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 Letters of Bishop Tozer and His Sister together with some other records of the Universities' Mission from 1863-1873

Edited by Gertrude Ward

London: Office of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, 1902.




April 12, 1863.

MY DEAR BISHOP,--I have asked E. to send a sort of abstract of our intelligence up to this date after it has gone the round of relations, as I think you ought to know about your two clergy. It has been the greatest happiness to me to know so much of your Bishop [Tozer], whom I have grown into understanding thoroughly, and loving very much. I wish his health were better adapted for the climate he is going to; there is a low tone of pulse and a suspicion of malady which makes me very anxious. But his vigour and spirit are quite unimpaired, and he threw off his attacks of fever and pleurisy very quickly. I wish the whole set of them thought more about the caution necessary for them. There is a contempt of precaution amongst them which we are all anxious about, and it seems impossible to make them feel that if they throw away their bodies their souls will be of no use to the Central Africans. Drayton is quite the most sensible on this head, and I hope he will succeed in getting the rest to take the prophylactic medicines, but whether he will get them to guard against undue exposure to chills, etc. remains to be seen. The general feeling I think here is that, with the exception of Mackenzie himself, this batch is far superior to the first party. There is more head and power of acting in emergencies; in this respect they are much beyond M. who seems to have leant on others too much to be in this way a leader. The differences of the three are most amusing. Tozer is the peace member, Steere the warlike, Alington does not say much, but acknowledges to three guns. ... I hope to go to Simon's Town to see them off on Monday. There is a meeting this evening to bid them God speed, which Alington, after his fashions escapes, finding that he has a pressing engagement at Simon's Bay this afternoon. There is certainly no desire for hero worship in any of them; the way in which they all mock at anybody who supposes they are doing more than a sail to Richmond or Barnes is quite amusing.


From a letter of Lieut. Forbes, an officer on board H.M.S. Orestes.

June 2, 1863.

We landed the party and provisions on May 19, giving the Bishop and the Mission party three hearty cheers as they left the ship. Almost every one in the ship, I am sure, feels a kind sympathy with them, knowing well what difficulties and dangers they are entering on. The whole staff (with the four clergy) consists of one baker, one mason, one bricklayer and one house-carpenter. None of these men know anything of a boat, nor have ever been out of Lincolnshire before they embarked with the Bishop. The Mission got a very good boat at the Cape, about twenty-eight feet long. I have fitted it up for them. We made two tents and all sorts of small gear for them; likely to be useful when they are far up the country. Among other things we landed was an oak cross to be put over poor Charles Mackenzie's grave. The Bishop says that that consecration will be the second ceremony he will have performed in his new capacity of Bishop of Central Africa; the first having been the confirmation on Sunday May 10, of sixty-five men and boys of the Orestes. We had a most touching service though we happened to be at sea at the time, and it blowing very hardy . . . Neither the Bishop nor Mr. Alington are as strong in constitution as one would wish to see them; the Bishop suffers from a sort of sciatica; he has wonderful spirits notwithstanding!


The substance of the memorandum made by Bishop Tozer is incorporated in the following letter from Dr. Steere to Bishop Jackson.

July 17, 1863;

MY DEAR LORD,--I am sorry to have deferred writing so longj but was anxious to have some definite information to give concerning our plans before troubling you with a letter.

We have every reason to be thankful for the prosperous journey we have thus far made towards our scene of labour. We found Captain Gardner able to take on in the Orestes all the goods we were most anxious to have with us, and able to land us and them most pleasantly at the mouth of the river known to the English as the Kongone, and to the natives and Portuguese as Inhamissengo. We there found an officer in charge (N. C. Mesquita) who could speak English, and who, acting as guide and interpreter, brought us on very pleasantly to Vianna's place here at the head of the delta. We found the unhealthiness of the present Mission station at Chibisa's, as suspected in England, sadly confirmed by the news of the deaths of Scudamore and Dickenson. The Bishop held many consultations with us as to the best course for him to pursue, and we agreed at last that it would be unwise for us to go up with all our goods to Chibisa's until we had ascertained that it was possible to live there, and that if a removal thence was necessary, it would be better for us to come down nearer to our communications and supplies than to venture again into the difficult and now desolate country towards Magomero. The Morumbala mountain so highly praised by Dr. Livingstone, suggested itself at once as a half-way house, and when we came in sight of the range at this place the idea of resting there seemed to gather strength. We heard on our arrival here that several members of Dr. Livingstone's party, and one at least of the Mission had gone down to Quilimane not many days before. This decided us to leave the bulk of the goods here, and to make inquiries before proceeding further. The Bishop, therefore, left for Chibisa's to see with his own eyes the actual state of the Mission; taking Mr. Alington with him; and I left the next day for Quilimane, taking Richard Harrison with me, to see the member of the Mission who was gone there, and to ascertain whether it would be possible for us to settle on the Morumbala5 if we thought that the better course. I reached Quilimane on June 20, and found there Dr. Kirk, Mr. Charles Livingstone, and R. M. Clark, the shoemaker attached to the Mission, who was going home invalided under the advice and care of Dr. Kirk. I saw the Governor of Quilimane, Major Tito Sicard, who promised us every facility for settling where we pleaseds and heard a great deal about the Mission and its state and prospects from Dr. Kirk and Clark. What I heard impressed me most dismally. I learnt that the Mission had done absolutely nothing as a Mission, even for its immediate dependents whom it had fed through the famine, whilst the account of the stores and their mode of distribution made one suspect a reckless wastefulness quite appalling! The miserably forlorn and wasted look of poor Clark told me at a glance what a hard struggle for mere life must have been going on. Dr. Kirk said that Chibisa's was utterly untenable as a station, and that he had urged them of ten not to stay there a day longer; but to get to the hills at any cost. He told me too that the hill country was now, through the war and famine, completely wasted and uninhabited. I found an order brought down by Clark for five canoe loads of native corn to be sent up at once for food for the natives dependent 'on the Mission. I returned to Mazar and went on thence^ with a soldier kindly sent by the Governor as guide and interpreter, to examine the Morumbala and see whether it could afford us a resting place. Just before reaching it I met the Bishop returning with Mr. Procter on his way home invalided, and one of the men (Blair) as interpreter and assistant. He left them to come on here in his boat, and went with me to explore the mountain.

