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(4) Domaine de la Couronne (estate of the Crown).-The Domaine de la Couronne was formed by a decree (not published in the Bulletin Officiel) of March 8, 1896, and was enlarged by another decree of December 23, 1901, which reserved an area 10 times the size of Belgium in the basins of the Lake Leopold II, and of the Lukenie and Busira-Momboyo Rivers, to be exploited for the benefit of the King's private fortune; whereas the proceeds of the Domaine Privé went to the coffers of the State. A portion of the free area was included in this Domaine de la Couronne; 60 and there were further encroachments on the free area, chiefly on the Congo between the pool and the falls, but it would be difficult to define them."
Some of the agents of the State were willing to go far in enforcing the State monopoly of rubber and the prohibition of the trade in arms. Charles Henry Stokes, an English trader, in the Lake AlbertStanley Falls district, was hanged in 1895.62 An Austrian, named Rabinek, was subjected to an excessive sentence for carrying on trade in regions not yet occupied by the State, although he had a license to trade and to hunt elephants. He died while being transported to Boma for an appeal.63
EXPLOITATION BY COMPANIES.
Much of the actual exploitation of the Congo and its resources was performed, not directly by the State, but by companies to which the State granted certain privileges. These companies and corporations belonged to two groups, representing different periods, different interests, and different modes of procedure.
Trading companies.-The trading companies consisted of several foreign firms which had been engaged in trade on the lower Congo before the Congo Free State was established, and several Belgian firms with offices in the Rue Brederode, Brussels, which were organized largely by men who had been active in establishing the State. These concerns were employed in strictly commercial undertakings; they established "factories" and traded cloth, beads, and other goods for native produce. The largest of the old trading companies was the Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handelsvennootschap of Rotterdam, usually referred to as the Dutch Co., which had been doing business at Boma since 1860.64
Concessionary companies.-The concessionary companies were almost all incorporated in 1892 or later. Although for the most part
60 Cattier: Etude, etc., p. 66: Vandervelde: Op. cit., p. 42. 59th Cong., 2d sess., S. Doc. No. 139. Verbatim Report of the Five Days Congo Debate in the Belgian House of Representatives, 1906, p. 18. 61 Certain small areas reserved by the decree of 1892 have not been given special mention. Complete details of the regulations are not available, either in the Bulletin Officiel, or in the books, and what is given is not always consistent. Ferhaps the Arrêté of Feb. 3, 1898, specifying the parts of the Domaine open for sale of agricultural lands, may be taken as a definition of the free zone as it then existed, but items 4, 5, and 6 of this definition would all but disappear with the formation of the Kasai Trust in 1901. The Arrêté of Feb. 3, 1898 (B. O., 1898, p. 32) permitted the sale of agricultural lands:
(1) In the region of Mayumbe and the cataracts, on both sides of the railroad.
(2) On the banks of the Congo below Stanley Falls, except in the Equateur and Aruwimi districts [from the mouth of the Lulonga to about half way between Equateur and Bolobo, and from Isangi to about half way between the mouths of the Aruwimi and Itimbiri].
(3) On the banks of the Ubangi below the Welle.
(4) On the banks of the Kasai between Kwamouth and Mai Munene.
(5) Along the Sankuru, Lubudi, and Lubefu to 50 kilometers from the junction of the last with the San
(6) Along the Lulua, Loanje, Djuma and its afluents to the right.
(7) Along the banks of the Lilonga to 25 kilometers below Basankusu, and on the banks of the Ikelemba. 62 Bourne: Op. cit., p. 200, quoting Gt. Brit., Parl. Papers, 1896, C 8276.
Ibid., pp. 265-270,
44 Bornhaupt: Op. cit., p. 86.
they held little or no land in full ownership, they were given throughout vast territories the monopoly of exploiting the vegetable, and in some cases the mineral, products of the public domain. In these districts they exercised the right of forcing the natives to work. They paid usually one-half of their profits to the State; they frequently operated under a reservation which gave the State considerable in the naming of their officials; and they represented Antwerp financial interests rather than those of Brussels.65
Strictly speaking, the concession companies were authorized only to exploit the State-owned products, so that the ivory already in the hands of the natives should have been accessible to private traders; but as to the practical operation of the system the testimony of an experienced missionary was as follows:
In all Katanga there is not a single trader outside the Comité Special du Katanga. * * * On speaking recently with Judge Jennings at Lukafu, I mentioned these matters [certain applications for licenses to trade in Katanga] to him, and he said: "Of course, legally and according to State laws they must, if they force matters, receive a license for trade, but I don't think they will receive it. The State will not cede a license where the monopoly of trade is in the hands of a big company. It is against all precedent."
There are many other traders here who would gladly pay all license costs, and import and export dues, could permission to trade in Katanga be obtained. But the door of Katanga is unquestionably fast shut to all the legitimate trade, and will be until the State's hand is forced and the State becomes free in more than name." 66
DISPOSAL OF "FREE LANDS."
