Project Canterbury

Memories of Mashonaland

By G. W. H. Knight-Bruce
Sometime Bishop of Mashonaland

London and New York: Edward Arnold, 1895.


Chapter VI. Where do Missions Fail?

Before ending these notes on purely native missions, it may be of some little use to examine the position rather more thoroughly. We all allow that money and energy are expended on missions. 'To what purpose is this waste?'

First, I would say that objections to missions seem to me to have their home in England rather than Africa. Of other countries I cannot speak from any experience. In Africa I can hardly remember a single objection to missions coming from anyone whose opinion would carry any weight. There are mysterious people spoken of in England as 'old officers,' whom I am told bring to England accounts of the uselessness of missions. I cannot recall having met any of the class in Africa. Indeed, [117/118] the impression deeply embedded in my mind is that English officers were among our greatest friends. The first list of supporters of the Mashonaland mission was, I believe, composed entirely of English officers of the army and navy in the highest positions, and governors of districts then resident in Africa. It was one in the highest position of all who, when the Mashonaland mission was first being founded, volunteered without my asking to help us. This would hardly be the action of an intelligent and honourable man who believed that missions did rather harm than good.

At the largest meeting which had then been held for political purposes in Fort Salisbury, the chairman said that the missions had done more good in Mashonaland, during the short time they had been there, than had been done by the long-established Matabeleland mission. He meant no reflection on the Matabeleland missions, but on the Matabele themselves; it was, however, indirectly, a great compliment to the Mashonaland missions.

One of the leading officials of the British South Africa Company, who had, perhaps, as good opportunities of knowing what was being done as anyone, spoke of the work which was [118/119] being done by the English Church mission in Mashonaland as 'splendid.' It is only incidentally that I mention the English Church mission as connected with the evidence on missions in general.

Such opinions ought to have some weight as against the vague objections to missions that are poured into credulous English ears.

I was once riding with an officer, who knew more of this subject than most men, and, speaking of a country which was pre-eminent for its prosperity, peace, and especially the courage and general ability of its people, he said, as nearly as I can remember: 'What this country is to-day is, to a great extent (or in the main), what the missionaries have made it.' Some of the happiest memories of my life in Africa are associated with English soldiers and sailors, and I hardly think this would have been so had they been otherwise than well-disposed towards missions. Perhaps it can be argued that they are used themselves to obey, and, without going deeper into the question, are prepared to help us to carry out Christ's commands. Those who have read the life of the first Duke of Wellington, by his chaplain, will remember that when someone, who [119/120] ought to have known better, was questioning the value of missions, his answer was, 'What are your marching orders?--"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.'" But I think soldiers' knowledge of missions often extends farther than obeying the command. They know their value.

Some years ago, one of our most distinguished English officers, speaking at a meeting in Cape Town, was comparing the work done by English soldiers and English missionaries in Africa. He would hardly have underrated the value of his own profession, but he put the work of missions first.

And among others, too, in Africa, I never remember any man saying, about any particular mission, that he did not think it was doing good. I may have heard more than once someone say, 'I don't see any good in teaching the niggers,' but never that the 'niggers' of any especial place were the worse for being taught. It is outside Africa, and in England, that the ideas hostile to missions seem to flourish. It was when I was first going out to Africa that I was told that it was well known that Dr. Livingstone always travelled alone for some iniquitous purpose, of which he did not wish [120/121] other Europeans to know anything. My informant was much annoyed because I expressed my doubts as to the truth of the assertion. I think that he then said that everyone in Africa knew it to be so. I lived afterwards for some time in Africa, and never heard a suggestion of it again.

I know that among a certain section of the European population in Africa any movement towards raising the natives in any way would be resented, and I presume that they would disapprove of the action of the civil authorities in encouraging schools for general education among natives; but this is a very different position to saying that, from our standpoint in England, Christianizing the natives does no good. Their position would be that they wish to treat the native as a thing to be used: that any elevation of him may put ideas into his head that had better not be there: that he may know too much for them. The position taken by the enemies of missions in England is a totally different one--that the native is injured by the process.

