Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 6, 1910
File No. 85a.00.
Minister Bryan to the Secretary of State.
Brussels, May 5, 1910.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herein a copy and translation of the addresses delivered by Mr. Renkin, minister of the colonies, and by King Albert on the occasion of the opening of the Kongo Museum, at Tervueren last Saturday.
I have, etc.,
speech of mr. renkin, minister for the colonies.
Sire: I have the honor to welcome Your Majesty on behalf of the Government. I thank him for the splendor which his august presence lends to this solemn inauguration.
The universal exposition of 1910 offered Belgium the opportunity of showing the place which the colony of Belgian Kongo has already taken in our national life. This museum, the pavilions and the halls of the colonial exposition of the Kongo surrounding it, will make the visitor appreciate the fine efforts realized by our compatriots in Africa.
The missionaries will present the record of their admirable apostleship. The scientific and political results due to the persevering energy of our officers and of our administrations, the economical results obtained by the initiative and courage of our industrial and commercial representatives will be adequately displayed. Here shall also be exhibited the first steamboats cast upon the High River, the locomotives and the trains which, after climbing the passes of the Mounts Cristal at the cost oftentimes of heroic toils, have to-day penetrated into the very heart of the African Continent reaching the regions of the Manyema, where Livingstone beheld the horrors of slave trading and where the bravery of our countrymen destroyed forever the Arabian domination.
The entire Belgian Nation has collaborated in the work of which the museum of the Belgian Congo and the colonial exposition offer to the international public an eloquent compendium; but the great figure of King Leopold II towers above all.
In establishing the independent State and in creating the vast colony of the Kongo King Leopold II gave a new impulse to national activity, threw open to his people an unlimited field, and gloriously enlarged for it the roads of the future.
Now that we have come to inaugurate the superb monument which he wanted to erect on this spot it behooves us to salute the great memory of the extraordinary man, who, despite the feeble means at his disposal and the obstacles which he had to overcome, succeeded in awakening in his people the great and daring initiatives of the Flemish of the Hanse.
The idea of establishing in Tervueren the museum of Belgian Kongo corresponds to the tradition which, at each epoch in our history, seems to reserve an important part for this ancient and picturesque locality.
Before mounting the episcopalian throne at Liege, which he was later to illustrate, St. Hubert lived here long. He came back to die in this forest site which he loved.
Tervueren became later a freehold land of the Dukes of Brabant. They made of it their summer residence. It was in the castle of Tervueren, rebuilt by his wife, Marguerite Plantagenet, that Duke John II of Brabant signed the famous charter promulgated at Cortenberg, and one of the most interesting monuments of our medieval public law.
Neglected under the Dukes, of Bourgogne, Tervueren saw its splendor revived when the reign of Albert and Isabel had come to stimulate our national hopes. Albert and Isabel greatly enlarged the ancient castle and placed therein a vast hall of paintings, comprising over 200 masterpieces. The good archduchess died at Tervueren on the 30th of November, 1633. More than a century later Prince Charles of Lorraine established in turn his residence on this site, and, prompted by [Page 690] the desire to give impetus to Belgian industry, then very much depressed, he created here establishments for printing on cotton, a manufactory of wallpaper, and a factory of chinaware. Thus in the eighteenth century Tervueren was one of the points whence radiated over our country the civilizing evangelization.
Under the Dukes of Brabant it became one of the centers of feudal life. Under Albert and Isabel it possessed the museum of our artistic life. The initiative of Charles of Lorraine made of it one of the centers of the reviving Belgian industry.
It was therefore a just thought which established here, at the time when the colonial expansion is affirming itself, the museum of Belgian Kongo. Three international expositions mark the principal steps of its organization.
The first collection, which constituted the embryo of the museum, established primarily on the Place du Trone, was gathered together on the occasion of the Antwerp Exposition of 1894.
In 1897, at the time of the Brussels Exposition, the independent State created the Museum of Tervueren, and a few years later King Leopold II began the construction of the monument that Your Majesty deigns to inaugurate at the time when the Universal Brussels Exposition of 1910 has just opened its gates.
The new organization, which it has pleased the King to give the museum by his decree of January 1, 1910, enlarges and completes its scope. To the section of ethnography and to the section of natural science have been added the section of economical sciences, the section of moral and political sciences, and the section of photographic documentation and vulgarization, which group now for the first time their collections before the public eye. The Annales du Musee du Congo, under the auspices of the museum, is a prosperous and universally appreciated scientific publication, counting among its collaborators the most eminent scientists.
The progress already accomplished is considerable. The Government believes, however, that the work is only at its outset. In order to incessantly continue and improve this work, the Government knows that it can count on the cooperation of the personnel and the help of the committee of superintendence, the members of which it has pleased the King to choose from among the men who have made their mark in the various branches of science.
