E. Belfort Bax

The Old Old Story

(4 December 1886)

The Old Old Story, Commonweal, 4th Dec 1886, p.285.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A few days ago the Daily News published the opinions of a Dr. Zinkgraf on the social conditions of the Congo. Dr. Zinkgraf pathetically expatiates on the cruelties of the native races towards the negroes, the reason of his objection being, apparently, that confinement or hard labour would be as effectual punishments. Dr. Zinkgraf is very solicitous about the negroes self-respect, and about his having an “aim in life.” “It is work,” says Dr. Zinkgraf, “which teaches him his personal value and the aim of his existence,” Now for giving him and the “aim of his existence” and a value for his personal labour, Dr. Zinkgraf evidently thinks the negro ought to be truly thankful to the European, the fact of his retaining this personal value for himself or giving it to his benefactor being a matter of no consequence. Poor negroes! How happy were you before you knew anything about “personal value” and “aims of existence.” But there is worse in store for you. Hear the learned doctor! “Before the negroes are capable of adopting the Christian religion truly and with result, their whole nature must have changed, and this can only be brought about by their being kept to physical labour under energetic guidance, so that they may come to acknowledge its value.” Penal servitude is thus an indispensable preparation for the true Christian spirit. One of these days we may hear of an insurrection in Congo, and a necessity for the establishment of order by martial law. But the Revolution may also come in Europe before the governing classes exactly expect it. And then the personal value of Dr. Zinkgraf, and other very energetic guiders of niggers, may sink very low indeed, and the aim of their existence be considerably modified. Tormenting niggers for the good of their better selves may not be quite so profitable when there are no Governments at home ready to assist them with Gatlings and “square formation.”



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