I remember one of the leading politicians among the Dutch once talking to me on the subject. He was a man of whom any country [121/122] could so well be proud that I feel in quoting him I am quoting the best expression of the sentiments among the Dutch gentlemen of the highest type. I cannot recall the words exactly, but the beginning of our conversation was something like this:

'Now tell me, Bishop--this Christianizing of the natives--why do you spend time and money in such a work? Are there not your own people in England to look after? But,' he said, stopping himself, 'perhaps you go only on our Lord's command?'

I said that it was on that we did go. 'Then,' he replied, 'of course, if you do, there is nothing more to be said.'

I am glad that there was a great deal more to be said, and we both said it, and both understood each other the better in the saying.

One great proof of the growth of feeling in favour of missions in Africa is that the Dutch Church is taking action in the matter that would astonish those people in England who affect to believe that no one who knows anything' of the subject from local information could support missions. And I think I may say that when Dutch people in their corporate capacity believe they are right in sending [122/123] missions to the African natives, the opposers in England of missions to natives in Africa have received a severe blow.

Whenever this subject is brought up, and vague general aspersions on missions are scattered about, I have always the same feelings that can be summed up shortly. Do give us some facts. The hypothesis on which the whole argument against missions is founded is constantly open to contradiction at the very outset; but a magnificent superstructure is built on this flimsy foundation.

To take two general contentions advanced in England. The native is injured by becoming a Christian. I ask, where? Which native? Do people mean to say that the natives being educated at Lovedale are becoming a lower class than their grandfathers and grandmothers? That the London Missionary Society's Institution at Kuruman is turning out men and women who would have been more useful to society if they had been left alone? I can speak feelingly about this last Institution, because one of the men who went with me in one of my longest journeys came from it; and not only was he one of the best of natives with whom I have ever had to [123/124] do, but one of the best interpreters, one of the best horsemen, absolutely fearless, and, though I have met many since, I think the best waggon-driver that I have ever seen.

Will they tell us that the Christian natives at the French Protestant missions in Basutoland, or at our own missions there, are inferior to the untrained heathen natives around them? Will they tell us that they are Jess clean, less truthful, less hard-working, less useful as servants? I laugh as I write it.

There was one large native town in Africa pre-eminent for evil living. An ex-magistrate, when speaking of the trouble that arose on account of the native women going to the European quarter, said that, however, he had never seen a Christian woman there, and had never seen a Christian man drunk.

I don't say that there may not be instances in Africa of the general degeneracy of the natives after the introduction of Christianity. I can only say that, after some little experience, I have never seen or heard of such cases.

We do not say for a moment that there may not be grave difficulties in the transition state. When old tribal restrictions, as among the Zulus and Matabele, are abolished, it is [124/125] necessary that many, who were restrained only by such restrictions, may do wrong things that they would never have done before. The evil is then generally attributed to civilizing and Christianizing the natives. Before moral restraints take the place of physical ones, and the Christian character gets somewhat established, it must be hard, in the case of social morality for instance, to supply a motive for morality equal to the old tribal penalties for immorality; but I venture to say that these penalties were not on account of wrongdoing, as we understand the word, but on the ground of the rights of property and value of property. And I also venture to think that no length of education under such a system will awaken that sense of sin and wrongdoing which is essential to the highest development of man.

Before going to Mashonaland I had a good deal to do with one mission where the people were somewhat in this state of transition. There were some six hundred communicants in the mission. No one could accuse the admirable missionary of undue leniency. Every year a list was made of those who had been bad failures; I think there were usually about seven or eight. I dare say many failed of [125/126] whom nothing was known; but, if the missionary did not know his people, I hardly think anyone else did, or could have given an opinion about them that was better worth having.

Of course, in African towns there are men and women with Christian names who are leading bad lives. But, first, it would be well to ask whether these people are Christians at all, and not only people who have picked up Christian names; then, if they are found to be Christians, whether they are members of any mission at all, and have not been rejected on account of their failings. If they have been, they are in the same position as similar people would be in England, where it would not be supposed that the failings of individuals prove the uselessness of Christianity. 'It is not Christianity that fails, but Christians.'