He had felt while at Chibisa's that nothing but an entire change of system could save the Mission from utter extinction. In fact the work of the Mission had become merely a struggle to live and nothing more. In the famine time Mr. Rowley and Mr. Thornton had been obliged to make a journey overland to Tete for goats or some kind of animal food, which journey resulted in Mr. Thornton's death, and Rowley's very serious illness. We found ourselves that a load of provisions ordered here in haste by Clark, and supposed to be on its way, was not, and was never likely to have been, sent off unless we had been here to see to it; and the other provisions ordered at Quilimane now nearly two months ago are not yet so much as purchased. It seemed to us clear from these facts that a party so far up the Shire might be actually starved to death whilst waiting for supplies, which might have been ordered in good time for its support.

We found a practicable though difficult path up the mountain, and leaving the soldier to inquire about another road further on, which we thought likely to prove easier returned to Mazar to consult with Mr. Procter and Mrs. Drayton before finally deciding upon our future site. The Bishop had with him a paper of Mr. Rowley's and minutes of a conversation with Dr. Livingstone, which he kindly read to us, and from them and our conversations I gathered the following heads of the arguments for and against our change of position. Chibisa's, the present position, is by common consent untenable; the only point to be discussed is whether we should go to Mbami's; as proposed by the Mission under the advice of Dr. Kirk, who approved that as the best site in the Manganja highlands or to the Morumbala as proposed among ourselves. The recommendations of Mbami's are (1) That the Mission was sent out to that district. (2) That you cannot come nearer the sea without finding the natives amenable to Portuguese influence, and deteriorated by contact with their immoralities. (3) That the Mission has already a large party of more than a hundred people under its influence, many of them formerly slaves of the Portuguese, who could not be advantageously brought down the river. (4) That to carry the Mission into the Ajawa country, which might be the result of moving to Mbami's, would be a proper recompense for the harm already done them. (5) That the language learnt by the Missionaries is not spoken nearer the Zambezi. (6) That the only feasible position nearer the sea is on the Morumbalaj which has within the last three years been desolated by war, and then taken possession of and leased by the Portuguese Government to Vianna of Mazaro, so that a station there would be completely within their authority, and so within the Diocese of Mozambique into which it would be schismatical to intrude.

The answers to these difficulties seem to be: (1) That the Manganja, who were the first objects of the Mission, have been for practical purposes annihilated and their country is become a desert. It had, however, for its real object, not one tribe or one neighbourhood only, but the whole mass of central African heathenism, which it is bound to assail in the way most prudent and most likely to be ultimately effective. That this can only be done by securing a really healthy starting point within easy reach of supplies. Such a starting point is most reasonably to be looked for in the highland nearest the sea, i.e. in the Morumbalaj which lies (roughly speaking) about half-way between Inhamissengo and Chibisa's on the east bank of the Shiré. And again, as a change of men has taken place (hardly any of the old party remaining) and a change of system is necessary, a change of place also would now be most proper to avoid clashing too much with old impressions and traditions. (2) That Portuguese claims and Portuguese influence do extend to Mbami's and far beyond, and this influence, if hostile, is more to be dreaded, the more out of sight is the place of its operation. The influence of Portuguese immorality is to be deplored and striven against, but ought not to be a bar to all missionary efforts. (3) The people dependent upon the Mission have not been instructed in Christianity, and are too numerous and expensive to deal with as a body. There seems more hope of making real way by retaining and educating as Christians the orphan boys who are amongst them, and setting the rest up as really free people under a native head. The Portuguese say that instead of being freed) they have merely been made servants to the Mission) who feed them; and expect them to work for them very much as an indulgent Portuguese master treats his slaves. (4) That the Ajawas are more likely to hear with profit when the memory of the war is not so recent. (5) That the language learnt by the Mission is nearly extinct, and is as different from that of the Ajawas as are any of the other languages of the neighbourhood. (6) That our starting point for Mission work must be situated near our communications and in a healthy spot, and the circumstances of that spot being nominally in Portuguese hands, while it secures us from many inconveniences; ought not to prevent our using it, if it be the best means of securing access to the tribes beyond. In regard to the Diocese of Mozambique; it has not had a Bishop for many years; the Portuguese themselves are shamefully neglected; the native heathens are in no way cared fors and to claim for it all the heathen tribes half-way across the Continent would be the merest ecclesiastical fiction possible.

