U.S. Navy Congo River Expedition of 1885
Ex. Doc. No. 77
Letter from The Secretary Of The Navy,
In compliance with resolution of January 27, report of Lieutenant Taunt of a journey on the river Congo.
February 5, 1887. Ordered that the letter of the Secretary of the Navy and accompanying documents be printed and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, and, together with the articles, ornaments, and coins accompanying said letter, be returned to the Secretary of the Navy.
Washington, February 1, 1887.
Sir: In compliance with resolution of the Senate of the 27th ultimo, I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a report submitted to the Navy Department by Lieut. E.H. Taunt, U.S.N., after completing a six months’ journey on the river Congo, Central Africa. Accompanying the report will be found certain documents, together with samples of materials likely to be used in the region of that river, and specimens of the articles used as currency in the different localities, specified in the accompanying memorandum.
Should the report be printed, I have the honor to request that 1,000 copies may be supplied for the use of the Navy Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Navy.
Hon. John Sherman,
President of the Senate
Report by Lieutenant E.H. Taunt, U.S.N.
Naples, Italy, February 26, 1886.
Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of my six months’ journey of the river Congo, southwest coast of Africa:
In obedience to orders, received from Rear-Admiral Earl English, U.S.N., to “proceed to Stanley Pool, and farther if practicable, reporting,” &c., I left the U.S. flagship Lancaster at Banana Point on May 2, 1885, and in company with Dr. Ralph Leslie, of the Congo State, started for Boma on board the small steamer Ville d’Anvers, belonging to the State. At Boma we spent the night, and leaving early next morning, arrived at Vivi, the headquarters of the Congo State, about midday on the 4th. At Vivi I was received most kindly by Count Pourtales, the chief-of-station, and made comfortable. Here I was obliged to await the arrival of Major Parminter, the acting Administrator-General.
Major Parminter arrived on the 6th, and we at once commenced organizing my caravan, with the idea, if my health permitted, of making a prolonged stay in the interior.
I had heard many criticisms concerning the report of the United States agent, Mr. Tisdel, to the effect that “he had not seen the Congo Valley,” that “nothing was claimed for the cataract region,” &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.
My goods and stores were made up, so that I was able to cross to M’Poso Station and the south bank of the Congo on May 13. From M’Poso, on May 15, I started for Stanley Pool with a caravan of fifty natives, carrying my goods, canned provisions, camp equipage, &c. I therefore felt it my duty to go into the interior as far as practicable and gain all the information possible of the valley of the Congo.
My first camp was at the native village of M’Pallabolla. I was received in state by the old king, Kamkanpaga, and given a comfortable hut to sleep in. At M’Pallabolla is the headquarters of the American Baptist Mission (late Livingstone Inland Mission).
Leaving M’Pallabolla on the morning of the 16th, I reached the station of M’Bauza Mateke about noon of the 19th; leaving on the morning of the 20th, arrived at Lukungo Station on May 25. At Lukungo my native caravan refused to go on until rested. I was therefore obliged to lay over until the 28th instant. On this date, I left Lukungo, and the same evening arrived at N’Gombe, or South Manyanga Station, on the south bank of the Congo, with the station of North Manyanga opposite on the north bank.
At South Manyanga, my companion, Mr. Parminter, was taken ill with bilious fever; this, in addition to the fact that my carriers refused to go on (as there had been some fighting between the State and natives en route to Lutété, the west station) detained me at South Manyanga until May 31. On this date, I was able to obtain new carriers. Mr. Parminter being too ill to proceed, I was obliged to leave him, and started, accompanied by Mr. Bateman, chief of Lutété Station.
I arrived at Lutété June 1, having passed the villages where there had been fighting a few days before; but, with the exception of some armed natives lurking in the long grass, I saw no signs of hostility. At Lutété I was obliged to change my caravan, but fortunately was able to engage men to carry me to the Pool. The day after our arrival, Mr. Bateman was taken with bilious fever, and being too ill to proceed, detailed his assistant, Mr. Stanhope, to accompany me.
I left Lutété on the afternoon of June 3. On the 5th, passed the rear sections of the steamer Stanley. This steamer was for use on the Upper River, and was being transported by sections to Stanley Pool. Each section was transported on a large iron-wheeled truck that required about ninety men to handle. Some fourteen months had already been occupied in the work of transportation, at an immense cost to the State. The advance section of the steamer were about three hours’ march ahead of the rear ones. At midday on June 7, I arrived at Leopoldville Station, Stanley Pool, having taken twenty-three days from M’Poso, including six days’ delay at stations, to travel a distance of 236 miles, over a mountainous, rocky, barren country.
At Leopoldville, I was received by Captain Saulez, chief-of-division, and the principal officials of the station. The Houssa guard was drawn up to received me, and the United States flag saluted. Captain Saulez assigned me a portion of his own quarters.
Before leaving Vivi I had received permission from the acting Administrator General to take passage on board the steam cutter Royal from Leopoldville to Stanley Falls. On my arrival, I found that the Royal was loaded to her gunwales, and that, in addition, she was to tow a loaded whale-boat. Captain Saulez was sending a relief expedition to Stanley Falls, with two Krupp guns, stores, ammunition, &c., to last six months. The expedition was in command of Mr. W. Deane, late of the English army. Mr. Deane was to fortify the Falls Station, and make it secure against a possible attack of the Arabs. These gentlemen offered to make room for me, but I knew, that in order to do so, they would be obliged to leave behind important and much-needed stores.
I learned from the American Mission that by waiting until July 1, and supplying some deficiencies in the engineer’s and other stores, I could take passage on the small launch Henry Reed, belonging to the Mission. I therefore declined the kind offer of Captain Sauleez, and accepted that of the Mission.
While waiting at Leopoldville, I visited the different native villages in the vicinity of Stanley Pool, the station of Kinchassa, and the French station of Brazzaville, on the north bank of the Pool. M. de Brazza and M. Chauvain, his second in command were in the interior. I made a trip around Stanley Pool in the launch Peace, belonging to the English Baptist Mission, and was able to visit all the points of interest.
The advance sections of the steamer Stanley arrived at Leopoldville on June 24, having taken some fifteen months from Banana.
On the afternoon of July 3, I started from Leopoldville, on board the launch Henry Reed, for Stanley falls, The Revs. Messrs. Billington and Glenesk accompanied me. I took with me my Zanzibari interpreter, Kabinda cook, and twenty Loanago boys to cut wood. The Royal left with Mr. Deane a few days before us.
The first few days we made but little progress, having great difficult in finding dry wood. On July 6, we passed the abandoned station of M’Suata, on the south bank, with the French station at Guanchan Point, opposite, on the north bank, and arrived at Kwamouth Station, mouth of the Kasai River, on the evening of the same day. At this place we found a good supply of wood ready for us, which we took on board, and on the morning of the 7th started for the next station, Bolobo.
The river had fallen but a few inches, and the banks were flooded some distance inland, making it most difficult to cut fuel for the launch. Frequently we would not be able to run more than two hours per day.
We reached Bolobo Station on the evening of July10, and were received most cordially by Lieutenant Leibrecth (Belgian army), chief-of-station. Here Mr. Billington was taken with fever, and we were obliged to lay over the 11th and 12th, leaving Bolobo for Lukelela Station on the morning of the 13th, Mr. Billington still quite ill.
On the afternoon of the 13th we passed and communicated with one of the whale boats bound to Bolobo, and arrived at Lukelela on the evening of the 16th. Here we found Mr. Glave (English), a chief-of-station, who received us very kindly. We remained at Lukelela over night, and left the next morning for the Equator Station. Between these two stations, we had the greatest difficulty finding fuel, and did not reach Equator Station until 9.30 p.m. July 21, having been obliged to run a few hours by moonlight. We were received here by Lieutenant Pargels (Swedish army), and by the members of the American Mission, who have established their advanced post at this station.
We remained at the Equator until July 24, we pushed on and entered the mouth of the Lalulango River July 26. After steaming some 30 miles up this river, we returned to the Congo on the afternoon of the 27th. The Lalulango River is supposed to be one of the largest of the affluents of the Congo.
We had up to this point kept to the south bank of the river, but as Bangala, the next station, was on the north bank, we crossed to the north bank, and reached Bangala on the morning of July 30. Lieutenant Coquilhat, of the Belgian army, was chief of Bangala, with Lieutenant Westmark, Swedish army, as assistant.
We were now in the cannibal country, and rigged our arrow guards (wire netting) fore and aft the launch. In the next 500 miles we knew we would find no white men, our first and last station, beyond Bangala, being the one at Stanley Falls.
Below Bangala we had seen no signs of hostility on the part of the natives, but we now met an entirely different race of people, suspicious, savage, and hostile.
Leaving Bangala on the morning of August 1, we anchored some 40 miles above the station, and about a mile below a large village, the people of which, thinking we had come to fight, sent their women to the islands, and then came down in canoes with the information that they were waiting for us. Nothing would reassure them, and they were around us all night in their canoes. We steamed past the village the next morning, and found the men fully armed with spears, knives, bows, and poisoned arrows, and rigged out in war bonnets. At 1.30 p.m. the same day we reached a large village, “Ikelengo,” and slowed down to buy food. The people declined to sell unless we ran to the beach. This I would not do, for in case of trouble I could only depend upon my Zanzibari to fight. The Loangos were useless, and the missionaries had stated, very properly, that they would not resort to firearms except in last extremity. We steamed ahead, and tied up about 4 p.m. some 8 miles above the village. At 8 p.m. I could hear canoe astern of us, but after a warning they drew off. I posted my Zanzibari and two others to watch during the night. At daylight a large war canoe was astern of us. After some talk with the guide, they came alongside, when I found that they had eight flint lock guns stowed away. These were the last fire-arms I saw in possession of the natives until we reached Stanley Falls. My guide learned, from the chief in the canoe, that they had been watching us all night. I then decided not to lie about the beach at night, but to anchor well off, and have all hands sleep on board the launch until we were clear of the cannibal country.
From the 4th until the 7th of August we passed no towns. About noon on the 7th we ran up to the town of M’Pesa, of the Irengo District. This town was protected by a strong boma (palisade) about 30 feet high, and evidently but recently erected. There were no women in sight and the men were in war costume, and fully armed. The greater part of the town had been burned. The people would have nothing to do with us, and I afterwards learned that Mr. Deane, in the Royal, had been attacked here but a few days before our arrival. He, however, had captured and burned the town, killing a number of men.
We were anxious to get food for our men, so we pushed on to the Upoto district, and about 2. p.m. we anchored opposite the town of Bukela. The people proved very friendly, and brought food to us in their canoes. That night, although we had anchored well above the villages the people were very suspicious of us, as their war-drums were going all night. Our movements had evidently been signaled ahead for each night after this we had canoes watching us, and could hear the war-drums, although we were not in sight of the villages.
On August 11 we passed several large towns of the Yembingo District, and tried to buy food, but they insisted on our going to the beach. This I declined to do, knowing that if the cannibals once got a foothold on the launch, they were in such numbers, it would be almost impossible, with my small force, to drive them off.
August 12 we anchored near a large village, Rubunga, on one of the islands. The people came out in canoes, and told us they would come with a force to fight us in the morning. We attempted to talk with them, but they insisted that we were Arabs, &c. The next morning they came out in large numbers, and, after a long talk with our guide, they ended in selling us food.
After 1 p.m., August 13 we steamed into Monogeri Channel. This is a stretch of water, about 50 yards wide, running between one of the large islands of the Congo and the north bank. We found it full of snags and very shoal. I had heard that Stanley and Lieutenant Van Gile had both been obliged to burn villages here, but I never imagined we would meet with the reception we did. At 2.30 p.m. we ran up opposite the large village of Monogeri. To our surprise, we were greeted with yells, war-drums, war horns, &c. The men were armed to the teeth with knives, spears, and poisoned arrows, and, to all appearances, were frantic with rage. I took my guns out and placed them in full sight, but at this they only increase their uproar.
Finding that we were streaming on, some of the men, absolutely devoid of fear, rushed waist-deep into the water to throw their spears, and as we passed the town, others launched their canoes to follow, many running along the banks. Three hours we were steaming in the narrow channel, and in that time passed several small, and two large villages; all of these had been notified of our approach by the signals and war-drums from below. The din of the yells, mingled with the drums and horns, was something terrific, for each village in turn had contributed to the number of yelling savages that followed us.
After passing the last town I calculated that we were followed by from two to three hundred men, some in canoes, and the others running along the banks. To add to my anxiety, I found that we were running short of wood, and I knew that if we were obliged to anchor in the channel it would be a hard fight all night, and a harder one in the morning when we attempted to land for wood. Fortunately, however, about 6 p.m. we ran out into the river, having just one-half hour’s wood left on board, and anchored in lee of one of the many islands of the Congo. It came on to blow hard, with rain, about 7 p.m., and I did not think the canoes would be able to follow on account of the sea that was running in the river. Shortly after 8 p.m., to our surprise, we were again greeted with the yells and war-horns, and I found that we were surrounded by from ten to twenty war-canoes filled with men. It was some time before we drove them off, and then finally took refuge on the islands near us. We could hear them all night, but they drew off at daylight.
These people had no fire arms, and I am sure that a few well-directed shots when we were first attacked in the channel would have saved us any further trouble, but I yielded to the entreaties of the missionaries not to fire except as a last resort.
On the night of August 14 we were anchored among the islands some miles above a large village, Yosaka. Here we were again surrounded by war-canoes. During the night, while I was forward, my Zanzibari discovered a canoe when only a few feet from the stern of the launch, evidently trying to board us. These savages above Bangala seem absolutely indifferent to danger, and it is only after many of them are shot down during the fights that they will draw off.