I may be unobservant, but I have entirely failed, from any conceivable point of view, to see any advantage in leaving natives in their heathenism. I am not speaking now of the coming of the white man generally, which is a totally different question, and must be argued on totally different lines, but of the coming of the missionaries, as Dr. Livingstone went to the Makololo, or Dr. Moffat to the Matabele, [126/127] or as the French Protestant mission went to the Basuto. These comings seem an unmixed benefit; nor is the benefit one degree lessened when their coming is associated with the general inroad of the Europeans. The life which the men and women of the London Missionary Society passed in Matabeleland after white men had come to Buluwayo had no less good effect than if the missionaries had been alone in the country. They were in no way associated in people's minds with the Europeans who came in to trade or for gold concessions. Mr. Helm was a good deal used as an interpreter, and his house was a good deal used as a hospital, or unpaid hotel, and I dare say many a white man owes his life to Mrs. Helm's nursing and care; but they were never a part of the white population round Buluwayo, or wherever the chief's kraal happened to be.

And among the natives they were looked on in a perfectly different light to the other white men. I remember being told that whenever that kind of conversation was going on among the native women in a kraal which the Matabele knew the missionaries would disapprove of, immediately a missionary came in it would stop.

[128] When I first stayed with the missionaries, in Matabeleland, I felt sure that in no popular outbreak against the white men would there be any national rising against the mission; in fact, once when the people were very much excited one of the staff was caught, but let go again when they found who he was. And though probably the missionaries would not: have been justified in making the experiment, my firm belief is they would have been uninjured had they stayed in their homes right through the Matabele war. I remember it being said that the only person who could say anything she wished to Lobengula was the widow of one of the Matabele missionaries.

It is, perhaps, hardly fair to my adversaries to quote the case of Khama as one where, although Europeans were allowed in the country, the effect made on the natives by missions was all for good; for Khama kept out the English drink-smugglers almost 'at the point of the bayonet,' and consequently the English he had around him were of a most exceptionally high class. I fear that it will be a sorry day for that country if it ever passes out of his absolute control.

I have said that the benefit of missions is [128/129] in no way lessened when they are associated -with the coming of the white man; indeed, then they are all the more important. In Basutoland, for instance, the native sees the righteous government of the white man working side by side with the religion that, acting on the white man for many centuries, has produced that government. He sees, in so far as it is possible, every bad influence and demoralizing power excluded from the country. The whole race, materially, morally, spiritually, is progressing under the joint influence. It is an object-lesson, showing both to European and African what can be done when natives are taken care of as they should be.

But when precautions are not taken to keep bad influences from the natives, then it is that missions should be strongest. They should witness that vices brought in by bad men are not a part and parcel of European life; that the evil that they see among Europeans is not allowed by, but is opposed by, the white man's religion; that there are thousands of white men in the country of the great white Queen who have a hatred of everything which is bad or injurious to the native races, and are doing what they can to stop it.

[130] One of the happiest sides of mission-work is the rapidity with which black heathen savages-will distinguish between a collection of indifferent white men who do not behave well, and the missionaries or those who try to be fair to them. Once, when living near a European camp, the natives would come to us complaining that white men had ill-treated them. Well, it didn't mean much, but it was a proof that they felt that, though they might be ill-treated by one class of white men, they had sympathy from another. But it is only right to say that in the same camp there was an English officer to whom they also came in their troubles just as much as they would come to us, because they knew that he, too, would help them if he could. All of which shows that a higher influence is most valuable, even when the tendency of white men's conduct would be to drag down the white man's religion.

Mr. Selous not long ago gave a lecture at Exeter Hall on 'Travel and Adventure in South-East Africa.' As one of the oldest English travellers in Mashonaland and Matabeleland, and as one who has spent the greater part of his life there, Mr. Selous is to be listened to when he speaks of natives. 'Many [130/131] would tell them,' he said, 'that white men could only work with natives by brutality and force. He entirely denied that proposition. There were some men of brutal natures who would never inspire the natives with any confidence; but people who treated natives fairly, kindly, and justly got on with them very well--in fact, if they behaved to them as gentlemen. Many said the natives were not capable of gratitude. He denied it, and thought those who said so had generally done nothing to elicit it.'

