Project Canterbury

Tucker of Uganda, Artist and Apostle 1849-1914

By Arthur P. Shepherd

London: Student Christian Movement, 1929.

Chapter VIII. The Uganda Protectorate

IN the midst of the joy of his return to Uganda Tucker had met with one great disappointment. Out of the eight missionaries whom he had left behind him in 1891 four had been compelled by ill-health to return to the coast, and one had resigned.

This brought forcibly to his attention the great problem of the future of the Church in Uganda. Already it was growing rapidly, and the large number of "readers" promised an even greater advance, while missionaries were hard to get and harder to keep. Who was to shepherd the thousands in the Church and to administer the sacraments?

The only apparent solution lay in a native ministry. But what a venture! To ordain men but a few years removed from heathendom! Was it not to let down the whole standard of the Christian ministry? Tucker knew that there were many who thought so, more who would say so if the experiment were tried. Nor were their fears ungrounded. There would be grave risks of failure. But the decision must be made on grounds of right and wrong; risks were only a challenge to the utmost care in putting it into action. Looking back, however, over nearly forty years, during which the experiment has become a commonplace, it is not easy to realize the courage of that decision.

What were the essentials, Tucker asked himself, of the ministers of Christ in the circumstances in which they found themselves in Uganda at that moment? In answering the question he used a common-sense test. "I adopted the line," he writes, "of regarding that as essential which was possible." It was not possible in those earliest days of the Church's life to find men of learning and scholarship; it was possible for men to desire to devote their lives to the service of Christ, to be conscious of spiritual life within them, to be examples to their flock in their life and conduct. There were such men in Uganda, men who had proved their loyalty to their faith through fierce persecution, and in particular there were some whom two years before Tucker himself had appointed lay evangelists and who already knew their Bibles and something of Church order, and had proved themselves equal to their task.

Fortunately in coming to a decision Tucker had the help of the Lukiko, the Church Council which Mackay had formed in the dark days of 1885 when it seemed as if all the missionaries would be driven out of the country. This Council Tucker had found in being in 1890; he had urged the missionaries to strengthen and develop it, and give it a sense of responsibility.

Indeed, Tucker not only urged his colleagues to train native Christians in self-government, but he also held that the missionaries themselves should work within the lines of the native Church and not as a separate body outside.

Let the missionary [he wrote] throw in his lot absolutely with the natives, identifying himself as far as possible with their life, work and organization. Let him submit himself to the laws and canons of their Church. ... At last the missionary element will disappear altogether and the Church will stand alone.

It was a policy right ahead of his times, and for a period it set him in opposition on this point to his fellow-missionaries.

To the Church Council he brought the problem of a native ministry and explained what he thought should be done. They agreed, and submitted to him a list of fourteen names of those whom they thought fitted to be deacons. Tucker consulted the missionaries and chose seven, who were to be carefully trained for another five months before their ordination. A momentous decision had been made.

There was, however, a further problem which Tucker was called upon to solve. A few days after his arrival, Captain Williams, who had been left in charge by Lugard, explained to Tucker that the Roman Catholic chiefs at Budu were smarting under a sense of injustice. Tucker at first replied that the Bafransa were practically in rebellion. They refused to work for the king or pay taxes and also retained in Budu, against the king's will, his two nephews, who were heirs to the throne. However, as Williams still pressed him, Tucker promised to see the Protestant chiefs with a view to a new settlement. The chiefs agreed, but on two conditions: the king's nephews were to be returned, and the settlement was to be final.

"Alas!" writes Tucker, "I knew not the ways of Rome." For no sooner had their negotiations reached this stage than the French Bishop announced that the whole matter had been referred to the Vatican and was out of his hands. On January 31st the great news arrived at Mengo that Sir Gerald Portal was on the way to Uganda to conduct a mission of inquiry for the government. The next month and a half were very busy, most of the Bishop's time being taken up in endless political conferences with the native chiefs. How he hated these political disputes!"I never saw a troop of chiefs and their followers," he writes, "coming up the road to my house without groaning aloud! Still, it was worth while. The end in view was peace, and at all costs that must be secured." But new advances to confer again with the Roman Catholics he declined, as there could be no point in attempting a settlement that would have to be reopened by Sir Gerald Portal.

Fortunately, however, the wearisomeness of the political situation was often relieved by its humorous side. Two such incidents Tucker related in letters to his old vicar, the Rev. H. E. Fox, then secretary of the C.M.S.

