1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stanley, Sir Henry Morton

STANLEY, SIR HENRY MORTON (1840-1904), British explorer of Africa, discoverer of the course of the Congo, was born at Denbigh, Wales, on the 10th of June 1840.[1] His parents were named Rowlands or Rollant, and his father, who died in 1843, was the son of a small farmer. John Rowlands, by which name Stanley was baptized, was brought up first by his maternal grandfather, and after his death was boarded out by his mother's brothers at half a crown a week. In 1847 he was taken to the St Asaph Union workhouse, where he was noted for his activity and intelligence. The schoolmaster at the workhouse, James Francis (who eventually died in a madhouse), was a tyrant of the Squeers type, and in May 1856, Rowlands, after giving Francis a thrashing, ran away from school. He sought out his paternal grandfather — a well-to-do farmer—who refused to help him. A cousin, however, who was master of a national school at Brynford, took him in as a pupil teacher. But within a year he was sent to Liverpool, where he lived with an uncle who was in straitened circumstances. The lad, after working at a haberdasher's and then at a butcher's shop, engaged himself as a cabin boy on a sailing ship bound for New Orleans, in which city he landed early in 1859. There he obtained a situation through the good offices of a merchant named Henry Morton Stanley, who subsequently adopted the lad as his son, designing for him a mercantile career. To this end young Stanley (as he was henceforth known) was sent to a country store in Arkansas. The merchant shortly afterwards died, without having made further provision for his protege.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Stanley enlisted in the Confederate army; he was taken prisoner at the battle of Shiloh (April 1862), and after two months' experience of the hardships of Camp Douglas, Chicago (where the prisoners of war were confined), he obtained release by enrolling in the Federal artillery. In less than a month he was discharged as unfit. In November 1862 he returned to Liverpool "very poor, in bad health and in shabby clothes," and made his way to Denbigh, but was turned away from his mother's door. This incident deeply affected him. Naturally of a sensitive, affectionate nature, henceforth he practised strong self-suppression and reserve. For a livelihood he took to the sea—was wrecked off Barcelona—and in August 1864 enlisted in the United States navy. According to an apparently authentic story[2] he obtained promotion for swimming 500 yds. and tying a rope to a captured steamer, while exposed to the shot and shell of a battery of ten guns. After the war he crossed the plains to Salt Lake City, Denver, and other parts, acquiring a reputation as a vivid descriptive writer for the press.

Thus began a series of adventures in search of "copy." In the autumn of 1866 we hear of him travelling in Asia Minor "en route for Tiflis and Tibet," and as being attacked, with his twc companions, by brigands, robbed apd imprisoned, the Porte subsequently paying through the American minister an indemnity for the outrage. In December of the same year Stanley revisited Denbigh and St Asaph, returning thence to America. In 1867 he joined General Hancock's expedition against the Red Indians, acting as correspondent for the Missouri Democrat and other papers. His reports induced the New York Herald to send him to accompany the British expedition of 1867-68 against the emperor Theodore of Abyssinia. Succeeding in sending through the first news of the fall of Magdala, Stanley attracted the special attention of the proprietor of the Herald, James Gordon Bennett, and received from him a roving commission. He went to Crete, then in rebellion, in the latter part of 1868, and thence to Spain, where he arrived in time to witness the scenes following the flight of Queen Isabella from Madrid. He chronicled the events of the Republican rising in 1869 and was at Madrid in October of that year, when he received a telegram from Mr Gordon Bennett, jun., summoning him to Paris.

Arrived in Paris Stanley was informed that he was to go and find Livingstone.[3] Stanley then shared the common opinion that Livingstone had died somewhere in Central Africa, but Bennett was sure he was alive and Stanley was to find and help him to the best of his ability. The journey, which was to be kept secret to avoid suspicion, was to begin next day. Strangely enough, though so urgent in the matter, Bennett cumbered Stanley with a large number of commissions to fulfil before the quest for Livingstone could be begun. In accordance with these instructions, Stanley went to Egypt to witness the opening of the Suez Canal in November, thence to Philae, and in January 1870 he arrived in Jerusalem, where he met Captain (afterwards Sir) Charles Warren. Next, by way of Constantinople, he visited the battlefields of the Crimea, and, passing through the Caucasus from Baku, he made an adventurous journey across Persia to Bushire, whence he sailed to Bombay. From Bombay he sailed for Africa, reaching Zanzibar on the 6th of January 1871.

