"we approach them with the might as of a deity"
George Washington Williams (1888)
Public DomainGeorge Washington Williams (1888) - Credit: George W. Williams
Caricature of Henry Morton Stanley (1872)
Public DomainCaricature of Henry Morton Stanley (1872) - Credit: Frederick Waddy

In the first full exposé of Leopold's Congo Free State, George Washington Williams described how Henry Morton Stanley and his assistants had used a variety of tricks, such as fooling Africans into thinking that whites had supernatural powers, to get Congo chiefs to sign their land over to Leopold. For example:

A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother’s hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet… When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull up trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength.

Another trick was to use a magnifying glass to light a cigar, after which ‘the white man explained his intimate relation to the sun, and declared that if he were to request him to burn up his black brother’s village it would be done.