From every conceivable point of view I can see no valid argument against Christianizing the native. I think that we cannot speak so decidedly about every system used. A mission-station where a premium of any kind is put upon the natives becoming Christians is open to objections. Bad families expelled from their own tribes, or too lazy to work, may be attracted there. Of course, missionaries who understand their business will counteract the possible evil: but there is a possible evil. I cannot say that I have seen any. I once did get a bad boy from a mission-station--a shocking bad boy; he was not a native, but a half-caste, and I should say that his failings could not be attributed to the system, but [131/132] rather to accidents which might have occurred in any other place.

When I say that in some mission-stations a premium may be put on natives becoming Christians, I think I may easily be misunderstood. I have never heard of any inducement in any shape or form being offered to persuade them to become Christians; but the fact of being allowed to set e on a farm, which exists as a part of the machinery of a mission which has for its object the Christianizing of the natives, must somewhat bias the settlers. However, in every well-managed mission the good to be gained probably far outweighs any shortcomings.

An ideal mission, no doubt, is one which is placed in a purely native country, and where the chief and people give, and the missionaries receive. The people accept Christianity on its own merits, neither influenced in its favour by any material ends to be gained, nor prejudiced against it by seeing professing Christians who are leading bad lives. But this is Utopian. There comes a time in the history of all these native races when they must needs come into contact with the white man; but it would be well for them if they had had for some time [132/133] the influences of Christianity affecting them before they had to face the world of European immigration. This is the condition of the mission established by Mr. Coillard among the Barotse to the north of the Zambesi, in so far as there has been no general immigration there as yet. This is the condition of the missions in Basutoland, where the missionaries have fair play, and every bad European influence that can be is kept out of the country.

In a European colony, as Cape Colony, no such conditions can exist. Mission-work must take a somewhat different form. Industrial institutions can and do take a tar more prominent place. But as this is a side of mission - work of which I know nothing, my opinion on it would be valueless.

In the town of Bloemfontein, when there was no industrial mission, and the English Church, so far as work among the natives and half-castes was concerned, devoted itself entirely to the spiritual and educational side of the work, one might have expected to see some of the evils connected with a mission attached to a European town. I knew, perhaps as well as most people, what the failings in [133/134] connection with the 'Native Location' were, but what conceivable connection they had with Christianity it would have been hard to imagine. Whatever was wrong Christianity was continually protesting against. The half-caste congregation and school, the native congregation and school, the saintly women who worked and have worked for years among them--to hear these spoken against, to hear their work disparaged, to be told they are not elements of good, to be told that they are anything else than manifestations of the Spirit of God on earth, rouses all the righteous indignation of which human nature is capable. Never shall I forget our confirmation of the lepers. They had been taught and prepared for confirmation mainly by these devoted women, and what I saw was the result of long work among them. The knowledge of the pain they give to those who are working in God's cause might be some inducement to many of our countrymen in England to study the subject--we ask nothing more--before they lightly disparage mission-work.

We are told that the first step towards educating the native is to make him work. There is no one who more thoroughly agrees with this than the experienced missionary. [134/135] Obviously, when his funds only allow of his keeping one servant, he cannot provide work for all those whom he is teaching, and he can only attend to his side of their education; but he would encourage the teaching of the native to work by every means in his power. My own experience was that the missionaries had particularly good servants, which seems to be much the same thing, under the circumstances, as saying that they made them work well. I used to say that the only material advantage in being a missionary was that one got better servants than other people generally did.

In Mashonaland, though in the day of very small things, we were establishing the idea that we intended to receive no native who was not prepared to work. When our catechist, Bernard, brought Kapuia, the most hopeful of his hearers, asking that he should be made into a catechumen, and he stayed at our mission at Umtali, he knew how we thought about this, and whenever he was not helping us with the language, he was working at the house. I suppose there was no place where the natives had to work so consistently as at the mission, where they had, as a body, to get up earlier, and waste less time during the day. We could [135/136] practically always get labour, however, although we probably paid less than was paid in the European camps, because the natives knew that they would be treated fairly, and that there would be no difficulty about payment at the end of the time.

If an attack were made on educating the native without teaching him Christianity, it would be far less easy to defend the position. It must be allowed that to educate only, without implanting any moral principles or spiritual strength, might only help them to extend their natural vices to a larger field of action. But what has this to do with mission-work? If anyone encourages such a system, it would be the civil rather than the religious authorities. But if his education is to be used for a good end, directed by religion, why should the native not be educated?

