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[392]

Chapter XVIII
work in Review

the close of the story of Stanley's African explorations may fitly be followed by a survey of the net result. Such an estimate is given in a paper by Mr. Sidney Low, in the “Cornhill Magazine,” for July, 1904, together with a sketch of Stanley's personality, at once so just and so sympathetic that the entire article, with only slight omissions, is here given a place.

The map of Africa is a monument to Stanley, aere perennius.1 There lie before me various atlases, published during the past sixty years, which is less than the span of Stanley's lifetime. I turn to a magnificently proportioned volume, bearing the date of 1849, when John Rowlands was a boy at school at Denbigh. In this atlas, the African Continent is exhibited, for about a third of its area, as a mighty blank. The coast is well-defined, and the northern part, as far as ten degrees from the Equator, is pretty freely sprinkled with familiar names. We have Lake Tchad, Bornu, Darfur, Wadi-el-Bagharmi, Sennaar, Kordofan, and Khartum, and so on. But at the southern line of “the Soudan, or Nigritia,” knowledge suddenly ceases; and we enter upon the void that extends, right through and across Africa, down to the Tropic of Capricorn. “Unexplored” is printed, in bold letters, that stride over fifteen hundred miles of country, from the tropical circle to well beyond the Equator! The great lakes are marked only by a vague blob, somewhere in the interior, west of the Zanzibar territory. The estuary of the “Congo, or Zaire” is shown, and a few miles of the river inland. After that we are directed, by uncertain dots, along the supposed course of the stream northward, to where it is imagined to take its rise in the Montes Lunae, for which the map-maker can do no better for us than to refer, in brackets, to “Ptolemy” and “Abulfeda Edrisi.”

I pass to another atlas, dated 1871. Here there is considerable progress, especially as regards the eastern side of the Continent. The White Nile and the Bahr-el-Ghazal have been traced almost to their sources. The Zambesi is known, and the Victoria Falls are marked. Lakes Victoria Nyanza and Nyassa appear with solid boundaries. Tanganyika, however, is still uncertain, the Albert Nyanza with its broken lines testifies to the doubts of the geographer, and the Albert Edward does not appear at all; and beyond the line of the lakes, and north of the tenth degree of south latitude, [393] the blank of the interior is still as conspicuous, and almost as unrelieved, as it was two-and-twenty years earlier.

By 1882, there is a great change. The name of Stanley has begun to be written indelibly upon the surface of the Continent. The vague truncated “Congo, or Zaire” is the “Livingstone River,” flowing in its bold horseshoe through the heart of the formerly unexplored region, with “Stanley Falls” just before the river takes its first great spring westward, and “Stanley Pool” a thousand miles lower down, where, after a long southerly course, the mighty stream makes its final plunge to the sea. Tributary rivers, hills, lakes, villages, tribal appellations, dot the waste. Uganda is marked, and Urua, and Unyanyembe.

If we pass on to the present day, and look at any good recent map, the desert seems to have become — as, indeed, it is — quite populous. There is no stretch of unknown, and apparently unoccupied land, except in the Sahara, and between Somaliland and the White Nile. All the rest is neatly divided off, and most of it tinted with appropriate national colours; the British, red; the French, purple; the German, brown; the Portuguese, green. In the map I am looking at there is, right in the middle, a big irregular square or polygon, which is painted yellow. It is twelve hundred miles from north to south, a thousand from east to west. It is scored by the winding black lines of rivers,--not the Congo only, but the Aruwimi, the Lualaba, the Sankalla, the Ubangi. It is the Congo Free State, one of the recognised political units of the world, with its area of 800,000 square miles, and its population computed at fifteen millions. The great hollow spaces have been filled in. The Dark Continent is, geographically at any rate, dark no longer. The secret of the centuries has been solved!

Geographical science has still its unfulfilled tasks to finish; but there can never again be another Stanley! He is the last of the discoverers, unless, indeed, we shall have to reserve the title for his friend and younger disciple, Sven Hedin. No other man, until the records of our civilisation perish, can lay bare a vast unknown tract of the earth's surface, for none such is left. The North Pole and the South Pole, it is true, are still inviolate; but we know enough to be aware how little those regions can offer to the brave adventurers who strive to pierce their mysteries. There is no Polar continent, nor open Antarctic Sea, only a dreary waste of lifeless ice, and unchanging snow. But the habitable and inhabited globe is mapped and charted; and none of the explorers, who laboured at the work during the past fifty years, did so much towards the consummation as Stanley. Many others helped to fill in the blank in the atlas of 1849, which has become the network of names in the atlas of 1904.

