Peterson 1 Jeanie Peterson Prof. McKnight Hum.

414 5 December 2011 Reign of Terror: 1885-1908 ―The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.‖1 King Leopold II is known to the Belgians as the ―builder king.‖ He is known to the Congolese as a tormenter, rapist, and murderer. At the start of his reign, Leopold II proclaimed, ―My ambition is to make Belgium greater, stronger and more beautiful.‖2 Elevation of Belgium was a way for him to elevate himself. Leopold, like his father, believed that having a colony was the key to achieve greatness for King and country. His father, King Leopold I, made over 50 attempts to colonize, all unsuccessful.3 Before the crown was securely placed on his head, Leopold II was determined to buy a colony. He tried Formosa, Sarawak, and the Fiji Islands until there was practically nowhere else to look.4 The Congo was Leopold‘s last chance. Since the Congo was relatively unknown to most Europeans, Leopold II turned to Henry Morton Stanley, the man responsible for opening up Africa for colonization when he successfully crossed Africa from east to west.5 With Stanley‘s help, it was possible for Belgium to colonize the central African country. Leopold II believed that a colony had to make money for the mother

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), Part 1, 3. ―White King, Red Rubber, Black Death,‖ DVD, directed by Peter Bate (London: BBC, 2003). 3 Ibid. 4 Tim Jeal, Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 235. 5 Ibid., 4.


Peterson 2 country.‖ 6 Upon hearing the news that Henry Morton Stanley had successfully crossed Africa signaled Leopold to act. by whatever means necessary.‖9 Stanley was eventually given new orders to obtain the signatures of the Congolese chiefs to name Leopold II as the official Sovereign. For Leopold II.‖ 6 . and the end was always money. The terror that Leopold II instilled in the heart of Africa will forever affect and haunt the Congolese. A Congolese historian said. he did not believe in investing in colonies to maintain them. 9 ―White King.7 Leopold used the organization as a disguise for his true intentions. Leopold sent Stanley with instructions to form a. ―It‘s true [Stanley] constructed something new to replace [the old Congo]. Stanley tricked the chiefs while Leopold tricked the European Powers. that he would continue free Thomas Pakenham. Red Rubber. And this new system was put at the service of the west and King Leopold II in particular. 1962). Unlike the other colonizing countries. 22. until after the devastation had already occurred. namely a new commercial and political logic. proclaiming himself as President. 25. 8 Ibid. 1992). ―republican confederation of free Negroes…with its president residing in Europe. Leopold convened the Brussels Conference in 1876 and enacted the African International Association. The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912 (New York: Avon Books. the end always justified the means. Creating a mask of paternalistic virtues. particularly the Dutch and the British. particularly from his Aunt. Black Death. 25. Queen Victoria of England. ―I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake. King Leopold’s Congo (London: Oxford University Press. 7 Ruth Slade. Leopold II was free to enforce the necessary means to reach his desired end result without the disapproval or interference from the other European powers. Leopold II promised the other European countries. Leopold II once wrote to an aide.‖8 Stanley was sent to build and construct a more modern Congo.

Leopold II was under no other jurisdiction but his own.13 Once in control. then perhaps he could win his colony. who at the time was struggling financially. and end the Arab slave trade. French. 14 Gann and Duignan. Although ivory was an important source of income. A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa (New York: Vintage Books.‖ or (in my own translation). 1979). Gann and Peter Duignan. He could rightly say. NJ: Princeton University Press.15 Leopold. 15 Russell Schimmer. 53 12 French. 35.‖ Yale University. 10 . If he flattered enough politicians. ―Genocide Studies Program: Belgian Congo. Taking advantage of this new growing necessity.12 In 1885 the Berlin Conference granted Leopold everything he desired and he was named the Sovereign of the Etat independent du Congo (Congo Free State).‖14 Leopold passed decrees that established his supreme power over the Congolese and began to monopolize its assets.Peterson 3 trade and navigation in the Congo basin. if he kept a stable of spies. 35.yale. it was rubber that dominated trade. found his ray of hope. 2005). In 1887. 10 Leopold promised the other Powers that his motives were humanitarian. http://www. ―L‘etat.html (accessed December 3. c‘est moi. That and the growing popularity of the automobile dramatically increased the need for rubber.H.B Dunlop invented the inflatable rubber bicycle tire.11 Author Pagan Kennedy wrote: His political insignificance made him invisible. Leopold II successfully exploited this major raw material. The Rulers of Belgian Africa 1884-1914 (Princeton. if he started enough rumors. maintain international neutrality. ―the state is me. if he spoke stirringly about the evils of the Arab slave trade. 40. that it was the ―white man‘s burden‖ to end slavery and bring civilization and progress to the Congo. 13 Slade. and so he could do whatever he wanted without attracting notice. 11 Howard W. 53. 2011). The Congo soon became the second largest L. 25 and Gann and Duignan.

