King Leopold Essay

Submitted By enaber11
Words: 1477
Pages: 6

King Leopold II and the Congo Free State King Leopold II retained the interesting position of being the king of two independent countries at the same time – Belgium and the Congo Free State. His conflicting set of goals and values were as separate as his double title. He adopted the interests of a dedicated philanthropist, yet his actions in Africa labeled him as a greedy dictator. As sovereign over the Congo Free State, he was responsible for the death of somewhere between five to fifteen million Congolese, natives of the Congo River basin. The bloodiest episode in Africa’s colonization took place under King Leopold II who used Congolese people to work under harsh conditions and punishments for his own personal gain. On April 9th, 1835 Leopold Louis Philippe Marie Victor was born in Brussels, Belgium’s capital. He was the oldest son of Leopold I, the Belgians’ first king. When Leopold was ten, his father initiated his military training and Leopold followed the tradition of the Crown Princes by serving in the Grenadiers. At eleven he was titled Duke of the Brabant. Leopold advanced through the ranks of the Belgian Army, serving as lieutenant-general and then honorary commander of his regiment by the age of twenty, and he also held a seat in the Belgian Senate. He managed the throne after the death of his father, Leopold I (Nosotro 1). King Leopold II of Belgium was the reigning king of Belgium from 1865 until his death in 1909. Leopold was upset about his small inheritance. He was expecting a colonial empire, not a small country.
The scramble for Africa began in the mid-1870 with the purpose of colonizing the “Dark Continent”. It was called the dark continent because of the large basin rain forests surround the Congo River. In 1876 Leopold II hired Sir Henry Morton Stanley to capture as much land in the Congo area as possible. Both Leopold and Stanley were very eager to tap into Africa’s natural supplies. To do so, Stanley had hundreds of illiterate African chief’s sign away their land to the king. Most of whom had little idea of the agreement to which they were signing. (Ascherson 2). Stanley was able to get over 905,000 square miles. Leopold was not intending for this to become a Belgian colony, but his private state. Leopold did not want his earnings to conflict with the Belgian government. All he was interested in was a side job.
The same year that Leopold employed Stanley, he created the International African Association. It’s an organization that strove for colonization and exploration of Africa (Brainard 4). He also established a benevolent committee for the civilization in Central Africa. During the beginning of his process he had said that he wanted to improve the native’s lives, but that didn’t last for long. Soon he drifted away from these promises and started to run the state freely.
On November 15, 1884 European and American representatives attended a conference in Berlin. They were to discuss how to divide Africa evenly (Rosenberg 1). The French dominated most of West Africa, and the British controlled the eastern and southern Africa. The Belgians acquired the vast territory that became known as The Congo. The Germans also had their share of land, acquiring four colonies in Africa. The Portuguese held a small colony in West Africa and two large ones in Southern Africa. The Congo Free State was private property thanks to Stanley’s treaties he had obtained.
In the beginning Congo Free State was going to be used for its ivory resources. Ivory was used to make things like piano keys and jewelry. It quickly shifted to rubber. It all began in the early 1890s when Dunlop invented the inflatable rubber tire. Throughout the world's tropics people rushed to establish rubber plantations. Rubber is one of the most important products to come out of the rainforest. Leopold II had the most land with rubber trees. More than half of his property was covered in rubber trees.