geographical experts in Europe, which resulted in the creation of “The International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Africa.” To carry out its objects an international commission was founded, with committees in the principal countries of Europe. The Belgian committee at Brussels, where also were the headquarters of the International commission, displayed from the first greater activity than did any of the other committees. It turned its attention in the first place to East Africa, and several expeditions were sent out, which resulted in the founding of a Belgian station at Karema on Lake Tanganyika. But the return of Mr (afterwards Sir) H. M. Stanley from his great journey of exploration down the Congo forcibly directed the attention of King Leopold to the possibilities for exploration and civilization offered by the Congo region. On the invitation of the king, Mr Stanley visited Brussels, and on the 25th of November 1878 a separate committee of the International Association was organized at Brussels, under the name “Comité d’études du Haut Congo.” Shortly afterwards this committee became the “International Association of the Congo,” which in its turn was the forerunner of the Congo Free State. The Association was provided with a nominal capital of £40,000, but from the first its funds were largely supplemented from the private purse of King Leopold; and by a gradual process of evolution the work, which was originally, in name at least, international in character, became a purely Belgian enterprise. Mr Stanley, as agent of the Association, spent four years in the country,founding stations and making treaties with various chiefs. The first station was founded in February 1880 at Vivi, and before returning to Europe in August 1884 Mr Stanley had established twenty-two stations on the Congo and its tributaries. Numerous expeditions were organized by King Leopold in the Congo basin, and the activity of the International Association and its agents began seriously to engage the attention of the European powers interested in Africa. On behalf of Portugal, claims were advanced to the Congo, based on the discovery of its mouth by Portuguese navigators centuries before. In the interests of France, M. de Brazza was actively exploring on the northern banks of the Congo, and had established various posts, including one where the important station of Brazzaville is now situated. The fact that the International Association of the Congo had no admitted status as a sovereign power rendered the tenure of its acquisition somewhat precarious, and induced King Leopold to make determined efforts to secure for his enterprise a recognized position. Early in 1884 a series of diplomatic events brought the question to a head. The 2nd Earl Granville, then British foreign secretary, in February of that year concluded a convention with Portugal, recognizing both banks of the mouth of the Congo as Portuguese territory. This convention was never ratified, but it led directly to the summoning of the Berlin Congress of 1884–1885, and to the recognition of the International Association as a sovereign state.
The United States of America was the first great power, in a convention signed on the 22nd of April 1884, to recognize the Association as a properly constituted state. Simultaneously, King Leopold had been negotiating with the
Recognition by the
powers. French government, the Association’s most serious rival, not only to obtain recognition but on various boundary questions, and on the 23rd of April 1884 Colonel M. Strauch, the president of the Association, addressed to the French minister for foreign affairs a note in which he formally declared that the Association would not cede its possessions to any power, “except in virtue of special conventions, which may be concluded between France and the Association, for fixing the limits and conditions of their respective action.” The note further declared that, as a fresh proof of its friendly feeling towards France, the Association engaged to give France the right of preference if, through unforeseen circumstances, it were compelled to sell its possessions. Mention may here be made of the fact that in a note dated the 22nd of April 1887, M. van Eetvelde, administrator-general of the foreign affairs of the Congo State, informed the French minister at Brussels that the International Association had not intended in 1884 that the right of preference accorded to France could be opposed to that of Belgium; and on the 29th of April the French minister took note, in the name of the French government, of this interpretation of the right of preference, in so far as such interpretation was not contrary to pre-existing international engagements. Germany was the next great power after the United States to recognize the flag of the International Association as that of a friendly state, doing so on the 8th of November 1884, and the same recognition was subsequently accorded by Great Britain on the 16th of December; Italy, 19th of December; Austria-Hungary, 24th of December; Holland, 27th of December; Spain, 7th of January 1885; France and Russia, 5th of February; Sweden and Norway, 10th of February; Portugal, 14th of February; and Denmark and Belgium, 23rd of February. While negotiations with Germany for the recognition of the status of the Congo Free State were in progress, Prince Bismarck issued invitations to the powers to an international conference at Berlin. The conference assembled on the 15th of November 1884, and its deliberations ended on the 26th of February of the following year by the signature of a General Act, which dealt with the relations of the European powers to other regions of Africa as well as the Congo basin. The provisions affecting the Congo may be briefly stated. A conventional basin of the Congo was defined, which comprised all the regions watered by the Congo and its affluents, including Lake Tanganyika, with its eastern tributaries, and in this conventional basin it was declared that “the trade of all nations shall enjoy complete freedom.” Freedom of navigation of the Congo and all its affluents was also secured, and differential dues on vessels and merchandise were forbidden. Trade monopolies were prohibited, and provision made for civilizing the natives, the suppression of the slave trade, and the protection of missionaries, scientists and explorers. Provision was made for the powers owning territory in the conventional basin to proclaim their neutrality. As regards navigation, only such taxes or duties were to be levied as had “the character of an equivalent for services rendered to navigation itself”; and it was further provided that (Article 16) “The roads, railways or lateral canals which may be constructed with the special object of obviating the innavigability or correcting the imperfection of the river route on certain sections of the course of the Congo, its affluents, and other waterways, placed under a similar system as laid down in Article 15, shall be considered, in their quality of means of communication, as dependencies of this river and as equally open to the traffic of all nations. And as on the river itself, so there shall be collected on these roads, railways, and canals only tolls calculated on the cost of construction, maintenance, and management, and on the profits due to the promoters”; while as regards the tariff of these tolls, strangers and natives of the respective territories were to be treated “on a footing of perfect equality.” The International Association not having possessed, at the date of the assembling of the Conference, any recognized status, was not formally represented at Berlin, but the flag of the Association having, before the close of the conference, been recognized as that of a sovereign state by all the powers, with the exception of Turkey, the Association formally adhered to the General Act.
Thus early in 1885 King Leopold had secured the recognition of the Association as an independent state, but its limits were as yet not clearly defined. On the 5th of February, as the result of prolonged negotiations, France conceded the right of the Association to the course of the lowerAgreements as to limits. Congo below Manyanga, and accepted the Chiloango river and the water-parting of the waters of the Niadi Kwilu and the Congo, as far as beyond the meridian of Manyanga, as the boundary between her possessions and those of the Association on the lower river. From Manyanga the frontier was to follow the Congo up to Stanley Pool, the median line of Stanley Pool, and the Congo again “up to a point to be settled above the river Licona-Nkundja,” from which point a line was to be drawn to the 17th degree of longitude east of Greenwich, following as closely as possible the water-parting of the Licona-Nkundja basin. The identity of the Licona-Nkundja