The Congo

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Congo is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Tablet on 20 november 1909.

The Congo

Sir, — I observe in your note of November 6 upon the Congo question that you state "the Belgian Parliament took over the responsibility for the government of that vast territory only in August last." May I call your attention to the fact that it was in August twelve-month, and upon a promise that there would be Immediate ameliorations. Fifteen months have elapsed, and the state of the natives, which has been described by two successive foreign ministers as one of virtual slavery, has in no way been amended.

The following extract from the report of an agent just returned from the Congo, should give Catholic readers an insight into the true state of things out there.

"As I was returning to the steamer a voice from the wood called for help, and there appeared a human being covered with great festering wounds. He was filthy and covered with flies, and he crawled rather than walked with the aid of two sticks. I asked him 'What have you done that you should be so shockingly punished?' The man answered that he was the Catechist of the Catholic mission of Trappists at Bamania, and that he had come to proselytise among the people of the factory. For this the white man at Yele had had him flogged with a whip an inch thick and sharp nails stuck in it. I had the accused agent up. He cynically admitted the deed, and indeed seemed proud of it, but added that the man had stolen two bottles of wine, which the latter energetically denied. The agent was quite pleased at his own behaviour, and indeed he had only followed the example which the directors themselves gave in Bussira. A fierce hatred had raged there for months against the Catholic missions. They used to disturb the divine service by hideous clamour, by firing shots, by obscene cries, and by injuring the people of the mission in every way. Two white officials, friends of the directors, were the ringleaders in this."

The original with all the names is in my possession, and open to your inspection should you desire it.

And this is the system, or at least some of the smaller fruits of it, which has for so many years been condoned, and defended against the would-be reformers, by the spokesmen of the Catholic Church.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, November 12.