Project Canterbury

Tucker of Uganda, Artist and Apostle 1849-1914

By Arthur P. Shepherd

London: Student Christian Movement, 1929.

Chapter XIII. Church and State and Home

THE times that Tucker spent in Mengo between his long tours during these two years of expansion were not merely opportunities of rest. Always he found waiting some question of internal development in the life of the Church, and his time was fully occupied with committees and organization.

In 1898 there was the question of education. From the start the Baganda had shown a natural aptitude for it, and a certain standard of education had been an accepted condition of baptism. The coming of women missionaries in 1895 had made possible the beginnings of organized education, and three district schools had been started for boys and girls. But what the Bishop had in view was nothing less than a system of primary education for the whole nation, and in 1898 there arrived, in the person of C. W. Hattersley, an educational expert who took this matter in hand. In order to rouse public opinion, the Bishop himself paid a visit to the national Lukiko, which was rapidly developing into a little Parliament, and urged the chiefs to respond to this effort. The result was that at the end of the first year over seven hundred children were enrolled in the schools.

Nor was this the only educational development, for Tucker realized the value of that industrial education which Mackay had so well begun, and in 1895, when the country was beginning to settle down, this had been reorganized. In 1899 it was put into the hands of Mr Borup, a new industrial missionary, and rapidly developed in the direction of printing, black-smithing and carpentry. Here again the Bishop showed a statesmanlike outlook in a time when educational and even medical missions were still viewed with suspicion.

If we take the term "evangelization" [he writes] to mean in its highest and I cannot but think its truest sense, that the good news of the Gospel has to do with mind and body, as well as soul, then the relationship of intellectual and physical training to the great end and object of all missionary effort becomes very apparent. The Gospel of Christ is for the whole man.

The most important work, however, which the Bishop had to perform in laying the foundations of his new diocese was to establish its constitution. He had brought out with him a draft constitution, but it was not till June 1899 that he submitted it to the Church, giving himself time by his itinerations to become perfectly familiar with the whole situation in the diocese.

It was a comprehensive and far-seeing constitution on lines well in advance of even the home Church at that time. It provided for a synod, a diocesan council, parochial and district councils, women's conferences, tribunals of appeal and reference, boards of education and missions and theology. There was one point, however, on which the Bishop knew that he would meet with opposition: the proposal that the European missionaries should be included within the constitution of the Church in Uganda and come under its synod, and not merely stand outside in the relationship of leaders and advisers. It was entirely in keeping with his conception of the missionary's true attitude to his people, but it was a long way in advance of the usual missionary conception of that day.

The constitution was first laid before the conference of missionaries, and on this point Tucker found himself opposed by a very large majority. The discussion grew very warm, and one missionary unconsciously revealed the heart of his opposition by saying that he "began to doubt whether he were white or black "! The Bishop saw the impossibility of carrying his point and withdrew his draft constitution. Although the greater part was afterwards accepted by the conference and ratified by the Church Council, it was only accepted by Tucker as a temporary measure, pending a future reconsideration of the whole scheme. Enough had been carried to provide the machinery of diocesan life, but the new spirit which he had hoped to engender was still to come, and he must needs possess his soul in patience.

So far the Bishop had been planning and building for the work of the Church. On his return to Mengo from Ankole and Toro in January 1899, he found himself plunged, as he had been seven years before, into the problems of political settlement. The development of the country had made it necessary to revise the arrangements made by Sir Gerald Portal. Sir Harry Johnston had been appointed Special Commissioner, and had put before the Baganda his plans for dealing with the tenure and development of land and for organizing national finance.

Immediately on the Bishop's arrival he was greeted by the chiefs with tales of woe: the government was taking their land from them, and they were absolutely ruined. Fortunately, Sir Harry Johnston was wise enough to welcome the mediation of the missionaries and advised the Baganda to consult with them, and for the next three months the Bishop's time was taken up in mastering the difficulties of the situation and in long conferences with the chiefs.

A treaty was finally signed on March 10th fixing the salary of the Kabaka and chiefs, dividing up the land into districts under chiefs for the purposes of administration and justice, and constituting a national Council of State. The division of land was also defined and the imposition of a hut tax of three rupees (four shillings at that time) was passed. A small but important point in the treaty was the abolition of two katikiros and the vesting of the office of Katikiro in the person of Apolo Kagwa.

While he felt that the treaty was a good one, the Bishop was not blind to its drawbacks. The introduction of the hut-tax had a complicated issue. It meant the introduction of the wage-system to a people who had merely lived by supplying their own wants. Now "money" had to be produced, and the result was a move to towns and more congested places where employment was obtainable and the making of money more possible. It also meant for a time an unwillingness to build huts, with the inevitable consequences of over-crowding, insanitary conditions, a lower marriage- and birth-rate, and an increase of immorality. On the other hand, it meant a stimulus of the people into new life and energy. It was a sudden change, perhaps inevitable with the inrush of western trade, probably better introduced by taxation than by gradual economic pressure; but the Bishop was deeply thankful that in a measure the Baganda had been prepared by their Christian education and life to meet the temptations which the new conditions would inevitably bring.

