Sir Henry Morton Stanley , GCB,
born John Rowlands (January 28, 1841 – May 10, 1904), was a Britishjournalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his
search for David Livingstone. Stanley is often remembered
for the words uttered to Livingstone upon finding him: "Dr.
Livingstone, I presume?", although there is some question as to
authenticity of this now famous greeting.
Stanley was born in Denbigh, Wales. At the time, his mother, Elizabeth Parry, was nineteen years
old. According to Stanley himself, his father, John Rowlands, was an alcoholic;
there is some doubt as to his true parentage. His parents were unmarried, so his
birth certificate refers to him as a bastard, and the
stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life. He
was raised by his grandfather until the age of five. When his guardian died,
Stanley stayed at first with cousins and nieces for a short time, but was
eventually sent to St. Asaph Union Workhouse for
the poor, where overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in frequent abuse
by the older boys. When he was ten, his mother and two siblings stayed for a
short while in this workhouse, without Stanley realizing who they were. He stayed
until the age of 15. After completing an elementary education, he was employed
as a pupil teacher in a National School. In 1859, at the age of 18, he made
his passage to the United States in search of a new life. Upon arriving
in New Orleans, he absconded from his boat.
According to his own declarations, he became friendly with a wealthy trader
named Stanley, by accident: he saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store
and asked him if he had any job opening for a person such as himself. However,
he did so in the British style, "Do you want a boy, sir?" As it
happened, the childless man had indeed been wishing he had a boy of his own,
and the inquiry led not only to a job, but to a close relationship. The youth
ended up taking Stanley's name. However, this adoptive parent died soon
afterwards. Young Stanley assumed a local accent and began to deny being a
Stanley participated reluctantly in the American Civil War, first joining the
Confederate Army participating in the Battle
of Shiloh in 1862. After being taken prisoner he promptly deserted and
joined the Union. He served in the Navy but eventually deserted again.
Following the Civil War, Stanley began a career as a journalist. As part of
this new career, Stanley organized an expedition to the Ottoman
Empire that ended catastrophically when Stanley was imprisoned. He
eventually talked his way out of jail, and even received restitution for
damaged expedition equipment. This early expedition may have formed the
foundation for his eventual exploration of the Congo region of Africa.
In 1867, Stanley was recruited by Colonel Samuel Forster Tappan (a one-time
journalist) of the Indian Peace Commission, to serve as a correspondent to
cover the work of the Commission for several newspapers. Stanley was soon
retained exclusively by James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872), founder
of the New York Herald, who was impressed by Stanley's
exploits and by his direct style of writing. This early period of his
professional life is described in Volume I of his book My Early Travels and
Adventures in America and Asia (1895). He became one of the Herald's
overseas correspondents and, in 1869, was instructed by Bennett's son to find
the Scottish missionary and explorer David
Livingstone, who was known to be in Africa but had not been heard from for
some time. According to Stanley's account, he asked James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918),
who had succeeded to the paper's management after his father's retirement in
1867, how much he could spend. The reply was "Draw £1,000
now, and when you have gone through that, draw another £1,000, and when that is
spent, draw another £1,000, and when you have finished that, draw another
£1,000, and so on — BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!" In actuality, Stanley had
lobbied his employer for several years to mount this expedition that would
presumably give him fame and fortune.
Stanley travelled to Zanzibar in March 1871 and outfitted an expedition with the
best of everything, requiring no fewer than 200 porters. This 700-mile expedition through the
tropical forest became a nightmare. His thoroughbred stallion died within a few
days after a bite from a Tsetse fly, many of his carriers deserted and the rest
were decimated by tropical diseases. To keep the expedition going, he had to
take stern measures, including flogging deserters. In fairness to Stanley, it
should be noted that harsh treatment of carriers was not uncommon. Many
missionaries of the day practiced tactics no less brutal than his, and
Stanley's diaries show that he had in fact exaggerated the brutal treatment of
his carriers in his books to pander to the taste of his Victorian public.
Articles examining Stanley's treatment of indigenous porters help refute his
reputation as a brutal criminal, but the fact remains that throughout much of
the Congo region his name remains synonymous with violence.
Stanley found Livingstone on November 10, 1871, inUjiji near Lake
Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania, and may have greeted him with the now famous,
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" This famous phrase may be a
fabrication, as Stanley tore out of his diary the pages relating to the
encounter. Even Livingstone's account of the encounter fails to mention these
words. However, a summary of Stanley's letters published by The New York Times on July 2, 1872, quotes
the phrase. The Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography both quote the phrase without questioning its validity.
The Herald's own first account of the meeting, published July 2, 1872, also
includes the phrase: "Preserving a calmness of exterior before the Arabs
which was hard to simulate as he reached the group, Mr. Stanley said: --
`Doctor Livingstone, I presume?' A smile lit up the features of the hale white
man as he answered: `YES, THAT IS MY NAME' ..."