It is important that the scientific work which is being elaborated here be worthy of the work of colonization and of civilization, of which Belgium has just assumed the honor, and that it realizes perfectly the noble thought of its august initiator.
The museum of the Kongo must present the synthesis of all information relating to the colony, interest the great public therein supply industry and commerce with all useful indications, inspire them with new initiatives, offer to scientists a documentation as complete as possible, and, by means of the alluring and suggestive spectacle of results obtained, dissipate prejudices, enlighten the good will of the many, awaken in the hearts the desire to collaborate in the great task of civilization in which Belgium, despite all hardships, will succeed in marking with deep imprint of its genius.
The economical aspect of the colonial problem is of great importance. From this standpoint the museum of the Kongo offers to our compatriots useful teachings. They will be better able to see there the resources which the Kongo offers to their activity. They will note, for instance, that the foundation of the colony determined in Belgium the creation of 191 industrial establishments and that it furnished a permanent supply of material to 431 other firms; but in the thought of the Government the economical standpoint remains subordinated to that of the moral progress—the supreme aim of colonization.
On the historical day of his joyful entry, before the-chambers assembled, Your Majesty pronounced words the echo of which will resound throughout your reign. “For a people desirous of justice,” said Your Majesty, “a colonizing mission can only be a mission of high civilization.” Thus Your Majesty proclaimed, with the enthusiastic approbation of the whole Nation, that all the efforts of a nation for economical expansion, that all the work of man for the more rational occupation and the more profound knowledge of the globe are without value unless they tend, first of all, to widen the reign of justice and of peace.
The firm will to worthily prepare himself for the weighty obligations of sovereignty inspired Your Majesty with the desire to familiarize himself with the distant empire that Providence destined him to govern. He journeyed through it from one frontier to the other. And during these long days of travel the spectacle of this new nature, of these immense and rich territories, of these various populations, sympathetic, notwithstanding their feebleness and their destitution, spoke to his heart and confirmed in his soul for the honor of the Belgian country and the salvation of Africa, the design of being one day the beloved chief, who would complete the grand work of the founder of the colony in working with all his might, by means of the most severe equity, to raise the black race toward welfare, light, and goodness. The [Page 691] unanimous sentiment of the nation mingles here with the sentiments of the King. In annexing the Kongo Belgium has wished to assume the protection of the people who occupy it.
The valiance of its sons has delivered Central Africa of the scourge of slave trading. Its sovereign action must transform these vast regions penetrating them, by the development of commerce, the methodical action of the administration, and the researches of science with the evermore active influence of European civilization.
Belgium is legitimately proud of the work undertaken by it in Africa. Resolved to pursue it to the end, it hopes to deserve the admiration of all and that this monument, erected here to the progress of colonial science by the munificence of a great King and the labor of so many men of high knowledge will largely contribute toward this result. For to the nation assembled in Brussels this monument will tell of all the great things accomplished out there by those whose devotion has conquered for their country a new empire and announce the impetus that, under the guidance of Your Majesty, the affection and labor of Belgium hold in store for the Belgian Kongo.
I beg Your Majesty to declare open the Museum of Belgian Kongo and the colonial section of the Kongo of the Brussels Exposition.
speech of his majesty the king.
Ladies, Gentlemen: The minister for the colonies has just rendered a just and solemn homage to the illustrious founder of the Kongo, King Leopold II.
It is a duty for all of us, gentlemen, to associate ourselves entirely to these words of patriotic gratitude. The colonial museum that we are now inaugurating was a happy conception of the late King. He wanted it worthy of the task he had undertaken. Ever animated with the desire to embellish the suburbs of his capital, he had planned imposing edifices, to which this charming landscape of Tervueren and this park, with its majestic prospects, were to offer a marvelous setting.
Mr. Renkin has very eloquently characterized the action of the Belgian people in the Kongo. He addressed to our compatriots words of praise in which I join most heartily. I take pleasure in recalling, in turn, this memorable epoch of the outset of the independent State, and I do so with all the more pleasure that I see among my auditors a great number of devoted servants of the first hour—these Africans who had faith in the future of the undertaking and who were its fearless and enlightened pioneers.
An immense task it was, that assigned to the Belgian people by the distinguished personalities gathered together by King Leopold II in the palace of Brussels, over 30 years ago.
This task comprised the exploring of those mysterious territories of Central Africa, their effective occupation by means of advance posts which were to be created, the crushing of the slave traders who spread terror and misery through all this part of the continent—in a word, the organizing of a real State by the delimitation of a vast district and the exerting to its furthermost frontiers, of the beneficent action of the metropolis—a glorious but difficult mission coming to our officers as early as 1878.
