Page 11

By Mark Twain
From "King Leopold's Soliloquy- A Defense of His Congo Rule" (1905).


[Harassed and muttering, walks the floor a while, then takes to the Consul's chapter-headings again. Reads.]

"Government starved a woman's children to death and killed her sons."

"Butchery of women and children."

"The native has been converted into a being without ambition because without hope."

"Women chained by the neck by rubber sentries."

"Women refuse to bear children because, with a baby to carry, they cannot well run away and hide from the soldiers."

"Women chained by the neck" "Statement of a child: 'I, my mother, my grandmother and my sister, we ran away into the bush. A great number of our people were killed by the soldiers.... After that they saw a little bit of my mother's head, and the soldiers ran quickly to where we were and caught my grandmother, my mother, my sister and another little one younger than us. Each wanted my mother for a wife, and argued about it, so they finally decided to kill her. They shot her through the stomach with a gun and she fell, and when I saw that I cried very much, because they killed my grandmother and mother and I was left alone. I saw it all done!'"

It has a sort of pitiful sound, although they are only blacks. It carries me back and back into the past, to when my children were little, and would fly -- to the bush, so to speak -- when they saw me coming.... [Resumes the reading of chapter-headings of the Consul's Report]

"They put a knife through a child's stomach."

"They cut off the hands and brought them to C. D. (white officer) and spread them out in a row for him to see. They left them lying there, because the white man had seen them, so they did not need to take them to P."

"Captured children left in the bush to die, by the soldiers."

"Friends came to ransom a captured girl; but sentry refused, saying the white man wanted her because she was young."

"Extract from a native girl's testimony. 'On our way the soldiers saw a little child, and when they went to kill it the child laughed, so the solder took the butt of his gun and struck the child with it and then cut off its head. One day they killed my half-sister and cut off her head, hands and feet, because she had bangles on. Then they caught another sister, and sold her to the W. W. people, and now she is a slave there.'"

The little child laughed! [A long pause. Musing] That innocent creature. Somehow -- I wish it had not laughed. [Reads]

"Mutilated children."

"Government encouragement of inter-tribal slave-traffic. The monstrous fines levied upon villages tardy in their supplies of foodstuffs compel the natives to sell their fellows -- and children -- to other tribes in order to meet the fine."

"A father and mother forced to sell their little boy."

"Widow forced to sell her little girl."

[Irritated] Hang the monotonous grumbler, what would he have me do! Let a widow off merely because she is a widow? He knows quite well that there is nothing much left, now, but widows. I have nothing against widows, as a class, but business is business, and I've got to live, haven't I, even if it does cause inconvenience to somebody here and there? [Reads]

"Men intimidated by the torture of their wives and daughters. (To make the men furnish rubber and supplies and so get their captured women released from chains and detention.) The sentry explained to me that he caught the women and brought them in (chained together neck to neck) by direction of his employer."

"An agent explained that he was forced to catch women in preference to men, as then the men brought in supplies quicker; but he did not explain how the children deprived of their parents obtained their own food supplies."

"A file of 15 (captured) women."

"Allowing women and children to die of starvation in prison."

[Musing] Death from hunger. A lingering, long misery that must be. Days and days, and still days and days, the forces of the body failing, dribbling away, little by little -- yes, it must be the hardest death of all. And to see food carried by, every day, and you can have none of it! Of course the little children cry for it, and that wrings the mother's heart.... [A sigh] Ah, well, it cannot be helped; circumstances makes this discipline necessary. [Reads]

"The crucifying of sixty women!"

How stupid, how tactless! Christendom's goose flesh will rise with horror at the news. "Profanation of the sacred emblem!" That is what Christendom will shout. Yes, Christendom will buzz. It can hear me charged with a half a million murders a year for twenty years and keep its composure, but to profane the Symbol is quite another matter. It will regard this as serious. It will wake up and want to look into my record. Buzz? Indeed it will; I seem to hear the distant hum already.... It was wrong to crucify the women, clearly wrong, manifestly wrong, I can see it now myself, and am sorry it happened, sincerely sorry. I believe it would have answered just as well to skin them.... [With a sigh] But none of us thought of that; one cannot think of everything; and after all it is but human to err.