that number grew to 16. and suppress internal uprisings. 21 Slade. Leopold II had stripped the Africans of everything and transformed the Congo into a vast forced labor camp.‖ 20 Schimmer.17 The decrees that Leopold began to pass almost as soon as he gained complete authority over the Congo was intended to maximize his profit. rubber accounted for 87 percent of the revenue of the Congo Free State. Red Rubber. Leopold II funded multiple military campaigns to force villagers deeper into the forest to collect the precious sap from rubber trees. 52.Peterson 4 supplier of rubber in the world. there were 6. with absolutely no thought of the Congolese people. Schimmer. In 1905. Recruited soldiers had to serve a term of five years before they were free to leave. 19 ―White King. The Commerce in Rubber: The First 250 Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 173.22 The Force Publique‘s primary use was to instill the fear in the hearts of the Congolese. 173 22 Ibid. 1885. Leopold II instilled fear in the hearts of the natives. In 1891 and 1892. 1987). 163. it was decreed that all ‗vacant lands‘ belonged to the State. 20 However. known as the Force Publique.‖19 In order to sustain this kind of power and monopoly over the production of rubber.16 As of the turn of the century. Any laborer who refused or failed to reach their quota was lashed 16 Austin Coates. later the term was raised to seven years of service.000 Africans in the Force Publique. . either Belgian soldiers or mercenaries from other countries. Leopold raised a military. The officers of the Force Publique were all white.000. they recruited men from West Africa and eventually from Congo itself as soldiers. Black Death.18 ―So in less than no time. 17 18 Coates. enforce his strict decrees.21 In 1895. other decrees declared that all production of the forests belonged to the State and the natives could only harvest them for the State. protect his interests.. to fight against the Arabs. On the first of July.

he was heralded as the freer of slaves.24 If the soldiers missed or used the cartridges to kill game.Peterson 5 with a chicote. a whip usually made with hippopotamus hide. Leopold II did indeed end the Arab slave trade. 115. Getting rid of the Arabs meant getting rid of his competitors and allowing him to take over the large area they occupied. 26 Slade. As part of his promise. His humanitarian ploy disguised his true intentions. however. The Arabs were Leopold‘s opposition.23 If they were unsatisfied. 27 ―White King. Red Rubber.27 Leopold. and cut off the hands of the Congolese.‖ 25 Schimmer. the soldier had to bring back a cut hand for each cartridge he used. An African American George Washington Williams visited the Congo in 1890 and wrote a report to the 23 24 Coates. the soldiers would burn down the village. Black Death.25 Leopold‘s actions in the Congo were at first relatively unknown at the start of his reign. The true happenings in the Congo. a part that Leopold II wanted. They grew rice. murder the children. potatoes. The Arabs were controlled a large part of the Congo. To insure that there was no insubordination within the ranks. however. did not go unnoticed for long. Red Rubber.‖ . soldiers would cut the hands of the living to meet their quota. Black Death. The Belgian army would often raid a village and hold the women and children hostage until the men returned with enough rubber to satisfy them.26 To get to this rich land. or much. however for different reasons than the anti-slave crusade that was presented to the Europeans. 120. they had flocks of sheep and goats as well as herds of cattle and donkeys. used the ruse of the crusade against slavery to make his name more pronounced. Leopold needed to conquer the Arabs. and sugar –cane. much worse. ―White King. each soldier was issued a fixed number of cartridges before a raid and to prove to the white officers that he did not waste any. The Arab plantations were very rich and desirable.

