Author: Edmund D. Morel

Title: The Congo Slave State. A Protest against the new African Slavery; And an Appeal to the Public of Great Britain, of the United States, and of the Continent of Europe.

Publisher: John Richardson & Sons, Printers, 29 Dale Street

Place of Publication: Liverpool

Date: 1903

Places: Congo Basin; Congo Free State; French Congo


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The Congo Slave State.

A Protest against the new African Slavery; And an Appeal to the Public of Great Britain, of the United States, and of the Continent of Europe.

By Edmund D. Morel.

[. . .]


On page 10, it is written: "It has been stated above that this is an appeal to the people of the civilized world, whose representatives signed the Berlin and Brussels Acts. But it is also an appeal to the American public, whose Government did not ratify those Acts," etc.

The American Government did not ratify the Berlin Act, but it did ratify the Brussels Act. The appeal to the American public rests, therefore, on even stronger grounds than those urged in the pamphlet.



In the days of the over-sea slave trade, Europeans went down the West Coast of Africa to capture the inhabitants and carry them away to labour on European and American plantations, and for other purposes. That wickedness was put an end to by a few men, who, after incredible difficulty, heart-breaking set-backs and soul-tearing toil, with pen and voice succeeded in rousing the conscience of the world. An evil perhaps as great-possibly greater-and accompanied by concomitant dangers which the over-sea slave trade was innocent of, faces us to-day. Although the present evil is not so universally practised as was the other, it wields nevertheless, a corrupting influence upon men's minds, its perpetration being accompanied by temporary material gains of an extensive kind-much more extensive than the profits derived from the over-sea slave trade-which gains, moreover~ are unaccompanied by any hardship or unpleasantness to the principal beneficiaries concerned in promoting and enforcing the evil. The consequence has been that within the last few years the virus has spread, a pernicious example has been copied, the minds of many men are confused and, as in the days of the over-sea slave trade, familiarity with an existing evil has resulted in the blunting of conscience, in indifferentism and unthinking acquiescence.

One hundred years ago, a handful of men were fighting a system hoary with age and sanctified by custom, whereby the negro was considered the lawful prey of the white man, who, thanks to his superior engines of destruction, and to the inter-tribal warfare among the negroes, captured enormous numbers of the latter and enslaved them in a land of exile.

To-day, some of us are fighting a system whereby a certain number of individuals in a small country, having at their head a man utterly unscrupulous but extraordinarily able, consider the negro as their lawful prey, and, thanks to the perfection which modern engines of destruction have now attained and to the lack of unity among the negroes, are enslaving them in their own land.

The men of a century ago had for a long time, everything against them: Parliament, class prejudice, vested interests, and much more, beside of which the difficulties that face us to-day are insignificant.

We are confronted merely with the intrigues of a clique, the allies bound to it by the ties of material interest, and the paid agents it entertains. We are not struggling against a system to which long usage has given almost the force of law, but against a system adopted in violation of solemn international pledges, and which has been in existence for little more than a decade. We are not contending with a system which might have endured for a thousand years without the Nemesis of retribution, but with a system which carries within it the germs of destruction and chaos.

Yet, disproportionate as are our difficulties with those which faced the men of a hundred years ago, the obstacles we have to overcome are, nevertheless, considerable. If the honour of the nations of the world is concerned in this matter, so also are their mutual jealousies involved. The partition of Africa has given rise to much rivalry, to dangerous disputes almost culminating in armed warfare between the nations of Europe. Deeds have been done in Africa, of which each participating Power in the "scramble" feels ashamed, and this feeling of shame, coupled with distrust of its neighbour, causes each Power to hesitate before taking action, leads the timid statesman to shrink, to search for excuses, to palliate-almost to condone. Public opinion is still suffering, although in a lessening degree, perhaps, from one of those periodical waves of materialism and indifferentism which sweep over the intellectual world from time to time, when appeals to humanity are put down to sentimental clap-trap, or to the deluded imaginings of ill-regulated minds. But what movement for reform, what effort to undo a wrong, or to upset a tyranny has ever been carried to a successful conclusion without impediments and opposition? Rather should we rejoice that so many powerful sympathies are already enlisted in the cause.

Those whom appeals to humanity leave untouched, we are able, happily, to approach on other grounds, to put before them arguments and data based upon the severest practicability, upon the clearest common-sense, upon considerations of science and reason which will bear-and have borne-the test of examination. We can produce sufficient presumptive evidence to show that the continuation and spread of this evil will bring with it, as inevitably as night follows day, ruin and disaster upon every legitimate European enterprise in Equatorial Africa; will undo the work of years of patient effort; will render valueless the sacrifice of many valuable lives laid down in the task of exploring and opening up those vast regions, and will fling back their inhabitants into the welter of barbarism, deeper and infinitely more degrading than any they have hitherto experienced.