It will make a stir, it surely will, these crucifixions. Persons will begin to ask again, as now and then in times past, how I can hope to win and keep the respect of the human race if I continue to give up my life to murder and pillage. [Scornfully] When have they heard me say I wanted the respect of the human race? Do they confuse me with the common herd? Do they forget that I am a king? What king has valued the respect of the human race? I mean deep down in his private heart. If they would reflect, they would know that it is impossible that a king should value the respect of the human race. He stands upon an eminence and looks out over the world and sees multitudes of meek human things worshipping the persons, and submitting to the oppressions and exactions, of a dozen human things who are in no way better or finer than themselves -- made on just their own pattern, in fact, and out of the same quality of mud. When it talks, it is a race of whales; but a king knows it for a race of tadpoles. Its history gives it away. If men were really men, how could a Czar be possible? And how could I be possible? But we are possible; we are quite safe; and with God's help we shall continue the business at the old stand. It will be found that the race will put up with us, in its docile immemorial way. It may pull a wry face now and then, and make large talk, but it will stay on its knees all the same.

Making large talk is one of its specialties. It works itself up, and froths at the mouth, and just when you think it is going to throw a brick -- it heaves a poem! Lord, what a race it is!

A CZAR -- 1905

A pasteboard autocrat; a despot out of date;
A fading planet in the glare of day;
A flickering candle in the bright sun's ray,
Burnt to the socket; fruit left too late,
High on a blighted bough, ripe till it's rotten.
By God forsaken and by time forgotten,
Watching the crumbling edges of his lands,
A spineless god to whom dumb millions pray,
From Finland in the West to far Cathay,
Lord of a frost-bound continent he stands,
Her seeming ruin his dim mind appalls,
And in the frozen stupor of his sleep
He hears dull thunders, pealing as she falls,
And mighty fragments dropping in the deep.(*)

It is fine, one is obliged to concede it; it is a great picture, and impressive. The mongrel handles his pen well. Still, with opportunity, I would cruci-- flay him.... "A spineless god." It is the Czar to a dot -- a god, and spineless; a royal invertebrate, poor lad; soft-hearted and out of place. "A spineless god to whom dumb millions pray." Remorselessly correct; concise, too, and compact -- the soul and spirit of the human race compressed into half a sentence. On their knees -- 140,000,000. On their knees to a little tin deity. Massed together, they would stretch away, and away, and away, across the plains, fading and dimming and failing in a measureless perspective -- why even the telescope's vision could not reach to the final frontier of that continental spread of human servility. Now why should a king value the respect of the human race? It is quite unreasonable to expect it. A curious race, certainly! It finds fault with me and with my occupations, and forgets that neither of us could exist an hour without its sanction. It is our confederate and all-powerful protector. It is our bulwark, our friend, our fortress. For this it has our gratitude, our deep and honest gratitude -- but not our respect. Let it snivel and fret and grumble if it likes; that is all right; we do not mind that.

[Turns over leaves of a scrapbook, pausing now and then to read a clipping and make a comment] The poets -- how they do hunt the poor Czar! French, Germans, English, Americans -- they all have a bark at him. The finest and capablest of the pack, and the fiercest, are Swilburne (English, I think), and a pair of Americans, Thomas Bailey Eldridge and Colonel Richard Waterson Gilder, of the sentimental periodical called Century Magazine and Louisville Courier-Journal. They certainly have uttered some very strong yelps. I can't seem to find them -- I must have mislaid them.... If a poet's bite were as terrible as his bark, why dear me -- but it isn't. A wise king minds neither of them; but the poet doesn't know it. It's a case of a little dog and lightning express. When the Czar goes thundering by, the poet skips out and rages alongside for a little distance, then returns to his kennel wagging his head with satisfaction, and thinks he has inflicted a memorable scare, whereas nothing has really happened -- the Czar didn't know he was around. They never bark at me; I wonder why that is. I suppose my Corruption-Department buys them. That must be it, for certainly I ought to inspire a bark or two; I'm rather choice material, I should say. Why -- here is a yelp at me. [Mumbling a poem]

"... What gives thee holy right to murder hope
And water ignorance with human blood?


