Archive for October, 2014

The 1875 Meeting of Henry Morton Stanley, Linant de Bellefonds, and Kabaka Mutesa: The Invitational Letter of Recommendation for Uganda

October 26, 2014

Colonel M. Ernest Linant de Bellefonds [Bey], son of the renowned French engineer Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds who executed numerous projects in Egypt including the Suez Canal, was an emissary at Gondokoro (Equatoria headquarters of the Anglo-Egyptian colonial administration) of General Charles Gordon [Pasha]. The Colonel, accompanied by forty Sudanic-Nubian soldiers, arrived in Rubaga at the court of Kabaka Mtesa (Mutesa) Mukabya of Buganda in April 1875 where he also met Henry Morton Stanley who had quite recently arrived at the court. At the time Mutesa had become oriented to Islam after Zanzibari Arabs had taught him and showered him with gifts. Mutesa became perplexed by the foreign religions and divisions, but decided to simultaneously embrace elements of both Christianity and Islam. Stanley, determined to convert Mutesa fully to Christianity, was so impressed with the enlightened kabaka whom he styled “Emperor,” quite impressed with the elaborate organization of the Buganda kingdom-state, with the culture, the attire, and the politeness of the Baganda. The landscape was beautiful, the natural resources bountiful, and Henry Stanley is widely credited with becoming the first to proclaim that B-Uganda was the “Pearl of Africa.” Stanley’s proposal to invite British missionaries, educators and technicians to come to Uganda to further the development was corroborated as positve by Linant who happened to be a French-Belgian Protestant, and Mutesa concurred. Stanley drafted the proposal to be sent to England, handed it to Linant who would be the messenger. The two Europeans parted on April 17th 1875, Stanley intent on completing the circumnavigation of the Lake Victoria Nyanza [Nyanja]. Unfortunately, on his way northward, Linant’s expedition was brutally attacked and Linant was killed by the Bari in Sudan at Laboreh on August 26, 1875, not far from Gondokoro. Among the grievances of the Bari were the recent raids by Nubian slave-traders. Linant’s body was crudely disposed of on the bank to rot in the burning sun. By a stroke of luck, Stanley’s letter was recovered still intact in the knee-high boot of the slain Linant. The blood-stained letter was sent to Charles Gordon in Khartoum, he would forward it to the “Daily Telegraph” England. Bloody mayhem in Uganda would ultimately be the result of Stanley’s observations and recommendations for Buganda. The British Special Commissioner to Uganda–Henry “Harry” Hamilton Johnston summarizes it: “Truly Stanley’s letter, the blood-stained sheet, of paper found in the boot of the murdered de Bellefonds, was big with fateful results for the Kingdom of Uganda” (1902: 223).

Stanley’s proposal (1876: 152-153), which follows, though written in April, would draw enthusiasm when it was published in November 1875.
Mtesa’s Capital, Uganda, April 14, 1875

I must not forget to inform you and your readers of one very interesting subject connected with Mtesa, which will gratify many a philanthropic European and American.

