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US-Congo (1959-1997)

Project: History of US Interventions
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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The man later known as Henry Morgan Stanley has “John Rowland’s B_stard” written on his birth certificate when he is born in Wales on January 28, 1841. Abandoned by his mother, he never knows who his real father was. A perpetual liar and fame hunter who would later “discover” the Congo Basin under the flag of both the Union Jack and the Star Spangled Banner, was an inmate of the St. Asaph Union Workhouse until his release at age eighteen. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 21-30]
Henry Morgan Stanley - In February 1859 he emigrates to New Orleans, where, continuously plagued by his low birth, he is desperate to establish a name for himself, so he takes without permission the new name of Henry Morton Stanley, the name of his self proclaimed “father” and employer. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 21-30]
In Search of Livingston - He is one of the few who fought on both sides of the Civil War and his correspondence on the war attracts the attention of James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald. In 1971, he is sent to Africa as a correspondent for the New York Herald to find Livingston and write about it. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 21-30]

Entity Tags: Henry Morton Stanley

The young Duke of Brabant, who will be crowned King Leopold II of Belgium in 1865 (see 1865), dreams of making Belgium wealthy through the acquisition of a colony. At the age of 27, he travels to Seville to study Spain’s history as a colonizer. In a letter to a friend, he writes: “I am very busy here going through the Indies archives and calculating the profit which Spain made then and makes now out of her colonies.” Two years later, he tours the British possessions of Ceylon, India, and Burma and explores investment potential in South America and even the American Pacific. There is little support among Belgians at this time for establishing colonies. But the duke is undeterred. “Belgium doesn’t exploit the world,” he complains to one of his advisors. “It’s a taste we have got to make her learn.” The duke’s father, King Leopold I, had at one time considered acquiring a colony, but was discouraged after his investment at St. Thomas de Guatemala ended with the imprisonment, bankruptcy, and death of the settlers and main promoter. A few years later, the family suffers from another ill-fated venture, this time in Mexico. In 1964, Leopold’s youngest sister, Charlotte, and her husband Archduke Maximilian are installed by Napoleon III of France as the country’s figurehead Emperor and Empress. But Mexican rebels quickly put an end to Maximilian’s rule. In June 1967, two years after the duke is crowned King Leopold II, the emperor is killed by a firing squad. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 12-13; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 37-38, 40-42]

Entity Tags: King Leopold II

1865: New Belgian King Crowned

The young Duke of Brabant is crowned King Leopold II of Belgium. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 37-38, 40-42]

King Leopold II of Belgium hosts the Geographical Conference on West Africa at the Royal Palace in Brussels to discuss his plan to establish a Belgian colony in Central Africa. Attending the affair are a number of notable explorers and geographers. Leopold explains that his plans are “in no way motivated by selfish designs.” He speaks only of science, philanthropy, and ending the slave trade. Though the major European powers officially ended their trade in slaves from West Africa almost a half century before, it is still being practiced by the Arab and Swahili people in East Africa. By the end of the conference, a new international body named the International African Association is established to publicize and seek funds for the project. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 20-23; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 37-8, 42-44]

King Leopold II of Belgium writes in a letter to his ambassador in London, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 22]

Henry Morton Stanley has his first meeting with King Leopold II of Belgium. The king has been paying close attention to Stanley’s exploits in the African Congo and is hoping that Stanley will help him establish a colony there. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 61, 63]

King Leopold II of Belgium agrees to pay British adventurer Henry Morton Stanley to lead an expeditionary force to the Congo. Under the terms of their five-year contract, Stanley will return to the Congo as an employee of the king. He will receive a stipend of 25,000 francs a year for time spent in Europe and 50,000 a year for time spent in Africa. Once he has reached the navigable portion of the river, Stanley will assemble a steamboat and work his way into the interior, setting up trading posts along the way. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 61, 63]

King Leopold II of Belgium instructs Colonel Maximilien Strauch to send a telegram to Henry Morton Stanley that he has instructed Messrs. Rothschild & Sons to set aside 2000 pounds for Stanley, to be used at his disposal. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 64]

Entity Tags: King Leopold II, Henry Morgan Stanley

King Leopold II of Belgium sends General Henry Sanford, a former US Ambassador to Belgium under Lincoln, to lobby Congress and US officials to recognize the International Association of the Congo. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 242-243; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 79-80]