On the other hands our objections to Mbami's are these: (l) That it and the country round contain neither people nor food; the famine having swept them all away, (2) It is near the headquarters of the Ajawa, who may turn out hopelessly hostile or more probably may expect to be helped in the same manner as the Mission at first helped the Manganja against them. (3) It is near the Makololo, who are the greatest robbers and murderers in the country, and having been plentifully supplied with ammunition by Dr. Livingstones have made themselves masters of several villages, and committed all kinds of atrocities in the name of the English. Dr. Kirk told me that on one occasion they went into a village and demanded six wives for the English as a condition of peace--and got them.. These people are very hopeless subjects of Mission work themselves and must prove the greatest hindrance to it amongst tribes who have been accustomed to see them as close friends of the Mission party. (4) The healthiness of Mbami's is at best probable and not certain, being on the road to Magomero, which was chosen under Dr. Livingstone's advice, and turned out so much more unhealthy than could have been at all expected. As an experiment therefore, Mbami's would be much more expensive and dangerous than the Morumbala, from which we could at any time get to the sea in a fortnight or so, and to supplies of food in probably about a week. I think all our English friends would agree that no mere struggle for life could repay the cost in money and health. Indeed, it is a melancholy thing to see, of the first party, the Bishop and Scudamore dead, Procter and Rowley hopelessly invalided, and so the whole clerical element extinguished, and amongst the laity Dickenson dead; Clark and Gamble invalided, while Blair looks like a ghost; and Adams has had the fever a hundred times;


Memorandum made by Bishop Tozer on the question of the slaves released by Dr. Livingstone, and given over to Bishop Mackenzie.

August 1863.

ON August 16 I met Mr. Alington at the foot of the mountain, he having come from Chibisa's and I from Mazaro. Singularly enough; our canoes touched at the landing place within a few minutes of each other.

He was the bearer of a proposed plan respecting some of the native people. The great majority of them, it seemed, were opposed to any removal. They preferred to remain where they were merely shifting their village to the other side of the river. There were, however; some women and little girls who Still desired to remain with the English, and Mr. Waller and Mr. Alington asked permission to bring them down to Morumbala, promising that their maintenance should be no burden on the funds of the Mission ... I may state that of the women, some were old, some sick, and one a confirmed cripple; two were young women with babies, who had no recognized husbands, and the rest were children, all in their different ways objects of charity. This made my rejection of the plan for bringing them here very painful, but on consideration I feel that any other determination would have been a serious mistake. I explained to Mr. Alington my many objections to his and Mr. Waller's kindly intentioned scheme. I said: "We being exclusively a body of men, are incapable of undertaking the care and instruction of unmarried women and girls. Had we ladies with us, the case would be different. Even at Chibisa's there have been grievous scandals( through the impossibility of keeping a sufficient oversight over the people. Nor do I see how I could control heathen women by principles which they cannot understand. The subject of marriage alone would produce intricacies of all kinds. Again, I should be unable to checkj even if I wished to do so, intercourse between these women and the regular inhabitants of the mountain, and without some check we should all be very speedily involved in petty disputes and jealousies. In the event of any bad behaviours my position would be one of great difficulty. I cannot exclude the offender from the station because she has no other home or asylum open to hen No matter how great a moral pestilence she may be proving to the community (to take an extreme case) she must remain a member of it.

My former letter and Mr. Waller's reply will show that these women are in no particular way influenced by any religious feeling in asking to remain with us, and their conversion has never been prominently urged as the reason for attaching them to the Mission; but simply their forlorn and destitute condition. . . .

Mr. Alington asked my reasons for undertaking the charge of the boysy if I felt debarred from receiving others who had equal claims on us for support and protection. I said: "The case of the boys is different. We take them in the hope that they may eventually be trained up for the special work of Christianizing their own people. They can be kept under perfect control, and we may hope by daily intercourse with them to obtain considerable influence over them for good. But there would be no such facilities for impressing women or girls; our intercourse with them must be of the most formal kind, and the two sexes must be kept separate and distinct. The one object, therefore, which might have overbalanced many objections, viz. their possible conversion to Christianity becomes hopelessly remote.

I was led to propose another plan: "If you think," I said to Mr. Alington, "that these people should not be left, and if you are anxious that they should be brought under civilizing influences, let them be taken at once to Natal or the Cape or Mauritius, or some other such place, where they will have the assistance and sympathy which our position forbids us to offer them, and in that case I will help you from my own private resources."

The answer was: "These people wish to be with us, and we wish to have the work of protecting and teaching them."

Upon this I said that I could not consent to allow these people to be in any sense connected with the Mission station, and Mr. Alington at once returned to Chibisa's with the information that the plan must be abandoned.

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