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The Scottish Churches' Work Abroad
Black and White in South Africa


IN the hard years following the Napoleonic wars, the British Government voted £50,000 in aid of an emigration scheme whereby four or five thousand white settlers might be planted near the south-east border of Cape Colony, where they might serve as a barrier against the raids of the native tribes across the border. The scheme was successfully carried out in 1820, and the new settlers found homes in the district around Grahamstown. This notable event led the Glasgow Missionary Society to resolve on planting a mission in the same neighbourhood. The place selected was the beautiful valley of the Tyumie, now better known by the renowned name of Lovedale, which has been very fitly called "the Iona of the Scottish Church in Africa." The first two missionaries were the Rev. W. R. Thomson and Mr. John Bennie, a catechist. On arrival they were welcomed by the Rev. John Brownlee, a Scotsman from Clydesdale, who had been sent out by the London Missionary Society in 1817 to work among the Gaikas, a powerful Kafir tribe on the border. Two years later the Mission was strengthened by the arrival of the Rev. John Ross. The three names of Brownlee, Thomson, and Ross are worthy of honourable mention for their long and distinguished services to the cause of the Gospel in South Africa. Mr. Thomson continued in the field till 1891, when he died at the great age of ninety-seven. Mr. Ross, who lived till 1878, gave two sons, Richard and Bryce, to the Mission, also a grandson, Brownlee Ross, who is still at work, so that the family have an unbroken record of service extending over more than a century.

I

The central portion of South Africa is, speaking generally, a lofty plateau, the edges of which are deeply scarred and twisted into precipitous mountain ranges where it begins to break down towards the sea. Between these mountains and the south-east coast there is a strip of fertile country, averaging about 150 miles in length, where various tribes of the Bantu race pastured their herds. All along this belt for 6oo miles, from behind Port Elizabeth and East London to above Durban, the Kafraria Mission of the United Free Church extends. The name Kafraria will not be found on the map, and perhaps it ought to be entirely dropped. The word Kafir, commonly used to describe the natives of South Africa generally, is really an Arab word meaning "an infidel," and is repudiated by the natives as a name of contempt. The generic name for the inhabitants of South and Central Africa is Bantu, that is "the people." They are a race quite distinct from the Negroes of West Africa, being brown in colour, and with more finely chiselled features. They moved down from the north and overran the country previously inhabited by the Hottentots and Bushmen. The Bantu have ever been a powerful, brave, and warlike people, as the British Empire has every reason to know. It was only after frequent and costly wars that the supremacy of the white man was established, and - the names of Zulu, Basuto, Matabele, still awaken stirring memories.

The tribe which had settled in the southeast of Cape Colony, and which was in reality the spear-bead of the Bantu southern migration, was the Amaxosa, and with them were fought the nine so-called" Kafir wars." For a long period the border was in a state of chronic unrest, with native raids and reprisals, lootings, burnings, and murders. The tale is too sadly familiar on all the outposts of the Empire to need repetition. The infant Mission found itself in the very thick of the fray, and time and again, when a little beginning of good work seemed to be made, it was swept away on the furious tide of war. Old Lovedale was burned to the ground and reverted to the wild, the new Lovedale was for a time occupied as a military fort. The Ross family had five times to flee for refuge to the Colony, four times their home was given to the flames. Gradually the power and spirit of the tribes was broken in the hopeless struggle, and the border line of the Colony was steadily pushed to the north.

In 1857 occurred an extraordinary event which illustrates the baneful influence of superstition upon the native mind. A witch-doctor appeared preaching a weird doctrine of resurrection. The ancestors of the race, he announced, had seen the sufferings of their people, and on a certain day would rise from the dead to their help. The living would be restored to youth and beauty, the kraals would be filled with fat cattle, and the store-pits with grain. But, in order to bring about this glorious day, all the cattle must be killed and the fields left unsown. Kreli, the paramount chief of the Galekas and Gaikas, announced his faith in the soothsayer, and the madness spread like wildfire among his people. Tens of thousands of cattle were slaughtered, and when the fateful day came and passed, whole tribes were faced with starvation. Vast numbers entered the Colony in search of food and work, but it is estimated that 20,000 died of hunger.

