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BRITAIN AND GERMANY IN AFRICA Imperial Rivalry and Colonial Rule
GAMBIA (British v(French Mandate) Mfcndatel SOMALILAND, v-vxX
ETHIOPIA (To Germany 1911, to France 1919)
quite different had there actually been a danger of German intrusion.23 Also disturbing from the German point of view was the British attitude toward the claims of those German merchants who complained they had been unrightfully deprived of lands in the Fiji Islands after the British annexation of 1874. After repeated representations from Berlin, a special British commission had been appointed to investigate these complaints, but in the fall of 1882 it denied the merchants’ claims. Bismarck countered in April 1883 by questioning this verdict and calling for an inquiry by a mixed Anglo-German commission. But in July London flatly rejected the Chancellor’s proposal, indicating it regarded the matter as closed.24 These developments, coupled with the memoranda of Kusserow, Woermann, and the Hanseatic trading interests, produced a change in Bismarck’s overseas policy. This was revealed by the Chancellor’s altered attitude toward the case of F. A. E. Liideritz, a Bremen tobacco merchant who had branched out into the west African trade. In November 1882 Liideritz had asked that a trading establishment which he planned to set up on the still independent southwest coast of Africa be accorded “the protection of the flag of the German Empire.” Under questioning by officials of the German Foreign Office in Jan¬ uary 1883, the merchant had made clear he was thinking only in terms of the usual consular protection the Reich granted to Germans abroad, plus an occasional visit by a German warship. But even this was too much for the Bismarck of early 1883. A despatch which he had State Secretary Hatzfeldt send to London on February 4 stated that Berlin was ready to grant Liideritz the same protection it usually accorded to Germans living abroad, but wished beforehand to inform London in case the latter “should now perhaps exercise rights of sovereignty in those regions or intend to grant protection.” This despatch disavowed any interest on the part of the German government in “overseas proj¬ ects” and indicated it “would be only too happy to see England extend her efficacious protection to the German settlers in those regions.” The despatch added that Germany “naturally reserved the right to grant such protection herself if the settlements in question lay outside Eng¬ land’s influence or the influence of another friendly power.” But its point was clearly that Berlin would be delighted to be relieved of the responsibility of looking out for its subjects in such a remote region. 23. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, 281, c. 55, July 2, 1883. 24. Hagen, Kobnialpolitik, pp. 91-92.
Obviously, as of February 1883, Bismarck had not altered his long¬ standing opposition to colonies for Germany.25 By August his attitude was markedly different. At that time Liideritz, who had meanwhile acquired land at the harbor of Angra Pequena on the southwest coast north of the Orange River, reappeared to ask about the state of his petition, which had become bogged down during March after London requested information about the exact location of the merchant’s projected acquisitions, something Berlin could not sup¬ ply. Bismarck’s altered outlook is revealed in his marginal comments on the report of Viktor von Bojanowski, the German Foreign Office official who interviewed Liideritz. Bojanowski, a staunch upholder of the Chancellor’s long-standing anticolonial policy, reported he had told Liideritz the Reich in no sense regarded his acquisitions as under its sovereignty and would not take on the task of defending his trading establishment against the natives. Bismarck agreed with Bojanowski’s first point, noting in the margin that if England had not taken posses¬ sion, sovereignty resided either with Liideritz or the native chieftain, not with the Reich. But he balked at Bojanowski’s statement that the Reich would not defend Liideritz’ interests. “We shall always seek,” he scrawled in the margin, “to protect his lawfully acquired rights as long as he is a German subject.” For Bismarck this was a significant broadening of the Reich’s obligations to Germans living overseas. Equally indicative of his altering attitude was his reaction to Liideritz’ plans to expel a British merchant who was contesting his title to the islands in the harbor of Angra Pequena. The Bremen trader, Bismarck wrote in the margin, must drop all such ideas and seek instead to get along with the British. But at the same time the Chancellor authorized a “cautious inquiry” by the German embassy in London regarding England’s claims in the area. Significantly, he said nothing about renew¬ ing the request for an extension of British protection along the south¬ west coast.26 There were soon further indications of Bismarck’s changing attitude. On August 15, for example, he ordered that the Angra Pequena matter be discussed in the governmental press, specifying that it should be stated more emphatically than it had been to Liideritz that “the 25. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 27ff. The translations here are based on the portions of the Gennan documents printed by Aydelotte, p. 38. The originals, like most of those concerning Angra Pequena, are now in the East German Zentralarchiv, Potsdam, and were not available for this study. 26. Jaeck, “Annexion,” p. 51; Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 32-33, 38-39.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
Bremen firm could count on the protection of the German government as long as its enterprise did not collide with the rights of foreigners.” Accompanying this order were instructions to mention that the govern¬ ment was still hesitant about overseas undertakings because of its memory of the defeat of the Samoan Subsidy Bill of 1880, which caused it to doubt whether there would be sufficient support in the Reichstag. Obviously, Bismarck was sounding public, or at least press, opinion on the colonial question. From all accounts, the reaction was generally affirmative, with the bulk of the “respectable” press favoring support for Liideritz’ project.27 Even before this response was registered, the Chancellor had taken an important step. On August 18, 1883, he instructed the German consul in Cape Town to accord Liideritz assistance and extend consular pro¬ tection to his establishment at Angra Pequena.28 Then in early Sep¬ tember his instructions to Bojanowski were executed by the German embassy in London, which informed the British government of Liideritz’ purchase of land and inquired unofficially whether Great Britain claimed title to the Bay of Angra Pequena, and if so, on what grounds.29 Conspicuously absent from this inquiry was any mention of a German desire to see England extend “its efficacious protection” to Angra Pequena. Clearly, Bismarck had adopted a new policy with regard to southwest Africa. What exactly was this new policy? As William O. Aydelotte has noted in his book Bismarck and British Colonial Policy, the obvious aim of the Chancellors September inquiry was to get on the record a British statement to the effect that London had no title to Angra Pequena and the surrounding area.30 Moreover, there seemed every reason to expect this would be the English reply. Ever since 1880, when Bismarck had sought to get protection for German missionaries on the southwest coast, London had repeatedly denied having posses¬ sion of, or responsibility for, any territory other than the Cape Colony’s enclave at Walfisch Bay and a few offshore islands.31 Aydelotte’s 27. Ibid., pp. 33, 39; Schiissler, Liideritz, p. 61; Great Britain, Accounts and Papers, 1884, 56 [c. 4190], “Correspondence respecting the settlement at Angra Pequena, on the S. W. Coast of Africa,” enclosure in No. 8. 28. Printed in “Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte iiber die Verhandlungen des Reichstages, Anlagenbande, I. Session 1884/85, 5, 168. 29. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, p. 34. 30. Ibid., p. 36. 31. Ibid., pp. 44-45.
