King Leopold's Ghost

1884 Words8 Pages
In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great…show more content…
Money concluded that the huge profits made from Java depended on forced labour. Leopold agreed, commenting that forced labour was "the only way to civilise and uplift these indolent and corrupt peoples of the Far East." (p37) Opposing the prevailing desire of Belgian parliamentarians to avoid the expense of colonies, he argued, "Belgium doesn't exploit the world... It's a taste we have got to make her learn." (p38)

Leopold's land grab Stanley's murderous descent into the Congo is documented in his own diaries. The King sent instructions to Stanley to "purchase as much land as you will be able to obtain, and that you should place successively under... suzerainty... as soon as possible and without losing one minute, all the chiefs from the mouth of the Congo to the Stanley falls..." (p70) He was to purchase all the available ivory and establish barriers and tolls on the roads he opened up. Land rights treaties should be as "brief as possible and in a couple of articles must grant us everything." (p71) Stanley secured 450 such agreements. Leopold developed a military dictatorship over a country 76 times the size of Belgium, with only a small number of white officials. Initially, he paid mercenaries, but in 1888 these were transformed into the "Force Publique". At its peak, there were 19,000 conscripted African soldiers and 420 white

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