Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.
Brussels, June 14, 1906.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith to the department two copies of the Bulletin Officiel de L’Etat Indépendant du Congo, containing in the French text the report of the committee on reforms in the Kongo State, the decrees carrying the same into effect, and a letter from His Majesty King Leopold addressed to the secretaries general.
I also inclose printed extracts in the English text of the decrees of the Sovereign, which have just been published in an English paper here. These decrees practically embody the whole of the measures advocated by the committee, and by the Sovereign’s signature have de facto passed into law.
From a study of the decrees it will be noted that two important principles are laid down. The first of these secures to the natives the possession of the soil already occupied by them. The second principle prohibits the exercise of force in the collection of rubber, and substitutes therefor detention within certain limitations until the labor tax is discharged.
Concurrently with the issuance of the decrees His Majesty has published an open letter to the secretaries general, which is considered in diplomatic circles to amount to a manifesto to the powers. It certainly is susceptible of that interpretation, but it may also—and perhaps with more accuracy—be described as an autocratic declaration to the Belgian people.
Here follows a translation of the most significant parts of the King’s letter:
I grant you the situation is without precedent and unique, but so also was the creation of the Free State. All the responsibilities and the organization of a government unfettered by other authority have been left to my care. The Kongo is essentially a personal undertaking. There is no more legitimate or honorable right than that of reaping the fruit of one’s own labor. The powers accorded their good will to the birth of the new State, but not one was called upon to participate in my efforts; hence it follows that none has the right of intervention, which nothing could justify. The powers were duly notified of the choice made by the State as to the regime of neutrality and other limitations. No objections were raised at the time. The law of nations regulates the relations between sovereign powers; there is no special international law for the [Page 101] Kongo State. The Berlin act made certain stipulations with respect to the conventional basin of the Kongo. These regulations apply equally to other states with holdings there, but they in no sense affect the rights of possession. The questions of territorial sovereignty—that is, precisely those which underlie the constitution of states—were expressly and by common accord omitted from the programme of the Berlin conference. My rights in the Kongo are indivisible; they are the product of personal labor and expense. You must miss no opportunity of proclaiming these rights; they alone can render possible and legitimate my bequest of the Kongo to Belgium, which has no title but what reverts to her through my person. If I allow them to be contested, Belgium would be deprived of any power to make good such title.
The letter cites the immense extension of internal communication by rail and water, and the great progress made in the moral and material welfare of the native population.
By a codicil, of which the text is published with the decrees, His Majesty confirms his bequest of the Kongo to the nation, and instructs his legatees to continue unchanged his administrative policy.
I have the honor, etc.,