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The Life of James Stewart
The Captain of Industries


Sir George Grey—Squaring the Circle—A Hive of Industries— Printing and Bookbinding — Telegraphy — The Rev. Horace Waller—No Scamping.

[African Wastes Reclaimed, by Mr. Robert Young, gives valuable information on the subject.]

The great secret of life is work. ‘—Cecil Rhodes.

‘As a man, Coillard had lived close to earth; as a Christian, close to heaven.’—Coillard of the Zambesi,

Africa may be for the Africans, but Africa will never be saved by the Africans only.’—Mackay of Uganda.

Since it (Lovedale) is a fair type, almost an ideal type, of the industrial mission, it repays special study. ‘—Dr. Noble’s ‘Redemption of Africa’ (p. 565).

STEWART fully recognised that man cannot live by bread alone, and that he cannot live without bread. His ceaseless aim was to make Lovedale a real Alma Mater, a more bountiful mother than the average university is or can be. It was his high ambition to provide for all the needs of the native in body, mind, and soul. He did not wish him to be a learner for learning’s sake, but to be a learner that he might be a doer, a maker, a lover of labour, and a man. Some hold that in undertaking work of this kind the Church has gone off the rails, and cannot expect to make satisfactory progress. But the early Church relieved the poor by alms-giving, and surely the modern Church may relieve them by helping them to earn their own living.

Sir George Grey, the great South African Pro-Consul, [He was a true friend of the missionaries. In 1890 he wrote: ‘My heart is filled with gratitude to the missionaries who worked out so great and noble a success. I earnestly pray that God may still prosper the labours of such true friends of mankind.’] helped him to realise some of his aspirations. On his recommendation 3000 was given by Government to Lovedale for industrial training, while various sums were given to other missions for the same purpose. After a few years’ experiment the time came for the investigation of results. ‘The consequence was that at several places these industrial departments disappeared in a day, like ships foundered at sea. Lovedale, however, was able to hold steadily on its course.’ In grateful recognition of his help, Stewart dedicated his Lovedale to Sir George Grey, ‘Under whose administration and by whose aid the first steps were taken to teach the arts of civilised life to the native races of South Africa.’

Stewart threw himself heart and soul into these efforts. He felt that head-work would do little for the native unless it were wedded to hand-work. In this the missionary was imitating the Carpenter of Nazareth, whose eighteen silent years in the workshop have taught the world more than all its other teachers have done or could have done, the dignity of labour, and provided eternal inspiration for all who earn their bread in the sweat of the brow.

He thus defined his secular gospel in the Christian Express: ‘The gospel of work does not save souls, but it saves peoples. It is not a Christian maxim only, that they who do not work should not eat; it is also in the end a law of nature and of nations. Lazy races die or decay. Races that work prosper on the earth. The British race, in all its greatest branches, is noted for its restless activity. Its life’s motto is WORK! WORK! WORK! And its deepest contempt is reserved for those who will not thus exert themselves.’

The natives then had no knowledge of either the making or the handling of tools, and they could almost as easily fly as draw a straight line. Their chief achievement was to build a beehive hut, and that was the work of the women. It was the easiest and cheapest way of building a house, for it gave a maximum of space for a minimum of toil, and it avoided the difficulty of managing corners.

Ruskin says that the circle is the symbol of rest. In South Africa it certainly is the symbol of utter laziness and savagery. To the question, ‘What are you doing?’ the familiar answer of the native is:

‘Oh, I am just staying, I am just sitting.’ That has been his physical and intellectual attitude for untold ages. His favourite occupation is ‘just sitting.’ Like Voltaire’s trees, he grows because he has nothing else to do.

The Principal did his best to induce them to ‘square the circle,’ a feat which he found ‘almost as difficult as the mathematical problem of similar designation.’ The native pointed to the patterns in the heavens and asked: ‘Are not the sun and moon circles? Are they broken up into many pieces?’ ‘The Kafir hut is a hotbed of iniquity, and as long as such dwellings exist, such evils will continue to check the progress of the gospel ‘—so wrote the Rev. Tiyo Soga, who had been reared in one of these huts. Hence the necessity for, and moral value of, training in the handicrafts. Wagon-making was introduced and prospered. Lovedale wagons fetched the highest price in the market and bore the name in conspicuous letters. The introduction of steam power and machinery in other places injured, this and some other branches of the industrial work. Stewart had arranged to remedy this defect, but the Church crisis in Scotland laid an arresting hand upon his plans. He did not indeed expect the industrial department to pay: his chief end in it, as in everything else, was to make men. He was dealing with a race as unprogressive as any known to us. They had developed no art of any kind, no writing, no philosophy, no money currency, no initiative, and they had lived very much like animals. Industrial training was essential to their uplifting.

