WHM: Official Documents Exercise Question 4 - Who was the primary audience for the document? le width=100%>

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Be the Historian!

Who was the primary audience for the document?

Read the following decree and answer the questions in the boxes to the right.

“Decree of Leopold II, King of the Belgians, Sovereign of the Independent State of the Congo, Regarding Settlements for African Children, 21 July 1890”

To all present and to come, greeting:

Whereas it is expedient to make provision for the protection of those children who have been victims of the Slave Trade; and

Whereas it is the general duty of the State to assume the guardianship of abandoned children, or of those whose parents do not fulfill their duties;

Now, therefore, on the proposal of our Administrator-General of the Foreign Department, we have decreed and do hereby decree:--

ARTICLE I. The State shall assume the guardianship of children liberated in consequence of the arrest and dispersal of a convoy of slaves; of fugitive slaves who demand such protection, of children forsaken, abandoned, or orphans, and of those whose parents do not fulfill their duty with regard to maintaining and educating them.
They shall be provided with the means of livelihood and a practical education, and established in life.

ARTICLE II. With this object agricultural and professional settlements shall be established, which shall admit not only such children as come under the definitions of Article I, but, as far as may be, those children who shall ask to be admitted.

ARTICLE III. From the day of their admission the children shall be placed exclusively under the guardianship of the State, to which they shall remain subject, and shall be liable to work, at the discretion of the Governor-General, up to the expiration of their twenty-fifth year in return for maintenance, food, lodging, and free medical attention.

1. How might his audiences have shaped the decree?
2. How might his audiences have responded to the decree?
3. Do you have any reasons to doubt the seeming benevolence of this decree?

Save your notes, and listen to Professor Carton’s commentary