by Adam Hochschild<br />King Leopold’s Ghost<br />
King Leopold II of Belgium<br />1835-1909<br />Dissatisfied with ruling a tiny country barely older than his own reign<br />Adept at manipulating press, public relations, and foreign powers<br />Exceedingly avaricious, though he learned to conceal this fact<br />Expensive tastes, especially for obtaining and renovating his palaces and initiating huge public works<br />He willbedesignatedhenceforth by thisgraphic:<br />
The Belgian Congo<br />Previously the Congo Free State (1884-1908)<br />
Henry Morton Stanley<br />1841-1904<br />Welsh explorer and journalist who passed himself off as American<br />Made several voyages of discovery through central Africa while writing newspaper dispatches to be telegraphed home<br />Travelled with a retinue of hundreds: cooks, guards, porters, scientists, etc., many of whom died along the way<br />Often cut his way through the jungle with machetes and opened fire on the natives with the slightest provocation<br />Public icon of his day<br />He willbedesignatedhenceforth by thisgraphic:<br />
General Henry Shelton Sanford<br />1823-1891<br />“General” is an honorary title, actually he was an American businessman and diplomat<br />Assigned originally as an American official to a diplomatic post in Belgium; when his term was up went to work for Leopold<br />He willbedesignatedhenceforth by thisgraphic:<br />
Taking over the Congo<br />Stanley goes on his first African adventure, the search for David Livingstone. He is successful, ensuring his undying fame. <br />Leopold realizes what a lucrative resource interior Africa is and determines to rule it. Publicly, he is outraged by “Arab” slave trading and wants to see the Congo liberated. He and Sanford <br />recruit Stanley.<br />Stanley goes back to Africa and forces chiefs, sometimes at gunpoint, to sign over all their land, labor, and trading rights to Leopold’s front agency.<br />Leopold needs official recognition of his Congo from other countries. He dispatches Sanford to the United States.<br />Sanford convinces Congress and the president to declare their recognition of the “Congo Free State”, as Leopold dubs his own private country, officially run by his front agency.<br />
Colonial Rule<br />Africans were seen as less than human. Leopold’s objective was to squeeze as much money from the Congo as possible before he died or market prices dropped. He cared about Africans only as a source of labor. They were put to work:<br />Carrying supplies<br />Building railroads<br />Chopping wood for steamships<br />Gathering rubber<br />
A soldier’s job:<br />-collect a given quantity of wild rubber<br />-keep the natives in line<br />How a soldier proceeded:<br />-take all the crops and animals found in a village<br />-kill a few villagers to make his point<br />-cut the right hands off the corpses <br />-take the women and children hostage<br />-send the men of the village out to gather rubber<br />-kill or beat any men who brought slightly less than the required amount of rubber<br />-release the hostages who hadn’t died in prison<br />-continue to next town<br />
E. D. Morel<br />1873-1924<br />Edmund Dene Morel was a British journalist and politician <br />Had a job with a company that contracted for King Leopold.<br />Realized while looking through the cargo lists of ships traveling to and from the Congo that the only explanation for the goods being transported was slave labor<br />Quit his job to write for newspapers and pamphlets full time, mostly in protest to Leopold’s Congo<br />He will be designated henceforth by this graphic:<br />
Roger Casement<br />1864-1916<br />British consul working in the Congo<br />Documented the abuses witnessed there in long, detailed reports<br />Couldn’t protest actively due to his position in the British government; his reports, however, were extremely important, and he donated generously<br />He willbedesignatedhenceforth by thisgraphic:<br />
The Conflict<br />Casement and<br />Morel met in England and together decided to establish<br />the Congo Reform Association. <br />The CRA held meetings across Europe and America, which drew thousands of supporters<br />Morel was particularly good at both fundraising and attracting well-known personalities to the cause. Politicians, clergy, and royalty all lent their voices.<br />King Leopold fought back by doing his best to get the press on his side. He bribed and traded favors and finally decided to send his own delegation of 3 judges to the Congo to report favorably on the situation. Unfortunately for Leopold, the delegation was so appalled by what they saw that they hindered his cause rather than helping it. <br />
Resolution<br />King Leopold was finally forced to sell the Congo to the Belgian government. <br />For his personal country, Leopold received:<br />-45.5 million francs towards his building projects<br />-50 million francs “as a mark of gratitude for his great sacrifices”<br />-Belgium assumed the Congo’s 110 million francs’ worth of debt<br />-all this in addition to the fortune he had made off his African slaves over the years<br />Morel reluctantly agreed that Belgian rule was an acceptable solution<br />The reports of atrocities coming from the Congo quieted down over the years, though not entirely. It was, after all, still the same companies and the same people operating in the Congo. <br />
Brief Analysis<br />Contemporary and historical sources both put the number of African deaths in the Congo during Leopold’s reign at roughly 10 million, half the area’s population. <br />The scary part?<br />That wasn’t at all an unusual statistic in similar parts of Africa.<br />Why the international outcry over the Congo?<br /> In a word, politics. Morel and many others were strong British nationalists, staunch supporters of colonialism. They deluded themselves into believing that it was just Leopold who was flawed, not the whole colonial system. <br />Also, the Congo was a huge area controlled by the king of a small, insignificant country. Europe was on the brink of the first world war and none too eager to upset its power balance. <br />Not until late in the nineteenth century would African states be able to really get justice.<br />
Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.<br />Work Cited<br />
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