I remember one of the highest authorities on travelling in Africa telling me years ago that if I wished to do a long journey by myself I must take 'educated natives' with me. I think I did better. I took Christian educated natives. I wish they had been more educated. If they could have all written, they would have been of more value.

[137] To us who have seen the working of missions the theory that native Christians are taught to sing hymns and little else seems too foolish even to refute. As a rule they love singing hymns, and sing them much as a very uneducated congregation would sing them in England--more or less out of tune; and their hymn-singing plays about the same part in their Christian education as it does in England, neither more nor less.

A very fair instance of the view taken by one phase of thought appeared in the Times of June 6 of this year. As it produces some of the old arguments, perhaps the writer will not object to its being used as a kind of textbook to work on. The writer has all the credentials which would allow us to take his opinion as that of an English gentleman who has at heart the welfare of the people with whom he has to do. He first deals with the 'gin traffic' Now, when we speak of 'drink' and 'the drink traffic' in Africa, only people who know the facts of the case as we think it exists can understand us. No one need be a total abstainer to think strongly about this. The writer says that he is informed that the gin sent to West Africa is 'not a [138/139] poisonous, unwholesome compound,' and he speaks of a 'friendly glass.' But we must ask whether the conditions here described are the same all over Africa. In one town in Africa, that I had a great deal to do with, I was informed on evidence that I considered reliable that among the thousands of natives employed there had been at one time as many bottles of brandy as there were natives sold per week, and (I trust my informant was alluding to rare cases) that it had been found to be adulterated with salt, bluestone, vitriol, paraffin, and tobacco. An influential manager of natives informed me that out of a batch of two thousand it had been rare to find two sober men after Sunday (of course this may have been only a fa├žon de parler), and that this state of things was only brought to an end by their being shut up and prevented from getting at the drink-shops.

I do not think that this seems appalling to minds which have long looked on the native as a thing to use. 'You will never tame the natives,' said a European to me once, 'till you bring drink among them.' And when alluding to the difficulty of making natives spend the gold that they got for their work, it was [138/139] suggested that you would never get back the sovereigns from them till you brought drink among them. This is going farther than the 'friendly glass.'

The writer goes on to say that without the importation of gin the natives would still find intoxicants, and that he had seen them 'hopelessly drunk on palm wine.' We all agree; and it is precisely what we say--that the native is not the innocent sober person that mission-haters would have us believe him to be; but we also say that if, as the writer asserts, they do get drunk, we ought not to send in still more 'drink,' on the principle that a public-house should not supply liquor to a drunken man; and we believe that the drunkenness born of the 'drink' often given to them has a worse effect on them than that produced by their own intoxicants. Quite accidentally I came upon an old note mentioning that I had been told that some years ago the natives of a place under European influence had on one occasion, after their weekly bout, done more than usual damage to each other, and this was because their 'drink' had been more than usually adulterated.

The writer then proceeds to say that 'missionaries [139/140] are too apt to attribute to gin, etc., their failure to impress the tenets of Christianity with sufficient force upon the natives of West Africa, forgetting the difficulties and drawbacks of the Christian religion itself from an African point of view.' We don't in the least forget the difficulties in the way of an African receiving- Christianity; but we ask that they may not be made greater by our fellow-countrymen flooding the country with such 'drink.' Should anyone think that the evil is being exaggerated, and that this 'drink' does not do so much harm after all, we can see how powerful a factor it is considered by those who do not wish well to the native. I am quoting second-hand, but I have every reason to believe that the quotation is correct. 'Signor M------, who has lately published a book on Abyssinia, writes: "We must help to make the natives disappear ... by intermittent fusillades and daily brandy."'

The writer then says: 'The uncompromising attitude of the missionaries towards polygamy is another serious hindrance to the advance of Christianity.' But surely the question is not whether the uncompromising attitude towards polygamy is a hindrance or not, but whether [140/141] it is right. The forbidding of many things considered unlawful is a hindrance to the rapid progress of Christianity, but the position cannot be therefore abandoned. If polygamy is morally right for a Christian, there is no valid reason that we should not be polygamists in England to-day. If it is morally wrong, it should be given up by Africans.