A technical building was erected, and the workshops, with equipment, cost over two thousand pounds. It was then the best-equipped workshop in South Africa, and it had bench accommodation for seventy-two apprentices. Those admitted have now, after passing an examination, to serve a three years’ apprenticeship under competent European teachers.

Lengthened description of each department is not needful, as the beautiful pictorial illustrations will at once give an idea of the nature and extent of the work.

After some delays, printing and bookbinding were begun. It was not easy to induce the natives to join this department, Kafir experience not showing how a man could live and be useful by arranging bits of lead in a row. Many tracts, pamphlets, newspapers, and books have been issued by the mission press. Among these are the first edition of Dr. Theal’s History of South Africa; Dr. Kropt’s Kafir-English Dictionary, the standard authority on the Kafir language; the Kafir Hymn-book, of which many thousands have been sold; Tiyo Soga’s Kafir translation of the Pilgrim’s Progress; a series of Kafir Readers; and the Christian Express.

There is also a Book-store which has supplied the needs of the neighbourhood and the mission-field. A lady writes that this Book-store was one of the fairylands of her childhood, and that she spent her pocket-money in buying books there. Great was her delight to find out there how books were made.

Dr. Theal, the Historiographer of Cape Colony, formerly a teacher at Lovedale, had charge of this department in its early days. He writes: ‘There was no part of the mechanical work that Dr. Stewart had not made himself master of, little time as he had to devote to it. If it had been necessary, he could have set in type his own articles, imposed them, and worked them off on the press. He had not to do this, but the knowledge that he could have done it, if necessary, gave him additional power over the workers. . . . To even such humble work as this did Dr. Stewart give his attention, and he was more than once seen with a composing-stick in his hand, patiently showing a big black boy how the spacing ought to be done, and explaining to him the reason why. The result of such patient care was that many really good plain compositors were trained at Lovedale, though very few followed that calling after they left the Institution. Some of them became interpreters in the Government service, and so turned their knowledge to good account; others directed their attention to different objects, and two of them are now ordained clergymen.

‘In just the same way Stewart showed young men how to plough a straight furrow across a field, for he was offended with a crooked one; and of the teaching staff at Lovedale, he was probably alone in his ability to do this.

‘The time will come when volumes on history and many other subjects will be needed by the black people of South Africa in their own tongue, but that time is not yet. When it comes, the readers of the day may look back with gratitude to Dr. Stewart, for no other man has done so much to prepare their race for it.’

In 1872 a branch office of the Electric Telegraph Company was opened at Loved ale, and it has proved self-supporting. Two native operators, the first probably of their race who had been trained to the use of the instrument, were placed in charge. Many native boys trained there have been employed at Kimberley, East London, and other towns. After three years’ trial, the Government General Manager reported: ‘It affords me pleasure to be able to state that from the day on which they entered on their duties up to the present, not so much as the shadow of a complaint has been urged against them.’

A complete Post and Telegraph Office, with Money Order and Savings Bank, was established at Lovedale thirteen years ago. It is a recognised office of the Government.

The industrial side of the mission embraces carpentry, wagon - making, blacksmith work, brick-making, poultry-farming, bee-keeping, shoe-making, and the planting of trees. A good deal of work is also done by the lads in keeping in good order the buildings, the woods, the gardens, the rooms, and the farms. Stewart’s ever-active mind sometimes contemplated new industries, such as artesian wells, the growth of osiers, and basket-making.

In the various Industrial Exhibitions in South Africa, the work done by the Lovedale boys and girls has received a very large number of medals and certificates of merit. The girls excel in all kinds of needlework, and many interesting specimens of it are found in almost every native Christian home.

In 1886 the Rev. Horace Wailer wrote to Stewart:

‘I was very much delighted with the Lovedale exhibit in the Colonies’ Exhibition (in London). I confess I chuckled in my trousers when I noticed how thoroughly you had carried out your theories of clothing the natives. Ah! for the days of one-half fathom of blue cloth, and one string of red beads. I am afraid that Mrs. Stewart and you will relegate them into a very dim and distant past. The carpentering seemed splendid, and is really a prodigious feat.’

Stewart insisted that whatever was done at Love-dale must be done thoroughly, and that every pupil must put heart and conscience into his work and cherish a passion for excellence in all its details. In him the earthly and heavenly evangels were wedded, and he was himself the incarnation of all he taught. Upon every remembrance of him his pupils will be reminded of the necessity for, and the moral dignity of, labour. It is no wonder that the demand for Lovedale’s trained artisans has been greater than the supply, and that some of them are capable of maintaining their ground alongside of Europeans.


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