At midday August 15 we passed the mouth of the Arrowimi River, and met with much the same reception from the natives here as we had received below. The Arabs, under the famous chief “Tippoo Tib,” had raided down as far as the Arrowimi in the early spring of 1885, and had burned the villages on both banks, taking captured slaves and ivory back to Stanley Falls. This raid of the Arabs had not been altogether successful, as they had lost over one hundred men. Small-pox broke out among them, then threatened starvation forced them to return to Stanley Falls.
Shortly after passing the Arrowimi, the Royal and whale-boat were sighted just ahead, coming down the river. We dropped our anchor, and they were soon alongside.
The Royal, with thirty men, in charge of Mr. Harris, an Englishman, had been sent by Mr. Deane, from Stanley Falls, to warn me against the hostile natives, and to render such assistance as I needed, but, as I had passed the most dangerous localities, their assistance was not required. I learned from Mr. Harris that a few days before, Deane and his men had camped on shore, in the narrow channel, a few miles below the village of Monongeri.
The Royal was made fast to the beach. Deane sent his native guide, in a canoe with two other men, to the village to buy food. They paddled up to the village, the guide going on shore. He was at once surrounded, killed, and arrangements made to eat him. The two men escaped in the canoe, and brought the news down to Deane’s camp. As night was coming on, it was decided not to attack the village until the early morning.
About 2 a.m. the next day, Deane’s camp was attacked by a large body of savages, during a heavy tornado, the State losing seven killed and six wounded, among the latter being Mr. Deane, who had received two dangerous spear wounds. The killed were buried the next day on an island some distance form the camp, and the Royal started for Stanley Falls to obtain proper comforts for the wounded. This fight occurred in the same channel where the Henry Reed had been so savagely attacked on the afternoon of the 13th.
When passing the mouth of the Arrowimi River with the wounded, fifteen war-canoes had tried to surround the Royal about midday, but drew off after several natives had been killed and two canoes swamped.
We remained at anchor the night of the 15th, in company with the Royal. We were not troubled until about 3 a.m. the 16th, when two canoes were detected trying to steal upon us. A warning from the lookout soon drove them off.
At daylight, we discovered eight large war-canoes, with from thirty to forty men in each, lying alongside an island opposite to us. It was necessary to fill up with wood. I therefore sent my men on shore, with a guard from the Royal. The people had been cutting about an hour when the sentries discovered some natives lurking in the bushes. They were driven off with a few shots, and gave us no further trouble. We got underway about midday, and in company with the Royal started for Stanley Falls. The war-canoes followed us with horns blowing, but we soon distanced them, and in two hours they had given up the chase.
From the Arroowimi to Stanley Falls the natives were living in canoes; the villages on both banks hand been burned by the Arabs in the spring, and in only a few instances had the people commenced rebuilding. We had no more trouble with the natives, but were inconvenienced considerably by not being able to buy food for the men.
We arrived at Stanley Falls Station on the afternoon of August 20, having made the trip from Stanley Pool to Stanley Falls, a distance of 1,000 miles, in forty-eight days, including stoppages at the different stations below Bangala. I was received very kindly by the two Swedish lieutenants in charge of the station, and offered every assistance.
I found Mr. Deane in a very low state, and as there were no medical comforts to be had at the Falls, I finally persuaded him to accompany me down as far as the Equator Station, where he would be able to obtain medical attention and nourishing food. My own stock of wine, &c., I turned over to him, his own being exhausted.
While at Stanley Falls, I had interviews with Tippoo Tib’s head men (he was at Nyangwe), took a trip above the seventh cataract, and visited the native villages in the vicinity of the Falls.
On the morning of August 25, we moved Deane on board, and made preparations for the return trip to Stanley Pool. Above Bangala, we had kept to the north bank, going up; it was determined to return by the south bank.
In company with the Royal, we left Stanley Falls Station at 10 a.m. August 25, and arrived at Bangala on the 1st of September, eight days from Stanley Falls.
On the south bank we found the natives friendly, except opposite the mouth of the Arroowimi River, where we were watched by a number of canoes until about 2 a.m., when a severe tornado drove them to villages. On August 30, our small boat was swamped and lost while weighing our stern anchor in a 5-knot current. I was obliged to purchase a canoe to replace it.
At Bangala I found a great change; the garrison had been relieved and a new chief, Lieutenant Van Kirkhoren, was in charge. The natives were not satisfied with the change, and had repeatedly threatened to burn the station. In fact, the garrison were expecting an attack the day we arrived.
Leaving Bangala on the 2d of September, keeping to the north bank of the river on coming up we had taken the south bank to Bangala we arrived at the Equator Station on the evening of September 3. Mr. Deane was landed here, and soon after was taken with a bad fever.
Necessary repairs to our boilers detained us at the Equator until September 7. We parted company with the Royal, and pushing on passed Lukelela on the afternoon of the 8th. This station had been abandoned since our visit. On the evening of September 9 we tied up to the beach at Bolobo.
Early on the morning of September 10 we made a start from Bolobo. There was a fresh wind from the westward, and, as we steamed out into the river, we met a nasty lumpy sea running, caused by the fresh wind against the current. The Congo at this point is about 12 miles wide, and the wind has a clean sweep. Our canoe was soon in trouble, and, notwithstanding the effort to keep her free, she soon filled, and, parting the chains at the bow and stern, disappeared. The launch was taking water fore and aft, so I decided to run back to Bolobo, and wait for wind and sea to moderate.
We finally left Bolobo at 1 p.m., and arrived at Kwamouth Station on the morning of September 11. I learned here that Lieutenant Weissman, the German explorer, arrived at the Congo the day after I had passed Kwa Station on my trip up river, he having proved that what was supposed to be the Kwa River was the Kassai River.
We left Kwamouth Station on midday of the 11th, and reached Leopoldville on September 12, having taken seventy-two days to Stanley Falls and return, in which time I had traveled 2,000 miles on the Upper River. I was received by the officials of Leopoldville and assigned my quarters.
I found at Leopoldville the Administrator General, Col. Sir Francis de Winten, and staff, also Lieutenant Weissman’s exploring expedition. With the latter were two hundred and fifty natives from the Bakouba District, on the Kassai River. I found the steamer Stanley in the water and nearly ready for the trial trip.
I was detained six days at Leopoldville, organizing my caravan for the trip to Vivi, and although I had every assistance from the Administrator-General, in order to make up my number, I was obliged to employ ten time-expired Zanzibaris, who were en route to the coast.
I left Leopoldville on September 18, with a caravan of twenty-five Zanzibaris, who were en route to the coast, and, by rapid marches, arrived at the Inkissi River on September 21. Here I was taken with a bad bilious attack, brought on, I think, by over exposure to the midday sun. I rested one day at the Inkissi, and, although not well, pushed on to Lutété, arriving there September 23. This station had been abandoned by the State since my last visit, the English Baptist Mission still retaining their station here.
I left Lutété the morning of the 24th, and arrived at Lukungo the evening of the 25th. I found Mr. Ingham (English), chief-of-station. His wife was with him, and is the only white lady in the State except two missionaries of the American Baptist Mission. I was obliged to send fifteen Zanzibaris back to Leopoldville from Lukungo, and was, in consequence detained until the 28th instant before the native carriers would come in. I left Lukungo on the 28th, and, September 30, at the Quillo River, I met Lieutenant Herman and Mr. Bowman, of the “Austrian Exploring Expedition,” on their way to Lutété to engage carriers for the expedition. This expedition is under Professor Linz, an experienced African traveler. Pushing on from the Quillo I arrived at M’Bauza Mateke October 1. This station had been abandoned by the State since my visit in May last, the American Mission still retaining its station here.
Left M’Bauza Mateke October 2, and arrived at M’Poso on the afternoon of the 4th. I had made my trip, a distance of about 2,800 miles, in four and one-half months, which included a month’s delay at Leopoldville. This, I am told by both Stanley and Weissman, is the quickest trip ever made from the sea to Central Africa and return.
I was detained at Vivi until October 9, on which day I left for Banana Point. I was detained some time at Banana, waiting for a steamer. Finally secured a passage on a Dutch steamer for Madeira. Lieutenant Weissman accompanied me, going home very ill.
Until about a week before reaching Madeira, I was in perfect health, but the fatty food on board, and the sudden change of weather in the northeast trades, laid me up a bilious attack and liver complications. There was no doctor on board the steamer, and on my arrival at Madeira I was just able to get on shore, and was ill there for some time.
Before leaving Stanley Pool, Colonel de Winten requested me to go to Brussels and give the committee an account of my trip on the Upper Congo, at the same time giving me private letters to General Stranch, the head of the committee. In addition to this, Lieutenant Weissman, at Madeira, received a personal letter from the King of the Belgians, in which the King expressed a desire to see me. In view of these circumstances, I felt that it would be discourteous to refuse. I therefore, on my arrival in Europe, proceeded to Brussels, reporting my arrival and reasons for going to Brussels to Rear-Admiral S.R. Franklin, United States Navy.
The King of the Belgians did me the honor to receive me at his palace at Larkaen, a few miles from Brussels, and in a private interview of some two hours duration. I gave him a sketch of my trip, the fighting I had witnessed on the Upper Congo, and my impressions of the conditions of the stations, and of the country, he having been good enough to inform me that what I had to communicate was for his information only.
I have the honor to state that, when in camp, the American ensign was hoisted over my tent, and while on the Upper Congo my flag was always, from sunrise to sunset, hoisted at the bow of the launch.
I'm the only representative of any Government, other than the Congo State, and am one of the thirteen white men who have been able to penetrate to Stanley Falls.
Independent State of the Congo
The International Association of the Congo, now the Independent State of the Congo, was established under the following circumstances:
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 troubles and disputes between the French, Portuguese, and the Association, was the cause of the convening of the recent 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 greater part of the expenses of the expedition, it is said, have been borne by the King, who is reported to have expended $500,000 per annum, and he has now settled an annuity of $200,000 on the State. The flag adopted is a blue field with gold star in center. There are no revenues of any kind present.
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 have been lately abandoned.
By the decision of the Berlin Conference, there are 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.
System of Government
The territory granted to the Congo State, from Banana to Stanley Falls, has been divided into four sections or divisions. Each division contains one or more stations or bases of supplies, with small garrisons at each station, to protect caravans and insure order. Each division has a chief or political agent, and the stations have chiefs, with, usually one or more assistants, consisting of a second in command, a commercial agent in charge of stores, and in some cases other white men for general duty. At the head quarters of each division there are usually white carpenters and blacksmiths, and on the navigable portions of the river one or more engineers for the steamers. The officials are all under Administrator-General, who in turn receives his instructions from the committee at Brussels.
The first division of the territory extends from Banana, on the north bank, to Manyanga. In this division there are now but three stations, via, Banana, Vivi, and Isanghila. Vivi is the headquarters of the State and the first division. In the absence of the Administrator-General the chief of the first division acts for him.
The second division includes the territory on the south bank, from Noki (90 miles from the sea) to the Inkissi River. The second division are the stations of Matade, Lukungo, and Manyanga South. The headquarters area Lukungo.
The third division is from the Inkissi River to the head of Stanley Pool. The stations are Leopoldville and Kinchassa; headquarters are at Leopoldville.
The fourth division includes all the territory from the head of Stanley Pool to Stanley Falls, and includes the stations at Kwamouth, Bolobo, Equatorville, Bangala, and Stanley Falls. There is no particular headquarters for the fourth division, the reserve stores being stowed at Leopoldville.
On account of the dangerous approaches to Vivi it is proposed to move that station farther down the river, and for the same reason Leopoldville is to be moved above Kinchassa, on Stanley Pool.
Since May, 1885, the stations at M’Poso, M’Bauza Mateke Voonda, Manyanga North, Lutété, Kimpoko, Lukelela, and N’Gombe have been abandoned, chiefly from want of material for garrison duty.
As will be seen by the regulations that I enclose with this report, others than the officials I have mentioned are supposed to be in the employ of the State. I met no others except in the case of medical officers, of whom there are but two, one stationed at Vivi, and one attached to the staff of the Administrator-General.
Agents of the State
The agents are of different nationalities English, Belgians, Germans, Swedes, Italians, and Dutch. Of these the English, Belgian, and Swedes predominate. The present chief of Isanghila Station, I understand, claims to be an American citizen.
The agents are obliged to sign a binding contract for three years’ service. The salaries range from $250 to $2,500 per annum. They pledge themselves not to correspond with the press, nor to divulge to any one matters concerning the State. All ivory or curios collected must be turned over to the authorities. They pledge themselves not to leave the State nor to enter into other employ until after the expiration of their contract, the penalty being forfeiture of double salary.
The Senate reserves the right to discharge the agent at the expiration of one year, in case the Administrator-General reports him incompetent. The medical officers have authority to send any agent home on medical certificate whenever it may be considered necessary.
The expenses of travel from Brussels to Vivi and return are borne by the State, 6 [pounds] sterling being allowed for extra expenses.
Experience has taught the executive committee that as long as the nationalities among the agents are so nearly equal in representation, as the English, Belgian, and Swedish now are, there will be constant bickerings and jealousies, which naturally obstruct the advancement of the work of the State; and it has, I believe, been decided to officer the State with Belgians, retaining only such of the other nationalities as have been proved themselves especially adapted for the work.
In September, 1885, the committee sent out M. Jansens (Belgian) and a staff of legal assistants. These gentlemen are now engaged in drawing up a form of state government, establishing courts of justice; and they are to determine in what manner the State can obtain revenues from its exports, rent of land, &c. M. Jansens is to relive Colonel de Winten as Administrator-General.
