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Thu, 01.28.1841

Henry Morton Stanley, Colonial Administrator born

Henry Morgan Stanley

*Sir Henry Morton Stanley was born on this date in 1841.  He was a white-European (Welsh) journalist, explorer, soldier, colonial administrator, author, and politician. 

Born as John Rowlands in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales. His mother, Elizabeth Parry was 18 years old at the time of his birth. She abandoned him as a very young baby and cut off all communication. Stanley never knew his father, who died within a few weeks of his birth. There is some doubt as to his true parentage. As his parents were unmarried, his birth certificate describes him as a bastard; he was baptized in the parish of Denbigh in February 1841, and the register recording that he was born on January 28 that year. The entry states that he was the bastard son of John Rowland of Llys Llanrhaidr and Elizabeth Parry of Castle. The stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life.  

Rowlands emigrated to the United States in 1859 at age 18. He disembarked at New Orleans and, according to his declarations, became friends by accident with Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy trader.  Out of admiration, John took Stanley's name. Stanley joined in the American Civil War, first in the Confederate States Army.  After being taken prisoner at Shiloh, he was recruited at Camp Douglas, Illinois, by its commander as a "Galvanized Yankee." He joined the Union Army in June 1862 but was discharged 18 days later because of illness.  After recovering, he served on several merchant ships before joining the US Navy in July 1864. He became a record keeper on board the USS Minnesota, which led him into freelance journalism. He was possibly the only man to serve in all three of the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy. 

Following the war, Stanley became a journalist in the days of frontier expansion in the American West. He then organized an expedition to the Ottoman Empire that ended catastrophically when he was imprisoned.   With that behind him, Stanley entered Parliament as a Liberal Unionist member for Lambeth North, serving from 1895 to 1900. He became Sir Henry Morton Stanley when he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1899 Birthday Honours in recognition of his service to the British Empire in Africa.  Stanley was famous for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone.   

Stanley’s expedition traveled 700 miles in 236 days before finally locating an ailing David Livingstone on the island of Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika on 10th November 1871. On first meeting his hero Livingstone, Stanley tried to hide his enthusiasm by uttering his greeting: “Doctor Livingstone, I presume.”  He is mainly known for his search for the source of the Nile, work he undertook as an agent of King Leopold II of Belgium, which enabled the occupation of the Congo Basin region, and for his command of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition.  Working after the Berlin Conference of 1884, he administered many atrocities of the Congo Free State for the Belgium King for several years. 

His general opinion about Black African people was racist. In Through the Dark Continent, Stanley wrote that "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision."Yet Stanley also wrote: 'If Europeans will only ... study human nature in the vicinity of Stanley Pool (Kinshasa), they will go home thoughtful men, and may return again to this land to put to good use the wisdom they should have gained ... during their peaceful sojourn.'  In How I Found Livingstone, he wrote that he was "prepared to admit any black man possessing the attributes of true manhood, or any good qualities ... to a brotherhood with myself."  

Stanley insulted and shouted at William Grant Stairs and Arthur Jephson for mistreating the Wangwana. He described the history of Boma as "two centuries of pitiless persecution of black men by sordid whites". He also wrote about the superior beauty of black people in comparison with whites.  The Wangwana of Zanzibar were of mixed Afro Arabian and African ancestry: "Africanized Arabs," in Stanley's words. They became the backbone of all his major expeditions. They were referred to as "his dear pets" by skeptical young officers on the Emin Pasha Expedition, who resented their leader for favoring the Wangwana above themselves. "All are dear to me," Stanley told William Grant Stairs and Arthur Jephson, "who do their duty, and the Zanzibaris have quite satisfied me on this and on previous expeditions." 

Stanley came to think of an individual Wangwana as "superior in proportion to his wages to ten Europeans."When Stanley first met a group of his Wangwana assistants, he was surprised: "They were an exceedingly fine-looking body of men, far more intelligent in appearance than I could ever have believed African barbarians could be."  On the other hand, in one of his books, Stanley said about mixed Afro-Arab people: "For the half-castes, I have great contempt. They are neither black nor white, neither good nor bad, neither to be admired nor hated. They are all things at all times. ... If I saw a miserable, half-starved negro, I was always sure to be told he belonged to a half-caste. Cringing and hypocritical, cowardly and debased, treacherous and mean ... this syphilitic, blear-eyed, pallid-skinned abortion of an Africanized Arab."   

The British House of Commons appointed a committee to investigate missionary reports of Stanley's mistreatment of Black native populations in 1871, which was likely secured by Horace Waller, a member of the committee of the Anti-slavery Society and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The British vice-consul in Zanzibar, John Kirk (Waller's brother-in-law), conducted the investigation. Stanley was charged with excessive violence, wanton destruction, selling laborers into slavery, the sexual exploitation of native women, and plundering villages for ivory and canoes. Kirk's report to the British Foreign Office was never published. Still, in it, he claimed: "If the story of this expedition were known, it would stand in the annals of African discovery unequaled for the reckless use of power that modern weapons placed in his hands over natives who never before heard a gun fired." 

When Kirk was appointed to investigate reports of brutality against Stanley, he was delighted because he had hated Stanley for almost a decade.  On his return to Europe, Stanley married Welsh artist Dorothy Tennant. They adopted a child named Denzil, who donated around 300 items to the Stanley archives at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, in 1954.  Sir Henry Morton Stanley died at his home at 2 Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, London, on May 10, 1904.  

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