A famous company of strong men gave the best of their energies to the opening of Africa during the nineteenth century. They were missionaries, like Moffat and Livingstone; scientific inquirers, like Barth, Rohlfs, Du Chaillu, Teleki, and Thomson; adventurous explorers, [394] like Speke, Grant, Burton, Cameron, and Selous; and soldiers, statesmen, and organisers, such as Gordon, Rhodes, Samuel Baker, Emin Pasha, Johnston, Lugard, and Taubman Goldie — but there is no need to go through the list. Their discoveries were made often with a more slender equipment and scantier resources; as administrators, one or two at least could be counted his equals. But those of the distinguished band, who still survive, would freely acknowledge that it was Stanley who put the crown and coping-stone on the edifice of African exploration, and so completed the task, begun twenty-four centuries ago with the voyage of King Necho's Phoeenician captains, and the Periplus of Hanno.

It was Stanley who gathered up the threads, brought together the loose ends, and united the discoveries of his predecessors into one coherent and connected whole. He linked the results of Livingstone's explorations with those of Speke, and Grant, and Burton, and so enabled the great lacustrine and riverine system of Equatorial Africa to become intelligible. Without him, the work of his most illustrious predecessors might still have remained only a collection of splendid fragments. Stanley exhibited their true relation to one another, and showed what they meant. He is the great — we may say the final — systematiser of African geography, and his achievements in this respect can neither be superseded nor surpassed, if only because the opportunity exists no longer.

As a fact, Stanley not only completed, but he also corrected, the chief of all Livingstone's discoveries. The missionary traveller was steadily convinced that the Nile took its rise in Lake Tanganyika; or, rather, that it passed right through that inland sea. Stanley, when he had found the Doctor, and restored the weary old man's spirit and confidence, induced him to join in an exploration trip round the north end of Tanganyika, which proved that there was no river flowing out of the lake, and therefore that no connection was possible with the Nile system. But Livingstone still believed that he was on the track of the great Egyptian stream. He persisted in regarding his Lualaba as one of the feeders of the Nile, and he was in search of the three fountains of Herodotus, in the neighbourhood of Lake Bangweolo, when he made his last journey. It was reserved for Stanley to clear up the mystery of the Lualaba, and to identify it with the mighty watercourse which, after crossing the Equator, empties itself, not into the Mediterranean, but into the South Atlantic.

Stanley regarded himself, and rightly, as the geographical legatee and executor of Livingstone. From the Scottish missionary, during those four months spent in his company in the autumn of 1871, the young adventurer acquired the passion for exploration and the determination to clear up the unsolved enigmas of the Dark Continent. Before that, he does not seem to have been especially captivated by the geographical and scientific side of travel. He liked visiting strange countries, because he was a shrewd observer, with [395] a lively journalistic style, which could be profitably employed in describing people and places. But the finding of Livingstone made Stanley an explorer; and his own nature made him, in a sense, a missionary, though not quite of the Livingstone kind. He was a man who was happiest when he had a mission to accomplish, some great work entrusted to him which had to be got through, despite of difficulties and dangers; and when the famous traveller laid down his tired bones in the wilderness, Stanley felt that it was decreed for him to carry on the work. So he has said himself in the opening passage of the book in which he described the voyage down the Congo. When he returned to England in 1874, after the Ashanti War, it was to learn that Livingstone was dead:--

The effect which this news had upon me, after the first shock had passed away, was to fire me with a resolution to complete his work, to be, if God willed it, the next martyr to geographical science, or, if my life was to be spared, to clear up not only the secrets of the great river throughout its course, but also all that remained still problematic and incomplete of the discoveries of Burton and Speke, and Speke and Grant.

The solemn day of the burial of the body of my great friend arrived. I was one of the pall-bearers in Westminster Abbey, and when I had seen the coffin lowered into the grave, and had heard the first handful of earth thrown over it, I walked away sorrowing over the fall of David Livingstone.

There must have been some among those present at the Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey, on May 17, 1904, who recalled these simply impressive words, and they may have wondered why the great Englishman who uttered them was not to lie with the great dead of England at Livingstone's side.

It is not merely on geographical science that Stanley has left a permanent impress, so that, while civilised records last, his name can no more be forgotten than those of Columbus and the Cabots, of Hudson and Bartolomeo Diaz. His life has had a lasting effect upon the course of international politics. The partitioning of Africa, and its definite division into formal areas of administration or influence, might have been delayed for many decades but for his sudden and startling revelation of the interior of the Continent. He initiated, unconsciously, no doubt, and involuntarily, the “scramble for Africa” in which Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal have taken part. The opening up of the Congo region, by his two great expeditions of 1874 and 1879, precipitated a result which may have been ultimately inevitable, but would perhaps have been long delayed without his quickening touch. The political map of Africa, as it now appears, and is likely to appear for many generations to come, was not the work of Stanley; but without Stanley it would not have assumed its present shape. His place is among those who have set the landmarks of nations and moulded their destinies.