The International Association, from the first, acquired the land for stations, &c., by means of binding treaties with the native chiefs, in which they made large payments outright, and settled an annuity of some 10 (pounds) sterling on each of the principal chiefs.
Vivi, Isanghila, Lukungo, Manyana South, and Leopoldville, the present station below Stanley Pool, were established by Stanley in 1880. The station of Matade, on the south bank, just below Vivi, was not completed in October, 1885.
Vivi, on the north bank 115 miles from the sea, the headquarters of the State, is well situated on a high bluff, which commands the Congo both above and below the station. There are four large, and several small frame houses, the former being used as quarters for the agents, the latter for store-houses. The quarters are well furnished and most comfortable.
The last mile of the approach to Vivi, by water, is dangerous. The whirlpools and strong undercurrent, caused by the Yellala Falls, just above, make it hazardous for any but light draught, strong-powered steamers to attempt the passage. Vivi will probably be abandoned and re-established below the strong water.
Isanghila is 52 miles above Vivi, and is the last station of the State on the north bank of the Congo, until Bangala, on the Upper River.
Matade, on the south bank, 2 miles below Vivi, is to be the receiving depot for all stores intended for station above Vivi. The caravans of natives, from Lukungo, come down to Matade, and transport goods for the up-country stations as far as Lukungo.
Lukungo Station is about eight days’ march from Matade, and is the central depot of the Lower River. It is situated in the most fertile section of the cataract region. Near the Mission Station, at Lunkgo, is a large, never-failing spring that supplies the best water on the Congo.
The Valley of the Lukungo is a lovely spot, and strongly contrasts with the forbidding aspect of the rest of this region. I was informed by the chief, Mr. Ingham, that good supply of vegetables could be raised here if he had the time and labor; but the stations on the Lower River are continually occupied with caravans, and, with the limited number of men at their disposal, they have no leisure for vegetable farming. At the headquarters stations, gardeners are allowed, but not at intermediate stations. At Lukungo a new set of carriers transport the goods and stores to Leopoldville. I was much struck with the improvement in the transport service during the four months I was up country. The goods now are checked at Lukungo only, and loss can be readily traced, and robbery quickly punished, whereas before it was impossible to trace the many losses.
Manyanga South is situated on the south bank of the river, five hours’ march above Lukungo. This station receives all goods sent from Vivi, via Isanghila. The river is navigable for small steamers and whaleboats a distance of some 90 miles above Isanghila, and heavy goods are usually dispatched by this route.
Leopoldville, the next in size and importance to Vivi, is about eight days’ march from Manyanga, and situated on a small arm or bay off Stanley Pool, about a mile above the first cataract of the Livingstone Falls. The steamers on the Upper River rendezvous at Leopoldville, and it is the receiving depot for men and supplies for that section. The approaches to Leopoldville by water are very dangerous, outlying reefs are near the entrance of the bay, and the strong current that tends down to the cataract makes it extremely dangerous for any but powerful light-draught steamers to attempt the passage in and out. While I was at Leopoldville in June, 1885, the En Avant, one of the small launches belonging to the State, while crossing to Brazzaville, barely escaped being carried over the cataract. The present station is to be abandoned and re-established near the head of the Pool.
The State was some time in conciliating the natives around Stanley Pool, especially N’Galliamo, one of the most powerful chiefs, but finally he was brought around, and is now one of the strongest friends it has among the natives.
Kinchassa Station is situated on Stanley Pool, about midway between the head and the first cataract of Livingston Falls. This is one of the best sites on the river. It is healthy, the soil is fertile, and the present chief, Mr. Swinburne, has been very successful in raising supplies. I was entertained at dinner, one day at Kinchassa, when we had on the table Irish potatoes, onions, radishes, cucumbers, and lettuce, all the products of Swinburne’s garden.
It was at Kinchassa that the French, under M. De Brazza, attempted to hoist the French flag, in May, 1884. They were driven off by the natives under N’Schulu, the native chief of Kinchassa, Mr. Swinburne, chief of the station, leaving the matter entirely in the hands of the natives.
Kwamouth Station, established by Stanley in 1883, is about three days above Stanley Pool, and is situated on the left bank of the mouth of the Kassai River. This station is destined to be one of the most important on the river, as it will be the outlet for all the trade of the valley of the Kassai.
Bolobo, five days above Kwamouth, was established by Captain Hansens (Belgian) in 1882. This station is the commencement of what is called the Byanzi country. It is beautifully situated on a hill well back from the river, and is, I think, the healthiest spot on the Congo. The river at this point is from 10 to 12 miles wide, and the greater part of the day a most delightful breeze is blowing throught the station. The soil is fertile, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, radishes, lettuce, yams, plantains, and bananas being raised in abundance. The natives are unreliable; the station had been fired twice by them, once in July and again in December , 1883. In September, 1885, the garrison consisted of but fourteen fighting men, armed with Snider rifles and one small Krupp. The natives are traders, rich, warlike, and will not work.
Equatorville Station, four days above Bolobo, is in 0[degree]4’ south latitude, on the south bank of the river. It was established by Stanley in June, 1883. The soil is fertile, but the gardens do not seem to flourish. The natives, both men and women, are willing to work, and are employed by the State and missionaries. The supply of native food is variable.
Bangala, about 500 miles from Leopoldville, is on the north bank of the river. The station was first established by Stanley in January, 1884, Lieutenant Coquilhat being chief. The natives under King Mateweke proved treacherous; so, as his force was small, Stanley temporarily abandoned the station on January 9, and removed his people down to the Equator. Lieutenant Coquilhat returned with Captain Hansens in May, 1884, and brought with him a garrison of fifty men. They made a binding treaty with Mateweke and permanently established the station. The Bangles, or Mangles, are a fierce, warlike race and to this date some of the chiefs will have nothing to do with the station. Still, the moral effect of the presence of the white men with a well-armed force has been sufficient to keep them quiet. The soil is good, and sugarcane plantations abound, while the other native food is abundant. The station is within 100 yards of the king’s village, but the State is gradually acquiring the ground and the villages are moving. There are two Krupp rifles of small caliber here.
Between Bangala and Stanley Falls there are no stations. In 1884, treaties were made and land bought at Upoto and at Bask, the mouth of the Arroowimi River. At Upoto the land has never been made use of. At Bask Captain Hansens, in 1884; on his return from Stanley Falls, established a post of three Hoassas, but he was no sooner out of sight than two of the Hoassas were killed and eaten by the cannibals. The third man made his escape to the woods, but was finally recaptured and brought back. He was afterwards rescued by the Arabs when they attacked and burned Bask, and by them returned to the State authorities.
The district is the most hostile between Banana and Stanley falls; white men are seldom seen, as the steamers never make more than two trips yearly, and frequently but one. Until one or more well-garrisoned stations are established in this long hostile stretch, the journey from Bangala to Stanley Falls will always be attended by trouble and fighting.
Stanley Falls Station, situated on Bookie Island, about one-half mile below the seventh cataract, was established by Stanley in December, 1883, and garrisoned with thirty men. Mr. Benni, a Scotchman, volunteered as chief. The station is a prominent and important one on account of the proximity of the Arab slavers. It is not, however, well situated; fortifications on Bookie Island cannot prevent the Arabs from descending the river, and the approaches by water are very dangerous. The Henry Reed, although drawing but 17 inches, struck the rocks twice within a few hundred yards of the landing. The soil is very rich, and rice, potatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, manioc, peanuts, sugarcane, corn, and tobacco are easily raised.
The houses of most of the stations are now made of clay. The framework, of small timber, is first erected, and walls of a peculiar latticework of bamboo are made. This lattice work is filled in and then covered with clay, making a solid clay wall. The roof is thatched with grass, which it is necessary to renew every six months. The bamboo chimbecs have been done away with almost entirely. In the interior, above Vivi, furniture of any kind is a luxury, and white men are obliged to depend upon their own resources to imporvise chairs, tables, beds, &c. I did not see any station that was not habitable, and certainly as comforable as could be expected in the interior of Africa; and to a great extend it depends upon the white men themselves whether they are comfortable or not.
I was much struck with the fact that in some stations the canned provisions are seldom used. The native food, such as goat, fowl, eggs, and the products of the garden, are found to answer all requirements, and this diet is much more healthy than any other.
Again, in other stations, the fresh food was never met with, except when purchased in small quantities from the natives. At the Stanley Falls Station, on my arrival there in August, I found the white men living almost entirely on fish; their six months’ allowance of canned stores had been consumed in less than four months and notwithstanding the fact that their garden would yield good vegetables in abundance, none appeared on their table.
All commissary stores are furnished by the State, the agents receiveing a liberal ration in addition to their salary. Boxes of canned stores of all descriptions are sent out by Morton & Co., of England, and Jeanie & Co., of Belgium. These stores, in addition to the native food of sheep, goat, fowl, eggs, and vegetables, furnish the tables of the stations. I noticed fruit, milk, and beef that had been canned in the United States, sold in Europe, and resold to the Brussels committee. Portuguese wine, or Bordeaux is supplied, one bottle being allowed each man per day. Brandy and champagne is supplied in moderate quantities, the latter especially being considered invaluable in severe fever cases.
From Banana to Stanley Pool the native food is becoming very scarce, and the prices demanded are exorbitant for that offered for sale.
On my journey up country in May, I had no trouble buying all I needed. The caravan route passed through several populous villages, and all prices were moderate. But on my return in October, I found it all changed. The villages were abandoned, and had been moved away from the route; it was almost impossible to buy anything except on market days, and then only at greatly advanced prices. In May, from four to six eggs could be bought for an empty bottle, but in October, they could not be bought for any price.
To the excesses of the Zanzibaris and Houssas much of this trouble can be traced. These troops, during their trips up and down country, when not in charge of a white man, have in some instances stolen from the natives, assaulted the women, &c. There could be no immediate redress, as the State troops are always well armed.
As the number of white men increases on the Lower River, the native food question will become a serious one. At this date, most of the trading houses obtain vegetables and other stores from Europe. The Dutch African Trading Company, for example, has a steamer arriving every three months at Banana with vegetables and other stores for all the factories belonging to that company. This state of affairs does not exist on the Upper River; there, native food can be had in abundance and at moderate prices.
Manioc, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, bananas, and yams are grown by the natives throughout the Congo Valley, but not in large quantities on the Lower River.
The State rations its black troops and laborers on rice and manioc, with a small allowance of trade rum or gin when it can be had. The manioc is prepared by the natives, being ground up very fine, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled, making a very palatable article called chiquango.
Pork is raised and eaten by the natives on the Lower River, but it is not considered healthy by the whites, and is seldom used.
Troops and Laborers
The Stations belonging to the State are garrisoned by Houssa troops from Lagos and the Gold Coast, and also by Zanzibaris from the island of Zanzibar.
The Houssas are really the military, and are not employed as laborers except under certain circumstances. The Zanzibaris are required to do the work of the stations, and also to fight when called upon. The greater part of the Zanzibaris are slaves of the Sultan of Zanzibar, although there are some freemen. Both the Houssas and Zanzibaris engage to serve the State for three years. Of the Houssas, there are not about one hundred and fifty, distributed among the different stations, and some two hundred Zanzibaris. The latter, however, have all been withdrawn from the Stanley Falls Station on account of their sympathy with the Arabs.
I met with great discontent, and, in two instances, open mutiny among the Houssas and Zanzibaris, brought about by their not being relieved and sent home at the expiration of their terms of service. The State makes no provision for men detained over their contract, and as the garrisons on the Upper River are seldom relieved on time, there is always trouble. At the Equator and Bangala the garrisons were some months over their times when I passed up river, and on my return trip the Equator people were in a state of open mutiny.
The question of men for garrison duty is becoming most serious. No more Houssas can be had, and the last lot of Zanzibaris, received just before I left the river, were a most worthless set. The freemen do not return, and no doubt prevent others from coming by their reports of breach of contract, &c.
The stations on the Upper River have but few people, and I could not hear of any steps that had been taken by the committee to supply the deficiencies. The Houssas’ terms are all expired, and they should now be returning home.
It will be, I think, an impossibility for the State to maintain its stations on the Upper River, unless it can garrison them with a proper force, and in sufficient numbers to command the fear and respect of the natives.
In my opinion, it is not yet expedient to attempt to govern these savages by kind treatment. The only thing they respect is power, and, with the coming of the white man, they look for wealth and power.
Below Stanley Pool large garrisons are not necessary. The natives are quiet and friendly, and they have seen much more of the whites than their brethren on the Upper River. In addition they seem to be an entirely different race of beings, not so powerful and naturally not so hostile nor savage.
The Houssas and Zanzibaris are armed by the State with breech-loading Sniders, and the Winchester magazine gun. At Vivi, Leopoldville, and the stations on the Upper Congo, there are Krupp rifles, of a small caliber, and war rockets.
The agents of the State are furnished with the Martini breech-loader.
The punishments administered to the blacks employed by the State are imprisonment and flogging.
Native labor is most uncertain. The people can sometimes be persuaded to work, but are most uncertain. Some tribes seem to be more industrious than others. On the Upper River, the Equator people are quite willing to work.
From Banana to Vivi the State employs Kru boys and Kabindas, especially for river work. The missions use the Loangos and Kru boys, the traders employing all three lots.
The different gangs of these tribes usually come to the Congo on a year’s contract, each gang having a head man, who is responsible to his people at home for the safe return of his gang to their country. These “head men” manage the men at their work, and are held responsible by their employers for the good conduct of the men under them.
The River Congo and Affluents
The Congo River is navigable from its mouth to Vivi, a distance of about 115 miles. As far as Boma (70 miles) vessels can carry 17 feet at low water and about 24 feet during high water, that is during the dry and wet seasons, respectively. Above Boma to Matade, a mile below Vivi, from 10 to 30 fathoms can be carried at all seasons. From Matade to Vivi, navigation is dangerous, especially in the wet season, when the river is high and the current very strong. Then it is that powerful light-draught steamers are required to stem the current and push through the whirlpools.
