Mr. Hill to Mr. Joostens.

No. 155.]

Sir: I have considered your note of the 22d ultimo, in relation to the representation of the United States Government at the conference proposed to be held at Brussels for proceeding with the revision provided for by article 92 of the general act of July 2, 1890, concerning the regulation of the traffic in spirituous liquors in Africa.

Your present note importantly modifies the communication addressed to my predecessor on the 10th of January, 1898, by Count de Lichtervelde, in that the original proposition to confine the proposed conference to the representations of those signatories of the general act of 1890 having territorial possessions within the limits of the zone embraced under the general act on the western coast of Africa, now contemplates the invitation of all the signatory powers of the general act, as well as those of the nonsignatory States who have since definitely adhered to the general act. It is explained that this collective invitation does not necessarily imply the participation of all the signatory or adhering powers, but that such powers as should express a desire to take part in the conference will of right be admitted thereto, with the result of extending the sphere of action of the proposed conference to comprise the east as well as the west coast of Africa.

In bringing this announcement to the notice of the Government of the United States, you inquire, pursuant to instructions of your Government, whether it is the purpose of the United States Government to take part in the coming conference, or whether, deeming the question to be one that does not directly interest it, it would prefer to abstain from sending a representative plenipotentiary, while reserving the privilege to adhere to the decisions that may be adopted by the conference.

In Mr. Sherman’s reply, of January 13, to Count Lichtervelde’s note of January 10, 1898, and in communicating to the United States representative in Belgium the correspondence then had, it was contemplated by this Government that Mr. Storer should take suitable occasion to express to any members of the conference with whom he might speak on the subject expression of the desire of the Government of the United States to see action taken to control and so far as possible repress the baneful traffic in liquors among the African tribes, thus further accentuating the declarations made by the United States delegate at the conference which framed the general act of 1890. The views then put forth as to the moral duty of the conference to check the destructive trade in ardent spirits in the interior of the African continent remain unchanged.

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The circumstance that the United States Government possesses no territorial interests within the zone concerning which the proposed conference is expected to take action would seem to make it unnecessary for the United States to be represented in the coming conference by a specially accredited plenipotentiary; but the United States minister in Belgium will be instructed to act, so far as may be possible, upon the lines of the instructions sent to him a year ago, and to use all suitable means of impressing the conference with the hope of this Government that its conclusions and regulations will be so practical and effective in the direction of repressing the liquor traffic as to invite the adherence of this Government to the formulated results.

I am, etc.,

David J. Hill,
Acting Secretary.