When you conversed with him, at least in his later years, you [396] easily discovered that he had a firm grasp of the general sequence of European and Oriental history, and a considerable insight into modern ethnological and archaeological learning. He had formed independent and original ideas of his own on these subjects; and when he talked, as he sometimes would, of the Sabaeans and the Phoenicians, and the early Arab voyagers, you saw that, to the rapid observation of the man of action, he had added much of the systematising and deductive faculty of the scholar. He possessed the instinct of arrangement, which is the foundation of all true scholarship, and perhaps of all great practical achievement as well.

His intellectual power was, I think, seldom appreciated at its true value. Its full measure is not given in his books, in spite of their vigorous style, their dramatic method of narration, and their brilliant pictorial passages; but nearly everything he wrote was in the nature of rather hurried journalism, the main object of which was to explain what had happened, or to describe what had been seen. Not in these graphic volumes, but in the achievements which gave rise to them, is Stanley's mental capacity made manifest. He was not only a born commander, prompt, daring, undaunted, irresistible, but also a great administrator, a great practical thinker. He thought out his problems with slow, thorough patience, examined every aspect of them, and considered all the possible alternatives, so that when the time came for action he knew what to do, and had no need to hesitate. His fiery, sudden deeds were more often the result of a long process of thought than of a rapid inspiration. The New York correspondent of the “Times,” who knew him well, tells an illustrative story:--

He and his whole party had embarked on Lake Tanganyika, knowing that the banks were peopled, some with friendly, some with hostile tribes. His canoes moved on at a respectful distance from the nearest shore. Sometimes the friendly people came off to sell their boat-loads of vegetables and fruit. “But suppose they were not friendly,” said Stanley to himself, “then, what?” So one day there approached a fleet of canoes, with all the usual signs of friendly commerce. They were piled high with bananas. “I thought” (said Stanley) “they had a large supply, and the boats were deep in the water; still, there was nothing that looked really suspicious. There were just men enough to paddle the canoes; no more. I let them come close, but I kept my eye on them, and my hand on the trigger of my elephant gun. They were but a few yards off when I saw a heap of bananas stir. I fired instantly, and instantly the water was black with hundreds of armed black men who had been hidden beneath the banana-heaps. I do not think many of them got ashore. If I had stopped to think, they would have been aboard us, and it is we who should not have got ashore. But I had done my thinking before they came near.”

Similarly he spoke of Gordon's end. “If,” he said, “I had been sent to get the Khartoum garrison away, I should have thought of [397] that and nothing else; I should have calculated the chances, made out exactly what resistance I would have to encounter, and how it could be overcome, and laid all my plans with the single object of accomplishing my purpose.” I believe, though he did not say so, that he thought the retreat could have been effected, or the town held, till the Relief Column arrived, if proper measures had been taken, and the one definite aim had been kept steadily in view all the time. That was his principle of action. When he had an object to fulfil, a commission to carry out, he could think of nothing else till the work was done. Difficulties, toil, hardships, sacrifices of all kinds, of time, of men, of money, were only incidents in the journey that led to a goal, to be reached if human endeavour could gain it. “No honour,” he wrote, “no reward, however great, can be equal to the subtle satisfaction that a man feels when he can point to his work and say: ‘ See, now, the task I promised you to perform with all loyalty and honesty, with might and main, to the utmost of my ability is, to-day, finished.’ ” This was the prime article in Stanley's confession of faith — to do the work to which he had set his hand, and in doing it, like Tennyson's Ulysses,

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Both aspects of his character, the practical and the intellectual, were revealed in the two great expeditions of 1874 and 1879. The crossing of Africa, which began in the first year, was a marvellous performance in every way. Its results were immense, for it was the true opening of the Equatorial region, and added more to geographical knowledge than any enterprise of the kind in the nineteenth century, or perhaps in any century. Great conquerors at the head of an army — an Alexander, or a Genghis Khan — may have done as much; but no single individual revolutionised so large a tract of the earth's surface, with only a handful of armed men and a slender column of camp-followers and attendants. Wonderful, indeed, was the tour of the great lakes, the circumnavigation of the Victoria Nyanza, the conversion of King Mtesa of Uganda, the unveiling of the fertile, semi-civilised country, islanded for centuries in the ocean of African barbarism, which is now a British Protectorate, linked up with Charing Cross by rail and steamer. But the toilsome journey up from the East Coast was nothing to that which followed, when the party left Uganda and turned their faces to the Congo, resolved to follow the great river down to the sea. His gifts of leadership were at their highest in this memorable march, from the time that he left Nyangwe, in November, 1876, to his arrival at Boma, near the Congo estuary, in August, 1877. He had to be everything by turn in this space of ten eventful mouths — strategist, tactician, geographer, medical superintendent, trader, and diplomatist. There were impracticable native chiefs to be conciliated, the devious designs of that formidable Arab potentate, Tippu-Tib, to be penetrated and countered, inexorably hostile savages to be beaten off by [398] hard fighting. The expedition arrived at Boma, a remnant of toil-worn men, weakened by disease, and very nearly at the point of starvation. Stanley's white companions had perished, and his native contingent had suffered heavily; but the allotted task was accomplished, and the silent pledge, registered by Livingstone's grave, had been fulfilled.