In order to carry out such a program our compatriots displayed equalities of initiative organization, endurance, and courage truly admirable, and which can never be too highly praised. Let us not forget, above all, that it was our countrymen, officers, and noncommissioned officers issued from our regiments, who dealt the decisive blows to the power of the Arab slave dealers.
Even now we have out there excellent officials. I have seen them at work, I esteem them, and I wish to address to them a public testimonial of my sympathy. They are equal to their task, and they will wisely apply the reforms that we have taken the pledge to realize in order to extend to the whole of the Kongo a form of government worthy of Belgium.
My Government has resolutely taken up this course; numerous decrees have already been enacted, others are in preparation. All have in view the welfare of the natives and are inspired by a policy of generous liberty, for in the Kongo, as in Belgium, we wish to enjoy the esteem of our neighbors and, surrounded with the sympathies of other nations, advance incessantly in the path of progress.
But, aside from the noble task of the administrative and political organization, there is another, that of the economical, rational, and progressive exploitation of the country, and in which are destined to participate, in a fertile toil, all our national forces.[Page 692]
Present methods of colonization do not consist, as in former days, in the importation of arms, liquors, and the excessive exploitation of a country, but in introducing, into remote and primitive regions worthier customs sanctioned by Christianity, in spreading therein the discoveries of science and the marvels of modern technique. A colonizing people who understand its true interests looks out first of all for the welfare of the populations intrusted to its care.
Belgium owes it to itself to occupy an important place in the economical evolution of intertropical colonies, evolution of which the principal artisans are, together with the official and the officer, the missionary, the engineer, the merchant, the cultivator. Now, ought we not to recognize that the economical task is at present but roughly sketched?
And yet our beautiful colony has been well favored by nature. It has been generously gifted with marvelous waterways, most of which lend themselves very well to navigation or will become accessible thereto after the necessary work of rock blasting and buoy laying has been accomplished.
The railways, gentlemen, appear as the indispensable complement of this admirable network of waterways. Have we made the necessary efforts in order to develop them?
The railway of the lower Kongo will indeed remain a gigantic enterprise, unique in the economical history of Africa; but, since its achievement, aside from the railway of the great lakes, the essentially Belgian lines have but slightly progressed. It is desirable that we have at least a line of transportation, conceived and built by our compatriots, clear across the colony, and connecting the capital with the heart of the Katanga district. Without foretelling the future, the railway of the great lakes, duly extended, might realize this wish, which I formulate most heartily. In this respect we must become inspired by the example of the great colonizing nations which have undergone vast sacrifices in Africa.
When I speak of sacrifices, the exact significance of this term must be made clear; for there is hardly a railway in Africa which, after a certain number of years, does not repay the capital invested and procure for the colony considerable indirect resources. Thus statistics have registered the fact everywhere; that exportations and importations, as well as customs receipts, undergo an astonishingly rapid increase as soon as the railways are opened to traffic.
What we lack in the Kongo and what we need is a well-established system of means of communication, and, if I dare to thus express myself, a special policy of railways. This policy must have a national character. We can not better show its vital importance than by citing the example of the United States. A part of the history of this great people is taken up with the question of transcontinental roads, the construction of which was followed with anxiety and impatience throughout the entire continent. In Russia the roads into Asia were the object of an immense effort considered as necessary to the extension and the maintenance of the political and economical power of the, Empire. The English, the French, the Germans have for many years past made the creation of railways the corner stone of their colonial action.
Our policy in regard to the means of transportation in the Kongo must be seconded with fearlessness and foresight; we must take into consideration, first of all, the general interest of the colony. Enterprises as vast in scope as these we have undertaken bring with them great duties and necessitate incessant efforts. Had the first pioneers of the independent State not displayed an untiring activity, had they not ever made generous sacrifices, we should not to-day be in possession of the Kongo. Let us follow this magnificent example; let us continue to display a constant energy full, above all, of confidence in our own forces.
Belgium has immense riches and can count upon men of great value who direct the investment of its financial reserves. May these distinguished men be also the artisans of the prosperity of our over-sea possessions; may they be convinced, as I am myself, of the national interest offered by the development of Belgian colonization. The credit institutions of this country have a patriotic function to accomplish—that of encouraging the expansion of capital in the Kongo and of thus powerfully cooperating in the success of the highly civilizing work which helps promote the honor of our course of action in Africa.
The minister has spoken in excellent terms of the aim and of the organization of the museum. I hope that this fine institution may be worthy of the high thought of its founder. I see in it a work of science and of education, a work of useful diffusion of knowledge among the masses and of colonial propaganda. Its rich collection will show to all the inexhaustible resources of our colony. Under an enlightened and active guidance a center of knowledge, a source of precious documentation, will constitute themselves here. This museum will be as a reflection of our colonial development; it will enhance and increase again the scientific patrimony of Belgium. Gentlemen, I declare open the Museum of Belgian Kongo.