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Language, ‘Native Agency’, and Missionary Control: Rufus Anderson’s Journey to India, 1854-5

  • Andrew Porter (a1)


In the early years of the modern missionary movement there were many influences which turned minds towards support for the general principle and practice of reliance on ‘native agency’. Strategies of conversion such as those of the London Missionary Society and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at work in the Pacific, which aimed at kings or other influential local leaders, at least implicitly allotted important roles to the leadership and example of highly-placed converts. Awareness of the scale of the missionary task in densely-populated regions, contrasted with the limits of the western missionary input, pointed to the need for delegation as quickly as possible. The Serampore missionaries, Alexander Duff and Charles Gutzlaff, all travelled early down that road. Financial crisis – manifested either locally as Dr John Philip found in South Africa, or centrally as when the Church Missionary Society decided in the early 1840s to withdraw from the West Indies - prompted inevitable questions about the possibilities for deployment of local agents, who were far cheaper than Europeans.



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1 From an enormous literature, see, for example, Gunson, Niel, Messengers of Grace: Evangelical Missionaries in the South Seas 1797-1860 (Melbourne, 1978); Garrett, John, To Live Among the Stars: Christian Origins in Oceania (Geneva, 1982); Porter, Andrew, ‘British Missions, the Pacific and the American Connection: the career of William Ellis’, in Frost, Alan and Samson, Jane, eds, Pacific Empires: Essays in honour of Glyndwr Williams (Melbourne, 1999). pp. 193214. 30813.

2 Laird, M. A., Missionaries and Education in Bengal 1793-1837 (Oxford, 1972).

3 Ross, Andrew, John Philip (1775-1851): Missions, Race and Politics in South Africa (Aberdeen, 1986).

4 Williams, C. Peter, The Ideal of the Self-Governing Church: A Study in Victorian Missionary Strategy (Leiden, 1990), p. 4.

5 C. Peter Williams, The Ideal of the Self-Goveming Church, pp. 10–11.

6 Forman, Charles W., ‘A History of Foreign Mission Theory in America’, in Beaver, R. Pierce, ed., American Missions in Bicentennial Perspective (Pasadena, 1977), pp. 69140 ; Hutchison, William R., Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions (Chicago, 1987); Yates, T. E., Venn and Victorian Bishops Abroad (Uppsala and London, 1978); Shenk, Wilbert R., Henry Venn – Missionary Statesman (Mary Knoll, New York, 1983); Williams, Ideal of the Self-Goveming Church.

7 For a related argument, see Thompson, David M., ‘British Missionary Policy on the Indigenous Church: The Influence of Developments in Domestic Ecclesiology and Politics, North Atlantic Missiology Project [NAMP] Position Paper 38 (Cambridge, 1997).

8 This meeting was first examined by Wilbert Shenk, R. in his article, ‘Rufus Anderson and Henry Venn: a special relationship?’, IBMR, 5, 4 (1981), pp. 16872 ; Harvard University, Houghton Library, ABCFM Archive [hereafter ABC], ABC 30/12, Rufus Anderson’s Journal of a Visit to India 1854-5 (3 vols), 1, entries 16-17 August 1854. Publication of documents in this archive is by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

9 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, I, 17 August 1854. Besides Venn, Anderson, and the latter’s colleague, the Revd A. C. Thompson, present at the dinner were Mr Bowen (probably T. H. Bowen, missionary to West Africa), Mr Ridgeway (editor of CMS periodicals), Mr Bishop, Mr Van Schnop ‘from Smyrna’, Mr F. E. Schneider (CMS missionary, Agra), ‘and another, name not recollected’.

10 Ibid., 11 September 1854.

11 For Anderson and Ellis, see Porter, , ‘Career of William Ellis’; for Underhill, , Stanley, Brian, The History of the Baptist Missionary Society 1792-1992 (Edinburgh, 1992), esp. pp. 14854.

12 For the fullest analyses of these changes, Hutchison, Errand to the World, chs 3-4, and Beaver, R. Pierce, To Advance the Gospel. Selections from the Writings of Rufus Anderson (Grand Rapids, MI, 1967). For the origins of Anderson’s critical approach to English-language education in his Levant deputation of 1843, see Harris, Paul, ‘Denominationalism and democracy: ecclesiastical issues underlying Rufus Anderson’s Three Self Program’, NAMP Position Paper 43 (Cambridge, 1997).

13 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, 1, entries 27 August-4 September 1854.

14 Ibid., 15 August, conversation with Arthur Tidman (LMS Secretary).

15 Laird, Missionaries and Education, passim.

16 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, 1, entry 30 August.

17 Ibid.

18 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, 1, entry 30 August. Brown, William, The History of the Propagation of Christianity Among the Heathen Since the Reformation, 3 vols (Edinburgh and London, 1854); William Tweedie was convenor of the Free Church’s Foreign Missions Committee, 1848-62; see entries in Cameron, Nigel M. de S., ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh, 1993).

19 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, 1, entry 12 September 1854.

20 Ibid. For Candy, see List I, no. 411, Church Missionary Society. Register of Missionaries and Native Clergy from 1804 to 1904 (privately printed, London, nd).