The journey to the interior was begun on the 21st of March; on the 10th of November, having overcome innumerable difficulties, Stanley arrived at Ujiji, where Livingstone then was; the young traveller greeting the famous veteran with the words, "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" With Livingstone Stanley navigated the northern shores of Tanganyika and settled the question as to whether the Rusizi was an effluent or an affluent—a point then much debated in connexion with the hydrography of the Nile basin. Leaving Tanganyika on the 9th of January 1872 Stanley regained Zanzibar on the 7th of May. He had accomplished his mission, and by it he established his reputation as a leader of men and an explorer of great promise. His story, made public in a picturesque narrative, How I Found Livingstone (1872), was at first received in London with some incredulity, owing in part to his connexion with American journalism of a type then unfamiliar and distasteful; but the journals of Livingstone, which he brought home, silenced the critics, and from Queen Victoria Stanley received a gold snuff-box set with brilliants and her thanks for the services he had rendered. Nevertheless Stanley records that all the actions of his life, and all his thoughts, since 1872, were strongly coloured by the storm of abuse and the wholly unjustifiable reports circulated about him then.

A series of public lectures in England and America followed. In 1873, as war correspondent of the Herald, he accompanied Wolseley's expedition to Ashanti, which he described, together with his Abyssinian experiences, in a volume entitled Coomassie and Magdala: Two British Campaigns (London, 1874). On reaching the island of St Vincent from Ashanti in 1874 he first heard that Livingstone was dead, and that the body was on its way to England. After the funeral of Livingstone some time was spent in negotiations for sending Stanley again to Africa, there to determine geographical problems left unsolved by the deaths of Livingstone and Speke, and the discovery by Sir Samuel Baker of Albert Nyanza, a lake then reputed to extend inimitably in a southerly direction. Finally, Sir Edward Lawson (afterwards Lord Burnham), the editor and proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, to whom Stanley had communicated his desires, and Sir Edwin Arnold of that journal, induced Mr Gordon Bennett to join them in raising a fund for an Anglo-American expedition under Stanley's command. This expedition lasted from October 1874 to August 1877 and accomplished more than any other single exploring expedition in Africa. Politically, also, the journey had momentous consequences; it led directly to the foundation of the Congo State and to the partition of the hitherto unappropriated regions of Africa between the states of western Europe. Stanley started from the east coast and reached the ocean again at the mouth of the Congo, having demonstrated the identity of that river with Livingstone's Luaiaba by navigating its course from Nyangwe—the point at which both Livingstone and Lovett Cameron had turned aside. This wonderful achievement was accomplished in the face of difficulties so great that they could have been overcome only by such a man as Stanley proved himself to be—a man of inflexible will, who having conceived a vast design carried it to its conclusion regardless of any obstacles, sparing neither himself nor his associates and, if opposed, prepared to shed blood to attain his object. Of the three white men who accompanied him all died during the journey; Stanley himself was prematurely aged. The discovery of the course of the Congo, though the greatest, was but one of many geographical problems solved during this memorable expedition. The part played by the Kagera in the Nile system, the unity and approximate area of Victoria Nyanza, the true length and area of Tanganyika and the whereabouts of its outlet, and the discovery of a new lake, Dweru, which at the time Stanley believed to be a branch of Albert Nyanza, are some of the other discoveries made by Stanley at this time. The story of the expedition was given at length in Through the Dark Continent (London, 1878). Stanley's letters from Uganda and his call for missionaries to go to the court of Mtesa met with an immediate response and proved the first step in bringing the region of the Nile sources under the protection of Great Britain. Important as was this result of his journey it was eclipsed by the events which followed his revelation of the Congo as a magnificent waterway piercing the very heart of Africa. Of the commercial possibilities of the region he had made known Stanley was well aware. The one other man who at once grasped the situation was Leopold II., king of the Belgians, who sent commissioners to intercept Stanley at Marseilles, when he was on his way back to England, with proposals to return to the Congo, proposals which Stanley, much needing rest, put aside for the time. Approached again in the summer of 1878 Stanley lent a more favourable ear to Leopold's suggestions. Efforts made by the explorer in the autumn to arouse British merchants to the importance of the Congo basin were unavailing, and in November Stanley went to Brussels and committed himself to the schemes of the king of the Belgians. A Comite d'Uudes du Haul Congo was formed and Stanley was entrusted with the leadership of the new expedition, which was, in his own words, "to prove that the Congo natives were susceptible of civilization and that the Congo basin was rich enough to repay exploitation." Stanley reached the Congo in August 1879, and the work he accomplished there in the ensuing five years enabled the Comité, which had meantime changed its name to that of Association intemationale du Congo, to obtain the recognition of America and Europe to its transformation into an independent state ("The Congo Free State") under the sovereignty of King Leopold. Stanley described his labours in The Congo and the Founding of its Free State (London, 1885), a book which throws valuable light on the manner in which the promoters of that enterprise set to work, and the object at which, from the beginning, they aimed. For the political aspects of this question see Africa (§ 5) and Congo Free State. Here it is only necessary to indicate what Stanley actually accomplished on the Congo. At the outset the area of his activities was restricted by the enterprise of the French traveller de Brazza, who, reaching Stanley Pool by a more northern route, placed—September and October 1880—the neighbouring districts on the north bank of the Congo under French protection. De Brazza's journey was directly inspired by Stanley's discoveries, and thus early had those discoveries led to international rivalries. Notwithstanding this check Stanley, without much trouble with the natives, founded stations for his association along the banks of the river as high up as Stanley Falls. A more difficult task was the making of a road through the cataract region and the carrying over it in sections of four small steamers, all of which were launched on the middle river. This road-making exploit earned for Stanley from the natives the name of Bula Malari, the rock-breaker, the all-powerful—a fit description of the man who allowed no obstacles to turn him from the achievement of his purpose.

