Title: "County of the Congo: Henry M. Stanley, the Explorer, on Its Possibilities"

Journal: Evening Bulletin

Place of Publication: Maysville, Kentucky

Date: September 22, 1884

People: Stanley, Henry Morton, 1841-1904

Places: Congo River; Leopoldville (Congo); Mboma (Congo); Stanley Pool


Most Americans did not have access to Congressional debates about whether the U.S should recognize the sovereignty of King Leopold II of Belgium's Congo Free State—which prompted the convening of the Berlin Conference—or discussions of U.S. engagement with the "African Question." [note 1] They turned to newspapers to glean any information about the major international issue for the West at the time—the present and future state of African affairs. U.S. media coverage of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 was extensive, with articles published in the major coastal newspapers and dailies in the South, West, and Midwest, attesting to the scope of American interest in European designs on Africa.

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Country of the Congo

Henry M. Stanley, the Explorer, on Its Possibilities

Work of the International Association — Colonizing Schemes of Portugal — Protestant Missions Established — Anglo-Portuguese.

London, Sept. 22 — Henry M. Stanley's lecture in the Chamber of Commerce on "The Congo: Its Past History, Present Development and Future Commercial Prospects," was listened to by an audience whose houses represent a business of not less than $250,000,000 per annum.

The chair was occupied by Mr. Tritton, of the Lombard street banking house of Barclay, Bevan Tritton & Co. Mr. Tritton introduced the lecturer in a highly eulogistic speech, in which he referred to various noteworthy incidents in his adventurous career, and especially to his labors in the cause of science, commerce and civilization.

Mr. Stanley, on advancing to the table, met with an enthusiastic reception, the heartiness of which evidently surprised and gratified him. After dwelling briefly upon the earliest known history of the Congo, the lecturer proceeded to give particulars of the work of the International African Association, for which he claims the credit of being the pioneer of civilization in the Congo districts.

Stanley says that in 1872 he wrote a letter from Fleet street to a friend at Banano Point, on the Congo, pointing out to him that there was a field for commerce in the great basin of the Congo, which he (Stanley) proposed to open up to the world. he also indicated to his friend the region he proposed to develop, namely, between Mboma and Stanley Pool. In 1874 and 1879 he explored the broad natural highway from the west coast of Africa. He found a race of natives who were willing to trade with merchants who dealt fairly on the basis of blood and brotherhood. When he returned to Europe he found several schemes under consideration for exploring the district, of which that of the African Association proved to be the most useful. Stanley Pool was gained by treaties made with natives, who ceded to the African Association sovereignty of the land, and the association thereupon entered upon its peaceful possession. After entering into possession, the association invited the nations of the world to come and trade, irrespective of nationalities. [Applause.] On returning to Stanley Pool, he (Stanley) found that an Anglo-Portuguese treaty had been concluded. The Portuguese said: "No; we will not allow this; we founded Congo. To maintain our superiority we must obtain a lien upon all goods imported from Manchester." The goods, said Stanley, were beads, wire etc. To this the association replied that they had spent nearly £500,000 sterling upon the basin of the Congo, and wished to extend further their communication along the basin. Whatever possessions, privileges and immunities the association possessed they wished to give it away for the benefit of bonafide travelers, the missionaries and agriculturists. The association demanded of the Portugese that he (Stanley) be allowed to travel from England to Stanley Pool without any further trouble or expense than regular passage money. The association also protested against the right of the Portugese to tax them for giving away money freely to philanthropic work, whereof no one connected with the African Association ever expected to receive one penny in interest. Stanley, continuing, sketched the history of the Congo River from the discovery of its mouth by the Portugese navigator, Diego, 400 years ago, by the time of the expulsion of the Portugese by the natives, in 1630. In 1873 Lieutenant Grandy, of the Livingston search expedition, passed through San Salvador, at the mouth of the Congo River. Five years later, Stanley stated, he had himself arrived there. Protestant missions were afterward formed. The English Baptist Society succeeded in establishing a mission near the ruins of an old Catholic mission house. There was no historical evidence on the banks of the Congo River to prove that the Portguese ever possessed any political establishment there whatever. Stanley said further that there is not one single proof that the Portuguese ere erected any fort, government building or office upon the banks of the Congo. Dutch, English and French merchants made that river a commercial mart.

Area of the Congo Country.

A few Portuguese traders in 1877 were there, but merely as commission agents for large Dutch and English firms, which held the principal trade of the place. Imports to the Congo country in 1882 amounted to £884,000 and exports to £1,856,400 sterling. The area of the Congo country which supplies the exports is about 15,000 square miles; navigable portion of the river only 110 miles, and coast line 160 miles. At the head of navigation the Congo was not obstructed, and before navigation of the river would be again possible for commerce it would be necessary to travel 235 miles to where is situated the settlement of Leopoldsville on Stanley Pool. for fifty miles of this distance there exists a ready and willing trade, they having something to barter which is needed in Europe. Beyond Leopoldsville there is 3,000 miles of river penetrating an area of 330,000 square miles, the 235 miles separating traders. The lower Congo is impassable, and exploration is inpracticable. Stanley characterizes the colonial policy of the Portuguese as detrimental and constrictive. he said if the claims of the Portuguese Government were allowed by Europe all enterprise in the Congo would be arrested. The most eager philanthropists would be sickened of the idea of sending one through to the civilization of the Congo country. [Hear! Hear!] Commerce cannot be extended into a new-born region like the Congo basin unless it were relieved of all fear of that dread Portuguese tariff. Portugal does not understand the art of colonizing. Stanley then described the rise and progress of the African Association. Its constitution, he stated, was being prepared by eminent men, and when completed would be published as the "Constitution of the Free States of the Congo." The name of title then given wld replace that now known as the African Association.

The Anglo-Portugese Treaty.

Mr. Stanley expressed his satisfaction at the collapse of the Anglo-Portuguese Congo treaty which, had it been ratified would have handed over the commerce and the immense impossibilities of the Congo to Portuguese civilization, which he could compare to nothing but a withered and fruitless tree. He reiterated his belief in the enormous future development of trade in the Congo region, which is fitted to yield and receive products and merchandise to the extent of fill ions of pounds per annum. To realize these possibilities, however, channels of commerce must be provided, and he predicted that the Congo trade would be trivial in comparison to what it might be made, until a portage railway was built to connect the upper and lower stretches of the river and avoid the falls.