Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Morton Stanley

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Henry Morton Stanley was born in Denbigh, Wales, in 1841. He became a cabin boy and arrived in New Orleans in 1859. He remained in the United States and served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

After the war he became a freelance journalist. In 1866 George Ward Nichols interviewed Wild Bill Hickok about his exploits as a gunfighter. The article appeared in the February, 1867, edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Newspapers such as the Leavenworth Daily Conservative, Kansas Daily Commonwealth, Springfield Patriot and the Atchison Daily Champion quickly pointed out that the article was full of inaccuracies and that Hickok was lying when he claimed he had killed "hundreds of men".

Hickok responded to these articles by giving an interview to Henry Stanley. The article appeared in the St. Louis Missouri Democrat in April 1867. It included the following dialogue: "I say, Mr. Hickok, how many white men have you killed to your certain knowledge?" After a little deliberation, he replied, "I suppose I have killed considerably over a hundred." "What made you kill all those men? Did you kill them without cause or provocation?" "No, by heaven I never killed one man without good cause."

Stanley now joined the New York Herald and in 1868 accompanied an expedition to Abyssina. He also visited Egypt, Palestine, Turkey, Persia and India. On 10th November, 1871, Stanley met David Livingstone in Tanganyika. On his return to the United States he published How I Found Livingstone (1872).

Stanley visited Africa again and after exploring Lake Tanganyika he traced the River Congo to the sea. This journey resulted in the book, Through the Dark Continent. After returning to Britain he became a member of the House of Commons for Lambeth.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley died in 1904.

James Butler Hickok, commonly called "Wild Bill," is one of the finest examples of that peculiar class known as frontiersman, ranger, hunter, and Indian scout. He is now thirty-eight years old, and since he was thirteen the prairie has been his home. He stands six feet one inch in his moccasins, and is as handsome a specimen of a man as could be found. We were prepared, on hearing of "Wild Bill's" presence in the camp, to see a person who might prove to be a coarse and illiterate bully. We were agreeably disappointed however. He was dressed in fancy shirt and leathern leggings. He held himself straight, and had broad, compact shoulders, was large chested, with small waist, and well-formed muscular limbs. A fine, handsome face, free from blemish, a light moustache, a thin pointed nose, bluish-grey eyes, with a calm look, a magnificent forehead, hair parted from the centre of the forehead, and hanging down behind the ears in wavy, silken curls, made up the most picturesque figure. He is more inclined to be sociable than otherwise; is enthusiastic in his love for his country and Illinois, his native State; and is endowed with extraordinary power and agility, whose match in these respects it would be difficult to find. Having left his home and native State when young, he is a thorough child of the prairie, and inured to fatigue. He has none of the swaggering gait, or the barbaric jargon ascribed to the pioneer by the Beadle penny-liners. On the contrary, his language is as good as many a one that boasts "college laming." He seems naturally fitted to perform daring actions. He regards with the greatest contempt a man that could stoop low enough to perform "a mean action." He is generous, even to extravagance. He formerly belonged to the 8th Missouri Cavalry.

The following dialogue took place between us; "I say, Mr. Hickok, how many white men have you killed to your certain knowledge?" After a little deliberation, he replied, "I suppose I have killed considerably over a hundred." "What made you kill all those men? Did you kill them without cause or provocation?" "No, by heaven I never killed one man without good cause." "How old were you when you killed the first white man, and for what cause?" "I was twenty-eight years old when I killed the first white man, and if ever a man deserved lolling he did. He was a gambler and counterfeiter, and I was then in an hotel in Leavenworth City, and seeing some loose characters around, I ordered a room, and as I had some money about me, I thought I would retire to it. I had lain some thirty minutes on the bed when I heard men at my door. I pulled out my revolver and bowie knife, and held them ready, but half concealed, and pretended to be asleep. The door was opened, and five men entered the room. They whispered together, and one said, "Let us kill the son of a bitch; I'll bet he has got money." "Gentlemen," said he, "that was a time - an awful time. I kept perfectly still until just as the knife touched my breast; I sprang aside and buried mine in his heart, and then used my revolver on the others right and left. One was killed, and another was wounded; and then, gentlemen, I dashed through the room and rushed to the fort, where I procured a lot of soldiers, and returning to the hotel, captured the whole gang of them, fifteen in all. We searched the cellar, and found eleven bodies buried in it - the remains of those who had been murdered by those villains." Turning to us, he asked: "Would you not have done the same? That was the first man I killed, and I never was sorry for that yet."

"Wild Bill," who is an inveterate hater of the Indians, was chased by six Indians lately, and had quite a little adventure with them. It is his custom to be always armed with a brace of ivory-handled revolvers, with which weapons he is remarkably dexterous; but when bound on a long and lonely ride across the plains, he goes armed to the teeth. He was on one of these lonely missions, due to his profession as scout, when he was seen by a group of the red men, who immediately gave chase. They soon discovered that they were pursuing one of the most famous men of the prairie, and commenced to retrace their steps, but two of them were shot, after which Wild Bill was left to ride on his way. The little adventure is verified by a scout named Thomas Kincaid.

It is disgusting to see the eastern papers crowding in everything they can get hold of about "Wild Bill." If they only knew the real character of the men they so want to worship, we doubt if their names would ever appear again. "Wild Bill," or Bill Hickok, is nothing more than a drunken, reckless, murderous coward, who is treated with contempt by true border men, and who should have been hung years ago for the murder of innocent men. The shooting of the "old teamster" in the back for a small provocation, while crossing the plains in 1859, is one fact that Harpers correspondent failed to mention, and being booted out of a Leavenworth saloon by a boy bar tender is another; and we might name many other similar examples of his bravery. In one or two instances he did the U. S. government good service, but his shameful and cowardly conduct more than overbalances the good.

I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the grey beard. As I advanced slowly towards him, I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a grey beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of grey tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob - would have embraced him, only he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing - walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said:

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

"Yes," said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

I replace my hat on my head, and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud:

"I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you." He answered, "I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you."

I turn to the Arabs, take off my hat to them in response to the saluting chorus of "Yambos" I receive, and the Doctor introduces them to me by name. Then, oblivious of the crowds, oblivious of the men who shared with me my dangers, we - Livingstone and I - turn our faces towards his tembe. He points to the veranda, or, rather, mud platform, under the broad, overhanging eaves; he points to his own particular seat, which I see his age and experience in Africa have suggested, namely, a straw mat, with a goatskin over it, and another skin nailed against the wall to protect his back from contact with the cold mud. I protest against taking this seat, which so much more befits him than me, but the Doctor will not yield: I must take it.

We are seated - the Doctor and I - with our backs to the wall. The Arabs take seats on our left. More than a thousand natives are in our front, filling the whole square densely, indulging their curiosity and discussing the fact of two white men meeting at Ujiji - one just come from Manyuema, in the west, the other from Unyanyembe, in the east.

Conversation began. What about? I declare I have forgotten. Oh! we mutually asked questions of one another, such as:

"How did you come here?" and "Where have you been all this long time? The world has believed you to be dead." Yes, that was the way it began; but whatever the Doctor himself informed me, and that which I communicated to him, I cannot correctly report, for I found myself gazing at him, conning the wonderful man at whose side I now sat in Central Africa. Every hair of his head and beard, every wrinkle of his face, the wanness of his features, and the slightly wearied look he wore, were all imparting intelligence to me - the knowledge I had craved for so much ever since I heard the words, "Take what you want, but find Livingstone!"

Who Was Henry Morton Stanley?

Henry Morton Stanley was a classic example of a 19th-century explorer, and he is best remembered today for his brilliantly casual greeting to a man he had spent months searching for in the wilds of Africa: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

The reality of Stanley’s unusual life is at times startling. He was born to a very poor family in Wales, made his way to America, changed his name, and somehow managed to fight on both sides of the Civil War. He found his first calling as a newspaper reporter before becoming known for his African expeditions.

Discovery And Development Of The Congo [ edit | edit source ]

When Livingstone died in 1873, Stanley resolved to take up the exploration of Africa where he had left off. The problem of the Nile sources and the nature of the central African lakes had been only partly solved by earlier explorers. Stanley secured financial backing from the New York Herald and the Daily Telegraph of London for an expedition to pursue the quest, and the caravan left Zanzibar on November 12, 1874, heading for Lake Victoria. His visit to King Mutesa I of Buganda led to the admission of Christian missionaries to the area in 1877 and to the eventual establishment of a British protectorate in Uganda. Circumnavigating Lake Victoria, Stanley confirmed the explorer John H. Speke’s estimate of its size and importance. Skirmishes with suspicious tribespeople on the lakeshore, which resulted in a number of casualties, gave rise in England to criticism of this new kind of traveler with his journalist’s outlook and forceful methods. Lake Tanganyika was next explored and found to have no connection with the Nile system. Stanley and his men pressed on west to the Lualaba River (the very river that Livingstone had hoped was the Nile but that proved to be the headstream of the Congo). There they joined forces with the Arab trader Tippu Tib, who accompanied them for a few laps downriver, then left Stanley to fight his way first to Stanley Pool (now Malebo Pool) and then (partly overland) down to the great cataracts he named Livingstone Falls. Stanley and his men reached the sea on August 12, 1877, after an epic journey described in Through the Dark Continent (1878).

Failing to enlist British interests in the development of the Congo region, Stanley took service with the king of Belgium, Leopold II, whose secret ambition it was to annex the region for himself. From August 1879 to June 1884 Stanley was in the Congo basin, where he built a road from the lower Congo up to Stanley Pool and launched steamers on the upper river. (It is from this period, when Stanley persevered in the face of great difficulties, that he earned, from his men, the nickname of Bula Matari [“Breaker of Rocks”]). Originally under international auspices, Stanley’s work was to pave the way for the creation of the Congo Free State, under the sovereignty of King Leopold. These strenuous years are described in The Congo and the Founding of Its Free State (1885).

Our history

Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), Anglo-American journalist and explorer of Africa, best known for locating Scottish missionary-explorer David Livingstone in East Africa in 1871. Sir Henry Morton Stanley was among the most accomplished and most noted European explorers of Africa. His work played an important part in bringing about the Scramble for Africa, the frenzied seizing of African territory by European powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Born John Rowlands in Denbigh, Wales, and raised in poverty, he spent his youth in a Welsh workhouse. He worked running errands in Liverpool, then sailed for New Orleans, Louisiana, as a cabin boy in 1859. An American merchant named Henry Stanley found Rowlands a job and virtually adopted him, inspiring the young man to take his benefactor’s name. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861 Stanley joined the Confederate Army and in April 1862 was captured at the Battle of Shiloh. Union forces released him when he agreed to join a federal artillery regiment, but soon discharged him after he contracted dysentery. Upon his recovery, Stanley sailed with the U.S. Navy and on merchant ships before returning to the United States, where he traveled to the Rocky Mountains and took up descriptive writing. In 1866, as a correspondent for the Missouri Democrat, he traveled with the U.S. cavalry on campaigns against Native Americans in Missouri and Kansas. The next year Stanley gained employment with the New York Herald. He accompanied a British military campaign against Ethiopian emperor Theodore II and was the first to relay news of the fall of Magdala, Theodore’s capital, in 1868.

Between 1869 and 1871 the Herald’s proprietor, James Gordon Bennett, sent Stanley to report on the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt, then to Crimea, Persia, and India. His final assignment was to attempt to locate Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who had been out of touch for several years as he explored the lake region of Central Africa. This mission would make Stanley’s name. At the head of 2000 men, he set out eastward from Zanzibar toward Livingstone’s suspected whereabouts in March 1871. On the way Stanley ruthlessly crushed all opposition from Africans, a practice that he believed critical to his success but one which would taint his reputation. After eight months, on November 10, Stanley encountered the ailing Livingstone at Ujiji, a town on Lake Tanganyika, and supposedly greeted him with the famous remark, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Stanley resupplied Livingstone, nursed him back to health, and then accompanied him on an exploration of the northern end of Lake Tanganyika. Stanley’s book on these ventures, How I Found Livingstone (1872), was extremely popular in Britain. Following his return to Europe, the Herald sent Stanley to report on the British campaign against the Ashanti Kingdom in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1873. He wrote of this and his earlier Ethiopian episode in Coomassie and Magdala: Two British Campaigns (1874).

The New York Herald and London Daily Telegraph shared the cost of Stanley’s next venture, intended to answer geographical questions about Central Africa that remained after Livingstone’s death in 1873. This expedition, which lasted from October 1874 until August 1877, was one of the most difficult ever undertaken by a European explorer of Africa, yet it significantly advanced European understanding of the continent. Stanley left Zanzibar with a party of 359 and slowly made his way to Lake Victoria. He visited Kabaka (King) Mutesa of Buganda on the west side of the lake, an experience that prompted Stanley later to summon missionaries to bring Christianity to the kingdom. Stanley then circumnavigated the lake, becoming involved in several skirmishes with the inhabitants of the lakeshore. In these encounters Stanley again employed brutal methods of dealing with African resistance. In one such incident, Stanley responded to the defiance of a small island’s inhabitants with modern firepower, killing dozens and wounding many more.

After circumnavigating Lake Victoria Stanley went south, circumnavigated Lake Tanganyika, and headed west to the Lualaba River, a headstream of the Congo River that Livingstone had located. In what may have been his greatest feat of exploration, Stanley led his party down the length of the Lualaba and Congo rivers to the Atlantic Ocean, a distance of nearly 3000 km (about 2000 mi), through equatorial forests along uncharted waters. Along the way, the expedition suffered from disease, desertion, drowning, and attacks by Africans, including an ambush by thousands of cannibals. Of the 359 people who had accompanied him, only 108 reached the Atlantic. This adventure, which Stanley wrote about in Through the Dark Continent (1878), answered many of the major questions in European minds about Central African geography, including the size and drainage of Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. The trip also revealed the existence of a navigable waterway, the Congo, reaching into a region of Central Africa that held commercial potential. This was information not lost on Belgian king Leopold II, who was eager to tap Africa’s wealth.

