KingLeopold II of Belgium took over the Congo Free State and reigned athis personal fief beginning 1885 until 1908. During this time, KingLeopold induced terror that led to the killing of more than 8 millionAfricans from Congo. Congo`s population was reduced to around half ascould approximate that 10 million people died. The king had imposedproduction quotas on ivory and rubber harvest. Those who could notmeet the quotas were beaten and flogged to death. Many people wereforced to work as slaves in rubber gathering and mining and othersworked as porters. There was no pay in many times, and when paid, itwas very little. Many people were worked until death. Scores died asa result of the diseases that were induced by the Europeans andspread throughout Congo. Other people died from the widespread faminethat rocked Congo basin because Leopold`s soldiers rampaged all overthe countryside appropriating crops, and food for their use and theydestroyed fields and villages.1
LasCasas was a Spanish historian of the 16thcentury, a Dominican friar and a social reformer. Las Casas was thefirst Bishop of Caiaphas and was the first to be appointed as the“protector of the Indians.” His writings mostly focused on theatrocities that the colonizers committed against indigenous people.Las Casas was among the first Europeans settlers to arrive inAmerica. He rose strongly to oppose the atrocities that werecommitted by the Spanish colonialists against the Native Americans.2Casas reformed his views in 1515 when he gave up his Encomeinda andIndian slaves. Before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, Casasadvocated rights, on behalf of the natives. Casas advocated theAmericans to use African slaves as opposed to the natives theWest-Indian colonies. Much criticism was leveled on him as being thepromoter of the slave trade. However, in his later life, he reversedhis views when he dismissed all forms of slavery and claimed thatthey are equally unfair.3
InSpain, Casas managed to secure the support of King Carlos I andChancellor Jean de la Sauvage, after the death of the protector,Cisneros. Las Casas had a lot of influence in Spain that led thecourt to turn its favor against Bishop Fonseca and SecretaryConchillos. Sauvange praised Las Casas greatly before the king. As aresult, king Carlos I appointed Sauvage and Las Casas to write afresh plan for reforming the Indies system of the government. In thereport, Las Casas suggested the abolishment of the Encomeinda andIndians gathered to self-governing townships. These townships were tobecome the king`s tribute-paying vassals. His plan also suggestedthat the colonists` loss of Indiana labor be replaced by importationof slaves from Africa. Another important element of the plan was theintroduction of a new type of sustainable colonization. This kind ofcolonization would allow the Spanish peasants to migrate to Indies,where they could practice farming.4This kind of colonization was not leading to depletion of resourcesand did not demand the application of Indian labor.
LasCasas engaged in the recruitment of peasants who were willing totravel to the Indies and take up lands. They were to be given freeland, financial support as well as the tools and other resources thatwere important for their comfortable settlement in the region. Asetback came up following the death of Sauvage, the main supporter ofLas Casas. As a result, the smaller number of families than it wasoriginally planned. The supplies were inadequate and the immigrantsfaced several troubles in the foreign land. The peasants who traveledhad to work hard to survive in the highlands in a life that was veryhostile. The experience of the peasants` migration scheme was verydevastating to Las Casas. He resolved to engage in a personal venturethat was not to rely on others for support. In his attempts, hemanaged to win a grant in the mainland America, which formed itsearliest stage of colonization.5
JuanGinés de Sepúlvedawas renowned for organization of debates that Las Casas participated.In one of the debates, JuanGinés de Sepúlvedaheld that the Indians were lesser human beings and could not functionwithout the help of the Spanish masters.
