Minister Wilson to the Secretary of State.

No. 322.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with the instructions contained in the department’s cablegram of April 1, I to-day called at the foreign office and left with M. Davignon a memorandum (copy inclosed) somewhat upon the lines of the British instructions, but differing in some important particulars.

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I have called attention to the objects to which, in the opinion of our Government, reforms should be directed, but have carefully avoided the suggestion of the modus operandi for carrying these reforms into execution.

In delivering the memorandum to M. Davignon I said to him that it was not to be understood as a new expression of our views, but rather as an ampler and clearer statement of those which I had the honor to verbally make known to him upon the occasion of the interview which he had accorded me in company with the British minister.

I have, etc.,

Henry Lane Wilson.


The nota pro memoria, re the attitude of Belgium in the event of the annexation of the Kongo, handed this legation on January 29 by His Excellency M. Davignon, was duly transmitted to Washington, and the assurances therein contained of the earnest purpose of the Belgian Government, in the event that the government and administration of the Kongo should be transferred to it, to fully carry out the stipulations and beneficent prescriptions of the acts of Berlin and Brussels, were noted with lively satisfaction.

In the entirely amicable and unofficial representation preceding, and which gave occasion to the note pro memoria, it was not the indention of the Government of the United States to in any way call into question the high and disinterested purposes which, it is satisfied, govern Belgium in the consideration of the question of the annexation of the Kongo territories. On the contrary, the Government of the United States, finding that much is left to be desired in the present administration of the Kongo from the standpoint of the acts of Brussels and Berlin, gladly welcomes annexation, and is firmly convinced that the assumption of the government of these regions by Belgium will be followed by improvement in the condition of the native races, by the development and civilization of the country, and by the liberation of trade and commerce from harmful restrictions.

The Government of the United States, however, feels that as a signatory to the Brussels act it has assumed certain well-defined obligations, which may not be lightly evaded and which at this moment of transition, when the government of the Kongo territories is about to be transferred from one power to another, make imperative a clear, though brief, expression of its views.

The dissatisfaction with the present administration of the Kongo has grown very largely out of its policy toward the native races—a policy which was doubtless not intentionally cruel nor purposely at variance with the acts of Brussels and Berlin, but which, in the opinion of competent investigators, is enslaving, degrading, and decimating the native population. It may be admitted that there has been much exaggeration of the true condition of affairs and that many charges have been refuted, but the fact nevertheless remains that conditions prevail which were neither contemplated nor anticipated when the Independent Kongo State was called into existence by the powers.

The Government of the United States believes that whatsoever power assumes dominion over the Kongo should address itself with reasonable dispatch to carrying into practical execution, in letter and in spirit, the prescriptions of the Brussels and Berlin acts.

In the opinion of the Government of the United States the reforms to be accomplished in the Kongo should have for their object:

The exemption of the native population from excessive taxation.
The inhibition of forced labor.
The possibility of the natives becoming holders, in permanent tenancy, of tracts of land sufficiently large to afford sustenance.
To make it possible for traders and settlers of all nationalities to secure unoccupied tracts of land, needed for the prosecution and development of peaceful commerce, at reasonable prices, in any part of the Kongo.
The procurement and guaranty of equal and exact justice to all inhabitants of the Kongo through the establishment and maintenance of an independent judiciary.

In calling attention to what, in its opinion, should be the objects of reform in the Kongo, the Government of the United States may be permitted to add, on its own account, that, relying on the stipulations of articles 2 and 4 of the treaty of 1891, it would be especially pleased to see the right accorded to American Christian missionaries to secure reasonable sized tracts of land, when not occupied by the State, in permanent holding, to be used for missionary sites and schools.

The Government of the United States confines itself in this memorandum to pointing out the direction in which, in its judgment, radical reforms and changes are needed. It does not believe that it is incumbent upon it to indicate or suggest to the Belgian Government the modus operandi for carrying these reforms into execution, well knowing the difficulties that must be surmounted and being fully cognizant of the unselfish purposes of the annexing power. Its representations are conceived and made in an entirely friendly spirit and it is hoped that they will receive that measure of consideration from the Belgian Government to which they are entitled by their disinterestedness and by the long and traditional friendship which has existed between the two countries.