Memorandum by Mr. Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., of the Division of Western European Affairs

The reasons for proposing a new treaty of commerce and navigation with Liberia are:

To do away with the expressly conditional most-favored-nation treatment prescribed by the Treaty of 18621 and put our commercial relations with Liberia on an unconditional most-favored-nation basis.
To make a quiet but effective display of the continuance of our traditional friendly interest in the Republic and of our satisfaction with the orderly progress now being made there, by concluding a modern treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation. (In line with this policy we are now negotiating our first extradition treaty2 with Liberia and have a consular convention3 almost ready for proposal).
To do away with the obligations imposed on the United States by Article 8 of the Treaty of 18624 as being inconsistent with the present policies of the United States.

The first two sentences of Article 8 read as follows:

“The United States Government engages never to interfere, unless solicited by the Government of Liberia in the affairs between the Aboriginal inhabitants and the Republic of Liberia in the jurisdiction and territories of the Republic. Should any United States citizen suffer loss in person or property, from violence by the Aboriginal inhabitants and the Government of Liberia should not be able to bring the aggressor to justice, the United States engages, a requisition having been first made therefor by the Liberian Government, to lend such aid as may be required”.

In practice, I believe that it would be to Liberia’s ultimate advantage to abrogate the Article in question. In the present unsettled condition of the world, particularly with regard to the Colonial aspirations of [Page 786] certain Powers, it is not inconceivable that Liberia might, at some time, be placed in such a situation as to determine her to call on the United States for armed assistance, basing her call as in the past, on Article 8 of the Treaty of 1862. Should we decline to furnish assistance, as is likely, our refusal, no matter on what proper grounds it might be based, would undoubtedly weaken Liberia’s defensive position against whatever menace faced her. Moreover, our refusal to go to her assistance with our armed forces would undoubtedly create a certain amount of embarrassment to this Government, vis-à-vis the large element of our Negro population, who have a strong sentimental interest in Liberia. On the other hand, the negotiation of a new treaty at this time would be in line with our present policy towards Liberia to strengthen the Republic’s prestige and international position in every proper way with a view to minimizing the possibility of foreign aggression against her and thus avoiding the necessity of a call on us for active assistance, either diplomatic or by use of our armed forces. Should Liberia express during the negotiations of the new treaty her unwillingness to abrogate Article 8 of the Treaty of 1862, I believe that the question can be ironed out by friendly discussion between the two Governments. I do not anticipate any particular difficulty in explaining to Liberia, should the question arise, our conviction that in the long run it will be in her interest to abrogate Article 8. Nor do I believe, in view of the close relations now existing between the two countries, that Liberian officials would wish to complicate the negotiations or run the risk of marring their friendship with this Government by appealing directly to individuals in the United States.

  1. Signed at London, October 21, 1862; William M. Malloy (ed.), Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776–1909 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. i, p. 1050.
  2. See p. 811.
  3. See pp. 804 ff.
  4. For further information regarding article 8, see John Bassett Moore, A Digest of International Law, vol. v, p. 769.