In 1890, Morel began working at Elder Dempster, a Liverpool shipping firm that conducted trade for Leopold. His position as head of the Congo Department gave him access to shipping records, manifestos and closed reports.
Morel noticed that the company records did not match the Congo Free State’s public trade figures. This gave him reason to believe the reports of abuse he had heard from the Congo missionaries.
Trade Statistics found by Morel, Published in E.D. Morel, The Man and his Work
"On examining the ships’ manifestos, he found that much of the rubber and ivory shipped from the Congo … were not included in the statistics issued by the Congo government. A great deal more was being exported than was included in the returns. He also discovered that some of the companies which controlled vast areas of Congo territory, and were intimately connected to King Leopold and his minions, were making immense profits, so immense, in fact, that shares which were normally worth about 20 euros apiece were changing hands at anything from 800 to 1000 euros per share, whilst shareholders were receiving dividends bringing in from 300 to 800 percent on their investments. But none of this wealth was returning to the Congo… Although exports were generating vast fortune for Leopold and his business cronies, the people of the country were receiving nothing, or next to nothing for their commodities or their labor.” - Donald Mitchell, Politics of Dissent
Morel was a believer in free trade, equal commercial opportunity and native rights. As the conditions in the Congo worsened, Morel became impassioned. He was determined to reveal Leopold’s brutality and return rights to the natives. To Morel it was not colonialism and colonization that was flawed, it was the exploitation and abuse to the natives.
"There was something very huge and mysterious about the whole subject which exercised an increasing fascination over my mind... I plunged into the old West African literature: learned the geography of the coast, section by section, with the help of maps and steamer charts; studied its history, its trade and its peoples' customs, its fauna and flora, laid myself out to read up everything I could find about the current problems in the newspapers... The more I read the more interested I grew; the more clearly it seemed to me... that the newspapers seemed extraordinarily ignorant of the whole subject." - E.D. Morel