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THE CONGO NEUTRALIZED.
THE Congo-named also Livingstone, in memory of that great
explorer,—this splendid river, whose discovery was to have been but the means of spreading civilization, seems likely to occasion shortly rivalries and jealousies between the States of Europe. France, after having set up her flag at Stanley Pool, has now forcibly seized upon and occupied Punta-Negra, which appears manifestly to indicate intentions of conquest and annexation. Portugal claims sovereignty over all the territory on both banks of the Congo lying between the degrees 5° 12' and 8° south latitude, and also over the interior up to beyond Stanley Pool. If this latter claim were accepted, all the stations which have been founded there by two English missionary societies, and by the International Association of which the King of the Belgians is the patron, would be impeded in their development. This would at once occasion possibilities of conflicts and disputes between France and Portugal, for it would be very hard to fix boundaries between the possessions of the two nations. An African Society, recently founded in Rotterdam, has sent in an address to the Dutch Parliament, begging that the claims of France and Portugal on the Congo may be opposed. This address claims the status quo, maintaining that the exclusive pretensions of these two Powers interfere with the prior rights of Holland, which traded on the coast of Loango a century and a half ago, and also that the Dutch factories at the mouth of the Congo may suffer in consequence of these pretensions. The address concludes by inviting the Dutch Government to join with England, Germany, Belgium, and the United States in opposing the carrying out of Savorgnan de Brazza's treaty. This address passed the Chamber of Commerce at Rotterdam without a dissenting voice, and will, it is said, be strongly supported in Par
liament by the members for that town. A society similar to the one just mentioned has been founded in Germany; and two German travellers, Pogge and Wissmann, are exploring the Congo. In England also several Chambers of Commerce, together with the Anti-Slavery Association and many missionary societies—in other words, those portions of the population representing essentially the interests of trade, of humanity, and of Christianity—have sent in an address to the Foreign Office, requesting the English Government to maintain the liberty of the Congo; and when Mr. Forster put his ques. tion in the House, Mr. Gladstone had already most absolutely declared that the Queen's Government would come to no decision respecting this important matter without first consulting Parliament. An English Company is now being formed in London for trade on the Upper Congo; the Germans are entering the country, and a Russian expedition is also contemplated. Finally, M. de Brazza is en route for the Stanley Pool, no longer as an isolated explorer, but as the representative of the French nation, empowered to dispose as he will of gunboats, of artillery, and of some hundreds of soldiers. We see then what divers interests are at stake, what rival claims and pretensions have already surged up, what elements of hostility have sprung into existence; and we are but at the outset of the undertaking, for three years ago the Congo was scarcely thought of. I should like to show in what manner all such unfortunate difficulties could be avoided, leaving these regions quietly to enjoy the benefits of peaceful competition, of free trade, of scientific explorations, and of Christian and humane missions.
The course, I think, to be pursued, would be to declare the neutrality of the Congo, entrusting the legislation of everything connected with this great river to an International Commission, as for the Danube. At all events, all the stations already founded,or hereafter to be founded, on the Congo, for the purpose of affording hospitality to travellers, or with any such humane view, should be unhesitatingly declared neutral. If I hazard this suggestion, which may at first appear chimerical, I do so because I feel assured it would be well received both in Germany and England, and because, even in France, it would have its adherents among far-seeing men, chief among whom would be the highest possible authority on such a subject, M. de Lesseps.* When the Congo question was under discussion in the House of Commons, we excited no little indignation on the part of some of our French contemporaries by proposing to place the great African waterway under the regulation of an International Commission ; but the suggestion has been better appreciated in Germany. Herr Gerhard Rohlfs, the well-known German traveller, has published recently in the Allgemeine Zeitung (April 22, 1883), an earnest appeal to the Government at Berlin to unite with England in internationalizing the Congo. He says :
* M. de Lesseps, who devotes his prodigious energy to all works calculated to advance the progress of humanity, wrote to me as follows :-" The idea of neutralizing the Congo seems to me excellent. The realization of such a project would be worthy of our age, and would be a noble reward to the heroic men who have thrown open this portion of Africa to civilized Europe. I sincerely wish you every success in your undertaking, in which the King of the Belgians has so generously taken the initiative. I should be glad to see your scheme answer.” Eminent Italian statesmen, such as J. Mancini, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mingbetti, Luzzatti, Pierantoni, were very well disposed towards the project, and in France several newspapers have already approved of the idea. M. Aurelien Scholl wro of it as follows :-" That any nation should
“ To internationalize the Congo would perhaps present more difficulties than to subject the mouths of the Danube to common control; but it ought to prove feasible were England and Germany to throw their whole influence into the scale. If Germany join England, France, Italy, and Portugal can but follow their example, and the Congo will be saved. Let liberty for every one, under the protection of laws settled by international agreement, be our watch word. Some French papers may object, but the motive that underlies this objection—the desire of conquest-is a very cogent reason why the other Powers who do not desire annexation should insist on applying the precedent of the Danube to the regulation of the Congo."
But before discussing the feasibility of this scheme it would be well to examine what has been already done in Central Africa, what is the present condition of the country, and, more especially, what may be looked for in the future, if free course be allowed to the enterprise of science, trade, and humanity, unimpeded by any ambitious schemes of conquest or annexation.
