President King of Liberia to the Secretary of State
[Received August 31—3:35 a.m.]
I have noted with surprise the alleged statements made in an address delivered yesterday at Williamstown Political Institute by Professor Raymond L. Buell, particularly the suggestion therein made that the Liberian Government was coerced by the United States Department of State in the matter of the Firestone rubber concession and the 7 percent loan of 1927.
This suggestion is without any foundation in fact. The approach to the agreement was made by the private enterprise of Mr. Firestone and neither directly nor indirectly was any influence brought to bear upon the Government of Liberia by the Department of State or any other department or official of the United States compelling the granting of the Firestone concession.
The fact that the negotiations between Firestone and the Liberian Government were protracted over a period of two and a half years should conclusively show that there was no coercion but rather that full consideration was given to the views of each party by the other.
In respect to the loan of 1927, internal economic conditions growing out of the World War dictated to the Government of Liberia the propriety and necessity of funding its indebtedness and reorganizing its finances. It was this which led to the offer of the United States Government in 192130 to make available funds which in the Wilson administration had been allocated to Liberia during the war. This proposal did not meet with the approval of Congress and the tentative agreement which had been reached by the two Governments lapsed. Nevertheless the need for reorganizing Liberian finances still existed and Liberia, like other states in similar circumstances, took advantage of the opportunity offered by the American money market.
In the negotiations between the Government of Liberia and the Finance Corporation of America there was no participation by the Department of State and the only reference in the agreement to the Government of the United States is the provision for the designation by the President of the United States of a Financial Advisor.[Page 252]
Up to the present the effect of this loan in addition to stabilizing our finances has been to give greater internal strength to the Government of Liberia and to avert alien intervention in our domestic affairs upon grounds which imperialists usually advance for this purpose.
The country generally is satisfied with the policy which has been pursued by the administration. Besides this there would seem to be historical fitness in a financial project which lines up Liberia with the United States.
There have been crises in our relations with the French Government growing out of undetermined frontiers,31 but these have never been represented to us as a “menace” by the United States Department of State nor was the Firestone project represented to the Government of Liberia by that Department as the means by which the menace could be removed. On the contrary when in certain quarters opposed to the Firestone scheme it was suggested that the United States Department of State was behind the Firestone proposals the Secretary of State of the United States took occasion formally to notify the Government of Liberia that the administration was neither directly nor indirectly behind Firestone.
The statement of Professor Buell that the scheme involves the control of Liberia by American officials is untrue and mischievous.
There is under the loan agreement, as has already been pointed out, but one official, the Financial Advisor, designated by the President of the United States upon the request of the Government of Liberia, and even this designation is not final unless acceptable to the President of Liberia.
Liberia like every other country has suffered from an unemployment problem.
The Firestone operation was an opportunity seized with alacrity by the Liberian laboring classes. The Government has had no occasion whatever to coerce labor and reports seem to indicate that far from suffering from a dearth of laborers the Firestone plantations are suffering from an embarrassment of riches in this respect. Nothing in the Firestone agreement obligates the Government of Liberia to impress labor for the company even should an occasion to do so present itself. On this point the Government of Liberia would welcome an investigation on the spot by an impartial commission.[Page 253]
This apparent attempt to bring Liberian affairs in an unfavorable light before the American people as a factor in the present political controversy is much to be regretted. Most interesting to me is the fact that Professor Buell is able to predict Liberia’s future and impugn the soundness and integrity of its statesmen after a visit of only 15 days during which he could have seen but a few of our high officials and leading citizens.