Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

No. 290.]

Sir: I have the honor to confirm my cablegram of January 30. As therein stated, Mr. Davignon, the Belgian minister for foreign affairs, called at the legation on the 29th and left with me for copy and return a memorandum, copy and translation of which are inclosed, relative to the interview which the British minister, Sir Arthur Hardinge, and I had with him on January 23.

The department will note that the memorandum is addressed more particularly to the representations made by the British minister than to those which, under instructions from the department, I briefly submitted. This is accounted for by two circumstances: First, as a natural resultant of my indication to Mr. Davignon, as reported in my No. 285,1 that on account of our purely humanitarian interests in the Kongo question and the greater and more complicated interests of Great Britain, I preferred to have my British colleague present our case in extenso, and confined my own remarks to a brief but literal representation of the department’s views; second, to the fact that Sir Arthur Hardinge, subsequently to our interview, permitted the secretary of Mr. Davignon to take a copy of his written statement, thus making the same the basis of the discussion. I was not asked for a memorandum of my brief observations and I suppose that Mr. Davignon—perhaps properly—assumed that in voluntarily surrendering the principal role to my colleague I had also assigned to him the right to receive a direct reply.

The essential point, however, of my representation is noted in Mr. Davignon’s memorandum, and there is no doubt whatsoever that our position was clearly expressed and clearly understood.

In the meantime I shall carefully watch the course of events here and report the same to the department.

I have the honor, etc.,

Henry Lane Wilson.


[See Belgian Gray Book, 1908.]

Nota Pro Memoria, January 29, 1908.

Sir A. Hardinge, in accord with his colleague of the United States, has brought to our knowledge that the annexation of the Kongo to Belgium was considered by their Governments as the best solution under the circumstances.

[Page 542]

The Belgian Government notes with satisfaction the opinion of the cabinets at London and at Washington regarding the joining of the Kongo to Belgium. Since these two countries have the same sovereign and the same obligations, it is therefore merely a question, from an international standpoint, of a simple transfer by which the advantages of the parliamentary régime enjoyed by the mother country will be conferred upon the colony.

The Belgian Government, when transmitting to the Chambers the papers in the transfer, could not fail to recall to them that in 1895 the project of annexation did not elicit observations from abroad. This is a well-known fact, to which it has not on this occasion added any commentaries.

The treaty of cession not having as yet been approved, and the colonial law not having been voted, the form of interior administration which will be effected by annexation is at this moment under examination and discussion in Parliament in the full exercise of the supreme authority of legislative right, and Sir A. Hardinge has thought it proper to indicate that the British Government was anxious to avoid all intrusion therein.

Sir A. Hardinge has insisted, however, that no doubt should remain in the mind of the Belgian cabinet regarding the capital importance which the two Governments attach to the application by Belgium, if she should take the place of the Independent State of the Kongo, of the provisions of the international agreements regarding the absolute freedom of commerce, of the rights of Christian missionaries, and of the humane and equitable treatment of the native population. The minister of the United States has particularly insisted upon the importance which his Government attaches to the enforcement of the provisions of article 2 of the general act of Brussels concerning the treatment of the native races.

The treaty of cession, now before the Chambers, declares in its first article that Belgium, in accepting the cession, assumes as its own the obligations established by treaties which the Kongo State has concluded with foreign powers. The Government of the King will observe in the execution of its engagements the same care and the same loyalty it applies, in spirit and in letter, to the convention, of whatever nature, which to-day bind Belgium with the Government of His Britannic Majesty and of all other powers.

Regarding that which particularly concerns the provisions of the general act of Berlin of February 26, 1885, and of that of Brussels of July 2, 1890, concerning the conventional basin of the Kongo, it might be well to recall that Belgium is a directly contracting party to these international acts, and that her plenipotentiaries took a part therein, which is a sure guaranty of the intentions which to-day inspire the Belgian Government.

In making this reply to Sir A. Hardinge and to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Davignon is animated by the same sentiments which have called forth the unofficial communication of their excellencies, and he attaches to it the same friendly and private character.

  1. Not printed.