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

Chapter XXXI : The Congo Campaign in America (pp.385-396)

The interest taken in by Americans in the affairs of the Congo Free State has never been very keen. What little of interest, however, we do take in that distant region has been sentimental, for the greater part based upon the national respect for Stanley and his work. The campaign in England against the Congo, therefore, fails to evoke any substantial sympathy on this side of the Atlantic. Citizens of the United States are better employed than in undertaking knight-errantry at the behest of certain disappointed British merchants and fanatics.
But, inasmuch as it is vital to the enemies of the Congo Free State that our journey should be with them in their crusade, the Rev. Mr. W. M. Morrison, of Lexington, Virginia, a gentleman whose Christianity is liberally leavened with business acumen, was brought to the front and set upon a pedestal. The light of publicity was turned upon the reverend gentleman, who then proceeded to relate stories of outrage and oppression, examples of which he had seen and heard - chiefly heard - during six years' residence in the Congo Free State as a missionary of the American Presbyterians.
Mr. Morrison's stories are of the stock variety, and include looted villages, wholesale deportations, mutilations, burnings, State slavery, and refusal of land concessions to missionaries - in brief, the whole catalogue of infamies without which, real or alleged, men such as Mr. Fox Bourne, the Secretary of the Aborigines' Protection Society in England, and Mr. Morel, who built the Congo Reform Association around himself, would find their occupation gone. The italics are mine. Why I have used them will at once appear.
"Concessions or grants of land, however small", wails Mr. Morrison, can no longer be obtained from the State by other than favoured individuals or corporations ... Not only are concessions refused to traders, they are also refused to missionaries". Alas ! yes, in the case of a missionary who demands, as Mr. Morrison did, "that no taxes be levied, and no soldiers drawn from certain populations around Luebo" (the scene of Mr. Morrison's mission).
The refusal of Mr. Morrison's demand for the creation of an Alsatia which should be equally attractive to the idle and the thrifty, from which the State was to receive no support, and which, in the circumstances, would certainly at once become the most populous district in all the Congo Free State, seems to have angered the reverend gentleman, for thereafter followed his discovery of atrocities committed by State officials against natives. Land was offered to Mr. Morrison on equitable terms, identical with those agreed upon between the State and numerous other missions.
When Mr. Morrison was in Brussels in the spring of 1903, negotiating with the Congo Government concerning the concession of land, and in constant touch with officials of that Government, he said not one word about any atrocities which he had seen or heard of in Congoland; but a few weeks later, he was in London, associating with the English Congophobes, and calling upon the Government of the United States to combine with that of Great Britain to coerce the Congo Government, though in what manner and to what effect is not quite clear. What, however, is perfectly clear, is the bad faith of the men who make it their business to vilify and misrepresent the Congo Administration. For example, here is Mr. Morrison's statement about the almost impossibility of obtaining concessions of land for missions, when up to May, 1903, there had been fifteen grants of land conceded in the Congo State to the American Baptist Missionary Union; two to the American Congo Mission; fifteen to the British Baptist Society Corporation; seven to Bishop Taylor's Self-Supporting Mission; seven to the Congo Balolo Mission; eleven to the International Missionary Alliance; nine to the Swedish Missionary Society, and forty-four to the Roman Catholic Mission.
The campaign against the Congo in this country was oprened on the 19th of April, 1904, by the presentation to Congress of a huge inflated memorial, accompanied by numerous substantiating documents of great length. It was gotten up by the Rev. Thomas S. Barbour, Chairman of the Conference of Missionary Societies and Secretary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, Boston, with the assistance of the Rev. W.M. Morrison and six other gentlemen interested in missionary work. Senator Morgan, of Alabama, undertook the work of presentation, and performed his task with as much moderation and grace as it's nature permitted. The memorial was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and ordered to be printed.
