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The Life of James Stewart
The Educationalist


Pioneer— A Great Programme — Catholicity — Respect for Woman — Handmaids to Education — A Teacher of Teachers—The Chief End—The Rev. James Scott—H. C. Sloley, Esq.— Sir Godfrey Lagden—E. B. Sargent, Esq.

‘The most potent force in the religious life of the South African native has, perhaps, been the Scotch Presbyterian Mission, which has always been educational in its character. ‘—Colquhoun’s’ The Africander Land.’

‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a Iife.’—Matthew Arnold.

‘The main point in education is to get a relish of knowledge. ‘—Osler’s ‘AEquanimitas.’

‘He who is master of education is able to change the face of the world.’—Leibnilz.

Education without religion is the world’s expedient for converting farthings into guineas by scouring.’— The Rev. J. Murker.

STEWART was an enthusiastic pioneer of native education. To have a hand in fashioning young lives, was exceedingly attractive to him. He would not despair of teaching young barbarians among whom education was unknown and despised, and who cared only for their animal wants. Living in a transition period between the old and the new, he adapted his methods to both, and of the new he might justly have said, ‘Quorum pars magna fui.’

He had a sun-clear idea of his educational aims. He was intensely practical. For cram and goose-quill learning he never had any respect. The problem with him was how the whole pupil could be trained for the whole of life, for God and man, for earth and heaven. In an address to the Love-dale Literary Society he thus defines the end of education. ‘What is this long, costly process to produce as a result? This may be answered in one brief word—Action. . . . A man is educated when he is fitted for the position he is intended by the Providence of God to fill. . . . Any education which is not practical in its character is of no real value to you at your present stage of civilisation.’

His intense desire to serve Christ and his fellows rescued him from that ‘malady of the ideal’ which has made many cultured men martyrs of disgust, and spoiled them for the humble tasks of daily life. It seemed to him worth his while to take the greatest pains with the rudest pupils, and study all the details of school life. He had received no training as a teacher, but enthusiasm and experience soon made him an expert. He was a good teacher because he was a learner to the very end, and took pains to give his pupils water from a running stream, and not from a stagnant pool. He carefully examined all methods of teaching, and he visited and sampled more than twenty educational establishments in America among the Indians and freed negroes. The result was that he ‘preferred the African material to work upon.’

John Knox Bokwe thus describes Stewart’s aims:

‘He had a favourite maxim which he oft repeated. "The receiving of education should not be of the nature of a sponge which sucked everything for itself, but gave nothing out, nor should it resemble a bottomless bucket which kept nothing in." The sponge, he explained, represented selfishness, the opposite of which was self-denial and self-sacrifice. He was so fond of using these terms that his pupils nicknamed them "the doctor’s jaw-breakers." To the native mind these ideas were new, and caused much discussion in the dormitories.’

The education at Lovedale was very liberal, for it ranged from the alphabet to theological classes. The aim was to equip the boys and girls for every sphere of civilised life. The programme embraced ‘the rudiments of education for all, industrial training for the many, and a higher education for the talented few.’ In 1905, I found at Lovedale twenty-five Europeans on the Staff, among whom were four Masters of Arts, who represented the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Dublin. I said to the pupils that they had better opportunities of education than I had had, and both Dr. Stewart and Dr. Roberts made a similar statement regarding themselves. Many white pupils have been educated at Lovedale, and not a few of them now occupy very important posts in South Africa. The natives and the whites have the same education within their reach. One could scarcely imagine a more impressive proof of respect for the natives and faith in their elevation. It is fitted to deliver them from their seif-despisings, and from the despisings of the whites. I saw Stewart’s grandson in a class alongside of Kafir boys.