Leopold offered Stanley employment as soon as the explorer reached Europe, but Stanley needed rest and preferred to work for the interests of Britain. When Stanley found the British less interested in developing and colonizing Central Africa, he returned to the Congo under Leopold’s sponsorship in 1879. For the next five years Stanley worked to open the lower Congo to commerce, constructing a road from the lower river to Stanley Pool (now Pool Malebo), where the river became navigable. This work earned him the African nickname Bula Matari, or “breaker of rocks,” an epithet that also aptly reflected his ruthless tendencies. He obtained treaties with local leaders recognizing the authority of the International Association of the Congo, a supposedly philanthropic organization that Leopold founded and headed. Stanley found himself competing in treaty gathering with French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, who was staking French claims in the region. This competition helped bring about the Berlin West Africa Conference, between 1884 and 1885, in which major colonial powers met to sort out competing claims in Africa. Because of Stanley’s efforts, Leopold obtained rights to what was called the Congo Free State, which occupied most of the Congo Basin. Stanley wrote about his work for Leopold in The Congo and the Founding of the Free State (1885).

Stanley next became interested in furthering British imperial aims in East Africa. He sought to do so by leading an expedition to relieve Mehmed Emin Pasha, a local governor in the Egyptian Sudan, and expanding British claims in the region. Emin had been cut off from Egypt since 1883 by a revolt led by Muhammad Ahmad, an Islamic holy man known as the Mahdi. This difficult trip, which took up most of 1888 and 1889, brought Stanley through lands no European had visited. Stanley reached Emin near Lake Albert in April 1888, but found him unwilling at first to evacuate. Stanley obtained treaties with African leaders in the region that enhanced British claims in what would become British East Africa, and by 1889 persuaded Emin to pull out. On their way to the Indian Ocean coast, Stanley sighted the Ruwenzori Range and determined that the Semliki River linked Lake Albert to Lake Edward. Stanley wrote of these exploits in his book In Darkest Africa (1890).

Stanley settled down following this last venture. In 1890 he married Dorothy Tennant and through 1892 went on lecturing tours in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. On his return to England he became a British subject again (he had become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1885), and in 1895 he won a seat in the British Parliament, a position he held until 1900. He made his last trip to Africa in 1897, visiting British holdings in southern Africa and writing Through South Africa (1898). Stanley was knighted by British monarch Queen Victoria in 1899.

If Stanley was among the most ruthless and driven of Europe’s African explorers, he also was among the most accomplished. Much of what the Western world came to know about Central Africa, including the drainage of its lakes and rivers, was derived from Stanley’s explorations. Moreover, he was one of the central figures in events leading to the Scramble for Africa. His call for the Christianizing of Africans and for the development of commerce with the interior echoed the call Livingstone had made a decade earlier and spurred on Europeans to settle African territory. When Stanley died in 1904 virtually all of Africa was in European hands.

Stanley Meets Livingstone

As America rebuilt following the Civil War, a rift developed with her old nemesis, Great Britain. Superpower Britain and the ascendant United States were at loggerheads over such issues as the sinking of the British-built warship Alabama, British claims of worldwide naval supremacy, Newfoundland fishing rights and U.S. designs on making Canada part of the Union.

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In October 1869, James Gordon Bennett Jr., the vehemently anti-British, hard-drinking 28-year-old editor of the New York Herald, saw this tension as a means to boost the paper’s already astronomical circulation of 60,000 copies a day. Specifically, he hoped to exploit the fame and mystery surrounding British explorer Dr. David Livingstone, who had been missing in Africa for four years. Although Livingstone’s achievements charting the unknown African continent had galvanized Britain, his government had been apathetic about rescuing him. Bennett decided Americans would do what the British would not. From a hotel room in Paris, he ordered Henry Morton Stanley, a newcomer to the Herald, to lead an expedition into the African wilderness to find the explorer, or “bring back all possible proofs of his being dead.” What Bennett did not know was that this brash cigar-smoking 28-year-old reporter—who had fought for both the blue and the gray in the Civil War—was as British as Livingstone.

Nyangwe, Congo, May 27, 1871—David Livingstone rested in the bustling marketplace in Nyangwe, a village on the shore of the LualabaRiver, on the western flank of today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. Roughly a thousand miles to the west was the Atlantic Ocean a thousand miles to the east, the Indian. Yet Livingstone was quite content being, so far as he knew, the only white man within that span. He was familiar with the local dialects, an admirer of the women and satisfied with the food, and he had developed a passion for observing the activity of the village market. In his journal he wrote that he was not bothered by the residents’ propensity for cannibalism. For, of all the gifts Livingstone possessed—perseverance, faith and fearlessness among them—the most remarkable was his ability to insinuate himself into African cultures.

Livingstone was in Africa to find the source of the NileRiver. Explorers had looked for it since Herodotus attempted a search around 460 B.C., but as centuries passed and failures mounted, the quest took on an almost mythical heft. “It is not given to us mortals,” 18th-century French author Montesquieu wrote, “to see the Nile feeble and at its source.”

During the 19th century, as the African interior was slowly charted, the search intensified. Most of the explorers—loners, thrill seekers and adventurous aristocrats were British, and many of them died from disease, animal attack or murder. With every failed attempt, Montesquieu’s words rang more true. (In fact, satellite images and aerial photographs would show that the Nile bubbles from the ground in the mountains of Burundi, between lakes Tanganyika and Victoria.) Finally, in the waning days of 1864, Sir Roderick Murchison, head of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society and the driving force behind countless global expeditions, beseeched his old friend Livingstone to find the source. Murchison traveled north from London to Newstead Abbey, the former estate of Lord Byron, where Livingstone was staying with friends. At a time when explorers enjoyed the fame of modern-day rock stars, none was better known than the 51-year-old Livingstone—a recent widower with four children—with his stutter, crooked left arm, and walrus mustache. Since his first trip to Africa in 1841, he had walked across the Kalahari Desert, traced the path of the 2,200-mile-long ZambeziRiver and, in the 1854-56 journey that made him famous, ambled from one side of Africa to the other. The former missionary’s renown was so great that he was mobbed by fans on the streets of London.

Livingstone had used his fame to preach for the abolition of the slave trade that was decimating the African people. Slavers from Persia, Arabia and Oman—whom Livingstone referred to collectively as “Arabs”—were penetrating deeper into the continent to capture men, women and children for sale in the markets of Zanzibar. Often, African tribes even raided other tribes and sold captives to the Arabs in exchange for firearms.

Despite Livingstone’s reputation, his finances had been ravaged by a failed expedition up the Zambezi between 1858 and 1863. He needed one last great adventure, and the revenue from the bestselling book that was sure to follow, before retiring. So when Murchison asked his old friend to search for the source of the Nile, Livingstone agreed. He had left England in August 1865, planning to return in two years.

Now, six years later, Livingstone sat on the banks of the Lualaba watching thousands of residents of Nyangwe mingle among Arab slave traders in the village market. He had been plagued by one setback after another: anemia, dysentery, bone-eating bacteria, the loss of his teeth, thieving porters and, finally, worst of all, outright poverty—so much so that he now depended upon the Arabs for his food and shelter. That benevolence came with a price. Aware of the increasing worldwide opposition to their trade, the Arabs refused to allow Livingstone to send letters home by their caravans for fear he would spread word of their deeper encroachment. Even so, Livingstone was now enjoying a reprieve. Adiet of porridge, butter and rice had fattened him. All seemed well.

Tabora, Tanganyika (today’s Tanzania), June 23, 1871—In the three months since Stanley had left the east coast of Africa to find Livingstone, he had battled malaria, starvation and dysentery, losing 40 pounds. The expedition had suffered floods, famine, pestilence and drought. Of two white companions who had begun the journey with him, one had died from elephantiasis and the other had fired a pistol at Stanley during a failed mutiny, only to die from smallpox later. Two-thirds of the porters had deserted or died.

Stanley was now in Tabora to regroup. The sprawling village on the savanna was one of three primary Arab enclaves in East Africa the others were the island of Zanzibar, roughly 400 miles east of Tabora, and Ujiji, 350 miles west on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. Tabora was the crown jewel, its large houses and lavish gardens occupied by the wealthiest Arab residents.

But Tabora was not a paradise to Stanley. To him, it was dusty and Spartan, with that hostility common to crossroads and border towns, and the curious stares of the locals made him uneasy. Nonetheless, he had come a long way in the year and a half since Bennett had called the reporter to Paris and ordered him to Africa.

Stanley had come far, period. His real name was John Rowlands, and he had been born in Denbigh, Wales, his father the town drunk and his 19-year-old mother a local prostitute. He was given up to a workhouse at age 5. He was released at 15 and at 17 fled to New Orleans where he started his life anew by erasing his past. John Rowlands had become Henry Morton Stanley, who began living a very American series of adventures: he fought for the Confederacy, was taken prisoner and, when offered the chance to switch sides, fought for the Union. He drifted west after the war to try to make his fortune mining gold and silver, and he became a journalist covering the American Indian Wars, rubbing elbows with Ulysses S. Grant and Wild Bill Hickok. There seemed no limit to the things he was willing to take on.

Africa, however, scared Stanley. The fear had set in as he sailed to Zanzibar to purchase supplies and hire men for the expedition. He had had nightmares and even pondered suicide to avoid traveling into the “eternal, feverish region.” Despite his anxieties, by March 21, 1871, he had managed to assemble one of the largest expeditions to ever set forth from Zanzibar—so big that Stanley was forced to divide it into five subcaravans and stagger their departures to avoid robbery. As Stanley set off, he heard rumors that a white man had been seen near Ujiji, some 750 miles inland.

During the march to Tabora, Stanley had written regularly in his journal but had sent nothing to the newspaper. On July 4, he penned his first dispatch to Bennett in the form of a 5,000-word letter—enough to fill the front page of the Herald. In it, Stanley told of his fears and even his contemplation of suicide. “I should like to enter into more minute details respecting this new land, which is almost unknown,” he wrote, “but the very nature of my mission, requiring speed and all my energy precludes it. Some day, perhaps, the Herald will permit me to describe more minutely the experiences of the long march, with all its vicissitudes and pleasures, in its columns, and I can assure your readers beforehand that they will be not quite devoid of interest. But now my whole time is occupied in the march, and the direction of the expedition, the neglect of which in any one point would be productive of disastrous results.” Stanley held back the information his audience wanted most until the final paragraph. Livingstone, he told them, was rumored to be on his way to Ujiji. “Until I hear more of him or see the long absent old man face to face, I bid you a farewell,” he signed off. “But wherever he is be sure I shall not give up the chase. If alive you shall hear what he has to say. If dead I will find him and bring his bones to you.”

Stanley sent his dispatch with a caravan going east with instructions to give it to the American consul in Zanzibar, who would then send it to New York by ship. But Stanley hadn’t told his readers everything. Afierce tribal war blocked the road to Ujiji, threatening to derail his entire expedition. Stanley would either have to embroil himself in the fighting or find an alternate—uncharted—route to the south.

As he pondered his course of action, he encountered a far more lethal obstacle. On July 7, as Stanley sat in the shade in Tabora’s afternoon heat, drowsiness washed over him like a drug. “The brain was busy. All my life seemed passing in review before me,” he wrote. “The loveliest feature of all to me was of a noble and true man who called me son.” Stanley’s intense visions evoked long-forgotten emotions: “When these retrospective scenes became serious, I looked serious when they were sorrowful I wept hysterically when they were joyous I laughed loudly.” In fact, Stanley was suffering from dementia brought on by cerebral malaria, the often fatal strain of that disease.

Nyangwe, Congo, July 15, 1871—Livingstone took his usual seat in the shade to observe the marketplace. Soon, slave traders arrived and started squabbling with the Africans. Suddenly, the slavers began firing their guns into the crowd. A horrified Livingstone watched as the villagers fled and more Arabs joined the slaughter. “Men opened fire on the mass of people near the upper end of the marketplace, volleys were discharged from a party down near the creek on the panic-stricken women who dashed at the canoes,” Livingstone wrote. “These, some 50 or more, were jammed in the creek and the men forgot their paddles in the terror that seized all.”

The Arabs stood along the riverbank, calmly aiming and firing, then reloading to kill again. When the villagers leapt from their canoes and began swimming, the Arabs picked them off. Livingstone had run out of paper, and was writing his journal on any scrap he could find—old checks, magazine pages. Livingstone’s supply of ink was gone too. Instead, he was using a red dye he had made from roots the color brought a graphic realism to the tales of murder: “As I write I hear the loud wails on the left bank over those who are there slain, ignorant of their many friends who are now in the depths of the Lualaba. Oh, let Thy kingdom come!” he implored God.

Livingstone fled Nyangwe for Ujiji a few days after the massacre. The path he took was new to him, and in the heavy equatorial heat, his dysentery returned. His feet had swollen his shoes were falling apart. “The mind acted on the body,” he wrote. “And it is no overstatement to say that every step of between 400 and 500 miles was [taken] in pain.”

