Home Political science British Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Movement, 1896-1913
The officers and committees of the CRA and its auxiliaries were the movement’s core activists. The 45 Executive Committee members during the CRA’s existence tended to be Nonconformist, Liberal, university-educated, London- based, middle-aged, and male (Table 4.1). The absence of women was unusual; the APS Committee had included women for many years, and the Anti-Slavery Society opened its Committee to women in 1906.
The CRA leadership was relatively young. In 1905, Morel turned 32 and the Executive Committee’s median age was 51. With an age range of 31 to 74, the group could draw on the experience of Brooks (71), Hodgkin (74), and Fox Bourne (68) and the energy of the men in their 30s such as Morel, Samuel, and John Harris. Three-fifths of the Executive Committee were in their 40s and 50s, many approaching the peaks of their careers. This age structure gave the CRA an advantage over the older leadership at its sister humanitarian organizations.
Apart from Morel, Dilke, Fox Bourne, Samuel, and a few others, religious influences were strong among the Executive Committee. Of the men whose religious affiliations were available, just over half were Nonconformists and just under half Anglicans. None were Catholics. Among the 19 Nonconformists, five were Quakers active in overseas humanitarianism. Most of those with identified affiliations were deeply committed to and motivated by their religious beliefs.
Liberals dominated this ostensibly nonpartisan organization. The party was more receptive than the Conservatives to international humanitarian concerns and to the causes espoused by politically active Nonconformists. Local Liberal groups asked for Congo speakers and the party’s leadership made independent representations to Grey regarding Congo reform. Of the 33 Executive Committee members with clear political affiliations, 82 percent were Liberals. A handful of Conservatives, a Liberal Unionist, and the Labour Party’s Ramsay MacDonald gave the group a multiparty fig leaf.
By occupation, 11 committeemen were clergy, providing a strong but not dominant religious element. Businessmen were the next largest contingent, with three retired bankers, five merchants, and three manufacturers. Five aristocrats were politically active men with government experience, though Aberdeen and Listowel did not attend meetings. Five men were professional writers or editors, including the novelist Sir Gilbert Parker. The others were lawyers, professors, secretaries of philanthropic organizations, professional politicians, and a retired military officer. Guinness, an MD, could be considered clergy though he was not ordained. The committee was largely middle class, mostly on the upper side of that class.
Table 4.1 CRA Executive Committee members, 1904-13
Notes: * indicates an MP any time 1904-13. L-Radical=Liberals (Radical wing), LU=Liberal Unionist.
The Executive Committee’s composition realized Morel’s hope that the movement could fuse overseas humanitarianism, the religiously led activism of the Nonconformist conscience, and the philanthropic side of the world of commerce. The CRA claimed with some justification that its top echelon bridged political, sectarian, class, and geographic divisions, albeit in a token sense for some groups and not at all for Catholics.
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