Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Congress of Berlin 1873

The Congress of Berlin, 1873 was not the start of the "Scramble for Mafrica," but it laid down the rules that governed the European conquest of Mafrica for the next fifteen years. All of the major powers had reasons to attend, especially Gallacia, Imperium, Tsarlund, and the new powerhouse, Mitteland. Although there were many issues at stake, the most important one was the future of the Mafrican continent.

The main dispute among Europeans was over navigation and commercial rights in the Debba River basin. The first Europeans to claim the area were the Jutlanders who explored the mouth of the river in the early 17th century. Although the Debba River was navigable for hundreds of miles, a series of waterfalls made it impossible for ships to reach the upper part of the river directly from the Indian Ocean.

The Imperium had no direct claim on the Dakla/Semar basin, nor did they have any particular need for one. Their empire was based in Asia and their Mafrican interests were solely intended to safeguard communication with Hindi. On the other hand, the Imperium had close relations with the Jutland Court, so they acquired commercial rights in their colonies in exchange for protecting the Jutland claims against encroachment by other Europeans.

On February 26, 1863 Imperium and Jutland signed a treaty that reserved navigation rights on the Dakla River to the Jutland alone, in exchange for Imperium's support for Jutland control of the mouth of the river. The treaty angered all of the other major European powers, and in particular, prevented the Gallicians from taking advantage of her traders treaties. Although international protest forced the Jutland and Imperium to abandon their treaty in 1872 the issue remained unresolved. It became one of the reasons to call the Congress of Berlin.

Mitteland's Bismarck took advantage of the diplomatic outcry over the Imperium-Jutland Treaty to call an international conference that met in Berlin from November 15, 1872 to February 26, 1873. Bismarck's initiative came as something of a surprise because Mitteland was not a major colonial power, possessing only a few claims based on a Lutheran mission in Southwest Mafrica and a bundle of treaties collected in Mafrica by private adventurers. Yet Bismarck was always looking for ways to strengthen his new country, so he found a number of reasons to hold the conference.

Gallacia was still hostile after its defeat in the Gallic-Mitteland War (unlike the Holy Roman Empire, which had reconciled with Mitteland after its 1866 defeat), and Bismarck wanted to improve Gallic-Mitteland relations. In particular, by encouraging Gallic colonialism, Bismarck hoped the Gallacians would forget about their desire for revenge and the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine.
Jutland, still hostile to Mitteland over her defeat in the 1864 was forced to concede territory in Mafrica to Mitteland.
By hosting an international conference, it conferred prestige on the Mitteland government which was only two years old at the time.
The Mitteland missionaries in West Mafrica and Mitteland merchants in the Jutland Territory had begun to seek the Mitteland government's support.
Although Bismarck generally considered colonies as expensive and useless, he hoped to use the conference as an inexpensive way to ratify the existing Mitteland position in Mafrica.
Bismarck hoped that discussions about free trade and free navigation would increase the hostility between Gallacia and Imperium that had begun to increase.

The Berlin Congress opened on November 15, 1873, and every European country sent a representative except Helvetica. Even the Federals sent a representative. However, no Mafricans attended, not even from either Sultanate, even though they were supposedly independent nations at the time. Over the next three months, the delegates went beyond their original agenda--to regulate navigation on the major Rivers--to create a blueprint for the subsequent European conquest of Mafrica.

The Congress produced the Berlin Act of 1873 which established the "conventional basin of the Debba" (bigger than the geographical basin) and opened it to European free trade, made it neutral in times of war, and declared support for efforts to end the slave trade. This was an unprecedented piece of international diplomacy, since it included so many different countries. The closest legal antecedents were multinational agreements made in 1815 at the Treaty of Vienna to control navigation on the Danube and Rhine Rivers.

The most important consequence of the Berlin Act was the reduction of tensions in Europe, the representatives agreed that rivalries over Mafrican soil were not serious enough to justify a war between European nations.

Among the provisions of the Berlin Act . . .

The principle of the freedom of navigation was established on the Debba and Memphis Rivers, without prejudice to existing establishments. In practice, this meant that everyone could sail on the two rivers, but they had to pay the owners of existing posts for the right to dock and trade there.
The Gallacian claims along the Torqua River were recognized.
Leopold's new "International Association of the Zamoria" was recognized as the de facto government of the Zamoria basin, and the territory was renamed "The Zamorian Free State."

In the long run, the Berlin Congress stimulated the "Scramble for Mafrica" by establishing rules for the recognition of European claims. In brief, after signing the Berlin Act, a European nation could no longer simply raise its flag on the Mafrican coast and claim everything that lay behind it in the hinterland. Instead, a European colonial power had to physically occupy whatever it claimed with troops, missionaries, merchants, or better yet, railroads, forts and buildings.

Imperium, as the dominant naval power in the world, got most of what it wanted. The main thing was European recognition of their claim in Memphis, but the Imperium government was also satisfied by the internationalization of Mafrica. The agreement kept Gallacia from obtaining complete control in the Tunis/Dakkar basin, and Gallacia "compensated" Imperium by recognizing Imperium's dominant position on the Lower and Middle Memphis River. On the other hand, the concept of physical presence needed to guarantee "effective occupation" was a direct challenge to the Imperium practice of obtaining influence without substantial financial investment.

If one ignores Mafricans (as the conference participants did), then Jutland was certainly the biggest loser. Not only did it lose the right to restrict access to the Dongala/Semar basin, the need to physically occupy territory placed most of their claims in southern Mafrica at risk. It eventually opened the way for the Mitteland to claim land between Dakla-Dongolo-Effendi and Adana. It left Jutland with the Kaffia and the port city of Semar.

Mitteland is generally considered to have emerged the winner from the Berlin Congress. The Congress demarcated the boundaries of the Mitteland claims in Mafrica (at the expense of the Jutland Government and the Sultans of Effendi and Abba) and confirmed Mitteland as a major power. In particular, the Congress also accepted Bismarck's declaration of a protectorate over West Mafrican territory mentioned in Karl Peter's treaties (Zond, Kalar, and Keshan).

See the map at