No one who reads history can fail to be struck with the marvellous way in which God, out of evil, is able to bring forth good. The Kafir wars were undoubtedly used of God to open up a way for the Gospel. One result of them was that the clan system was broken up and individual men and women were compelled to think and act for themselves. With the power of the chief, the power also of the witch-doctor began to pass away. One tribe in particular benefited both materially and spiritually in these changing and troublous times. They were the Fingoes. Driven south by the Zulus, they appeared among the Amaxosa, a broken and destitute remnant who, when asked their name, replied, " We are beggars (Fingoes)." The name stuck, and for a time they were practically the serfs of the Amaxosa. But adversity proved the saving of them. "To-day the Fingoes occupy the van of progress among the southern tribes. With the loss of their chiefs in the early days, the grip of ancient custom was slackened, and the hard school through which they passed developed qualities of industry which have carried them far. No tribe in South Africa has been so clearsighted as to the benefits of education or more susceptible to the magnetism of the Gospel. Thus it has come that in some districts the Fingoes are almost wholly Christianised."

II

While the Mission expanded and new stations were opened to the north-east, Lovedale, in the Tyumie Valley, continued to be its headquarters, and in 1841 a Training Institution was begun there under the superintendence of the Rev. W. Govan. It may be mentioned that the name Love-dale was not given, as many have supposed, from any sentimental reason as indicating that the valley was the abode of love. It was named after Dr. Love of Glasgow, who was the first secretary of the Glasgow Missionary Society.

About the time that the Institution was founded there was formed in Scotland the "Glasgow Ladies’ Society for Female Education in Kafraria," which continued for many years to do a great deal of useful work. In particular, a Training School for Girls was opened at Emgwali, and later a Girls’ School at Lovedale. The name of Emgwali will ever be associated with that of Tiyo Soga, who was for a time the pastor of the native congregation there. He was, says the historian of South Africa, "such a man as any nation in the world might be proud of." His father, Soga, was a chief counsellor among the Gaikas, who had ten wives and thirty-nine children, a man of great wisdom and valour, who died as he had lived, a heathen, though favourably disposed to the Mission. His mother, Soga’s principal wife, was one of the first converts, and developed a remarkable Christian character. When Tiyo was studying at Love-dale, the Institution had to be abandoned for a time owing to the outbreak of war. It was then proposed that he should go to Scotland with Mr. Govan to complete his education. When this novel proposal was put before his mother, she gave a ready consent, remarking with quiet faith, very wonderful in an untravelled Kafir woman, "My son is the property of God. Wherever he goes, God goes with him." After passing through a full curriculum in arts and divinity, Tiyo Soga was ordained in Scotland and returned to work among his own people. He died in middle life, but not before he had rendered splendid service and made a deep impression, not only by his intellectual gifts, but still more by his moral qualities. He gave valuable help in the translation of the Kafir Bible, and he also produced a translation of the Pilgrim’s Progress. His son, Dr. Soga, is one of the most enlightened and influential natives in South Africa. Such men are a convincing proof of the intellectual and moral standard to which the African may be raised by Christian education.

In 1867 there came to Lovedale one whose name is writ large in the missionary history of South Africa, Dr. James Stewart. Tall and thin—his height was six feet two inches—full of wiry strength, with a long, eager stride which carried him forward as if he swooped on things, gifted with a fine mobile face and expressive eyes, and bearing himself with soldierly dignity, he made a distinguished figure in any company. Born in Edinburgh and reared in Perthshire, he had early devoted himself to the missionary cause, partly under the influence of warm religious feeling and partly impelled by the wander-lust of the born pioneer. Before coming to Lovedale he was already an experienced African traveller. He had explored the Zambesi and the Shire under the direction of Livingstone, and his early ambition was to follow in the steps of the great explorer and make the Zambesi a highway for the Gospel into Central Africa. But the time was hardly ripe, and so in God’s Providence it came about that Lovedale was the scene of his life’s work.