It is no valid argument that in time the custom will be dropped. Why should it be? If it be not dropped when the converts accept Christianity, when would we suggest its being dropped? It is then the convert professes to give up all that is wrong. If it is not given up on their being received as Christians, it can only be on the ground of its not being wrong, and therefore need never be given up. It is perpetuated; the chance of reform in this matter is lost.

Again, we argue the difficulties and drawbacks of their giving up polygamy half on one platform and half on another. We are told we must make allowances for natives' ideas. Most certainly. We are then asked who is to support the wives which are given up. And no doubt harrowing pictures of starving wives could be imagined. But are we looking at the question [141/142] from a correct point of view? In my experience it is the four or five wives that have worked for themselves and their husbands, and who have supported themselves and a fourth or fifth part of their husband; and if they are sent away, they only have to support themselves. Then, again, who are to support the poor children? I doubt whether a native would understand the dilemma. We are introducing European ideas of house-rent, and school-attendance, and shops. A boy is not a great tie on a household--the relationship sits rather loosely; while a girl is worth, in the heathen world south of the Zambesi, several head of cattle, and no far-sighted heathen family would easily give her up. If, however, the wives who are asked to leave become Christians also, and they are able to free their daughters from being married for cattle, there are, no doubt, pecuniary losses to be taken into consideration, as there would also be for the father who, having become a Christian, kept the daughters. But this comes under the head of counting the cost before becoming a Christian. We do not say that there are no difficulties in stopping polygamy; we only say that, if it be an evil, it must be stopped, whatever [142/143] the difficulties may be, or we are having a hand in perpetuating an evil.

Our writer then suggests that the best cure for 'drink' is the encouragement of the Mohammedan mission, as the Mohammedans are sober. We ask whether, in loyalty to our Christ, we as a country could adopt that idea? But, from the writer's utilitarian standpoint, there would be a stronger argument against it. We look at Turkey and the Mohammedan nations of to-day, and we are asked to encourage the raising up of other nations in that mould. Even granting (which we do not grant for a moment) that Mohammedanism in itself is a greater power than Christianity in producing sobriety, the reproducing of Mohammedan nations over the world would be a heavy price to pay even for a short and rapid road to sobriety.

The writer says that he fails to see 'why the import of spirits into West Africa should be prohibited, any more than the manufacture of spirits should be prohibited in Europe.' The cases do not seem similar. We are dealing with totally different conditions. We have to do with a collection of babies in moral questions, who don't know their right hand from their left, and who have no power [143/144] of self-control; and in the earliest stages of raising them we do ask that this totally unnecessary difficulty should not be put in their way and in ours. I know that in one colony questions were asked which virtually amounted to this: 'Why should a white man be allowed to kill himself with drink, and why should not a native be allowed to do the same?' Our answer would be: 'Because he is a poor baby, and ought to be protected.'

Then our writer tells us that 'the Christian in the stove-hat' and 'broadcloth' is a very objectionable person. I should certainly think him a very uncomfortable person under a tropical sun; but a broadcloth coat and a black hat on Sundays were not uncommon articles of clothing for our most respectable working men in English villages, so I see no moral reason against a native wearing them. I thought some of our natives generally were foolish enough in the odd bits of feathers and ribands that they would put on their hats, but I fear, during my years in Africa, I saw too few of the class in broadcloth to be any judge of them. However, the natives alluded to must have made a very good living to have bought 'stove-pipe hats' and 'broadcloth,' [144/145] which hardly falls in with what we are so often asked to believe--that the Christian native is a lazy rascal. Again, the 'education' which is so despised and cried down seems to be well approved of by the Europeans, or the natives would hardly earn enough to enable them to dress so well. And, moreover, they must have been steady men, and could not have spent their money on drink; and for that one is thankful. But the writer tells us that 'it cannot be denied that Christianity and drink usually go together'; so these natives who dress so respectably are also 'usually' addicted to drink. This seems almost an anomaly to us who are not used to overpaying our natives, and we cannot imagine how the drinking native gets so much money in West Africa to enable him to drink as well as to dress so well.

