The Secretary of State to the Vice Consul at Lourenço Marques, Mozambique (Stanton)

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 19 of August 14, 1929,21 concerning recent legislative enactments in Portuguese East Africa prohibiting the printing of the Bible in the native language and curtailing the use of native dialects.

In reference to the effect of this legislation on American missionaries in that country and any contemplated action on their behalf by the [Page 786] Department, it may be stated at the outset that the right to regulate missionary activities is inherent in the police power of the State and if such regulations do not contravene existing international conventions and/or international law, and if they are not discriminatory in their provisions or in the execution thereof, there is no legal basis upon which could be predicated a diplomatic protest.

You are informed that there are no treaty provisions in force between the United States and Portugal which have a bearing on the subject under discussion and that it does not appear that the legislation in question is in violation of international law. Therefore, in the absence of evidence of discrimination, there is no basis even for informal representations concerning this subject except the general grounds of comity.

On this basis, you may bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate authorities, pointing out that a prohibition against the use of the native dialects would cause almost insuperable obstacles to the continuance of the humanitarian and educational activities of the American missionaries, adding that you are sure the authorities are not desirous of such a result.

In this connection you may bring to the attention of the Portuguese authorities the following quotation from the “Projet d’organisation de Penseignement libre au Congo Belge”, which the Department understands has been recently issued by the Belgian authorities:

“L’enseignement en langue européenne se heurte á des objections sérieuses d’ordre pédagogique. C’est autant que possible dans leur langue qu’il faut enseigner aux indigénes si l’on veut que l’enseignement porte des fruits.”

(Translation: There are serious objections from the standpoint of pedagogy to instruction in a European language. The natives should be taught as much as possible in their own language, if such instruction is to bear fruit.)

Finally, you may express the earnest hope that the appropriate Portuguese authorities will find it possible to reconsider their action in the respect indicated.

For your own private information, there is enclosed herewith a pamphlet entitled “Educational Policy in British Tropical Africa”,23 which will doubtless prove of interest.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
William R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not reprinted.