Henry Wellington Wack
The Story of the Congo Free State
New York & London : Putnam 1905



Chapter XXX : The Congo Campaign in England (pp.366-384)


In 1902, on the recommendation of a high official of the Free State, Mr. Antoine Benedetti, a cultured gentleman belonging to an ancient and wealthy family in Sicily, was appointed chief commissary - a post which had never before been conferred to a foreigner on account of his special responsibilities. This rapid promotion shows in what esteem Mr. Benedetti was held by his chiefs.
Mr. Benedetti returned to Europe on November 7, 1904, and when requested to give his chiefs some information on the existing situation in the Congo, related circumstances which might well be considered fit for a novel, if their accuracy were not vouched for by authentic documents.
While at Boma, Mr. Benedetti noticed that a Negro named Shanu, a British subject from Lagos, was trying to discover his opinions on Congo policy and administration. Shanu having been at one time in the employ of the State, Mr. Benedetti suspected nothing; but in the course of conversation with the Negro, he perceived what Shanu wanted to get from him. Shanu boasted to Mr. Benedetti of the humanitarian character of the English campaign against the Congo, and he further hinted that, if he were correctly informed, Mr. Benedetti would surely join in the said campaign, a course which would be of great advantage to him. Mr. Benedetti pretended to share the views of Shanu, who thereupon pushed the matter home by producing some letters of Mr. Edmund Deville Morel, Secretary of the Congo Reform Association.
In one of these letters, Mr. Morel informs Shanu that Mr. Benedetti, commissary at Boma, has been spoken of to him as one who would be a valuable acquisition in the English campaign against the Congo. Mr. Benedetti at once saw what was expected of him; he realised that efforts were being made to enlist in the anti-Congo campaign the numerous Italians in the service of the Free State; and with the sole desire of protecting the honour of his fellow-countrymen in the Congo, he resolved to defeat Mr. Morel's plans. With a view of gaining Shanu's confidence, he declared himself to be on the Negro's side, and by doing so compromised himself in the eyes of his official colleagues. He told Shanu - who lost no time in informing Mr. Morel - that by virtue of his position, he was able to make some startling revelations. Shanu thereupon suggested that he should send in his resignation, giving as the reason certain compromising allegiations against the Free State. Shanu then wrote to Mr. Morel to the effect that he and Mr. Benedetti agreed that the latter was just the man to lead the campaign against the Congo. On the receipt of Mr. Morel's reply, the departure of Mr. Benedetti was decided upon.
Mr. Benedetti was promised his passage money to Europe, as well as compensation for the loss of his place under the Free State, and later, a handsome bonus. Mr. Morel requested Mr. Benedetti to meet him at the Exchange Station Hotel, Liverpool, on the 19th November, and to announce his arrival by the following telegram :
Morel care Jellani arrived Benedetti".
Under these circumstances, Mr. Benedetti sent in his resignation, alleging that private business called him to Europe. He left by the SS Philippeville, and the British Consul at Boma gave him ten pounds sterling for his travelling expenses. The receipt for this sum was made out by Mr. Benedetti in the name of Shanu.
Up to the time of his departure, Mr. Benedetti had discharged his duties so well that he was congratulated by the local authorities. Having spoken to nobody about the course he was adopting, so little was his sudden departure understood that his colleagues were mystified. He could not, of course, enlighten them without showing his hand. Mr. Benedetti landed at Antwerp on November 7th, and on the 17th arrived at Liverpool, having previously despatched to Mr. Morel the telegram agreed upon. After some delay, Mr. Morel went to see Mr. Benedetti at the Exchange Station Hotel in that city.
Mr. Morel appeared somewhat distrustful, and asked Mr. Benedetti if he had authenticating documents. The latter produced some unimportant papers, which he pretended to be valuable, and told the Secretary of the Congo Reform Association some sensational stories of absolutely imaginary crimes. In short, Mr. Benedetti played his game so well that Mr. Morel no longer hesitated to close the affair, but said he would introduce to him a gentleman who was greatly interested in the Congo.
In response to a telephonic message from Mr. Morel there arrived Mr. John Holt, a merchant, of Dale Street, Liverpool. Mr. Holt is Vice-President of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Congo Reform Association. Mr. Morel told Mr. Holt what Mr. Benedetti had said, and then certain practical questions were discussed. It was agreed that Mt. Benedetti should relate in the West African Mail the stories that he had just invented; but Mr. Benedetti, wishing to gain time, stated that he would rather publish them first in Italy, after which the organ of the Congo Reform Asociation might reproduce them. It was decided to also to issue a pamphlet, for which Mr. Benedetti was to receive 80 pounds. Some generous promises were made to Mr. Benedetti : five hundred pounds as damages and his fare paid to Teneriffe by the Congo Reform Association. At Teneriffe, it was agreed, he should seek to poison the minds of Italian officers returning from the Congo. Later, Mr. Holt was to go to Italy, where, together with Mr. Benedetti, he was to subside a newspaper to attack the Congo, and if this newspaper war resulted in the King of Italy recalling Italian officers serving in the Congo, Mr. Benedetti was to receive a further sum of four thousand pounds.
The former commissary of Boma would not accept verbal promises; he requested a document. He demanded first of all a contract for the publication of the pamphlet. Mr. Benedetti invited Mr. Morel and Mr. Holt to dinner, and it was during this dinner on the 19th of November that the clauses of the contract were discussed. Conversation was carried on to a late hour and Mt. Holt, in an unguarded moment, remarked that in England everything was done by and for the sake of business, and that sentiment was obliged to give way to trade. The signing of the contract was fixed for eleven o'clock on the morning of the 21st of November, 1904, when the three gentlemen concerned attended and the following document was drawn up and signed. The text is in English and French :

