King Leopold's Exploitation of the Congo Colony

Essay by dana_kistemakerUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 2004

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For over 400 years European explorers had sailed into the broad Congo estuary, planning to fight their way up the falls and rapids that begin only 100 miles inland, and then travel up the river to its unknown source. All attempts failed until Henry Morton Stanley was hired by Leopold, the King of the Belgians, to explore into the Congo area basin. King Leopold did not do this in the name of exploration, but instead he did it in the name of greed. Leopold had wanted to set up a colony for Belgium since his childhood. He wanted complete control of a land that he hoped could prosper into something larger and more powerful than Belgium had ever been. Through this lust for a colony, he sent Stanley into the unknown. When Stanley triumphantly returned, it was to no avail for Leopold.

Due to the fact that the scramble for Africa had not yet begun for Europeans, Leopold had to gain support from the large powers all over the world.

He did this through telling Britain and the United States that he was going to set up a 'Free State' in the Congo area, and 'civilize' the barbarians of the region. He told them that he was going to set up schools to educate, and create jobs, trade and eventually get the barbarians up to the same pace as the rest of the world. Although this was a nice cover for the king, it was not of main priority. King Leopold consequently ended up concentrating upon the violent exploitation of the people for his own financial and authoritative gain.

The first decree made by the King, was issued on the very day in 1885 that the existence of the Congo state was formally proclaimed. It declared that "all vacant land...