of James Stewart
Somgzada: The Man of Action
His Native Name - Energy -
Promptitude - Thoroughness - Variety of ActivitiesA Day in the Office at
I amI knowI oughtI canI will.Augustjnes
Ladder of Character.
Be a whole man: do one thing at a time.
Dr. Thomas Binney.
The word of action is stronger than the word of
speech. AEquanimitas, by William Osler,
It is an incontrovertible truth
that no man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a
good one who mistook them. Dean Swift.
Give me patience to labour at
details as much as if they were the highest work. God is the Doer.
Dr. Stewart's Journal.
IT is now the time, with as little
repetition as possible, to sum up our impressions regarding the man and
his work. His career can be understood only by those who study his
marvellous activity and his implacable optimism.
His Native Name,The Africans usually give a significant
name to every white man among them. It may be a title of respect, or a
nickname by which his appearance, manner, or gait, is very cleverly hit
off, often with a touch of real humour. Their languages are rich in
pictorial epithets. When Joseph Chamberlain visited them, their greeting
was Welcome, Moatlodj, that is The man who makes crooked things
straight. They called Cecil Rhodes the Bull that separates the fighting
bulls. Their favourite name for Stewart was Somgzada, which has been
translated asLong-strider; the Father of strides; he who is here, there,
and everywhere; or the Ubiquitous, who finds you when you dont expect
him. The name well described his constant movement, and the ceaseless,
tireless activity of this human dynamo. [The
natives also called him Tiger-step, to denote the energy of his
movements, Have you seen Condé?" some one asked Turenne at the Close of a
battle, I must have seen a dozen Condés, was the reply : he multiplies
Once his wagon broke down at a
distance from home. On appealing to the natives for help, they asked his
name, Dr. Stewart, he replied. They made no response. He then said, I
am Somgzada. Their faces lighted up, and they gladly helped him. Somgzada
is the name by which he will be known to childrens children.
His Energy.Mind, body, and will were endowed with exuberant vigour
which he had thoroughly developed and kept under command. The limitations
which his chosen work imposed were frankly accepted, and he did not yearn
for success in other spheres. Whatever was eminently and grandly
practical, writes a fellow-student, that he followed, His was the
blessedness of the man who had found his work and wanted nothing else. The
poet thus voiced one of his deepest convictions:
We have an hour allotted
We have a task appointed
Nor culture of the mind and heart
Shall be the Christians only part,
But he shall bend his will
To present duty stilL
A lover of the concrete, he regarded
action as the crown of knowledge, and till far on in life, he seemed
almost proof against fatigue. All his powers were braced and refreshed by
difficulty and opposition. To giant circumstance he opposed himself as a
greater circumstance. As the science of success is the science of
energetics, he did wonders in his own department. Energy and resolution
were stamped upon all his features, for he looked as if he could face
anything, and go through anything, and he rejoiced to dynamite his way
through opposing barriers.
the dynamic of human affairs, power and promptitude are
essential to success. But failure is certain if promptitude lapses into
impetuosity or precipitation. First weigh, then venture, was Moltkes
motto. Be sure you are right, then go ahead, was the advice of another
great man of action. Stewart was gifted with a sense of opportunity, and
was quick in discerning and seizing what was likely to suit his purpose.
He might have justly adopted as his motto the word forthwith, which is
found about eighty times in the New Testament He was impulsive after
thinking, but not before it. It seemed as if a voice were always saying to
him, Do something, do it at once, do it with all thy might. Postponed
good deeds, he once wrote, like rainbow hues, are vanishing haloes at
the best. The natives at Lovedale were fined when they entered the office
through the open window instead of the door. Stewart came along and jumped
through the window, as he always took the shortest way to his work. The
native in charge told him that he must pay the fine. After writing an hour
at his desk, he jumped out through the window, and was fined again.
That, says the informant, was Dr. Stewart.' Thucydides says that the
Greeks had the power of thinking before they acted and of acting too.
Stewart was like a Greek in his union of these two powers.
His promptitude, without fussiness
and strain, had in it a military quality. Sometimes he thought that he
should have been a soldier. A soldier, to slay! a friend exclaimed.
Nay, was the reply, but to prevent slaughter. Had he been a soldier,
he would have been the Cornelius of his band, and have conquered as
Alexander the Great did, by not delaying. The Viking of the North Seas
was strong in him.
Thoroughness in details
was another feature of his work. La Bruyères motto,
The best in the least, was also his. The mission, he felt, deserved the
best of everything. His quickness in lighting on weak spots amounted
almost to a sixth sense, says one of his colleagues. Every stone in the
building must be well and truly laid. His passion and genius for
efficiency would not allow him to accept a second class work from any one,
least of all from himself. His gospel of labour was nobler and healthier
than Carlyles, and most of his rivets will hold.
His patience with endless details,
however fagging and trivial, was astonishing in so impetuous a worker,
whose heart was set on the highest spiritual results. It is just here that
so many cultured men fail. With them the best is the enemy of the good.