It was this famous journey — the most remarkable, if judged by its results, in the whole history of African travel — which placed Stanley's reputation as a leader and discoverer on the highest pinnacle. It was not an unassailed reputation. Much was said about his high-handed methods, and many good people in England, those

Good people, who sit still in easy chairs,
And damn the general world for standing up,

chose to regard him as a sort of filibuster. They contrasted his methods with those of some of his predecessors and contemporaries, who had contrived to spend years in Africa without fighting and bloodshed; but they did not allow for the difference in the conditions. Most of the other travellers had been the sport of circumstances. They had wandered from place to place, turned from their course, again and again, by hostile tribes and churlish chiefs. They found out a great deal, but not, as a rule, that which they came to find. Their discoveries were largely accidental; even Livingstone was constantly deflected from his route, and was unable to pursue to its conclusion the plan of tracing the central watershed which he had set before himself. Stanley had a perfectly definite purpose, which he determined to carry out; and he succeeded. His scheme involved passing through an immense region, inhabited by a comparatively numerous population, of a higher type than those encountered nearer the coast, more energetic and more warlike. As a rule, he made his way among them by bargain and negotiation; but, sometimes, he had to fight or to turn back; and he accepted the sterner alternative. If he had refused to do so, he could not have reached his goal. The expedition might still have added enormously to the sum of scientific knowledge, but in the achievement of its ultimate and clearly-conceived object it would have been a failure. Stanley did not mean that it should fail; he was always ready to sacrifice himself, and when necessary he was prepared, as great men who do great deeds must be, to sacrifice others. But there was never the smallest justification for representing him as a ruthless, iron-handed kind of privateer on land, who used the scourge and the bullet with callous recklessness. There was nothing reckless about Stanley, except, at times, his speech. In action, he was swift and bold, but not careless.

To inflict superfluous suffering, to shoot and slay without thinking of the consequences — this was utterly alien to his systematic, calculating methods. He would do it, if there seemed no other means of gaining the end, as a general would order a column to [399] destruction to save his army and win a victory. But he was essentially a humane man, masterful and domineering, and yet, au fond, gentle and kindly, particularly to the weak and suffering. Opposition stiffened the obstinate will to resistance; he was not a safe person to thwart, even in small matters. He remembered a benefit, and he did not forget an injury. It was said that he was unforgiving, and, perhaps, there was something in the charge. In his intense, self-contained nature wounds rankled long; and he had little of that talent for oblivion which is so easily developed among comfortable people, whose emotions and experiences have never been poignant enough to disturb their peace of mind.

One who knew Stanley well, and studied him with an eye at once penetrating and friendly, believed that through life he bore the characteristic traces of his Cymric origin. He had the Welsh peasant's quickness of temper, his warmth of affection, his resentfulness when wronged, his pugnacity, and his code of ethics, ultimately derived from John Calvin. Welsh Protestantism is based on a conscientious study of the biblical text. Stanley carried his Bible with him through life, and he read it constantly; but I should imagine that he was less affected by the New Testament than by the prophetic and historical books of the Hebraic scriptures. He believed profoundly in the Divine ordering of the world; but he was equally assured that the Lord's Will was not fulfilled by mystical dreams, or by weak acquiescence in any wrong-doing that could be evaded by energetic action. With Carlyle, he held that strength is based on righteousness, and that the strong should inherit the earth; and saw no reason why there should be any undue delay in claiming the inheritance. “The white man's burden” could not be shirked, and should, on the contrary, be promptly and cheerfully shouldered.

“It is useless” (he wrote, having in view the American Indians) “to blame the white race for moving across the continent in a constantly-increasing tide. If we proceed in that manner, we shall presently find ourselves blaming Columbus for discovering America, and the Pilgrim Fathers for landing on Plymouth Rock! The whites have done no more than follow the law of their nature and being.”

He had his own idea about prayer. A man, he thought, ought to lay his supplications before the Throne of the Universe; and he attached great value to prayers for deliverance from danger and distress. But the answer was not to be expected by way of a miracle. The true response is in the effect on the suppliant himself, in the vigour and confidence it gives to his spirit, and the mental exaltation and clearness it produces. That was Stanley's opinion; and he had no great respect for the martyrs, who yielded to their fate with prayer, when they might have averted it by action.

