King Leopolds Ghost Essay

This essay has a total of 2105 words and 9 pages.


King Leopolds Ghost







King Leopold's Ghost tells a story of the Belgian King Leopold II and his misrule of an
African colony, named (at the time) the Congo Free State. It is a wild and unpleasant
story of a man's capacity for evil and the peculiar manifestation of it.

In telling this story, Hochschild does a wonderful job of giving detailed descriptions,
especially of the colorful individuals involved, both good and bad. His analysis of the
situation is very solid, starting with the movement when the Congolese hero (Morel) finds
out a very terrible fact and moving on through his (Morel) analysis and actions, all the
while telling the story of a treacherous monster. Set in the palaces and boardrooms of
Europe and in the villages of central Africa, it tells the story of the tragedy that took
place during Leopold's so called rule, a tragedy that is so familiar to African-Americans,
being told of our African brothers residing in the homeland. This "horror" story is just
in fact that, a horror story, giving and revealing the utter most secrets of the respected
King Leopold. Allow me to take you on a journey, pointing out the King's determination
and, reasoning for what he'd done and the scars he left deep within the heart of the
Congo.

In the introduction I stated that Morel was the character that I considered to be the hero
of this story, now the main question behind that would be, why? Along with, Who is Morel?
His complete name was Edmund Dene Morel; he was a young clerk who worked for a Liverpool
based firm where his duties were to supervise the unloading and reloading of the ships
arriving in Antwerp, Belgium. As Morel watched the shipments arrive he noticed something,
a great amount of ivory and rubber were being transported into Belgium but nothing was
being taken out, as the book states: "There is no trade going on here. Little or nothing
is being exchanged for the rubber and ivory…with almost no goods being sent to Africa to
pay for them, he realizes that there can be only one explanation for their source: slave
labor." (p.2)

With his newfound revelation at hand Morel does not sit still. Demonstrating that he
refused to turn a blind eye to what fortune had allowed him to see, he soon becomes active
with his newfound knowledge. Soon afterward Morel devoted his life to stopping slavery in
the Congo. From the early 1900's until after the death of Leopold in 1909, Morel, having
become a radical human rights campaigner, used the information smuggled out of the Congo
by missionaries and Leopold's employees, to set up the Congo Reform Association (CRA) and
mount a campaign that won the support of prominent politicians and churchmen, both in
Britain and in the United States. Among these supporters was the highly respected Joseph
Conrad (author of Heart of Darkness).

So what about this Mr. King Leopold? As of now you must understand that he has done
something far worse than inhabit slave labor and import ivory and rubber to have caused
such a controversy across the world? Simply, Leopold wanted a colony, any colony to give
his position some leverage; he felt that by owning more than just his small country, that
he'd somehow be validated as a King. Since he'd noticed the world flying by him quickly
with new developments and technological advancements, not to mention anyone who was anyone
owned a piece of the colonialism pie, Leopold just had to have his piece.

Leopold feeling squeezed out by the British, French Empires, and the rising power of
Germany, studied forms of colonialism from the Dutch East Indies, to the British
possession in Indian and Africa. Leopold's regime, despite his studies, differed from
those of those of his fellow colonialists. Leopold schemed to build himself a forced
labor camp on a massive expanse of central Africa and was quite smooth with pulling all of
this off. Through methods of bribery, chicanery, brute force and almost supernatural
sense of cunning, Leopold had acquired an enormous private colony in Africa and gotten the
rest of the worked to accept his claim as legally binding.

In 1884 Leopold gained recognition for the Congo by making a web of bilateral agreements
at the Berlin conference in February 1885. The aim of the conference was proclaimed to be
"abolishing the [Arab] slave trade, establishing peace among the chiefs and procuring them
just and impartial arbitration." And of course because this was Leopold's excellent idea
he was granted custody of the Congo, to bring civilization to the ignorant savages of
Africa. Amount its aims, he convinced the US, Germany and Britain, that not only would he
combat the Arabian slave trade but he would also establish Christian outpost on a heathen
continent. Soon after Leopold gained possession of the Congo the horror began

Leopold's main crime consisted of impressing as many Congolese as possible into forced
labor and requiring them to turn in quotas of rubber and ivory, with hideous consequences,
including mutilation if they failed. One might ask, what would drive a man of such great
respect and admiration to inflict that degree of pain on others? The answer in my opinion
remains simple, it was all about all about the Benjamin's baby.

I won't even ask this next question, but to answer it, getting away with this type of
scheme was very well thought out. The text plainly states that, "Unlike other great
predators of history… Leopold never saw a drop of blood spilt in anger. He never set foot
in the Congo. There is something very modern about that too, as there is about the bomber
pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams or sees shattered
homes or torn flesh." (p.4) Personally I can't help but analyze the parallel that
Hochschild makes between Leopold and the bomber pilot. I do agree on one hand, but the
only difference was that Leopold unlike the pilot did see the broken bones and torn flesh,
hence the hands he had brought to him. There are photographs of men , women and children
whose hands had been chopped off the text also stated that not only were the hands and
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