Last week I went with Mr Pilkington to see the queen-mother, who keeps up a good deal of royal state. I took the old lady a looking-glass, a piece of Pears' soap, a copy of the four Gospels and the Acts and a brass chain. She was delighted with them all. At the beginning of the interview I quite won her good graces. She was handling a beautiful copper knife--native make. Mr Pilkington drew my attention to it, and I said, "Mzuri sana"--"very beautiful." The old lady thought the remark was made concerning herself, and was immensely pleased in consequence. On leaving, when I had gone about a hundred yards, a man came running after me, to salute me for the queen--another hundred yards, and another man came full speed--and at length a third arrived with greetings. According to custom each one was sent back immediately with greetings to her majesty. It was all very amusing.

The other incident was concerned with Mwanga.

I had a visit from the king yesterday. He came to afternoon tea: and came on horseback. Of course all his followers are bound to keep up with him whether he trots or gallops. It so happened that he came galloping to my house, and got there before them. He greatly enjoyed seeing his men come in puffing and blowing and perspiring. The king was so excited that he could hardly old his cup and saucer. One of his courtiers held the cup and saucer, and another the plate of biscuits. As he sipped his tea with a spoon he would occasionally give his cup-bearer a spoonful. He enjoyed the biscuits so much--Huntley and Palmer's Maizena Wafer Biscuits--that he asked whether I would give him the tinful. So when he left I was obliged to send the biscuits with him.

March 17th was a great day in Uganda. The coming of the Bishop had been an occasion for affection and welcome, but the arrival of the Consul-General, the representative of the Great White Queen beyond the seas, was an occasion for great pomp and tense excitement.

Messengers kept bringing to the King reports of Sir Gerald Portal's progress. At last the caravan was in sight, a white thread on a distant hill. Pages flew to and fro bearing greetings and presents, and finally the chiefs went forward about a mile to meet the approaching procession, their snow-white robes contrasting with the red bark-cloth of the watching peasants who packed the road-sides. On a horse sent by the King Sir Gerald Portal rode to meet them, followed by the officers of his staff, and for many minutes nothing could be heard but the boisterous greetings and congratulations of the Baganda.

The remainder of the month was spent by Sir Gerald Portal in reviewing the whole situation, and his chief adviser in this matter was the Bishop, who expressed to him plainly the tragic consequences which must ensue if the British government did not assume control on the Company's withdrawal. It was plain to Tucker that Sir Gerald was in sympathy with his point of view, but it was not until a day or two before the end of the month that the latter announced his decision to assume control of the country in the name of the British government. At 12 o'clock on April 1st, with the garrison on parade and with a salute of trumpets, the Company's flag was lowered and the Union Jack run up in its place.

On the previous day, March 31st, another event had happened that was also a landmark in the history of Uganda and that had gladdened Tucker's heart. The question of slavery had often been debated amongst the Christian chiefs in Uganda. Mackay had been the first to raise it, when he pleaded with Mtesa that he should treat his fellow-men in a manner in keeping with the wonderful skill and care shown by God in the creation of their bodies.

An incident at this time again brought the matter to the fore. A slave-woman belonging to a Mohammedan chief had taken refuge with a Christian. Should she be restored? The Protestant chiefs consulted Tucker. "What," he asked, "is the law?" They told him, "By law, she should be restored." "Then you must obey it. But if it is a bad law, alter it." They asked him to advise them, and thirty chiefs sat with him in the church while he showed them how slavery could never be consistent with Christianity.

On March 31st they brought him the following declaration, signed and sealed:

All we, the Protestant chiefs, desire to adopt these good customs of freedom. We hereby agree to untie and to free completely all our slaves. Here are our names as chiefs.

It was an advance on anything yet done in Africa. The Sultan of Zanzibar had, it is true, forbidden the slave-trade, but the status of slavery remained. It was with no little pride that Tucker sent this document to Portal. It was a proof of the reality of the Christian convictions of these men, the long-delayed fruit of Mackay's teaching and of the bitter persecutions.

Having officially annexed the country for Great Britain, Sir Gerald Portal turned immediately to the task of reconciling the disputing factions. In this he realized that the influence of the missionaries was paramount and that he must secure their co-operation, and he frankly appealed to Tucker, who readily promised his help. A week later, on April 7th, a conference was held with Mgr. Hirth, the French Bishop.