The crossing of Africa was Stanley's premier achievement as a leader of men. The founding of the Congo State revealed him as a great administrator and organiser. It was a wonderful piece of management, a triumph of energy, resource, and hard work. Here [400] it was that Stanley earned the title which, I think, gave him more satisfaction than the belated G. C. B., conferred on him towards the end of his life. The natives called him “Bula Matari,” which, being interpreted, means “the Breaker of Rocks” --an appellation bestowed upon him by the brown-skinned villagers as they watched the sturdy explorer toiling, bare-armed, under the fierce African sun, with axe or hammer in hand, showing his labourers, by example and precept, how to make the road from Vivi to Isangela, which bridged the cataracts of the Lower Congo, and opened the way to the upper reaches of the river.

The founding of the Congo State can be compared with the achievements of the two other great enterprises of our own time, which have converted vast tracts of primitive African savagery into organised states under civilised administration. But Stanley's task was heavier than that of the pioneers of Rhodesia, and the creators of Nigeria. The sphere of his operations was longer; the native populations were more numerous and more utterly untouched by external influences other than those of the Arab slave-raiders; the climatic and physical obstacles were more severe; he had foreign opposition to contend with from without, and many difficulties with the pedantry, the obstinacy, and the greed of some of the officials sent out to him by his employers. Yet in the short space of five years the work was done! The Congo was policed, surveyed, placed under control. A chain of stations was drawn along its banks; systematic relations had been established with the more powerful native potentates; an elaborate political and commercial organisation had been established; the transport difficulties had been overcome, and the whole region thrown open to trade under the complicated and careful regulations which Stanley had devised. It was no fault of Stanley's if the work has been badly carried on by his successors, and if the Congo State, under a regime of Belgian officials, not always carefully selected, has not, so far, fulfilled the promise of its inception. So long as Stanley was in Africa, no disaster occurred; there was no plundering of the natives, and no savage reprisals. If he had been permitted to remain a few years longer, the advance of the Congo State might have been more rapid, particularly if he could have been seconded by subordinates with a higher inherited capacity for ruling inferior races than Belgians could be expected to possess. It was a cause of regret to him, I believe, that England did not take a larger share in this international enterprise.

But England for long ignored or belittled the work that Stanley did. It was not till public opinion, throughout the Anglo-Saxon and Latin world, had acclaimed him a hero, that the governing element recognised something of his greatness; and, to the very last, its recognition was guarded and grudging. One might have supposed that his services would have been enlisted for the Empire in 1884, when he came back from the Congo. He was in the prime of life, he was full of vigour, he had proved his capacity as a leader, a ruler, and a [401] governor, who had few living equals. One thinks that employment worthy of his powers should have been pressed upon him. But the country which left Burton to eat out his fiery heart in a second-rate consulship, and never seemed to know what to do with Gordon, could not find a suitable post for Stanley! I do not imagine he sought anything of the kind; but it seems strange that it was not offered, and on such terms that he would have found it difficult to refuse.

If he had been entrusted with some worthy imperial commission, he might have been saved from the fifth, and least fortunate, of his journeys into the interior of Africa. Nothing that Stanley ever did spoke more loudly for his courage, his resourcefulness, and his heroic endurance, than the expedition for the Relief of Emin Pasha. None but a man of his iron resolution could have carried through those awful marches and counter-marches in the tropical forest, and along the banks of the Aruwimi. But the suffering and privations were incurred for an inadequate object, and a cause not clearly understood. Many lives were lost, many brave men, white and black, perished tragically, to effect the rescue of a person who, it appeared, would, on the whole, have preferred not to be rescued!

The journey from the Ocean to the Nile, and from the Nile to the East Coast, added much to geographical knowledge, and was the complement of Stanley's previous discoveries. But the cost was heavy, and the leader himself emerged with his health seriously impaired by the tremendous strain of those dark months. Most of his younger companions preceded him to the grave. Stanley survived Nelson, Stairs, and Parke, as well as Barttelot and Jameson; but the traces of the journey were upon him to the end, and no doubt they shortened his days.

Those days — that is to say, the fourteen years that were left to him after he returned to England in the spring of 1890--were, however, full of activity, and, one may hope, of content. No other great task of exploration and administration was tendered; and perhaps, if offered, it could not have been accepted. But Stanley found plenty of occupation. He wrote, he lectured, and he assisted the King of the Belgians with advice on the affairs of his Dependency. He was in Parliament for five years, and he took some part in the discussion of African questions. More than all, he was married, most happily and fortunately married, and watched over, and ministered to, with tactful and tender solicitude.

The evening of that storm-tossed and strenuous life was calm and peaceful. Those who knew him only in these closing years saw him, I suppose, at his best, with something of the former nervous, self-assertive, vitality replaced by a mellow and matured wisdom. Whether there was much more than an external contrast between the Stanley of the earlier and him of the later period, I am unable to say; but one may suggest that the change was in the nature of a development. [402]

Does any man's character really alter, after the formative season of youth is over? Traits, half-hidden, or seldom-revealed in the fierce stress of active conflict and labour, may come to the surface when the battling days are done. I cannot think that the serene sagacity, the gentleness, and the magnanimity, which one noted in Stanley in his last decade, could have been merely the fruit of leisure and domestic happiness. No doubt the strands were always in his nature, though perhaps not easily detected by the casual eye, so long as “the wrestling thews that throw the world” had to be kept in constant exercise.