21 Ibid., entry 16 August 1854.

22 Ibid., entry 19 September 1854. Moody had gone out in October 1852, as Secretary of the Madras Corresponding Committee, returning with failing health in March 1854: List I, no. 448, Church Missionary Society Register.

23 ABC 14/3 no.506, Venn to Anderson, 6 September 1854. Shenk, ‘Rufus Anderson’, pp. 169–70, refers to the copy of this letter now preserved in the CMS Archive, Birmingham University Library.

24 For Venn’s sense of Africa’s differences, see his answer to Anderson’s Qu.7 about the employment of converts, and ABC 14/3 no. 509, Venn to Anderson, 2 March 1858.

25 Porter, Andrew, ‘Scottish Missions and Education in Nineteenth-Century India: The Changing Face of Trusteeship’, in Porter, Andrew and Holland, Robert, eds, Theory and Practice in the History of European Expansion overseas (London, 1988), pp. 3557 ; Savage, David W., ‘Evangelical Education Policy in Britain and India, 1857-60’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 22, 3 (1994), pp. 43261.

26 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, II, entry 12 November 1854.

27 Ibid., entries 20-2 November, 4-13 December 1854.

28 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, II, entry 15 December 1854.

29 Ibid., entry 29 December 1854.

30 Ibid., entries 29-30 December 1854.

31 Ibid., III, entry 6 April 1855.

32 Ibid., entry 4 May 1855.

33 Ibid., entry 24 May 1855.

34 Ibid., entry 11 March 1855.

35 IABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, II, entry 17 October 1854.

36 For Underhill and India, see Stanley, History of the Baptist Missionary Society, pp. 149–54.

37 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, III, entry 14-18 May 1855, at Jaffna, where he noted ‘Letters from Bombay. The mission there still in great danger from the press.’

38 Ibid., 2, entry 29 September 1854. For a contrary view, see Stock’s defence in Stock, E. T., The History of the Church Missionary Society, 3 vols (London, 1899), 2, p. 520.

39 ABC 14/3, nos 494-5, Underhill to Anderson, 21 May, and to Thompson, 9 June 1855.

40 ABC 14/3, no. 497, Underhill to Anderson, 7 August 1856.

41 Ibid., no. 496, Underbill to Anderson, 26 October 1855.

42 See ibid., nos 498-501, Underhill to Anderson, 5 April 1859, 14 July, 14 August, and 12 December 1860. See also later correspondence (1861-70) in ABC 14/4.

43 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, III, entries 11-16 June 1855; Stock, 2, p. 283.

44 ABC 14/3, no. 271, Knight to Anderson, 5 July 1855. For Long, see CMS Register, List I Entry 301; and Oddie, G. A., Social Protest in Inaia: British Missionaries and Social Reforms, 1850-1900 (Delhi, 1979). For Long’s views on vernacular education, see Savage, ‘Evangelical education policy’, p. 443.

45 Anderson to Dr John Wilson, 24 November 1868, ABC 30/18,2, fos 178-81; for Mullens, , Sibree, J., ed., London Missionary Society: A Register of Missionaries, Deputations, etc., from 1796 to 10,23 (London, 1923), no. 459.

46 ABC 14/3, no. 323, Mullens to Anderson, 22 September 1855.

47 ABC 14/3 no. 325, Mullens to Anderson, 8 December 1856.

48 Ibid., no. 326, Mullens to Anderson, 9 September 1857. Correspondence continued steadily thereafter (see ABC 14/4; and ABC 30/18, Anderson, Private Letters 1867-71), and Anderson eventually arranged for Mullens to receive a D.D. from Williams College: see ABC 14/4 no. 219, Mullens to Anderson, 17 October 1861.

49 ABC 14/3, nos 269-70, letters from Knight to Anderson, both 31 May 1858.

50 Ibid., nos 485-6, H. Carre Tucker (Secretary, CVES) to Anderson, 18 September 1858, and 22 January 1859. For the formation of the CVES and its early difficulties, Savage, ‘Evangelical education policy’, pp. 444–5.

51 Mullens, Joseph, The Results of Missionary Labour in India (London, 1852).

52 Cf. Williams, Ideal of the Self-Goveming Church, pp. 19–20.

53 ABC 30/12, Anderson’s Journal, II, entry 5 January 1855. Dr John Wilson (1804-75), outstanding Free Church missionary along with Duff, who ended his career as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay: see Smith, George, The Life of John Wilson, D.D. F.R.S. (London, 1878).

54 ABC 30/18, 2, Private Letters 1867-71, fos 188-90, Anderson to Mullens, 12 December 1868. Anderson, Rufus, Foreign Missions: Their Relations and Claims (Boston, 1869).

55 ABC 30/18, 2, fos 178-81, Anderson to Dr John Wilson, 24 November 1868.

56 ABC 14/3, no. 497, Underhill to Anderson, 7 August 1856 (from Serampore).

57 ABC 14/4, unnumbered, Mullens to Anderson, 30 January 1869.

58 For a different interpretation of Anderson’s views and ABCFM policy, in which their concern with financial economy and self-support drove out self-government and perpetuated missionary control, see Harris, ‘Denominationalism and democracy’.

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