At the northern entrance of the mouth of the Congo is an outing sandbank, on which the wreck of an Austrian bark can still be seen. At the entrance of Banana Creek outlying shoals make it impossible for vessels drawing over 18 feet to run inside. A few miles below Boma is a shifting sand-bank, called the Mateba Bank, and it is this obstruction only that limits the draught of water to 17 and 24 feet as far as Boma.
At Vivi the Congo, is about one mile wide, and gradually opens out as it approaches the sea, until at the mouth it is from 5 to 6 miles wide.
Until some distance below Boma the current is very strong and great care must be taken to avoid the rocks. The Ville d’Anvers, a small State steamer of 30 tons, was lost just below Boma in July, 1885. She struck a rock and sank in a few moments, those on board, among them the Administrator-General, barely escaping with their lives.
Above Vivi, all navigation is at an end until after reaching Isanghila Falls, a distance of about 52 miles. From Isanghila to Manyanga, 90 miles, the rapids are navigable for light-draught powerful steamers and whale-boats, but from Manyanga to Stanley Pool, about 100 miles large cataracts are again met with, and all navigation ceases until after reaching the Pool.
Stanley Pool is a large stretch of water, 24 miles long by 17 miles wide. The river is about a mile wide at the head of the Pool, and much the same width, as it dashes down over the first cataract of Livingston Falls, at the mouth of the Pool. There is one large island, some 13 miles long, in the center, and several smaller islands scattered in different parts of the Pool. These islands abound in buffalo, elephant, and other game, differing in this respect from the other islands of the Congo.
Navigation near the mouth of the Pool is dangerous; the current is strong, and rocks, reefs, &c., are met with. Approaching the head, and especially in the vicinity of the north bank, the current is not strong but navigation is greatly impeded by the many sand-banks. The best channel is found on the south side of the Pool, following the land. The channel to the north is shorter; but a steamer drawing more than 17 inches cannot be sure of getting through.
From Stanley Pool to within two days of Bolobo the river varies from one to two miles in width. Strong currents, and in many cases, outlying reefs from the rocky points, make it necessary to keep near mid-channel both ascending and descending this part of the river. On nearing Bolobo, the river widens very rapidly, the islands of the Congo commence, and sand-banks and snags are met with.
At and near Bolobo the river is from 8 to 10 miles in width, and full of slants, both large and small; the current is not strong except in rounding some of the points of land. The river at this point has the appearance of a vast lake interspersed with many beautiful islands.
From Bolobo to Bangala the character of the river is much the same an immense sheet of water, full of islands, large and small, and sandbanks and snags in abundance, the latter being found about 20 yards from the shore.
The river is shallow except in the wet season, and in the dry season frequent stretches of deep water are met with, but after a few miles the water will, as a rule, shoal rapidly to one or two feet. The snags are dangerous, especially in ascending the river, as it is then necessary to keep to the river banks in order to clear the current. In July, 1885, the river had fallen just enough to leave many snags a few inches below the surface, and notwithstanding the greatest caution, we struck three or four times, but fortunately suffered little damage. Sand-banks are met with in all parts, on both banks and in mid-river. The water will sometimes shoal without the slightest warning form several feet to a few inches.
Above Bangala, until within two or three days of Stanley Falls, the navigation is even more difficult than below. The islands are more numerous. Sand-banks and snags are everywhere, and it is only on nearing the cataract region of Stanley Falls that the islands and sand-bands disappear and deeper water is found.
For some ten hours before reaching Stanley Falls, the navigation becomes dangerous. On nearing the Falls, rocks and frequent reefs are met with, to avoid which it is sometimes necessary to cross from one bank to another. The approaches to the station are most difficult; a strong current sweeps down on a bad reef with force enough to carry seamers with it. The Henry Reed struck twice before reaching the landing.
The river gradually narrows from Bangala, where it is about 10 miles wide, to Upoto. Here both banks are in sight, the river being from 3 to 4 miles wide. Leaving Upoto, it widens gradually from 6 to 8 miles, until the mouth of the Arroowimi River is passed, when the river again narrows gradually, until at Stanley Falls it is scarcely one mile wide.
In navigating the Upper River, it is necessary to feel the way with the lead at all times. The river cannot be surveyed so as to make pilotage possible, for the sand-banks are continually shifting, and it would be necessary to resurvey at least every six months.
Steamers for navigating the Upper Congo should not draw more than 17 inches; certainly not more than 2 feet. This draught will insure easy navigation at all seasons of the year. In the wet season, the river is much swollen, and several feet can be carried from the Pool to Stanley Falls; but for easy, certain navigation, I should certainly say that 2 feet draught is the limit.
The Henry Reed draws but 17 inches loaded. We made our passages when the river was not at its lowest point, and even with our light draught we were aground several times, particularly when above Bangala, each time losing many hours of daylight.
The State launches draw 3 , and some times 3 1/2 feet, but they are continually meeting with accidents and delays.
After leaving Stanley Pool, until our return, the lead was in use all the time we were under way. I noticed the soundings carefully, both going up and coming down, near both banks, in mid-river, among the lands, in fact every place where we would be likely to find deep water, and I am of the opinion that the most successful way to navigate the Upper Congo will be to employ flat-bottomed, stern-wheel steamers drawing from 17 inches to 2 feet, with little top hamper, on account of the heavy tornadoes, with the machinery on deck, or so placed that it can be easily gotten at, the steamer to be driven 8 knots in smooth water, with as economical consumption of fuel as possible. Each steamer should carry one bow and one stern anchor, and, if possible, a spare one. My own experience was that a stern anchor planted on our off-shore quarter saved us frequently from being driven into the beach by the high winds during the tornadoes; the launches having little freeboard, it is necessary to anchor close to the shore, as the tornadoes soon raise a sea on the river that would be most uncomfortable if the vessel were not sheltered under the land.
At present, there are no surveys of the Congo, nor are there any lights, buoys, or beacons, although the State proposes to light and buoy the Lower River at an early date.
The only pilot on the river is an employé of the Dutch-African Trading Company. He is a pilot for the entrance at the mouth of the river, and also for Banana Creek. The pilotage is 4 (pound) sterling each way.
The water of the Congo is a dirty mud color.
There are many affluents of the Congo, most of them being navigable for a short distance. The principal rivers, however, in size, and importance for trade, are, first, on the south bank, below Stanley Falls, the Loumamil River. This river has been explored by the Rev. George Grenfell, of the English Baptist Mission, some 50 miles from its mouth.
Next below on the north bank is the Arroowimi River. Owing to the hostile character of the natives, this river has not been explored to any extent, but it is reported to be navigable for some distance inland.
The Mobeke River, just above Bangala, has been explored some 70 miles from its mouth. Next on the south bank, a few miles above the Equator Station, are the Louloungo and Ouriki Rivers. These have both been lately explored by Mr. Grenfell, who reports the former navigable to 22o32’ east longitude and 0o10’ north latitude. The Ouriki, or Boriki River, Mr. Grenfell traced to 23degree14’ east longitude and 1degree1’ south latitude, he says, “leaving it still an open water-way, 100 yards wide, 12 feet deep, with a current of 200 feet per minute.” Both of these rivers are full of islands, large and small. The natives have been found friendly on both of these rivers.
In 0degree20’ south latitude, on the north bank, is the Oubangi River, and, next to the Kassai River, the greatest affluent of the Congo. Mr. Grenfell has explored the Oubangi to 4degree27’ north latitude, but, at this point, he was stopped by the hostile natives, and obliged to turn back. He reports clear navigation some miles ahead of his farthermost point. The Oubangi varies from one-half to four miles in width, and is full of islands. As a rule, the people are hostile; towns are protected by bomas, and, in some instances, the trees are fortified. Mr. Grenfell is firmly of the opinion that the Oubangi will, when explored, prove to be the Welle of Schweinfurth. The knives, spears, and types of natives are much the same as those met with by Schweinfurth. The largest affluent thus far explored is the Kassai, the mouth of which is on the south bank in 3degree20’ south latitude. This was, until recently, supposed to be the Kwa River. The Kassai has been explored by Lieutenant Weissman (German army) from source to mouth. Weissman reports 500 miles of clear navigation on Kassai, the valley of which is wonderfully rich. The people he found friendly, as a rule, especially in the Bakoubas’ country, some two hundred and fifty of whom he brought to Stanley Pool.
It is estimated that, taking into consideration the result of the late explorations, “there is now about 7,000 miles of uninterrupted navigable waters of the Congo and its affluents above Stanley Pool.” “With 14,000 miles of river banks to explore and develop,” Mr. Grenfell says, “is there another country in the work with such magnificent waterways? And what a blunder it will be if the nineteenth century does not tap them when it can be done by 200 miles or so of railway.”
There are several small steamers on the Lower Congo belonging to the different trading houses. These are used to keep up communication between the different factories on the river and sea-coast. The State has two steamers here, the Ville d’Anvers having been lost in July, 1885. The largest of the State steamers is 114 tons, and has a speed of 9 knots. Coal is used by all the steamers on the Lower River.
On the Upper River, the State has one large steamer, the Stanley, and three small launches. Of these, the Stanley is a stern-wheeler, drawing from 2 to 2 1/2 feet; two screw launches, drawing from 2 1/2 to 3 feet, and one side or paddle wheel launch, drawing 2 1/2 feet of water. The English Baptists have the Peace, a screw launch, drawing about 20 inches, loaded. The American Mission has the Henry Reed, a stern-sheeler, drawing 17 inches, loaded. These two mission launches have small but comfortable cabins that will accommodate three or four men. The French have two open screw launches, drawing about 2 feet each. Whale-boats, rigged for sailing, are used by the State to ply between the Equator and the Pool.
The Stanley was transported from the sea by “sections”, but both mission launches were transported by “plates”, and the latter plan proved much quicker and more successful in every way.
On the Upper River the steamers burn wood, and they are obliged to carry from ten to twenty men to cut fuel. They seldom run at night, and when possible the wood is cut during the night, the men sleeping in the day.
This question of fuel is already becoming serious. While there is plenty of live timber, the dead dry trees necessary to make steam are fast disappearing. There were days during my trip that we were not able to steam more than one hour on account of the difficulty in obtaining fuel. If railway communication is established between the sea and Stanley Pool, coal will, of course, solve the fuel question, and the expense of running a steamer will not be as great, certainly not any greater, than it is at present. As it is now, the wood-cutters must be paid and fed, and the necessary saws, axes, &c., provided. But in the meantime, unless depots for wood are made by killing a number of trees at different points between the Pool and Stanley Falls, the supply of dry fuel will be exhausted in a year’s time, and the steamers obliged to lay up. If the natives could be persuaded to cut and sell wood to the steamers, it would be a gain for them as well as for the white men. It is only above Bangala that wood can be bought, and then only in small quantities.
Character of the Country
The valley of the Congo from Banana to Boma is a low rich country, with forests of hard wood. There has been no cultivation attempted except in the immediate vicinity of the factories, and then only sufficient to supply the one or two white men with vegetables. Above Boma, the mountainous cataract section commences and continues to the mouth of the Kassai River.
The cataract region, more particularly that between Vivi and Stanley Pool, is barren, rocky, and desolate, relieved here and there by fertile valleys. These valleys, at the end of the wet season, are covered with wire grass from 10 to 15 feet high. Perhaps the most fertile spot in this long stretch of barren waste is the valley of the Lukungo, about midway between Vivi and Stanley Pool. The natives of this section raise vegetables in small quantities, but ground-nuts seem to be the most successful product, they being used extensively for food. In the 236 miles between Vivi and Stanley Pool, there are but one or two forests; most of the timber met with is dwarfed, crooked, and worthless.
Between M’Pallabola and Lukungo, south bank, the country abounds in big game, such as elephant, buffalo, and an animal similar to the antelope.
The country bordering on Stanley Pool is much more fertile and is low and flat, with occasional large forest.
From the head of Stanley Pool to the mouth of the Kassai River, the country on both banks becomes hilly, barren, and rocky, and takes much the same character as the district below the Pool.
From the Kassai River to within 50 or 75 miles of Stanley Falls, the valley of the Upper Congo is low, rich, and fertile. The agriculture carried on by the natives is most successful, and if properly cultivated this section would yield in abundance. I saw immense plantations of manioc, sugar-cane, yams, bananas, and plantains.
The hundreds of beautiful islands of the Congo, some of them 10 to 20 miles long, are as rich if not richer than the mainland. As a rule both mainland and islands are covered with dense forests, in which are to be found the rubber, gum capol, palm, and other valuable trees. On the mainland are occasional stretches of immense plateaus, which the elephant, buffalo, and other game use for feeding grounds. The islands above Bangala are covered with thousands of the valuable oil palm trees.
From my own observations, and the reports I received from the explorers of the affluents, I should say that the country drained by these side rivers is even richer than that in the immediate vicinity of the Congo. Lieutenant Von Francois, of the Weissman expedition, accompanied Mr. Grenfeel to the Louloungo and Ouriki River, and reports that the Kassai Valley is even richer than that of the Congo.
The Congo abounds in most excellent food-fish, which forms a staple article of food on the Upper River. The natives seldom eat the fish when fresh, but smoke or dry them. The man-eating crocodile is met with throughout the river, and in the region of islands and sand-banks the hippopotami are found. I have frequently met herds of fifteen or twenty of these beasts playing in the river. If disturbed in their breeding season, they will attack passing canoes, and sometimes steamers. One of the State launches has been badly injured by the tusks of a hippo.