Near the MalagarasiRiver, Tanganyika, October 7, 1871—Stanley was barely in control of the caravan. The cerebral malaria that had nearly killed him in Tabora had been followed by a bout of smallpox. It was a tribute to Stanley’s constitution that he was still searching for Livingstone. It had been nearly three weeks since he’d left Tabora. The caravan had traveled hundreds of miles out of its way, through uncharted terrain, to avoid the tribal fighting taking place between Tabora and Ujiji. Food had been scarce, and hunger had slowed the caravan’s pace. Now, Stanley’s men were pushing to reach the MalagarasiRiver, a wide, powerful flow that fed Lake Tanganyika. But the men were weak. The expedition was less than a hundred miles from Ujiji, but it might as well have been ten times that distance.

On November 1, after two weeks of searching, Stanley finally reached the MalagarasiRiver. Villages lined its banks, and fish-eating birds could be seen in the shallows. The caravan restocked with food and water, but the Malagarasi offered up another challenge. Crocodiles dotted the surface as far as the eye could see, and the only way to cross was to hire locals to ferry the caravan. By sunset, all were across except the donkeys, which were to swim alongside the canoes, held by their halters. The first donkey to go was a favorite of Stanley’s named Simba—“lion” in Swahili. Halfway across, to Stanley’s horror, crocodiles attacked Simba and dragged him underwater. That night, sadness permeated the caravan. Simba’s gruesome death was a reminder that the same could happen to any of them. All traces of melancholy vanished the next morning, however, when a passing traveler told of seeing a white man in Ujiji.

Lake Tanganyika, October 8, 1871—Livingstone’s endurance was remarkable, but by the time he had reached Lake Tanganyika, his will was shattered. Describing the moment, he wrote, “I was reduced to a skeleton.”

The continued failure of his mission was breaking Livingstone. He set off by canoe to cross to Ujiji, hoping to find supplies from the British Consulate waiting for him. But when he reached Ujiji, there was nothing. Livingstone now faced the desperate choice of becoming a beggar or starving to death. He spent his days in Ujiji praying for deliverance. “I made up my mind to wait until men should come from the coast,” he wrote, still hoping the British consul would send help. “But to wait in beggary was what I never contemplated, and now I felt miserable.”

Rescue looked bleak. Both to the east and to the west, Arabs and Africans were fighting. “I felt, in my destitution, as if I were the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. But I could not hope for priest, Levite or good Samaritan to come by on either side,” Livingstone wrote.

London, England, October 20, 1871—In his prime, Sir Roderick Murchison had been the consummate outdoorsman. The tall, dramatic former president of the Royal Geographical Society had ridden to hounds as a country squire, trekked the Alps and roamed the countrysides of England, Scotland and Russia in the name of geology. But at 79, just two years after the death of his wife, Charlotte, and two months after his second stroke, Murchison now rarely ventured from his storied mansion at 16 Belgrave Square, where Victorian England’s mighty once mingled with her bravest explorers. He had recently regained his ability to speak and swallow, however, and longed to venture outside. And so, on this fall day, he impulsively took the carriage ride that would give him pneumonia and kill him two days later. 

History had never known an explorer like Roderick Impey Murchison. His legacy laid the groundwork for the spread of the British Empire. His peers named 23 topographical features on six continents in his honor—waterfalls, rivers, mountains, glaciers and even an island.

Livingstone’s absence consumed Murchison. He longed for his friend to return. Murchison had vowed he would not be laid to rest until that great day came. “I will then,” the old showman had promised, “take leave of you in the fullness of my heart.”

Ujiji, Tanganyika, November 10, 1871—The Herald caravan had set forth before dawn on what Stanley hoped would be the last hours of its mission. They had still to cross over a mountain, but Stanley didn’t care. He just wanted to get to Ujiji. But the view from the summit had taken his breath away. Lake Tanganyika sparkled below like a silver sea. “In a few minutes we shall have reached the spot where we imagine the objects of our search,” he wrote. “Our fate will soon be decided. No one in the town knows we are coming.”

A mile from town, Stanley ordered the American colors raised. “The flags are fluttered, the banner of America is in front waving joyfully,” Stanley wrote. The sound of muskets firing and horns blowing filled the air. “Never were the Stars and Stripes so beautiful in my mind.”

As Stanley entered Ujiji, thousands of people pressed around the caravan. Livingstone had been sitting on a straw mat on the mud veranda of his small house, pondering his woeful future, when he heard the commotion. Now Livingstone got slowly to his feet. Above the throngs of people, he saw the American flag snapping in the breeze and porters bearing an incredible assortment of goods: bales of cloth, huge kettles, tents. “This must be a luxurious traveler,” Livingstone thought. “And not one at wit’s end like me.”

Livingstone pushed through the crowd and saw a tanned, gaunt man. His boots were worn and his sun-beaten helmet clean. The man had such a formal bearing that, despite the Stars and Stripes, Livingstone assumed he was French. He hoped the traveler spoke English, for Livingstone didn’t speak a word of French. He thought that they would be “a pretty pair of white men in Ujiji if neither one spoke the other’s language.”

What Stanley saw was a pale white man wearing a faded blue cap and patched clothing. The man’s hair was white, he had few teeth, and his beard was bushy. He walked, Stanley wrote, “with a firm and heavy tread.”

Stanley stepped up crisply to the old man, removed his helmet and extended his hand. According to Stanley’s journal, it was November 10, 1871. With formal intonation, representing America but trying to affect British gravity, Stanley spoke, according to later accounts, the most dignified words that came to mind: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

“Yes,” Livingstone answered simply.

“I thank God, doctor,” Stanley said, appalled at how fragile Livingstone looked, “I have been permitted to see you.”

“I feel thankful,” Livingstone said with typical understatement, “I am here to welcome you.” 

London, England, October 27, 1871—On a cool autumn morning, under a sky that threatened rain, a procession of 13 mourning carriages rolled through the north entrance of Brompton Cemetery moving toward the grave site of Sir Roderick Murchison. He would be buried next to his wife. Prime Minister William Gladstone and a host of dignitaries stepped from their carriages and solemnly walked to the grave. Murchison was a conservative, and Gladstone the day’s preeminent liberal, but the two men had crossed paths for a lifetime. “Went to Sir R. Murchison’s funeral the last of those who had known me from infancy,” Gladstone wrote in his journal. “And so a step toward the end is made visible.”

Stanley’s and Livingstone’s journals show that both men had lost track of time, and their journals were off by days—in Stanley’s case, as much as two weeks. The date on which Stanley actually found Livingstone was not November 10 but October 27—two years to the day since Bennett had bestowed the Great Commission upon Stanley. It was also the very day of Murchison’s burial. In fact—given that Murchison’s funeral ran from 11:00 in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon, and taking into account a two-hour time difference, Murchison would have been lowered into the ground only after his long-lost friend had been found by Stanley.

In the hours after their meeting, Stanley and Livingstone forged a profound bond. “I found myself gazing at him,” Stanley wrote of that afternoon on Livingstone’s veranda when the two men sat eating and drinking until well into the evening. “Every hair of his head and beard, every wrinkle of his face, the wanness of his features, and the slightly wearied look he wore, were all imparting intelligence to me—the knowledge I craved for so much.”

Livingstone, for his part, was no less moved. “You have brought me new life,” he told Stanley between bites of stewed goat, curried chicken and rice.

Stanley had originally planned to depart quickly for Zanzibar, racing back to the outside world with news of his achievement. But in a rare departure from character, he set aside ambition to bask in his newfound friendship. He oversaw Livingstone’s return to health, then accepted his offer to explore the dark green waters of Lake Tanganyika. They spent a month traveling in a dugout canoe paddled by 20 of Stanley’s men. Though Stanley had proved adept at the fundamentals of African travel, Livingstone was giving him a tutorial on exploration.

They returned to Ujiji, where Livingstone vowed to continue searching for the source of the Nile, despite Stanley’s urgings that they return to London. Stanley traveled to Tabora with Livingstone and outfitted him with supplies and new porters. After five months together, the men parted ways on March 14, 1872. As a tearful Stanley left for Zanzibar, Livingstone said, “You have done what few men could do, and I am grateful.”

No less than James Gordon Bennett Jr. had hoped, Stanley’s finding of Livingstone—reported in the May 2, 1872, edition of the Herald under the headline “Livingstone Safe”—was an international sensation. Stanley returned to London, then New York, a hero. Bennett and the Herald milked the story for a year. The saga of Stanley and Livingstone sparked an unlikely turning point in history. Journalism’s growing power, America’s ascendancy and Britain’s eventual eclipse, one generation of explorer giving way to another, and the opening of Africa—all were foreshadowed or came about as a result of Livingstone’s love of Africa and Stanley’s march to find him.

Livingstone, worn down by disease, died in today’s Zambia, on May 1, 1873, a year and a half after his meeting with Stanley. His attendants mummified his body and handed it over to British authorities. His remains were buried in Westminster Abbey. Stanley was a pallbearer at Livingstone’s funeral. Afterward, he fulfilled a vow he’d made to the explorer to return to Africa to search for the source of the Nile. In his failed attempt, Stanley circumnavigated lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, then traveled the length of the Congo River to the Atlantic. Later, however, he besmirched his reputation by accepting money from King Leopold II of Belgium to help create the Congo Free State and promote the slave trade. Though he returned to Britain, married in 1890 (he and his wife, Dorothy, adopted a 1-year-old Welsh child in 1896), resumed his British citizenship in 1892 and served in Parliament, when he died at age 63, he was denied burial in Westminster Abbey because of his actions in the Congo Free State.

Stanley swore he uttered the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” but the page pertaining to that moment was torn out of his journal. It is possible that it went missing in an act of sabotage by a farsighted collector. But if Stanley didn’t make the statement and removed the page to cover his tracks, few who knew the Welshman turned American would have been surprised. He may well have fabricated the quote for his Herald stories (he mentions it in two dispatches one published July 15, 1872, the other on August 10, 1872). In any case, the four words became the journey’s defining moment. By the time Stanley returned from Africa, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” was so well known that recanting would have caused considerable loss of face. To the day he died of complications of a stroke and pleurisy in London on May 10, 1904, Stanley maintained he had spoken the eloquent phrase.

Henry Morton Stanley: hero or villain?

In 1985, as Editor of Programme Support at Channel 4, I played a bit part in the great project to make sure that Colin Thomas’ epic 13-part history of Wales, The Dragon has Two Tongues, was followed up in classes, discussion groups, and private study all over the UK. The bulk of the discussion took place in Wales, and was coordinated by Bethan Eames, then community education officer at HTV. However, parallel explorations in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland undertaken by other ITV educationalists with my encouragement, helped to make sure that justice was done to a history series which has, in my opinion, never been surpassed – Simon Schama, David Starkey et al notwithstanding.

The Dragon’s durability is owed in large part to its vivid demonstration that ‘truth’ in history depends very much on who is doing the telling. Gwyn Alf Williams, committed Marxist, and Wynford Vaughan Thomas, traditionalist and romantic, often had diametrically opposed interpretations of the same episode in Welsh history. No conclusions were propounded. Viewers were left to make their own judgements. It is fascinating and heartening that in his latest work, Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern and the Heart of Darkness, a play recently performed in Denbigh, Colin Thomas is still in the business of showing that the truth is rarely clear cut. What’s more, he clearly still believes that his creative work is not complete until it has been publicly discussed.

Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern marks several departures, however, from his previous work. It is, in the first place, emphatically not for television. Created for a live audience, it is a multi-media production employing theatre, video and music to present the life of Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) in a new and critical light. It is a three parter, featuring Stanley himself (played by Gwyn Vaughan Jones) Edmund Morel, French-born but eventually making his home in Hawarden, less than 30 miles from Denbigh (played by Robert Gwyn Davin), who campaigned against the imperialist exploitation of the Congo and the Revd George Washington Williams (played by Sule Rimi), an American journalist who reported on shocking local conditions in the ‘heart of darkness’.

Far from being intended for a mass audience, the production is specifically directed towards the people of Denbigh, where Stanley was born, and where there are currently moves to erect a statue in his honour. It was first presented at Theatr Twm o’r Nant in early May. Last Saturday the cast returned to present extracts from the production, and to provoke a debate. It could not fail to assist further local discussion and decision-making on whether Stanley was, or was not, a person of whom the town should be proud.

For many, of course, Stanley was simply the explorer sent by the New York Herald in 1869 to find the Scottish missionary David Livingstone, who was apparently lost in central Africa. “Dr Livingstone, I presume” is part of the folklore of exploration and Christian missionary endeavour – though, as Tim Jeal has shown in his Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (Faber, 2007), Stanley never uttered these words at the time. He made them up later for dramatic effect. In any case the search for Livingstone is not a major theme of Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern Rather, the work is a search for Stanley – what sort of a man was he and how are we to judge him morally?

The production dramatises his unhappy childhood. Born a bastard (the word was used to describe ‘illegitimate’ children until relatively recent times) named John Rowlands, he was taken at a very early age to St Asaph Workhouse, where, like so many other children, he was starved of affection. His mother, who was also there, is seen to observe him without recognition. And when, later, he returns to Denbigh to visit her, there is a continuing silence between them. She tells him not to return until he was “in far better circumstances” than he appeared to be.

Later still, he returns again. By now he has served in the Confederate army and in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is in uniform and hopes to impress her but this time, she does not even allow him across the threshold. Meanwhile, he has adopted the name of Henry Morton Stanley and the identity of a wealthy New Orleans trader, in order to make for himself some rudimentary sense of family. How much of the later Stanley – lonely explorer, flogger of those who deserted from his expeditions, agent of one of the most greedy and unscrupulous of imperialists (Leopold II) – can be explained by reference to his early years?