conclusion is that Bismarck wanted to get an unequivocal admission from Britain of her lack of title to the area in order to clear the way for a German occupation. That is, he maintains that as of September 1883 Bismarck had already resolved to take possession of Angra Pequena for the Reich. There is another way of explaining the Chancellor’s desire to secure a British disclaimer on Angra Pequena: namely, that he hoped such a British statement would solve the problem in a manner that would eliminate the necessity for a German seizure. The indications are strong that he felt it would be embarrassing for his government if another power took possession, since Liideritz’ undertaking had aroused interest and sympathy in many quarters within Germany. On the other hand, there is no sign that he had ceased to regard overseas possessions as risky burdens. It therefore seems very likely that he hoped a foreign seizure of Angra Pequena could be averted by the simple expedient of securing an admission from Britain that she had no claim to the region. There was, after all, not the slightest evidence that any other European country had any interest whatever in that arid coastal zone, described by one explorer as too inhospitable even for a penal colony.32 Once the British disclaimer was on the record, Germany could use it to uphold the independence of the area, with sovereignty regarded as resting either with the native chieftains or with Liideritz, as Bismarck had suggested in his notation on Bojanowski’s report. In that way, Liideritz’ settlement would be free of foreign domination and the Reich would be free of the responsibility for a colony. There is a good deal of evidence to support this hypothesis. For example, the hurried search for a solution to the problem of administer¬ ing overseas territories that accompanied Bismarck’s decision to act in the spring of 1884 reveals that he had not set planning in motion along those lines in the fall of 1883, as he surely would have done had he contemplated taking possession of an African territory at that time. Also, when he learned in August that Liideritz’ overzealous assistant had hoisted the German flag at Angra Pequena, the Chancellor grew alarmed lest it be interpreted as signaling German annexation. Un¬ doubtedly at his direction, the government-inspired press issued a warning against viewing the grant of consular protection to Liideritz as the assumption of sovereignty by the Reich.33 Admittedly, it can be objected that Bismarck was only taking precautions to avoid arousing British suspicions, for he was indeed concerned about London’s reac32. P. E. Schramm, Deutschland und Vbersee (Braunschweig, 1950), p. 307. 33. Schiissler, Liideritz, pp. 60, 76.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
tion to the whole Liideritz venture.34 But the consistency with which he adhered to this position, within the government as well as in public, indicates it was his real policy. There was also a precedent for the attempt to secure a solution for Angra Pequena short of annexation. In the 1870s the Spanish had revived claims to the Caroline and Palau islands in the Pacific that dated back to the fifteenth century. At that time the British and German governments cooperated to oppose Spain, basing their position on the fact that the Spaniards exercised no effective governmental authority over the islands. In 1877, in the so-called Madrid Protocol, Spain formally renounced her claims. Since then, the independence of the islands had been universally respected.35 By December 1883 the case of the Spanish claims in the Carolines and Palaus appeared in the German exchanges with England over Angra Pequena, and the chances are good that it had been brought to Bismarck’s attention even earlier by his staff.36 If proof is needed that Bismarck was not ready to consider a German seizure of African territory in the latter part of 1883, it is provided by his rejection of repeated proposals that he annex part of the Cameroons coast. The threat of a foreign takeover was acute there, the British consul, Edward Hewett, having returned in the spring of 1883 to resume his negotiations with the native chieftains. But despite re¬ newed warnings from Woermann and other Hamburg interests that an English annexation would surely ensue if Germany hesitated, Bismarck declined to consider seizing part of the coast. Instead, on December 22 he announced to the Hanseatic interests that he had decided to station a German warship off the west coast and to dispatch a special com¬ missioner, pending the appointment of a permanent consul. The commissioner, and eventually the consul, would be instructed to nego¬ tiate commercial treaties on behalf of the German Empire with the native chieftains of the still independent parts of Africa. It was carefully stipulated, however, that the Reich had no intention of acquiring colonies, a step not in its interests. In addition to the measures about which he informed the Hanseatic interests, the Chancellor confidentially instructed the German Foreign Office to open negotiations with Spain concerning Fernando Po. But contrary to the recommendations of Woermann and the Hamburg Chamber, he specified that the aim should be merely the acquisition of rights for a naval station, not cession of 34. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, p. 39, n. 4. 35. Hagen, Kolonialpolitik, p. 64. 36. “Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte ... 5, 170-71.