In regard to this conference Portal, like Lugard, declared Tucker's one aim to be to secure peace, "even at a sacrifice of some of the territorial possessions of the Protestant party." A district was granted to the Catholics that would give them access to the capital, and they were also granted the Sese Islands, on the condition of absolute freedom for all to use the canoes. On the question of the chieftainships, Portal proposed that the head men should be duplicated and that there should be both a Roman Catholic and a Protestant Katikiro (prime minister), Mujasi (commander-in-chief), and Gabunga (admiral of the canoes). It seemed an unwieldy proposal but Tucker agreed, but only upon condition of the return of the young princes. After a long discussion with Portal the French Bishop yielded on this point.

The next step was to consult the chiefs, and many a conference did the Bishop hold with them. Their main objection was the double chieftainships. "Two katikiros! Then there must be two kings. Is the French Bishop the other king?" Portal quite saw their difficulties but felt there was no other way out, and at last Tucker won his way and the treaty was signed, on the clear understanding that this time it was final.

The dreary politics settled, the Bishop felt free to turn again to the Church's problems. Already the first out-station had been planted eastwards in Kyagwe and it had been determined to make a similar effort towards the west. The province of Singo, to the west of Mengo, had been one of the richest provinces of Uganda, but the Christian and Mohammedan wars had devastated the land. Already two missionaries had gone there and letters reached the Bishop begging him to come to see the promising work. The rainy season was on and the swamps were full, but Tucker thought nothing of that. He arrived in May and spent a few days selecting a site for the station, and then, with Pilkington, splashed his way back to Mengo, wading often up to his neck through swamps on a precarious footing of papyrus, clinging to the reeds with one hand and with the other vainly attempting to dash the clouds of furiously biting mosquitoes from his head, while the rain fell in torrents and lightning played incessantly.

His return to Mengo was marred by the tragic death of Sir Gerald Portal's brother from fever. On Trinity Sunday he was buried, immediately before the great ordination service, when four missionaries were ordained priests and six Baganda deacons. [The Bishop had decided to delay for a time the ordination of one of those who had been chosen for ordination.]

As one after another of our native brethren came forward to receive the laying on of hands [Tucker wrote] it was with difficulty that one could restrain one's emotion. These men, like some of the disciples in the early days of the Church, were "unlearned and ignorant," wise, however, in the things of God.

A great change had been wrought in Uganda in the five months since the Bishop had arrived. The uncertainty of British control had been ended, a permanent and official settlement had been made between the conflicting factions, the Church was firmly based on the foundation of a native ministry, while many matters of ecclesiastical and moral discipline had been settled; and the new missionaries had been got into harness and the work of expansion commenced.

The development of all this interesting work, Tucker realized, he must leave to others, for the rest of his vast diocese claimed his care and control. Once again that long and arduous journey must be undertaken--it was no wonder that Tucker won the affectionate title of "The Uganda Special"--and this time it must be by the old southern route with its fever-haunted swamps and waterless forests, for there were the stations at the south of the lake to be visited and the settlements on the old route. Three days after the ordination service the Bishop and Dr Baxter, one of the missionaries who had come up with him from the coast, started in canoes on the long voyage down the lake.

The weather was against them and more than once they had to seek for shelter under some island from the fierce head winds. Once a large part of the cargo of bananas had to be jettisoned from a canoe that "wanted to see the bottom," as the crew put it. It was a long pull that day and on into the darkness before land was sighted. Carefully they paddled, with a sharp look-out for hidden rocks and the still greater dangers of floating hippos.

Seventeen days on the water, four days at Nassa collecting porters, and then off on a record dash over the eight hundred miles to the coast, which was reached in six weeks, including visits to three mission stations.

The next two and a half months were spent in journeying between the coast and out-stations, but in the midst of it all Tucker found time to write an answer to a bitter attack that had been made in The Times upon the Protestant missionaries in regard to Sir Gerald Portal's negotiations. The attack was based largely upon the failure to understand that what seemed in England merely religious differences and problems were in Uganda almost entirely political questions. He dealt with the charges one by one in a letter whose self-restraint was all the more crushing. He concluded by pointing out the biased omissions of their critic:

Your correspondent is silent with still less cause about the excellent work done by the medical branch of the Mission. . . . Many could have told him what was being done. The French bishop could have told him, for not only he, but his people were freely attended (a sufficient answer, by the way, to the charge of religious bitterness which has been brought against the missionaries). The Resident (Captain Williams) could have told him, for he also shared the benefit. His own porters could have told him, for they too were among the doctor's patients.