The musical demonstrations of the pupils are a surprise to the visitor. Some of the better-off pupils go to Alice for lessons in music at their own cost, and some can play well on the piano. Dudley Kidd heard one of the pupils playing his own musical compositions on the piano. ‘They were,’ he adds, ‘quite up to the level of our drawing-room songs. My race-prejudice certainly received a well-merited rebuff by the experience.’ He admits that his severe criticisms of the Mission Schools do not apply to Lovedale. Had he been as prone to commend as to criticise, he might have said that all the methods he advocates have been employed at Lovedale during the last forty years. ‘The African,’ Stewart writes, ‘is fond beyond measure of music, and seems to have an instinctive knowledge of harmony, and an extraordinary power of keeping time.’ The Ethiopians are apt to be smit with the love of sacred song. Among them music is a potent means of civilisation, and even of grace. ‘Music has great influence on those who have musical ears, and often leads to conversion’ (Livingstone’s Last Journals, ii. 201).

In his estimate of the educational power of music, Stewart agreed with Plato, who said, ‘The movement of sound, so as to reach the soul for the education of it in virtue (we know not how), we call music, under which the soul becomes gentle and pliable as metal in the fire.’ ‘Next to theology, I place sacred music,’ wrote Luther; and in his day the people sang themselves into the Lutheran doctrine.

Among missions, Lovedale was distinguished by its Catholicity. The pupils were of all colours, white and black, brown and yellow, with numberless intermediate hues. ‘The education at Lovedale is open to Europeans,’ Stewart writes. ‘There is an average of twenty-five or thirty who come from a distance and board in the place. The education given is the attraction, as no difference is made in the classes. All colours mingle freely there, as force

of brain rather than colour of skin determines the position. The natives carry off their own share of the prizes. The Europeans sit in the same dining-hall, but at different tables, and they sleep in different dormitories. The objects gained by thus mixing the two races are these:—The natives have the advantage of contact with Europeans for the language and general competition. And many of the Europeans, I might say nearly all, gain a lasting sympathy with the natives and acquire an interest in missions. This is important, as prejudices between missionaries and colonists are unhappily too strong in some cases.

I only know of one lad, among more than a thousand, who ever complained of having "Presbyterianism thrust down his throat." To succeed in doing even that would have been a feat, as it was extremely difficult to thrust or insinuate anything of a satisfactory kind into his head.’

The visitor at Lovedale had many proofs of this catholicity. In one of the senior classes the Principal would say, ‘Will the boys from Rhodesia stand up?’ Two or three would rise. He would then call up the boys from Bechuanaland, Fingoland, Pondoland, Transvaal, Basutoland, Cape Colony, etc. When I was there, the question was asked, ‘Are there any boys here who have not yet stood up?’ Two responded. ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘From Madagascar,’ was the reply. Lovedale has had pupils from Lake Nyasa. King Lewanika sent two of his sons to Lovedale (with their attendants) last year, and wished to send also several of his young men, but there was no room for them. Cobden was called ‘the international man’; Stewart was the international missionary.

Respect for women was one of the greatest lessons in the Institution. Miss (now Dr.) Jane Waterston accompanied Stewart in 1867, as the first lady Principal of the Girls’ Department. ‘One special point of value about her work was that she succeeded in inspiring the girls with a spirit of unselfishness and activity, and of attachment to the place and the work.’ She began with ten girls. Last year there were two hundred and four girls at Lovedale, and they paid in fees £1235.

Stewart thus describes his aims: ‘We have not taken these young women from their smoky hovels to spoil them with over-indulgence, or nurse them into fastidious dislike of their future fates. In the matter of food they abide generally by the simplicity of their native fare. . . . And as regards their training, we may fairly believe that great good will come out of the establishment of this training-school for young women. Cleanliness, industry, and application are some of the lower ends of the Institution, and the more common virtues which the inmates practise while they remain there, the training of their hearts and the conversion of their souls to God, are the higher and real aims of the place.’

Miss Waterston adds: ‘The aim with which I started was not to turn out school-girls but women, and with that aim in view I tried to give the Institution not so much the air of a school as of a pleasant home. I reasoned after this manner, that homes are what are wanted in Africa, and that the young women will never be able to make homes unless they understand and see what a home is. Another principle that I set out with was, that nothing was to be done for the girls that they could do for themselves, and that there was to be as little hired help as possible.’

The girls learn more quickly than the boys, they work harder, do better work, and take more kindly to civilised ways. The visitor can scarcely believe that they are of the same race as their sisters at the Kraals.