On nearing Stanley Falls the rocks and barren hills are once more met with, but on the whole I think this country is more inviting than that between Vivi and Stanley Pool.
Of the mineral wealth of the Congo Valley there can be no questions; the natives of all sections possess iron and copper in large quantities; the knives and spears are made of the iron, and decorated with copper. Their brass ornaments are made from the matakos that they purchase in trade from the whites.
I saw no gold or silver; the natives do not place any value on these metals. It has been reported that the Arabs have found gold in small quantities in the interior, above Stanley Falls.
On the Congo, the year is divided into two seasons, the wet and the dry. The limits of the wet season are from the 1st of September to the 1st of May, with an interval of a few weeks in January without rain. The dry season extends through the remaining months of the year from May 1 to September 1.
There are frequent heavy rains during the wet season, with occasional tornadoes; the latter are usually from the northward. The atmosphere is clear, and the heat intense during the wet season.
There is no rain during the dry season; the atmosphere is hazy, temperature low, especially at night, when a blanket is quite necessary for comfort. Although May and September are considered to be the usual limits of the season, this cannot always be relied upon. My own experience was quite different. I left Vivi on May 13, and had frequent rains until June 4, and again, in October, I carried rain with me from Leopoldville to Lukungo, but on arrival at Vivi found there had been no rain there. The seasons are later on nearing the equator, where there is rain during the entire year, although during the dry season, or the dry season months, the tornadoes are much less frequent and not so violent as during the wet-season limits.
The change of the seasons is considered the most unhealthy period in the Congo Valley. But it is necessary at all times to exercise caution in order to keep the system free of the malaria. Experience has proved that the section of country from Banana to Stanley Pool is the most unhealthy for the whites, but from the Pool to or near Stanley Falls there has been very little sickness of any kind. In all sections, however, it is quite necessary, for the proper preservation of health, to avoid overexposure to the sun, great fatigue, sudden chills, and to restrict one’s self to a simple, nutritious diet, with a moderate allowance of good Bordeaux or Portuguese wine, spirits to be used in cases of fatigue, wet, or sickness. The native food, when it can be obtained, is healthier than canned provisions. Over exposure to the sun is fatal, also sleeping in a draught at night, or without covering over head.
The malarial fevers on the Congo are of two forms, the remittent and the bilious-remittent fevers. The latter is the most fatal type, few white men surviving the second attack. In the bilious remittent many of the symptoms of yellow fever are met with, such as vomiting blood, yellow skin and eyeballs, bloody urine, &c., but it is not at all contagious. Another fatal type of fever is a form of low continued fever that gradually but surely exhausts the strength of the patient and saps his life out of him. The malarial poison also works off from the system in ulcers, xemia, and anemia; the last disease has been found to be particularly fatal among the blacks. Dysentery is not infrequently met with, and in order to avoid it care should be taken to properly boil and filter the drinking water.
The cataract region of the valley of the Congo is without doubt very unhealthy, but I feel sure that if ordinary precautions were observed there would be fewer deaths and not so many invalid sent home.
I was unacclimated, and traveled through the cataract region during what is considered the most unhealthy season of the year, viz, the change of the seasons. I carried an umbrella, never bathed in the streams, avoided excessive fatigue, and on reaching camp, after a day’s march, changed my underclothing at once. I dressed and slept in light flannels, turned in about 8 p.m., and rose at early daylight; slept under mosquito curtains; these are absolutely necessary in order to obtain a good night’s rest; bathed in my tent before the evening meal, using tepid water. While in the cataract country I took a little quinine or arsenic every day, increasing the dose of quinine when I considered that I had been more usually exposed to malarial influences. The result was that I never had the slightest fever, but enjoyed most excellent health during the six months I was on the river. The two white men who were to have been my companions to Stanley Pool were careless and did not take the precautions I did; the result was that they both were taken ill with bilious fever; one of them barely escaped with his life.
There are some men so very susceptible to malaria that they would never be able to live in the cataract region of the Congo, but I think any one with ordinary good health would be able to retain it on the Upper River. The records show but one death from bilious fever above Stanley Pool, and I met with but one case of remittent fever there. One of the missionaries with me was taken ill, but he unquestionably, contracted his fever while making a trip from Lukungo to Leopoldville, a few days before we started for Stanley Falls. The present chief of the Bolbo Station was always ill when stationed in the cataract country; since his transfer to Bolobo he has never had a sick day, and he is now in his second year there.
It has been found that the white women do not stand the climate as well as the men. This has been the experience of the missions, but none of these lady missionaries have been above Stanley Pool; in fact, none of them have been above Lukungo.
I was informed by Dr. Ralph Leslie, chief medical officer on the Congo, that white men seldom suffer with anything more serious than remittent fever during the first year, but after one year the system becomes enervated, and fevers assume the fatal bilious type. Two Years, Dr. Leslie thinks, is as long as a man should remain on the Congo without a change. He refers more particularly to the Lower River; with the climate on the Upper River it is different. And, in addition to what has already been mentioned, Dr. Leslie thinks that a moderate amount of work during the day, with some indoor amusement at night, is quite necessary in order to keep both mind and body healthy.
The working hours in the territory belonging to the State are from 6 a.m. to 12 m., and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Regarding the mortality in the cataract country, statistics show that up to June, 1885, the English Baptist Mission had sent out twenty-seven men from England. Of this number thirteen have died, some of them during the first six months; others have been invalided home. Up to the same date, the Livingstone Island, now the American Mission, had sent out forty-five men, sixteen of whom have died, and a number been invalided. It must be remembered that none of these missionaries had ever been out of the cataract country. Of the two missionaries now at the Equator Station, one has been on the Congo over three years, and the other is now in his second year.
As to the mortality amongst the agents of the State, there are many conflicting statements, and I could find no statistics. My own observation was as follows:
I passed through the lower cataract country on my journey to the Upper River in May and June. On my return, the last of September, one agent had died, and fourteen had been invalided home. This was in the country between Vivi and Stanley Pool. While on the Upper River, I saw but one case of sickness. Three agents were returning home, having finished their three years’ contract, and four others had but a few months to serve. Of course there are exceptions; for example, the chief accountant of the State has been on the Congo eighteen years without a change. There are many of the traders who have remained from three to ten years without change, but their lives have been, as a rule, comfortable, plenty of good food, wine, and houses to live in, and no such hardships as the missionaries and the agents of the State have experienced as pioneers through the cataract region.
The Congo Natives
The Congo Valley from Banana to Stanley Pool is but thinly populated, particularly along the river banks. Above Stanley Pool, and especially above Bangala, the country is thickly populated, with large flourishing villages. Between the Arroowimi River and Stanley Falls, the country has been laid waste by Arabs, but in September, 1885, the people were commencing to rebuild.
The Baskungas, or natives of the Lower Congo Valley, are a weak, indolent, superstitious race, and cannot be compared either in physique or intelligence with the races of the Upper Congo.
The State has but little trouble with the Baskungas, the disputes being usually settled by “palavers.” There have been instances when it has been necessary to burn the villages, but as a rule the trouble is soon settled. I notice in an extract from Mr. Tisdell’s report that “the traders on the Lower River are in constant fear of attack, &c.” This I am sure is a mistake, as I saw nothing of the kind, nor did I hear of it. Some time ago, near Noki, the traders and natives had trouble, which I think was settled by the missionaries without bloodshed, and in regard to the burying of some factories referred to by Mr. Tisdell, it has been discovered that this was done by some white employés for plunder. The culprits have since been arrested and are, or were, being tried at St. Paul de Loando.
The natives of the Lower Congo are armed with flint-lock muskets, but they are almost harmless. They have no idea of marksmanship, and it is the exception when a man is killed in their tribal wars. In October, 1885, between M’Bauza Mateke and Vivi, I was in camp with nearly six hundred of Makito’s people (one of the most powerful chiefs on the Lower River); these people were returning from the coast with rum, gin, &c, but, with my native caravan and one other white man, I camped as peacefully among those six hundred natives as I could have done at Vivi. And again, one of the English Mission is living alone at Lutété, and has been so for months, the nearest white man being 50 miles from him. The agents of the State never travel with a guard in the lower country, and the State limits its caravans to enough people for the transportation of their camp-equipage only. As far as I could learn, there is no case on record during the last two years where a white man’s caravan has been molested on the Lower River. Zanzibaris and Houssas traveling are sometimes seized, flogged, and tied up in the villages, but an investigation will usually develop the fact that they have been stealing food or assaulting women, and the man richly deserves all he gets. The mails from Vivi to Stanley Pool are sent in charge of two Houssas, and have never been interfered with.
The Baskungas are superstitious to the last degree; they rely for protection on their fetich charms, and the medicinemen of their tribes who have great influence. On the death of any person of note in the village, the poison test is used. The medicineman designates the man or woman suspected of causing the death, by charms or witchcraft. The poison is administered, and if it acts as a emetic that signifies innocent; if, on the contrary, it kills, the guilty one is punished.
In some instances the laws of the Baskungas are very stringent. Stealing form each other is punished by death. Fighting or disorder in the market places is seriously punished, and if a fire-arm is used the punishment is death.
The market place, which usually covers some acres of ground, is used as the place of execution, and it is not an unusual sight to meet a skeleton hanging and bleaching in the sun on the outskirts of the market, or to find a broken musket driven into the ground, which markets the spot where a man has been buried alive to his throat, his brains dashed out, then covered and the musket driven into his body. All this to serve as a warning to others not to use fire-arms in the market place.
The native food of the Lower Congo Valley is principally peanuts and chiquango (made from the manioc root). On market days, fowl, eggs, goat, and pork may be bought, and (in small quantities) sweet potatoes, peas, beans, onions, and bananas.
As a rule, I did not find the Lower Congo people intemperate; the native drink is malafu or palm wine, which, when fresh, is not at all intoxicating. They are fond of rum and gin, and these articles will go much further in trade than either cloth or beads. The native caravans demand rum or gin as a portion of their pay.
The women can sometimes be induced to work in the gardens of the stations, but I never saw Baskunga men employed at either a factory or a station, except as carriers in a caravan. The men are usually found hanging around the villages, drinking, perhaps, never doing any work; they leave all that for their women. Sometimes fights will occur with other tribes, but these are generally bloodless; to kill a man is the exception.
The women are slaves, there being no marriage laws, although, when once a woman is taken by a man, she is faithful to him.
The Baskungas cannot be relied upon even as carriers; they are always most capricious and troublesome.
Above Stanley Pool, and more particularly above the mouth of Kassai River, the natives are an entirely different race both physically and intellectually. The greater part of these people are traders, and rich; they own many slaves; in fact, a chief populates his villages with slaves, the freemen of the village being the members of his own family. A singular fact is that slaves can in turn own slaves; in fact, the men are more like retainers than slaves; the women bear that burden.
From the Kassai to the Loulongo River, the natives are known as the Byanzi; they are a fierce, warlike people, and constantly at war with each other.
The Byanzis, around the Bolobo District, are a rich, powerful, warlike people; they gave the State considerable trouble when the station was first established, going so far as to fire on Stanley’s steamers, but now they seem to be reconciled and friendly. They are continually fighting among themselves, especially the tribes above and below the station. This section is thickly populated, the villages well situated, and the gardens in a most excellent state of cultivation.
From Bolobo to the Lukelela District there are only a few scattered fishing camps. The section at Lukella is well populated by a more quiet people than the Bolobo Byanzis. Since Stanley first established the station here in 1883, there has never been the slightest trouble with the natives. The station was abandoned in August, 1885.
About three days above Lukelela is the N’Gombe district, a populous section, people friendly, and anxious to trade. The villages are situated on high land with prosperous gardens back of them.
One day above N’Gombe is the well populated Irebu District. The principal town is at the confluence of the N’Tumba River with the Congo. Irebu people are the most prosperous traders on the river and, like the Bolobo, people are continually making trading tips to Stanley Pool. I have passed thirty of their large trading canoes in one afternoon coming from Stanley Pool. They are a fierce, warlike tribe, and although no open rupture has ever occurred between them and the whites, they are looked on as unreliable.
Two days above Irebu is the Equator District. These people are much the same as the Bolobo Byanzis; and at the first founding of the station they gave considerable trouble. A few weeks before my arrival at the Equator there had been a small fight with one of the tribes, but it was soon settled with the loss of one Zanzibari. Each village of this section is independent and yields obedience to its own chief only. These people are not rich, and are more willing to work than those of any of the other districts on the river. Both men and women are employed by the station and mission.
Two days above the Equator is the Louloungo District, the principal town being at the confluence of the Louloungo River with the Congo. The people here are friendly, and wish to trade. Their villages are well situated back from the river. The Byanzi people end at this point. It has been reported that cannibalism exists as far down as Irebu, but I saw no traces of it.
From the Louloungo up, scattered fishing villages are met with. The towns of the Bolombo District, on the south bank, are the only towns until Bangala is reached. The Bolombo people are very poor, and are a branch of the Bangles or Mangles.
The principal portion of the Bangala District is, on the north bank, about eight hours above Bolombo. It is a rich, populous, well cultivated section. The people are fierce and warlike, and have given the Statue continual trouble. They are cannibals. Of this I have had positive proof. Next to the Arroowimi people they are the most powerful on the river, and are continually engaged in tribal wars. They command the river in the vicinity of their district, and native traders are not permitted to ascend or descend without paying tribute. The King Mateweke is an old man, and his power nominal. The chiefs of the villages being younger, pay but little attention to his wishes. The Bangles are very intemperate; it is a rare thing to find the chiefs sober. The favorite drink is a sort of rum made from the sugar-cane, which is grown in large quantities.