The coming of Dr. Stewart brought new life to Lovedale, and under him the development of the Institution was so great as completely to dwarf all that went before. He discarded as useless the attempt to teach Latin and Greek. Some of the natives, ambitious for a display of learning, grumbled at this, but he maintained that English was their classic, and a sufficient mental discipline. A more startling innovation was the introduction of fees. No one had yet dared to imagine that the African could be induced to pay for education. After a two days’ palaver on the question, Dr. Stewart carried his point. A native, Nyoka, whose name the doctor ever after remembered with gratitude, rose and said, "I will give £4 for my son." Others followed. Contrary to all expectation, so successful was the new policy that in the four years from 1870 to 1874 the number of pupils rose from 92 to 480, and the fees from nothing to £1800.

III

It was not long before the wide-awake Fingoes, who were settled to the north, in the land beyond the Great Kei River, perceived that Lovedale was a really good thing, and coveted to have an Institution of their own. Acting on the advice of their trusted missionary, Richard Ross, and Captain Blyth, the British Resident, they applied to Dr. Stewart to plant among them "a daughter of Lovedale," as they phrased it. Stewart in reply suggested that if the Fingoes themselves would raise £1000 he would guarantee an equal amount. Three months later he received a telegram from Captain Blyth, "Come up, the money is ready." He lost no time in complying with this request, and his meeting with the Fingoes was as picturesque as it was historic. Thirty years later he described it thus "The meeting to hand over that subscription was held at Ngqamakwe on the veldt, there being no building large enough for the crowd of men and women and missionaries. On a small deal table which stood on the grass was a large heap of silver, over £1450, and the substance of the native speaking that day was given in a sentence by one of themselves. He pointed to the money and said, ‘There are the stones, now build.’ There was further speaking, and the people were assured that their contribution would be covered by one of equal amount, to be raised in Scotland or elsewhere, and all went home satisfied that the Institution was safe, as the sum of £3000 had been practically guaranteed."

During the progress of the building, certain additions were considered necessary, and again the Fingoes rose to the occasion. Another meeting was held, more speeches made, and a second £1500 in silver was subscribed. When the Institution was opened in 1877 there still remained a debt of £1600. On Sir Bartle Frere mentioning this to one of the headmen, he replied, "The thing is settled. We are going to pay all the debt." And they did. A final meeting was held at which, with considerable flourish of trumpets and abundant speechifying after the native fashion, amid a scene of great enthusiasm, shillings and half-crowns were tabled in sufficient quantity to pay the debt. The Institution was called Blythswood, in honour of Captain Blyth, and it has proved itself not only "a child of Lovedale," but the mother of civilisation in Fingoland. In 1890 it was declared by a competent observer that "the Fingoes of Transkei are half a century ahead of their countrymen in wealth, intelligence, and material progress, agricultural skill, sobriety, and civilised habits of life."

