Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference 1889–90

The Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference 1889–1890 was held between 18 November 1889 - 2 July 1890 in Brussels. The Brussels Conference led to the negotiation of the first general treaty for the suppression of the African slave trade, the General Act for the Repression of the African Slave Trade of 1890 (also known as the Brussels Act) The Brussels conference brought the evils of the slave trade forcefully to public attention, and the act, while serving the interests of the colonial powers, bound them to suppress it. Humanitarians regarded it as a triumph, an important step in the doctrine of trusteeship. The principles embodied in it were passed on to the League of Nations and ultimately to the United Nations.

Festival at the Brussels Stock Exchange. Ovation for the king during the speech in favour of the Brussels Conference Act of 1890.
Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, founder of the Missionaries of Africa
Auguste Lambermont led the conference
Tippu Tip, said to own personally more then 10.000 slaves.
Leopold II, King of the Belgians hosted the Conference.


  • The change which has occurred in the political condition of the African Coast, to-day calls for common action on the part of the Powers responsible for the control of that Coast. That action should tend to close all foreign slave-markets and should also result in putting down slave hunting in the interior. The great work undertaken by the King of the Belgians, in the constitution of the Congo State, and the lively interest taken by His Majesty in all questions affecting the welfare of the African races, lead Her Majesty's Government to hope that Belgium will be disposed to take the initiative in inviting the Powers to meet in Conference at Brussels, in order to consider the best means of attaining the gradual suppression of the slave-trade on the Continent of Africa and the immediate closing of all the outside markets which the slave-trade daily continues to supply.
  • To the king's great satisfaction, Brussels was chosen as the location, for eight months of intermittent meetings starting in November 1889, for an Anti-Slavery Conference of the major powers. The king happily entertained the delegates, in whose meeting room at the Belgian Foreign Ministry aforked slave-yoke was on display.
    • Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold's ghost: a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.
  • What does the greatness of a monarch consist in? I fit is the extent of his territory, then the Emperor of Russia is the greatest of all. I fit is the splendour and power of military organization, then William II [of Germany] takes first place. But if royal greatness consists in the wisdom and goodness of a sovereign leading his people with the solicitude of a shepherd watching over his flock, then the greatest sovereign is your own.
    • Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold's ghost: a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa. Boston, Houghton Mifflin. While the conference was still in session, Leopold invited Stanley to Belgium for a week. Stanley spoke to the delegates,and Leopold presented him with the Grand Cross of the Congo, arranged a banquet and a gala opera performance in his honor,and put him up in the gilt and scarlet rooms at the Royal Palace normally reserved for visiting royalty. In return, Stanley praised his host to the Belgians in a speech.

Quotes from the Belgian Delegation


Quotes from the British Delegation

  • As to the question whether this modification is opportune, the fact must not be lost sight of that the Berlin Conference never intended to fix unalterably the economic system of the Free State, which, as was already then foreseen, would undergo radical modifications under the influence of progress, nor of establishing for an indefinite period regulations which may hinder, check, and even arrest its development. Provision was wisely made for the probability of future changes, which would require a certain latitude in economic matters in order to secure their easy realization... The moment has now come when the marvellous progress made by the infant State is creating fresh needs, when it would be only in accordance with wisdom and foresight to revise an economic system primarily adapted to a creative and transitional period. Can we blame the infant State for a progress which, in its rapidity, has surpassed the most optimistic forecasts? Can we hinder and arrest this progress in refusing her the means necessary for her development? Can we condemn the Sovereign who has already made such great sacrifices to support for an indefinite period a burden which daily becomes heavier, and at the same time impose upon him new and heavy expenses necessitated by the suppression of the slave-trade? We are convinced that there will be but one answer to these questions.

Quotes from the German Delegation


Quotes from the Dutch Delegation


See Also