Stanley joined Livingstone in exploring the region, establishing for certain
that there was no connection between Lake Tanganyika and the River Nile. On his return, he
wrote a book about his experiences : How I Found Livingstone; travels,
adventures, and discoveries in Central Africa.This brought him into the public eye and gave him some financial success.
In 1874, the New York Herald, in partnership with Britain's Daily
Telegraph, financed Stanley on another expedition to the African
continent. One of his missions was to solve a last great mystery of African
exploration by tracing the course of the River Congoto the sea. The difficulty of this expedition is hard to overstate. Stanley
used sectional boats to pass the great cataracts separating the Congo into
distinct tracts. After 999 days, on August 9, 1877, Stanley reached a
Portuguese outpost at the mouth of the river Congo. Starting with 356 people,
only 114 had survived of which Stanley was the only European.
He wrote about his trials in his book Through the Dark Continent,
describing his expedition as if it were a conquest.
Stanley was approached by the ambitious Belgian king Leopold II, who in 1876 had organized a
private holding company disguised as an international scientific and
philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society. The
king spoke of his intentions to introduce Western civilization and to bring
religion to this part Africa, but didn't mention he wanted to claim the lands.
Stanley returned to the Congo, negotiated with tribal chiefs and obtained fair
concessions (that were later falsified to his advantage by the king). But
Stanley refused to impose treaties on the chiefs that would cede sovereignty
over their lands. He built new roads to open the country, but this also gave
advantage to the slave traders. When Stanley discovered that the king had other
plans, he still remained on his payroll.
In later years he spent much energy defending himself against charges that
his African expeditions had been marked by callous violence and brutality.
Stanley's opinion was that "the savage only respects force, power,
boldness, and decision." Stanley would eventually be held responsible for
a number of deaths and was indirectly responsible for helping establish the rule
of Léopold II of Belgium over the Congo
Free State. In addition, the spread of African trypanosomiasisacross central Africa is attributed to the movements of Stanley's enormous
baggage train and the Emin Pasha relief expedition.
Emin Pasha relief expedition
In 1886, Stanley led the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition to
"rescue" Emin Pasha, the governor of Equatoria in
the southern Sudan.
King Leopold II demanded that Stanley take the longer route, via the Congo
river, hoping to acquire more territory and perhaps even Equatoria. After
immense hardships and great loss of life, Stanley met Emin in 1888, discovered
the Ruwenzori Range and Lake Edward,
and emerged from the interior with Emin and his surviving followers at the end
of 1890. (Turnbull, 1983) But this expedition tarnished Stanley's name because
of the conduct of the other Europeans: British gentlemen and army officers. An
army major was shot by a carrier, after behaving with extreme cruelty. James Jameson, heir to an Irish
whiskey manufacturer, bought an eleven-year old girl and offered her to
cannibals to document and sketch how she was cooked and eaten. Stanley only
found out when Jameson had died of fever. Previous expeditions had given
Stanley satisfaction, but this one only had caused disaster.
On his return to Europe, he married Welsh artist Dorothy
Tennant, and they adopted a child, Denzil. Stanley entered Parliament as 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 1899, inrecognition of his service to the British Empire in Africa. He died in London on May 10,
1904; at his funeral, he was eulogized by Daniel P. Virmar. His grave,
in the churchyard of St. Michael's Church in Pirbright, Surrey, is marked
by a large piece of granite inscribed with the words "Henry Morton
Stanley, Bula Matari, 1841-1904,
Africa". (Bula Matari, or "Breaker of Rocks" in Kikongo, was
Stanley's name among Africans in Congo.) The translation for Bula Matari can be
interpreted by the Africans as "Breakstones", because of his inhuman
and cruel treatment of his African workers, in which he literally broke their
backs and their spirits. It can also be translated as a term on endearment, for
as the leader of Leopold's expedition, he commonly worked with the laborers
breaking rocks with which they built the first modern road along the Congo River.
In 1939, apopular film called Stanley and Livingstone was released,
Tracy as Stanley and Cedric Hardwicke as Livingstone.
An NES game based on his life was
released in 1992 called "Stanley: The Search for Dr.
In 1997, amade-for-television movie called "Forbidden Territory: Stanley's Search
for Livingstone" was produced by National Geographic. Stanley was
portrayed by Aidan Quinn and Livingstone was portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne.
Stanley Electric Co., Ltd. of Japan, uses Stanley's family name in honour of
his discoveries "that have brought light into many spots of the world
undiscovered and hitherto unknown to mankind". The company produces light
emitting diodes, liquid crystal displays, and lamps.
His great grandson, Richard Stanley, is a South African
filmmaker and directs documentaries.
There is a hospital in St. Asaph, North Walesnamed after Stanley in honor of his birth in the area. It was the former
workhouse in which he spent much of his early life.
The captain at Station 51
in the popular 1970s TV show Emergency!is named Henry Stanley. It is unknown whether or not this was done on purpose.
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