I myself [he concludes] have stood by the graves of fifteen missionaries of the C.M.S. who have laid down their lives for the cause of Christ in Eastern Equatorial Africa. I will say nothing of those who survive, but that I believe them to be endued with the same martyr spirit. . . . The devotion which has led them to sever the ties of home and country, to leave the pleasures and lawful ambitions of civilized life, and to encounter the dangers, depression, and difficulties of a life in Darkest Africa, asks for no praise or compliments from men; but at least it might be spared the sinister criticism of those who are scarcely in a position to sit in judgment on them or their work.

On October 26th, just as the Bishop was starting up to Kilimanjaro and the Taita country, a telegram arrived from the Church Missionary Society summoning him home for the final discussion by the government of Portal's report. With twenty-four hours' notice he was on his way to England. On his arrival he was again submitted to wanton journalistic criticism, to the extent that the editor of the C.M.S. Intelligencer was driven to defend him in its columns:

It is easy for newspaper critics to count the number of months he has been in Africa, and the number in England, and the number on board steamships, since his consecration, and to make invidious remarks thereon. Perhaps if they would measure, with their own steps, the five thousand miles he has walked in Africa, they would change their tone. The real question is, What is most for the advantage of God's work?--and we are persuaded that as regards wise counsel, and as regards influence in obtaining offers of service, Bishop Tucker's presence in England just now will be of the greatest value. Of course, the newspaper attacks were not an unmixed evil, for they gave Tucker a publicity which secured him very large audiences wherever lie spoke throughout the country. Much of his time was spent in conferences on the future of Uganda, and it was with a great sense of relief and accomplishment that he heard on April 12th the government's decision to declare Uganda a British Protectorate. A letter written to Mr Hathaway on April 19th reveals his influence in the whole matter and the effectiveness of his presence in England at that moment:

I had an hour's interview with Lord Kimberley [The Secretary for Foreign Affairs.] at the Foreign Office yesterday. I am thankful to say that the plan which the government propose to adopt is the plan which I have all along advocated for the administration of the country. The plan is to rule through the chiefs. Then the national life will be preserved. . . . Lord Kimberley told me that the Duke of Norfolk had been to him with the object of getting further concessions from the Protestants in Uganda. I told Lord Kimberley that the treaty which I signed with the French Bishop was declared by Sir Gerald Portal to be final. [Sir Gerald Portal had died suddenly of typhoid in London in January of this year.] His Lordship said Sir Gerald had no authority to make such a statement, and even had it been made, it should have been in writing. Upon which I produced a letter from Sir Gerald in which he used these words: "As to the finality of this treaty I certainly look upon the whole thing as final. Indeed its finality is the sole reason for making it." Lord Kimberley was greatly taken aback when I read the letter to him and said, "Well, all I can say is that that statement of Sir Gerald was a gross act of imprudence." Of course he acknowledged its importance and asked to be allowed to copy it. Is it not strange that when I asked Sir Gerald to put that statement in writing, I seemed to see the moment of its use, as I saw it yesterday in the Foreign Office? Besides all this political work Tucker went tirelessly from meeting to meeting. Two main themes were on his lips: one the necessity in Uganda of a native ministry and the other the appeal for more workers. Nor was it men only that he asked for; with his characteristic boldness he felt reasonably sure that the country was safe enough to try to send women up to Uganda. But they must be unmarried, and strong enough to make the difficult and tiring journey by road.

Meanwhile encouraging news from Uganda reached him that made him eager to be back in Africa. A great revival had swept through Mengo under the leadership of Pilkington, and the number of readers and catechumens had increased by leaps and bounds. In Singo the Rev. A. B. Fisher had adopted a plan of "synagogi" or "reading-houses" scattered about the country, each one a little centre of Christian missionary influence, and his plan had been taken up in all directions.

Out of this revival had come one thing that especially cheered Tucker, with his belief in the development of a native Church. A fund had been started by the Church Council for the entire maintenance of the native missionaries and teachers. It was a principle with Tucker, rigidly observed all through his episcopate, that native workers should be supported by the Africans themselves.

The Bishop's work in England was now finished, and it was with an eager heart that he landed once more at Mombasa on July 29th, 1894.

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