Great as were the services which Tucker rendered to the Baganda in the organization of Church and State, it was especially in his personal relationship to them that he was "the father of his people," and in the simplicity of his home in Mengo that relationship was daily developed. Although many of the chiefs and most of the missionaries had brick houses, he still insisted on living in the same native-built house of reeds and mud that had been his home from the first. The rugged simplicity of his personality fitted well into the setting of bare walls and rough timber, with the rudely made table and chairs and book-shelves.

There the Baganda could always see him, and in a real sense they felt at home with him. Often when he might be sketching or reading, a chief would come with a problem to be settled, or a peasant with some sense of wrong. Tucker might not understand their story completely, he might often need the help of an interpreter; but once he understood the story they felt he would understand their hearts, and that they could depend upon his advice and help. He was never too busy for his "children" and he hardly ever forgot a face.

They sometimes came just to be with him, even the women coming in and sitting down in his room while he sketched. He spent much of his leisure in Mengo finishing the sketches made on his tours, and the Baganda never ceased to wonder at what was to them a mysterious skill. At times, owing to a literal interpretation of the second commandment and perhaps to Mohammedan influence, some of them took exception to this art as "the making of an image," but to most of them it never occurred to question their "father's" conduct.

His own "boys" were devoted to him, though they very much feared his displeasure. Sometimes, however, the effect of it was mitigated by his inability to express himself fluently in Luganda. On one occasion the house-boys had smashed a china teacup which he greatly valued. He summoned them, and after a moment of speechless indignation which tried in vain to express itself in Luganda, he exclaimed sternly in English, "You're a nice lot!" The boys shivered at his stern expression and tremblingly withdrew, and at once went to Hattersley, the missionary schoolmaster, to ask what the English words, "You're a nice lot," meant. Hattersley, not knowing the circumstances, translated them literally into Luganda, the meaning conveyed being "You're a good set of boys." Greatly relieved, the boys departed, wondering why the Bishop had spoken such kind words in so fearful a voice. When the somewhat puzzled Hattersley told Tucker of their inquiry his delight at the joke knew no bounds.

If the Bishop had a fault, it was a certain impulsive, short temper, and this, together with the intense respect of his "boys" for his word, on one occasion produced an almost ludicrous situation. He had bought a supply of flour in readiness for his next journey. When he was getting out his stores for use on this journey, the flour could not be found. He concluded that the boys had stolen it and, by the help of an interpreter, told them how wrong it was to have done so. The boys denied having stolen it, but when the Bishop persisted in his accusation they gave in, and admitted the theft, but excused themselves on the ground that "hunger was a great enemy." Time went on, and the Bishop was getting ready for another journey. He came on a large tin, and asked the boys to see what was in it. It was full of flour. "This," said Tucker, "is the flour I had lost. But you boys said you had eaten it." "No, sir, we said we had not eaten it. You said we had, and we could not contradict the Bishop."

But the fear of the Baganda for his displeasure was nothing to their love for him. He was their father, and they knew he loved them. If they were ever in trouble they knew that he would help them, and they always trusted him.

In March 1901 the Bishop had arranged to start on furlough to England, but before he left he launched a great work which was to take two years, and which gave real expression to the deep devotion of the Baganda Christians to their Church.

The old cathedral of poles and reed-thatch was obviously in need of replacement. Beautiful and thoroughly native as it was, its material could never be expected to last more than a few years. It was felt that a more permanent building was required, and it was decided that it should be of brick, a possibility now, in consequence of the new industrial developments under Borup.

To decide how to pay for it the chiefs met, and the Katikiro directed their thoughts to the account of the undertaking of Solomon's Temple. "Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king's work, offered willingly." The chiefs decided therefore to assess themselves according to their means, the regents heading the list with five hundred rupees. Labour was freely given, and Tucker's heart rejoiced before he left to see their unbounded enthusiasm. He writes:

It was an inspiring sight to see long strings of men going to the swamps every day to dig clay, and then to see them wending their way up the steep hill-side of Namirembe, heavy loads of clay upon their heads. Heading the procession was often the Katikiro himself (now Sir Apolo Kagwa, K.C.M.G.) carrying a heavier load than any of the others. Even boys of seven or eight years of age did their share, and carried their little burdens of clay for the brickmakers.

Then the women were fired with the prevailing enthusiasm, and went into the forests and gathered wood for the burning of the bricks. Princesses and wives of chiefs, as well as peasant women, vied with one another in their eager desire to help forward the work of building for the worship of God a house that should be "exceeding magnifical."

It was with a full heart that the Bishop started for England. Even in the three years since his last arrival in Uganda great changes had occurred. The railway, which, on his journey up, had cut two hundred and fifty miles off the eight-hundred-mile tramp, was now within a short distance of the lake; three months before a steamer had been launched on the lake itself; the news of Queen Victoria's death had reached them at Entebbe all the way by telegraph; the country had been resettled and wealth and trade were pouring into it. There were dangers, of course, some obvious, some the more to be dreaded because they could not be clearly foreseen. But against all these dangers stood out in the Bishop's mind the memory of long lines of men and women toiling gladly up Namirembe, "the Hill of Peace," a people from highest to lowest giving willingly of their wealth and their strength for the glory of their God.

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