IV

Dr. Stewart continued to act as Principal of Lovedale for almost forty years, and by his tireless energy and far-seeing statesmanship raised the Institution to a premier place among the missionary agencies of Africa. It drew to itself students from every part of South Africa up to and even beyond the Zambesi, and it still continues its full career of prosperity and usefulness. Being so conspicuous a success it naturally became a target for the critic of missions. Solemn warnings were given against the employment of Lovedale boys, who were declared to be raw Kafirs spoiled by education. The industrial side of the work especially was the object of bitter attack by those who wished to reserve all skilled labour to the white man. Dr. Stewart was therefore compelled to become the defender of his own system and the champion of native education. His defence was characteristically thorough and effective. In 1887 he published Love-dale Past and Present, in which he gave the record of over 2000 natives who had passed through the Institution. Of these, 36 had become preachers, 409 teachers, 6 lawyers, 3 journalists, 26 telegraphists, while the rest were employed in various trades or in farming. Only per cent. had been brought before the magistrate for breaking the law. "Can Oxford do better than that ? " Dr. Stewart was wont to say. In the year 1900 the record was brought up to date and again published. It then contained 6640 names, of whom preachers and teachers numbered 880, farmers 385, tradesmen 352, Government clerks 112, in railway and police work 86, while above 1000 were employed at the mines. It was a triumphant vindication of Lovedale and of mission work, for Dr. Stewart could truly say, "But for the education received here, and the previous labours of the missionaries who sent them to Lovedale, they would have been unable to distinguish the top of a printed page from the bottom, unable to use a single tool, unable even to use that complicated instrument called a spade, as any one may satisfy himself if he sends a raw native to dig in his garden. They have been dragged out of the abyss of ignorance and entire want of manual skill by the opportunities they have had in this and in similar places."

Happily Dr. Stewart lived to see in 1905 the publication of an authoritative pronouncement in favour of native education.

The African Native Affairs Commission, after an exhaustive inquiry, unanimously reported "that the natives must be educated and civilised, that the only people who have tried to elevate them are the missionaries and some Christian families, and that the hope of their elevation must depend mainly on their acceptance of the Christian faith and morals." In accordance with this report there has now been established at Fort Hare, in the Tyumie Valley, and in close contact with Lovedale, a South African Native College affiliated with the University of South Africa. The gateway of learning and the path to all progress and Christian civilisation has thus been thrown open to the native, and the result is undoubtedly due to the labours of missionaries and the success of their work.

V

It need not be denied, however, that the racial problem in South Africa is an exceeding grave one, making the outlook upon the future in many respects dark and anxious. The native population far outnumbers the whites, and is increasing at a much greater rate. Racial consciousness is growing more intense, and it is obvious that the native cannot be permanently repressed. Recent years have seen the growth of the Ethiopian movement with its watchword of "Africa for the Africans." It has been in many respects a misguided and mischievous movement which has frequently caused trouble both in the Church and in the political world. Dr. Stewart’s last years were darkened by the unexpected secession of Mzimba, the trusted pastor of the native congregation at Lovedale, who had the temerity, in connection with the great Scottish Church case, to put in a claim for Lovedale and the whole of the Mission property. There was trouble at many other Mission stations, some of the missionaries being hustled out of their pulpits and locked out of their churches by groups of excited natives. No serious rioting took place, and such as did was easily quelled, but, none the less, the results were lamentable. Considerable numbers of native Christians, eager for independence, broke away from the wise guidance of their missionaries and launched various churches of their own. It was not long before quarrelling and incompetent management brought disillusionment to many, who were glad to return to the folds from which they had gone out, but the controversy raised in an acute form the whole question of the future of the native Church. In regard to that, the United Free Church Mission was divided in its policy. The part which originally belonged to the United Presbyterian Church held the ideal of one church for white and black, and accordingly was affiliated to the colonial Presbyterian Church. The part of the Mission formerly Free Church held that it was necessary, for a time at least, to develop the native Church independently, and so they maintained a separate organisation. After negotiations it was agreed on both sides that the latter policy was to be preferred, and accordingly in 1923 the Mission was organised as "The Bantu Presbyterian Church," with 25,000 members and a native community of over 54,000. The verdict of history will probably be that this is a really notable event, a great experiment in selfgovernment, a venture of faith, which at the moment is being watched with intense interest, not unmixed with fear, by other communions in South Africa. It is too soon yet to predict the ultimate issue, but every Christian and every friend of Africa will pray that it may by God’s blessing do something to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the African, while keeping him in brotherly contact with the white man, so that the two races may work harmoniously together, in Booker Washington’s striking phrase, "separate as the fingers, united as the hand."


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