Creation of the Congo Free State

Through a sophisticated scheme of subterfuge, King Leopold II acquired private ownership of the Congo River Basin. With the help of two men especially, explorer Henry Morton Stanley and diplomat Henry Shelton Sanford, he had Congo chiefs sign treaties giving up their land and got the United States and Europe to recognize these treaties as the creation of an independent state. In reality, Leopold II had more power over the Congo Free State than he did as King of Belgium. So, the outrageous acts of greed and violence committed against the people of the Congo went totally unchecked for 23 years.