Stanley returned to Europe in the middle of 1884 and attended the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, which dealt with African affairs, acting as technical adviser of the American plenipotentiaries. While in Germany he lectured in various cities on the benefits which would result from the opening up of Central Africa, and found the Germans more alive than the British to the great interests at stake. The revelation of what the Association intemationale had done intensified the struggle among the powers for the possession of African territory. Stanley did not return to the Congo on the recognition of the Free State but took up his residence in London. With James F. Hatton, a leading Manchester merchant, he promoted the Royal Congo Railway Company to connect Stanley Pool with the lower river, but the scheme at the time came to nought, partly owing to the indifference of English capitalists and partly in consequence of a clause inimical to British interests in the charter which King Leopold proposed to grant the company.

Though still an American citizen Stanley's interests and ambitions were becoming distinctly British, his sympathies in that direction being joined to a personal loyalty to the king of the Belgians.[4] A desire to serve both parties was one of the leading motives in his next African adventure. Stanley had become deeply interested in the schemes of Mr (afterwards Sir) William Mackinnon, chairman of the British India Steam Navigation Company, for establishing a British protectorate in East Equatorial Africa, and it was believed that this object could be furthered at the same time that relief was afforded to Emin Pasha (q.v.), governor of the Equatorial Province of Egypt, who had been isolated by the Mahdist rising of 1881-1885. Stanley agreed to conduct an expedition, nominally in the service of the khedive of Egypt, for the relief of Emin. The major part of the funds needed was supplied by a committee, of which Mackinnon was chairman. Instead of choosing the direct route via Zanzibar or Mombasa, Stanley decided to go by way of the Congo, as thereby he would be able to render services to the infant Congo State, then encountering great difficulties with the Zanzibar Arabs established on the upper Congo. Stanley left Europe in January 1887 and at Zanzibar entered into an agreement with Tippoo Tib, the chief of the Congo Arabs, appointing him governor of Stanley Falls station on behalf of the Congo State, and making another arrangement with him to supply carriers for the Emin relief expedition. Stanley and Tippoo Tib travelled together up the Congo as far as Bangala, reached on the 30th of May. Thence Tippoo Tib went on to Stanley Falls and Stanley prepared for a journey to Albert Nyanza, where he expected to meet Emin. On the 15th of June Yambuya, on the lower Aruwimi, was reached, and here Stanley left his rear-guard under command of Major E. M. Barttelot and Mr J. S. Jameson. On the 28th Stanley and the advance-guard started for Albert Nyanza, " and until the 5th of December, for 160 days, we marched through the forest, bush and jungle, without ever having seen a bit of greensward of the size of a cottage chamber floor. Nothing but miles and miles, endless miles of forest." Starvation, fever, the hostility of the tribes, were daily incidents of this terrible march, during which Stanley lost nearly 50% of his men. On the 13th of December Albert Nyanza was reached, and after some delay communication was opened with Emin, who came down the lake from the Nile in a steamer, the two chiefs meeting on the 29th of April 1888. Disquieted by the non-arrival of his rearguard, Stanley retraced his steps, and on the 17th of August, a short distance above Yambuya, found that Tippoo Tib had broken faith, that Barttelot had been murdered, that Jameson (who soon afterwards died of fever) was absent at Stanley Falls, and that only one European, William Bonny, was left in the camp. Collecting those who survived of the rearguard Stanley for the third time traversed the primeval forest, and in January 1889 all that was left of the expedition was assembled at Albert Nyanza. Of 646 men with whom he entered the Congo, but 246 remained. In April the return journey to Zanzibar by way of Uganda was begun, Emin reluctantly accompanying Stanley. On this homeward journey Stanley discovered Ruwenzori (the Mountains of the Moon), traced the course of the Semliki River, discovered Albert Edward Nyanza and the great south-western gulf of Victoria Nyanza. During his stay in the Congo forests he had also obtained much information concerning the pygmy tribes. As to the political results of the expedition, Stanley's proposals to Emin to hold the Equatorial Province for the Congo State or to move nearer Victoria Nyanza and enter the service of Mackinnon's British East Africa Company had not been accepted, but he concluded agreements with various chiefs in the lake regions in favour of Great Britain, agreements which were handed over to the East Africa Company. Zanzibar was reached on the 6th of December 1889 and the expedition was at an end. Stanley's account of it, In Darkest Africa, was published (in six languages) in 1890.