Between Stanley Pool and Bangala, the south bank, belonging to the Congo State, is more thickly populated than the north bank, which is French territory. The tribes on the north side of the river have their villages more in the interior, back from the river. The south bank natives appear to be the richer and more powerful of the two.
Above Bangala both banks are thickly populated by rich, powerful tribes, each village being independent, yielding obedience only to its own chief. The people become more hostile as you ascend the river; they seem to be continually on the alert, very suspicious, and treacherous. The war-drums are kept going all night, and, in fact, the greater part of the country above Bangala seems prepared for war. We had the greatest difficulty buying food in this section, and from the 5th to the 20th of August we were obliged to depend almost entirely upon our canned provisions. Our blacks we fed on bananas and plantains, a supply of which we laid in at Bangala. The people in this section are cannibals, and, although more fierce and warlike, they appear more degraded, and are not the equals, physically, of the Byanzis.
The most populous districts above Bangala are the Upoto, six days, and the Yembinga, ten days, above, on the north bank; the Yalulema District, twelve days above, on the south bank. The Arroowimi District, sixteen days above Bangala, includes the villages in the vicinity of the Arroowimi River on both banks of the Congo. Many large flourishing villages are met between these principal districts; in fact, it was the exception for a day to pass, above Bangala, that we did not sight one or more powerful towns.
At Monongeri Channel and Arroowimi River the Arab slavers had destroyed every village to within twenty-four hours of Stanley Falls, and the people were living in canoes; in some instances, they were trying to rebuild. The few undisturbed towns near Stanley Falls were friendly with the Arabs, and one or more well-armed men were seen on the beach in front of the towns.
On nearing the cataract region of Stanley Falls, the natives appear to deteriorate rapidly. I found them heavy, less intelligent, and evidently much inferior to the tribes lower down.
At Stanley Falls the people live by fishing. They are very expert in the management of their canoes in the rapids below the cataract.
In the immediate vicinity of the Falls there appears at present to be but little cannibalism.
Between Bangala and Stanley Pool the natives are not hostile, but are most anxious to trade, and at most seasons there is no difficulty buying food. Above Bangala, however, one meets at once with hostile, suspicious people. This state of affairs, no doubt, is due to the fact that the influence of the white man is not sufficiently felt in this region, there being a stretch of 500 miles without stations or white men; and also the reports that have been brought down concerning the work of the Arabs have left the people in a most excited state. And then, again, these people are cannibals and may require more severe lessons than the Byanzis.
I met the most hostile tribes about midway between Bangala and Stanley Falls, and near the limits of the Arab raids. This, I found, agreed with Mr. Deane’s experience.
The Zanzibaris, in the employ of the State, are clothed like the Arabs and the natives naturally imagined that they were on the same errand; in fact, they told us that we were the same as the Arabs, and nothing would shake their belief.
The last raid of the Arabs had not been successful. This fact was known to the natives, and encouraged them to attack passing strangers.
Near one village of the Yembinga District we were surrounded about 8 p.m., and threatened by savages that we had been trading with only a few hours before. While alongside in their canoes, they found that we did not have the usual fighting force on hand, and decided to attack. They are very treacherous, and I am firmly convinced that there will never be peace on the river between Bangala and the Falls until these natives have received severe lessons and one or more stations have been established in that hostile stretch of country. Ascending the river, the moral effect produced by the station at Stanley Falls could be seen by the difference in our reception by the natives when some 75 miles from the Falls; and the same was noted when nearing Bangala.
The effect of the presence of the whites on the Arabs themselves can be appreciated when it is known that their work of destruction was not commenced until they were more than twenty-four hours clear of the station, and they stopped before nearing the vicinity of the next white man at Bangala.
The people from Banana to Bangala wear both native and European cloth around the loins, the women being covered to above the breasts. The women of Bangala wear grass dresses 2 feet long over the hips, and no cloth. From two days above Bangala to within a few days of Stanley Falls, little or no European cloth is met with. The women and children are, as a rule, totally naked; the men wear a “breech cloth” of native make. In the vicinity of Stanley Falls both European and native cloth is worn by men and women.
The huts or chimbecs of the Congo natives differ but little from Banana to the Falls. In some instances, above Bangala, I noticed there was a foundation, or part wall, of some 2 feet of clay. The framework is timber, the walls of bamboo, and the roof thatched with grass; they are strongly built to resist the tornadoes and are water-proof.
From Banana to the Upoto District, the natives are armed with flintlock muskets, knives, and spears, bows, poisoned arrows, and shield. Above Upoto, until within twenty-four hours of Stanley Falls, the same arms are met with except the flint-lock musket. In the vicinity of the Falls, the Arabs have armed the natives with breech-loading arms. This, no doubt, has been done to secure them as allies in the event of trouble with the whites. It is a well-known fact, and one acknowledged by the agents at the Falls, that in case of trouble between the Arabs and the State, the Stanley Falls natives would take sides with the Arabs. The experiment is now being tried of enlisting the Bangala warriors for duty at Stanley Falls Station; the scheme promises to be successful.
The system of war and alarm-signals is perfect. The large “tom-tom,” to be found in the center of every village, can be heard for miles, and we always found, above Bangala, that the villages ahead of us knew of our presence on the river before we hove in sight.
From Banana to the Falls one meets with superstition, especially among the Baskungas, but I never saw or heard of worship of any kinds. The native depends for protection upon his fetich charms, he consults them for or against rain, success in war, &c., but he does not worship them.
On the occasion of a death among the tribes that have fire-arms, constant firing is kept up for days, during, which time the body is unburied, and, among the Byanzis, the death-dance and sacrifice is practiced.
In case of the death of a rich man, a number of his favorite slaves are designated to follow him to the grave. In case the dead man failed to choose his companions, that duty devolves upon the chief of the village. The belief is that it is necessary for a man to take his slaves and other wealth with him to the new world he has gone to.
I witnessed a death dance at Bolobo, on which occasion two women and two men were killed and buried with their master. Lieutenant Leibrecth, the chief of Bolobo, told me that at present he was powerless to prevent this. On one occasion , he had ransomed a condemned slave, but another was at once substituted for the one ransomed. This sacrifice is a part of the religion of the Byanzis and they cling to it tenaciously.
In the cannibal section, on the death of their master, a certain number of his slaves are killed, half are eaten by the tribe, and the other half are buried with the master. While the feast is going on, the dancing and drinking is kept up night and day. During my first visit at Bangala, a death feast was going on; at this time ten slaves were killed; five of them were eaten. I was told that these savage customs existed at Kinchassa and other villages on Stanley Pool, when the stations were first established there, but if practiced at all now it is very carefully concealed.
From Banana to Bangala the natives respect treaties that they have entered into, particularity if the chiefs have gone through the ceremony of making “blood-brothers” with the white man; above Bangala, no treaty is binding. For example, Captain Hansens, after going through the blood brotherhood ceremony with the chief, established a post of three Houssas and the Arroowimi River, but his boat was no sooner out of sight than two of the Houssas were killed and eaten by the cannibals.
I do not think that the Congo native is, as a rule, long-lived. Above Stanley Pool old men and old women are seldom met with. In the six moths I was on the Congo, I did not meet ten people of either sex that I should have judged to be over sixty year of age. King Mateweke of the Bangles, is the oldest native I saw, and I don’t think he was over seventy years of age.
The native food of the Upper Congo is the manioc, chiquango, banana, plantain, yams, sweet potatoes, peas, and beans, with goat, sheep, fowl, and duck. I saw no pork above Stanley Pool. Dried or smoked fish are consumed in large quantities.
Until reaching the Arab village of Nyangwe, eighteen days above Stanley Falls, no beasts of burden or any domestic animals, except the cur dog, are met with. The State, has, at great expense, imported horses, mules, and donkeys, for transport work in the cataract country. None of these animals live more than one year, most of them dying during the first few months. The State is now experimenting with bullocks. I don’t think that any of these animals will have trouble above the Pool. However, the experiment has never been tried. In the cataract region, where these beasts are most needed, there is little or no pasturage for them, the “wire grass” being totally unsuited for that purpose, so that it is a great expense and trouble keeping the animals properly fed and cared for, which, I think, will account for much of the mortality among them.
It is the custom in the Congo Valley for the white men to give “dashes” (gifts) to a chief on passing through the village. The value of the gift depends upon the importance of the chief. The chief will always return a small present of some fowl or a goat.
The missionary societies now established on the Congo are the English Baptist, the American Baptist, late Livingstone Inland, the French, German, and Belgian Roman Catholics.
The English Baptists have their main station at “Underhill,” on the south bank of the Congo, a few miles below Vivi. Their other stations are three in number, the one at Leopoldville being the last established.
The American Baptists have their main station at M’Pallabolla. The other stations are five in number; the last one established is at the Equator Station, on the Upper Congo.
The Protestant missions are all established on the south bank of the Congo.
The French Roman Catholics have their principal station at Boma. There are three other stations, the last one being a few miles bellow Brazzaville. This mission has purchased land, and is about to establish a station at the Equator.
Both the German and Belgian Roman Catholics are now locating. The former were to go to Bangala, but October, 1885, neither society had definitely settled its location.
The two Protestant missions were the first to penetrate the Stanley Falls, and have established as far as the Equator. As regards the work accomplished, it is, as yet, too early to judge. Both missions have boys and girls under instruction, and, as fast as the missionaries acquire the native language, they themselves work in the villages.
Great difficulty is met with, on account of the unwillingness of chiefs to allow the boys and girls to be taken by the missions, unless they are paid for them. In most cases, the missionaries are obliged to pay a monthly tribute for the child, or purchase the child outright. In some instances, the latter plan has been adopted, and the children are to be set free at a proper age.
The boys grow up to be most useful; they are taught the different trades, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, &c. One boy belonging to the American Mission has been taught to run and care for the engines of the Henry Reed, and is of great assistance to the missionaries.
The missions follow the plan of the State and obtain their canned goods from Europe. The French missions seem to be an exception; they are very successful, and are nearly self-supporting.
The land used for the different stations is leased from the State at a rental of 10 (pounds) yearly. Each station has acquired from two to three acres. The missionaries pledge themselves not to engage in trade. The work of the mission is carried on by Loangos and Kru boys, they being engaged to serve for one year.
With the exception of the Zanzibaris and Houssas, employed by the State, and the Arabs at Stanley Falls, I met no Mohammedans. This sect has not, as yet, reached this section, although it is found in almost all other parts of Africa.
From my own observation, and the information I gained from the missions, I do not believe that the Congo native has any form of worship: each man, woman, and child has his or her own special “inkissi,” or fetich charm, which is supposed to protect and do everything good for their owner. There are medicinemen in all villages, but as for worship in any form whatever, I have never seen or heard of it. They believe that after death the person assumes the same form in another world, where he will require his slaves and other wealth that he possessed in this life.
Missionaries should under no circumstances go to the Congo, except they go as members of one of the missions already established, or with means and authority to establish a new mission that can look for permanent support to some sect or society at home. A sad example of the absurdity of sending missionaries with no provision for their establishment was related to me by a Mr. Gerrish, who was one of six men set out from the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle, New York City, Rev. A B. Simpson. These men left New York in November, 1884, with $500 each; this sum was to transport them to the Congo, establish them and support them. They were members of the “faith-curing” sect. They had no letters, and they never heard from their church. Their $500 was soon exhausted. Some of their number were taken sick, but refused all medicine until one died; then they were persuaded to try the medicines. In fact, they were totally unfit and unprepared to live in the country. Finally, after being supported by charity of the other missions for some months, they were all provided a passage to Europe by the English Baptist Society, excepting Mr. Gerrish, who was received by the American Mission. This sort of thing will always happen unless the religious societies are made to understand that it is useless to send missionaries to the Congo unless they are supplied with ample means for establishment and for permanent support; should they neglect their provision, they are sending their people to certain death, unless they are succored by the charity of other missionaries, who can ill afford the double burden.
The old established trading firms on the Congo are the Dutch-African Trading Company, of Rotterdam; the Congo and Central African Company, of Liverpool; Hatton & Cookson, of Liverpool; Hamburg African Trading Company, of Hamburg; Dumas Bereux & Co., of Paris, and a Portuguese firm.
The factories or trading station of these firms are not confined to the Congo, but are scattered up and down the coast and nearly 150 miles inland. The Dutch-African Trading Company, the largest and most important of all firms, has factories for 300 miles above and 300 miles below the mouth of the Congo, and for 100 miles inland.
The factories on the Congo proper are established as far as Matade, a mile below Vivi, on the south bank, and form this point down, principally on the south bank, are found factories of all firms.
The Dutch, the Congo and Central African, and the French have their head factory at Banana. Hatton & Cookson are at Ponta de Leuba, a few miles below Boma, and the Portuguese firm is down the coast at Ambriz. The Dutch house had, in October, 1885, sent one of its agents to the interior, with instructions to established factories on the Upper River.
The Dutch house always has from 2,000 to 3,000 tons of coal on hand, and will supply steamers at a reasonable rate; this firm has also opened a good hotel at Banana.
The Dutch-African is the leading trading-house on the river, the English firm of Hatton & Cookson have their own freight steamers running from Banana and the Gabon River, respectively, to Europe. The other firms depend on the regular steamer lines for transportation of freight steamers.
All the trading firms appear to be in a flourishing state, although their head agents are unanimous in saying that trade is dull, &c. The Dutch house, I was told by a stockholder, pays from 10 to 15 per cent yearly, and I know that the trade in ivory on the Lower Congo is far greater than it has ever been before.
The primary article of export at present from the Congo proper is ivory, but, when developed, the Upper River will yield palm nuts, palm oil, gum capol, cam-wood rubber, ebony, iron, and copper. Groundnuts, if cultivated, can be raised in quantities in many parts of the district on the Lower River. Most of these exports are now contributed by the factories along the coast, and, in addition, beeswax is sent up form the south.