Entity Tags: Henry Sanford, King Leopold II

President Arthur sends a message to Congress: “The objectives of the society are philanthropic. It does not aim at permanent political control, but seeks the neutrality of the valley. The United States cannot be indifferent to this work, nor to the interests of their citizens involved in it…It may become advisable for us to cooperate with other commercial powers: protecting the rights of trade and residence in the Kongo [sic] valley free from interference or political control of any one nation.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 244]

Entity Tags: Chester A. Arthur

The US Senate votes in favor of recognizing the International Association of the Congo. [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 246] The Senate resolution, introduced by Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama, is followed by the publishing of a thousand copies of a report on the Congo. Attributed to Morgan, the document was written primarily by General Henry Sanford, who lobbied for the bill on behalf of Belgium’s King Leopold II (see Fall 1883-Spring 1884). Sanford asserts in the report “that no barbarous people have ever so readily adopted the fostering care of benevolent enterprise as have the tribes of the Congo, and never was there a more honest and practical effort to… secure their welfare.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 80]

Entity Tags: King Leopold II, John Tyler Morgan, Henry Sanford

The US Secretary of State issues a letter recognizing “the flag of the International African Association [he meant the International Association of the Congo] as the flag of a friendly government.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 246]

Entity Tags: International Association of the Congo

The Daily Telegraph says that the International Association of the Congo’s work is being led by “knit adventurers, traders, and missionaries of many races… under the most illustrious modern travelers.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 246; Hochschild, 1999, pp. 75-77]

Entity Tags: International Association of the Congo, Daily Telegraph

Campaigning to win recognition of the “Congo Free State,” King Leopold II of Belgium assures the United States there will be “complete freedom from duties on all American goods exported to the Congo.” [Pakenham, 1992, pp. 224]

The USS Lancaster, at the mouth of the Congo river, fires a twenty-one-gun salute in honor of King Leopold’s “Congo Free State.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 86-87]

George Washington Williams writes an open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium charging his government with a lengthy list of human rights violations. Williams, a black American, came to the Congo early that year interested in establishing a program through which African-Americans could come to Africa to work. He had hoped that working in Africa would offer them a better chance for advancement than in the US. His hopes were quickly diminished shortly after arriving in the Congo. His letter to Leopold makes the following charges:
bullet Henry Morton Stanley and his men have been tricking African chiefs into signing over their land to the king. He explains: “A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother’s hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand, the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet.… When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength.” Another ploy commonly utilized by Stanley’s men, according to Washington, was to claim that white men have “an intimate relationship to the sun,” so intimate in fact that if a white man were to request that the sun “burn up his black brother’s village, it would be done.” According to Williams, through the use of these tactics “and a few boxes of gin, whole villages have been signed away to your Majesty.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 109-110] Stanley is widely feared in the Congo as a tyrant. His name “produces a shudder among simple folk. When mentioned; they remember his broken promises, his copious profanity, his hot temper, his heavy blows, his severe and rigorous measures, by which they were mulcted of their lands.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110]
bullet Leopold’s officers force the natives to provide Belgium’s military bases in the Congo with provisions. When the natives resist, “white officers come with an expeditionary force and burn away the homes of the natives.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110] The king’s men treat their prisoner’s inhumanely and subject them to harsh punishments for the slightest infractions. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110]
bullet Despite Leopold’s claims to the contrary, his subjects in the Congo Free State are not being provided with government services. The only schools and hospitals that have been built, Williams argues, are “not fit to be occupied by a horse.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 110-111]
bullet Leopold’s men have been kidnapping local women and using them as concubines. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
bullet Belgium officers have shot villagers for sport, in order to steal their wives, or in order to intimidate others into forced labor. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
bullet Despite Leopold’s alleged abhorrence of slavery, his government in the Congo “is engaged in the slave-trade, wholesale and retail,” according to Williams. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 111]
Williams’s open letter causes a stir in both the US and Europe. Leopold denies the charges. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 112] Ironically, Williams was the first American to propose official recognition of the Congo Free State by the United States. [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 106]

Entity Tags: George Washington Williams, King Leopold II

Three months after George Washington Williams writes his open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium complaining of the atrocities he witnessed being committed by Belgium forces against natives in the Congo, Williams writes a report to US President Harrison. Williams argues that the Unites States has a special responsibility since it “introduced this African government into the sisterhood of states.” In another letter, addressed to the US secretary of state, Williams accuses the Belgium government of having committed “crimes against humanity.” [Hochschild, 1999, pp. 112]

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