The History of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, 1859-1896


by A. E. M. Anderson-Morshead,
with a preface by Charlotte Mary Yonge

Text of the entire book, including Yonge's Preface (starts page xvii) can be read online or downloaded


MAN'S charter of possession of the earth seems to be to fill it worthily, not only by peopling it with multitudes, but with such nations as are capable of developing its resources, and building on them, step by step, civilization, improvement, and progress, especially towards that highest mark which is set before the world in Christianity.

It seems as if, in the history of the world, a discovery or revelation of the truth acted as an impulse in arms and arts, and civilization generally ; but if that religion was not susceptible of going farther and higher, the progress of the nation likewise stopped, or even retrograded. Thus it has been with the Chinese, the Hindoos, and, later, with the Arabs. It has been only, until the last three centuries, the nations around the Mediterranean Sea who have gradually carried on the course of thought and activity in a kind of community of intellect.

Egypt and Tyre had begun and carried on the work of progress till their corruption of faith made their religion effete, and in the case of the Phoenicians, horrible and barbarous. Greece flourished and extended her influence as long as she was a genuine seeker after truth ; and to Rome, with the brave, honest code of her early days, was committed the battle with the Canaanite greed and cruelty in Carthage and the other Phoenician colonies. The philosophy and religion of Greece and Rome were well-nigh worn out when the impulse of Christianity came in on them and their foundations on the African coast. Alexandria and Carthage produced the two greatest names in the early Church, and the whole Mediterranean border was a region of culture and thought ; but these were being corrupted when Mohammed promulgated a belief which, though most imperfect, had in it sufficient truth to inspire the Arabs with the spirit of conquest and propagation of their faith.

It was retrogression to these lands of Christianity, but in the negro races who adopted it there was a certain advance in improvement. But to the Arab and Turk the entire continent was chiefly an emporium of black slaves and white ivory.

Missionary zeal was chiefly expended on the northern nations before; in the Middle Ages it died away, nor was there even intercourse with any except the Mohammedan inhabitants of the coast of the Mediterranean until after the discovery of America, when Las Casas, in the hope of sparing the natives of the Caribbean Isles, proposed to substitute negro labour for theirs, The Guinea coast became the hunting ground of slave traders for successive generations of Spanish, Portuguese, and Englishmen, without more idea of compunction than if their game had been ostriches or elephants.

The Papal partition, marked by a meridian three hundred leagues west of the Azores, between Spain and Portugal, stimulated the latter country to send forth explorers, and thus in 1496 the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope completed the outline of the continent, though the interior remained for the most part comparatively unknown ; and even down to our own generation, maps depicted the Mountains of the Moon, a range more fabulous than the mountains in the moon.

Not till 1652 did the Dutch begin to settle at the Cape, enslaving but not teaching the Hottentots, and hunting down the less docile nations who interfered with them. The Moravians, always a missionary congregation, sent out a teacher in 1737, but the Boers were obstructive, and sent him home, and it was not for another fifty years that another attempt was made. Experience in America and the West Indies seems to have awakened the minds of Christians to the sense that not only domestic slaves possessed souls to be saved, but that their kindred at home ought also to be reached. Philanthropy might liberate the negro, but he could not be sent back to his savage relations, and thus Sierra Leone had to be colonized, and could not choose but become a missionary centre. Already, 1795, the first year of British possession of the Cape, the Moravian Brethren had returned, and in 1799 the London Missionary Society had begun to work upon the Kaffirs, a fine race, partly of Arab descent, and capable of intelligence, faithfulness, and courage. That knight-errant of mission chivalry, Allan Gardiner, made one expedition in those hitherto unknown regions.

The London Missionary Society sent out Robert Moffatt in the year 1816, and he commenced his wonderful labours in Bechuanaland, labours that lasted from his twentieth to his seventieth year, and which prepared his son-in-law Livingstone for his memorable career. Systematic work by the English Church must be dated from 1847, when by the liberality of one lady, a true steward of her great possessions, the diocese of Cape Town took its rise. Angela Burdett Coutts has been permitted to behold in her own lifetime most marvellous effects arising from her open-handed gifts to the Church. Under Bishop Robert Gray, not only were the stakes strengthened, but her cords were lengthened, as new dioceses were created like branches springing from the newly planted tree. There were struggles and contentions it is true, but such are proofs of life ; and one important consequence was the discovery that colonial Bishops, and those in lands beyond British dominions, need not be bound by oaths of spiritual allegiance to the Sovereign of England or the Archbishop of Canterbury. The decision set the Church free to stretch her arms wherever there was need. For has there, through out her entire history, been such an extraordinary extension of her growth as there has taken place in the course of the eighty years that have passed since Middleton was consecrated almost by stealth to the diocese of Calcutta. Livingstone was in the meantime making those explorations which brought him into contact with the negro race, and revealed the horrors of the slave trade, which, through Arabs and Portuguese kidnappers, supplied the Mohammedan countries. The indignant zeal which he roused in England had its effect in the Universities Mission. The chosen leader, Charles Frederick Mackenzie, had gathered experience by work among the colonists and Zulus of Natal. He was a man of most attractive manners, as well as of great intellect, and self-devoted faith. But it was only discovered that the track in which Livingstone led the Mission was impracticable by the sacrifice of his life and those of his followers. His sister, Anne, already an invalid when she had set out to join in his enterprise, returned in shattered health with the one purpose of doing all that in her lay to carry out his work, Twice had she passed his grave on an island of the Shire on her dreadful voyage in an open boat, when the sailors had prepared a spade to dig a grave for her, and she came home sick with African fever, in addition to all former maladies.

Yet she had energy to become the very heart of African missions. She felt the disappointment when the Zambesi was found impracticable for English residents, and the headquarters of the Universities Mission were transferred to Zanzibar, but thenceforth her chief interest was in the work in Zululand, which had been interrupted by her brother's call, and for the foundation of this bishopric she chiefly laboured till her death on Quinquagesima Sunday, 1877. To her devotion, we could not but give these few words, as one of the earliest pioneers of the Central African Mission, and so nearly connected with the first who there broke soil. It was a sowing in tears for those who have since reaped in joy. In joy, shall we say? Nay, to every generation, where true progress is made, the same petition is realized :

"Show Thy servants Thy work, and their children Thy glory."

The achievements of one form the foundation for the next. "To subdue the earth" of Africa after the long prevalence of dark barbarism, seems to be the task of the present day. The discoveries of travellers, and the mapmaking of diplomatists, have led to the partition of the continent into the "protectorates" of the powers of Europe.

Yet the Church is not lagging behind them. Even before the feet of the labourer go those of him "that bringeth good tidings, and publisheth peace" peace from cruel violence, from savage kidnapping, from ghastly witchcraft and revenge, that outward and inward peace that passeth all understanding.


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