In manner and appearance, and in other respects, he was the absolute antithesis of the type he sometimes represented to the general imagination. Short of stature, lean, and wiry, with a brown face, a strong chin, a square, Napoleonic head, and noticeable eyes,--round, lion-like eyes, watchful and kindly, that yet glowed with a hidden fire,--he was a striking and attractive personality; but there was nothing in him to recall the iron-handed, swash-buckling, melodramatic adventurer, such as the pioneers of new countries are often supposed to be. The bravest of the brave, a very Ney or Murat among travellers, one knew that he was; but his courage, one could see, was not of the unthinking, inconsequent variety, that would court danger for its own sake, without regard to life and suffering. What struck one most was that “high seriousness,” which often belongs to men who have played a great part in great events, and have been long in close contact with the sterner reality of things. His temperament was intense rather than passionate, in spite of the outbursts of quick anger, which marked him, in his fighting period, when he was crossed or wronged. Much, far too much, was made of his “indiscretions” of language — as if strong men are not always indiscreet! It is only the weaklings who make no mistakes, who are for ever decorous and prudent.

Much the same may be said of his early quarrel with the Royal Geographical Society. He did not find it easy to forgive that distinguished body, when it signified its desire to make amends for the coldness with which it had first treated him, and for the ungenerous aspersions, which some of its members had cast upon his fame. They gave him a dinner, and made flattering speeches about the man who had succeeded. It was thought to be ungracious of Stanley that he would not make up the quarrel, until he had vindicated his own part of it by a bitter recital of his grievances. But men who feel intensely, who have suffered deeply under unmerited injuries, and who have Stanley's defiant sense of justice, are not always so tactful and polite as the social amenities require.

As it was, the “indiscretions” for some years left a certain mark upon Stanley's reputation, and gave an easy handle to the cavillers and the hypercritical, and to the whole tribe of the purists, who are shocked because revolutions are not made with rose-water, or continents conquered in kid gloves. Even after his triumph was acknowledged, [403] after he had been honoured by princes, and had won his way to the tardy recognition of the Royal Geographical Society, there were “superior persons” to repeat that he was egotistical and inhuman.

To his friends, both charges must have seemed absurd. Of personal egotism, of mere vanity, he had singularly little. It needed a very obtuse observer to miss seeing that he was by nature simple, affectionate, and modest, with a wealth of kindness and generosity under his mantle of reserve. He had a sympathetic feeling for the helpless, and the unfortunate — for animals, for the poor, and for the children of all races. On the march from Ruwenzori, distressed mothers of Emin's motley contingent would bring their babies to Stanley's own tent, knowing that “Bula Matari” would have halted the caravan sooner than needlessly sacrifice one of these quaint brown scraps of humanity. He would tell the story himself; and afterwards, perhaps, he would describe how he made up the connubial differences of some jangling couple of half-clad aboriginals!

His full and varied experiences were not easy to extract from him, for he disliked being “drawn,” and preferred to talk on those larger, impersonal questions of politics, history, ethnology, and economics, in which he never ceased to be interested. But his friends were sometimes allowed to be entranced by some strange and stirring episode of African adventure, told with fine dramatic power, and relieved by touches of quiet humour. He was not a witty talker, but he had a fund of that amused tolerance which comes of comprehending, and condoning, the weaknesses of human nature. It is a trait which goes far to explain his success in dealing with native races.

In the House of Commons he was not much at home. The atmosphere of the place, physical and intellectual, disagreed with him. The close air and the late hours did not suit his health. “I am a man,” he once said to the present writer, “who cannot stand waste.” The Commons' House of Parliament, with its desultory, irregular ways, its dawdling methods, and its interminable outpourings of verbose oratory, must have seemed to him a gigantic apparatus for frittering away energy and time. He was glad to escape from St. Stephen's to the Surrey country home, in which he found much of the happiness of his later years. Here he drained, and trenched, and built, and planted; doing everything with the same careful prevision, and economical adaptation of means to ends, which he had exhibited in greater enterprises. To go the round of his improvements with him was to gain some insight into the practical side of his character.

It was not the only, nor perhaps the highest, side. There was another, not revealed to the world at large, or to many persons, and the time has scarcely come to dwell upon it. But those who caught glimpses into a temple somewhat jealously veiled and guarded, did not find it hard to understand why it was that Stanley had never [404] failed to meet with devoted service and loyal attachment, through all the vicissitudes of the brilliant and adventurous career which has left its mark scored deep upon the history of our planet.