In the early period, when the land policy of the Congo State was comparatively liberal, provision was made for the sale to individuals of small sites 67 at roughly a dollar an acre. The buyers were allowed to choose the locations and install themselves without any formalities; their titles became established by occupation and upon the payment of the fixed price. This liberal provision, however, was repealed on May 3, 1893.68 A few months later a new decree provided that no sale or lease of lands could be obtained except after authorization by the governor general, temporary possession was thenceforth forbidden, and the prices were greatly increased. Under this provision "all the applications for commercial sites in the regions proclaimed freely open to trade were rejected. The exceptions are so few as to be negligible. In the two first zones 70 commerce was suppressed by
They were Belgian corporations originally, but were reorganized in 1897 or later under the law of the Congo Free State. This law required no publicity. (Bourne: Op. cit., p. 242.)
66 Rev. Dugald Campbell, Sen. Doc. No. 102, 58th Cong., 3d sess., p. 33. See the whole letter, pp. 25-34, or in Morel, King Leopold's Rule in Africa, 1904, pp. 452-462.
67 Not exceeding 10 hectares in extent, at 19 francs per hectare. Arrêté of June 30, 1887. The 10 francs included the cost of surveying. Cf. Cattier: Étude, etc., p. 90,
68 Cattier: Étude, etc., p. 90, citing Lycops et Touchard, Jurisprudence, Vol. II, p. 79. Apparently this decree is not given in the B. O.
Decree of Aug. 9, 1893. This fixed the price of sites for commercial or religious establishments at 109 francs per hectare plus 10 francs per meter along any navigable river within 150 meters. For agricultural purposes not more than 5,000 hectares might be bought, at 10 francs per hectare for lands at least 150 meters distant from navigable waters. (Sea B. O., 1996, p. 359, decree extending these rates until Jan. 1, 1898.) By the decree of Oct. 8, 1897, effective immediately, the price for commercial establishments in the Upper Congo east of the Lukunga River (an affluent of Stanley Pool) was raised to 2,000 francs per hectare with a minimum of 3,000 francs for the ground of a single owner. Ten francs remained the price of agricultural land, but with a maximum reduced to 2,000 hectares; for greater amounts, as before, the governor general was authorized to fix special prices (B. Ó., 1897, p. 293). On Feb. 3, 1898, agricultural land was raised to 100 francs per hectare, remaining at this price, except for a short interval ending Nov. 30, 1899, during which the price was set at 2,000 franes (B. O., 1898, p. 32, art. 3). A decree of Feb. 2, 1898, instituted a commission of five to examine applications for land-the information given, the formalities, the alienability of the land sought, native rights, fulfilment of conditions, etc.-a splendid instrument of delay. (B. O., 1898, p. 30.) By decree of Nov. 14, 1899 (B. O., p. 278), all alienations and leases required the approval of the king. One of the decrees of June 3, 1993, provided for annual sales of land, but apparently this had little practical consequence.
70 of the decree of Oct. 30, 1892. See above, p. 93.
suppressing commercial products; in the third zone free commerce was suppressed by suppressing the merchants." "1
EFFECT OF THE LAND LAWS.
As a result of these various regulations, a land régime was established for the Congo, under which the area of the State was divided as follows:
(a) Lands occupied by the natives, who could alienate it only with the approval of the governor general, not usually granted.
(b) The Domaine de la Couronne (estate of the crown), exploited by State officials for the benefit of King Leopold's fortune. (c) The Domaine Privé (national domain)," the great bulk of the land of the State, appropriated as "vacant" land and exploited by State officials. There was no There was no provision for alienating any of this territory to individuals;73 but some of it was intrusted to concessionary companies.
(d) Lands assigned to concessionary companies. These districts were large areas, where the companies collected some or all of the products of the domain, paying the State heavily for the privileges which they enjoyed. The companies usually did not own the land and of course could not sell it. (e) The public domain, which consisted of the Government buildings, public waters, roads, etc., and also of those parts of the "vacant" lands which had not been declared Domaine Privé and which were, in theory at least, more or less open to exploitation by traders, although only upon burden
Thus the land régime was in itself sufficient largely to suppress free trade in the territories of the Congo Free State. As Father Vermeersch said:
The régime adopted could in fact be very nearly expressed in a program of two articles and a nota bene.
ARTICLE 1. Commerce is free in the Free State. Natives and non-natives enjoy the same facilities.
ARTICLE 2. Everything belongs to the State. A thousand regrets that we can give to commerce only a restricted sphere.
N. B.-There is besides nothing to sell or to buy.75
There remained, however, the region of the Lower Congo where little of the restrictive policy of the State was applied; while even on the Upper Congo a few branches of commercial houses, established in the early days, survived both the land régime and the other restrictive measures adopted by the State.
11 Cattier: Étude, etc., p. 91.
72 This, in so far as it is exploited directly by the State is called by one of the decrees of June 3, 1905, the Domaine National. (B O., p. 275.)