The men of a hundred years ago, who fought the over-sea African slave trade, were giants. The obstacles they had to surmount were colossal. They surmounted them-they won. Compared with them, the men who to-day are fighting the New Slavery in Africa are pygmies. Their difficulties are substantial, but they will overcome them -- and they will win.

Hawarden, 1903.



A few weeks ago I suggested to a friend who, although entirely unconnected with Congo affairs, shares nevertheless the feelings of indignation entertained by all impartial observers at the monstrous abuses of which the Congo Basin has become the scene, the publication of a pamphlet dealing with the subject, which I volunteered to write and compile, if he would defray the cost of printing and distribution. This he generously agreed to do. I can only hope that what is written in these pages may help the determined efforts now being made to rouse the public conscience of the world to the abuses which, under the cloak of a detestable hypocrisy, maintained by every political and personal intrigue that ingenuity can suggest, are befouling the honour of the white races in Equatorial Africa, and building up a heritage of trouble of which no man can foretell the consequences or the end.

This pamphlet -- which is for gratis distribution only-is in effect an appeal to the people of the civilized world, whose representatives signed the Berlin Act of 1885, and the Brussels Act of 1890, to unite in putting pressure upon their respective Governments to take the territories known as the Congo State out of the hands of King Leopold II, now dictator over a million square miles in Africa, inhabited by twenty million negroes; and by such measures as may be decided upon at a new Conference, to ensure that the provisions of the Berlin and Brussels Acts shall be effectively carried out in those territories.

No attempt is herein made to recount the historical incidents relating to the foundation of the State, nor to recapitulate the authenticated stories of persistent cruelty and oppression which have characterised its career more or less since its birth, but especially since its policy of land appropriation, and appropriation, of the produce of the soil was put into practice-that is to say, since 1891. That task has been fully and admirably performed by Mr. H. R. Fox-Bourne, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society:; in his volume published this year, "Civilisation in Congo-land." [note 1]

The object aimed at here has been twofold: (1) The presentation in a lucid and easily readable form of the cardinal features which underlie the new system of African slavery, conceived and applied in the territories of the Congo Basin by the Sovereign of the Congo State, thus centralising in a few pages the exposure of that system which the author has already attempted; in the volumes published by Mr. Heinemann in December of last and May of this year, entitled respectively "Affairs of West Africa," [note 2] and the "British Case in French Congo." [note 3]

(2) The treatment, in distinct chapters, of the Domaine Privé, the Domaine de la Couronne, and each of the great Trusts into which the Domaine Privé is sub-divided, accompanied in every case by maps with the specific areas marked upon them, and by a narrative of the more recent events which are available, or have been chronicled, from those specific areas.

The author ventures to hope that, by this method of treatment, the reader may have no difficulty in getting at the bed-rock facts of the situation.

Every effort has been made to deal with the subject as temperately as the author's feelings admit, but no apology is tendered to those whose sensitiveness will not allow that a spade should under any circumstances be described otherwise than as an agricultural implement. The use of kid gloves and undiluted rose water can be left to the diplomatists who for eleven years have sat still and not moved a little finger while the Congo Basin was in process of being formed into a charnel house, and who have only been roused from their apathy within the last few weeks by strong speaking and straight writing -- notwithstanding the fact, that in the Foreign Offices of England, Germany and France, reports are pigeon-holed which confirm in every particular the charges made against the Congo State for years past, by all who have had an opportunity of studying the effects of its system on the spot.

The British Government, in the face of a unanimous House of Commons, has now promised to approach the signatory Powers, but there is some reason to fear that if constant pressure is not brought to bear upon the authorities, both inside the House and out of it, the "enquiry" will only be a half-hearted sort of affair. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that public opinion throughout the world should be brought to understand this question. This pamphlet is a humble attempt to that end.

It has been stated above that this is an appeal to the people of the civilized world, whose representatives signed the Berlin and Brussels Acts. But it is also an appeal to the American public, whose Government did not ratify those Acts, but which has a peculiar and very special responsibility in the matter, inasmuch as the American Government was the first to recognise the status of the International Association (which subsequently became the Congo State) and thereby paved the way for similar action on the part of the European Governments. America was deceived, as Europe was deceived, by the professions of philanthropy and high moral purpose so lavishly scattered by the Sovereign of the Congo State. It is to be hoped that President Roosevelt and the American people may help to undo the grievous wrong which was thereby unknowingly inflicted upon the natives inhabiting the Congo Territories.

[. . .]  


1. P. S. King & Son, Orchard House, Westminster (Price, 10/6 net.) [back]
2. Affairs of West Africa (W. Heinemann, Bedford Street, London), price 12s. net. [back]
3. The British Case in Frence Congo (W. Heinemann, Bedford Street, London) prince 6s. net. [back]