A further testimony to the importance of Stanley's discoveries was given by Sir William Garstin, G. C. M. G., in a paper read on December 15, 1908, before the Royal Geographical Society, on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the discovery of the Source of the White Nile by Captain John Speke.

“I now come,” said Sir William Garstin,

to what is, perhaps, the most striking personality of all in the roll of the discoverers of the Nile, that of Henry Stanley.

Stanley on his second expedition, starting for the interior, on November 17, 1874, circumnavigated Lake Victoria, and corrected the errors of Speke's map as to its shape and area.

He visited the Nile outlet, and proved that the Nyanza was a single sheet of water, and not, as Burton had asserted, a series of small, separate lakes.

On arriving at Mtesa's capital, Stanley's acute mind quickly grasped the possibilities of Uganda as a centre for missionary enterprise. He realised that, if he could succeed in interesting Great Britain in such a project, a most important departure would have been made in the direction of introducing European civilisation into Central Africa.

First came his appeal by letter, followed later by Stanley himself, whose eloquence aroused enthusiasm in the English public. A great meeting held in Exeter Hall, resulted in funds being raised, and the first party of English missionaries started for Uganda in the spring of 1876.

This, although not at the time realised, was in reality the first step towards the introduction of British rule in Equatorial Africa.

Stanley's last voyage, and in some respects, his greatest expedition, was undertaken for the relief of Emin Pasha, at that time cut off from communication with the outer world. The Relief Expedition started in 1887, under Stanley's leadership. This time Stanley started from the Congo, and, travelling up that river, struck eastward into the Great Forest, which, covering many thousands of square miles, stretches across a portion of the Semliki Valley and up the western flank of Ruwenzori.

On emerging from the Forest, Stanley reached the Valley of the Semliki, and, in May, 1888, he discovered the mountain chain of Ruwenzori.

This discovery alone would have sufficed to have made his third journey famous. It was not all, however. After his meeting with Emin, he followed the Semliki Valley to the point where this river issues from the Albert Edward Nyanza.

Stanley was the first traveller to trace its course, and to prove that [405] it connects two lakes and, consequently, forms a portion of the Nile system.

When skirting the north end of Lake Albert Edward, he recognised that he had really discovered this lake in his previous journey, although at the time unaware of this fact.

Stanley has thus cleared up the last remaining mystery with respect to the Nile sources.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Stanley's work. The main facts regarding the sources of the Nile were finally revealed by him, and nothing was left for future explorers but to fill in the details. This was a magnificent achievement for one man to have compassed, and Stanley must always stand out as having done more than any other to clear up, and to correct, the errors in the geography of the Nile basin. Stanley not only completed thoroughly the work left unfinished by other explorers, but added largely to it by his own remarkable discoveries. To him also it was due that the first English Mission was despatched to Uganda.

Stanley's glowing accounts of the fertility of the land of the Baganda encouraged British commercial enterprise, and originated the formation of the East African Chartered Company. As we now know, the inevitable sequence was the English occupation of the country.

As to Stanley's African work, one or two features may here be specially noted. His master-passion was that, not of the discoverer, but of the civiliser. He had his own methods, but he was sympathetic and helpful toward other methods, and sometimes adopted them. To King Mtesa and his people, he took the part of a Christian missionary with rare efficiency. When the time for his departure came, Mtesa heard it with dismay, and asked: “What is the use, then, of your coming to Uganda to disturb our minds, if, as soon as we are convinced that what you have said has right and reason in it, you go away before we are fully instructed?”

Stanley answered that every man has his own business and calling, that his business was that of a pioneer and not of a religious teacher, but if the king wanted real instructors, he would write to England and ask for them. The king said, “Then write, Stamlee” (the native pronunciation of the name), “and say to the white people that I am like a child sitting in darkness, and cannot see until I am taught the right way.” Thereupon followed the appeal to England, the prompt response, the planting of the mission, and the heroic story of the Uganda church triumphing over persecution and martyrdom. When Stanley wrote the story for the “Cornhill Magazine,” January, 1901, the Uganda people had built for themselves three hundred and seventy-two churches, with nearly 100,000 communicants, who were not fair-weather Christians. A week or two after Stanley's death, the great cathedral of Uganda was solemnly consecrated, and opened for service. [406]

Among these people whom Stanley visited, while taking Emin's refugees to safety in 1889, was the illustrious missionary A. M. Mackay, who had previously written, “For a time the old gods of the land had to give way to the creed of Arabia, as the king saw something in that more likely to add prestige to his court than the charm-filled horns of the magic men, and frantic dance of the foretellers of fortune. Then came Stanley. Let his enemies scoff as they will, it is a fact indisputable that with his visit there commenced the dawn of a new era in the annals of the court of Uganda. The people themselves date from Stanley's day the commencement of leniency and law, in place of the previous reign of bloodshed and terror. “Since Stanley came,” they say, “the king no more slaughters innocent people as he did before; he no more disowns and disinherits in a moment an old and powerful chief, and sets up a puppet of his own, who was before only a slave.” Compared with the former daily changes and cruelties, as the natives describe them, one cannot but feel thankful to God for the mighty change.”