Believing that action is coarsened thought, they become martyrs of
disgust, and are eager to escape from the dust of the actual, nursing
their dignity, and so afraid of doing things imperfectly that they do
nothing at all. A devout Jewish priest counted the pins and nails of the
tabernacle worthy of his best, so in Stewarts eyes, small things were
clothed with an imputed dignity because they belonged to the Kingdom. His
friends much desired that in his late years he had adopted the sacred
principle of delegation,. and left details to others. But the habits which
were a necessity in his earlier days when efficient help was scarce, clave
to him unto the very end. His finger must be kept on the pulse of
everything in Love-dale, and he grew more and more eager to work as the
shadows were gathering. Wiser in this respect was another man of energy
and action, who said that he had two rules; the first was to make sure
that he could do his own work better than any one else could do it; and
the second was, then to get other people to do it.
The variety of his activities
surprises us. Preacher, Missionary, Doctor, Educationalist,
Master-builder, Champion of the Natives, Farmer, Captain of Industries,
Collector of Money, Statesman, daily Providence of some hundreds of
natives, the Ruler of a small Kingdom, and that which came to him daily,
the care of all his enterprisesso many labours and so great affairsto
read the bare list gives one a sense of fatigue. If ever a man was by
thronging duties pressed, and mobbed by details, the Principal of
Lovedale was. With him to live was to serve, in the soldiers phrase. And
he bounded to his work and did it joyfully, like Mercury, the celestial
messenger, with wings on both feet.
While in Africa, he toiled on in all
weathers, forgetting the gospel of relaxation. He never took a real
holiday, and could scarcely find time to spend Christmas with his family
in the country. When he did so he took his work with him, and was often at
it from morn till midnight. Most of his time on ship-board was spent in
writing in the interests of the mission. By sea and land interrupted work
was always awaiting his attention. Another Somgzada, Archbishop Temple,
held that a very busy man must make many blunders, because he had not time
enough for reflection.
One has only to turn up
Parliamentary Blue Books, Synod Reports, Missionary Records, or even the
public press of this and the home country to discover how wide was the
range and catholic the character of Dr. Stewarts interests and labours
during a long and full life. Now we find him guiding the counsels of a
Parliamentary Commission, then leading a Church Court through a stirring
crisis; at times directing a missionary policy, and ever and anon
championing some righteous cause. In all he is ever the same, strong,
sane, fearless, wise.
It is safe to say that during the
thirteen days he spent at Lovedale when about to pioneer the East African
Mission, he did not sleep thirty hours. When the dawn was breaking you
might still see a light in his room. For, like Caesar, he counted nothing
done, so long as anything remained to be done. His work would have broken
the back of an average man. Tireless energy like his was possible only to
one who had a great capacity for affairs, and was living the life for
which he had been formed. Stewart was fitted for, and fitted into, his
work, as the ball of bone fits into its socket. Trained in self reliance
and responsibility, he was the man of action the times required. The
records of his work, like John Wesleys, have an atmosphere of tremendous
activity. And yet he was a very severe critic of his own work, and often
upbraided himself because he had not done half enough! A sure sign of
genius is a certain sacred dissatisfaction with its best creations
The ease-loving natives regarded his
tireless activity as something supernatural. They had an uncanny feeling
about his truly demonic energy, and even suspected, it is said, that he
drew strength from these mysterious sources in which they half-believed,
and which he disowned. They had, however, pleasure in the consciousness
that all these strange powers were on their side.
The Rev. R. W. Barbour thus
describes the days work of a giant in the office at Lovedale: There
are desks and papers enough lying about to justify its ordinary name,
though to this might be added, among other appropriate designations, those
of chemists shop and place of universal intrusion. For while there are
bottles on one side and medical books on the other, the door at the endit
is a room at the corner of Dr. Stewarts housekeeps constantly opening,
and presents to the patient observer as lively and complete a succession
of scenes from the life of Lovedale as ever did aperture in the best magic
lantern. Before the day has begun it may be a refractory apprentice who
does not see the beauty of restraint nor the use of evening classes, and
comes to say the best he can for himself, and then hear what is certainly
not the worst for him. Now it is a batch of examination papers from one of
the masters by which you may gather how some of the head. work is
proceeding. Next it is some one from the farm to say how the drought is
telling upon this years crop, and consult as to what is to be done to
make out the necessary supplies. Then there arc telegrams, letters, and
messages innumerable from everywhere and about everything. In fine, from
District Magistrate to a Red Kafir, everything in the shape of inquiry,
appeal, complaint, objection, and emergency comes to the office. The
interruption is quite unbroken. In the afternoon, it is a schoolboy who
has brought his companion in with a dislocated wrist that wants setting
and bandaging after a too rapid descent from a tree; or it is an editor in
search of information or supervision for a clamant article. When the lamps
are lit you expect peace. If so, you must seek it elsewhere, for there is
a most miscellaneous and unpredictable programme for the evening before
the occupant or occupants of that office. There is a deputation of lads
down from the Institution to make serious representation in the matter of
"smoked mealies" said to have been had at supper. There are the books of
the various work departments brought down here at the close of each day.
There is a large and complicated correspondence to keep up. In fact, the
cases and interests, the needs and necessities, calls and responsibilities
of a community of somewhere about five hundred persons with all their
relations and bearings, their conditions and prospects, resort in the last
issue to this little spot of ground. After seeing a little of the
systematic invasion which goes on night and day, one thinks the name of
"sanctum" sometimes applied to places such as this strangely out of
place. "Profanum" might be more in keeping.
In days to come Stewart will be
Somgzada in South Africa, the man who is everywhere in things pertaining
to the elevation of the natives.
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