Circular (notice or memo) by Governor-General Théophile Wahis on October 20th, 1900- The circular addressed several issues, including a clarification of the “right of police,” which companies in the Congo were interpreting to mean that it was acceptable to make war on the population.

Circular dated October 20, 1900

“The Government have delegated [appointed as a representative] to commercial Companies operating in certain parts of the territory not subject to the immediate exercise of Government authority a part of their powers in matters of general police.

These Companies are described as having “the right of police.” Erroneous [incorrect] interpretations have been given to this expression.

It has been held by some as giving to the Directors of these Companies, and even to inferior officers, the right to undertake offensive military operations, to “make war” on the native population; others, without even troubling to ascertain [figure out] what the limits of this right of police might be, have used the means afforded [given] by this delegation of power to commit the gravest abuses…”

-The Governor-General Théophile Wahis

  1. How had some company directors and inferior officers interpreted “the right of police”?
  2. Did Governor-General Wahis agree or disagree with the interpretations of the directors and officers?
  3. What does this circular tell you about the experience of the native population in the Congo?
  4. According to this circular, was the government of the Congo living up to its promises from the treaties and the Berlin Conference?
  5. Should a government delegate its powers to companies? Why or why not?
  6. Predict the rest of the circular. What do you think that Governor-General went on to say?