There would have been many in Denbigh last Saturday who, like me, grew up believing uncritically in Stanley as the great and lonely explorer, who walked and rode 7,000 miles across Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, and who traced the course of the River Congo from its source to the sea. Attitudes to imperialism have changed radically since then. However, during the early 1950s, when I was at school, the map was still coloured red and our teachers did not raise questions with us about the morality of the Empire. Nor, obviously enough, did Stanley.

The production featured him giving his own accounts of the expeditions, liberally scattered with references to savages, their backwardness, and their need of the benefits of European civilisation. Characteristically, Colin Thomas also introduced a heckler into the proceedings (Edmund Morel, it was suggested by a member of the cast, giving voice to Colin’s own sentiments. On the other hand, I thought immediately of the rather more good natured banter between Gwyn Alf and Wynford in The Dragon has Two Tongues). The heckler accused Stanley, among other things, of being complicit in murder – the murder of individual Congolese and of the civilisation of central Africa in the name of European greed. Stanley continued with his account, as impassive as his mother. How far can Stanley be blamed, the question was implicitly raised, for attitudes which were commonplace at the time?

But there is more on the charge sheet against Stanley than his attitudes and opinions. He has also been accused of being directly involved, to quote Joseph Conrad:

“…in the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience’, that is in aiding and abetting the Belgian king, Leopold II, in the theft of land, devising bogus legal documents whereby local chiefs surrendered all ‘sovereign and governing rights’ to a foreign power”.

Was Stanley wilfully dishonest, or was he duped by Leopold? Historians have disagreed. Tim Jeal entirely exonerates Stanley. The heckler on Saturday night made sure that at least we did not immediately come down on one side or the other.

The citizens of Denbigh had heard directly from Tim Jeal when he visited the town to lecture on Stanley soon after the publication his book. That perhaps was the origin of the proposal for a statue. There clearly remains a head of steam for the idea despite the questions raised by Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern. In the panel discussion, local historian Bobby Owen, sweeping aside what Stanley had said about not caring whether he returned to Denbigh or not after his encounters with his mother, suggested that the explorer had remained true to his roots, and that was a good enough reason for him to be commemorated.

Selwyn Williams, a Bangor University historian took the opposite view: “as a loyal son of Denbighshire, I very much hope that a statue will not be erected.” He quoted profusely from accounts of Stanley’s alleged cruelties. What of the actors? Gwyn Vaughan Jones (Stanley) was clear. Like other European nations, the Welsh had taken a prominent part in the exploitation of other peoples. Welsh sea captains, for instance, had transported slaves to the Americas. Stanley could not be exonerated for his part in colonial exploitation. Robert Gwyn Davin (Morel) agreed. Sule Rimi (Williams) was readier than his two colleagues to allow that Stanley was a product of his times.

There were just five contributions from the audience and I had hoped for rather more. On the other hand, these were interesting and thoughtful comments, two of them concerned to argue that Stanley was neither wholly good nor wholly bad. Certainly, he was not a saint, argued one contributor, but then, neither was Lloyd George, and nobody suggests that there should not be statues of him in Wales!

A parent who supported the idea of a Stanley statue in Denbigh believed that it would have strong educational value, for history teaching, not least, including the history of colonialism, and for geography. By now another participant was completely confused about the case for and against colonialism. He had noticed that people were beginning to suggest once more that some imperial representatives did good things.

Much the most penetrating suggestion came from a local person who would not have been happy with a statue of the adult Stanley for the reasons discussed in the production. Instead, he suggested instead two statues, one to commemorate Stanley’s childhood sufferings, and a second of a Congolese child, which would represent the sufferings of his or her peoples under colonialism.

A vote was taken. Twenty-seven people wished it to be known that they were proud of Stanley’s connection with the town. Fifteen were not, and seventeen were yet to be convinced either way. Ironically enough, there is currently a parallel debate in Kinshasa (formerly Stanleyville), where Stanley’s statue was torn down as colonial rule in the Congo came to an end nearly 50 years ago. Museum curators are questioning whether or not it should now be restored and re-erected on the grounds that, for all his faults, he is part of Congolese history.

What an interesting evening might result in Kinshasa if Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern and the Heart of Darkness was shown there! Meanwhile, the issues raised by it not only concern Denbigh. I wonder if the results of the vote would have been different if this excellent production had been presented elsewhere in Wales.

Mr Stanley’s Magic Lantern and the Heart of Darkness was directed by Colin Thomas and produced by Medwen Roberts. The musical director was Leah Owen, and the drummer Felix Ngindu.

Henry Morton Stanley - History

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Explorer Extraordinaire

Henry Morton Stanley was one of the greatest explorers of all time. Throughout his incredible life, which was packed with adventure and conflict, he served as a soldier, a sailor, a journalist, an explorer, an empire builder, a statesman, author, politician, and lecturer and finally, he was even knighted by Queen Victoria.

Stanley is most famous for having found missionary explorer, Dr. David Livingstone after he had been out of contact with the outside world for many years. His calm and most understated of comments, after having crossed half the continent: “Dr. Livingstone I presume?” must be one of the most famous statements in popular memory worldwide.

Against All Odds
Stanley stands out as the only journalist who founded an Empire. Although his primary occupation was meant to be recording history, he is most famous for having made history. Stanley stands out as extraordinarily tough and persistent, a model of perseverance. Yet, before his 24 th birthday, Stanley had a long track record of frustration and failure, defeat and desertion. No one could have predicted how this extraordinary man would develop and rise above all others in his achievements, especially in bringing civilisation to the Dark Continent.

Unpromising Beginnings
The life of Henry Morton Stanley is full of surprises. The first surprise is that he wasn’t born with the name Henry Morton Stanley, but was baptised John Rowlands. That was believed to be the name of his father. Stanley was born in disgrace, the illegitimate child of Miss Elizabeth Parry. Shortly after his birth, 28 January 1841, his mother abandoned him in the hands of her father, Moses Parry, and ran off to London. Economic disaster had reduced this old gentleman to living with his sons in a small cottage and working in a butchery.

Abandoned in an Orphanage
When John was just 4 years old his grandfather died. His two uncles were unwilling to care for this illegitimate nephew, so he was taken by the hand and walked to a huge stone building surrounded by massive iron fence. At the door John was astonished to be seized and dragged inside. The door slammed and he soon learned that he was now an inmate of St. Asaph Union Workhouse – an orphanage to confine unwanted children. This work house was to be John Rowland’s home for over 9 years. No time was wasted for sympathy for the homeless and unwanted. The life in St. Asaph was hard and grim. It was described as “charity with a vengeance.”

Harsh Upbringing
The rigid routine began at 6am each morning and continued until 8pm in the evening, when they were locked in their spartan dormitories. In between there was work. The boys swept the grounds, scrubbed the floors, and worked the fields, shivering in thin, inadequate clothes. The meagre meals consisted of bread, gruel, rice and potatoes, in small rationed portions. Saturdays they were scrubbed and Sundays provided the only relief with two services and no work. The school master was an ex-miner, James Francis, who having lost his hand in a mining accident, had developed “a vicious temper and a callous heart.”

Traumatic Instruction
James Francis apparently took savage pleasure in punching, caning, kicking, whipping and beating the children entrusted to his care. John Rowlands received his first flogging for failing to pronounce a word correctly. The institution averaged 30 boys at a time, averaging from 5 to 15 years. The curriculum was described as “primitive”. John vividly remembered the day when a young 11 year old boy, Willie Roberts, strikingly handsome, with curly hair and a delicate face, was beaten to death. It was rumoured that he was the illegitimate child of a nobleman. John saw his corpse in the “dead house”. Willie was covered with dark bruises and deep gashes. All were convinced that James Francis had murdered Willie Roberts.

Distinguishing Achievements
John recalled that he never missed his mother. In fact he was 12 years old before he even learnt that every boy had a mother. Yet, even in this unforgiving and depressing environment, John managed to distinguish himself with his drawings, mostly of cathedrals which, when presented to the bishop, earned him commendation and a Bible. John was selected to lead the Work House Boys Choir and, because of his exceptionally good memory, he was pronounced the most advanced pupil in St. Asaph by the school inspector. One man who later remembered him described John Rowlands as “stubborn, self willed… uncompromising… unusually sensitive… particularly strong…”

Crisis of Decision
When John was 15 years old, an event occurred that changed the whole direction of his life. Recalling it later, he observed: “But for the stupid and brutal scene that brought about, I might have eventually been an apprentice at some trade or another, and would have mildewed in Wales.” The sadistic tyrant, James Francis, demanded to know who had scratched a certain table. When no one confessed, he seized a cane and announced that he would beat the entire school. As they were commanded to strip, John refused to obey. Francis erupted in a rage: “How is this? Not ready yet? Strip, sir, this minute I mean to stop this abominable and bare faced lying.”

“I did not lie, sir, I know nothing of it.”

“Silence, sir. Down with your clothes!”

“Never again!” John was determined. At that Francis assailed and beat him mercilessly, lifting him up and throwing him against a bench with such force that he feared his spine had shattered. As Francis lay into him, John aimed a kick into the schoolmaster’s face, breaking his glasses and knocking him unconscious as he fell backwards onto the stone floor.

Across the Ocean
After two months, he was fired and wandered the streets looking for opportunities of employment. One of these jobs led him to carry provisions to a Captain David Harding of the Windermere ship. The captain spoke kindly to him and offered him a job as a seaman. Once on board and sea sick, he learned that the captain’s promise of him serving as a cabin boy was only a scheme to obtain cheap deck hands. He experienced further abuse on board the ship and at the first opportunity in New Orleans, he jumped ship. As the sights and sounds of America fascinated John, he met a kind looking gentleman in front of a store.

A New Life in America
“Do you want a boy, sir?” The man was startled by the question. The businessman was Henry Stanley, cultured, intelligent, prosperous, happily married, but childless. Although John Rowlands was asking for work, the gentleman began to question him closely. He determined to adopt John Rowlands. Mr. Stanley took him off for breakfast, followed by a haircut, kitted him out with decent clothes and employed him as an apprentice to Mr James Speak, merchant. For the first time in his life, John was free. He had money in his pocket, room and board, a good job and he began to add books to the bishops’ Bible that had been his only possession up till then. He started to construct bookcases in his room out of old packing boxes. He spent all his free time reading books.

First Friends
The beatings and rejection that he had experienced throughout his upbringing had made him something of a social outcast, hypersensitive and uncertain how to behave in any social context. The first friendship he developed was with Alice Heaton, a runaway girl of 16 years old from Liverpool, who had managed to maintain her disguise as a sailor boy, long enough to reach America, as well as Stanley. When Mrs Stanley fell ill, John left his job at the store and devoted every minute to the care of his patroness, the only woman who had shown him any affection. As Mr. Stanley was out of town on business, John was the only person beside her as she died.

Detour up the Mississippi
Feeling dejected, John obtained temporary employment as an attendant for a sick sea captain and then went up the Mississippi to find Henry Stanley in St. Louis. However, he had already departed. John worked on a flat boat back to New Orleans, which was an adventure, avoiding sand bars, steam boats, storms, dangerous currents and whirlpools.

In New Orleans John was reunited with Mr Stanley and in the first tender action he had ever experienced, was embraced by Mr Stanley. The next day Mr. Stanley declared: “As you are wholly unclaimed, without a parent, relation or sponsor, I promise to take you for my son and to fit you for a mercantile carrier. In future you are to bear my name, Henry Stanley.” This was the beginning of what Stanley later described as “The golden period of my life.”

For the next two years, the Welsh boy was educated and mentored by this kind gentleman. He was provided with his first toothbrush, his first nightshirt and his first suits. He was taught table manners, frequent baths and intelligent conversation. The young Henry Stanley was expected to read constantly, often aloud and to discuss what he had read with his father. His father lectured him on morality, faith, work, culture and customs. He taught his son how to think clearly and to live uprightly. He taught him to be alert and observant. He would propose hypothetical problems and challenge Henry to suggest the correct solution.

Decisive Action
Henry Stanley proved to have a phenomenal memory and soaked up all the teaching offered him. One night in 1860, as they were travelling down the Mississippi River on a steam boat, Henry was on deck when he saw a man enter his father’s cabin and threaten him with a knife. Henry leapt at the man and grappled with him, putting the, would be, robber and murderer to flight, suffering only a gash in his coat.

Business required Mr Stanley to travel to Cuba. His last words to Henry were to hold fast to Christian principles and to be “fearless in all manly things.”Working in Arkansas, the young Henry was laid low with malaria and fever. At about this time the War between the States was erupting and he received a parcel addressed by a feminine hand containing a petticoat. Stunned by the implication of cowardice, he took immediate action by joining the Confederate Army to resist the coming Yankee invasion.

Life as an Infantryman
In July 1861, Stanley joined other confederate volunteers in Arkansas as they were issued flintlock muskets and embarked on a steamboat bound for Little Rock. During his time in Little Rock, he bought a colt revolver and a bowie knife. When the day came to march out, with the bands playing and the women cheering, Stanley was exuberant and eagerly looked forward to battle. Soon, with aching shoulders, blistered feet and sweat-soaked body, he began to discard half the contents of his pack and learned the elementary rule of the infantryman, to carry only what is absolutely essential. For the first nine months of his military service, Stanley’s regiment marched across Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1862, after marching for days in the rain, they arrived at what was to become the bloodiest battlefield of the American War between the states: Shiloh. Confederate generals Johnston and Beauregard were about to throw 40,000 exhausted troops against 50,000 fresh Union soldiers under General Grant. Most of the Southerners were armed with old flintlock muskets, whereas the Northerners had modern breach-loading rifles with cartridges.

