.

  12. Art. XI. The powers shall communicate to one another information relating to the traffic in firearms and ammunition, the permits granted, and the measures of repression in force in their respective territories.
  13. Art. XIII. The signatory powers that have possessions in Africa in contact with the zone specified in Article VIII bind themselves to take the necessary measures for preventing the introduction of firearms and ammunition across their inland frontiers into the regions of said zone, at least that of improved arms and cartridges.