On the whole, the reception of this strange literary budget - a rechauffe of oft-refuted fables and adroit distortions of events that occurred long ago - was decidedly passive. The prevailing impression among Senators seemed to be that even if all that is asserted in the memorial be true ( a monstrous supposition which surely it's promoters never seriously entertained), to play into the hands of John Bull's merchants at the bidding of John Bull's missionaries is hardly a suitable role for Uncle Sam.
The next move in the campaign against the Congo Free State in this country took place at Washington on the 30th of September, 1904, when the Secretary of the Congo Reform Association of which Mr. John Holt, the merchant-philanthropist, of Liverpool, is one of the pillars) presented a memorial to President Roosevelt concerning affairs in the Congo Free State, and asking for his intervention therein. The memorial was politely received, acknowledged with graceful platitudes, and laid aside. During the few weeks that the Congo Reform Association's agitator was in this country, he talked freely to every newspaper reporter he met, and disseminated broadcast the old libels which had grown stale with use in England.
When the Belgian people learned of the presentation to President Roosevelt of the second anti-Congo memorial, wherein the agents of the British merchants strove to make it appear that the United States ought to do what all the continental powers had, by their silence, refused to do when the British Foreign Secretary appealed to them in August, 1903, their leading citizens took a hand in the literary carnival and sent President Roosevelt their reply to the series of slanders which were being so widely disseminated in America by the Liverpool organisation. Although the anti-Congolese resolutions of the Boston Peace Conference were published in extenso in the secular and religious press throughout the United States, for some inscrutable reason the Belgian reply to the second Liverpool memorial sent to President Roosevelt on October 3, 1904, has so far never had the advantage of similar publicity. The fact alone would indicate that his Excellency, Baron Moncheur, Belgian Minister to the United States, and his talented coadjutor, Professor A. Nerincx, an eminent Belgian advocate, author, and instructor in the University of Louvain, were quite indiffeent to that campaign of publicity which the enemies of the Congo Free State began in England and now continue in America. In justice, however, to the Federation for the Defence of Belgian Interests Abroad, a Belgian society numbering over fifty thousand adherents, it is deemed desirable to quote in full the only communication bearing upon the anti-Congolese campaign which the official of the Free State or the Belgian people have ever addressed to the people of the United States :

....................................................................................................... Brussels, October 3, 1904
To His Excellency, Theodore Roosevelt
President of the United States.
Mr. President,
The Federation for the Defence of Belgian Interests Abroad presents it's compliments to the President of the United States and begs leave to state :
That we are loth to impose upon the President of the United States considerations which are foreign to the interests of his Government. But inasmuch as certain persons are conducting within the United States a movement to involve the Government of the United States in the consideration of their unfounded charges and interested misrepresentations against the Government of the Congo Free State, we feel it our duty to present a brief statement of the objects of the Congo Government to the President of a friendly Power in order that the unjust methods being employed by the enemies of the Congo Free State may not mislead the President to encourage Congressional action prejudicial to our interests before we shall have been fully heard.
Our Association has been formed for the defence of Belgian interests and possessions abroad. Our people esteem and admire the people of the United States and we have great respect for their President. The Belgians desire that they shall not be slandered and vilified in the midst of the American people. They feel it their duty to assist the American people to a proper understanding of the lofty purposes which actuate the Government of the Congo Free State. In this connection the Belgians recall with pleasure and with pride the fact that the Government of the United States was the first great nation to recognise the flag of the International Association of the Congo as that of an independent State. By it's treaties and by it's adherence to the Berlin and Brussels Acts it promised liberty of trade in it's part of the Congo Basin, and it respectfully asserts that it has fulfilled that promise in spirit and to the letter in so far as the short term of it's existence in a savage country has enabled it to establish an organisation which, by it's prosperity and progress, now excites the envy of those who seek to disrupt it.
The principles which actuate the Congo Government are tersely set out in an essay written by a highly qualified American citizen, which is herewith enclosed. We humbly beg the President of the United States to honour us by perusing this concise exposition of the fundamental principles which underlie, and which have given such progressive momentum to, the Government of the Congo Free State.