Into Battle
Soon Stanley’s regiment, the 6 th Arkansas Regiment, was ordered to march straight towards the centre of the Union lines. The sound of musketry increased in volume and intensity and artillery shells were soon flying overhead bringing down branches and debris on their heads. Soon they could see nothing in front of them but the enemy. The order was given: “Fix bayonets! On the double quick!” The men in grey gave a great battle cry and surged forward. As the blue figures began to flee before them, Stanley experienced the exhilaration of victory. He thought the battle won. Actually it had only begun. Soon they encountered even more Yankees. Volleys of deadly fire tore through the grey ranks. The ground seemed to erupt beneath him. The roar of gunfire was so intense he could barely make out any of the orders being shouted. The air was filled with flying metal. The sound of ricochets was all around. It did not seem possible that anyone could survive in the face of such a deadly barrage of lead. The command to dive for cover was given and Stanley saw many of the men around him mangled and mutilated by the bullets and bombs. Then the officers ordered the men to stand and charge. The Confederates leapt to their feet and with a great battle cry surged forward. Although pounded by artillery and decimated by rifle fire, the men in grey charged on, sweeping through a second Union regiment.

Prisoner of War
Then Stanley was knocked to the ground. When he had recovered his breath, he discovered that his belt buckle was bent and cracked. It had stopped a Union bullet, but he was not injured. Many more charges were ordered and time and again the Arkansas volunteers sent the Yankees reeling back in retreat. Then torrential rain fell upon the battlefield. As they took stock of their situation, they realised that there were barely 50 men left in their Regiment. As another advance was ordered, Stanley found himself isolated and surrounded by Union troops who took him prisoner. He was startled by the wild-eyed hatred and fury of the Yankees who cursed and threatened to bayonet him. He ended up in a boxcar shipped to Camp Douglas, on the outskirts of Chicago. The camp was a disgusting disease factory, more like a great cattle pen where wounded and malnourished men were left to die in the filth. The prisoners were denied even the most basic of hygiene and medical needs. Fleas, flies and rats infested the filthy barracks. He saw vast numbers of prisoners debilitated, dying of dysentery, typhoid and fever without the slightest aid from their heartless captors.

Changing Sides

The Commissary, Mr Shipman, persuaded Stanley to save his life by enlisting in the Union army. This he did, but three days after his release from prison on 4 June 1862, he came down with fever so severely that he was discharged for health reasons.

Across the Ocean
He walked to the coast and worked on farms, and on a ship bound for Liverpool. Then he set out to find his mother, who told him that she wanted nothing to do with him! His mother’s cold hostility left him in even darker despair than her abandonment of him as a child. Stanley worked his way back across the ocean to try to find his adoptive father in Cuba. There he was devastated to learn that his father had already been dead nearly two years

In the US Navy
On 19 July 1864, Stanley enlisted in the United States Navy in New York. The Navy records describe him as 5 feet, 5 inches in height, with hazel eyes, dark hair and birth place, England. He served on board the USS North Carolina and the USS Minnesota. As he was given the task of being the ship’s writer, he kept the log and wrote reports on land and sea battles, some of which ended up being published in the newspapers. His vigorous eye-witness accounts of action and his attention to detail was remarkable. Due to the positive comments he received and the success of having these reports published, Stanley began to think of becoming a journalist. On 10 February, 1965, Stanley deserted the Navy and became a roving reporter in the Wild West.

A Trail of Defeat and Desertion
It is remarkable that a man who throughout the rest of his life developed the reputation as the most persistent and relentless of explorers, the man who never gave up, no matter what, against all odds and in the face of any danger, that before he was 24 years old, Stanley had run away from school, jumped ship, deserted the Confederate cause by changing sides, and deserted the United States Navy in a time of war. No one at this stage of his life could have anticipated what he would accomplish in later life.

Adventures in the West and the East
He travelled to Missouri, Salt Lake City, Denver and Omaha. He built a flat bottom boat, which capsized twice. He experienced some of the Indian wars. Then, in July 1866, Stanley set sail for Smyrna in Turkey. There he was betrayed by a treacherous guide into the hands of thieves who severely beat him and stole all his money and papers. After being arrested for not having his papers, Stanley wrote an account of the abuse he experienced in the Orient.

In the Wild West
Then, returning to the United States, he joined the expedition into Indian country by General Winfield Hancock. He was impressed at how Hancock negotiated with the Comanche and Kiowa Indians in Nebraska and Kansas. He had expected to see the Indians severely dealt with after the atrocities they had committed against settlers. Instead, he saw how General Hancock sought peaceful resolutions and negotiations to extend civilisation, rather than to punish the savages.

Wild Bill
At one point Stanley met Wild Bill Hickock and interviewed him. When he asked how many men he had killed, Wild Bill replied that he had killed“considerably over 100 white men” to his certain knowledge. He added that: “I never killed one man without good cause.” Hickock and Stanley became friends and when another made an insulting remark to Stanley, Wild Bill picked the man up and threw him over a billiard table.

Indian Wars
Stanley also reported on General William Sherman’s dealing with the Indians in Omaha and Kansas. He later reported that he learned a great deal about how to deal with primitive people from Hancock and Sherman. He noted that they dealt with them as both warriors and as children, who must be taught and corrected. Stanley noted that he learned to do the same when dealing with savage tribes in Africa.

The Journalist
While being the special correspondent of the Missouri Democrat, Stanley also contributed articles to the New York Herald, the New York Times, the Chicago Republican and the Cincinnati Commercial. He also noted that despite frequenting bars and taverns where drunkenness was common, he remained true to his pledge of abstinence, with only one exception which he bitterly repented of. He also lived a very disciplined life and saved most of what he earned. Hearing of the upcoming British war with Abyssinia, Stanley persuaded James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald to hire him as their special correspondent to Africa.

The Abyssinian Expedition
Stanley joined the British Expeditionary Force at the Red Sea port of Zula, Eritrea. King Theodoro had killed the former king and had provoked the kingdom to rebellion through his cruelty and tyranny. Then he antagonised the British Empire by assaulting their Consul Cameron and an English Missionary, Stern. When envoys carried letters of protest from Queen Victoria, Theodoro threw the envoys into prison. The English diplomats were tortured and treated in most horrendous ways. After unsuccessful attempts to ransom the prisoners, Britain declared war on King Theodoro. In 1869, Britain dispatched an Expedition Force of 12,000 troops of the Indian Army under Sir Robert Napier, to secure the release of the hostages, and to suitably punish Theodoro. It was a 400 mile march to Theodoro’s stronghold at Magdala. Stanley wrote of the colourful sight of English and Irish Regiments of weather beaten veterans in red coats, colourful regiments of Punjab’s, Sepoys, Indian cavalry, English sailors with rockets and horse-drawn artillery, elephants, camels, horses and mules.

The Battle of Magdala
On 9 April, the Abyssinian Expeditionary Force arrived at Magdala, thefortress capital of Abyssinia. Apparently undaunted by the impregnable appearance of this stronghold perched on the top of a granite mountain, the British military marched across a river and proceeded up the mountain. Theodoro launched 3,500 well-armed warriors down the slopes in a wild charge against the British. Calmly Napier ordered the naval brigade to take their positions: “Action front!”The naval brigade launched their rockets into the midst of the charging Abyssinians who were thrown into terror and confusion by these strange weapons. Then 300 men from the Fourth were ordered forward and the command was given: “Commence firing!”The British surged forward. The Abyssinians attempted a flanking movement, but they were wiped out by the bayonets of the Sepoys. At the end of the day 560 dead Abyssinians were counted on the field, but not a single British soldier had been lost, although 32 were wounded.

Storming Magdala
Theodoro, now terrified of the British firepower that he had witnessed destroying his best troops the previous day, attempted to appease the British by releasing all of his prisoners. Stanley noted with surprise the lack of emotion expressed by both the captives who had endured years of torment, and their liberators who also seemed amazingly calm about the whole matter. The next morning the British marched up the mountain and began an artillery barrage on the stronghold. This was followed with an assault and soon British flags were hoisted on the walls and the bands were playing: “God save the Queen!”

War in Spain
Stanley’s next assignment was to cover the rebellion in Spain. From there he was tasked to find the great African explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone. No word had been heard of him since he last entered the Dark Continent, on what became known as his third missionary journey.

Books, Duty and Action
Stanley noted that the thing he hated the most was waiting. “The more tasks I receive, the happier is my life. I want work… so that there will be no time for regrets, and vain desires, and morbid thoughts. In the interval books come in handy.” Although Stanley loved absorbing knowledge, he admitted that he also had “a craze for action”. He observed that his sufferings drove him to prove himself on the path of success. Stanley noted that “By intense application to duty, by self-denial,” he drove himself “that I might do my duty thoroughly.”“Stern duty commands me…”

Stanley had come through the fires determined to succeed, no matter what the odds. He had a tenacious and insatiable desire to succeed. With his quick mind and retentive memory, languages came easily to him. He taught himself French, Swahili, some Arabic and dozens of African dialects.

The Most Extraordinary Assignment
On 27 October 1869, he received one of the most extraordinary assignments ever entrusted to a newspaper reporter. James Gordon Bennet, Jr., of the New York Herald, commissioned Stanley to go to central Africa and to learn anything and everything that he could about Dr. David Livingstone and to find him. But first, he tasked Stanley to go and cover the Inauguration of the Suez Canal, and then to proceed up the Nile and find out about Sir Baker’s expedition. To travel to Jerusalem, and to Constantinople, to visit the Crimea, the Caucasus, Baghdad and Persepolis, and after that to India. Then to go to Zanzibar and from there to find Dr. David Livingstone.

Find Livingstone

“Draw a thousand pounds now and when you have gone through that, draw another thousand, and when that is spent, draw another, and when you finished that draw another thousand, and so on, but find Livingstone.

Stanley declared that he would do everything that a human being could possibly do and beyond that he would trust in God to enable him to do even more. Stanley immediately, that night, set out on his whirlwind tour of the Middle East, covering the opening of the Suez Canal at Port Said, the Holy places in Jerusalem, he walked over the old battlefields of the Crimean War, reported on the Russians’ civilising mission in Baku. Then to the exotic bazaars of Teheran in Persia, to the ruins of Persepolis, to India and then off to Zanzibar in Africa.

Slaves and Ivory
Stanley immediately saw that slaves and ivory were the primary export of Africa being brought out of the interior by unscrupulous Arab traders. The Arabs on Zanzibar regarded Africa as a source of seemingly unlimited numbers of slaves and elephant tusks.

Speke, Burton and Grant
In June 1856, Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke had set out from Zanzibar to find the source of the Nile. When Burton had fallen sick, Speke set out on his own and discovered, and named, Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile. Burton became Speke’s bitter enemy and disputed his findings. Therefore Speke set out with James Grant in 1860, to confirm that Lake Victoria was indeed the source of the Nile. Burton, Speke, Grant and Baker had all established their reputations as African explorers, but the explorer that had surpassed them all was the Scottish Missionary, Dr. David Livingstone.

David Livingstone
For over 20 years, he had walked across Africa, from coast to coast, crossing the Kalahari dessert, discovering Lake Ngami, Victoria Falls, one of the greatest cataracts in the world, Lake Malawi and many other previously unknown features of the continent. Dr. Livingstone was a tireless crusader against the slave trade. At 52 years old Livingstone had left England for the last time, 14 August 1865. Starting from Zanzibar, he proceeded to the mouth of the Rovuma River and from there went up to explore Lake Malawi. In December 1866, some deserters from his porters returned to Zanzibar with news that Livingstone was dead. The world mourned his passing, although some doubted the reports. When letters from Livingstone, dated February 1867 and July 1868 were brought out of the interior, it created a sensation. James Gordon Bennet believed that it would be a tremendous news story if this famous missionary explorer could be found and interviewed.

Preparing the Expedition
Henry Morton Stanley was only 29 years old when he began the expedition to find Livingstone. He had never before led, or organised, an expedition. Nor had he ever been a leader, or an employer, of men. Yet his wide reading and varied experiences and travel all seemed to have prepared him for this challenge. He spent over $20,000 on the expedition including purchasing millions of beads, and miles of wire and cloth needed for payment to cross tribal territories and to barter for food and other items in the interior. He located 6 Africans who had served explorers Burton, Speke and Grant, including Mabruki and Bombay, who was made captain of the askaris. Stanley purchased 20 donkeys, two boats, and tents, vast quantities of food, medicine, clothing, arms and ammunition.

Supplies for Africa
The supplies were packed in bails, bags and boxes, each weighing no more than 30kg. As everything had to be carried by porters, and as the supplies needed to last for at least two years, great pains and foresight was shown in every aspect of the preparation. Six tonnes of material needed to be carried into the interior. Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, over 742 miles inland from the coast, was the last location where Livingstone had been heard from, that was Stanley’s first target. Stanley recruited two other white men, 23 askaris, 157 pagazis (porters), 4 chiefs and 5 additional men with different duties, such as cook, Arabic interpreter, etc. A total of 192 men. At the beginning there were 2 horses and 27 donkeys. The baggage was: 116 loads. The weaponry was: 1 shot gun, 2 carbines, 4 rifles, 8 pistols, 24 flintlock muskets, 2 swords, 2 daggers, 2 axes, 24 hatchets, and 24 long knives.

Into Africa
At first the terrain was rough savannah. The climate was hot and humid with temperatures over 128°F. As the rainy seasons came the rivers swelled and animals and men bogged down in marsh and mud. Every river crossing required much ingenuity and hard work. Tsetse flies, mosquitos and every other kind of insect afflicted the men and animals of the column. In the 13 months of the expedition Stanley was laid low by fever on 23 occasions. Dysentery, smallpox, malaria and many unknown fevers afflicted all on the expedition. The first casualty was one of the white team members: William Farquhar, who died early on the expedition.