TheFour Individuals used by Leopold II
HenryMorton Stanley was the leading world-explorer of the time. Leopoldwas pleased to retain him as his agent. History depicts him as aDickensian bully and a chronic liar because he allowed king Leopoldto use his celebrity to construct and perpetuate the evils committedin Congo during that time. Stanley was the key person used by KingLeopold II to convince the Congolese chiefs to sign treaties withhim. Stanley deluded the chiefs from the Congo basin to sign treatiesthat transferred their rights and their land to the king of theBelgians. After that, plan was successful, King Leopold II engagedStanley in a worldwide lobbying mission that would make Leopold winthe recognition of his new colony.6
JohnTyler Morgan was the senator of Alabama. He emerged as a strong allyof Sanford in his congressional support for Congo’s occupation ofking Leopold. Morgan chaired the Senate committee on foreignrelations at the time. Morgan was among the few people who wereagainst the “enforced Negro rule.” He claimed that enforcement ofthis rule could create several dangers in fostering blacks into whitefamilies. He thought that this act could inflict "aworse fate than death upon an innocent woman." Morgan had aproblem with the growth of the African population in his country.7
The“enforcedNegro rule.” was proposed and was meant to integrate the freedslaves into the countries of slavery. Morgan feted this rule andrequired that the Africans be taken back to their country, as theonly solution. According to Morgan, an alternative could be takingthe blacks in Cuba, Hawaii or Philippines, the highlands that werefar away and could make a perfect home for Negros. However, Africawas his first choice. Morgan tried to convince the Senate that theblack people could be sent to Congo to help king Leopold develop hisnew state by providing manpower. He also claimed that the nativeCongolese would love to trade with Americans of the same skin coloras them. Morgan claimed that Africa "wasprepared for the Negro as certainly as the Garden of Eden wasprepared for Adam and Eve." Congo basin, according to Morgan,had the best kind of Negro race.8
Sanfordwas in complete agreement with Morgan. Sanford claimed that sendingthe Africans back was the best option and that Congo was the bestoutlet for the freed slaves. Morgan first introduced the motion tosupport the sending of Africans to Congo in early 1884. He sent acopy to Sanford, which he used to lobby for more support from othersenators. Soon after the introduction of Morgan’s motion, theSenate debated it, paving way for the passing of Morgan’sresolution. A thousand of copies of this resolution were sent toCongo. These copies were written by Sanford. Sanford pushed for theendorsement of the US recognition of Leopold’s association with theNew York Chamber of Commerce. Sanford’s campaign was the first inAmerica in support of a foreign ruler. It was a very sophisticatedcampaign that bore fruits in April 1884. At this time, the USsecretary of state declared that the United States recognized kingLeopold II claim of Congo. The US was the first country to support,arising from the contribution of Sanford and Morgan.9
Morel,from the present day perspective, was a fighter and a propagator ofhuman rights. Morel was a ship correspondent in England. He noticedthe events taking place in Congo after he noticed frequent vesselsarriving with huge weights of ivory and rubber. Morel did not sendany goods in return. Instead, he loaded the returning ships only withguns and ammunitions. Morel advocated the Africans to be left tooccupy their land so that they could produce trade items. Accordingto Morel, Africans were not supposed to mix with whites.10He claimed that African men were very active sexually, and they werea danger to the European women. He encouraged the colonization ofCongo for the purpose of production of ivory and rubber that wereuseful to the Europeans.
Thenative Congolese and native black Americans were playing against oneanother and made to fight. According to Morgan and Sanford, the freedblack slaves, the Negros, fitted very well in the Congo basin. Theybelieved that Congo basin was the place of their origin. TheAmericans and King Leopold II used the black people as tools of thetrade. The Negros was transferred to Congo so that they could providelabor for King Leopold, and in return, Leopold gave rubber and ivorythat were produced by the Congolese through forced labor. WhenLeopold left the Congo in 1908, the exploitation of rubber and ivorycontinued. The occupation of the rubber plantations created a bigcontroversy that paved way for genocide.11
Asportrayed by Las Casas, there was a notion that Africans weredespised by the Europeans and treated as trade commodities. Thetorture and atrocities committed by King Leopold II are historicallybrutal. In his establishment of the Congo colony, Leopold relied onthe support of several individuals. Stanley became his assistant anda strategist while Morgan and Sanford pushed for the endorsement ofhis private, state by the European and American governments. Morelbecame his business correspondent, receiving cargo and sending himguns and ammunition with the returning vessels. The Congolesesuffered immensely under Leopold, where several people lost theirlives, and others were left maimed and crippled. His departurecreated more controversy as several European powers developedinterest. This paved way for genocide in the Congo Frees State.
Casas,Bartolomé de Las, and George William Sanderlin. BartoloméDe Las Casas A Selection of His Writings.New York: Knopf. 1971. Print.
Lauren,Gordon, P. “KingLeopold`s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in ColonialAfrica.” HumanRights Quarterly 21(2): 535-538.
1 Gordon, Lauren, P. “King Leopold`s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa.” Human Rights Quarterly 21 (2): 535.
2 Bartolomé de, Casas, Las, & George William Sanderlin. Bartolomé De Las Casas A Selection of His Writings. New York: Knopf. 1971. Print.
6 Gordon, Lauren, P. “King Leopold`s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa.” Human Rights Quarterly 21 (2): 535.
7 Ibid., 536.
8 Ibid., 536.
9 Ibid., 537.
10 Ibid., 537.
11 Ibid., 538.