73 The decree of Dec. 5, 1892, instituting the Domaine Privé, merely mentions alienation as one of the subjects within the competence of the secretary of state for finance (Louwers, op. cit., p. 647). The contract of Mar. 30, 1903, with the Société d'études du Chemin de Fer du Stanley-Pool au Katanga et de l'Itimberi à l'Uele bound the State to alienate none of this Domaine Privé until certain claims for land by the railroad had been met. Vermeersch (La Question Congolaise, 1906, p. 102) says that the object was to prevent the alienation of this land, as there was no expectation that the railroad company would fulfil the conditions.
74 Cf. Cattier: Étude, etc., pp. 70, 71.
75 Vermeersch, Arthur, S. J.: La Question Congolaise, 1906, p. 112
TAXATION IN LABOR.
A second feature of the State's activity which prevented trading companies from carrying on commerce in the Congo was the system of forced labor which the administration exacted as a tax. Throughout even those sections where the State had established no monopoly in the products of the domain, and where trade was therefore supposed to be free, the forced contribution of labor to the State became a serious hindrance to the ordinary operations of commerce.
"RUBBER TAX" AND OTHER EXACTIONS.
The abuses to which this practice gave rise were worst in the districts of the upper river where few whites other than State agents penetrated, and in the areas conceded to the companies, most of which enjoyed the power of exacting this tax. In no part of the Congo was there any limitation on the amount of labor to be required. It is true that in 1903 a decree was promulgated which professed to limit the amount of labor to 40 hours per month, but in practice the tax continued to be reckoned in kilograms of rubber, and there is abundant evidence that previous to the report of the commission of inquiry in 1905, there was really no limitation in effect. By various devices the remuneration of the State agents, as of course the dividends of the companies, were made dependent upon the amount of rubber produced in their districts." The reports of missionaries and consuls show that in many cases the forced labor of the natives in the collection of their quotas of rubber occupied 20 to 26 days a month.78
In addition to the gathering of rubber, copal, etc., the natives near the stations and on the roads and rivers were compelled to provide porters, canoes, and paddlers, to furnish firewood for steamers, to maintain certain roads and rest houses and to furnish provisions for travelers. The State spent practically nothing on its stations; clearings were made, plantations cultivated, buildings erected and repaired, and in general the natives were forced to undertake whatever the agent in charge thought should be done. Even the largest garrisons, using chiefly local foods, were maintained by "taxes in kind," exacted from the natives. If the stations were large compared to the local population, transportation of these provisions from as far away as 79 kilometers was added to the burden.80
76 It is said that no white other than an agent of the State had set foot within the Domaine de la Couronne until 1903.
"Bourne; Op. cit., p. 173. 59th Cong. 2d sess. Sen. Doc. No. 139, pp. 13-42. Cattier; Étude, etc., p. 115. 78 Gt. Brit., Parl. Papers, Cd. 3889, 1998, p. 12, "work practically continuously "; p. 22, "allowed" to work "even 30 days a month"; p. 5, "work 7 days a week ever since"; p. 53, "average not less than 20 days"; p. 60," the time limit was a farce"; cf. pp. 49-52, 61, also ib., Cd. 3450, 1907, pp. 46–48. Vermeersch (op. cit., pp. 146, 156) said that the peoples of the Congo were the most heavily taxed in the world; that for many of the natives the tax of "40 hours" was really a tax of all the days; that while according to the law the level of local wages constituted the minimum standard for the compensation paid by the State and the 40 hours constituted a maximum for forced labor; in practice these standards were reversed-the local wages became the maximum for compensation and the 40 hours became a minimum of forced labor. However, especially after the report of the Commission of Inquiry and after the rubber in some districts was exhausted, some of the natives escaped taxation even though they were within the zone administered by the Government, e. g., at Baringa. Ibid., p. 35; cf., p. 59, "In some cases [in the Upper Congo] the Chefs de Poste can not collect a hundredth part of the nominal tribute"; but p. 58, "The accessible workmen are in many cases almost continuously at work." Cf. ibid., Cd. 1933, 1904, pp. 30, 31. The Commission of Inquiry stated that "probably the great majority of natives now escape all taxation" (p. 84). This is supported by an estimate by Cattier, in which he compared the profit in the labor of each native with the total income of the State (p. 174).
79 Gt. Brit., Parl. Papers, Cd. 3880, 1908, pp. 5, 27.
80 Cattier: Etude, p. 133. Cf. Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Congo Free State Government, Report on the Congo, 1906, pp. 46, 51. The commission found that manioc bread exacted from the women near Leopoldville required 100 hours of labor per month, exclusive of the time required for carrying it to the city (p. 47). Father Vermeersch cites Fathers Cus and Van Henexthoven as having written "the works executed at Leopold ville are no doubt magnificent. But when one sees the heavy corvées which is their result for the natives and the depopulation which follows, enthusiasm wanes." (Op. cit., p. 179.)