the whole island to Germany.37 At the end of 1883 Bismarck was still determined to avoid acquiring overseas territory for Germany. There is nothing in the negotiations with Britain set in motion by Bismarck’s September inquiry about Angra Pequena that contradicts the hypothesis put forward above. The ill-fated course of that exchange of notes has been extensively covered in Aydelotte s book and need not be recapitulated in detail here.38 The essential point is that the British repeatedly failed to note the change in Bismarck’s policy, continuing to assume that he still wanted them to extend their protection to the southwest coast. At first, the London Foreign Office was unwilling to consider such a burdensome obligation. But early in the autumn, pres¬ sure from the Colonial Office and the Cape Colony blocked the dis¬ patch of a note that contained just the sort of disclaimer Bismarck wanted. There things rested until November, when Bismarck renewed his inquiry in more curt terms. Even then, the British Foreign Office failed to detect the new tone in the Chancellor’s communications. On November 17 the Foreign Secretary, Lord Granville, gave to the Ger¬ man ambassador, Count Munster, a reply he undoubtedly expected would please both Bismarck and the Cape Colony, as well as placate the anti-imperialists in the Liberal Party. In it he conceded that Britain did not have sovereignty over the southwest coast, with the exception of Walfisch Bay and the islands off Angra Pequena. But he then added that his government would regard it as an infringement of Britain’s “legitimate rights” if a foreign power made “any claim to sovereignty or jurisdiction” anywhere between the northern boundary of the Cape Colony and the southern boundary of Portuguese Angola.39 This reply by Granville only contributed to Bismarck’s confidence about extracting a forthright disclaimer from London, for in his inno¬ cence Granville had admitted that Britain had no title to Angra Pequena. He therefore set out to wring from London the admission that it had no “legitimate rights” on the southwest coast outside those small areas over which it held sovereignty. On December 27, 1883, he sent to Miinster the draft of a lengthy note containing a recitation of Britain’s numerous disavowals of sovereignty over the coast, some dating from the 1870s. Also included was a pointed reference to the criterion for possession of colonial areas agreed upon by England and Germany at the time of the affair of the Caroline and Palau islands: effective exercise of governmental authority. The draft closed by in37. Rudin, Cameroons, pp. 22ff.; Jaeck, “Annexion,” pp. 59-60. 38. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 34ff. 39. “Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte . . ., 5, 170.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
quiring what basis there was for British claims to the coast, if such in fact existed, and also what installations Britain had in the vicinity that would relieve Germany of her customary obligation to protect the rights of her nationals in regions where no civilized government held sway. As Bismarck well knew, no such installations existed. Obviously, he thought the British had cornered themselves and that he need only flush them out to get the formal disclaimer required to secure the independence of Angra Pequena and the adjacent region.40 Surprisingly, the British failed to see the change in Bismarck’s policy even after Munster delivered to the Foreign Office on December 31 a note based on the draft sent from Berlin four days earlier. In part, the Chancellor’s habitual secretiveness was responsible for this. Not only did Bismarck give no indication of his increased interest in Angra Pequena to the British ambassador in Berlin, Lord Ampthill, but he also refrained from informing even his own ambassador in London, Munster. The latter, an imperceptive individual, continued to assume that the Chancellor had no interest in overseas matters and encouraged the British to continue thinking the same. This is clearly revealed by a comparison of the note the ambassador submitted to the Foreign Office on December 31 with the draft sent from Berlin. The draft con¬ tained a number of testy formulations that betrayed real annoyance and impatience, but Munster removed or softened these, undoubtedly attributing them to a passing fit of ill-temper on the part of one of the officials who drafted despatches in Berlin.41 Still, even allowing for the failure of the ambassadorial channels to function properly as a consequence of Bismarck’s hypersecrecy, it required a goodly quantity of slow-wittedness for the British government to overlook the changed tone of the notes from Berlin and the absence of the earlier appeals for an extension of British protection. Bismarck, for his part, certainly did not intend to mislead the British. From his point of view the inquiries of September, November, and December were clear and precise, calling for simple answers that could easily be provided by a routine search of the British govern¬ ment’s files.42 Here he was perhaps a victim of his own precision, operating on the assumption that all statesmen gave diplomatic docu¬ ments the same kind of rigorous examination to which he subjected 40. Ibid., pp. 170-71. 41. See Accounts and Papers, “Correspondence respecting . . . Angra Pequena,” [C. 4190], enclosure in No. 38. 42. See his despatch to Munster, June 10, 1884, “Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte . . ., 5, 175.
those that came into his hands. It is also probable that he had forgotten the precise wording of the German note to London of February 4, 1883, and thus did not realize the extent to which that document, with its open appeal for British protection, had predisposed the British to think that was his aim. This would seem to be substantiated by the fact that the Chancellor was obviously taken aback when Munster later quoted to him the relevant passages of that despatch by way of explaining his own failure to detect the change in German policy.43 Bismarck’s December inquiry was to go unanswered for six months. In the course of this long silence from London he came to suspect that his inquiries might have moved the British to give concrete form to their ‘legitimate rights.” In the event, this is exactly what happened. The British Foreign Office, still unshaken in its belief that Bismarck would like to see the Union Jack over the southwest coast, turned the whole matter over to the Colonial Office. The latter in turn invited the government of the Cape Colony to annex the coast. The Colony’s officials were quite willing to do this, but quite unwilling to provide the money necessary to administer the new territory. Beluctant to renounce the coast, they delayed, stringing out their exchanges with the Colonial Office. The Foreign Office, for its part, considered the matter out of its hands and did nothing to force a decision.44 Although Bismarck did not know of these happenings, the indications are that he did learn of a disturbing development that took place in January 1884. This was the issuance of a warning to the German consul at Cape Town by an official of the colonial government. Referring to the news that a German gunboat had been ordered to visit Liideritz’ settlement, the official pointedly mentioned the “rightful interests” of his government on the southwest coast and expressed the hope that “the land which Liideritz purported to have bought” would not con¬ flict with these. The German consul’s report on this incident, from which these quotations are taken, reached Berlin in February and apparently inspired the despatch Bismarck had the German Foreign Office send to Munster on February 22.45 In it the ambassador was asked whether any discussion had transpired with Granville at the time the December note was handed over, but he was specifically 43. In his marginal notation on Munster’s report of June 6 he demanded to see a copy of the despatch of February at once: Auswartiges Amt [AA hereafter], England 78/1. In his reply of June 10 he clumsily sought to explain its wording away. (“Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte . . ., 5, 175.) 44. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 45ff. 45. “Angra Pequena,” in Stenographische Berichte . .