The bulk of the ivory on the Congo comes from the Upper River and its affluents. The ivory wealth of the latter has been little drawn on, and there must be considerable yet in store. The elephants are reported to be in large numbers. Until the last six months the bulk of the ivory was not brought to the Lower River, but was carried from Stanley Pool, via San Salvador, to the Portuguese and other firms at Ambriz.
Ivory is brought down in large canoes by the Byanzi traders to M’Fwa and Kimpela, on the north bank, and to Kinchassa and Kritamo, on the other south bank of the Pool. The chiefs of these towns buy from the Byanzis, paying in matakos, cotton goods, flint-lock guns, powder, crockery, and gin. These articles had been brought to the Pool by the Wasambos, a tribe from the neighborhood of Ambriz. The Wazambos, in turn, bought from the Pool natives, and carried the ivory to San Salvador; they would be me here by middlemen, composed of Portuguese half-breeds from the Wazambos and sell to the trading-houses at Ambriz. The system of trading has been carried on for years. The ivory for the north-bank towns was carried down to Lutété’s and Makito’s districts, these chiefs acting as middle-men. The trip to the coast, via San Salvador and return, would take a caravan about six months.
In 1884, the Administrator-General decided, if possible, to divert the trade from the San Salvador route, and arrange so that the Pool natives could carry their own ivory via Makito’s and M’Bauza-Mateke to Augu-Augu, on the Lower River, below Vivi. This plan would do away with middlemen, and the chiefs at Stanley Pool would derive all benefits by being able to trade directly with the factories. The round trip could be made in three months, half the time taken by the old route.
It was necessary for the Stanley Pool chiefs to arrange with Makito, in order that their caravans might pass unmolested through his country. To accomplish this, the State sent an armed escort with the chiefs down to meet Makito and Lutété. Arrangements were then made for a trial by the proposed new route. A large ivory caravan started in March, 1885, and, after a most successful trip, returned to the Pool in June, where they were received with great rejoicing. This successful journey was the signal for an entire revolution in the trade; that from the Upper River, and from many places in the interior, being directed via the territory of the Congo State to Augu-Augu. Makito, with the ivory from the north bank, also turned to the new route.
There has been an enormous increase in the ivory trade at the month of the Congo during the last few months. For example, in May, 1885, I made the journey from Vivi to Stanley Pool and did not meet one ivory caravan. In October, 1885, I made the return trip, I met six hundred of Makito’s people returning from Augu-Augu, and traveled in company with several large caravans en route for the coast, among them being four hundred and fifty Kinsuku people with ivory. These people have heretofore been very hostile, not willing to trade or have any intercourse with the whites.
On the two last trips, the Dutch-house steamer for Europe has carried 25 tons, and 23 tons, of ivory, the greater part of this coming from Augu-Augu, on the Lower River. This was the ivory trade of a single firm in six months’ time.
As before stated, none of the many natural products of the valley of the Upper Congo have been developed, but it must be remembered that it was only nine years ago that Stanley made his first trip down the Congo, and Vivi was not established until 1880. And considering the many difficulties of disease, rough country, and hostile natives, the Association first, and Congo State later, have certainly made great progress in the work of opening up this part of Africa, which, of course, must be accomplished before anything can be gained from the natural wealth.
Tribal wars have but little effect on the native trade; they are of short duration, and are soon settled either by “palavers” or through the intervention of the State authorities.
Articles Used in Trade
Between Banana and Lukungo, on the Lower Congo, the chief articles used in trade are different colored handkerchiefs, cotton cloth of different qualities, such as stripe, check, &c., case-knives, rum, gin, guns (flint-lock), powder, and cheap crockery.
From Lukungo, and until reaching Lutété, in addition to the cloth, a blue and white bead is used, and is regarded as a sort of standard.
Above Lutété, the blue and white beads disappear, and matakos take their place; these are one-seventh-inch brass wire, cut in lengths of 22 inches below the equator, and 24 inches above the equator. Each matako is valued at 5 cents in trading with the natives. The matako is the standard for all trade from Lutété to Stanley Falls. Above the Pool, cowries (shell), small white beads, and red and blue sarelist (blanketing), are used in addition to the articles already mentioned. To this may be added empty bottles, empty cans, fancy caps, colored umbrellas, brass bells, &c. In fact, almost anything that is likely to attract the attention of the native can be used in trade; brass tacks and nails are frequently in great demand, especially on the Upper River.
Handkerchiefs are about 18 inches square, of all colors and patterns; each piece contains twelve handkerchiefs; they are sold separately or by the piece. Cloth is sold by the fathom, or long (a long is 3 fathoms). Beads are sold by the string; 100 on each string.
In trade there is seldom any fixed price. When trading with the natives, there is usually 100 per cent added to the value of the article, which is increased in proportion to the demand, sometimes reaching 300 per cent or 400 per cent. I have sold empty bottles for an equivalent in food that would usually call for 15 matakos.
In August, 1885, the following were the prices (per pound) of ivory:
Tusks from 10 to 15 pounds...............1½ to 2 Matakos
Tusks from 20 to 30 pounds...............2 to 3 Matakos
Tusks from 30 to 40 pounds...............3 to 4 Matakos
Tusks form 40 to 50 pounds...............4 to 5 Matakos
Tusks from 60 upwards......................6 Matakos
The above is the standard, but the tusk is not always paid for in matakos, but, with matakos for a standard, the other articles I have mentioned are used. The price of ivory on the Congo, above Bangala, and on the affluents, is usually less than that at Bangala. The currency at Stanley Falls is an iron ax made by the natives, and is the only thing they will receive.
Communication with Europe
There are at present three monthly European steamer lines that call at the mouth of the Congo, viz: The West African Steamship Company, of Liverpool; the Hamburg Line; and the Portuguese Line from Lisbon.
The first line calls all along the west coast of Africa, and takes some fifty days to make the passage from Banana to Liverpool; while the Portuguese call at few ports, and occupies twenty days from Banana to Lisbon. All lines carry the mails.
The State has lately entered into a contract with the Portuguese line to run a monthly mail steamer to Boma, and a freight steamer every three months to the same port.
There are no wharfs or docks above Banana, except at Boma, and these will not answer for large steamers. As the trade increases, and steamers run up the river for freight, it will be necessary to have substantial wharfs or docks. This not only for convenience, but more particularly for safety, as in most parts of the Lower Congo the current is too strong and the holding ground much too uncertain for vessels to lay at anchor, even if the violent tornadoes did not add to the danger.
The survey for a railway between Boma and Isanghila, on the north bank, has been made by Belgian engineers, and the route reported practicable. The highest point is 250 meters, about 750 feet, above the level of the Congo, with a rise of 9 degrees to a meter.
It is proposed to construct the railway from Boma to Isanghila, there continuing the railway, via the south bank, to the Pool.
On the south bank, above Manyanga, the greatest obstacles will be encountered. The country here is very irregular and mountainous; there are two large, and many small streams to cross, and no proper timber to draw on. The question of procuring hard timer for sleepers that will successfully resist the ravages of the white ant will, I think, prove a serious one, and I should be surprised if it be found necessary to use iron sleepers.
If the railway is once constructed on the south bank, it will require constant expenditure to keep it in repair. The soil is not firm, and in the rainy season there are frequent washouts. I passed many places on the side hills where the earth had literally “caved in”, and for the reason that the soil could not stand the heavy rains.
The question of labor will have to be solved; the whites will not be able to do the work, and the natives cannot be depended on. The necessary and constant exposure to the sun and weather would be fatal to white men. The region to be ravaged by the proposed railway is the most unhealthy of the entire Congo Valley, and in order to successfully complete the work there it will be necessary to import the Chinese, or India coolie; either of these people will stand the climate, and be able to carry on the work.
The Congo Railway Company has already been formed and is composed mainly of English capitalists. The work of constructing the railway to Isanghila is to be started at once.
From an article by Mr. Stanley, in the London Times, on the Congo Railway, and also in an interview I had with him in London, I learned that the Congo State guarantees “that the sum of $50,000 will be the minimum annual sum which it will expend on the State traffic for the period of ten years after the completion of the railway to Stanley Pool.” It also guarantees to the company “40 per cent. of the gross customs revenue from export duties until the railway will be able to show 6 per cent dividend on the capital subscribed.” The lands needed for the railway, ports, landing places, yards, &c., besides a munificent acreage for every mile of railway constructed, will be given free of payment or tax. The best influence of the State and assistance of its officers and men is also guaranteed. Should the syndicate fail to construct the railway to Stanley Pool, and only establish a line of communication as far as Manyanga, the various guarantees are, in proportion, as favorable.
Mr. Stanley, after consulting with contractors, estimates the cost of construction at $4,000 per mile, and the entire cost of establishing communication between Stanley Pool and the sea, by means of two sections of railway (160 miles), and the steamer connections at $2,500,000.
In case they are successful in opening communication by steam with Stanley Pool, the railway company will put a fleet of steamers on the Upper River, and with their goods and merchandise command the custom of the Arabs from the Falls to Lake Tanganyika, as well as the custom of the natives on the large affluents of the Congo.
The estimates show that about $260,000 is paid out annually for the native portage of goods, merchandise, &c., from the Lower Congo to Stanley Pool; and, as Mr. Stanley says, “The State now guarantees, out of this $260,000, an annual expenditure of $50,000, which will be substantially increased by the money expended by the French, the traders, and the different missions.”
Prospects For Americans
To the best of my belief, there is no opening on, or in the vicinity of, the Lower Congo for an American firm to establish, at present, with a reasonable prospect of success.
What a firm with capital and push will be able to do when the railway is started, particularly if its factories were extended to the Upper Congo, is another question.
At present the trading firms on the west coast of Africa are wealthy and have been established for years. They now have the monopoly to the trade. These firms have bought up all the available ground between Banana and Vivi on the south bank of the river, and, until a railway is constructed, the sites on the south bank are the most desirable for factories. Of course these sites are held at fabulous prices, if they can be bought at all. At Banana, the State was obliged to pay a fabulous price for enough land to build its station on.
If the railway is constructed no further than Isanghila it will materially change the trade prospect, and there will be openings for the investment of money, and as the trade increases, as it must do, newcomers will have a fair chance in competition with the old firms; but it must be remembered that no immediate return can be looked for, as it will take time to establish factories, and to learn the ins and outs of the trade, in all of which the present firms will have the advantage. Being on the spot when the railway is started, they will be able to select desirable sites for factories, &c. Their employés are acclimated and familiar with the methods of trading.
The goods and merchandise of all descriptions used in trade, as well as the canned provisions used on the Congo, are purchased in Europe. A great deal of the canned fruit, milk, and beef, I noticed, had been canned in America, sold to the European dealers, and resold to the Congo State, and to the traders. The demand for everything required in new settlements is becoming greater every day, more especially for cotton goods, canned food, cutlery, furniture, and lumber. Lumber in particular will, I am sure, find a ready market. Wooden houses are springing up on all sides, the lumber for which is imported from Europe; for notwithstanding the fact that there is plenty of timber on the Lower Congo, there is no machinery for working the wood into shape; and if the houses could be shipped to the Congo ready to be put together, it would be a great gain, as skilled mechanics are few and far between.
Inquiries regarding the possibility of competing with the European dealers must be made to the heads of the different trading houses in Europe. The traders on the Congo cannot, or will not enter into any contract, as they are mere representatives of the European heads, and receive from them all the supplies for trade and food. I learned from the committee at Brussels that they would willingly purchase from American dealers if they could deliver the stores at the Congo equally as good as those now received, and on more favorable terms. I enclose with this report samples of most of the goods, &c., used from Banana to Stanley Falls, with the prices paid European dealers.
The French and Portuguese are the only powers holding territory in the Congo Valley, other than the Congo State. The boundaries of the possessions were definitely settled by the Berlin Conference, and a commission representing the three powers is at present engaged in establishing the boundary lines.
The Portuguese possessions are on the south bank of the Congo and extend from Shark’s Point, at the mouth of the river, to Noki, in about 6degree10’ south latitude. The remainder of the south bank, to the source of the river, is the territory of the Congo State.
The French territory is on the north bank, and includes the territory along the river from Manyanga North, in 5degree south latitude, to the mouth of the Oubangi River in 0degree20’ south latitude. The northern limit of the French possessions is now a matter of dispute, they claiming both banks of the mouth of the Oubangi River to about 1degree north latitude. The remainder of the north bank of the Congo, both above and below these limits, is the territory of the Congo State.
The valley of the Quillo River, north of the Congo, had been explored by the State and stations established in several places. This territory was ceded to the French by the Berlin Conference, the French Government agreeing to pay a certain amount to the Congo State.
At present, the relations of the three powers are very friendly. Before the meeting of the Berlin Conference, there was constant trouble between the French and Stanley Pool and the officials of the State. M. de Brazza went so far, on one occasion, as to attempt hoisting the French flag on the territory claimed and occupied by the Association at Kinchassa. The French were promptly driven off by the natives of Kinchassa without the aid of the Association forces.
The French have but three stations on the Congo proper, one at Brazzaville, on Stanley Pool, one at Guanchan Point, three days above the Pool, and one at the mouth of the Allima River, nearly opposite to the Lukelela. They also have several stations in the interior between the Congo and the Gabon Rivers. They garrison their stations with Senegal men, and a few Turcos.
I did not think that the French stations were in as flourishing a condition as those of the State, but this I understand is due to the limited amount allowed for expenses. There was no medical officer at Brazzaville, and none belonging to the French nearer than the Gabon River. In this respect they were even worse off than the State. While I was at Stanley Pool, the medical officer then at Leopoldville was called upon to treat several case in Brazzaville, and supply them with medicines.
