The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
About Our journey from Alexandria to Paris
On the first of Genbot (= 9th May 1924) We embarked on a boat called ‘Cordillere’, and when the ship began its journey a farewell salute was fired by cannon.
On the 6th of Genbot (= 14th May), when we had passed Corsica and came within view of the great fortifications at Toulon, a warship came to receive Us. From there until we approached Marseilles, many aeroplanes were hovering in the air. As five warships passed on the right and left of our ship, they fired their guns.
As We disembarked from the ship, the Prefect of the district of Marseilles and the Mayor of the city, together with many officials, received Us. Among these We were very pleased to see and to meet M. Lagarde who, since the days of my father H.H. Ras Makonnen, had been the friend of Ethiopia and Ourselves and had formerly been France’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Ethiopia.
After We had rested a little in the Marseilles government buildings, the officers of the warships came and took Us to sea once more in order to show Us the warships. Thus We saw the strength of the construction and the size of the guns and then returned greatly impressed.
On the morrow, 8th Genbot (= 16th May), in the evening, We departed by train for Paris; and when We reached Paris at 4.30 in the morning (= 10.30 a.m.), the new President of the Republic, H.E. M. Millerand, and the Prime Minister, M. Poincare, all the ministers in full, Marshal Foch and many other generals received Us with great honour. It was in the Quai d’Orsay, in the palace of the Foreign Ministry, that quarters had been prepared for Us and, seated with the President in an automobile, we proceeded along the parade.
After We had rested a little in the palace, We went on a return visit to the President of the Republic at the Elysee Palace, and subsequently returned.
The programme had laid down that afterwards We should visit the Paris Municipality (Hotel de Ville), and at the appointed hour We proceeded there. When We arrived, We found assembled there the President of the Republic and all the ministers, army officers, and the city’s notables. When we entered the great hall, the Mayor (President du Conseil Municipal), M. Juillard, and the President of the municipal councillors made a speech of friendship, which greatly touched Our heart, and they expressed to Us their pleasure.
All the amazing things which We saw in Paris and its surroundings were very numerous. Of the many sights We saw during Our stay at Paris, the following are the principal ones: The tomb of Napoleon (Invalides), the airport and an aeroplane display, a tank parade and movement exercise, the Opera, Notre Dame de Paris, the Palace of Justice, the Mint (this is the place where the coins were struck on which the effigy of Menelik II appears), the offices of the Legion d honneur, the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Palace of Fontainebleau, the Radio assembly hall in St. Elysee(?) [perhaps St. Assisse?], the artillery college and artillery range.
It was quite impossible to express in words, on account of the abundance of joy in Our heart, the pleasure We felt until the official visit ended, when We were hearing speeches of friendship which were delivered at receptions and banquets, beginning with the President of the Republic, H.E. M. Millerand, and including the Prime Minister, M. Poincare, and other French authorities, and also when We inspected the various palaces which We have enumerated above.
When Our official visit was over, We thought of staying on here in Paris in order to have friendly discussions about some matters with the French Government and with the Franco- Ethiopian Railway Company; and, secondly, as We were desirous to rest here in Paris on Our return at the conclusion of each of the official visits to the other governments who had done Us the honour of an invitation, We told Our friend, M. Lagarde, that he should seek and arrange for Us a rented rest-house. When he let us know of the readiness of a house on the outskirts of Paris, called ‘Villa Camasterand’(?), We went there now at the conclusion of the official visit and took up residence. As soon as it was known that the official days were over, the Ethiopian boys whom We had sent to France for their studies assembled and came to meet Us. Andarge Massai who was among them made the following speech of thanks in the name of all of them:
‘Your Highness! We feel pride in our heart when we read, and when we find it written by foreign historians, that our Ethiopian forefathers in ancient times excelled the whole world in wisdom and in strength, and that they were honoured and feared as they made their power known as far as the land of Egypt by establishing their cities in Meroe and Napata.
But as it is in the Ge’ez language that all our books in our country were written and as the skill of printing did not exist, it makes us very sad that, apart from a few scholars, the people as a whole do not know the history of the country.
But now, through Your goodness and Your endeavour, the whole world has been impressed by Your sending us abroad for study, thinking that Ethiopia will be civilized in wisdom and in knowledge as of old and that she will open her eyes; the whole world has been impressed by Your founding of schools at Addis Ababa and in other provinces, by Your establishing a printing press and causing ancient books, which had been written in Ge’ez, to be translated into Amharic and to be printed, as well as bringing good fortune to the people.
We, Ethiopia’s sons, remain unceasingly grateful to You because you have made us study, helping all those of us in difficulty, so that we should follow European civilization and should know Ethiopian history.
But now, the distinguished invitation which the European governments have extended to You, and not to any of the kings of Ethiopia in the past, has come because they know that under Your excellent guidance You will cause Ethiopia to be civilized; and Your arrival has made the name of Ethiopia heard all over the world.
Ethiopia has the duty to thank You, for her joy is not only for the present moment but will be lastingly transmitted from generation to generation. And we in Paris are convinced of our good fortune in seeing our three-coloured flag fluttering suspended on the masts. Therefore, the whole Ethiopian people, the dead ones in heaven, the living on earth, are in duty bound to give praise’, he concluded speaking at length.
In support and encouragement of the speech which had been delivered, We reassured them in the following peroration:
Our thought, as We are helping everybody to the best of our ability, is not only for the few of you here but for all the sons of Ethiopia who should have the opportunity of acquiring education and knowledge. We pray to God that He may grant you to serve your country Ethiopia by persevering in education and by acquiring wide knowledge. For the future, have courage, for We shall help you to the best of Our ability, so that you should not have any sort of financial difficulty until you finish your studies.’ They expressed to Us their heartfelt joy at what We had said to them.
As the official visit ended and We were staying in the specially arranged accommodation, important Frenchmen, who had been friends of the Ethiopian government and in particular of H.H. my father as well as of myself, began to arrive and to pay Us visits. After this We requested an appointment with the Prime Minister, M. Poincare, in order to discuss amicably several matters; and on the appointed day We went to the Foreign Ministry.
What We had intended to discuss was that the French should give us a free gateway to the sea at Jibuti, and prior to Our departure from Addis Ababa, as We informed the French Minister that this was a matter We particularly wished to discuss, some hope had been given to Us; consequently, if they agreed to do this, they should let us know what it was the French government wished to have in exchange for this from Us.
Secondly, the treaty of friendship between the Ethiopian and French governments, referred to as the Klobukowski treaty, and in particular the judicial matters laid down in paragraph 7, were extremely irksome to us and, without abrogating the treaty, the two governments, while maintaining its usefulness, might cause a few improvements to be effected.
When We informed M. Poincare of these Our intentions, he gave Us his word that he would present Our plan to Parliament and that they would think about it in the most friendly possible manner.
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November 5, 2016