The continuing debate over the causes, effects and future implications of European colonialism and imperialism is perhaps best viewed through a transatlantic lens. The various phases of imperialism from 1415 through 1914 provide ample time and examples of this continuous cultural interchange. The last of these interchanges, forced or otherwise, is that of the New Imperialism of 1860-1914. Discussions of later globalization and economic/cultural imperialism are not covered. That discussion is a different subject perhaps requiring different tools of analysis, especially economic. The impact of this last period reverberates through the current world discussion on rights, obligations, morality and law, especially natural law. The basic question is: are there ix truths that merit, no demand, their transmission by force or otherwise? Expressed more philosophically, "is man the measure of all things?"
Was there something the "West" had or represented that needed to be spread by word or by sword? Are there universal concepts, or to use the Platonic euphemism, "virtues" that are inherent to all men so that there is a need or quoting Jefferson "a duty", to respond and spread them throughout the world? Or, quoting Lenin, is imperialism merely "the highest stage of capitalism" and this New Imperialism a mere economic and political exercise in power and arrogance?
There can never be a definitive analysis of imperialism which will yield a final answer to these questions. Continued historical inquiry does enhance both knowledge and understanding. This is a study of Belgium and its first king Leopold I in the years 1830-1855, a period before the New Imperialism. Why then is it of any value as a tool of analysis of the New Imperialism, decades before it took place? Because Belgium, its king, government and sense of nationhood were new. Yet, within a few years of its creation in 1830 its king at least viewed the world through the eyes of an imperialist. Its very newness and relative openness of its government allows the historian to poke around, so to speak. This is especially so in view of the later overwhelmingly successful imperialism of its second king Leopold II in the Congo Free State.
This is an inquiry into four examples of early Belgian colonial efforts in the Republic of Texas, Guatemala, Brazil and the Rio Nunez River in present day Guinea. The method employed is that of a historical inquiry into the event and then an analysis of the effort by the political, economic, social and scientific causes of the New x Imperialism in a search of analogies and differences. It is not as much a new study of the historical events themselves but an attempt to discern an overall or macro-historical view of Belgian, and by extension, European imperialistic motivation.