From what high universe-dividing power
Draw'st thou thy wondrous, ripe brutality?


O horrible ... Thou God who seest these things
Help us to blot this terror from the earth."

... No, I see it is "To the Czar,"(**) after all. But there are those who would say it fits me -- and rather snugly, too. "Ripe brutality." They would say that the Czar's isn't ripe yet, but that mine is; and not merely ripe but rotten. Nothing could keep them from saying that; they would think it smart. "This terror." Let the Czar keep that name; I am supplied. This long time I have been "the monster"; that was their favorite -- the monster of crime. But now I have a new one. They have found a fossil Dinosaur fifty-seven feet long and sixteen feet high, and set it up in the museum in New York and labeled it "Leopold II." But it is no matter, one does not look for manners in a republic. Um ... that reminds me; I have never been caricatured. Could it be that the corsairs of the pencil could not find an offensive symbol that was big enough and ugly enough to do my reputation justice? [After reflection] There is no other way -- I will buy the Dinosaur. And suppress it. [Rests himself with some more chapter-headings. Reads]

"More mutilation of children." (Hands cut off.)

"Testimony of American Missionaries."

"Evidence of British Missionaries."

It is all the same old thing -- tedious repetitions and duplications of shop-worn episodes; mutilations, murders, massacres, and so on, and so on, till one gets drowsy over it. Mr. Morel intrudes at this point, and contributes a comment which he could just as well have kept to himself -- and throws in some italics, of course; these people can never get along without italics:

"It is one heartrending story of human misery from beginning to end, and it is all recent."

Meaning 1904 and 1905. I do not see how a person can act so. This Morel is a king's subject, and reverence for monarchy should have restrained him from reflecting upon me with that exposure. This Morel is a reformer; a Congo reformer. That sizes him up. He publishes a sheet in Liverpool called "The West African Mail," which is supported by the voluntary contributions of the sap-headed and the soft-hearted; and every week it steams and reeks and festers with up-to-date "Congo atrocities" of the sort detailed in this pile of pamphlets here. I will suppress it. I suppressed a Congo atrocity book there, after it was actually in print; it should not be difficult for me to suppress a newspaper.

[Studies some photographs of mutilated negroes -- throws them down. Sighs] The kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy that has confronted us, indeed. In the early years we had no trouble in getting the press to "expose" the tales of the mutilations as slanders, lies, inventions of busy-body American missionaries and exasperated foreigners who found the "open door" of the Berlin-Congo charter closed against them when they innocently went out there to trade; and by the press's help we got the Christian nations everywhere to turn an irritated and unbelieving ear to those tales and say hard things about the tellers of them. Yes, all things went harmoniously and pleasantly in those good days, and I was looked up to as the benefactor of a down-trodden and friendless people. Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible kodak -- and all the harmony went to hell! The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I couldn't bribe. Every Yankee missionary and every interrupted trader sent home and got one; and now -- oh, well, the pictures get sneaked around everywhere, in spite of all we can do to ferret them out and suppress them. Ten thousand pulpits and ten thousand presses are saying the good word for me all the time and placidly and convincingly denying the mutilations. Then that trivial little kodak, that a child can carry in its pocket, gets up, uttering never a word, and knocks them dumb!


* B. H. Nadal, in New York Times.

** Louise Morgan Sill, in Harper's Weekly.








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