When, in August, 1877, the King of the Belgians graciously invited the most eminent geographers of Europe, together with all who by their studies or philanthropy had identified themselves with schemes for the civilization of Central Africa, to partake of Royal hospitality and to attend a conference to be held in his palace in Brussels, the letters of invitation clearly explained the end for which this conference was assembled. Previous to that date there had been many heroic expeditions to the interior of Africa, the expenses of which had been defrayed by private subscriptions. The King approved of these strongly, as emanating from Christian feeling and from a desire to spread civilization. To abolish the slave trade in Africa, to pierce through the darkness which now clouds it over, and throw open to the world its resources, which are apparently enormous, is, said think of confiscating the Congo for its personal profit, to the exclusion of other nations, would be an act of folly verging on impudence. Between Stanley and Brazza there is an individual rivalry, but the question is far above the personal disputes of these gentlemen. After an international congress of geographers, held at the palace in Brussels, at which were present learned men and great travellers of all uationalities, the International African Association was founded, with a view to establish hospitable and scientific stations in Central Africa from one coast to the other in the direction of the Equator. It was agreed, that in order to effect this there should be an understanding among European nations in general. The great things to be avoided were petty rivalries and jealousies, and rapacity (said to be national) which must fatally lead to disagreement, and these collisions very naturally would take all confidence from the native populatior.. What can be their opinion of a civilization heralded by disputes and conflicts? What must they think of peacemakers who commence by firing at each other?"
Leopold II., a crusade well worthy of this nineteenth century. “But," added the King, “ all these attempts have hitherto been isolated, and proposals are now being made on all sides that they should be united, and that a conference should be held to decide as to the course of conduct to be taken, in the future, in Africa, as also to fix certain landmarks and the limits of the territory hitherto unexplored, so that henceforth no expedition need be wasted.”
Sovereign of but a small country, Leopold II. is naturally led to interest himself considerably in the affairs of the world in general. Too young at present to be, like his eminent father, the counsellor of nearly all the crowned heads of Europe, and their adviser in secret negotiations, Leopold II. takes very deep interest in the future of the far East. Before ascending the throne he travelled in Egypt, India, and China, studying these countries with attentive observation; and he returned thence fully convinced that, taking into consideration the immense strides that are being made in the development of European industry, it has become a matter of necessity that fresh openings should be created in view of its further spread, and that these openings ought to be made in the immense continents which are inhabited by a large proportion of the world's population. The present lengthy economic crisis proves but too clearly the justice of these opinions. North America, guided by a most narrow and mistaken policy, refuses to accept our produce. We are therefore forced to look further, and must seek fresh markets in Asia and Africa; the latter is the more interesting, because there a humane work may be carried on at the same time. The slave trade may be suppressed, and with it the abominable wars which so sadly depopulate these fertile regions. The King suggested three chief points for the consideration of the conference of 1877; they were as follows First, to draw up a basis of operations to be pursued on the coast of Zanzibar and near the mouth of the Congo ; secondly, to fix the tracks for eventual roads by creating posts and stations between the coast and the interior, where Europeans could settle, with a view to offering hospitality to travellers, conducting scientific researches, acting as arbitrators between neighbouring chiefs, and endeavouring to abolish slavery and to inculcate ideas of justice amongst the native population; and thirdly, to form a central international commission for the carrying out of this project, and to explain the end to be attained to the general public of every nation, soliciting, at the same time, patronage and funds.
This elevated and generous idea of the King of the Belgians excited warm and universal sympathy, and the conference was attended by travellers and geographers of all nationalities. France was represented by Admiral de la Roncière Le Noury, President of the Geographical Society of Paris, by M. Maunoir, Secretary of the
same society, by M. Henry Duveyrier, the explorer of the Sahara ; and by M. le Marquis de Compiègne, who had recently returned from a perilous expedition in the unexplored regions of the Ogowai. Germany sent three illustrious travellers, Messrs. Gerhard Rohlfs, and Schweinfurth, and Dr. Nachtigal, who had just obtained the chief medal given by the Geographical Society of Paris. Italy was represented by Commander Negri; Prussia by the Baron Richshofen, President of the Geographical Society of Berlin; Austro-Hungary by M. de Hochstetter, President of the Geographical Society of Vienna, by Count Edmond Zichy, Baron Hoffmann, Financial Minister, and Lieutenant A. Lux, who had returned from visiting the unknown basin of the Kwango. England sent Sir Rutherford Alcock, then President of the Geographical Society of London, Sir Bartle Frere, Sir Henry Rawlinson, Colonel Grant,—who with his friend Speke first announced the existence of the great lakes of Central Africa,-Commander Cameron,—whose expedition from the east to the west coast of Africa by Lakes Tanganyika and the Lualaba was so much talked of,—and several eminent philanthropists,Sir Harry Verney, Sir John Kennaway, Sir T. Fowell Buxton, Mr. W. Mackinnon, and Admiral Sir Leopold Heath. Belgium, possessing no noted travellers, was represented merely by persons whose assistance in their own country might be of service in making the project known; among these was M. Emile Banning, who afterwards published an excellent work on Central Africa, summing up all that was then discovered with regard to it and giving also the results of the Brussels conference and the programme there agreed upon. After four days' deliberations, presided over with great tact by King Leopold in person, it was settled that a line of stations should be established between the Zanzibar coast and the interior.
But what should be the character and mission of these stations ? They should not be at all of a military character; all travellers are agreed as to that. Their mission is to act with gentleness and persuasion, and to make use of that ascendancy which a civilized man possesses over a mere savage. Any show of armed force would at once excite the hostility of the natives, and this could but terininate in an outbreak which, if resisted, would lead to open war and to conquest, things to be studiously avoided.
Again, the stations created by the International Conference must not be missionary; not because missionary zeal is not duly appreciated or its power doubted, but because subscriptions are received from members of many different denominations and opinions. While, therefore, sympathizing with the efforts that are being made in Central Africa to spread the Gospel, the emissaries of the Inter
* “L'Afrique et la Conférence géographique de Bruxelles.” Par Emile Banning. Brux 1877.