Leadership on the March
Every day presented new problems to be solved. Stanley soon learned that leadership required discipline, organisation, morale, motivation, conflict resolution and much communication. Many of the men contracted as porters deserted, stealing, or losing, the goods they were carrying. It was a never-ending struggle to keep the column together and to keep them moving forwards. Every chief demanded tribute for the travellers to pass through their territory. Yet, despite the many frustrations and delays, Stanley’s column achieved a rapid advance twice as fast as the column of Burton and Speke.

Conflict and Mutiny

There was a battle at Mirambo and most of his men were so frightened that they refused to go any further. The other white man on the expedition, Shaw, became demoralised and completely worthless at this point. Many men deserted the column. Mutiny erupted. Stanley loaded both barrels of his shotgun, adjusted his revolvers for ready action and walked towards the rebellious men who had picked up their muskets in a threatening way. Stanley raised the shotgun, aiming directly at their heads and commanded them to instantly drop their weapons. Asmani did not obey and Stanley knocked him to the ground. In this way the mutiny was quelled. Stanley compelled all those who would remain with him to swear a solemn promise to remain faithfully under his command until they found Livingstone. Despite many other troubles and starvation which plagued the expedition, the men remained faithful to this thereafter.

Praise and Criticism
Stanley was completely unprepared for the responses he would receive in Europe. The Paris Geographical Society condemned him as an imposter, but many French newspapers hailed his achievement in extravagant terms, comparing it to Napoleon’s march through the Alps! The people in England responded to Stanley’s exploits with intense interest and excitement. The Standard and the Spectator expressed suspicions and misgivings over the genuine-ness of his report. Some claimed that Stanley had not even been to Africa at all! Sensational stories and speculations abounded. The sudden fame, unexpected suspicions and vicious attacks upon his character, and unfair criticism of David Livingstone, disillusioned Stanley and made him want to recoil from society even more. Stanley wrote that his belief: “that toil, generosity, devotion to duty and righteous living would receive recognition at the hands of my fellow creatures…” was “shattered”.

Honours and Awards
However when Livingstone’s family confirmed beyond question the authenticity of the letters and papers which Stanley had brought back, all charges of forgery were withdrawn and the Times, the Daily News, the Daily Telegraph and Punch declared Stanley a true hero. Lord Granville, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, presented Stanley with a gold box with five dozen diamonds as a gift from her Majesty Queen Victoria “In recognition of the prudence and zeal displayed by him in opening communication with Dr. Livingstone.” He was later received by Queen Victoria. He was also honoured by the Royal Geographic Society, presented with the Victoria Medal, and offered public apology for their earlier conduct towards him.

In Scotland, Stanley was awarded another medal and made an honorary citizen. The completion and publication of Stanley’s book: How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, was achieved only three months after his arrival in Europe. It became an instant bestseller. Stanley began to receive a flood of letters from strangers, relatives and acquaintances from his early years, who were suddenly affectionate towards this orphan whom they had once spurned.

Fame and Jealousy
Sailing into New York, Stanley was received with great fanfare and warm welcome by the entire staff of the Herald. The only person missing from the welcome was the proprietor, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the one who had actually sent Stanley to Africa. His reporter’s fame provoked a deep displeasure which developed into jealousy and later hatred as Stanley returned from other expeditions and achieved even greater exploits. Bennett’s hatred lasted as long as Stanley lived.

Tour of America
Receptions, banquets, cheers and applause resounded throughout Stanley’s triumphal procession through the United States. Dr. Livingstone’s elder brother, John, came from Canada to New York, to thank Stanley personally for what he had done for his brother. Author Mark Twain praised Stanley extravagantly, even comparing him to Christopher Columbus.

War in Spain
When Bennett sent Stanley to cover the war in Spain he found it a welcome relief from the round of banquets, lectures, receptions, honours, controversy and criticisms, which had come at him relentlessly since his return from Africa.

The Ashantee Campaign
Then England embarked on another military expedition to Africa, this time to punish the Ashantees who had massacred 600 British citizens. Major General Sir Garnet Wolsely was in command of this expedition to what is today, Ghana. The year was 1873 and Stanley wrote: “The people are as barbarous, untutored and superstitious, as wild in appearance, as naked in body, as filthy in their habits as any tribe of savages I have ever seen.” Stanley described the grisly march, encountering human sacrifices and severed heads on poles in every village they passed through.

At Coomassie, Stanley located the killing fields of King Coffee of the Ashantee, a sacred grove where prisoners and slaves had been sacrificed. The terrible stench of decomposing corpses was overwhelming. Thirty, or more, decapitated bodies in the last stages of decomposition were immediately visible. Skulls were piled high and Stanley calculated that the grove contained the skulls of over 120,000 people.

Commendation from General Wolsely
The British Army fought three battles against the Ashantee, but while nothing in Stanley’s account of the expedition indicates that he took any personal share in the fighting, Lord Wolsely’s Memoirs described Henry Stanley: “A thoroughly good man, no noise, no danger ruffled his nerve, and he looked as cool and self-possessed as if he had been at target practice. Time after time, as I turned in his direction, I saw him go down to a kneeling positing to steady his rifle as he applied the most daring of the enemy with a never failing aim. the close shut lips and determined expression of his manly face… told plainly… no danger could appal… his cool unflinching manliness (gave) fresh courage. I’d been previously somewhat prejudiced against him, but all such feelings were slain and buried at Amoaful, ever since I have been proud to reckon him among the bravest of my brave comrades.” Stanley published his account of the British Military Campaigns in Abyssinia and Ashantee under the title: Coomassie and Magdala.

The Death of David Livingstone
It was while returning from the Ashantee war that Stanley heard of the death of Dr. David Livingstone. He wrote: “Dear Livingstone! Another sacrifice for Africa! His Mission, however, must not be allowed to cease others must go forward and fill the gap. . may I be selected to succeed him in opening up Africa to the light of Christianity… may Livingstone’s God be with me… may God direct me as He wills. I can only vow to be obedient, and not to slacken.”

Dedication to Livingstone’s Mission
Stanley saw Africa as a challenge, Livingstone as his example and inspiration. Stanley dedicated his life to serving Africa by developing Christianity and civilisation throughout its vast and unexplored interior. On 18 April 1874, Henry Morton Stanley was one of the pallbearers for the funeral of Dr. David Livingstone at Westminster Abbey. Stanley was given the foremost position on the right. Shortly after that the Daily Telegraph of London and the New York Herald united to fund an expedition to Central Africa under the leadership of Henry Stanley: “To complete the work left unfinished by the lamentable death of Dr. Livingstone to solve, if possible, the remaining problems of the geography of Central Africa and to investigate and report upon the haunts of the slave traders…”

Through the Dark Continent
On 15 August 1874, Stanley and three volunteers set sail from England for Zanzibar. He sought the men who had served him on the Livingstone Search Expedition, or who had served with Livingstone. Ultimately he selected 356 carriers and soldiers. On 12 November 1874, loaded with animals and supplies, they set sail for Bagamoyo, on the coast of East Africa. Immediately he had to deal with those of his men who began stealing from and assaulting the local inhabitants! Then when he found that some had kidnapped women he forced them to set them free. He then faced down a mutiny. Then there were desertions. They passed through areas of severe famine. Their guides deserted. New guides got them lost.

Heat, Famine and Pestilence
January 1875, began with a series of severe hardships and catastrophes. Men died from the heat, from lack of food and from exhaustion. Local inhabitants were hostile and severely overcharged the expedition for food. Sickness plagued the men. In the first two months, 20 people died and 89 deserted – one third of the expedition!

The First of Many Battles
Then the Ituru natives attacked the expedition. In just one battle the expedition lost 21 askaris. When Stanley reached Lake Victoria, he called on volunteers to man the boat, the Lady Alice. Not one, stepped forward. The men declared that they were “cowards on the water.” Thereafter Stanley dispensed with asking for volunteers and selected and ordered his men.

Lake Victoria
Beginning on 8 March 1875, Stanley explored Lake Victoria - establishing it as the largest lake in Africa, covering 26,000 square miles. Stanley sailed along, and mapped, its 2000 miles of shoreline, recording every cove, river and island connected with it. Frequently he faced savages, often drunk, screaming their intention to kill him. His calm and confident demeanour frequently prevented conflict.

Kabaka Mtesa
In April he met with Mtesa, the Kabaka (or king) of Uganda. John Hanning Speke had written of Mtesa. Mtesa claimed to be a Muslim having been converted to Islam by an Arab, Muley Bin Salim. Stanley determined to destroy his belief in Islam and teach the Doctrines of Christ. For 12 days Stanley instructed the king from the Old and New Testament, and at the end Mtesa announced that he would follow the Christian Sabbath, and he would instruct that the Ten Commandments be written on a board where everyone could see and study them everyday. Mtesa loaned Stanley canoes and men to explore the Western shores of Lake Victoria.

Missionaries for Uganda

Colonel Linant de Bellefonds was sent out by General Charles Gordon, Governor of Sudan, to establish communications with Uganda. Stanley entrusted him with a letter to the Daily Telegraph appealing for missionaries to be sent to Uganda. De Bellefonds was murdered in Sudan, but Stanley’s letters were discovered concealed in his boot. When they eventually found their way to England and were published by the Telegraph, a huge fund was collected and missionaries were sent out to Uganda where Christianity began to flourish.

In the Shadow of Death
Attacks increased in intensity, poisoned arrows were shot at them at any time of the day or night. They felt like hunted animals. Stanley rose to the occasion, clear-headed and calm in battle, confident that God was protecting him and that he was destined to complete his mission of ending the slave trade in Africa. By now his men had been hardened by travel and conflict and united into an effective fighting force and efficient team. After a long series of battles and skirmishes, they faced one of their most desperate battles on 1 February 1877.


Warned by great shouting and thunderous beating of drums they came around a bend, close to where the Aruwimi River joins the Congo. A fleet of gigantic canoes, bigger than anything they had ever seen before, blocked their way. He formed up his boats in a battle line and with the Lady Alice 50 yards ahead they confronted 54 battle canoes. The largest canoe had 80 paddlers. As the monster canoe aimed straight for the Lady Alice, Stanley encouraged his men: “Be firm as I am. Wait until you see the first spear, and then take good aim. Do not fire all at once. Keep aiming until you are sure of your man.”

Charging the Enemy
As the monster canoe discharged a broadside of arrows, Stanley and his men opened fire. The enemy retreated out of range to re-form for another attack. Stanley decided to pre-empt them by launching his own attack. In hot pursuit Stanley’s men forced their attackers’ withdrawal into a rout. When the attackers made for shore, Stanley’s men pursued them and chased them through their village and into the jungle.

Idolatry and Cannibalism
At the village they found a Meskiti, temple, where the large circular roof was supported by 33 tusks of ivory erected over an idol four feet high and painted bright red. This was the focus of worship of the Basoko Tribe. There were numerous skulls mounted on poles, a half-eaten human forearm and ribs on the fire.


By this point the expedition had travelled 340 miles north since leaving Nyangwe. This battle at the Aruwimi River mouth was their 28th battle in the Congo. 79 people had died on the expedition, so far. They were still in the middle of the continent and the exploration of the Congo River was not close to half completed. They still had a very long way to go, but Stanley was determined to never turn back. He kept up all details in his journal, writing “I persist…trusting events to an all gracious providence.”

Storms threatened the canoes with destruction. A chronic shortage of food threatened starvation. However, at this point they found friendly natives in the region of Rubunga, who were willing to trade food for wire and beads. Like the other tribes they encountered in the Congo, these people were elaborately tattooed. They had never seen a white man before, but they had in their possession 4 antique Portuguese muskets which had been traded for slaves. This greatly disturbed Stanley, as it indicated that he may begin encountering hostile tribes armed with muskets. His expedition’s 20 rifles and 20 muskets would be inadequate if confronted by a large number of hostiles armed with firearms.

Under Fire
The next tribe down the river, the Urangi, were also friendly and willing to trade so that the men of Stanley’s expedition began to hope that they were emerging from the heart of darkness and entering into the outskirts of civilisation. However, shortly after this a shot rang out from an Urangi canoe and one of Stanley’s men from Zanzibar fell dead from a ball fired from a musket. A few days later on 14 February, the expedition was attacked by the most militant tribe on the Congo, the Bangala. The Bangala were the most brilliantly decorated warriors they had yet encountered. Their war cries resounded as their canoes advanced towards Stanley’s men. Holding cloth in one hand and a coil of brass wire in the other, Stanley offered trade and peace. He had been told that the Bangala liked to trade, but they actually liked to fight more. The battle continued throughout the afternoon. Stanley counted 63 war canoes opposing them, each with an average of 5 muskets. That was over 300 guns against 40. The Bangala were skilful and aggressive. However, after a 5 hour battle, the Bangala retreated.

Through the Fire
This was Stanley’s 31st battle on the Congo. Very few professional soldiers have fought as many battles in a lifetime as Stanley fought in just 4 months. Incredibly, although Stanley was in the forefront of every battle, standing in the prow of the Lady Alice, he came through every battle unscathed.

More Cataracts
Three day later they reached a lake which was named Stanley Pool. At this point they had travelled 1,235 miles since leaving Nyangwe. Ahead of them were 32 cataracts. Many canoes were lost and injuries incurred as the boats were laboriously hauled overland past each cataract. At one point Stanley fell 30 feet into a chasm, but miraculously escaped with only minor injuries. Their largest canoe, the Crocodile, was swept over a waterfall with the loss of 7 men, including his adopted son, Kalulu. This cataract was then named Kalulu Falls.

