Title: "The Congo Question"

Journal: New York Times

Place of Publication: New York

Date: December 12, 1906

Place: Congo Free State


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The Congo Question.

"The dark places of the earth are full of horrible cruelty." That is a saying a great many centuries anterior to either the existence of sensational newspapers or the formation of the Congo Free State. But it seems to have an impressive modern instance in the case of the Congo Free State. The administration of that country of the King of the Belgians has occasioned careful and documented reports exhibiting a frightful condition of things. The evidence of "horrible cruelty" has been so abundant and so shocking that it has penetrated to Belgium. A fortnight ago there was an "interpellation" and a debate on the subject in the Belgian Legislature. The debate was not very much to the purpose, though it showed that there were Belgians who had regard to the reputation of their country, and felt the stain of the revelations. The King of the Belgians seems, in truth, t o be a very inhumane old gentleman. His plea that he is really out of pocket by the venture in the course of which these atrocities were committed in his name, and under his authority, and which he did nothing to redress when the facts were brought to his notice, cannot be accepted as either a justification or an excuse.

These facts afford abundant reason for humane Americans, in their individual capacities, to sympathize and to antipathize, as the facts seem to warrant. They afford no reason whatever why the United States, which is not and cannot possibly be accused of complicity with the atrocities, should take any official action whatever. This was clearly pointed out, some months ago, to the sympathetic American souls which yearned to have our Government "do something." It was pointed out to them by the Secretary of State that we were not even a signatory to the treaty of Berlin, under which the King of the Belgians had acquired the authority he was credibly reported to be abusing.

This was the only ground the Secretary of State could take, however violently his personal blood might be boiling, although it may not boil at so low a temperature as that of some of his fellow-citizens about outrages with which his country had no official concern. One is astonished that an educated and experienced man like Senator Lodge should cater to the desire, be it never so general, or, sentimentally, never so well founded, to get his country either to take perfectly nugatory action, or else to put it in a position where it could be properly told to mind its own business. And yet one of those two results must follow the adoption by the Senate of his resolution of inquiry. We are no the Don Quixote of nations that we should go about tilting at windmills in the endeavor to rescue the distressed damsels of the world. The Cuban precedent is not in point. In that case not only were Weyler's atrocities committed at our own doors, but we were asked to carry heavy burdens in order to maintain our own neutrality and keep that beautiful state of matters going on. Even more remote from our rights of remonstrance is the case of the Congo than that Kishinoff massacre, an American protest against which Russia was perfectly within her rights in declining to receive. It really will not do to encourage the popular delusion that because anything anywhere is going what our people think wrong, therefore our Government should and must "do something."