The Congo Free State Essay

1952 words - 8 pages

Over the course of human history, many believe that the “Congo Free State”, which lasted from the 1880s to the early 1900s, was one of the worst colonial states in the age of Imperialism and was one of the worst humanitarian disasters over time. Brutal methods of collecting rubber, which led to the deaths of countless Africans along with Europeans, as well as a lack of concern from the Belgian government aside from the King, combined to create the most potent example of the evils of colonialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s. The Congo colonial experience, first as the Congo Free State then later as Belgian Congo, was harmful to that region of Africa both then and now because of the lack of Belgian and International attention on the colony except for short times, the widespread economic exploitation of the rubber resources of the region, and the brutal mistreatment and near-genocide of the Congolese by those in charge of rubber collecting.
While Leopold II, the King of Belgium, desperately wanted an overseas colony, The Belgian people did not share his enthusiasm; which created the feelings of neglect and apathy Belgium had towards Congo. The Congo Free State, established “in the margins of the Berlin Conference” in 1885, allowed Leopold to “gain international recognition of his possession” which he had begun to take control of since the 1870s. However, while Leopold was securing control of the Congo, the Belgian people were not interested in controlling colonies, as they believed that colonies “would merely soak up resources that would be better used for social purposes at home.” Thus, the Belgian people decided to solve the problem of having an unwanted colony by separating the Belgian government from Congo colony. In the arrangement, “Leopold would act in two entirely separate capacities: In Belgium, he would rule as a Constitutional Monarch, while in the Congo, he would rule as an autocrat.” Thus, the Congo Free State ended up being Leopold II’s possession, and not a colony of Belgium. Since Belgium was not in direct control of the Congo colony, Leopold could and did act as he pleased in the region. However, Leopold soon ran out of money and borrowed heavily to cement his control over the Congo. Luckily, Rubber became a highly demanded resource, and the Congo had abundant rubber, which made the state economically viable. Unfortunately, due to the lack of colonists, Leopold ended up forcing Congolese to work to gather the rubber. International powers, specifically the U.S. and Britain, sent expeditions to the Congo to observe and report on the conditions there, as rumors abounded that Leopold was using particularly brutal methods, such as requiring soldiers to present severed hands to display an effective use of weaponry , to enforce rubber collection. Foreign visitors and inspectors, such as E.D. Morel, who determined that Congo was “being ‘systematically robbed’,” Roger Casement, whose trip to the interior of...

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