M. de Brazza, the explorer and late governor of the French possessions and near the Congo, has been recalled, and the control of the entire French territory between the Gabon and the Congo Rivers has been turned over to the governor of the Gabon.
The Portuguese have no stations on the Congo except at Shark’s Point, where they have a small house used as a post-office, the Portuguese Government having directed that the European mails from Lisbon, via the Portuguese line of steamers, shall hereafter be landed at Shark’s Point instead of at Banana, as has been the custom.
There are at present three exploring expeditions engaged on and near the Congo.
The most important, that of Lieutenant Weissman, of the German army, entered Africa near St. Paul de Loando, in 1883, and, after two years of exploration, followed the Kassai River from its source to its mouth, coming out at what was supposed to have been the mouth of the Kwa River in July, 1885. Lieutenant Weissman’s discoveries changed the geography of that portion of Africa very materially.
He reports the valley of the Kassai as very rich in ivory and natural products, and the river as navigable for a distance of some 500 miles from its mouth, this through the richest section of the country. One station was established on the Loulona River, and a white man left in charge.
Some two hundred and fifty of the Bakouba natives accompanied the expedition to Stanley Pool, and were returned to their country on board the steamer Stanley, accompanied by the Administrator-General of the State.
Lieutenant Weissman, after his arrival on the Congo, was very ill, and returned as far as Madeira with me. He has since returned to Africa to continue his explorations.
The entire expenses of Weissman’s expedition were borne by the King of the Belgians. It, however, has no connection with the Congo State, being entirely distinct.
Another exploring expedition was sent out by the Geographical Society of Berlin, and is commanded by Lieutenant Kund, of the German army. This party reached Stanley Pool, and were there obliged to stop on account of having no means for the transportation of their goods, &c., on the Upper River.
In July, 1885, Kund, with some eighty Loangos, started across the country from Stanley Pool to the valley of the Kassai. A rumor was in circulation in October, 1885, that the expedition had met hostile people, and ten Loangos were reported killed.
The third expedition has been sent out by the Austrian Geographica Society, under the command of Prof. Franz Linz. The object of this expedition is to discover the outlet of the Welle, and, with this end in view, they hope to be able to explore the Oubangi River. In October, 1885, I met two white men, the assistants of Professor Linz, when they were en route to Stanley Pool. They had no people with them, and had made no arrangement for means of navigating the Upper River, hoping to hire native canoes. This they will find impossible, and the steamers on the Upper River at present have all they can do to keep up their own necessary work.
Rev. George Grenfell, of the English Baptist Mission, has been indefatigable in his explorations of the valley of the Congo. In his little steamer, the Peace, he has been the pioneer on most of the important affluents, and has contributed much valuable geographical information to the scientific world.
When Stanley established the Stanley Falls Station, in 1883, he met Arab slavers in the vicinity of Stanley Falls, where they had already commenced their work of destruction.
After the establishment of the station, the Arabs withdrew to Nyaugwe. In May, and again in July, 1884, small parties of Arabs came down to the seventh cataract, and requested permission to go down the river, but were refused by the chief-of-station.
Everything was quiet until October, 1884, when a caravan of three hundred men came down from Nyangwe, in command Moniomoui, the son of Tippoo Tib. This chief was most insolent, threatened to force a passage, but finally settled on one of the islands above the seventh cataract. In November, 1884, another body of Arabs, three hundred strong, came down and settled on the opposite bank of the river. In December, 1884, Tippoo Tib arrived at the seventh cataract with seven hundred men, and settled on the island above the seventh cataract. There were now between twelve and thirteen hundred Arabs at this place, all under the powerful chief, Tippoo Tib.
In an interview between the chief of Stanley Falls Station and Tippoo Tib, the latter claimed that he represented the Sultan of Zanzibar, that all the country on the Congo belonged to the Sultan; and he informed the white men that he intended sending seven hundred men down the river to buy ivory; if the white men attempted to interfere he would exterminate them, but if they did not interfere the station would not be molested, and he would not trouble natives in the vicinity of the Falls. Shortly after this interview seven hundred Arabs descended the river and Tippoo Tib remained at the Falls with three hundred men. He made friendly treaties at the Falls with the natives; gave them arms, and won them completely to his side, and altogether upset their former friendly intercourse with the station.
The Arabs down the river plundered and burned the villages, and made a large number of slaves. On March 28, 1885, they returned to the Falls, bringing many slaves with them. The expedition had not been successful; the natives had received warning enough to be able to conceal the greater part of their ivory. Both the Arabs and slaves were nearly starved, and small-pox had broken out among them. Shortly after this Tippoo Tib returned to Nyangwe, leaving one thousand men on his island above the seventh cataract.
In August, 1885, Tippoo Tib had seet for all his canoes and proposed to bring a large force from Nyangwe. The next raid down the river, he intended taking command himself.
At present, the State is powerless to cope with such a large force as Tippoo Tib can put in the field. These Arabs are armed with breechloading arms of the latest pattern, and are fitted in every way to make a successful stand against any force that the State can place at Stanley Falls to resist them. For example, there are now but thirty-five Houssas and three white men at Stanley Falls to make a stand against one thousand well-armed Arabs. It is true that in Tippoo Tib’s forces there are but few full-blooded Arabs, but the others are half-breeds, and the slaves and retainers of Tippoo Tib, and are devoted to his service, particularly if there is any chance of plunder.
The State proposed to fortify the station at Stanley Falls, and for that purpose had sent two Krupp rifles, war-rockets, &c., to the station; but in my opinion the present site can never be put in condition to stop the passage of any body of Arabs that wishes to descend the river. It is only necessary for the Arabs to cross by the creeks in rear of the station to the Loubuou River, and their canoes will strike the Congo a few hours below Stanley Falls.
The proper site for this station is at the confluence of these two rivers. A station at this point would command the approach by both rivers, and it would be far safer for the steamers, as it is below the most dangerous obstacles to the approach of the present station.
The Arabs do not attempt the slightest concealment in the matter of slave traffic. I was offered a slave by an Arab at what was supposed to be a reasonable price, and this within 100 yards of the station.
In conclusion, I would state that I agree perfectly with what I understand to be Mr. Tisdel’s report on the valley of the Lower Congo. That from Boma to the sea to the country is fertile, but between Boma and Stanley Pool it is a mountainous, bleak, unhealthy region, relieved now and then by a few fertile spots. This section, however, is but the gateway to the real valley of the Congo higher up, which region Mr. Tisdel did not visit. And I understand that neither Mr. Stanley nor the authorities of the State claim anything for the cataract region.
I met with sickness and death, as reported by Mr. Tisdel, but certainly no misery or want, unless it was the want of proper medical attention, there being but two doctors on the river, which number is, I think, utterly inadequate for the proper care of the sick. I saw no misery. True, above Vivi the houses were either of bamboo or clay, and the furniture, &c., was of the most primitive kind, but it was certainly “roughing it” of a far less serious character than I had expected to find in a country where white men had never set foot seven years ago.
In my opinion the reported wealth of the Upper Congo Valley has not been exaggerated. I myself saw rubber, cam-wood, gum capol, oil palms, ivory, iron, and copper, in great quantities on the banks of the main river, and on the islands, and, in addition, the valleys of the affluents are reported to be very rich in all these natural products.
Ivory for a few years will be abundant; after that the stock that the natives now have will become exhausted, and to continue the supply the elephants must be hunted.
There are thousands of elephants in and near the Congo Valley. I passed a number in my journey through the cataract region. The natives do not hunt them, but sometimes trap them. The greater part of the ivory now being sold to the traders has, for years past, been used in trade among the different tribes in the interior. It was probably found on dead elephants; some little of it trapped. The natives have no arms that could be used successfully in hunting elephants.
The natural wealth of the Congo Valley is totally undeveloped, and I question if it can be successfully developed until the barren, unhealthy region on the Lower River is bridged by steam so that the journey from the sea to Stanley Pool will occupy only as many hours as it now does days.
Colonization at the present time is out of the question. The progress of that scheme will depend entirely upon the success of the railway; and at any time there will be nothing that could possibly attract American citizens from their own country to settle and colonize on the Congo, unless it is the mission work, for which there is certainly a wide field. In this, however, I do not include American trading firms who may wish to establish on the Upper Congo, in case the railway is completed.
There is now a demand for American cotton goods, canned stores, and lumber, and the demand will increase every day. In the one item of lumber alone there must be a continuous demand, particularly as the work progresses on the proposed railway.
When the communication by steam is completed between Stanley Pool and the sea, the trade on the Congo proper is bound to increase immensely, and I see no reason why an energetic American firm should not be able to establish itself on the river and compete, with good prospects of success, with the old-established firms. None of these firms have factories on the Upper River, and only one or two own sites above Boma, on the north bank. When the railway is completed, the north bank will be the most desirable situation for the head factories, and the branch factories must necessarily be located on the Upper River; while at present all the factories are on the Lower River. Therefore I do not know of any reason why, when the railway is well started, and the prospects of an increase of trade are good, and with the new departure from the Lower to the Upper River, an American firm with capital and energy should not stand a good prospect for success, even when pitted against old-established houses. Of course new firms cannot look for an immediate return for their capital invested; they must first establish themselves and gain experience in the same manner that others have done before them.
It has been suggested that the United States Government establish a coaling station at the mouth of the Congo. This is not at all necessary, for the Dutch African Trading Company always keeps a large stock of coal on hand, which it can supply to our vessels for much less money than it would cost our Government to lay it down there. And again, a proper site could not be obtained without a large outlay of money.
The officials of the International Association, now the Congo State, certainly deserve great credit for their pluck and perseverance in establishing and maintaining their stations to the interior of Africa, making it possible to reach Central Africa in one-half the time and at much less expense than ever before. These stations, of course, cannot exist without certain support, and in addition to the annual income of $200,000, settled on the State by the King of the Belgians, there are to be export duties, rentals, and taxes, and such other revenues as can be collected, which, it is expected, will bring the income of the State to such a figure that it will be able to keep not only the stations, but also the necessary garrisons, in a state of perfect efficiency.
There is more or less slavery existing on the coast of Africa, from the island of St. Thomas to St. Paul de Loando.
The Congo State holds slaves that have been purchased at different times from the Arabs. This is particularly true of the station of Stanley Falls. These slaves were, with a few exceptions, women, who are given to the Zanzibaris and Houssas as wives. Should they demand their free papers, I suppose the authorities would give them, but they are happy and well cared for, and it was a most fortunate relief for them when they were bought from the Arabs. Many of the Zanzibaris employed by the State are slaves of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and the money for their services is paid to him. The slaves themselves receive enough for food and clothing.
Slavery exists among the natives of the entire Congo Valley; but, as before stated, the men slaves are more retainers than slaves. The women, however, are slaves in every sense of the word. The most cruel phase of the native slavery is the right of the owner to put to death any slave at will, and this frequently exercised, especially in the case of the women.
While I was at Stanley Pool in June, both M. de Brazza and his second, M. Chauvain, were in the interior. On my return from Stanley Falls in September, I had the pleasure of meeting both these gentlemen and gained much information from them. There is the very best of feeling between the French on the Congo and the State, frequent exchanges of visit, &c., and the disputes that arise are always referred to Europe for settlement. I heard of no Portuguese officials, and I do not think there are any located on the river. There were no men-of-war of any nation at Banana in October, 1885, and there had been none in port since the Lancaster and Kearsarge left in may, 1885.
Every effort was made by the officials of the Congo State to forward me on my journey; and every facility was given me to gather all the information I needed.
I was afforded the protection of the State, and the chiefs-of-stations were instructed to assist me in obtaining carriers and anything I needed to facilitate my journey.
The officers at Vivi assisted in the organization of my caravan, making me such an allowance of goods and stores as their experience had proved was necessary. The Administrator-General furnished me with everything from the store of the State, and at a rate 50 per cent cheaper than I could have bought the same articles from any of the trading houses.
Both written and verbal instructions were given me regarding my journey, and an agent of the State was detailed to accompany me to Stanley Pool.
To Col. Sir. Francis de Winten, Administrator-General, Maj. W.G. Parminter, Acting Administrator-General, and Capt. Seymor Saulez, chief of Leopoldville Division, I am particularly indebted for advice and assistance, and to Dr. Ralph Leslie, chief medical officer, I am indebted for much valuable advice concerning the necessary precautions to be observed while traveling.
The American Mission, late Livingstone Inland Mission, and particularly the Rev. Drs. Sims, Billington, and Glenesk, afforded me great assistance, and at a considerable inconvenience to themselves. The steam launch Henry Reed was placed at my disposal, the Mission refusing to take any pecuniary recompense. The only expense I was put to in this connection was the purchase of some needed stores that they did not have at Stanley Pool, and a payment to the wood cutters employed on the launch. Messrs. Billington and Glenesk accompanied me to Stanley Falls, taking entire charge of the engine, &c. This was particularly appreciated, as they had only returned a few weeks before from a trip to Bangala. Had it not been for the kindness and courtesy extended me by the Mission, and by these gentlemen in particular, I would have met with much more difficulty in reaching Stanley Falls.
The Government property in my charge I boxed and left in care of the chief of the Dutch African Trading Company at Banana, to be placed on board of the first United States man-of-war touching there. I also left a letter of advice for the commanding officer.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant, US Navy.
Hon. W.C. Whitney,
Secretary of the Navy,
Navy Department, Washington, DC
Source: Letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Transmitting, In Compliance With Resolution of January 27, Report of Lieutenant Taunt of a Journey on the River Congo. Washington, DC: n.p., 1887.