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Brazza, Pierre Paul Francois Camille Savorgnan De

BRAZZA, PIERRE PAUL FRANCOIS CAMILLE SAVORGNAN DE, Count (1852-1905), French explorer and administrator, founder of French Congo, was born on board ship in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro on the 26th of January 1852. He was of Italian parentage, the family name being de Brazza Savorgnani. Through the instrumentality of the astronomer Secchi he was sent to the Jesuit college in Paris, and in 1868 obtained authorization to enter as a foreigner the marine college at Brest. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 he took part in the operations of the French fleet. In 1874 when the warship on which he was serving was in the Gabun, Alfred Marche and the marquis de Compiègne arrived at Libreville from an expedition in the lower Ogowé district. Interested in the reports of these travellers, de Brazza conceived the idea of exploring the Ogowé, which he thought might prove to be the lower course of the Lualaba, a river then recently discovered by David Livingstone. Having meantime been naturalized as a Frenchman, de Brazza in 1875 obtained permission to undertake his African scheme, and with the naval doctor, Noel Ballay, he explored the Ogowé river. Penetrating beyond the basin of that river, he discovered the Alima and Likona, but did not descend either stream. Thence turning northwards the travellers eventually regained the coast at the end of November 1878, having left Paris in August 1875. On arrival in Paris, de Brazza learned of the navigation of the Congo by H.M. Stanley, and recognized that the rivers he had discovered were affluents of that stream.

De Brazza was anxious to obtain for France some part of the Congo. The French ministry, however, determined to utilize his energies in another quarter of Africa. Their attention had been drawn to the Niger through the formation of the United African Company by Sir George Goldie (then Mr Goldie Taubman) in July 1879, Goldie's object being to secure Nigeria for Great Britain. A new expedition was fitted out, and de Brazza left Paris at the end of 1879 with orders to go to the Niger, make treaties, and plant French flags. When on the point of sailing; from Lisbon he received a telegram cancelling these instructions, and altering his destination to the Congo. This was a decision of great moment. Had the Nigerian policy of France been maintained the International African Association (afterwards the Congo Free State) would have had a clear field on the Congo, while the young British Company would have been crushed out by French opposition; so that the two great basins of the Niger and the Congo would have had a vastly different history.

Acting on his new instructions, de Brazza, who was again accompanied by Ballay, reached the Gabun early in 1880. Rapidly ascending the Ogowé he founded the station of Franceville on the upper waters of that river and pushed on to the Congo at Stanley Pool, where Brazzaville was subsequently founded. With Makoko, chief of the Bateke tribe, de Brazza concluded treaties in September and October 1880, placing the country under French protection. With these treaties in his possession Brazza proceeded down the Congo, and at Isangila on the 7th of November met Stanley, who was working his way up stream concluding treaties with the chiefs on behalf of the International African Association. De Brazza spent the next eighteen months exploring the hinterland of the Gabun, and returned to France in June 1882. The ratification by the French chambers in the following November of the treaties with Makoko (described by Stanley as worthless pieces of paper) committed France to the action of her agent.

Furnished with funds by the French government, de Brazza returned in 1883 to the Congo to open up the new colony, of which he was named commissioner-general in 1886. This post he held until January 1898, when he was recalled. During his period of office the work of exploration was systematically carried out by numerous expeditions which he organized. The incessant demands on the resources of the infant colony for these and other expeditions to the far interior greatly retarded its progress. De Brazza's administration was severely criticized; but that its comparative failure was largely due to inadequate support from the home authorities was recognized in the grant to him in 1902 of a pension by the chambers. Both as explorer and administrator his dealings with the natives were marked by consideration, kindness and patience, and he earned the title of "Father of the Slaves." His efforts to connect the upper Congo with the Atlantic by a railway through French territory showed that he understood the chief economic needs of the colony. After seven years of retirement in France de Brazza accepted, in February 1905, a mission to investigate charges of cruelty to natives brought against officials of the Congo colony. Having concluded his inquiry he sailed for France, but died at Dakar, Senegal, on the 4th of September 1905. His body was taken to Paris for burial, but in 1908 was reinterred at Algiers.

See D. Neuville et Ch. Bréard, Les Voyages de Savorgnan de Brazza, Ogooué et Congo, 1875-1882 (Paris, 1884), and Conférences et lettres de P. Savorgnan de Brazza sur ses trois explorations dans l'ouest africain de 1875 à 1886 (Paris, 1887); A.J. Wauters, "Savorgnan de Brazza et la conquête du Congo français," in Le Mouvement geographique, vol. xxii., No. 39 (Brussels, 1905). Giacomo or Jacques de Brazza (1859-1883), a younger brother of Savorgnan, and one of the men he employed in the work of exploration, published in collaboration with his companion A. Pecile, Tre Anni e mezzo nella regione del Congo e dell' Ogowe (Rome, 1887).

(G. T. G.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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