Ambassador Reid to the Secretary of State.

No. 668.]

Sir: With reference to the department’s instruction, No. 714 of the 13th ultimo, requesting the views of the British Government as to the best manner in which they could at the present time cooperate with us in order to promote the welfare of Liberia, I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a note which I have received from Sir Edward Grey on the subject, dated the 23d instant, in reply to my note to him of the 29th ultimo, a copy of which is also inclosed. Sir Edward Grey’s note suggests there would be no objection to the appointment of a judicial officer of United States to act as adviser if so desired.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Page 698]
[Inclosure 1.]

Ambassador Reid to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sir: In view of a request preferred by the three commissioners of Liberia now in Washington on a diplomatic mission, as well as in view of the old agreement between His Majesty’s Government and that of the United States about their special interest in the independence of the Liberian Republic, I am instructed to say that the Government of the United States still maintains a special interest in the welfare of Liberia, arising from the circumstances under which the settlement of the country was made, and is very desirous now to be of assistance to the Liberians.

Recalling the agreement referred to (made on the initiative of His Majesty’s Government Mar. 8, 1897, concurred in by us Mar. 13, 1897), we should be glad to have your views as to how the two Governments could best cooperate at the present time toward promoting the welfare of Liberia.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 2.]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Ambassador Reid.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of June 29 last, in which, after calling attention to the special interest felt by your excellency’s Government in maintaining the independence of the Liberian Republic as borne out by the notes exchanged between the British and United States Governments in March, 1897, you request the views of His Majesty’s Government as to the best manner in which the Government of the United States could at the present time cooperate with His Majesty’s Government in order to promote the welfare of Liberia.

As your excellency is aware, the interest felt by the Government of the United States is fully shared by His Majesty’s Government, who, at the request of the Liberian authorities themselves, have lent to them the services of certain officials to assist in reorganizing their customs and their frontier police force. Mr. W. J. Lamont, who has been intrusted with the reorganization of the customs, has already been able to increase considerably the revenue derived from this branch of the administration and has succeeded, it is hoped, by his methods in introducing a more healthy tone into the customs department. He has also recently been appointed by the Liberian Government to be their financial adviser, and there is reason to hope that his advice may lead to an improvement in the administration of that department.

As I had the honor to explain in March last to the United States chargé d’affaires, His Majesty’s Government have, in any measure they may be called upon to take in Liberia, no designs whatever upon the independence or integrity of the country, and they do not intend to undertake any responsibility with regard to it. The services of British officials have been lent to the Liberians solely with a view to the better preservation of order, more particularly in that part of Liberia which marches with Sierra Leone and improved administration.

The French Government also, as your excellency is doubtless aware, takes a special interest in the affairs of the Republic, and His Majesty’s Government have already assured them that they would have no objection to the services of some French officials being lent for the same objects as the British officials. It is doubtful, therefore, whether there is at the present time any scope for the cooperation of the United States Government in the customs or police, and if they desire to render active assistance to the Liberian Government they will, perhaps, prefer to direct their attention to other branches of the administration, which are as urgently in need of reform.

That reforms are required in one other branch at least His Majesty’s Government have reason to know, for among the chief difficulties which His Majesty’s Government experience in regard to Liberia are the frequent complaints received from British subjects as to the treatment they receive in the Liberian courts. If, therefore, the United States Government could see their way to introducing reforms into the judiciary, either by lending the services of an official to act as judicial adviser or in some other manner, much good would, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, be [Page 699] derived not only by the various subjects of foreign nationalities resident in the country, but also by the Liberians themselves.

While calling attention more especially to this one branch of the administration which has been a frequent source of trouble, I need hardly add that His Majesty’s Government would welcome the cooperation of the Government of the United States with them in Liberia in any other manner which may appear more suitable or more desirable on a consideration of all the circumstances.

It appears to His Majesty’s Government that the main risk to the future of Liberia arises from the inefficiency of Liberian administration of their own affairs, especially in matters of finance, and any suggestion which the United States might see fit to give them to follow the advice of such foreigners as they have themselves engaged to help in their administration would have a beneficial effect.

I have, etc.,

E. Grey.