Henry Morton Stanley

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Henry Morton Stanley in 1872
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", an illustration from Stanley's 1872 book How I Found Livingstone
Henry Stanley and party standing on the back of an observation car at Monterey, California, 19 March 1891
1872 Carte de visite – Stanley and Kalulu.
Portrait of a young Henry Morton Stanley c.1870s
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", an illustration from Stanley's 1872 book How I Found Livingstone
Henry M Stanley with the officers of the Advance Column, Cairo, 1890. From the left: Dr. Thomas Heazle Parke, Robert H. Nelson, Henry M. Stanley, William G. Stairs, and Arthur J. M. Jephson
Henry M. Stanley in 1884
Henry Morton Stanley, 1890

Sir Henry Morton Stanley (28 January 184110 May 1904), a Welsh-born reporter for the New York Herald, went to Africa in search of missionary and explorer David Livingstone. He was later a British Member of Parliament. He is mainly known for his search for the source of the Nile, work he undertook as an agent of King Leopold II of Belgium, which enabled the occupation of the Congo Basin region.


  • Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
    • Spoken on 10 November 1871 in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania. There were no other white men known to be in the vicinity. As the two had not been formally introduced, it was a proper way to address Livingstone without committing a breach of etiquette.
  • Only by proving that we are superior to the savages, not only through our power to kill them but through our entire way of life, can we control them as they are now, in their present stage; it is necessary for their own well-being, even more than ours.
  • You can find it on almost any tree. As we made our way through the forest, it was literally raining rubber juice. Our clothes were full of it. The Congo has so many tributaries that a well-organized company can easily extract a few tons of rubber per year here. You only have to sail up such a river and the branches with rubber hang almost up to your ship.
  • I was received with an overwhelming display of military and civilian tributes, all the way to the royal palace where I was to stay, troops were lined up behind which enthusiastic people were chanting their viva, it seemed to me that a major change had come in the Belgian public opinion on the importance of the Congo, when I first went there, the Belgian newspapers spouted nothing but criticism, they were completely dumbfounded, the king was recognized as the great benefactor of the nation.
  • We have attacked and destroyed 28 large towns, and 3 or 4 score villages.
  • I desire some generous and opulent philanthropist, who shall permit me a force for commerce in central Africa.
  • As seen in my loneliness, there was this difference between the Bible and the newspapers. The one reminded one that, apart from God, my life was but a bubble of air, and it bade me remember my Creator; the other fostered arrogance and loneliness.
    • (Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley 1909, p. 254)
  • Religion acts as a moral gardener, to weed out, or suppress, evil tendencies, which, like weeds: grow.
    • (Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley 1909, p. 254)
  • Though many illusions are of a character we should gladly cherish, yet the sooner we lose some of them, the sooner we gain the power of seeing clearly into things. The one who possesses least has the best chance of becoming wise. The man who travels, and reflects, loses illusions faster than he who stays at home.
    • (Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley 1909, p. 523)
  • Socialism is a return to primitive conditions.
    • (Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley 1909, p. 530)
  • [The whole Congo without—the lower Congo] isn't worth a penny.
  • I do not believe in the accusations made in England against King Leopold II, the Congo and I do not share the feelings of those who inspire them. No state would be willing to spend the money spent by the King of the Belgians and Belgium in the most dark places of darkest Africa. When I consider the few years that have passed since the Congo became a state, I believe that the work accomplished is a great honor to Belgium. You can be sure that the King of the Belgians is interested in every detail of his administration. I do not claim that he can monitor all the actions of each individual, what Government could? The stories of the atrocities that have been spread are almost all gossip. The English note of month of August is based on biased reports. I am convinced that Leopold II has been doing his best to prevent any crime in the Congo, he is not responsible for the crimes anymore that could be committed there than those that are sometimes committed in Belgium. The reason of all these slanders? Jealousy! The Congo is doing better than any other African state. Those stories of atrocities will not stop, they will persist with the little basis they had, this was never anything but pure invention.
  • When I was on the Congo and accused a tribe of cannibalism, it replied : "We are not cannibals, but our neighbors are." The neighboring tribe said : "It is not we, it is the next tribe that you will meet" ; and that tribe referred us on to the next, and so on continually. They seemed to be ashamed of their cannibalism. They concealed it. Yet there was no doubt as to the existence of the practice. It was very seldom that I could discover the guilty. How, then, in recruiting its troops, was the Congo to distinguish the black cannibals from those who were not cannibals?
  • I had on the Congo under my orders three hundred men, English, Germans, Dutch, Portuguese, Belgians. I found no difference between them. All did their best according to their means. All were in the course of duty the object of some charge. I examined the charges minutely and always found them to be without foundation. That did not prevent these stories reaching Banana, and from there, Europe.
  • I regret to inform you that Baruti, the black boy who was with me in England, deserted here the night before last, taking with him two Winchester rifles, my little pocket revolver, and pedometer. With him went Mburra and Feruzi, boys belonging respectively to the captain and engineer of the ' Stanley.' They took with them a couple of Remingtons and ammunition pouches. You will have fifty-three guns with you when you come up. If you had ah interpreter — if he is a boy from Upper Congo, secure him — you might be able by menace to get those guns back. I do not care for the lads. Of course the natives will strenuously deny — they always do so — but it is an ab- solute certainty that the boys took a canoe from our landing place. A vast amount of circumstantial evidence proving this has been collected after their departure. Your people are not first class, yet, if these guns are not delivered consult with Captain Schogestrom what you had best do. Do not act precipitately or rashly. Offer to purchase the guns for anything they need. But do not land your people in the village, nor do not camp opposite. There is nice camping ground above the Baroko village at the confluence of a creek. Put the creek between your camp and the natives. Keep a good look out, that is all. Give my compliments to Bonny, and believe me anxious for your early arrival here as my lieutenant.
  • Last came the famous Hamed bin Mohammed, alias Tippu Tib, or, as it is variously pronounced by the natives, Tipo Tib, or Tibbu Tib. He was a tall, black-bearded man, of negro complexion, in the prime of life, straight and quick in his movements, a picture of energy and strength. He had a fine, intelligent face, with a nervous twitching of the eyes, and gleaming white and perfectly formed teeth. lie was attended by a large retinue of young Arabs, who looked up to him as chief, and a score of Wangwana and Wanyamwezi followers, whom he had led over thousands of miles through Africa. With the air of a well bred Arab, and almost courtier-like in his man- ner, ho welcomed me to Mwana Mamba*s village, and his slaves being ready at hand with mat and bolster, we reclined vis-a-vis, while a buzz of admiration of his style was perceptible from the on-lookers. After regarding him for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that this Arab was a remarkable man — the most remarkable man I had met among Arabs, Wa-Swahili, and half-castes in Africa. He was neat in his person; his clothes were of spotless white; his fez cap brand new; his waist was incircled by a rich dowle; his dagger was splendid with silver filagree work; and his tout ensemhle was that of an Arab gentleman in very comfortable circumstances.
  • I was interested the other day in making a curious calculation, which was, supposing that all the inhabitants of the Congo basin were simply to have one Sunday dress each, how many yards of Manchester cloth would be required, and the amazing number was 320,000,000 yards, just for one Sunday dress. Proceeding still further with these figures, I found that two Sunday dresses and four everyday dresses would in one year amount to 3,840,000,000 yards, which, at 2d. per yard, would be of the value of £16,000,000. The more I pondered upon these things, I discovered that I could not limit these stores of cotton cloth to day dresses. I would have to provide for night dresses also, and these would consume 160,000,000 yards. Then the grave clothes come into mind, and, as a poor lunatic who burned Bolobo Station destroyed 30,000 yards of cloth in order that he should not be cheated out of a respectable burial, I really feared for a time that the millions would get beyond measurable calculation. However, putting such accidents aside, I estimate that, if my figures of population are approximately correct, 2,000,000 die every year, and to bury these decently, and according to the custom of those who possess cloth, 16,000,000 yards will be required, while the 40,000 chiefs will require an average of 100 yards each, or 4,000,000 yards. I regarded these figures with great satisfaction, and I was about to close my remarks upon the millions of yards of cloth that Manchester would perhaps be required to produce, when I discovered that I had neglected to provide for the family wardrobe or currency chest, for you must know that in Lower Congo there is scarcely a family that has not a cloth fund of about a dozen pieces of about 24 yards each. This is a very important institution; otherwise how are the family necessities to be provided for? How are the fathers and mothers of families to go to market to buy greens, bread, oil, ground nuts, chickens, fish, and goats, and how is the petty trade to be conducted? How is ivory to be purchased, the gums, rubber, dye powders, gunpowder, copper slugs, guns, trinkets, knives, and swords to be bought without a supply of cloth? Now, 8,000,000 families at 300 yards each will require 2,400,000,000. You all know how perishable such currency must be; but if you sum up these several millions of yards, and value all of them at the average price of 2d. per yard, you will find that it will be possible for Manchester to create a trade, in the course of time, in cottons in the Congo basin, amounting in value to about £26,000,000 annually. I have said nothing about Rochdale savelist, or your own superior prints, your gorgeous handkerchiefs with their variegated patterns, your checks and striped cloths, your ticking and twills. I must satisfy myself with suggesting them; your own imagination will no doubt carry you to the limbo of immeasurable and incalculable millions.
  • The Portuguese provinces are governed by men whom I hold to be animated with as sincere a hatred against the slave trade as any English or American philanthropist has shown. It would really be one of the riskiest undertakings for any slave trader to attempt to revive the slave trade on Portuguese territory today, either by sea or by land. It cannot be denied that there is some traffic on the frontiers of the colonies of Portugal by Portuguese subjects, when they succeed in escaping the surveillance of the authorities; however, it is essential to make a clear distinction between the African Portuguese and the European Portuguese.
  • What does the greatness of a monarch consist in? I fit is the extent of his territory, then the Emperor of Russia is the greatest of all. I fit is the splendour and power of military organization, then William II [of Germany] takes first place. But if royal greatness consists in the wisdom and goodness of a sovereign leading his people with the solicitude of a shepherd watching over his flock, then the greatest sovereign is your own.
    • Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold's ghost: a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa. Boston, Houghton Mifflin. While the conference was still in session, Leopold invited Stanley to Belgium for a week. Stanley spoke to the delegates, and Leopold presented him with the Grand Cross of the Congo, arranged a banquet and a gala opera performance in his honor, and put him up in the gilt and scarlet rooms at the Royal Palace normally reserved for visiting royalty. In return, Stanley praised his host to the Belgians in a speech.

Quotes About Henry Morton Stanley[edit]

  • And this in turn makes it plain that the Right Man problem is a problem of highly dominant people. Dominance is a subject of enormous importance to biologists and zoologists because the percentage of dominant animals — or human beings — seems to be amazingly constant. Bernard Shaw once asked the explorer H. M. Stanley how many other men could take over leadership of the expedition if Stanley himself fell ill; Stanley replied promptly: "One in twenty." "Is that exact or approximate?" asked Shaw. "Exact." And biological studies have confirmed this as a fact. For some odd reason, precisely five per cent — one in twenty — of any animal group are dominant — have leadership qualities. During the Korean War, the Chinese made the interesting discovery that if they separated out the dominant five per cent of American prisoners of war, and kept them in separate compound, the remaining ninety-five per cent made no attempt to escape.
  • Stanley shoots negroes as if they where monkeys.
  • The terms of the treaties Stanley has made with native chiefs do not satisfy me. There must at least be an added article to the effect that they delegate to us their sovereign rights, the treaties must be as brief as possible and in a couple of articles must grant us everything.
    • Quote by King Leopold II of Belgium in: Maurice, Albert (1957). H.M. Stanley Unpublished Letters. London. p. 161.

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