Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

No. 279.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that at the session of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives yesterday the new premier, Mr. Schollaert, made the following declaration of the policy of the Government in regard to Kongo matters:

The sad occurrence which has rendered necessary a modification in the composition of the Cabinet has in no respect modified the programme of the Government.

We refer to the communication made to the Chambers by the late regretted Mr. de Trooz at the moment when he assumed the direction of affairs. Since then an important fact has arisen on which a declaration appears to us to be necessary.

The Government had announced the production of a scheme “for the taking over by Belgium of the African colony.” At the same time it intrusted plenipotentiaries with the “duty of preparing, in conjunction with the plenipotentiaries of the Free State, the agreement which should effect the transfer of the Kongo to Belgium and of deciding the means of execution.” The instructions given to these plenipotentiaries were to arrange this agreement “on the lines of that of 1895, the text and annexes of which are to be brought into relation with the actual situation.”

The plenipotentiaries labored with equal conscientiousness and activity and were soon in a position to present to the Government a complete report on the actual situation of our future colony. A treaty of annexation was then concluded, under date of November 28, 1907, between Belgium, represented by all the members of the Government, and the Kongo Free State, represented by its secretaries-general. And at the sitting of December 3 you were put in possession of the bill approving the treaty of annexation.

In conformity with a previous decision, you ordered the examination of this proposal to be referred to the commission of seventeen, which was already engaged in examining the colonial bill.

Without in any way wishing to anticipate the results of the labors of the commission, we are in a position to state that the attentive study of the documents and annexes attached to the proposal has confirmed, and perhaps gone beyond, the opinions previously formed on the state of material prosperity of our future colony and its future.

It is possible that further light may be thrown on certain points, but it would be unfair to contest the merit of a work which has hardly existed a quarter of a century and which finds itself in the first rank among similar enterprises.

It is our duty also to state, and we do so with patriotic pride, that the immense majority of the Belgian nation desires to take over the Kongo State. It feels that the moment for taking a definite resolution has arrived. The time has come for Belgium to decide. Now, the opening of the Kongo to civilization is the work of her King. It is for her sake and with the help of the Belgians that he has occupied the country. The idea that the Kongo must be ours is so clear that for most people the great African colony has no other name than that of the Belgian Kongo.

Finally, it is our duty to state, and we do so with perfect openness, that the tenor of the treaty has provoked certain apprehensions in many minds, even among citizens devoted to a colonial policy and admirers of the work of the Sovereign of the Free State. The attentive study of the question will show [Page 539] to what extent the objections which have been raised are well founded, and whether they can not be satisfied by some change in the plan. You do not expect us to improvise a solution at this moment. For it must not be forgotten that the object of the discussion is an agreement which requires the consent of two contracting parties. Our most ardent desire is that in the examination of this great and patriotic question our only thought should be the welfare and prosperity of the mother country, of the native populations, and of the colony. At this solemn moment let us forget our differences of opinion; let us work together without distinction of party. We appeal for the assistance of all for this great work which we are about to undertake for the expansion and future of our country—the work of the entire nation.

At the conclusion of the reading of the declaration, Mr. Hymans, leader of the Liberals, stated that the attitude of the Left toward the treaty had not changed in any wise, but that it would enter into a free and fair discussion for the purpose of assisting the Government in finding a solution in accord with the interests of Belgium.

Mr. Vandervelde, leader of the Socialist Party, spoke in a similar tenor, with the reservation, however, that the Socialist Party were opposed to annexation of the Kongo to Belgium in any form.

It will be noted that Mr. Schollaert has not committed himself to any definite program. His declaration may be said to be moderate in tone, conciliatory, but not indicative of any radical departure from the policy of his predecessor.

Undoubtedly interpellations for the purpose of ascertaining the definite program of the Government will be made in the Chamber very soon. The replies thereto, and the discussions which must inevitably follow, will most likely reveal the exact purposes of the Government and define its attitude in Kongo matters.

I have, etc.,

Henry Lane Wilson.