The principles of the Congo Government are devoted to progress and civilisation. The State's motto is "Work and Progress". We have always felt that to intelligently follow the motto was to firmly establish in the midst of conditions of savagery the habit of industry and a respect for property as well as for life, according to the universal law of nations.
Concerning the term "Freedom of Commerce", which Congo enemies are interpreting to mean ungoverned license, we beg to refer the President to the laws of the United States and penalties concerning trespass upon and pillage of public lands and their product. Perhaps no nation in the world has so precisely developed the law of private and public property, nor administered it with finer understanding of the principles of equity and justice, than the United States. The Congo law relating to property is in consequence with the law of the world's greatest nations. The great success which has been attained by the Congo Government for the betterment of it's native inhabitants by the operation of this law, and the order which exists thereunder, has excited the envy and the avarice of those whose ulterior motive is being cloaked in the garb of humanitarianism and questionable philanthropy. On the one hand it is charged that the Congo Government by it's method seeks to enslave the native in order that he may serve it with his hands for the benefit of interests whose welfare he does not share. On the other hand, the libellers of the Congo wilfully utter not only the unfounded accusation but the inconsistent charge, that the Government cuts off the hand whose work it seeks to enslave. Concerning the untruthful character of the testimony in this respect which has been published against the Congo by the promoters of the so-called "Congo Reform Association" of Liverpool, we beg to refer your Excellency to the great mass of genuine and reliable evidence by Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Americans, Italians, and Belgians in direct association of the falsehoods which form the traffic of the Association, whose leading spirit has never been near the Congo nor the natives who form the pretext of his search for personal notoriety and aggrandisement.
We also call your Excellency's attention to the fact that the Congo Government, when assailed by missionaries at all, is assailed by a few individual missionaries operating in conjunction with the Liverpool Association, whose object we shall in due course expose. The Congo Government has not been assailed by other missionaries at all. The Catholic missionaries are in reality all seeking the moral, spiritual, and intellectual betterment of the native races, while those of a material faith, who have sought from the Congo Government and denied personal concessions of material value solely, are secretly working in directions entirely unconnected with the spiritual and moral welfare of the Congo population. In due time and in the proper place the Government of the Congo Free State will produce it's testimony bearing upon this phase of the campaign begun in England, and now carried to the United States, against an undertaking which within twenty years has done more to promote civilisation than was ever before attempted in all the great continent of Africa.
We beg your Excellency to receive from the hands of our representative an abundance of carefully prepared matter upon this subject, and to command him in any further desires which you may wish to express. A cursory outline, limited to only a few phases of the questions which the enemies of the Congo so confusedly mince in their wild condemnation of a State justly founded and intelligently and humanely governed, is not of course intended as a sufficient statement of our case. It is merely intended to introduce your Excellency to the subject on which our representative, and the evidence and literature he will offer to you, may lead you to those wise and equitable conclusions which have always characterised the highest tribunals of the American people.
Your Excellency is too well versed in the science of government to be influenced by the statement that where individual acts are committed in violation of anected penal law the Government should be primarily charged therewith. If such were the case, penal institutions for the incarceration of violators of police law would be no part of a nation's structure.
It is not infrequent that the cable conveys to us intimation that in some sections of your own free and glorious country an inflamed mob seizes upon a black inhabitant and burns him at the stake. Our governmental experience has taught us that such acts would have been impossible if your Government had been advised in time to prevent them. And yet we know that your Government is the subject of harsh criticism by self-constituted associations formed in the same country whence come those who accuse the sincere governmental effort of the Congo Free State. The law of the Congo Free State is based upon the loftiest ideals of humane control of a vast territory and undeveloped interests, and every part of the State's machinery is employed to ensure equal justice to all.