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
instructed to avoid raising the subject again, since Berlin was still await¬ ing the report of the gunboat on conditions at Angra Pequena.46 Evi¬ dently, Bismarck was hopeful of gaining a clue as to British intentions, but wanted to avoid precipitating a move on London s part until he had an official naval report on whether Angra Pequena was worth his efforts. During the first months of 1884 there were still other developments that must have contributed to Bismarck’s rising suspicions. Early in January London once again rejected his request for a mixed commis¬ sion on the Fiji claims.47 In February German traders in the still inde¬ pendent territory of Togo on the west African coast reported that after a visit there by a German warship the British governor of the Gold Coast had begun seeking to annex that part of the coast.48 Finally, on February 26 the British and Portuguese governments signed a treaty designating the mouth of the Congo River as Portuguese territory. Since Portugal was generally regarded as little more than Britain’s satellite in international affairs, this treaty was widely interpreted as a veiled move to extend British interests into central Africa. In Germany it led a number of important chambers of commerce to register strong protests with the government.49 By March Bismarck had definitely begun to suspect the worst of the British. On the ninth the Foreign Office official in charge of the Chancellor’s communications at his country home reported to Berlin that he thought the English had handled Germany’s just representa¬ tions “not only with indifference but with severity and deliberate in¬ justice.” By early April Bismarck was referring angrily to the Deutschfeindlichkeit of Gladstone’s government in despatches to his ambassa¬ dors in other capitals.50 The Chancellor’s mounting indignation may have been spurred by a further alarm signal concerning Angra Pequena which came in March. This took the form of a report handed in to the Foreign Office on the twenty-first by Liideritz, who had just returned to Germany to submit to the government the contracts by which he had acquired Iris holdings. In this report the merchant, in addition to setting forth his land claims, 46. The text is in Foreign Office to Bismarck, May 30, 1884: AA, England, 78/1. 47. Hagen, Kobnialpolitik, p. 93. 48. See Bismarck’s instruction to Nachtigal, May 19, 1884, in “Togogebiet und Biafra-Bai,” in Stenographische Berichte . . ., 5, 129. 49. Zimmermann, Kolonialpolitik, p. 60. 50. Wolfgang Windelband, Bismarck und die europaischen Grossmachte, 18791885 (Essen, 1940), pp. 557, 567.
recounted a talk he had had with the secretary of the governor of the Cape Colony in February. The secretary had told him, Liideritz re¬ lated, that a forgotten document had just been discovered which proved England’s title to Angra Pequena. In view of this development, the merchant asked prompt extension of the protection of the Reich to his holdings.51 In a letter written in Bremen on March 26 to his agent in Angra Pequena, Liideritz reported he had been accorded a very cordial reception by the officials in the Wilhelmstrasse. He had been given to understand, he wrote, that he had made a favorable impression with his report and could expect a summons to return to Berlin for final arrangements in the near future. Moreover, he informed his agent that he had been strongly urged to purchase the entire coast between his holdings and the Portuguese border to the north. He also instructed his agent to begin preparations for a visit from the new German com¬ missioner for West Africa, who he said would probably be Gustav Nachtigal, the man who was in fact about to be appointed. The com¬ missioner, wrote Liideritz, would call at Angra Pequena to sign treaties of friendship with the native chieftains.52 The Foreign Office official who, according to Liideritz’ letter to his agent, displayed the warmest interest and offered the most encourage¬ ment was Heinrich von Kusserow, the same man whose undiscovered misinterpretation of the Anglo-French convention had contributed so importantly a year earlier to the change in Bismarck’s attitude toward overseas questions. Now, in the spring of 1884, Kusserow was again to play a vital role. It was not, however, the role attributed to him by Marxists and other economic determinists: that of lackey to the capitalists. Kusserow was instead a disinterested imperialist, one of those men whose imaginations were genuinely fired at the prospect of great overseas dominions under the sway of their country even though they themselves had no economic stake in the colonial world. While he never traveled outside Europe, his enthusiasm for the exotic regions of the world was unbounded. His views on the subject became so notorious in the Foreign Office that even after his departure the South Seas were jokingly referred to there as Kusserowien.53 Long before Bismarck thought of acquiring overseas possessions, Kusserow was making plans for a German colonial empire, secretly keeping in his 51. Schiissler, Liideritz, pp. 74—75, 85—86. Apparently this was the last heard of this mysterious document. 52. C. A. Liideritz, ed., Die Erschliessung von Deutsch-Siidwest-Afrika durch Adolf Liideritz (Oldenburg, 1945), pp. 86ff. 53. Hagen, Kolonialpolitik, p. 62.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
office a map of Africa with prospective German possessions marked out on it.54 It has been repeatedly alleged, of course, that Kusserow was merely the front man for the business interests led by his brother-in-law, the banker Adolf von Hansemann.55 But from all accounts he was very much his own man, a vain and haughty member of the petty aristocracy who balked at being subordinated to anyone except Bismarck—and sometimes even at that.50 Moreover, if he served as his brother-in-law’s agent in 1884 he did a poor job. Hansemann and his associates did indeed acquire claims to part of South West Africa, the first German overseas possession. But they did so in June, after the grant of Reich protection had become public knowledge. There is no evidence that they benefited from Kusserow’s advance familiarity with Bismarck’s plans.5' If that official’s activities directly benefited anyone, it was not the great capitalists at whose door some writers would lay the responsi¬ bility for German overseas imperialism, but rather the small entre¬ preneur, Liideritz. And the indications are that Kusserow took up the merchant’s cause only because it provided him with a means of work¬ ing toward his dream of a German colonial empire. Contrary to the assumption of the economic determinists, it was not Kusserow’s familial tie to big business that enabled him to play his important role in the spring of 1884. He was called upon instead because of the special function he filled for Bismarck: that of idea man. Kusserow was an almost compulsive composer of long and exhaustive memoranda that bristled with ideas, many impractical but some quite good. It was one such memorandum, dealing with the question of German unity, that first drew Bismarck’s attention to Kusserow in 1863 and won him advancement in the diplomatic corps.58 Thereafter, the Chancellor was to complain about the excessive length of his memo54. Max Buchner, Aurora colonialis (Munich, 1914), p. 2. 55. Jaeck, “Annexion,” pp. 52—53; G. W. F. Hallgarten, Imperialismus vor 1914 (2nd ed. 2 vols. Munich, 1963), 1, 211-12; Fritz F. Miiller, DeutschlandZanzibar-Ostafrika (East Berlin, 1959), p. 135. 56. Konrad Guenther, Gerhard Rohlfs (Freiburg, 1912), p. 335. 57. Ludwig Sander, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonial-Gesellschaft fur SiidwestAfrika (2 vols. Berlin, 1912), 2, 51ff. Sander’s documents refute Hallgarten’s con¬ tention that Hansemann and associates were involved in South West Africa “von vornherein.” (Imperialismus, 1, 213.) 58. Heinrich von Poschinger, “Fiirst Bismarck und sein diplomatischer Generalstab. Der Gesandte v. Kusserow,” in his Bismarck-Portefeuille, 5 (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1900), Tiff. See also his “Aus den Denkwiirdigkeiten von Heinrich von Kusserow,” Deutsche Revue, 33 (1908), 63ff, 186ff, 267ff; also his “Bismarck in Kusserow’scher Beleuchtung,” in his Stunden bei Bismarck (Wien, 1910), pp. 199ff.