Obstacle Marathon

The cataracts and rapids were so numerous that the team developed a standard routine for transporting canoes and kit past them. A dangerous whirlpool was only narrowly escaped. When the Lady Alice survived going over a waterfall and somehow remained afloat, this was named the Lady Alice Rapids. From 16 March to 21 April the expedition travelled only 34 miles in 37 days.

Superstitious Fears
At one point, local, until then friendly, natives advanced on the camp with muskets, spears, poisoned arrows and shrill war cries. Stanley asked them why they approached in such an aggressive fashion? Their reply was that they had seen the white man writing in a book. They demanded that he destroy his book because it was a bad omen and it meant that their goats would die!

To Burn or Not to Burn
As Stanley had filled his journal with invaluable geographical calculations, sketches, and details on tribes, languages and villages encountered, he could not sacrifice the fruit of all their trials and exploration. Nevertheless he was compelled to agree to burn the offending book. Stanley went to his tent and pulled out his well worn edition of Shakespeare. As this was a similar size and had the same cover as his journal, the natives did not realise the switch. They left with satisfaction when the book was burned to ashes.

Another Blow
By now their shoes were worn through and Stanley and the sole remaining European on the expedition, Frank Pocock, were reduced to wearing makeshift sandals. Ulcers and sores had developed on the souls of their feet. At another waterfall the last remaining European team member of Stanley was lost. Trying to steer around a treacherous whirlpool, Frank Pocock was lost.

Most of the men on the expedition fell into dark despair after this accident. After all the diseases, battles, struggles against nature, heat, exhaustion and strain, the men threatened mutiny. 31 attempted to desert, but local chiefs would not allow them to pass through their territory. Soon the mutineers had to return and Stanley attempted to inspire his tired, hungry and discouraged men.

Pressing On
In the next month they travelled only 3 miles. Another 3 cataracts remained ahead. The tribes were sullen and uncooperative, unwilling to trade any food. All on expedition were wasting away for lack of nourishment. There were only 116 people left on the expedition and 40 were seriously ill. As they were apparently only a few miles from Boma, where there were European settlers, Stanley sent messengers ahead requesting emergency food supplies. Two days later this messenger returned with pagazis bearing food and a message of welcome from the Europeans at Boma. This gave them strength to walk the remaining 3 days.

On 9 August 1877, 999 days after their departure from Zanzibar, they were welcomed back to civilisation by 4 white men who treated them to a banquet in Boma. They were then transported to Cabinda and a ship carried them to Luanda, where they boarded another ship to Cape Town. There Stanley was welcomed and honoured while his ship anchored in the bay. A British warship then carried the explorers from Cape Town to Zanzibar.

Against All Odds
Of the 359 people who had left Bagamoyo, with Stanley three years before, only 82 returned to Zanzibar with him. 58 had been killed in battles with cannibals in the Congo. 49 had died from smallpox. 9 had starved to death. 14 had drowned. Typhoid, fever, crocodiles and other causes accounted for the rest. Never before, nor since, has any African expedition accomplished so much. Stanley had surveyed the great lakes of Victoria and Tanganyika, and the world’s second longest river, the Congo. He had succeeded in exploring and mapping more territory than the explorations of Burton, Speke, Grant, Baker and even Livingstone. The political and commercial implications of his geographical discoveries were immense. Stanley was only 37 years old when he completed his expedition from coast to coast, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean across the heart of Africa.

Commerce and Civilization
Of all the great explorers, Stanley alone followed up his explorations by developing an empire. He determined to “pour the civilisation of Europe into the barbarian of Africa.” Commerce would be used to bring Christianity and culture to the Congo. He described isolation as the great curse of Central Africa. European missionaries and businessmen needed to open up the great continent to civilisation and free the Africans from animism, superstition, slavery, intertribal wars and cannibalism. The 1,425,000 square miles of the Congo River basin were comparable to the Mississippi and the Amazon. The 3,000 miles of the Congo River poured 12 million cubic feet of water into the Atlantic Ocean every second. It had a tremendous potential for hydroelectric power. Africa could be freed by civilising the Congo.

Honours and Awards
In January 1878, Stanley was welcomed to Europe by representatives of King Leopold II, of the Belgians. King Umberto of Italy sent him an award. The Khedive of Egypt sent him a medal. All the geographic societies awarded Stanley gold medals. The Prince of Wales paid him tribute. Governments throughout Europe honoured him and the Congress in the United States passed a unanimous Vote of Thanks for his achievements. Stanley was now the most famous African explorer alive. Just 4 months after his return he submitted his manuscript for Through the Dark Continent, which, in more than a thousand pages, catalogued his incredible journey.

Establishing the Congo Free State
In November 1878, King Leopold of the Belgians personally requested Stanley to lead a venture to create a Congo Free State. In May 1879, Stanley arrived back at the mouth of the Congo River with less than 100 men determined to bring civilisation to millions of the most savage people on earth, living in one of the world’s most remote and inhospitable regions. The debilitating furnace-like climate and dense jungles, treacherous rivers, and myriads of insects carrying fatal diseases, did not dampened the enthusiasm and vision of Stanley to bring civilisation to the Congo. For five and a half years he laboured to achieve this despite overwhelming frustrations. His efforts in the Congo earned him the name: “Bula Matari” (breaker of rocks).

A Man of Iron Will
Stanley had a reputation amongst his officers as a hard man. But his response was: “One is not likely to be hard with persons who perform their duties but it is difficult to be mild, or amiable with people who are absolutely incapable, and who will not listen to admonition, without bristling with resentment.” He was described as a man of iron, a man of courage, of dogged will and a splendid leader. But while he was respectful of the customs, traditions and beliefs of the Africans, he was considered harsh to his fellow Europeans. As one man said: Stanley had no real friends, but many enemies: “However long you might know him, I doubt you will ever become his friend.” Stanley could not understand, and had little use for, those who held their duty more lightly than he did. To him duty was everything. He did not play cards, or any other game, his only recreation was reading.

Civilizing the Congo
Stanley negotiated over 400 treaties with the once war-like tribes along the Congo River. These treaties became the foundations of the Congo Free State. Peace, order, progress and industrious work followed in his wake. He established five stations stretching over 450 miles inland and launched a steamer and sail boat on the upper Congo (above Stanley Pool). A road was built between Viva and Isangila. Even the wild and war-like Bangala made treaties with Bula Matari. Through his perseverance, diplomacy, patience and understanding of the tribes of the Congo, he brought civilisation to the tattooed and naked savages who had lived in barbarous depravity and cannibalism for centuries.

Life and Liberty
Stanley was hailed worldwide as the emancipator who ended the rampant inter-tribal slavery and Arab slave trade which had plundered the Congo for centuries. By the time his 5 years in the Congo was completed, Stanley had built a line of garrison stations for 1,400 miles up the Congo, established peace between tribes that had been in constant warfare for generations. He had established a far reaching political and commercial organisation, built roads and railways, launched two steamers on the upper Congo and three on the lower Congo, bringing peace, commerce and law to a land that had once been wild and lawless. Missionaries and traders were venturing up the river and establishing trading posts and mission stations where, just a few short years before, no one would have thought it possible.

General Charles Gordon
Stanley’s choice of a successor was General Charles Gordon, who was en-route to take over from Stanley when the Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan forced him to change his plans and head for his fatal date with destiny in Khartoum.

The Belgian Congo
Stanley regretted that many of his ideals and the principles of David Livingstone, which he had sought to honour, were betrayed by some of the men who followed him. In 1910, King Leopold persuaded the Belgian government to take responsibility for administering the Congo.

The Emin Pasha Expedition
Incredibly, that was not the end of the African adventures of Henry Morton Stanley. He later crossed Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean to rescue one of General Gordon’s governors, Emin Pasha. That epic of endurance started out with an expedition of 708 men, and ended with 196. Enroute 512 died. The afflictions, diseases and battles endured on the Emin Pasha rescue compare with Stanley’s exploration of the Congo. Stanley and his men were welcomed to German East Africa in Bagamoyo by the guns of the German warships in the harbour which boomed out a salute to this epic explorer. He then wrote: “In Darkest Africa” (903 pages).

Uganda Mission
He noted one of the most encouraging aspects of this Trans African expedition was visiting the Mission station of Rev. Alexander MacKay in Usambiro in Uganda. MacKay had been in Africa for 12 years, in response to Stanley’s urgent plea for missionaries after the conversion of Kabaka Mtesa. Stanley described MacKay as “the best missionary since Livingstone.”

Railways for Freedom
Stanley observed that the virtues of civilisation never seemed so clear as when he was in the jungle. The wilds of Africa never seemed so pleasant as when he was in the midst of civilisation. Stanley met with England’s Prime Minister, William Gladstone, and urged him to build a railroad from Mombasa on the East African coast to the shore of Lake Victoria to help suppress the slave trade.

Marriage and Parliament
At the age of 49, less than 3 months after his return to England from this last great African expedition, he married the talented and beautiful Dorothy Tennant at Westminster Abbey, 12 July 1890. Dorothy Tennant was a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. Stanley received honourary degrees from Edinburgh, Halle, Durham, Oxford and Cambridge. He conducted lecture tours of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In 1895, he was elected a Member of Parliament for North Lambeth, London. But he was a man of action, not a politician. He accomplished far more by his writings than by his speeches in Parliament. His book: Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa was effective in mobilising the political will and action necessary to finally crush the last remnants of that vile trade in Africa.

A Man with a Mission
In his autobiography, he wrote: “Those to whom… I ventured to consign the secret hopes and interests of my heart, invariably betrayed me… I learned by experience that there was no love for me, born, so to say fatherless, spurned and disowned by my mother, beaten almost to death by my teacher and guardian, fed on the bread of bitterness, how was I to believe in love. But I was not sent into the world to be happy, nor to search for happiness. I was sent for a special work.”

Mission Accomplished
In 1897, he paid his last visit to Africa to take part in the ceremonies opening the Bulawayo railway station in Southern Rhodesia. His last book was: Through South Africa, published in 1898. In 1899, at the age of 58, Stanley was knighted by the Queen. He died 10 May 1904 at 63 years old. He was the most famous convert of Dr. David Livingstone, one of the greatest explorers of all time and one of the most effective campaigners against the slave trade. His 1874 to 1877 Trans Africa Exploit was the most outstanding achievement in all the history of the exploration of Africa.

Henry Stanley, the Man Who Stole The Congo

The Victorian attitude to Africa was an unusual one. India they understood, they thought. India was a known quantity. But Africa…Africa was a mystery. There’s a phrase that’s used to describe those “uncorrupted” by civilisation – the Noble Savage. It’s an outwardly respectful term that under the surface heaves with contempt and unspoken superiority. To the Victorians, and the other Europeans of the 19th century, Africa itself was a Noble Savage. A land where the laws of civilisation, they felt, no longer applied to them. And in this belief were true monsters born.

Henry Morton Stanley, as he would later become, was born in Denbigh in northern Wales in 1841. His parents were not married, and his mother, a teenager named Elizabeth Parry, abandoned him to his father’s care shortly after his birth. His father’s name was John Rowlands, and that became his name as well. John senior was an alcoholic, however, and died when John junior was only two years old. His paternal grandfather had no interest in him, while his mother had at this stage decamped to London, so he was passed into the care of her relatives. At first his mother’s father, a butcher named Moses Parry, cared for him. Moses died when John was five, and he wound up in the workhouse, where he was beaten, bullied, and possibly sexually abused. At fifteen he ran away and got a job as an assistant school teacher, and then left Wales to go and stay with an aunt in Liverpool. There he decided to leave his country and even his name behind, and set off to the New World. [1]

The Battle of Shiloh, by Thure de Thulstrup.

John Rowlands arrived in New Orleans in 1859, where he found work as an assistant to a trader named Henry Hope Stanley – by, he later attested, walking up to him as he sat on his porch and asking for work. The two men became close, and the younger man decided to take the older man’s name – “John Rowlands” being the name of a father he despised, after all. [2] In 1862 Henry Morton Stanley (the name he would use for the rest of his life) decided to join the Confederate Army. This was less out of duty or desire for glory, and more due to social pressure. He had done his best to rid himself of his Welsh accent at this point, and claimed to be a native-born American – something which would greatly confuse later writers. He fought in the Battle of Shiloh, where General Ulysses S Grant succeeding in fighting off a surprise attack by the Confederates in what was the bloodiest battle of the war so far. Stanley was captured after the battle, and transported to Camp Douglas, near Chicago. This was the Union’s largest prisoner of war camp, and conditions were far from sanitary. Around 20% of the inhabitants of the camp would die from disease before the end of the war. Given that, and given his loose attachment to the Confederate cause, it’s not surprising that Stanley became a “Galvanised Yankee” – one of those in the POW camps who agreed to fight for the Union in exchange for their freedom. It’s also not surprising that he became ill after leaving the camp, and wound up being discharged from the Union Army on June 22nd, 1862 – less than three weeks after joining it. Once he recovered from his illness, Stanley found work as a sailor. He had worked his passage across from England, and so knew enough to make himself useful on board. At first he worked on merchant vessels, but in July 1864 he joined the US Navy, serving aboard the USS Minnesota. He was made the official ship’s record keeper, and discovered a talent for writing that opened his eyes to a new possible career. He would have been aboard the ship when it fought at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, when the Union captured the last sea port in Confederate hands and cut them off from the global trade network. In February 1865 the Minnesota was decommissioned, and in April the war ended. [3]

After the war, Stanley determined to become a writer. His descriptions of the battles the Minnesota had participated in showed that he had a gift for it, and for the next year he travelled around the US as an itinerant newspaper correspondent. One incident where he fell in with a travelling theatrical company is notable, as he later attested it was the only time he had ever gotten drunk – he found the loss of control, not to mention the hangover the next morning, intolerable. His sensible habits meant that he was able to save up enough money to fund a trip to Asia with a friend named Cook, with the thought of writing a travelogue. He had planned to go as far into Asia as he could manage, but the first country he called at, the Ottoman Empire, turned out to be the last as well. A guide across the country betrayed the travellers and sold them to bandits, who stole all their money, beat them and nearly killed them out of hand. Persuaded against this, the kidnappers instead handed them over to the authorities on a trumped up charge in the hopes of gaining a reward. This turned out to be a mistake as a friend they had made on the way contacted the American ambassador and had the two freed (and eventually compensated). The two returned home. Technically the expedition had been a disaster – but, it turned out, it would lead to Stanley’s fame and fortune. In the short term, his writing about the expedition got him a job writing press releases (a relatively novel concept at the time) for the Indian Peace Commission, [4] followed by a job as an overseas correspondent for the New York Herald.

