"They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got"
Leopold II of Belgium
Public DomainLeopold II of Belgium - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the original manuscript, Conrad follows this sentence with a passage which makes the parallel with King Leopold II of Belgium and his Congo Free State (see Setting) much more explicit: 'but at any rate they had no pretty fictions about it. They had no international associations from motives of philanthropy with some third rate king for head ...'

Conrad was referring to Leopold’s Association Internationale pour l'Exploration et la Civilisation de l'Afrique (International Association for the Exploration and Civilizing of Africa), the smokescreen used by the Belgian monarch to acquire his long desired colony. Under the pretence of bringing the so-called three Cs to Africa (Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization), the Association disguised Leopold's colonial venture as a philanthropic mission dedicated to the civilizing of Africans.