Mr. Benedetti shall first submit to Mr. Morel, before the 5th of December, a rough copy of his pamphlet in English and Italian. Upom this rough copy Mr. Morel reserves the right to make corrections, and to send these corrections to Mr. Benedetti by the 9th of December, unless prevented by force majeure.
As soon as the pamphlet has been approved by Mr. Morel, Mr. Benedetti shall send to Mr. Morel a corrected copy (if corrections have been made) in English and Italian, as well as a copy of the original documents in his possession, certified by the British Consul on the original text.
Mr. Benedetti undertakes to be ready to publish all by 22nd December, or by such date as Mr. Morel shall telegraph to him.
In any case, Mr. Benedetti will not publish all or any part of the pamphlet without previous understanding with Mr. Morel as to the date.
Mr. Benedetti undertakes to place at Mr. Morel's disposal, after the publication of the pamphlet, all original papers referred to in the said pamphlet, and Mr. Morel undertakes to return them, if required.
Mr. Morel deposits a thousand francs for Mr. Benedetti's travelling expenses from Boma.
Mr. Morel undertakes to pay Mr. Benedetti the sum of two thousand francs, which sum represents the loss to Mr. Benedetti of his situation in the Congo State, owing to the publication of statements made in the said pamphlet, as soon as he receives from Mr. Benedetti notice that the pamphlet has been published in Italy, and a copy of the pamphlet.
Mr. Morel undertakes to pay the expenses incurred in publishing the pamphlet in Italy up to the sum of five hundred france. Mr. Benedetti undertakes to send two hundred copies of the pamphlet to Mr. Morel.
It is understood on both sides that the above entirely covers all relations between Mr. Benedetti and Mr. Morel.
Mr. Morel undertakes to obtain from Mr. Shanu, of Boma, the receipt for the two hundred and fifty francs handed by Mr. Benedetti to Mr. Shanu, and to deduct the sum from the two thousand francs above mentioned.
Signed the 21st November, 1904, at Liverpool Exchange Station Hotel
....................E. D. Morel, A. Benedetti
Witness to signatures of A. Benedetti and E.D. Morel
....................John Holt, merchant, 81 Dale Street, Liverpool


It is not without interest to call attention to the final clause, concerning the receipt for the 250 francs which Mr. Benedetti had given to Shanu, as a guarantee of the L 10 which the British Consul at Boma had given him before his departure.
As to the clause concerning the thousand francs which Mr. Morel undertook to pay Benedetti for his travelling expenses from Boma, it came about through the fact that his departure from Boma was not in accord with the regulations. As his engagement was not terminated, the question of his being sent home at the expense of the Congo Free State was not settled. Mr. Holt took from his pocket a roll of Bank of England notes and paid Mr. Benedetti L 40.
As soon as he was in possession of this contract, Mr. Benedetti returned to Brussels, whence he sent Mr. Morel the following letter :

.........................................Brussels, 30th November, 1904.
Mr. E.D. Morel, Liverpool
I have the pleasure of remitting herewith to you a cheque on the South Wales Bank, Limited, No. 109,880, to the order of Mr. John Holt, merchant, Dale Street, Liverpool, for L. 40, which this latter gave me in the Exchange Station Hotel, Liverpool, on the 21st of this month.
I will also send you a sum of L 10 in exchange for the receipt of Shanu, which you promised to procure for me.
Yoy made a mistake, Sir, when you thought I would play into your hands in your campaign against the Congo, and thus do grievous harm to my countrymen working in the Congo.
Believe me, my conduct, from my first interview with Shanu, when acting for you, till my telegram from Paris on the 28th of this month, was dictated by a sentiment of duty and patriotism.
.......................................... A. Benedetti.

The telegram to which Mr. Benedetti alludes was addressed to Mr. Morel from Paris, and was to call his attention to an article in the Tribuna favourable to the Congo, and to ask him for arguments in answer to this article for publication in an Italian paper. Mr. Morel replied that he had not had the time to get the Tribuna article translated.
This edifying incident needs no comment. When the denial of it's genuineness, or a qualification of it's meaning and purpose, comes, it is understood that the Congo Administration will publish a facsimile of Mr. Morel's contract with Mr. Benedetti, bearing his signature and the signature of Mr. John Holt, merchant-philanthropist, Vice-President of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, etc., in order that intelligent people may form their own conclusions upon it at first hand.
Mr. Morel writes to the London Times of December 19, 1904, defending the part he has played in this Benedetti incident. "You persist", says Mr. Morel (addressing M. Roland de Mares), "to make readers believe that I proposed to pay M. Benedetti for false testimony, whereas my role was limited to giving him the opportunity he asked for (that is to say, to come to Europe and publish under his own name, in the interests of truth and of his fellow-countrymen) by defraying the expenses of his journey and the positive pecuniary losses which his action would involve, and by participating in the printing expenses of his pamphlet".








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