Congo Free State
The Independent State of the Congo was established after Stanley made his famous trip to the mouth of the Congo River, arriving at Embomma, or, as called by the traders, Boma, in August, 1877.
In September, 1876, the King of the Belgians invited a convention of geographers to his palace in Brussels, to discuss the question of the exploration and civilization of Africa, by opening it up to commerce, and crushing the slave trade. This conference formed an International African Association. The committee was established at Brussels, with the King of the Belgians presiding over it.
The Association established stations from the East Coast to Lake Tanganyika, and in 1879 Mr. Stanley was made commander-in-chief of the International Association of the Congo. This branch was to open up the Congo from the West Coast, establish stations, and connect, if, possible, with the expeditions from the East Coast. It had been proved by question, that in order to facilitate trading and exploration in Central Africa, it would be necessary to have stations as bases of supplies to fall on.
Stanley arrived at the Congo, via Zanzibar, in August, 1880, and, starting from Boma, he established stations as far as Stanley Pool, 336 miles from the sea. Here he was taken ill and returned to Europe, having in the mean time met M. De Brazza, who had explored south and east, from the French Territory on the Oqowe River to Stanley Pool, making treaties with the chiefs, and claiming sovereign rights for France over the territory he had explored.
Stanley returned to Congo in January, 1883, continued his work, and succeeded in establishing stations as far as Stanley Falls, which point was reached in December, 1883.
While this work was being carried on, the Association set out General Sir F. Goldsmid to negotiate treaties with the natives, establish sovereign rights for the Association, and also to report on the work already accomplished. General Goldsmid was desirous of forming a confederation of the native chiefs, on the system of the East India Company, and in that way interest the natives in keeping out the French and other nations. General Goldsmid was out six months, reached Stanley Pool, and then returned to Europe. The greater part of the expenses of the expedition, it is said, have been borne by the King, who was reported to have expended $500,000 per annum.
The troubles and disputes between the French, Portuguese, and the Association, was the cause of the convening of the 1885 Berlin Conference, which defined the limits of the territory belonging to the different nationalities, and ended in the founding of the Independent State of the Congo, with the King of the Belgians as the nominal head. The flag adopted was a blue field with gold star in center.
On October, 1885, the Congo State had stations as far as Stanley Falls. The expeditions from the East Coast have established stations as far as M’Palla on the west side of Lake Tanganyika. All the stations on the east side of Stanley Falls were soon abandoned.
At the Conference of Berlin, held in 1884-85 to settle disputes among the European nations and in essence to partition Africa among them, thirteen powers, following the example set by the United States, separately recognized Leopold II's International Association of the Congo, which had already adopted its own flag, as an independent entity. Shortly afterward the association became the Congo Free State. By the General Act of Berlin, signed at the conclusion of the conference in 1885, the powers also agreed that activities in the Congo Basin should be governed by certain principles, including freedom of trade and navigation, neutrality in the event of war, suppression of the slave traffic, and improvement of the condition of the indigenous population.
By the decision of the Berlin Conference, there were to be no tolls or passage dues levied by the State, and no important duties for twenty years. Revenues are to be raised by taxes and rents, and by export duties. There is to be religious freedom, and the slave trade is condemned. The conference recognized Leopold II as sovereign of the new state.
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