Again, there must be a striking missionary system in existence where 'Christianity and drink usually go together'; and though it is impossible for me to deny the fact, as I am not acquainted with the especial part of Africa to which the writer alludes, it is pleasing to think that in no part of Africa with which I have had to do was this the case. It seems strange that the missionaries, who, we are told, [145/146] were so 'uncompromising' in the question of polygamy, should be so lax in this. Indeed, it is hard to see how they could have exercised sufficient moral influence to be 'uncompromising' in any particular if their congregations were 'usually' in drink; for this is what, I presume, is meant by Christianity and drink being 'usually' associated.

But we need not go into further detail. As regards the whole question, we allow those who disagree with us credit for having at least as good intentions as ourselves: but it is well that their arguments do not convince England.

As to accusations brought against the missionaries themselves, the best answer would be to meet them by asking for evidence. I dare say there are bad missionaries; certainly I have not met them. All the failures that I have had to do with were not among missionary clergy, but in connection with those who were working among the Europeans. I do not remember a single instance of failure among the missionary clergy. Once an accusation was brought against one of them. He had opposed the opening of a canteen near his mission, but on the canteen-keeper giving what he considered sufficient security for its being properly [146/147] conducted, he withdrew the objection. I was told that the missionary had evidently been bribed to do this. It is possible; but as he had about two hundred pounds a year, and lived in a mud - hut chiefly on Indian-corn porridge and milk, and spent nearly all the rest on his mission, I do not think it probable. A friend of mine whom I considered reliable on such matters, and who had had many years' experience in Southern Africa, said that he had met only one bad missionary in Africa, and he certainly was not prejudiced in favour of them.

Now that we are on the subject of general objections to what missions do, I will say one word about natives' clothes. The curious pictures that now and again appear in the illustrated newspapers of natives in African towns do a great deal to pour contempt on the modern native; and indirectly, no doubt, missions are associated with what is considered the decadence of the race. Natives--men and women--are depicted in imbecile or ludicrous dress; the men with absurd hats, the women with tawdry finery. I presume the originals exist, or the pictures could not well have been drawn from life; but I cannot recall ever having [147/148] seen anything of the kind. Certainly we constantly saw them dressed in a way we should have wished changed; but the failings in their European dress were more owing to poverty than anything else, though now and then there were instances of foolish men and women dressing as foolish men and women would dress in England. Sechele, a Bechuanaland chief, used on great occasions to wear a blue velvet coat with the royal arms in gold or some yellow material between his shoulders behind. It seemed odd to us, but it was not more odd than the coats worn at the Court of Louis XV. of France, not to speak of more modern coats. Natives, having much of the baby about them, like colour and effect. If a man is given a soft hat, he loves to put a feather into it. Our ancestors did the same in the times of the Stuarts.

It would have been impossible to imagine anything neater or cleaner than the appearance of the women of a congregation at one of our missions in the Orange Free State coming to their church on Sunday. They nearly always had bare feet and clean print dresses, though they had handkerchiefs of every imaginable colour on their heads. If you could have [148/149] contrasted them with a bevy of their heathen sisters coming along in their original native dress, you would hardly have asked the English question: 'But why should they not keep to their native clothes?' A leather skirt saturated with the grease and dirt of years, when worn next to the skin, is not in practice, any more than in theory, a pleasing thing in which to dress a clean woman. When the body has been long smeared with pig's fat and red ochre, the disadvantage of a skin dress is increased. And as to the amount of clothes worn, I think even those who, as a general principle, would like the natives to keep to their own clothes, would prefer the women to wear something above their waist. Objections to native dress on the ground of cleanliness could not be brought against the women of some tribes--the Matabele women, for instance, especially the chiefs' wives; nor could the charge be brought that they were not now decently dressed, though it is by the help of the traders' calico. But even in this case I should prefer them in something that would wash all through. As to the men, we must allow that the ordinary native in an old pair of very dirty trousers is not a picturesque object. The only thing to [149/150] be said in favour of such a dress is that it is better than their own. The best Mashona boy we had took to wearing trousers, which I asked him to take off, and wear a calico body-cloth. However, this is no more their 'native dress' than his trousers were. The very clean and picturesque dress of blue or white calico adopted by natives under Portuguese influence on the Zambesi and the east coast looks, in combination with a background of palm-trees, very African, but it is probably the product of English looms.


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