The boys had ever before their eyes a splendid object-lesson on the difference Christ has made in the position of woman, and in man’s attitude to her. They daily saw girls who were as carefully educated as themselves, and by cultured European ladies who loved them and wished, in the spirit of Christ, to reinstate the native woman on her equal throne with the man. The climate round the boys was fitted to melt away their savage contempt for woman, as Arctic icebergs floating south are dissolved in spring.

Many were the handmaids to education created and employed at the Institution. The first Kafir newspaper was printed there in 1871. The Christian Express, originally the Kafir Express, was printed in English at Lovedale, and entirely by the pupils under European supervision. It powerfully pled the cause of natives and of missions. There was also another newspaper called The Lovedale News. The Lovedale Literary Society was very popular, and a welcome relaxation from school tasks. One of its aims was to create a healthy native public opinion on all important questions. The addresses of Dr. Stewart as President were great events among the pupils. They were carefully prepared and usually published in the Christian Express. The senior students had a Botanical class, and occasional Botanical excursions. They were taught Chemistry, and a lecture on Electricity led to the establishment of a Telegraph Office at Lovedale, which was entirely manipulated by natives. They had also a good Library, Reading-room, and Book-store, a Missionary Society, a Christian Association, a Temperance Society, and a Society of Christian Endeavour.

The garden and grounds had also an educative value for those who had come from the squalid surroundings of the native beehive hut. It was Stewart’s hope that these would help to train what he defined ‘the taste, or the imagination, or the sense of what is called Beauty.’ The whole of Love-dale was meant to be an object-lesson to the native, and a real contribution to his liberal education.

Speusippus, an old-world teacher, had the walls of his school covered with pictures suggesting gladness. Lovedale, within and without, was amply supplied with such pictures, most of them living. The educative value of play was also fully recognised.

The Principal was a Teacher of Teachers, and a Leader of Leaders. His enthusiasm gave liveliness and persuasiveness to his ideas and instructions. Some thought that his pupils were over-educated, petted, and spoiled. But they were taught to do solid work, and many of them were trained to be pioneers of civilisation, pastors, missionaries, evangelists, teachers, and Government servants. All these were needed for the work among the natives, and the demand has always been greater than the supply. If native Christians are to be leaders of the people, they must have the best education they are capable of. The Normal School has sent forth native teachers to all parts of the land. The proportion of teachers trained at Lovedale may be from one-half to two-thirds of the whole in South Africa.

It is admitted that education usually makes the native very conceited. [‘I am the Zulu who converted Bishop Colenso.’ The Kafirs describe a conceited scholar as ‘big in the mouth,’ and the whites speak of this conceit as ‘educational measles.’ When Stewart was asked whether such training did not tend to beget conceit, he replied, ‘We live in a dangerous world. We can give the education, but not the guarantee.’ This rude uprising of unbalanced manhood should not surprise us. The native cannot be hustled through centuries of growth. Stewart most faithfully warned his students against the dangers which beset them. He was always afraid that some of them might improve the mind at the expense of the heart.] The first shallow draughts of that spring intoxicate his brain, but drinking more deeply will by and by sober him as it sobers ourselves. No education can at once add all those subtle influences which are a priceless bequest from our centuries of civilised life.

What was said of Jowett might have been said of Stewart, ‘Once a man’s tutor, always his tutor.’ He captured several of his pupils and held them as willing captives. He was their standard of excellence, and in many respects they retained his impress as the wax retains the impress of the seal. I have received well-written letters from several of them, and in some cases I thought at the first glance that they were old letters of Stewart’s.

The Discipline appears to visitors to be excellent. It is not that enforced discipline which rouses the instinct of youthful contrariness and rebellion, and secures only an outward and forced obedience. The ‘tawse’ and the sjambok are not permitted. The pupils have a court of their own at which offenders are tried by their peers under European guidance, and according to the rules of justice. Every year many applicants have to be turned away, and the fear of expulsion is a powerful motive. The appeal is made to their self-respect and gratitude. ‘Do you not know me?’ an educated native said to Coillard.

Discipline thus becomes largely a matter of self-government, and their behaviour compares very favourably with that of our students at university functions. The pupils seem very happy and contented, as well they may, and the place has an air of seeming unconstraint.

