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King Leopold: The Oppressor Essay

1419 words - 6 pages

King Leopold II of Belgium’s speech delivered to missionaries traveling to the Congo describes an attempt by the king to justify the subjugation of the Congolese people for the benefit of the Belgian economy. King Leopold directed his speech to the Catholic missionaries who were planning on working with the indigenous population of the Congo in 1883. Leopold, blinded by racism and imperialist greed, stresses that the missionaries should selectively interpret their Bible teachings in a manner that appears to rationalize the oppression and exploitation of the native Congolese population. In doing so, the missionaries helped Leopold achieve his goal of transforming Belgium into an imperialist country with international influence. Leopold’s use of inflammatory diction, allusions to scriptures from the Bible, and repetition of a commanding inflection in his speech convinced his myopic audience to commit terrible atrocities in his name. However, it should be noted that his lack of logical development, which includes inconsistencies in his reasoning, ultimately undermines his already weak arguments that he claims are justification for the subjugation of the Congolese population.
King Leopold begins his speech by informing his missionaries that they will be carefully interpreting the principles of the Bible in a manner that will benefit the Belgian state during Belgium’s colonization of the Congo. He clearly showcases his strictly imperialist agenda by stating “The main goal of your mission in the Congo is not to teach the Negro the knowledge of God, because they already know him” (Par. 1). Using this frank and straightforward method, Leopold makes no effort to conceal the devious nature of his commands. Under the guise of spreading religion, the rest of the world would only see that Belgium was sending missionaries to the Congo for spiritual purposes. Instead, King Leopold uses the influence of the Catholic Church to create a socio-political ambiance in the Congo that would favor exploitation and the denial of human rights. By wielding the power of the Catholic Church, Leopold hoped to mold the social structure of the Congo such that “Our savages be not interested in the riches that their soil possesses” (Par. 1). In doing so, Leopold hoped to enrich and augment the power of Belgium even if it came at the expense of millions of lives he did not value.
King Leopold allows his elevated social standing and sense of authority to resonate throughout his entire speech. By establishing a commanding tone, he strengthens his position of influence and leadership and uses this as much as possible to steer his audience to think like he does. Repetition of commands and key phrases such as “you are going to”, “you will”, and “for the interest of Belgium” also mirror the fact that Leopold is used to giving orders and not being questioned about their motive (Par. 1). This repetition resounds through his entire speech and effectively drills the Leopold’s wishes into...

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