David Livingstone was a Scottish explorer, and a Victorian hero. In 1866 he had set out to find the source of the Nile and had not been heard from since. In 1869 Stanley was called into the office of the owner of the paper, James Gordon Bennett, and given one job with an unlimited budget – “Find Livingstone!” So it was that Stanley set off to Africa, on the expedition that would make his name. After spending a year or so tracking down rumours and speculation about Livingstone’s whereabouts, Stanley finally found a lead worth tracking down in Tanzania. In March 1871 he set out on a 700 mile journey through the jungle with over 200 native porters, including a young slave he had been given as a gift by an Arab. The six year old boy was named Ndugu M’Hali, but Stanley renamed him Kalulu [5] and made him his manservant. From accounts it sounds like he originally treated his employees well but the harsh nature of the expedition soon soured his disposition towards them. On 10th November 1871 the expedition reached the town of Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, where the found Livingstone recuperating from an illness. On sighting Livingstone, the only white man for hundreds of miles, Stanley facetiously remarked:

Or perhaps he didn’t. Livingstone didn’t record the remark, and Stanley destroyed his diary pages for the day the two met. Regardless, the remark became a legendary example of unflappability and helped to establish Stanley’s place in the mythology of African explorers. The pair jointly explored the region around Lake Tanganyika, and verified that it was not a tributary to the Nile. Stanley then left, and urged Livingstone to come with him. The old explorer refused, and insisted on continuing his search for the source of the Nile. He kept looking until he died a year and a half later. His body was brought back to England and buried in Westminster Abbey, but his heart was buried in Africa.

Stanley’s return and report of the meeting, along with the letters and papers from Livingstone he brought back, were a media sensation. His book, How I Found Livingstone, immediately established him in the public eye as one of the great African explorers. He returned to England, and brought Kalulu with him. By English law even though Kalulu had been a slave in Africa he was free as soon as he stepped on British soil. Stanley took him with him on a lecture tour to America and Paris, and then sent him to school in Wandsworth. While he was at school Stanley published a novel called My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave, where a young Arab boy from a slave trading family is himself enslaved in Africa, and befriends a fellow slave named Kalulu. [6] The novel has a strongly anti-slavery message, as Stanley himself was at the time strongly against slavery. This would change. Stanley also became engaged to Alice Pike, the daughter of an American whisky distiller.

Ndugu M’Hali, later known as Kalulu.

In 1874 the New York Herald and the Daily Telegraph commissioned Stanley to complete the work of the recently deceased Livingstone by charting the inlets and outlets of the known great central African lakes. He took Kalulu with him as an interpreter. The trip took three years, and while the first couple of years were broadly successful (mapping the perimeters of Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika) they were forced to give up the plan to map Lake Albert due to an ongoing war in the region. Stanley gained a reputation for violence towards the natives, however, and Sir Richard Burton commented that he shot the natives “as if they were monkeys”. However the last leg, mapping the course of the Lualaba River, was a much more dicey affair. It took them through unknown territory, and territories known to be unfriendly to outsiders. Stanley’s goal was to show that the river was a tributary of the Congo River, and in this he succeeded. After over 1200 miles of river, the final obstacle the expedition faced was thee Livingstone Falls – 155 miles of waterfalls and rapids. There were several lives lost in the descent, including that of Kalulu. In August 1877 the expedition finally made it back to Zanzibar, nearly three years after they had set out. Stanley sent his dispatches to his publisher, and received in return the news that Alice had married another man. [7]

Stanley’s book describing the journey, Through The Dark Continent, was a great success. One of those who read it was King Leopold II of Belgium, who had ambitions of establishing African colonies for his country. The untamed land Stanley described sounded, to him, like an ideal candidate. Stanley had been trying, and failing, to persuade the British authorities to commission him to bring the region under their control, but had been having little luck – most regarded him as an “upstart American”, ironically. (His American backers wanted to send him off on a polar expedition, which he was less than enthused about.) Leopold was the answer to Stanley’s prayers. At the time the region was under the nominal control of Portugal, but Leopold managed (under the cover of a plan to civilise the region and dismantle the slave trade) to gain international support for taking over the region. While this was going on in 1879 Stanley led an expedition though the Congo basin for the King, building roads, establishing steamship ports on the river, and persuading native rulers to sign away their rights to their lands. Even by the standard of his time Stanley was considered brutal – shooting natives for the the smallest provocation, looting stores of ivory, and giving people a foretaste of the new bloody regime.

By 1884 Stanley had established the foundations of the Congo Free State. The “Free State” was in truth little more than a slave economy on a widespread scale, where all lives were in Leopold’s gift. The main output of the region was rubber, which Europe had an insatiable appetite for. Failure to meet one’s rubber quota was punishable by death, proven by delivering the dead man’s right hand. Villages unable to meet their quotas would go to war to harvest hands to deliver instead. It’s estimated that the country Stanley created led to the death of 10 million people – half the population of the region – over the next 20 years.

Emin Pasha, who was originally named Eduard Schnitzer.

The excesses of Leopold’s rule in the Congo soon became apparent, and the Belgian monarch would fight a propaganda war for the rest of his reign. Stanley, too, suffered in the public eye. Fortunately for him, there was an opportunity to redeem himself. Unfortunately it would turn into such a debacle that it would end the era of African expeditions forever. The opportunity came when the Mahdists (an Islamic sect of apocalyptists) raised a rebellion in the Sudan. Their conquests led to the isolation of the Egyptian province of Equatoria, on the northern shore of Lake Albert. The governor of the region, a German doctor named Emin Pasha, had appealed to the British for assistance, but the British government had their hands full fighting the Mahdists. The British press, however, played up Pasha’s plight. The Scottish businessman William McKinnon, who had made his fortune through colonial trading, decided to organise a relief expedition. He recruited Stanley to lead it, and Stanley was quick to make clear in the press that this was a mission of mercy.

The expedition is non-military–that is to say, its purpose is not to fight, destroy, or waste its purpose is to save, to relieve distress, to carry comfort.

They left London in January 1887 to widespread public acclaim, and in May they arrived in Leopoldville (the capital of the Congo region that Stanley had established in 1881, nowadays called Kinshasa). On the 1st June the advance column of 389 men set out for Lake Albert. They expected the journey to take two months – it took nearly six, and claimed the lives of 220 men. Worse, when they reached Lake Albert they could not find Emin Pasha. The rear column, which was supposed to establish their route home, collapsed into infighting and was almost completely lost. Eventually they located him, only to find that he did not want to leave. However the rumours that he was planning to abandon his men led to a mutiny, and he was forced to leave with them. With their route back down the Congo cut off they were forced to head south and hope for the best. In a stroke of luck for them though the German Army had moved into Tanzania and colonised the country while they had been on the expedition, so they had a much easier time getting out than they had getting in. It was the end of 1889 before they finally made it back to the coast, where the expedition broke up. Stanley stopped off in Cairo for a couple of months, where he wrote In Darkest Africa, his story of the expedition.

Dorothy Tennant, painted by George Frederick Watts.

Stanley returned to London in May 1890 to initial huge acclaim, and married a Welsh artist named Dorothy Tennant. However the public mood soon soured on Stanley. The huge number of casualties among the expedition soon became apparent, but worse was the controversy caused by Stanley’s account of the expedition. In it he castigated two of the commanders of the rear column, James Jameson (heir of the Jameson whisky family, and known as Sligo) and Edmund Barttelot. Both had died on the expedition, and the family found the accounts of their conduct given by Stanley somewhat objectionable. The tales of Barttelot abusing the natives until one finally knifed him were bad enough, but the story of Sligo Jameson was far worse. According to Stanley (and later substantiated by his own diary), before he died of a fever Sligo had been taking notes on native customs. In furtherance of this, he had bought a young girl from a slave trader, and given her to a group of cannibals in exchange for being allowed to watch them eat her. The scandal clung to the Jameson name for years, and led to Jamesons being referred to as “cannibal whiskey”.

The Emin Pasha Relief Expedition was the last of the African expeditions, and Stanley found himself in a somewhat reluctant retirement from the adventuring life. He was fifty years old, after all, and his health had suffered somewhat over the years. In 1895 he became a Liberal MP, and in 1899 a Knight of the Order of the Bath. His reputation improved, and America and Britain both competed to claim him as a native son. Some stigma still remained however – when he had requested that he be buried in Westminster Abbey, but when he died in 1904 this was refused. Instead he was buried in Pirbright, Surrey. His epitaph read “Bula Matari” – in Kikongo, the “Breaker of Stones”.

Stanley’s autobiography was published by his widow in 1909, and his story of his Welsh origins was rapidly accepted by a public that had transformed him into a part of the romanticised history of African exploration. In later years, as the true extent of the horrors of Leopold’s Congo became apparent, that history soon began to unravel. In 2010 Denbigh in Wales, where Stanley had claimed to have been born, honoured its most famous son with a statue in the town despite fierce protests from those who regarded him as a symbol of European arrogance and aggression. To this day his statue is the focus of protest, with the face frequently being painted white – a symbolic representation of the “whitewashing” of history. On several occasion the statue has been clad in a rubber body bag by a group of artists in protest. Yet still, the local people are proud of the statue, and proud of their native son. And if he did do those terrible things – it was in Africa. Where there were no rules.

[1] A caveat. While the rest of Stanley’s life is reasonably well attested, the information in this paragraph comes largely (directly or indirectly) from Stanley’s biography. Stanley, unfortunately, was a notable fantasist and compulsive liar. As such, some scholars doubt the veracity of several of these facts (for instance, several believe that Stanley’s father was a married lawyer named James Vaughan Horne).

[2] Modern historians often question Stanley’s sexuality, based on some episodes later in his life. As such, the fact that he became such a close confidante of Henry Hope Stanley so quickly, and took on his name, could be subject to an entirely different reading in modern times. It’s also suggestive that he would later claim that the older man died in 1861, when according to local records he survived until 1878.

[3] Stanley would later claim to have “jumped ship” on the 10th of February, but this was probably a later exaggeration.

[4] The “Indians” in question being Native Americans.

[5] Which means “Baby Antelope”, at least according to Stanley. He reportedly almost called the boy “Munro”, possibly after a notoriously anti-slavery British governor in India the previous century, but was told the pro-slavery locals would not appreciate the joke.

[6] The relationship between Stanley and Kalulu is another point of contention, with some historians pointing to the homoerotic undertones of My Kalulu as evidence of a relationship between the two. There is no actual evidence of any kind for this, however.

[7] Alice Pike Barney, as she became, would become a pivotal figure in the American art world.

Henry Morton Stanley sculpture, St Asaph

Henry Morton Stanley sculpture

This sculpted tower tells the life story of journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley, celebrated in Victorian times for the quote: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

The sculpture was designed by Gary and Thomas Thrussell, of Cornwall. Commissioned by St Asaph Council with funding from Cadwyn Clwyd, it was placed here in June 2011. Scenes from Stanley’s eventful and sometimes controversial life spiral around the tower. Some of the images were drawn by local school pupils. The tower is topped by a miniature copy of a Congolese effigy.

Stanley was born as John Rowlands to unmarried parents in Denbigh in 1841. He was raised at the Union Workhouse in St Asaph, which had been built only a short while earlier after a meeting at this hotel in 1837. The workhouse building, by Upper Denbigh Road, still stands. It was the HM Stanley Hospital for many decades.

After John Rowlands arrived in the USA in 1859, a merchant called Henry Stanley helped him find his feet. Rowlands took has friend’s name, and later served – on both sides – in the American Civil War.

He had been working as the New York Herald’s special correspondent for two years when, in 1869, the editor dispatched him to Africa to interview the Scottish missionary David Livingstone, who had not communicated with the outside world for two years. In November 1871 Stanley met him near Lake Tanganyika. On finding him, looking pale and “wearied”, Stanley claimed simply to have lifted his hat and uttered the words: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Stanley’s dispatches from Africa were popular with American and British readers. He continued to explore the continent and hatched a plan to exploit the Congo’s natural resources. He enlisted Belgium’s support and began constructing roads, using forced labour. He was said at the time to shoot African people “as if they were monkeys”.

He became MP for Lambeth, London, in 1895, was knighted four years later, and died in 1904.

People, Locations, Episodes

*Sir Henry Morton Stanley was born on this date 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, the register recording that he had been born on January 28 of 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 own 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's. 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 apparently 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 a number of 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 Arabian and African ancestry: "Africanized Arabs", in Stanley's words. They became the backbone of all his major expeditions and 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 on the committee of the Anti-slavery Society and 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, the selling of laborer’s into slavery, the sexual exploitation of native women and the plundering of villages for ivory and canoes. Kirk's report to the British Foreign Office was never published, but 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.