randa and the discursiveness of his oral reports. And after Kusserow had a brief trial in the Political Division in 1882-83, Bismarck pronounced him unfit for high-level diplomatic work. He did not dismiss him, how¬ ever, but returned him to the Legal-Commercial Division, where Kusserow became the Foreign Office’s expert on overseas questions. In the spring of 1884 Kusserow enjoyed good relations with the Chancellor who, while quite aware of his subordinate’s limitations, nevertheless found him a useful man to have on hand.59 It was only in the summer of that year that his fortunes began to decline. At that time he was censured by Bismarck for criticizing the Admiralty and made the error of contesting the Chancellor’s reprimand. From that point on, his in¬ fluence waned rapidly. In 1885 he was exiled to Hamburg as the Prussian government’s envoy there.60 It is clear from Liideritz’ letter of March 26 to his agent that Kusse¬ row had hopes of using the merchant’s case to break down Bismarck’s opposition to overseas involvement. It seems probable, in fact, that Kusserow even guided Liideritz in the preparation of his report of March 21.61 Moreover, unless the merchant’s letter was based on a misunderstanding or falsification of Kusserow’s words, it appears that the latter allowed his enthusiasm for imperialist schemes to lead him into overstepping his authority. As the documents of the next weeks reveal, Bismarck was by no means committed in late March to the positions attributed by Liideritz to the Foreign Office. It was only some weeks later, after considerable prodding by Kusserow, that Bismarck hesitantly began to consider action on Angra Pequena. In this process a crucial role was played by a memorandum Kusserow submitted to the Chancellor on April 8.62 This memorandum was Kusserow’s major contribution to the im¬ perialist cause in 1884, for in it he provided a formula for German overseas expansion that circumvented Bismarck’s objection that such a step would increase the government’s financial dependence on the Reichstag. The document began with a reminder of Britain’s continuing failure to respond to the German note of the previous December. Then Kusserow gave a somewhat exaggerated version of Liideritz’ holdings, 59. Guenther, Rohlfs, p. 335; Holstein, Papiere, 2, 29ff, 172. Since Holstein’s diary betrays more than a little resentment at the fact that he was excluded from the preparations for Bismarck’s overseas venture whereas Kusserow was privy to them, it seems likely the harsh remarks about Kusserow that he attributes to Bismarck may have been exaggerated. 60. Ibid., 171ff. Zimmermann, Kolonialpolitik, pp. 18-19, note. 61. This is asserted by Schiissler, Liideritz, p. 86. 62. Printed as “Beilage” to Deutsches Kolonialblatt, 9, September 1, 1898.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
citing the favorable report that had at last been received from the captain of the gunboat sent to reconnoiter at Angra Pequena. Finally he came to his proposals, two alternative lines of action designed to protect Liideritz’ holdings. One called for the Reich, acting through Commissioner Nachtigal, to negotiate with the chieftains of the region treaties sanctioning the transfer of the territories in question to the merchant and, in addition, guaranteeing their independence. Sov¬ ereignty, Kusserow stipulated, would remain with the chieftains, though Liideritz might exercise some governmental powers. His alter¬ native proposal involved granting Liideritz a special concession along the lines of the British royal charters. Here Kusserow pointed out that only three years earlier London had revived this institution in North Borneo. The virtue of the charter system, he pointedly noted, was that it involved almost no responsibility or expense for the home country. When, years later, Bismarck complained, “von Kusserow dragged me into the colonial whirl,” he was very likely thinking of this memorandum of April 8, 1884. It was carefully calculated to overcome his misgivings and succeeded in doing just that, for his marginal notations reveal a perceptible weakening of resistance. At the end of the document, he approved Kusserow’s proposal that the possibility of a charter be dis¬ cussed confidentially with the Reich’s legal experts. He then noted that the idea of treaties with the chieftains might be even better. Though not yet ready to act, Bismarck was now willing to consider going much further than he had previously contemplated.63 Soon after he made these notations, Bismarck abandoned his hesi¬ tancy in the face of a new development. This was an urgent renewal by Liideritz of his plea for protection, based on a telegraphic report from his agent in Cape Town to the effect that the government there was about to claim Angra Pequena.64 It was probably upon hearing this that Bismarck announced to Kusserow, as the latter recalled many years later, “now let us act.” 63 On April 19 the Chancellor summoned Liideritz, assured him that his possession would be protected, and asked for a memorandum on his plans for organizing the territory.66 On the twenty63. For his later remark about Kusserow, see E. W. Pavenstedt, “A Conversa¬ tion with Bismarck,” Journal of Modern History, 6 (1934), 38. For his marginal notations, see above, note 62. 64. Liideritz to German Foreign Office, April 8, 1884, printed in C. A. Liideritz, Erschliessung, pp. 65ff. 65. Heinrich von Kusserow, “Fiirst Bismarck und die Kolonialpolitik,” Deutsche Kolonialzeitung, 15 (1898), 299. 66. Liideritz to Vogelsang, April 21, 1884, printed in C. A. Liideritz, Erschliessung, pp. 88ff.
quite possible that Hewett’s mission would have been accelerated, for London later contested the German seizure of the Cameroons. As it was, Hewett proceeded at a normal pace, arriving at the mouth of the Cameroons River on July 19, five days after Nachtigal had raised the German flag there. During the next weeks a race ensued along the coast of the Cameroons, with Nachtigal staying just ahead of his English rival.92 Quite to the contrary of Taylor’s assertion, the Cameroons were by no means “acquired without difficulty.”93 Had it not been for Bismarck’s hypersuspiciousness, it is questionable whether Germany could have succeeded in snatching them away from the British. In preparation for the coming showdown with Britain, Bismarck had begun cultivating France as early as April 24, the day he placed Angra Pequena under protection of the Reich. For Taylor, these negotiations were an end in themselves, while Bismarck’s colonial ventures were only a means to that end. Actually, just the opposite was the case: Bismarck’s advances to France were the result of his colonial policy, not its cause. As a close reading of the documents cited by Taylor himself reveals, the Chancellor’s primary aim in his conversation with French Ambassador Courcel on April 24 was to encourage the French to exploit Britain’s predicament in Egypt and to agree to a FrancoGerman alignment against the British at the forthcoming financial con¬ ference. Colonial questions were, as Taylor correctly reports, discussed. But what Taylor fails to see is that they were brought in by Bismarck only in the course of his efforts to convince Courcel that Germany’s readiness to oppose Britain on Egypt arose out of friction with that power overseas, not simply out of a desire to pit one neighbor against another. Furthermore, Bismarck was very vague about this overseas friction and in no way revealed his colonial plans or, as Taylor con¬ tends, suggested “a full colonial entente against England.” Nor did he propose a Franco-German “anti-English entente,” as Taylor alleges. Instead of such a bilateral arrangement, the Chancellor spoke, accord¬ ing to Courcel’s report, of “une sorte d’entente des neutres,” a multi¬ lateral grouping that would seek to preserve equal access to the still independent parts of the non-European world and act as a check on Britain’s preponderant maritime power.94 This attempt to ensnare the French and lay the Egyptian trap for 92. Rudin, Cameroons, pp. 41ff. 93. Taylor, Germany’s First Bid, pp. 32-33. 94. Courcel reported on this conversation in three communications to Premier Jules Ferry: telegram of April 24, Documents diplomatiques frangais [DDF here¬ after], 1st series, 5, 264-65, No. 246; private letter of April 25, ibid., 265-66, No. 247; report of April 25, ibid., 267ff, No. 249.