Education at Lovedale approached closely to Matthew Arnold’s ideal; it was ‘an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.’ The education there was largely atmospheric, and it entered into every part of the pupil’s life. They lived every day in the climate of a genial Christian humanity. Around them was the kindling influence of their hero, the Founder, and his like-minded colleagues. The best truth and culture had become flesh and blood in their teachers. The atmosphere taught more than mere words could; and they received the highest truths by genial infection and absorption. The soul of the teacher was in daily contact with the soul of the pupil.

Stewart thus describes this peculiarity of Lovedale: ‘Africans at first, and indeed at all stages, learn, as we all do, by what they see as well as by what they hear. Abstract truth, however comprehensive, does not tell on them. At first it is little better to them than the higher mathematics to a child. But the life and activity of the missionary agents tell wonderfully without much formal speech. And the mission station should be to them an object-lesson in order, progress, cleanliness, and industry as well as religious teaching; and be also a place where they may be always sure of kind treatment.’

The Principal had great patience with the erring, and often exercised his prerogative of mercy in admitting some applicants who could not comply with the rules, and preventing the dismissal of others who had broken them. He hated putting away. He thus secured two pupils—William Koyi and Shadrach Mgunana—who ultimately volunteered for Livingstonia, and rendered very great services there. Stewart’s generous kindness to the scholars, especially when sick, was one reason why so many flocked to Lovedale, and why the discipline was so good. To be reported to him for misconduct was considered a very great disgrace. ‘I am a father,’ he sometimes said, ‘and I wish to treat these children entrusted to me as I should like my own children to be treated if they were under the care of strangers.’ No wonder that he had the faculty of governing the young, and succeeded so thoroughly in gaining the confidence and affection of all his pupils.

Lovedale has been widely accepted as a model. It is Stewart’s judgment of the best method of civilising and Christianising the native, and it is one of the greatest educational missions in the world. Mackay of Uganda warmly commended it for adoption at Uganda. ‘Lovedale and Blythswood in South Africa,’ he says, ‘I would mention as types already successful in no ordinary degree.’ He pled for the planting of a similar institution at Uganda, ‘which should train the most capable youths from Mengo to Khartoum.’

Lovedale has found favour among those most devoted to spiritual work. This was secured by Stewart’s zeal and wisdom. He always made it perfectly plain that the chief end of the Institution was to win souls to Christ. He says: ‘The opposition that once existed to educational methods did some mischief. It distracted attention, lessened the sympathies of many, and led others to believe that non-missionary and half-secular methods were being adopted. On this one of the presidents of Robert College stated: "These attacks, though not without excuse, were undoubtedly a mistake, and put back missionary work in the East a quarter of a century."

Scottish missions rather led the way than followed, for Dr. Duff was the first in India to advocate this educational method as an addition to the evangelistic.’

Stewart thus formulates his missionary creed and confession: ‘We declare plainly that this Institute exists to teach the natives of Africa the religion of Jesus Christ. We care for books and tools, workshops and class-rooms and field-work, only as means to open the mind and develop the character by discipline and industry, and as aids not merely to the more ready acceptance of the truths of the Bible, but to the practical exhibition of these truths in daily life. We try to fit young men and women to become useful and industrious citizens, and to become also missionaries of Christianity and civilisation to other natives of Africa whom they may reach. We believe in conversion, and regard that as the best and highest result of our work. We believe in loyalty to Jesus Christ as the highest and the most inspiring missionary belief. We often fall below it, but we always begin again. Not all our work is fruitful or encouraging; it is occasionally, if not frequently, disappointing. But we hold on, thankful to God for the opportunity, and we leave the final results in His hands. We are responsible for the performance of duty, not for results.’ Of industrial training he says: ‘It will only do good, so long as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the life and soul of all the teaching given, the inspiration of the entire effort, and is retained as the keystone of the arch to give stability, permanence, and utility to the whole.’ Speaking elsewhere of the essential aim of Lovedale, he says: ‘The conversion of the individual soul to God is the result of highest value, is our greatest anxiety, and is regarded as the aim most worthy of effort, and to which all other efforts are properly and justifiably subordinate. We cannot say that, as regards all who come to the place, this end is secured, but it is steadily kept in view as that without which all others are necessarily temporary, and comparatively limited and fruitless.’ And again: ‘The most clamant necessity is a revived spiritual life. The presence of the spirit of God among us, awakening for the first time from the deadness of the natural state, or giving us that renewed quickening without which the work of grace in all is ever apt to languish, this would give us a fresh start, and be as the rain and dew of heaven on the parched earth. Could we but see this influence to any considerable and undoubted extent, it would make us thank God and take courage.’ Our statesmen are now telling us that our troubles in India are due to an education which ‘sharpens the intellect without forming the character,’ and that education without sobriety readily becomes the handmaid of sedition. Stewart always declared that education without religion—such is the education in the Government Colleges in India— would produce bitter fruits. The Christian natives of India and Africa have, almost to a man, been on the side of order and peace when their heathen neighbours were in revolt.

