Title: "Congo and the United States"

Journal: Chicago Daily Tribune

Place of Publication: Chicago

Date: February 5, 1907

Place: Congo Free State


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Congo and the United States.

The Congo Free State has been pictured to American readers as the darkest, bloodiest part of Africa. It is comforting to be assured by Prof. Starr that most of the atrocities reported from the Congo, so far as there is any truth in the report, belong to a comparatively remote period, and may be ascribed in large part to an irrepressible recrudescence of savagery among the native troops. If conditions are not ideal in the Congo forests, at any rate the natives are better off than in the period of constant cruel intertribal wars.

It is not so comforting to be told that the worst truths about the Congo may be paralleled by instances from the German, French, Portuguese, or British possessions in Africa. This means not only that the sum of misery in the dark continent is larger than the American people have realized but also that if Uncle Sam, like a new Don Quixote, starts out to right the wrongs of the negro in Africa he will have his hands full. There is no reason to believe that the Belgian, the Frenchman, the German, the Portuguese, or the Englishman is inherently more cruel than the American, or that the isolated cases of cruelty of European officials are anything other than the result of combining a bad system and a bad climate.

Prof. Starr's suspicion that the anti-Belgian sentiment stirred up in this country is due to the sedulous agitation of British agents may or may not be well founded. That is largely a matter of opinion. But when the professor says that the accounts of atrocities are greatly exaggerated he is speaking of a matter on which he has more positive information than any other entirely unprejudiced person The Tribune knows of. Perhaps it is wrong to call him unprejudiced, since he is known as an opponent of the people of one race holding dominion over another. He is a believer in the Philippines for the Filipinos, China for the Chinese, and Africa for the Africans, and when he finds much to praise and little to condemn, except the general principle of race subjection. In King Leopold's administration of the task intrusted to him by the great powers of Europe, his words can be based upon nothing but the truth.

It is undoubtedly true that Great Britain would be the largest gainer if the separate existence of the Congo Free State were ended. At least two other nations would gain increase of territory by the partition of the Congo. Our information in this country largely comes through English channels. Even if there is no conscious effort to mislead American opinion it would be natural for the views of correspondents to be colored by the medium, of the national sentiment through which they pass. In any case, the articles which have appeared from time to time in American periodicals come at second or third hand, and whatever the motive with which they have been prepared, they are inferior in weight of evidence to the words of a man who has spent a year at his own expense investigating the life of the natives and winning their confidence in a way to get at the truth as far as it ever can he obtained from a member of an alien and inferior race.

It may do no harm for the United States to be a party to a conference of nations to discuss the Congo question if all the nations of Europe join. But there seems to be no occasion for precipitate action, much less for standing out as a partisan of Grant Britain in the matter. This country has race troubles enough of its own without volunteering to settle those of other countries.