the eventuality of a clash with Britain over west Africa met with no success. The French, puzzled and suspicious about Bismarck’s motives, ignored his overtures and entered into talks with London that yielded a set of preliminary understandings on the Egyptian question on June 7, three weeks prior to the opening of the conference. Bismarck sought in a variety of ways to sabotage this Anglo-French alignment, but all his efforts failed.95 He therefore approached his confrontation with Britain without the weapon he had hoped Egypt would provide, since Ger¬ many could cause the British no difficulties as long as they had French support. That this left the Chancellor apprehensive is revealed by his wary attitude toward the June negotiations between his son Herbert and Granville concerning Angra Pequena. To Bismarck’s surprise and relief, once the British Foreign Office had managed to discover what he wanted, it gave way without offering the slightest resistance. Granville, stunned at suddenly being disabused of his belief that Bismarck wanted England to take over the southwest coast, apologized to Herbert von Bismarck in genuine embarrassment. At Granville’s urging, the cabinet decided on June 21 not to obstruct Germany’s designs on Angra Pequena. Contrary to Bismarck’s fears of a clash with Britain, it appeared that he had been handed exactly what he wanted, and at no cost to Germany.96 Anglo-German relations naturally warmed in the wake of these nego¬ tiations between Herbert von Bismarck and Granville, but the improve¬ ment was short lived. It lasted less than a month, until mid-July, when the long overdue British answer to Bismarck’s inquiry of December 1883 finally arrived. In it, Granville indicated Britain would not contest Germany’s right to protect her subjects at Angra Pequena. There was no mention, however, of a formal recognition of German possession. Moreover, Granville attached two provisos to England’s acceptance of the new German role on the southwest coast, requesting assurances that no penal settlement would be established there and calling for a joint Anglo-German commission to adjudicate conflicting claims of British and German subjects. This note, with its implicit assumption that Britain could lay down what terms she pleased to Germany, angered Bismarck. But even more disturbing was a report that reached him at about the same time: the Cape Colony parliament had voted unanimously on July 16 to annex the entire southwest coast up to the Portuguese border, including Angra Pequena.97 95. See the documents in A A, Aegypten 5/2. 96. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 92ff. 97. Ibid., pp. 106ff, 117ff.
Bismarck’s Imperialist Venture
To Bismarck it now seemed that the British had deliberately deceived him in order to snatch away the first German overseas possession. He therefore began to apply pressure to the Egyptian lever, a move made possible by the development of a quarrel between London and Paris during the first weeks of the financial conference. At his order, Munster, the German representative at the conference, threw his support behind the French and sought to harass the English in every possible way.98 These preparations for a collision with Britain over Angra Pequena proved unnecessary. As was soon established, the Cape Colony’s annexation was not the culmination of a plot to trick the Germans but only the result of more muddling within the Gladstone government and poor communications with the Cape officials. After a brief period of tension, the matter was cleared up entirely to Bismarck’s satisfaction, with Britain unconditionally accepting the Reich’s proclamation of a German protectorate over the whole southwest coast, excluding only Walfisch Bay.99 But even after this favorable turn of events, Bismarck found it expedient to continue his fraternization with France, for Germany’s new overseas policy soon embroiled her with Britain in other parts of Africa as well as in the South Pacific. The result was that beginning in August 1884, following the suspension of the deadlocked Egyptian conference, a Franco-German entente came into existence.100 The history of this Franco-German entente, which lasted into 1885, extends far beyond the confines of this study. It is important to recog¬ nize, however, that contrary to Taylor’s assertions, it was called into being by Bismarck in August, not April. Moreover, it was not an “entente” in the sense that word later came to have in European diplomacy: a continuing alignment just short of formal alliance. In the 1880s “entente” still meant nothing more than an informal accord, or understanding, on specific issues, with the German equivalent being merely the word for agreement, Abkommen.wl In addition, the FrancoGerman entente was not, as Taylor would have it, “a move in Bismarck’s European policy.” From the very outset, Bismarck explicitly limited his proposals of cooperation to extra-European affairs, to be more exact, those of Africa. As he had Hatzfeldt spell it out to Courcel on August 13, he proposed “an entente between France and Germany on the affairs of west Africa and Egypt.” To the considerable relief of the French, who were determined not to abandon their revisionist aims in 98. Windelband, Grossmdchte, p. 591. 99. Aydelotte, Colonial Policy, pp. 119ff. 100. See DDF, 1st series, 5, 365ff. 101. Bismarck to Hatzfeldt, August 7, 1884, in GP, 3, 413, No. 680.