As an educationalist, Stewart lived thirty years before his time, and was a true prophet. The closing clause in the programme he drew up in 1867 contained the germ of the idea of a Native University. Thirty years ago he foretold such a growth of native education as we now witness. At the General Missionary Conference in London in 1878, he thus concluded his speec :— ‘The ultimate aim of Lovedale, or that to which it might grow, has not yet been stated. That aim is, that the place may become a Christian College, largely for missionary purposes at first, but afterwards to expand into something broader. The proposal has never been uttered before; it may as well be uttered now in this Missionary Conference. It is this, that Lovedale or some such place may gradually develop into a Native University— Christian in its spirit, aims, and teaching. I wish it were possible to secure that by some great united effort of the different missionary bodies labouring in that country.

‘The relation of Christian education to the general evangelisation of the world is utterly misunderstood by a large portion of the Christian public at home, who are the staunch supporters of missions. I do not say it is misunderstood by all, but by a large number. We shall never educate a native ministry by merely selecting a few for education. We shall never leave behind us Christian churches—self-supporting, and able to aid in the further advance of Christianity—if the bulk of their members is allowed to remain ignorant, unintelligent, and poor. And without education this must be the result even after a generation of missionary labour, in any part of Africa at least. The relation of Christian education to the permanence of missionary work is a problem requiring much consideration.’

Many of the white pupils of Lovedale now occupy very influential positions, and have had a large share in the government of the country, into which they have carried Lovedale ideas. One of them, the Rev. James Scott of Impolweni, Natal, thus recalls his student days:—‘ Though a master in different departments, it was in the class-room that to me Dr. Stewart seemed to shine. The enthusiasm which he could arouse was a revelation; I have never seen any approach to it elsewhere. His treatment of his students was perfect. To him, no matter how ignorant they were, they were gentlemen whose feelings and opinions were worthy of due consideration. Speaking on any debateable subject, he would state his own views clearly and then ask the students to express theirs. He was never above being put right, and if he did not feel able to answer a question, he would frankly say so, and at a later time would refer to the matter. Well do I remember when he opened the Chemistry class. The book we were to use was new to him, there having been a change in the Chemical notation. "Gentlemen," he said, "the book is new to me as well as to you. I dare say we will flounder through it together, and understand it before we are done with it." Certainly the "floundering through" opened up a new world to me, and put me in a position to look forward to, and expect, the wonderful advances which that subject is now making. . . . One of Dr. Stewart’s peculiarities was his delight to see two or more men in earnest conversation or argument. "That is the way," he would say, "to spread light. Free interchange of opinions is the finest thing in the world, to bring out truth and make men tolerant."

H. C. Sloley, Esq., a Member of the Native Affairs Commission and Resident Commissioner in Basutoland, writes :—‘ For the past twenty-five years there have been a number of boys from this Territory at Lovedale, availing themselves of the educational advantages of that Institution. Some of these scholars are partly supported by bursaries and grants from the Basutoland Government, and some are entirely supported by their parents. There is an excellent native training college for teachers in Basutoland, but to "go to Lovedale" has for many years seemed to the Basuto the thing to be desired in the way of education.