After the visit, Mackay writes:--

“I must say that I much enjoyed Mr. Stanley's company during the short stay here. He is a man of an iron will and sound judgement; and, besides, is most patient with the natives. He never allows any one of his followers to oppress, or even insult, a native. If he has had occasionally to use force in order to effect a passage, I am certain that he only resorted to arms when all other means failed.”

Stanley recognised and appreciated in Mackay a spirit akin to Livingstone. He judged that he had dangerously overtaxed his strength, and urged him to go away with him and secure a rest. But Mackay would not leave his post, and within half a year he succumbed to disease.2

Did space permit, a chapter might well be given to Stanley's labours for African civilisation by means of addresses to the English people, and his efforts, by lectures and personal interviews, to move the Government and the community to meet the successive calls for action. Had England responded to his appeal to take over the Congo region, the leadership, which was left to the Belgian sovereign, would have devolved on the British nation, and history would have had a different course.

After the founding of the Congo Free State, Stanley went over the length and breadth of England to address meetings, urging the English people to build the Congo Railway. But again the deaf ear was turned to him. Now, the wealth to shareholders in that railway is prodigious. He also did his utmost to spur and persuade a laggard and indifferent Government to plant and foster English civilisation in East Africa. He wanted not mere political control, but the efficient repression of the slave-trade, the advancement of material improvements, and especially the construction of railways to [407] destroy the isolation which was ruinous to the interior. One lecture, entitled “Uganda; a plea against its evacuation,” is a masterpiece of large-minded wisdom, and true statesmanship. He spoke repeatedly before Anti-slavery Societies on the practical means of attaining the great end. His influence with King Leopold was always used to hasten and complete the extirpation of the Arab slave-trade. From that curse Equatorial Africa was freed, and in its deliverance Stanley was the leader.

Stanley constantly urged the vital importance of thoroughly training Medical Officers and Medical Missionaries in the knowledge of Tropical diseases, and the necessity of the proper medical equipment of expeditions and stations, and the considerate medical treatment of natives, as well as white men, for economic reasons, as well as on humanitarian grounds.

From his own terrible experiences Stanley realised to the full the barrier which Malaria and other dread Tropical diseases imposed against the progress of civilisation and commercial enterprise in Africa; and he followed with keen interest and hopefulness the discoveries of Sir Patrick Manson, and Major Ross, proving the mosquito to be the host and carrier of the malarial parasite, and also the successful devices of these scientists for checking and reducing the death-toll from this scourge.

He particularly applauded the great, far-seeing, Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, for his practical measures, by which he had done more than any other Statesman to render the Tropical regions of the Empire habitable and healthy.

Stanley's last public appearance was at a dinner to Dr. Andrew Balfour, on his appointment as Director of the Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratories, Gordon Memorial College, Khartoum, and, in the course of a very moving speech on the development of Africa since his first expedition, Stanley said that, at one time, he thought the Equatorial regions possible for the habitation of natives only, except in limited highlands; but now, thanks to the work of the London and Liverpool Schools of Tropical Medicine, and these Research Laboratories in the heart of Africa, the deadly plagues that harassed mankind were being conquered, and the whole of that Dark Continent might yet become a white man's land.

One other trait of his African work may be mentioned. In a pecuniary sense, it was absolutely disinterested. He would never take the slightest personal advantage of the commercial opportunities incident to the opening of the new countries, on the Congo, or in Uganda. I desire to emphasise the fact that such property as he had came almost entirely from his books and his lectures. He gave his assistance to the establishment of the British East African Company because he believed in its influence for good, but he declined any pecuniary interest.

When the Congo Railway stock was paying very high dividends, he was asked why he did not take some of it, and he answered that [408] “he would not have even the appearance of personal profit out of Africa.” When princes and potentates made advantageous offers to him, they were quietly put aside. Once an English magnate in Africa, who had aggrandised England and enriched himself, asked playfully, “ Why don't you take some of the “corner lots” in Africa?” Stanley put the question by, and afterwards said: “That way may be very well for him, but, for myself, I prefer my way.”

When the retention of Uganda was under discussion, Lord Salisbury said publicly: “It is natural that Mr. Stanley should favour the retention, for we all know that he has interests in Africa.” Stanley took the earliest occasion to say publicly; “It is true, but not in the sordid sense in which the imputation has been made; my whole interest there is for Africa herself, and for humanity.”

1Monumentum aere perennius,” says Horace, or, as we may put it, “an Everlasting memorial.” --D. S.

2 In Darkest Africa, Stanley notes that “Mr. Mackay, the best missionary since Livingstone, died about the beginning of February, 1890.”

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