west of Lake Victoria claimed by Stanley’s treaties be retained by Britain.82 The Cabinet’s decision threatened to undo Salisbury’s diplomacy. He had three alternatives: to convince the Germans to give way, to come to terms with Mackinnon, or, in his own words, “to throw up these negotiations now, and come to no result.” 83 To abandon the negotia¬ tions would have been a catastrophe, “a step into the unknown” as Salisbury put it.84 He thus had to turn either to the Germans or to Mackinnon or both. He first tackled the Germans; perhaps he regarded them as less formidable than Mackinnon. Salisbury met with Hatzfeldt after the Cabinet meeting on June 3 and told him of the Cabinet’s demands for the Stevenson Road and the territory claimed by Mackinnon’s company west of Lake Victoria. Not surprisingly Hatzfeldt displayed little enthusiasm for such exorbi¬ tant demands and held out no hope or interest in granting territory to the Imperial British East Africa Company south of 1 degree north latitude.85 Salisbury had no choice but to turn to Mackinnon. He had little use for Sir William Mackinnon and only desperation must have driven him to give way to that difficult Scot. The two men met late in the day of June 3, which had already proved so frustrating for the Prime Minister, and after failing to move Mackinnon, Salisbury reluc¬ tantly agreed that the Mackinnon Treaty should be ratified at once, but that an explanation should be added “making it clear that the Congo State was not making any cession of territory which might entail inter¬ ference from France.” 86 Once Salisbury had consented to the ratification of the Mackinnon Treaty with its Tanganyika corridor, Mackinnon and his clan could no longer insist upon the inclusion of the Tanganyika territory in the British sphere of the proposed Anglo-German agreement. They could hardly object to an agreement with the Germans which protected the Upper Nile for Britain when they had already received the Tanganyika corridor from the Congo State. But just as Salisbury was freeing himself from the Tanganyikan shackles with which Mackinnon and the colonial82. Cecil, Salisbury, 4, 283-85; Robinson and Gallagher, Africa and the Vic¬ torians, p. 293; Salisbury to Queen Victoria, June 4, 1890, Letters of Queen Vic¬ toria, 3rd series, 1, 610-11. 83. Cabinet memorandum by Salisbury, June 2, 1890, Salisbury papers (Mis¬ cellaneous), quoted by Robinson and Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians, p. 293. 84. Ibid. 85. Marschall to the Emperor, June 4, 1890, GP, 8, No. 1684. 86. Minute by Salisbury on Anderson’s record of meeting with Mackinnon June 3, 1890, FO 84/2082.
Origins of the Nile Struggle
ist group sought to bind him, the Germans returned with conditions which, now that Salisbury did not have to retain the Tanganyika territory, were quite acceptable. The Reinsurance Treaty with Russia had lapsed and the Wilhelmstrasse had by the end of May decided not to renew the line to St. Petersburg. It would have been much too hazardous to break the line to London as well. Marschall was thus prepared to split the difference, conceding the Stevenson Road in return for the Tanganyika territory west of Lake Victoria.87 To Salis¬ bury the Stevenson Road was vital, and with the Mackinnon Treaty a reality, he could now cavalierly abandon the territory claimed by Stanley’s treaties. On June 5,1890, Salisbury settled the principal terms of the Anglo-German Agreement with Hatzfeldt. On June 7, Mackinnon wrote Salisbury two letters, one in which he acquiesced in the Heligoland agreement and the other in which he privately informed the Prime Minister that the Mackinnon Treaty had been ratified by the representatives of the Imperial British East Africa Company and the Congo State.88 Leopold had made possible Salisbury’s defense of the Upper Nile by giving Mackinnon his Cape to Cairo fink. Although there had been desultory discussions between the Congo State and the Imperial British East Africa Company since 1888, the origins of the Mackinnon Treaty are to be found in the visit of Stanley and Mackinnon to King Leopold in Brussels in April. Mackinnon probably informed Salisbury of his conversations with the King when they dined at Windsor on May 6. On May 12, the Court of Directors authorized Sir William, as Chairman of the Imperial British East Africa Company, to complete his negotiations with Leopold. Salisbury was clearly kept fully informed of these transactions, and he saw how useful Leopold’s generosity would be in his own negotiations with Hatzfeldt. By May 20, the day before Salisbury abandoned British claims to the territory north of Lake Tanganyika, he knew the tenns of the com¬ pleted treaty and approved. On May 24, the treaty was submitted to the Court of Directors of the Imperial British East Africa Company and was confirmed by them: We, the Court of Directors of the Imperial East Africa Company having seen and examined the Convention signed on the 24th of May 1890 between the Imperial British East Africa Company and the 87. Marschall to Hatzfeldt, June 4, 1890, GP, 8, No. 1685; see Sanderson, England, Europe and the Upper Nile, pp. 61-62. 88. Mackinnon to Salisbury, June 7, 1890, FO 84/2083.
Independent Congo State, by Sir William Mackinnon on behalf of the Imperial British East Africa Company and Mr. Henry Morton Stanley on behalf of the Independent Congo State,—the text of which Con¬ vention is as follows: The Independent Congo State and the Imperial British East Africa Company being equally desirous to come to an understanding regard¬ ing the delimitation of certain parts of their respective spheres of action in Africa, have agreed as follows: The Independent Congo State and the Imperial British East Africa Company agree not to take any political action, the former to the Eastward, the latter to the Westward of a line drawn three miles from the shore along the whole western shore of lake Albert up to the mouth of the Semliki Biver, thence following the course of this River to its exit out of the lake Albert Edward, thence the whole of the western and southern shore line of that lake to the centre of the southern shore of the said lake, the islands and the waters between the said shore line and the meridian of the centre of the lake to be included within the limits of the Independent Congo State, and thence from the centre of the southern shore of Lake Albert Edward a straight line to the north comer of lake Tanganyika and the present frontier of the Independent Congo State. It is also hereby understood by the undersigned, that in considera¬ tion of the Imperial British East Africa Company agreeing not to take any political action on the left bank of the Nile between Kavalli’s territory on the left bank of the mouth of the Semliki River at the south west and of the Albert Nyanza, as far as Lado; and the recog¬ nition by the aforesaid Imperial British East Africa Company of the sovereign rights of the Independent Congo State over those terri¬ tories, the Independent Congo State recognizes on its part the sov¬ ereign rights of the Imperial British East Africa Company, from a line drawn from the centre of the southern shore of lake Albert Edward straight to the north comer of lake Tanganyika—or, if convenient to the Independent Congo State, a few miles westerly and about parallel with the frontier line of the State, and in that case so arranged as not to impede the absolute control of the State over this portion of its territory, which may lie East of this line—over a terri¬ tory which shall be on an average five miles in breadth and inclusive of the district of Uzige of ten square miles at the northern end of lake Tanganyika. The present agreement being entered upon by Sir William Mac¬ kinnon on behalf of the Imperial British East Africa Company, after it had been ascertained that the British Government have no objec-