‘The consequence is that there are in Basutoland a considerable number of young men who have been under Dr. Stewart’s hands, who have always regarded him with respect and affection, and by whom his memory will ever be cherished and venerated.’

Here is the testimony of Sir Godfrey Lagden, formerly Commissioner for Native Affairs in Basutoland, and Chairman of the Native Affairs Commission. He writes (April 2, 1908) :—‘ Many years before I became personally acquainted with Dr. Stewart, I had learnt to honour and respect his name by reason of the fine tribute paid to him and to his labours by many admiring friends of his, both black and white, who were gratified to speak of him, and were always anxious to do so. Subsequently I came into closer association with him when we were arranging for some of our Basuto boys to go to the Institute, and at intervals I visited Lovedale. The impressions upon my mind are, that the broad and generous instincts of the late Dr. Stewart were responsible in large measure for the formation of public opinion upon the subject of native education, which made extraordinary advance during his career at Lovedale. It was not only that many thousands of natives received at his hands a practical training, but that the public was made to feel that the training was sound, and that the results would be beneficial to the community at large.

‘I had the opportunity of watching the careers of many boys who went to Lovedale in a raw condition, and who, after schooling there, turned out to be efficient workmen, intelligent clerks, and above all, good reliable fellows. And they always spoke with affectionate remembrance of Dr. Stewart.

‘I consider that the life, and example, and work of Dr. Stewart in South Africa should be regarded as of a monumental character.’

E. B. Sargant, Esq., formerly Director of Education in the Transvaal, writes :—‘ The late Dr. Stewart was one of the most uncommon and interesting personalities I have ever met. The first and immediate impression was that of a man of real courtesy and distinction, with the tastes of a scholar and a gentleman. In the second place, I felt myself in the presence of an administrator with an autocratic, somewhat imperious, habit of work. And finally, the impression which pervaded and dominated all the earlier impressions was of one who knew himself to be merely a servant, and whose one business in life it was to discharge that service in the most complete and self-forgetful manner.

‘His attitude towards others and their conceptions was no less interesting. He began by trying to ascertain their real motives. If satisfied on this head, he next seemed anxious about their degree of authority, their powers and status. Only in the third place did he seek to ascertain individual ideas. In fact, one of the earliest impressions he gave me was of an extraordinary impersonality in regard to ideas. This I take to be due to two causes. In the first place, he probably thought that ideas were mostly furnished to us from without, and that in the fullest sense they were due to inspiration. In the second place, all, or nearly all, the ideas in regard to native education which possessed those of us who had become recently interested in the subject, were already familiar to him, and his concern was chiefly as to the degree of precedence which should be given to each.

‘His was a solitary, even a hawk-like nature, swooping with almost inconceivable rapidity upon wilful conceit or disingenuousness or intrigue, but quick to recognise unavoidable ignorance, and such faults as were merely faults of education. With these he dealt gently, as the teachers of men ever choose to deal. To want of faith, and to the attribution of unworthy motives to others, he showed himself an implacable judge.

‘The first impression he made upon those who approached him was, therefore, probably not an impression of gentleness, patience, and benevolent neutrality. His quick penetration of motives, and dislike of all subterfuge, produced among the students, and not only among the students, a feeling akin to awe. It was only by degrees that one came to perceive that he recognised and valued every genuine expression of feeling in others, and that then when he was once convinced of the sincerity of motives, there was nothing more to fear. Those who loved him most loved him so, because they had most experience of him.’

After the war Stewart was asked by the Board of Education in London to supply an account of the systems of education among the natives of South Africa. His statement was published in the Blue Book of the Board.

By placing the great Headmaster of Lovedale alongside of Dr. Arnold and Dr. Temple, the great Headmasters of Rugby, the contrast will help us rightly to estimate his contribution to the education of our race. He was a creator; they were administrators and improvers: his pupils were savages; theirs were highly educated, to begin with: he civilised the rudest; they civilised a little more those who were already civilised: he was the creator and providence of his school, and had to find all the money for it; they had very ample endowments: he had many other exacting duties; they, while at Rugby, were only educators: he taught most of the arts and crafts of civilised life; they were occupied solely with academic studies.


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