Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Congo Free State

The following newspaper accounts show the increasing demands by newspapers for the establishment of a Consular Court in the Congo Free State. (Selected and transcribed by Peter Bullock.)


The Times, 28 May 1885

Anglo-Belgian Convention, Consular Jurisdiction.

The Brisbane Courier (Queensland, Australia), 13 December 1895



LONDON, December 12.

The right of appeal of Captain Lothaire, the Belgian officer in the Congo Free State, who is to be placed on his trial for the illegal execution of the British trader, Stokes, has been extended.

   It is understood that in the event of any failure of justice in connection with the trial of Lothaire a British Consul, with full consular jurisdiction, will be established at Boma, the capital of the Congo State.

   The "Home News" of the 25th October says:-

   The case against the Congo Free State in general, and Captain Lothaire in particular, grows blacker.  It seems that when the Consular Courts were suspended on the representations of the King of the Belgians, it was agreed that British subjects tried by local officials should have the right to appeal to the chief court of the State.  Less than that it would have been impossible to either concede or accept.

   What happened in the case of Mr. Stokes? He was summarily tried and executed by Captain Lothaire, who not only denied him any opportunity of appeal, but seems to have hoped that the affair would remain secret.  A more barbarous proceeding it is impossible to conceive.  The more heinous the offence, the more reason Captain Lothaire would have had for letting the culprit be tried in the light of day.  Had Stokes been the greatest rascal who ever penetrated into the heart of Africa he would have been entitled to more consideration than Lothaire accorded one whom there is not a little ground for believing was, as such men go, an enterprising, honourable, and worthy man.


The Times, 8 June 1904.


Proposal for a British Consular Court.


The Times, 15 June 1904


Mr. H. R. Fox-Bourne, secretary of the Aborigines' Protection Society, which advocates the establishment of a British Consular Court in the Congo State, has addressed a letter to Lord Lansdowne, from which we take the following extract:-

According to the published report of his speech (on June 10_), Earl Percy pointed out in it the inconvenience of making the case of Silvanus Jones, the native of Lagos who was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for alleged offences while in the service of the Societo Anversoise du Commerce au Congo, a ground for the assertion of British Consular jurisdiction within the Congo State.

Without offering any opinion as to the merits or demerits of this particular individual, I am to call your Lordship's attention to the report of Acting Consul Nightingale and its enclosures, which are printed on page 42 to 58 of the Parliamentary paper 'Africa, No. 7 (1904).' ... In the opinion of our committee the case was one in which, whatever might have been its issue, Jones was entitled, as a British subject, to such consideration as he could only have had through the intermediary of the Consular jurisdiction which is now asked for.


The Colac Herald (Victoria, Australia), 22 July 1904



The Foreign office vote gave the Opposition a good opportunity for raising the question of the Congo Free State, and if the discussion had no other result, it showed that the Government were at last waking up to the feeling of the country against the maladministration of the Belgian King. [question of establishing Consular Courts.]


The Times, 25 April 1906

Correspondence re Case of Rev. Edgar Stannard; main focus is need for a Consular Court.


Manchester Courier, 6 June, 1906.

  The following letters have been received from the Foreign Office by Mr. E. D. Morel, hon-secretary of the Congo Reform Association, in reference to the trial of the Rev. E. Stannard:
Foreign Office, May 28th.
Sir, - I am directed by Secretary Sir E. Grey to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 10th inst., in which you call attention to the difficulties with which Mr. Stannard may be confronted in the event of the proceedings in connection with his trial being unduly delayed, and in view of the unwillingness of the Congolese natives to give evidence before the Courts. Sir E. Grey fully appreciates the considerations which you put forward, but with reference to the last paragraph in your letter, he directs me to refer you to my letter of the 18th ult., and to state that before considering whether the establishment of a British Consular Court in the Congo is a necessary measure for the protection of British subjects there he must wait until Vice-Consul Armstrong, who will carefully watch the proceedings against Mr. Stannard, has submitted his report. - I am sir, your most obedient humble servant,
Eric Barrington.

Foreign Office, June 1st.
Sir, - I am directed by Secretary Sir E. Grey to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th, enclosing extracts from a letter from the Rev. E. Stannard to the Governor General of the Congo respecting the state of affairs in the interior of the Abir concession. I am to inform you that His Majesty's Minister at Brussels has been instructed to bring Mr. Stannard's statements to the notice of the Congo Government. - I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant,
Eric Barrington.

The letter referred to was one, already published, from Mr. Stannard to the Governor General regarding
the journey of himself and two companions to the Upper Baringa.


The Brisbane Courier (Australia), 7 July 1906




LONDON, Friday.

News has been received from the Congo Free State that the Rev. Edward Stannard, an English missionary, who was arrested some time ago on the charge of libelling Major Hagstrom, a Swedish officer in the service of the Congo Government, has been tried at Coquithatville.  The charge was 'held' to be proved, and Mr. Stannard was fined 1000 francs. (£40).

  (In April last, Sir Edward Grey, in a letter to the Congo Reform Association on the forthcoming trial at Coquithatville of the Rev. Edgar Stannard, who was accused of libelling a Belgian officer, stated that the British Vice-Consul would be present during the proceedings.  If his report shows that the case is unfairly conducted, the Government, adds the Foreign Secretary,

"will have to consider whether the time has come to establish a British Consular Court for the protection of other British subjects against whom similar charges may be brought."   Mr. E. D. Moore, in reply, notes that there appears "to be virtually no chance at all of Mr. Stannard obtaining independent legal advice.")


The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Australia), 12 July 1906


LONDON, July 17.

A missionary in the Congo Free State states that the Governor-General of the Congo Free State refused to allow the Vice-Consul at Leopoldville (Mr. J. R. Armstrong) to obey the instructions of the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Edward Grey) to act as the Rev. Edward Stannard's counsel.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 1906



LONDON, Aug. 22.

   Forty missionaries from the Congo Free State now in England will appeal to Sir Edward Grey, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to consider the advisability of immediately assumed consular jurisdiction in the Congo Free State in order to protect British subjects....

   The creation of Consular Courts in the Congo Free State is rendered more necessary than ever because of the conviction of Mr. Stannard, a missionary, by the Congo judicial authorities, on a charge of libel, alleged to be uttered in evidence before the Congo Reform Committee, the charge being laid under a law promulgated after the alleged libel was uttered.  There is now no reason to doubt, writes the "Morning Post," that the introduction of extra-territorial jurisdiction is merely a matter of time.


The Times, 30 July 1907

House of Commons debate on Congo and Consular representation.


Townsville Daily Bulletin (Queensland, Australia), 25 April 1908



Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School