Origins of the Nile Struggle
tion to it, and Mr. Henry Morton Stanley on behalf of the Independ¬ ent Congo State, and accordingly signed by them, after exchange of their respective full powers, and subject to the ratification of the Independent Congo State and of the Board of Directors of the said Company within a delay of ten days. We, agreeing to the above Convention, approve, ratify, and con¬ firm it, and promise to have it faithfully carried out. This Convention mentions that a map is attached thereto. We hold that in case of any doubt it is the text of the Convention which shall be decisive between the parties. We have therefore signed the present ratification and have affixed our seal thereto.89 Although an Anglophile, Leopold of the Belgians was not inclined to pull Salisbury’s chestnuts out of the fire for nothing. His price for the Tanganyika corridor was access to the Nile. At the founding of the Congo State in 1885, King Leopold had come to terms with each of the powers interested in the Congo by a series of bilateral agreements. He had received a generous territorial settlement from the powers that had no territorial claims on the Congo River itself, but had had to fight for every inch of territory against France and Portugal, who claimed part of the same territory King Leopold insisted belonged to the Congo State. He was nearly defeated in his efforts to gain access to the Atlantic, and finally was forced to settle for a narrow stretch of land along the north bank of the Congo River, but he did gain an immense hinterland where there were no conflicting territorial claims, and where each of the Great Powers feared the advent of one of its rivals. The result of this struggle was that the Congo State emerged in the shape of a gigantic funnel, its deep cone stretching over much of central Africa and its narrow spout emptying into the Atlantic. The precise limits of this great funnel, as fixed by the various bilateral agreements, were contradictory. On August 1, 1885, King Leopold circulated his Declara¬ tion of Neutrality, the purpose of which was in part to standardize the Congo State’s limits by describing its boundaries. The Declaration of Neutrality not only traced the boundary where French and Portuguese claims were involved but also fixed the eastern frontier of the vast Congo hinterland at the 30 degree meridian. Unlike the boundary de¬ marcating the French and Portuguese territories at the mouth of the Congo River, however, the 30 degree meridian was not an obstacle to eastward expansion by the Congo State, and the way to the Upper Nile 89. Convention between the Imperial British East Africa Company and the Independent Congo State, May 24, 1890, AEC, 364/IV/3.
from the west remained free and clear. This was the region where Leopold and Mackinnon hoped to delimit “certain parts of their re¬ spective spheres” by the Mackinnon Treaty. Mackinnon got his corridor, thereby preserving the All-Red Route; King Leopold received access to the Upper Nile. Once Salisbury had settled with Mackinnon and the Germans, he turned to the amendments designed to circumvent the French right of preemption. On June 4 he had observed: In view of the attitude wh. is quite uncompromising, now taken by the German Govt, as to the Northern limit of German influence, I do not think it necessary to concede more [to the Congo State] than is indispensable in order to protect the Congo State from French reclamations.90 Salisbury was making two distinct observations. On the one hand he was recognizing that “the German Government . . . would view with considerable objection the concession of territory at the back of their own sphere without their knowledge and consent.”91 On the other hand he was expressing fear of France’s reversionary rights under the Franco-Congolese agreement of 1884. He ingeniously solved both these problems at one stroke. In a letter of June 9 to King Leopold he sug¬ gested that the King attach a “declaration” to the agreement to the effect that the British company would not acquire sovereign rights over the corridor territory, which otherwise might “give rise to embarrassing claims on the part of France”; but only “a concession of such rights as can properly be conveyed by the Ruler of the Congo State to a public Company.”92 Salisbury could thus, if necessary, turn to both the 90. Minute by 84/2082.
Salisbury on Anderson’s
91. Salisbury to King Leopold, Confidential, June 9, 1890, AEC, 364/IV/4. 92. Ibid. Salisbury’s draft declaration was muddled or at best ambiguous, per¬ haps intentionally so. It read: “Declaration: In regard to the agreement signed between the Independent Congo State and the Imperial British East Africa Com¬ pany on the 20th May 1890, it is hereby declared to be understood that this agreement is subject to the condition that the recognition of sovereign rights of the Imperial British East Africa Company over certain territory defined therein shall not be interpreted as a cession by the Independent Congo State of its sovereign rights over that territory, immediate or prospective in any manner or to any extent which it is not competent for the Ruler of the Congo State freely to make under the International engagements taken in 1884; but only as a con¬ cession of such rights as can properly be conveyed by the Ruler of the Congo State to a public Company.”
Origins of the Nile Struggle
French and the Germans and say that since there was no transfer of sovereignty there was nothing to which they could object, and that since the corridor was in the nature of a concession, it did not violate the Anglo-German Agreement. This was an extremely clever move on Salisbury’s part. It was, as he himself might have said later in regard to the aftermath of the treaty, “too clever by half.” Salisbury’s proposed “declaration” was clearly to the advantage of King Leopold, who accepted it in modified form in a letter of June 22.93 On July 9 Salisbury closed the Mackinnon negotiations by writing to Leopold the following confidential letter: Foreign Office, July 9, 1890 Sir, I have carefully considered the letter which Your Majesty did me the honour to address to me on the 22nd ultimo; and I beg have to state that I see no objection to the adoption of the proposed amend¬ ments in the declaration to be annexed to the arrangement with the British East Africa Company. The declaration, in its present form, seems adapted to the purpose for which it is intended, that of pre¬ venting misapprehension as to the character of the arrangement. It shall be at once communicated to the Company with an intimation that their acceptance of it will meet with the approval of Her Majesty’s Government. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your Majesty’s most obedient humble servant, Salisbury.94 Certainly Mackinnon thought that his treaty had been consummated. In a letter to Salisbury on June 7 he had written that “the business is now completed and the agreement ratified, but it is understood that the document is for the present to be kept secret, [deleted] private. I explained to the Count [de Lalaing, with whom Mackinnon ex¬ changed ratifications] that Your Lordship thought certain expressions used in the agreement would required to be slightly altered or modified, 93. King Leopold to Salisbury, June 22, 1890, AEC, 364/IV/5. 94. Salisbury to Leopold, July 9, 1890, AEC, 364/IV/6.