The "method of the State", at which Congo accusers hurl their shafts, cannot be charged with responsibility for lawless acts in a vast territory of a million square miles where the Government of that State is vigilantly and earnestly seeking, by the extension of it's organisation and the police powers, to suppress and punish crime and redress wrong. If the subjects of one nation were compelled to submit to the opinion of it's unfriendly neighbours as to the correctness of their habits and conduct, and obliged to submit themselves to the penalties that their neighbours would attach to the alleged misconduct, the subjects of one nation would inhabit the prisons of another.
We need hardly call the attention of your Government to the great and humane work which your Government is now so earnestly, and with so much sacrifice, furthering in the Philippine Islands, to meet with the broad and sympathetic view of the situation in all savage countries; which, if fairly and justly applied to the Congo Free State, would place us upon that plane where cooperation, not criticism, were the reward of our sacrificial work in the darkest part of Africa.
It has been the pleasure of our beloved King, Leopold II., Sovereign of the Congo Free State, to appoint a Commission, composed of eminent men, to undertake with the utmost freedom a judicial investigation upon all and singular the vague charges from time to time used by the promoters of the Congo Reform Association in prostituting certain public journals in England. Your Excellency may be assured of the utmost integrity of the gentlemen who compose this Commission, and that the Congo Government will afford them all the help in it's power to place the truth before the eyes of the world.
In this connection Congo reformers pretend that the decisions of the Congo Courts indicate that the government is bad, when, in fact these very decisions are, in our opinion, proof of unimpeachable good faith and judicial independence.
Concerning the Congo standing army of 14,000 natives, as to which some criticism is uttered by the same persons, we need only indicate that the State Government is so well respected in the Congo Basin that it is able to control it's vast territory with only seven soldiers to every 625 square miles. We have no doubt that if the Congo governmental system had not included this meagre police force for the repression of tribal strife and the maintenance of order, it's critics would have represented the Congo Government as unprepared to guarantee protection to persons and property, and as unable to maintain the integrity of it's frontiers. The Congo army is recruited in conformity with the Belgian law of conscription, which is a restriction of the universal service in Continental Europe. When the Government enlisted a part of it's army in a neighbouring colony it was requested to desist, the promises of England to permit such recruiting notwithstanding. Now the Congo army is characterised as barbarian ? Doubtless the Congo Government would have no objection to recruit it's army in China, as miners are recruited for the Transvaal. But would it thereby escape censure ? We think not. Some things which are right and proper in a British colony become crimes when done in the Congo Free State.
It is the earnest desire of the Belgian people, and those who are interested in the welfare and progress of the native population of Mif-Africa, that the good-will and respect of the people of the United States and their President may continue, by their sympathy, to enliven the devotion, energy, and sacrifice which the builders of the Congo Free State are expending upon races which but a few years ago were in a state of the wildest savagery.
..... We are, Mr. President, with great respect, Your obedient servants
.......... (signed) A. Dufourny, President of the Federation for the Defence of Belgian Interests Abroad

At the Peace Congress held at Boston in October, 1904, to attend which was as much the reason of the visit to these shores of the Secretary of the Congo Reform Association as the presentation of a memorial to President Roosevelt, he recited his usual tirade against the Congo Government and the person of King Leopold with somewhat more than his customary unction; but his contentions were utterly demolished by the superior information and saner reasoning of his fellow-countryman, Mr. George Head, and by a letter which was read from Cardinal Gibbons (vide Chap. xxxiv), warmly defending the aims and achievements of the Belgians in Central Africa.
The net result of the Peace Conference to the Congophobes is to expose and appeciably weaken their conspiracy.
There remains in our country a small section of the press obedient to the will of the anti-Congolese campaigners and their merchant support, and the eloquent sophistries of Messrs. Morrison and Barbour. But these forces are surely inadequate to cause the Government of the United States to forget all of our political traditions, and to so abate our natural shrewdness, as to become a catspaw for an avaricious foreign commercial clique.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 14th 2002

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz