The Three Lives of the Casement Report: Its Impact on Official Reactions and Popular Opinion in Belgium

Author: Pierre-Luc Plasman (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium) and Catherine Thewissen (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)


In 1903 British consul Roger Casement writes his report—known as the Casement Report—that exposed the brutal treatment of the indigenous population in the Congo Free State (1885-1908). The report publicly denounced the atrocious systems of the rubber terror which forced Africans to extract the rubber from lianas to the profit of the State or concessionaries. Published in Great Britain in 1904, the report caused great outrage. The impact of the report in Belgium, however, has been so far underexplored. William Roger Louis mentions the importance of this report to the end of King Léopold’s regime and to Belgium’s takeover of the Congo. This position, however, is contested by Jules Marchal, who has stated in his work that “the king had not to fear a reaction from the Belgian public who showed little interest in the Congo.” None of these studies, however, have looked in depth at the impact of the publication of the Casement Report on the official reactions and on popular opinion in Belgium. This paper seeks to do just that.


Roger Casement, King Léopold II, Congo Free State, Casement Report, Belgian Congo, Belgium, Commission of Inquiry, anti-Congo campaigns


In July 1903, Roger Casement, as part of his duties as British consul, set out on a journey to the rubber regions of the Congo Free State (henceforth “CFS”). In February 1904, the publication of his report on the harsh living conditions of the indigenous population aroused much indignation within official and popular spheres in Great Britain. Very quickly, Casement and Edmund Morel founded the Congo Reform Association (henceforth “C.R.A”) and proclaimed their goal of putting an end to King Léopold II’s Congo. And thus started one of the first humanitarian campaigns, one which, in spite of the end of the Congo Free State and its annexation to Belgium in 1908, continued its efforts until 1913.

In the wake of the publication of the report in Great Britain, two very different courses of action were put in place. The first was official: the governmental spheres aimed at keeping the balance among European nations and expressing courtesy towards allied countries. The second course of action concerned public opinion: the C.R.A stepped up their propaganda against the CFS in order to stir the hearts of the British people into action. The role of the Casement Report was very different in each case. Officially, Great Britain used it in the hopes of reopening the Congo question with the signatories of the Berlin Conference. For the British people, the Report was certainly the trigger for the creation of the C.R.A but was also quickly replaced both by testimonies, primarily of Protestant missionaries, and by Morel’s multiple books and pamphlets on the ill-treatment of the indigenous population.

If studies on Casement’s life and actions are manifold,[1] the analysis of the reception of Casement’s report and its impact in Belgium are important and, yet, relatively neglected research areas. In addition, the passing remarks on the subject are largely contradictory. William Roger Louis argues that the report was a major factor in the end of the CFS: “Casement’s report and his establishment of the C.R.A.,” writes Louis, “were two feats that contributed greatly to the eventual downfall of the Leopoldian system, and the annexation of the Congo by Belgium.”[2] Jules Marchal, however, expresses the opinion that, because the Belgian population showed “little interest in the Congo,” its impact was de-facto insignificant.[3] In his contribution, he nevertheless recognizes that the real impact of the Casement Report and its role in the end of the CFS can only be really understood and evaluated by looking at the official and popular spheres within Belgium itself. It is true that the Congolese question was, first and foremost, an issue within Belgian domestic political affairs. Since 1890, Belgium was heir to Léopold II; and, since 1901, the Belgian Parliament could have started the annexation procedure of the Congo Free State to Belgium, had it wished to do so. Internationally, too, this right was never questioned either by England or by the signatory powers of the Berlin Conference. If the anti-Congo campaign led by the C.R.A. is still remembered elsewhere today, in Belgium itself, it had very little impact, and this is for two main reasons: first, while Casement and Morel’s campaign was a pressurizing factor in Great Britain, it was much less so in Belgium. And second, in a very practical sense, the working language of the report was English, which was at that time not particularly well-known in Belgium. And yet, by criticizing the CFS, Casement and Morel were attacking the King, something that did not leave the Belgian population wholly indifferent.

Since its independence in 1830, Belgium has had a constitutional monarchy. The country has a rather liberal constitution, affording many freedoms to its citizens. One of its articles guarantees the freedom of press and stipulates that censorship can never be established, thereby engendering a quasi-absolute freedom of the press. Belgian society at the time of Léopold II was organized into different segments, each with their own ideology. There were three pillars at that time: catholic, liberal, and socialist.[4] Each pillar had its own social institutions, including distinct political parties and newspapers. For each of these pillars, the chosen mouthpiece was the press. Political parties and newspapers were so tied up together that it was not uncommon to find parliamentarians, party leaders, and ministers as writers or newspaper editors. For example, the leader of the socialist party, Emile Vandervelde, was one of the columnists for Le Peuple; and the leader of the catholic party, Charles Woeste, was the editor-in-chief of La Revue Générale. Circulation was good, given that about 68% of the population was literate in 1900.[5] For these reasons, we believe that the press is an excellent indicator of the popular opinions of each of the different pillars towards the Casement Report, the anti-Congo campaigns, and the annexation of Congo to Belgium. For this article, we have chosen Le Vingtième Siècle as the representative of the catholic pillar, L’Indépendance Belge as the liberal mouthpiece, and Le Peuple as the expression of the socialist viewpoint. We have also included in the corpus Le Soir which defines itself as a neutral paper. Those press publications subsidized by the CFS such as La Belgique coloniale, L’Etoile belge, and Le Petit Bleu have not been included in this study because their influence was not great on Belgian popular opinion. The debate on the CFS is not limited to popular reactions, and therefore we also consider the official reactions. At the time of the debate Brussels was the capital of two distinct states: Belgium and the CFS, which were only linked together by the figure of King Léopold II. Thus we scrutinize and discuss at length the reactions of both the Belgian officials and the Congolese administration.

The Casement Report as a whole can be read as a travelogue. Casement wrote down his experiences and the personal testimonies of the people he met on his journey. And contrary to popular belief, the Casement Report is not a passionate denunciation of the CFS but rather a well-balanced one. Casement was not, in other words, denouncing at all costs. As Louis explains, the report is “not a verbally scathing denunciation of the Congo administration,” but rather, it is “understated.”[6] Finesse and nuance characterize Casement’s approach. He recognizes the benefits of the Belgian presence on Congolese soil—for instance, in the field of infrastructure[7]—and shares his concerns about the treatment of the indigenous population. The consul was horrified at the drastic depopulation of some areas, which he interpreted either as the outbreak of sleeping sickness, frequent in an African context, or the result of heavy migration to the French Congo.[8] Casement describes the forced labor at the different concessionaries, including Société Anversoise and Anglo-Belgian India Rubber company (hencefore Abir), and gives a precise description of the tax system that enslaved the population. In that particular context, he tells the story of a teenage boy, Epondo, who was missing a left hand. The boy’s explanation was that his hand was cut off by a sentry, a Congolese auxiliary employed by the concessionary. Casement personally investigated his case and sent the sentry before the authorities. Casement had, of course, no way of assessing the accuracy of Epondo’s testimony, an issue that will be used against him in later stages. Nevertheless, the Report remains a mirror to the situation of the CFS in 1903.

This paper looks at the role and impact of the Casement Report in Belgium. Its assessment within Belgium will help us to understand the part that it played in the end of the CFS and the development of the Belgian Congo. Ultimately, we wish to complicate the connection between Casement’s report and the end of Léopold’s Congo, which up to this point has been overly simplified. The analysis is divided into three parts. The first part looks at those reactions immediately following the publication of the report, which range from outright hostility to passionate support for the humanitarian cause. This first part also looks at the official responses from the CFS and the inquiry commission set up by the King, which together constitute the official documents of the debate. Casement’s report then comes back in 1912 when the consul wrote another damning condemnation on his travels through the Peruvian Amazon region and exposed the atrocities committed upon the Indians in the area—this later condemnation provides the second focus of our article. Of particular interest are the widely differing reactions to it. The last part of the analysis looks at the reception of the Casement Report at the time of the First World War, a time of propaganda and mythical representations. At this time, Belgians had yet another take on the Casement Report. The anti-Congo campaigns were relentless at this point, pushing Belgian citizens to support the King and to deny the atrocities that had taken place. In addition Casement had been hanged for treason by the British. These two factors combined led to a complete disavowal of the Report.


I. Edmund Morel’s Campaign and the Casement Report (1903-1904)

The name of Roger Casement and the anti-Congo campaigns are inextricably linked. While being a document among many others condemning King Léopold’s kingdom, Casement’s report remains a touchstone in anti-Congo campaigns. The intensity of the reactions to the report can only be understood by looking at the context of the creation of the CFS and what it stood for. In his burning ambitions of expanding abroad, Léopold II did not have the support of the financial and political elites of the country. The different parliamentary majorities saw in this expansion project the endangerment of Belgium’s neutrality, and/or a real danger for Belgium’s neutrality. For the liberals, the immediate priority was to keep good relations with neighboring countries, mainly for the development of the economy. In opposition, the socialists denounced the exploitation of the masses both in the industries and in the colonies. And Belgium’s catholic government of the time, while it did not want to get involved in the Congo question, welcomed the idea of establishing catholic missions abroad.

Faced with such opposition, Léopold II decided to act as an individual. In 1870, the King took up the argument of the civilizing mission. His reputation as a philanthropist had been consistently growing both in Belgium and abroad. The King’s humanitarian interest found echo in the Anglophone world that was thoroughly involved with the abolitionist cause. In other words, the civilizing mission had truly become the leitmotiv of Léopold’s Congo. For this reason, among others, the CFS would be under the gaze of international public opinion.[9] At the outset, Léopold’s plan was to operate without imposing customs or import duties. While this option proved to be positive for the creation of the CFS, financially it was untenable—so untenable, in fact, that the King was forced to invest his own finances into the CFS. Debts kept growing and, on the verge of bankruptcy, the King decided to drastically change the economic policy of the CFS. Gone were the days of barter with the local population. Emphasis was now on the harvesting of goods, more specifically rubber and ivory. But this new system also led to the use of violence: the military force now came into play to make sure that the demands of harvesting were met. And with the use of the military force came a plethora of violent acts and atrocities, including rape, murder, and mutilation. The atrocities linked to the rubber trade were then not a sought-out politic of Léopold II, but rather an indirect consequence of his economic position.

In 1895, a campaign—in The Times, among others—denounced the abuse in the CFS. Hearing of these allegations, the Belgian King promised changes and reforms and, in that way, managed to keep the reputation of the CFS intact—that is, until the arrival on the scene of Edmund Morel. Hired by Sir Alfred Jones, business partner of Léopold II, Morel used his pen to defend the cause of ship-owners in Liverpool. As a clerk for the company Morel noticed that the ships leaving Belgium for the Congo carried guns, chains, and explosives but no commercial goods, while ships arriving from the CFS came back full of valuable products such as rubber and ivory. This discovery led him to understand the exploitative nature of the regime. To defend the welfare of Africans, Morel launched his own newspaper—The West African Mail—to denounce the brutal exploitation of the natives. This new publication immediately drew the attention of the CFS.[10] The association of Jones and Morel later fuelled the Belgian fantasy that claimed the merchants of Liverpool were plotting against the country.

Morel played an important role in the adoption—by the House of Commons on May 20, 1903—of a motion suggested by British Liberal M.P. Herbert Samuel on the Congo question.[11] Samuel’s motion, based on humanitarian and economic arguments, hoped to reconvene the signatory powers of the Berlin Conference—including Belgium—to discuss once again the Congolese question. In Belgium, the motion created a form of awkwardness and embarrassment, but not much more. Only Emile Vandervelde, emblematic figure of the socialist movement, and Georges Lorand, a liberal progressive politician, made a stand against the scandal that erupted in the CFS. The socialist deputy suggested to Paul de Favereau, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to intervene in order to shed light on the alleged atrocities. This proposal, however, was rejected on the grounds that Belgium cannot intervene in the affairs of another sovereign State. The very few reactions to this British motion reflected the disengagement that Belgium felt towards the Congo question.

Léopold II did not wish to see the Congolese question placed on the agenda of European governments.[12] The King, in a state of denial about the atrocities, considered these allegations as lies to serve a campaign of covetousness of the CFS by the “corsaire” Morel, part of an attempt of the British to get their hands on the Congo Free State. The King then launched his own counter-propaganda. One of his first initiatives was to encourage the creation of the FEDIBE (La Fédération pour la Defense des Interêts Belges à l’Étranger) and that of its official organ, La Vérité sur le Congo. The drafting of these texts were naturally provided by the Congolese administration. Blamed for mistreatment towards the Congolese people, the King planned another initiative: the enactment of a law in October 1903 limiting the mandatory services of the indigenous people to around forty hours of work per month. Finally, the CFS answered the British motion in contemptuous terms suggesting that it was a plot organized by the merchants of Liverpool.

The Congolese government did not suspect at this stage that Casement was authorized in September 1902 to make a journey to the Upper Congo. Early in 1903, Casement already gave a report on the inequalities of the system in place within the CFS. In May, he was appointed official investigator, and the Foreign Office, aware of the parliamentary debates on the Congo question, encouraged him to leave on his journey as soon as possible.[13] On June 5, the Consul left Matadi. He followed the river and passed through Léopoldville (Kinshasa) and Coquilhatville (Mbandaka), two major cities in the CFS, but he also abandoned his river path to penetrate deeper into the African country. He spent three weeks at Lake Matumba (la Ntomba) that is located in the Domaine de la Couronne, personal property of King Léopold II. He also stayed for five days in Bongandanga, the ABIR station, on the Lopori River. This last week was crucial to Casement, as he thought he had collected enough material for his report.[14] On September 11, he began his journey back to the Lower Congo and left the African continent to return to Europe on November 7th to begin his report.


II. Belgian Reactions to the Casement Report

a.1903-1906: The Casement Report and its Responses

1.December 1903—Mid-March 1904: The Casement Report

The British consul finalized Casement’s report in December 1903, and it was published in February of the following year. The first official reactions were dated two months prior to the publication of the report. They were full of worry, fear, and suspicion. Pending the publication of the report, Léopold II threatened to reorient his policy to be closer to Germany. The King desperately wanted his hands on the report, and he sent Sir Alfred Jones, his associate in maritime affairs and consul of the CFS in Liverpool, twice to the Foreign Office to get an exclusive copy of it.[15] In this atmosphere of great suspicion about England’s ulterior motives in this report, the Count of Lalaing, who was Belgian ambassador in London, tried his best to reassure the governmental spheres that the English posed no threat to the Congo. To that end, Lalaing repeated the words of Lord Lansdowne that Britain did not wish to own any part of the CFS.[16] And, upon sending the Casement Report to Brussels, Lalaing shared a confidence qualifying the Report’s tone as fairly moderate.[17] Of course, great was the ambassador’s disappointment when the British press blatantly attacked the Congo and presented it on its front page news as hell on earth. In spite of these setbacks, the Belgian ambassador continued to work towards some form of appeasement between the various parties. During a dinner at Buckingham, for instance, he had a discussion with the Duke of Argyll, Edward VII’s brother-in-law, who ultimately listened attentively to his claims.[18]

However, the relationship between the two ruling houses had, according to Edward VII, deteriorated, and it was not part of King Léopold’s plan to improve it.[19] The King had become, as his close collaborators reveal, rather bitter in his later years, and it had become impossible for him to bear any contradiction.[20] King Léopold’s response to the Casement Report was vindictive. He warned the signatory members that the response of the CFS to the Casement Report would shed light on these allegations and establish the very circumstances reported by the British consul.[21] His personal conviction was that “les attaques exagérées de M. Casement contre les agents Congolais” justified the word “libel” used by the Belgian consul in Liverpool, Edouard Sève.[22]

Reprimanded by Foreign Affairs, Sève’s attitude was illustrative of the zeal of certain diplomats who wanted to get noticed by the Royal Palace, diplomats such as Charles Saroléa, who directly opposed Morel. By contrast, Sir Alfred Jones adopted a rather different attitude towards the problem and strongly recommended avoiding controversy in relation to the Casement Report.[23] Jones nevertheless remained extremely active in the Congo question and hired a number of people who, under the safe umbrella of neutrality, started conducting a number of counter-investigations.[24] One of these people is Lord Mountmorres, an Irish peer who officially worked for the London journal, The Globe. The Irishman sent a report to the Foreign Office that he later published in book form.[25] In his conclusion, Mountmorres made a case in favor of the Congolese administration. The CFS, he argued, was governed humanely. The blame of these atrocities, he continued in his report, fell on the greedy concessionaries. The CFS did not bear, therefore, more responsibility than any other colonial regime.

The Belgian press—except for the socialists—mirrored these official concerns. Except for Le Peuple, most press organizations were highly critical of the Casement Report. Most of their reports were filled with downright hostility. The papers emphasized the only positive point in the report: that of the very much-improved state of the infrastructure and the abolishment of the slave trade. Le Vingtième Siècle stressed “l’énergie montrée par les autorités belges” to improve what they called, one of the wildest regions in Africa.[26] The rest of their reports discredited both the man himself and his report. L’Indépendance Belge saw the report as having “un caractère tendencieux,”[27] mainly because Casement’s trip lasted two months only, instead of the six that were officially planned. For the liberal paper, Léopold II accomplished “une œuvre de civilisation et de progrès à laquelle nulle autre n’est comparable dans l’ordre colonial.”[28] Le Soir, in an article dating back to December 1903, stated that Casement’s work just amounted to “une campagne de dénigrement vis-à-vis de l’Etat indépendant.”[29] Casement’s findings relating to cruelty and oppression were directly discredited by referring to the counter-investigation carried out in the immediate aftermath of the publication by Marquis Bosco, judge in the CFS. Le Vingtième Siècle, for instance, compared Casement’s and Bosco’s findings, arguing in favor of the latter. According to the paper, while the English accused the Europeans of cruelty on the Congolese, Bosco demonstrated that these alleged cases of mutilation dated back more than ten years and therefore could not be the responsibility of Europeans. The discourse around British covetousness of the Congo imbued the newspaper articles. Le Vingtième Siècle, for instance, spoke of “parti pris dans les affaires du Congo.”[30] Le Peuple was the only newspaper of those we examined that had another perspective on the Casement Report. The socialist paper presented the findings as facts “dont l’horreur fait frémir”[31] and wrote of “caoutchouc rouge.”[32] Le Peuple showed its true opposition to the system in the CFS after the publication of the inquiry commission.

Reactions to the Casement Report were diverse in 1903. Except for Le Peuple, which stood for equal chances for all, the rest of these reactions—both official and popular—were shown to be quite distrustful of the report, often deeming it an exaggeration or a ploy to reconvene the Berlin Conference and discuss the Congo case. Words like “exaggeration,” “suspicion,” “mistrust,” “British covetousness” and “horror” were used to decry what Casement witnessed in and reported of Léopold’s Congo. It definitely led to passionate reactions among the Belgians, some feeling outrage at what they saw as an attack, and others feeling consternation at the treatment of the native population whom, according to the Berlin Conference, the Europeans were supposed to protect.


2.Mid-March 1904—March 1905: Congo Free State Response

The CFS gave its official response to the Casement Report on March 12, 1904. The suggestion made by the Congo Free State to conduct a private investigation into Casement’s allegations—just as Joseph Chamberlain had promised for the Fiji Islands—caught the attention of the Foreign Office.[33] This response, and its idea to launch a private investigation, was well-received by the Foreign Office. Francis Villiers, future British ambassador in Brussels, strongly recommended that this inquiry be led by an international commission.[34] Bound by its statement, the Congo Free State sent three commissioners—a Belgian, an Italian, and a Swiss—to assess the situation in the country between October 1904 and February 1905. Neither Casement nor Morel believed in the efficiency of this commission, whose members were, in some form or other, connected to the King.[35] The findings of the international commission were rather more nuanced than Casement’s report. On the whole, it confirmed that atrocities were being committed on Congolese soil but presented the facts with their grey areas. They clearly established that the Epondo case was an exaggeration, a testimony that Casement failed to verify. The findings also suggested possible explanations for the type of behavior exhibited in the Congo (for example, climate, lack of morals, abuse of power, pressure for results). In general, their findings could be considered as more rational and nuanced than those of the Casement Report.[36]

In this period immediately following the Congo Free State response, each paper kept the stance that they had established towards the Casement Report. The Catholic and Liberal press emphasized the arguments that offered a more favorable vision of Léopold’s Congo. Both Le Vingtième Siècle and L’Indépendance Belge published the report and were hoping that the response by the CFS would clear up “un malentendu” created by “des éléments anglais.”[37] Commenting upon the atrocities, L’Indépendance Belge wrote that these, which were at first considered as “incontestables,” had now been shown to be refutable.[38] The paper illustrated its claims by means of two examples. First it discussed at length the well-known Epondo case, once the symbol of the oppression of the system and now simply the victim of a hunting accident.[39] And second, in a later article, the paper discussed another mistake made by Casement. Casement had seen a dozen Congolese men travelling in a train carriage from Léopoldville to Matadi. They were tied up and controlled under the watchful eye of a soldier, leading the consul to believe they were involved in the rubber scandal. In point of fact, these people were a group of men condemned by the Court in Basoko who had come to Matadi to serve their sentence.[40] L’Indépendance Belge confirmed its full support to the regime in the CFS and expressed its strong disagreement with the idea that the Congo administration led to “un régime systématique de cruautés ou d’oppression.”[41] The paper, nevertheless, acknowledged that some wrongdoings happened in the country, just as they had in any other colony. But then the paper immediately suggested a number of possible suggestions for these acts of cruelty. It argued that when such deeds had been committed, the perpetrators had been severely punished. It then advised its readers to bear in mind the difficulties Belgians had to face in the heart of Africa, a country with more than two hundred languages and where roads had yet to be built.[42] According to L’Indépendance Belge, the English should have thought “aux difficultés qui assaillent les officiers au Congo.”[43] It would be easy to condemn, wrote the paper, when “on est assis chez soi à l’abri du besoin.”[44] The English, therefore, should give some thought “à la mentalité de ces hommes brisés de corps et d’esprit dans une lutte perpétuelle.”[45]

Le Soir wrote a number of articles that defended the country against the Casement Report. In its issue of June 30, 1904, the newspaper interviewed Paul Landbeck, an official working in the CFS. Landbeck strongly contested all the allegations of the British consul against the Free State. His view was that the series of atrocities outlined by Casement were carried out fifteen or twenty years ago before the government stepped in to establish law and order. He put the responsibility of the hand-cutting atrocities on the Ascari, native soldiers of the Congo Free State, whose custom it was to cut off the hands of their enemy and then scrub it all over their body in the hope of becoming invincible. He believed it “impossible” that the hands were cut off by Europeans. Landbeck further argued that ill-treatment of the natives was severely punished in the CFS, and that there was no exploitation of the natives to collect rubber. There reigns in the Congo, according to the interviewee, “un ordre parfait.”[46] His view was that “l’Etat remplit sa mission.”[47]

The Belgian press continued to establish links between the Casement Report and English covetousness of the Congo. L’Indépendance Belge believed that the English started their anti-Congo campaigns at the time when the Free State was becoming an extremely prosperous state. The paper held the view that the English blamed the atrocities on the Congo administration with an ulterior motive, that of getting their hands on the Free State:

A partir de 1895, le commerce de l’Etat du Congo prend un essor marqué, et le chiffre des exportations monte progressivement de 10 millions en 1895 à 50 millions en 1902. C’est aussi à partir d’alors que le mouvement contre l’Etat du Congo se dessine. Au fur et à mesure que l’Etat affirmera davantage sa vitalité et ses progrès, la campagne ira en s’accentuant, s’appuyant sur quelques cas particuliers et isolés pour invoquer des prétextes d’humanité et dissimuler le véritable objectif des convoitises qui, dans leur impatience, se sont cependant trahies sous la plume des pamphlétaires et par la voix de membres de la Chambre des communes, mettant nettement en avant la disparition et le partage de l’Etat du Congo.[48]

Le Peuple, however, faithful to its belief in a better treatment for all, continued to fight to expose the atrocities. It disagreed with the response by the Congo Free State and sided with Casement and English views on the issue. In June 1904, Le Peuple, to show its support to Casement, quoted at length three other sources in Sir Charles Dilke, English liberal politician, Sir John Garot, and Count Earl Percy, the British Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Dilke claimed that the Congo Free State was “un enfer sur terre.”[49] Sir John Garot followed suit and argued that the country was “une immense cuve dans laquelle fermentent les atrocités, les oppressions et les cruautés.”[50]

The positions established in 1903-1904 continued in the same line of thought. Le Soir, L’Indépendance Belge, and Le Vingtième Siècle supported the response by the Congo Free State, relieving Belgium from blame in these allegations. The argument of British covetousness gathered momentum as the anti-Congo campaigns continued. Emile Vandervelde and Le Peuple, on the other hand, siding with the Casement Report, were still fighting for the defense of the native population in the Free State. Their campaign to expose the atrocities in the Congo Free State took its full measure in the next phase, in the response to the report of the inquiry commission.


3.March 1905 - November 1905: The Commission Report

The inquiry commission came back in March 1905 from the Free State and its report was published in November 1905. Because it was published in the Bulletin Officiel, the official journal of the Congo Free State, this report was not accessible to the masses, but rather to a small minority of learned and interested people invested in the Congo question. In addition to the report’s relative lack of visibility, the celebrations for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Belgian independence stirred up dormant patriotic feelings in Belgium. The two major political parties—Catholic and Liberal—touted the King’s genius. The politicians were aware that an impressive program of embellishment and aggrandizement of Belgium had been made possible thanks to the Congo.

The socialist leader, again bravely challenged the government about the atrocities against the native population but, just like in 1903, his concerns fell on deaf ears. The Congo question was compared by Lorand to the Dreyfus case in France. It had become impossible, according to the Liberal deputy, to treat the Congo question without being accused of treason towards Belgium or of collusion with the merchants of Liverpool.[51] It was therefore of no surprise that these reformers did not rely on the Casement Report before Parliament, since at that time it was outrightly considered suspect.[52] Le Soir, L’Indépendance Belge, and Le Vingtième Siècle corroborated the commission report, and, in their respective newspapers, primarily printed those findings of the commission that could speak for themselves.

One newspaper, however, stood out. Le Peuple showed the full measure of its opposition to the Congo system. While Vandervelde’s voice was not heard in the parliamentary debates, he expressed his views in his socialist newspaper. The socialist leader and his newspaper summarized and quoted the Casement Report in the hope of exposing the cruel system of oppression. They called for a “campagne de vérité et de pitié.”[53] The paper focused largely on Abir. The argument against the atrocities was all the more striking since Casement’s findings relating to those concessionaries like Abir were confirmed in the commission report. Le Peuple made a point at presenting in detail the atrocities inflicted on the population to collect the rubber. Le Peuple printed the testimony of victims who came to testify in front of the international commission. They heard the stories of families being taken hostage by Abir because the men did not fill their quota of rubber; they were told about the armed sentries threatening the rubber carriers; they heard the stories of horrific corporal punishment, including floggings and lashes with a chicotte against those that did not fulfill their quotas.[54] The paper described “les civilisateurs Congolais” as follows:  

On tuait sans distinction les femmes inoffensives et les enfants […] Tout cela apparemment pour frapper de terreur ce malheureux peuple et le forcer à apporter du caoutchouc […] Les témoins racontèrent qu’ils étaient constamment battus avec la chicotte et que leurs femmes et leurs enfants étaient continuellement emprisonnés, beaucoup de gens mourant soit en prison, soit immédiatement après avoir été libérés. Pendant que les hommes dans la forêt récoltaient le caoutchouc, leurs femmes étaient outragées, maltraitées ou enlevées par les sentinelles […] L’histoire de l’ABIR dans ces régions-ci est une histoire d’oppression, de sang versé et d’iniquité. Il lui sera bien difficile d’expier ses torts envers la population.[55]

This work of vulgarization and spreading of the Casement Report continued until 1906 when two major works vulgarized the commission report and thereby made it available to a much wider audience. The first of these major works was by liberal Félicien Cattier, Professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles; the other was by Father Vermeersch, a Jesuit. Interestingly, the vulgarization of the report came from two political strands—Catholic and Liberal—that were at the time staunch supporters of the Congo Free State. Father Vermeersch’s book introduced catholic opinion to the possibility that the anti-Congo campaigns were not simply an attack against the Free State by Protestant missionaries. The annexation of the Congo as a colony of Belgium soon became a most viable solution. The proposal of annexation was taken so seriously that, led by Vandervelde, the debates were reopened on the Congo question in February 1906. Cattier’s book and the commission report became the touchstones to start reforming the regime of the Congo Free State. During the discussion on the annexation of the Congo, references to Casement were rare, just as were those to Morel. A few days before the annexation in October 1908, Vandervelde once again emphasized the importance of the consul in this thorny issue.[56] 


b.1910-1914: The Casement Report and the Putumayo Atrocities

After his report on the CFS, Casement served as consul in various parts of the world, including Lisbon, the Brazilian port of Santos, followed by São Paulo, at the mouth of the Amazon. In July 1910, Edward Grey insisted that Casement be attached to a commission going to investigate reports of atrocities on the Putumayo River of the upper Amazon. What Casement found there was another oppressive regime. Agents of this regime, reported Casement, administrated inhumane treatment on the native population. Back in Britain, in January 1911, Casement submitted his detailed and damning report to the Foreign Secretary. The British government decided in July 1912 to publish Casement’s report. It was subsequently published in the Belgian press. Through the lens of the Putumayo Report, new light is shed on a number of interesting remarks on the Casement Report.  

When the Putumayo Report was commented on in Belgium in July 1912, the status of the CFS had evolved. The annexation of the Congo in 1908 as a colony of Belgium, known as the Belgian Congo, along with the King’s death in 1909, had changed the situation completely. Belgium put Léopold II on a pedestal and the episode of the red rubber was erased from people’s memory.[57] A striking example of this change in perception is the case of Emile Vandervelde: the man who exposed and condemned the atrocities of the Congo during the Parliamentary debates and in heated and passionate articles in Le Peuple became, after his trip to the Congo, a fervent supporter of the colony. His policies now connected socialism and colonialism by arguing that both these movements had the moral obligation of guardianship towards the less developed people.[58] The socialist leader then distanced himself from Morel’s campaign.

From the Belgian perspective, however, the Putumayo Report fell at a bad time. In 1910-12, when the Congo Free State became the Belgian Congo, its new colonial administration reacted rather poorly to the allegations about the inability of the Belgians to rule the Congo. For the authorities of the newly-created Belgian Congo, England froze interference by pursuing its consular inquiries into the Congo. Through a fear either imagined or real, the Congo remained for the Belgian authorities a coveted colony.[59] Important discussions were taking place between Lalaing and Grey regarding the recognition by the English of the annexation of the Congo Free State to Belgium. When Casement returned from Putumayo, Count Lalaing highlighted the similar attitude that London adopted towards the Congo Free State and the Peruvian government. [60] Upon publication of the Putumayo Report, the British press made allusions to the Congo case and stirred up ancient feuds between the two countries. The ambassador very much regretted that the press made “allusions aussi blessantes qu’exagérées à l’ancien régime Congolais.” [61] If The Times mentioned that the situation was worse in Peru, Morel insisted in The Economist that nothing could be compared to the CFS.[62] The annexation was finally recognized the following year, and Grey’s speech on that occasion was welcomed by L’Indépendance Belge as the clearing of reckless attacks.[63] In contrast, the Belgian government deemed that England was much too slow in her recognition of the Belgian Congo.[64]

If Lalaing highlighted similar reactions on the part of London towards both of Casement reports, the press adopted a totally different stance to Casement’s Putumayo Report. There were no connections established in the papers about the fact that both reports were from the same pen. The press treated these two reports as totally distinct. Another striking difference was that, while the Casement Report was passionately debated and condemned as false (apart from a few) between 1903 and 1906, the Putumayo Report was presented in a detached manner, very matter-of-factly. The reports in Le Soir and Le Vingtième Siècle took the form of factual lists of atrocities committed by the Peruvian Amazon Company on the indigenous population to collect rubber in all their excruciating details.[65] The comparison of the treatment established two important facts: the first one was that there was indeed a complete amnesia in Belgium about the Congo atrocities. Not one reference was made to Casement, the damned and criticized author of the report on the CFS. And secondly, the difference in treatments highlighted the fact that, between 1903 and 1906, there was a passionate debate about the Congo question. The Casement Report, contrary to what Jules Marchal argues, did trigger interest and passionate debate among the Belgian population.


c.1914-1918: The Casement Report and the Great War

At the time of the outbreak of the Great War, Casement was retired. This retirement, however, was rather short lived. He turned his interest to Ireland’s political turmoil. In 1914 Ireland, different political factions opposed each other on the issue of Home Rule, which would grant a Dublin government for the whole of Ireland.[66] Unionists opposed the bill because they feared a loss of power; constitutional nationalists and John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, supported the Home Rule bill. To put actions into words, he urged Irishmen to enlist in the British army. Within the nationalists, there was a more radical Republican wing that included well-known names such as Patrick Pearse, Thomas Clarke, Sean McDermott, and…Roger Casement. The former British consul had decided to fight alongside the republicans in the hope of the birth of an independent Ireland, free and not part of any Empire. Casement sought to obtain German support for a rebellion against English rule—the Easter Rising. Shortly before the Rising, he landed in Ireland and was arrested. He was convicted and executed for treason. Casement’s involvement in these republican activities ultimately had a profound effect on the perspective of the Casement Report within Belgium.

There were very few official responses to Casement’s fate. Casement’s involvement in the Easter Rising and his subsequent arrest were barely mentioned by the Belgian embassy in London.[67] The Belgian Congo’s mother country was deemed at this time “poor little Belgium,” a country that the British needed to rescue after the German invasion of its territory. Despite the laudatory speeches and gestures of support, King Albert and the Belgian government were deeply concerned by the German occupation of Belgium and by the possible damage to the integrity of the national territory both of Belgium and of the Belgian Congo after the conflict. In this time of great crisis for Belgium, Casement’s trial was not an object of interest for Belgian officials. Instead of going back to ancient feuds, the ambassador, Paul Hymans, worked towards the organization of two Anglo-Belgian events that would demonstrate the intimate friendship between the two countries. Success was complete, and Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, in his speeches, glorified the Belgian attitude.[68] By coincidence, the two events took place shortly before and after Casement’s execution on August 3, 1916. Then, too, the execution of the former consul was not exploited by Belgian officials. Hymans’ personality played a big role in that fact.[69] Following the publication of Morel’s Truth and the War at the end of August, part of the public opinion—including British[70]—was struck by the coincidence between Morel’s statements in 1911, in which he advocated for an Anglo-German rapprochement on the basis of the sharing of the Congo, and the revelations at Casement’s trial. From there emerged the idea that Morel and Casement were agents in the service of Germany, whose aim it was to create tensions between Belgium and Great Britain on the Congo question. This development, however, was rejected by the ambassador, who trusted history to decide on the issue.[71]

However, three important elements reversed the situation completely: first, the creation of a propaganda division at the ministry of the colonies in 1916; second, Morel’s condemnation in 1917; and third, the need to look victimized at the peace conference. Now Minister of Foreign affairs, Hymans signed a note for the diplomats, prepared by Octave Louwers. If Louwers, as a young magistrate in the Congo Free State, denounced Léopold II as a scoundrel, the minister’s adviser suggested not to be intimidated by the memory of the “atrocities,” because if Léopold’s regime had not been faultless, its benefits were too long overshadowed by the accusations orchestrated by questionable characters.[72] Sir Herbert Samuel, author of the motion in May 1903, bowed a quarter of a century later in front of the Belgian work that was now at the forefront of progressive and enlightened colonial administrations. The myth that Morel and Casement were agents of Germany resurged throughout the whole period of the Belgian Congo.

While there were very few references to Casement’s fate in the official spheres, the press, on the other hand, turned the Casement’s trial and his hanging into its main headlines. Casement was, in the Belgian press, a “traître.”[73] Le Soir, Le Vingtième Siècle, and L’Indépendance Belge reported Casement’s arrest in every detail, branding him as “Irlando-Boche,”[74] “un agent de l’Allemagne”[75], and “inventeur et le colporteur de l’abominable légende des ‘mains coupées’.”[76] With an ironic twist, Le Vingtième Siècle asked “où sont ces belles déclamations sur les atrocités congolaise, sur le ‘caoutchouc rouge,’ les vibrantes tirades humanitaires?”[77] The journalist compared Casement to a character in a Charles Dickens novel:

Il y a dans un roman de Dickens une brave dame qui passe son temps à s’occuper des indigènes de Borrisbola-Ghaa sur la côte d’Afrique—mais qui oublie totalement l’existence de son mari et de ses enfants. Le sieur Casement rappelle cette bonne femme, avec l’infamie en plus.[78]

Casement’s friendship with Germany was outlined in every article. Le Soir told Casement’s story from the time of his trip to America where he met with von Bernhardi and von Bernstoff. The latter was in favor of Casement’s suggestion to build an army from Irish prisoners of war to fight for the Irish cause.  

Casement’s treason threw into doubt all the allegations that he made in 1903 on the Belgian administration of the CFS. In light of these events, the Casement Report was completely nullified by the Belgian society of the Great War. Casement’s alignment with Germany was, to the papers, further proof that this man was not to be trusted and that his report was just a pack of lies. In Le Soir, for instance, dating back to April 1916, Casement’s report was fully discredited: “La plupart des horribles épisodes racontés par cet étrange consul étaient exagérés et en partie inventés […] Il était passé maître dans l’art de truquer les photographies et de falsifier les documents.”[79]

British attitudes completely changed with regards to the Casement Report. The British that had proclaimed for all the world to hear the atrocities that were taking place in the Belgian Congo now apologized for being “duped” by the traitor Casement. Le Soir reported that the British press expressed “un vif regret d’avoir été entrainée par ce traître.”[80] Casement’s report was now being perceived a tool to create a gap between Belgium and England for the benefit of Germany. Le Vingtième Siècle wrote passionately about this particular issue:

Ne s’agissait-il pas de brouiller la Belgique et l’Angleterre, et, par surcroit la France et l’Angleterre ? Ne s’agissait-il pas de servir les intérêts politiques de l’Allemagne, intérêts continentaux et intérêts coloniaux compris ? Il est grand temps que la réputation de la Belgique ‘calomniée’ dans cette affaire, soit enfin réhabilitée.[81] 

In the light of these events, Belgian papers presented the Belgian Congo colony as being coveted by Germany. Le Soir, for one, wrote that “Morel et Casement […] travaillaient à dépouiller la Belgique de sa colonie, au profit de l’Allemagne.”[82] All in all Casement’s treason was, for Belgium and the Belgian Congo, holy bread.

Léopold II and his humanitarian work in the Congo was now restored to good faith. Léopold II got his revenge, and the Belgian Congo, former Congo Free State, was reestablished among the model colonies in Africa. Léopold’s œuvre was “vengée des accusations du traître Casement,” [83] wrote Le Soir. For those living in 1905 and 1906, when Léopold II was “l’objet d’infâmes outrages dans la presse étrangère,” these revelations were “une éclatante revanche et une grande consolation.”[84] “Quelle revanche,” wrote Le Vingtième Siècle, “pour Léopold II et nos héros africains que les campagnes des complices de la barbarie allemande avaient réussi à faire passer, même aux yeux de certains de leurs compatriotes, pour de monstrueux criminels.”[85]


III. Conclusion

Roger Casement’s report and the end of the CFS are considered today to be intrinsically connected to one another, the former leading to the end of King Léopold’s rule in the Congo. This connection, however, as this paper hopes to have shown, is much more in the realm of myth than it is of actual historical reality. The direct link that exists in popular imagination between the report and the end of King Léopold’s rule in the Congo is a simplification of the role and impact of Casement’s denunciatory report.

Casement’s report is first and foremost the work of an emphatic man who wished to denounce the suffering of the Congolese population. In Great Britain and the Anglophone world as a whole, the report had a great impact upon both the political and popular spheres of the country. Such an impact can be understood within the recurrent charges of maladministration that took place on Léopold’s territory since 1895. Casement’s report kindled the spark to this fire of protestation.

In Belgium, however, the role and impact of the Casement Report was of a totally different nature. Political opinions oscillated between rejection of the report and support for its humanitarian concerns. Belgian socialists and liberals never hesitated in condemning the abuse taking place in the CFS, while the catholics cast a great shadow over the truth and veracity of Casement’s statements. The use of a foreign report, however, was not acceptable within Belgian politics and an enquiry commission was established. The debate, therefore, was not on the basis of Casement’s report, but rather on that of the enquiry commission. The Casement Report was but a piece in the domino effect that led to the annexation of the Congo to Belgium. Even after the annexation, the relentless attack upon Léopold’s Congo awakened Belgium’s national pride. As a reaction there was a phenomenon of collective amnesia concerning the abuse, and Léopold II was put on a pedestal.

The outbreak of the First World War resuscitated the figure of Roger Casement in yet another perspective. The Great War was a time of propaganda where partial truths are turned into patriotic dogmas. With the growing feeling of Belgian national pride, the country framed itself sympathetically with the hanging of Roger Casement by the British authorities for treason. The papers once again insisted on Casement’s report as a pack of lies intended to steal the Congo away from Belgium. Today still, former Belgian colonials look upon Casement’s report as exaggerated and his campaign as mainly anti-Belgian.

In the end, the anti-Congo campaign created a dualistic representation of the CFS, one that has been taken up in literature by Adam Hochschild and Mario Vargas Llosa, both of whom represent Casement as the martyr of the humanitarian cause. This image of Casement as a martyr cannot be applied to Roger Casement, who was, and will always remain, a privileged witness of Léopold’s rule in the Congo.


[1] See, for instance, Séamas Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary (Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2008), 152-181; William Bryant, Roger Casement: A Biography (Lincoln: iUniverse, 2007); Roger Sawyer, ed., Roger Casement’s Diaries: 1910: The Black and the White (London: Random House, 1997); Daniel Vangroenweghe, “Casement’s Congo Diary, One of the So-called ‘Black Diaries’, was not a Forgery,” Revue Belge d’Histoire Contemporaine, no. 3/4 (2002): 321-350; Michael Laffan, “The Making of a Revolutionary: Casement and the Volunteers, 1913-14,” in Roger Casement in Irish and World History, ed. Mary E. Daly (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2005); Jules Marchal, E.D. Morel contre Léopold II. L’Histoire du Congo 1900-1910 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996); William Roger Louis and Jean Stengers, E.D. Morel’s History of the Congo reform Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968); and Jean Stengers, Congo: Mythes et Réalités (Bruxelles: Editions Racine, 2007).

[2] William Roger Louis, “Roger Casement and the Congo,” The Journal of African History 5, no. 1 (1964):117.

[3] Jules Marchal, “Roger Casement in the Congo: Reactions in Belgium,” in Roger Casement in Irish and World History, ed. Mary E. Daly (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2005): 32.

[4] See Xavier Mabille, Histoire politique de la Belgique. Facteurs et acteurs de changement (Bruxelles: CRIPS, 1986), 101-169.

[5] See Dominique Grootaers, Histoire de l’enseignement en Belgique (Bruxelles: CRIPS, 1998), 60.

[6] Louis, “Roger Casement and the Congo,” 109.

[7] Jean-Luc Vellut and Daniel Vangroenweghe, eds., Enquêtes et Documents d’Histoire Africaine.  Le Rapport Casement (Louvain-la-Neuve: Centre d’Histoire de l’Afrique, 1985), 28, 31, 41.

[8] Vellut, “Préface,” in Enquêtes et Documents, vi.

[9] See Pierre-Luc Plasman, “L’État Indépendant du Congo face aux Campagnes Anti-Congolaises, ” in Léopold II entre Génie et Gène. Politique Etrangère et Colonisation, ed. Vincent Dujardin et al. (Brussels: Racine, 2009).

[10] Letter of Cuvelier to Houdret, 18 December 1903, Belgian Foreign Affairs (BFA), Africa Archives (AA), AE 225 (159).

[11] See Catherine Ann Cline, E.D. Morel: The Strategies of Protest (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1980), 37.

[12] See note of Léopold II, s.d. BFA, Diplomatic Archive (DA), AF 1/1, 1e série, vol. V (1903).

[13] Séamas Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement. Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2008), 145-155.

[14] See Daniel Vangroenweghe, “Introduction,” in Enquêtes et Documents d’Histoire Africaine, 3.

[15] See Vellut, “Préface,” vi.

[16] Lalaing to Favereau, 22 October 1903. BFA, DA, AF 1/1, 1e série, vol. V (1903).

[17] Lalaing to Favereau, 11 February 1904. Ibid., vol. VI (1903-05).

[18] Lalaing to Favereau, 14 March 1904. Ibid.

[19] Lalaing to Davignon, 2 January 1910. BFA, DA, correspondance politique, Grande-Bretagne, 1910-1912.

[20] Eugène Beyens, “Souvenirs sur Léopold II et la Cour de Belgique,” Revue Générale, May, 1932, 537-538.

[21] Léopold II to Favereau, 15 February 1904. BFA, DA, AF 1/1, 1e série, vol. V (1903-05).

[22] Note of Cabinet of Minister of Foreign Affairs, 05/11/1904. Ibid. “Casement’s exaggerated attacks against Congolese agents” [our translation].

[23] Sève to Favereau. 27 February 1904. Ibid.

[24] Among these we find May French-Sheldon. Robert Burroughs, “The Travelling Apologist: May French Sheldon in the Congo Free State (1903–04),” Studies in Travel Writing, 14, no. 2 (2010).

[25] See Viscount Mountmorres, The Congo Independent State. A Report on a Voyage of Enquiry (London: Williams and Norgate, 1906).

[26] “L’Angleterre et le Congo,” Le Vingtième Siècle, Feb. 2, 1904. “The energy shown by the Belgian authorities” [our translation].

[27] “Revue Politique,” L’Indépendance Belge, Dec. 8, 1903. “A tendentious nature” [our translation].

[28] Ibid. “A work of civilization and progress that compares to no other in the colonial world” [our translation].

[29] “Le Conflit Anglo-Congolais,” Le Soir, Dec. 12, 1903. “A smear campaign towards the Congo Free State” [our translation].

[30] “L’Angleterre et l’Etat du Congo,” Le Vingtième Siècle, Dec. 8, 1903. “Bias in the Congo affairs” [our translation].

[31] “Revue Politique,” Le Peuple, Dec. 12, 1903. “Full of horror” [our translation].

[32] “Le Congo,” Le Peuple, Dec. 10, 1903.  “Red rubber” [our translation].

[33] Octave Louwers and Georges Touchard, État Indépendant du Congo. Recueil Usuel de la Legislation (Brussels: Weissenbruch, 1909), V: 35.

[34] Lalaing to Favereau. 8 April 1904. BFA, DA, AF 1/1, 1e série, vol. V (1903-05).

[35] Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement, 192. Plasman, “L’État Indépendant du Congo face aux Campagnes Anti-Congolaises,” 218.

[36] Congo Free State, Bulletin Officiel, September-October 1905, Brussels: Hayez.

[37] “Revue Politique, ” L’Indépendance Belge, March 16 1904. “A misunderstanding created by some English elements” [our translation]. 

[38] “Revue Politique,” L’Indépendance Belge, March 16 1904. “Indisputable” [our translation].

[39] Ibid.  

[40] “Réponse de l’Etat Indépendant du Congo à la Note Anglaise,” L’Indépendance Belge, Oct. 28, 1904.

[41] Ibid. “A systematic regime of cruelty or oppression” [our translation].

[42] “Les Anglais et le Congo,” L’Indépendance Belge, June 6, 1904.

[43] Ibid. “The difficulties that beset the officers in the Congo” [our translation]. 

[44] Ibid. “when sitting at home, free from want” [our translation].

[45] Ibid. “Mentality of these men, broken in body and mind, in a perpetual struggle” [our translation].

[46] “La Civilisation au Congo,” Le Soir, June 30, 1904. “Perfect order” [our translation].

[47] Ibid. “The State fulfills its mission” [our translation].  

[48] “Réponse de l’Etat Indépendant du Congo à la Note Anglaise,” L’Indépendance Belge, October 28, 1903. “From 1895 onwards, the trade in the Congo Free State acquires considerable momentum, and the number of exports rises progressively from 10 million in 1895 to 50 million in 1902. This is when the movement against the Congo Free State started to emerge. As the State asserted more and more its vitality and progress, the campaign will keep on growing, relying on some specific and isolated cases to invoke humanity as a pretext to conceal the true objective of their envy. This feeling, however, could be perceived in the writings of pamphleteers and by the voices of the members of the House of Commons who put clearly forward the disappearance and the sharing of the Congo Free State” [our translation]. 

[49] “L’Administration Congolaise,” Le Peuple, June 11, 1904. “Hell on earth” [our translation].

[50] Ibid. “A huge tank in which atrocities, oppression and cruelty ferment” [our translation].

[51] Belgian House of Representatives, Annales parlementaires, plenary sessions of 1906, 793.

[52] Ibid. plenary sessions of 1905, 912.

[53] “Retour de la Commission d’Enquête au Congo,” Le Peuple, Mar. 14, 1905. “Campaign for truth and mercy” [our translation]. 

[54] “Les Civilisateurs Congolais,” Le Peuple, Sept. 4, 1905.

[55] Ibid. “They killed indiscriminately harmless women and children […] All this apparently to strike terror on the unfortunate people and force it to collect rubber […] Witnesses told how they were constantly beaten with a chicotte and that their wives and children were continually imprisoned, many people dying either in prison or immediately after being released. While the men were harvesting rubber in the forest, their wives were outraged, abused or abducted by the guards […] the history of Abir in these areas is a story of oppression, bloodshed and iniquity. It will be difficult for it to atone for his wrongs to the people” [our translation]. 

[56] Belgian House of Representatives, Annales parlementaires, plenary sessions of 1908, 931.

[57] Vincent Viaene, “La Crise Identitaire Congolaise de la Belgique aux Alentours de 1908 et les Origines de la ‘Mémoire’ du Congo Léopoldien, ” in Autour de la Mémoire. La Belgique, le Congo et le Passé Colonial, ed. Rosario Giordano (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008).

[58] Ibid., p.78.

[59] Guy Vanthemsche, La Belgique et le Congo. Nouvelle histoire de Belgique. Volume 4 (Brussels: Complexe, 2007), 106-116.

[60] Lalaing to Davignon, 16 July 1912. BFA, DA, correspondance politique, Grande-Bretagne, 1910-1912.

[61]Lalaing to Davignon, 17 July 1912. Ibid. “Offensive and exaggerated allusions to the Congo Free State” [our translation].

[62] Belgian Embassy to Davignon, 30 July 1912. Ibid.

[63] BRP, cabinet Albert I, 986, Documents relatifs reconnaissance annexion par Grande-Bretagne.

[64] Davignon to Albert I, 31 May 1913. Ibid.

[65] “Horribles Atrocités au Pérou,” Le Soir,  August 17, 1912 ; “Atrocités au Pérou,” Le Vingtième Siècle, July 18, 1912.

[66] See : Keith Jeffery, Ireland and the Great War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Thomas Hennessey, Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition (London and New York: Routledge, 1998).

[67] Hymans à Beyens, 5 January 1916. BFA, DA, correspondance politique, Grande-Bretagne, 1916.

[68] Hymans à Beyens, 9 August 1916. Ibid. Paul Hymans, Fragments d’Histoire. Impressions et Souvenirs (Brussels: La connaissance, 1939), 149-152.

[69] A brilliant mind, Hymans is very familiar with Congolese affairs. As a lawyer, he was chosen by Léopold II to serve at the High Court of Justice of the Congo Free State. As a liberal Member of Parliament he supported since 1901 the project of annexation. Robert  Fenaux, Paul Hymans. Un Homme, Un Temps. 1865-1941 (Brussels : Office de publicité, 1946), 60-69.

[70] Jacques Willequet, Le Congo Belge et la Weltpolitik (1894-1914) (Paris : PUF, 1962), 418.

[71] Hymans à Beyens, 24 August 1916. BFA, DA, correspondance politique, Grande-Bretagne, 1916.

[72]Confidential note, 6 May 1920. BRA, cabinet Albert I, 990, Différents rapports d’Octave Louwers concernant la politique coloniale belge.

[73] Gerard Harry, “Peu à peu la Lumière se fait Ailleurs,” Le Soir, April 21, 1919. “A traitor” [our translation].

[74] Ibid.  “Irish-Boche,” “Boche” being the derogatory term used to denote the Germans [our translation].

[75] Fernand Neuray, “Un Agent de l’Allemagne,” Le Vingtième Siècle, June 5, 1915. “An agent at the service of Germany” [our translation].

[76] Fernand Neuray, “Un Agent de l’Allemagne,” Le Vingtième Siècle, June 5, 1915. “Inventor and peddler of the horrible legend of the ‘severed hands’” [our translation].

[77] “Casement et Morel,” Le Vingtième Siècle, April 28, 1916. “Where are all these beautiful declamations on the Congo atrocities, the ‘red rubber’, and the vibrant humanitarian tirades?” [our translation]. 

[78] Ibid. “There is in a Dickens novel a brave lady who spends her time caring for the natives in Borrisbola Ghaa on the coast of Africa, but totally forgot the existence of her husband and her children. M. Casement brings to mind this woman, with infamy on top of it all” [our translation].

[79] “La Campagne Congophobe de Sir Roger Casement,” Le Vingtième Siècle, Apr. 30, 1916. “Most horrific episodes told by this strange consul were exaggerated and partly invented […] He was a master in the art of faking photographs and falsifying documents” [our translation].

[80] “La Trahison de sir Roger Casement,” Le Soir, Nov. 19, 1921. “deep regret for having been duped by this traitor” [our translation].

[81] “La Vérité se fait enfin,” Le Vingtième Siècle, Aug. 14, 1916. “Was it not to blur Belgium and England and, in addition, France and England? Was it not to serve the political interests of Germany, including its continental and colonial interests?” [our translation]. 

[82] “Erzberger et Morel,” Le Soir, Aug. 31, 1921.  “Morel and Casement […] were working towards the acquisition of Belgium’s colony by Germany” [our translation]. 

[83] “La Calomnie Dévoilée,” Le Soir, Jan. 23 1921. “avenged of the charges of the traitor Casement” [our translation].  

[84] Ibid.  “Object of vile contempt in the Foreign press” [our translation]; “a flagrant revenge and a great consolation.”

[85] “La Vérité se Fait Enfin,” Le Vingtième Siècle, Aug. 14, 1916. “What a revenge for Léopold II and our African heroes that German-friendly campaigns have managed to transform, even in the eyes of their countrymen, into monstrous criminals” [our translation].