Returning to England, Stanley was received with much honour, among the many distinctions conferred upon him "being the degrees of D.C.L. from Oxford and of LL.D. from Cambridge and from Edinburgh. On the 12th of July 1890 he married a lady whose graceful work as an artist was well known, Miss Dorothy Tennant, second daughter of Mr Charles Tennant, sometime M.P. for St Albans. Later in the year he visited the United States, where he made a pilgrimage to the places where his youth had been spent, and in 1891-1892 went to Australia and New Zealand on lecturing tours. On his return he was renaturalized as a British subject, and—at the solicitation of his wife—he stood at the general election in the summer of 1892 as candidate for North Lambeth in the Liberal Unionist interest, being defeated by a small majority. In 1895 he again stood for the same constituency and was elected, but he had no liking for parliamentary life, and (being also in ill-health) he did not seek re-election in 1900. In 1895 Stanley published My Early Travels and Adventures in America and Asia, in which he retold the story of his experiences with the Red Indians and of his eastern journey of 1869-1870. In 1897 Stanley paid his last visit to Africa. He went to the Cape as the guest of the British South Africa Company, spoke at the opening of the railway from the Cape to Bulawayo, visited the Victoria Falls of the Zambezi and had an interview with President Kruger, of whom he gives a characteristic pen-picture. One result of this journey was Through South Africa (1898), the last of his published works. In 1899 in recognition of his services in Africa he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath. The last few years of his life were spent mainly in retirement on a small estate he had purchased, Furze Hill, near Pirbright. He died at his London residence in Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, on the 10th of May 1904. After a service in Westminster Abbey he was buried at Pirbright on the 17th of May. His widow, Lady Stanley, afterwards married, in 1907, Mr Henry Curtis, F.R.C.S. By Sir Henry Stanley she had a son, Denzil, born 1896.

In geographical discoveries Stanley accomplished more than any other explorer of Africa, with which continent his name is indissolubly connected. Notwithstanding his frequent conflicts with Arabs and negroes, he possessed in extraordinary degree the power of managing native races; he was absolutely fearless and ever ready to sacrifice either himself or others to achieve his object. His books differ widely from the ordinary books of travel. Stanley had a gift of dramatic narrative, and his power of portraiture was remarkable. Curiously, the least successful of his works was the only one which he cast in the form of fiction, My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave. Another volume from his pen, My Dark Companions and their Strange Stories (1893), is a valuable contribution to folklore.

The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, ed. by his wife, Dorothy Stanley, appeared in 1909. Henry M. Stanley, the Story of his Life . . . (London, n.d. [1872]), by C. Rowlands, contains, notwithstanding many inaccuracies, valuable information concerning his family and early career. The following books may also be consulted: Mrs J. S. Jameson, Story of the Rear Column of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition (1890) ; W. G. Barttelot, The Life of Edmund Musgrave Barttelot . . . (1890); H. Brode, Tippoo Tib, the Story of his Career in Central Africa (1907).

 (F. R. C.) 

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  1. This is the usually accepted date, but from Stanley's Autobiography it would appear that the year of his birth was 1842.
  2. See C. Rowlands, Henry M. Stanley, p. 102.
  3. Previously, in November 1868, Stanley had been sent to Egypt by the Herald "to meet Livingstone," at the time reported to be on his way home. Stanley got as far as Aden when he was recalled.
  4. Of the later policy pursued in the Congo State Stanley wrote, in 1896, that it was "erring and ignorant." To go back to the Congo "would be to disturb a moral malaria injurious to the reorganizer" (Autobiography, p. 537).