―Everywhere I hear the same news of the Congo Free State — rubber and murder. a former administrator of the Congo Free State. Morel established the Congo Reform Association in Great Britain. wrote. At first the missionaries only wrote to each other of the horrors they witnessed. which became one of the first human rights movements. His report was the first criticism of Leopold‘s actions in the Congo. The poor people are crying out against the cruel oppression of the State and well they might! I can scarcely keep my tongue silent when I hear of and see such villainy. After describing many alarming incidents. E. We are 700 miles from the coast and the officers act as though they had a free hand that they can do as they please. Black Death. Glave. In 1897. It was the efforts of Edmund Dene Morel that truly galvanized the British Government to act by gathering a strong public opinion.J. ―Leopold II is guilty of many crimes against humanity. 31 Slade. John B. including one in which two Belgian officers bet five pounds to see if they could shoot a native from across the river. their eyewitness accounts of the monstrosities that were being committed by the Belgian army reached the ears of the sympathetic and righteous Europeans. which led to the British to launch an official investigation in 1900.Peterson 6 American secretary of state describing the conditions he witnessed. Murphy. a missionary living in one of the rubber districts. slavery in its worst form.‖28 Missionaries located in the Congo were the main source of criticism. Their conduct is bringing disgrace on the name of civilization.‖ Ibid. .29 Their tales sparked more public concern and criticism. Williams‘ declared. Red Rubber.‖30 Joseph Conrad‘s book Heart of Darkness sparked international concern. 182.31 28 29 ―White King. wrote in Century Magazine. 30 Schimmer. but eventually they began writing to their home missions.

Leopold destroyed all evidence that could be used against him. Certain practices were condemned. 34 Schimmer. Leopold replaced one form of slavery for another. The three men appointed to the Commission were seen as impartial and were welcomed and accepted by the missionaries and the people of the Congo. was softened. the attitudes. but it was too late.34 Before a full enquiry could be made into his actions. We must increasingly supervise the conduct. particularly the British Parliament. he sponsored the Commission of Enquiry to report on the conditions in the Congo. the spirit of our agents. When his atrocities were finally brought into 32 33 Slade. destroying land and people for his own personal gain. Roughly ten million people died at his hands. 35 French. 186. The public. forcing them to work. Ibid. In 1904. specific examples were left out and the idea of forced labor was accepted as justifiable. He committed genocide. and in 1908 he was removed from power and the Congo became annexed by the Belgian Parliament. Under the guise of humanitarianism.Peterson 7 Leopold II was not unaware of his growing unpopularity.‖32 Leopold defended his system and made large gestures to show his eagerness to reform. mistrusted the King.35 Leopold exploited the people of Congo. he wrote. when it was finally published. 187-189. and try to make the Congo State into a model state. ―A state cannot continue in existence if it has world opinion against it. The Commission‘s report. which is more than the entire death toll in World War I. At the end of 1903. Leopold‘s actions in the Congo should be construed just as harshly as either Hitler or Stalin. 33 Leopold proposed reforms. . including the monopoly on the land and its production as well as the military expeditions and reforms were suggested. however. trying to regain some approval. 54.

at some vision—he cried out twice. I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire. Part 3. public criticism grew until he was finally brought to justice. temptation. 12. and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image. of craven terror — of an intense and hopeless despair.Peterson 8 the light. a cry that was no more than a breath: ―The horror! The horror!‖36 36 Conrad. of ruthless power. . The people booed his funeral procession. Leopold II died in 1909.

.H.‖ Yale University. Tim. 2011). 1979. Ruth. 1999. The Rulers of Belgian Africa 1884-1914. 1987. Schimmer. Directed by Peter Bate. Princeton.yale. New York: Vintage Books. Gann. Heart of Darkness. Austin.‖ DVD. French. London: Oxford University Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Slade. Red Rubber. Howard W. Russell. New York: Penguin Books. http://www. 1992. The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. 2007. A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa. The Commerce in Rubber: The First 250 Years. and Peter Duignan. London: BBC.html (accessed December 3. L. 2005. Black Death. Joseph. 2003. New York: Avon Books. NJ: Princeton University Press. King Leopold’s Congo. Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer. Pakenham. Thomas. Jeal. ―Genocide Studies Program: Belgian Congo. Conrad. ―White King. New Haven: Yale University Press.Peterson 9 Bibliography Coates.