I have already told you that Mtesa and the whole of his Court profess Islamism. A long time ago–some four or five years–Khamis Bin Abdullah (the only Arab who remained with me three years ago, as a rearguard, when the Arabs disgracefully fled from Mirambo) came to Uganda. He was wealthy, of noble descent, had a fine, magnificent personal appearance, and brought with him many a rich present for Mtesa, such as few Arabs could afford. The King became immediately fascinated with him, and really few white men could be long with the son of Abdullah without being charmed by his presence, his handsome, proud features, his rich olive complexion, and his liberality. I confess I never saw an Arab or Mussulman who attracted me so much as Khamis bin Abdullah, and it is no wonder that Mtesa, meeting a kindred spirit in the noble youth of Muscat, amazed at his handsome bearing, the splendour of his apparel, the display of his wealth, and the number of his slaves, fell in love with him. Khamis stayed with Mtesa a full year, during which time the King became a convert to the creed of his visitor–namely, Mohammedanism. The Arab clothed Mtesa in the best that his wardrobe offered; he gave him gold-embroidered jackets, fine white shirts, crimson slippers, swords, silk sashes, daggers, and a revolving rifle, so that [John Hanning] Speke and [James Augustus] Grant’s presents seemed of necessity insignificant. Now, until I arrived at Mtesa’s Court, the King delighted in the idea that he was a follower of Islam; but by one conversation I flatter myself that I have tumbled the newly-raised religious fabric to the ground, and if it were only followed by the arrival of a Christian mission here, the conversion of Mtesa and his Court to Christianity would, I think, be complete. I have, indeed, undermined Islamism so much here, that Mtesa has determined henceforth, until he is better informed, to observe the Christian Sabbath as well as the Moslem Sabbath, and the great captains have unanimously consented to this. He has further caused the Ten Commandments of Moses to be written on a board for his daily perusal–for Mtesa can read Arabic–as well as the Lord’s Prayer, and the golden commandment of our Saviour, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This is great progress for the few days that I have remained with him, and, though I am no missionary, I shall begin to think that I might become one if such success is feasible. But, oh that some pious, practical missionary would come here! What a field and a harvest ripe for the sickle of civilisation! Mtesa would give him everything he desired–houses, lands, cattle, ivory,etc., he might call a province his own in one day. It is not the mere preacher, however, that is wanted here. The Bishops of Great Britain collected, and all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge, would effect nothing by mere talk with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understand and exemplify agriculture, and turn his hand to anything like a sailor–this is the man who is wanted. Such an one, if he can be found, would become the saviour of Africa. He must be tied to no church or sect, but profess God and His Son and the moral law, and live a blameless Christian, inspired by liberal principles, charity to all men, and devout faith in Heaven. He must belong to no nation in particular, but the entire white race. Such a man or men, Mtesa, King of Uganda, Usoga, Unyoro, and Karague—a kingdom 360 geographical miles in length by 50 in breadth–invites to repair to him. He has begged me to tell the white men that if they will only come to him he will give them all they want. Now, where is there in all the pagan world a more promising field for a mission than Uganda? Colonel Linant de Bellefonds is my witness that I speak the truth, and I know he will corroborate all I say. The Colonel, though a Frenchman, is a Calvinist, and has become as ardent a well-wisher for the Waganda as I am. Then why further spend needlessly vast sums upon black pagans of Africa who have no example of their own people becoming Christians before them? I speak to the Universities Mission at Zanzibar and to the Free Methodists at Mombasa, to the leading philanthropists, and the pious people of England. Here, gentlemen, is your opportunity–embrace it! The people on the shores of the Niyanza call upon you. Obey your own generous instincts, and listen to them; and I assure you that in one year you will have more converts to Christianity than all other missionaries united can muster. The population of Mtesa’s kingdom is very dense; I estimate the number of his subjects at 2,000,000. You need not fear to spend money upon such a mission, as Mtesa is sole ruler, and will repay its cost tenfold with ivory, coffee, otter-skins of a very fine quality, or even in cattle, for the wealth of this country in all these products is immense. The road here is by the Nile, or via, Zanzibar, Ugogo, and Unyanyembe. The former route, so long as Colonel Gordon governs the countries of the Upper Nile, seems the most feasible.

With all deference I would suggest that the mission should bring to Mtesa as presents, three or four suits of military clothes, decorated freely with gold embroidery; together with half-a-dozen French kepis, a sabre, a brace of pistols, and suitable ammunition; a good fowling-piece and rifle of good quality, for the King is not a barbarian; a cheap dinner-service of Britannia ware, an iron bedstead and counterpanes, a few pieces of cotton print, boots, etc. For trade it should also bring fine blue, black, and grey woollen cloths, a quantity of military buttons, gold braid and cord, silk cord of different colours, as well as binding; linen and sheeting for shirts, fine red blankets and a quantity of red cloth, with a few chairs and tables. The profit arising from the sale of these things would be enormous.

For the mission’s use it should bring with it a supply of hammers, saws, augers, chisels, axes, hatchets, adzes, carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ tools, since the Waganda are apt pupils; iron drills and powder for blasting purposes, trowels, a couple of good-sized anvils, a forge and bellows, an assortment of nails and tacks, a plough, spades, shovels, pickaxes, and a couple of light buggies as specimens, with such other small things as their own common sense would suggest to the men whom I invite. Most desirable would be an assortment of garden seed and grain; also white-lead, linseed-oil, brushes, a few volumes of illustrated journals, gaudy prints, a magic lantern, rockets, and a photographic apparatus. The total cost of the whole equipment need not exceed 5000 [pounds] sterling.
Henry M. Stanley

Works Cited

Johnston, Sir Harry. The Uganda Protectorate. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1902 .

Stanley, Henry M,”Letters of Mr. H. M. Stanley on his Journey to Victoria Nyanza, and Circumnavigation of the Lake,” in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 20. 1875-1876 (134-159).

Jonathan Musere


Earl of Ronaldshay and the 1909 Review of Winston Churchill’s “My African Journey”

October 26, 2014

Lawrence John Lumley Dundas, sometimes addressed as the Earl of Ronaldshay was an author, politician and administrator who would serve in such capacities as Governor of Bengal and President of the Royal Geographical Society. The most significant early review of “My African Journey” (1908) by Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was written by Ronaldshay and published in “Bookman” (Volumes 34-35. January, 1909 page 188-189). The review follows.

Under the appropriate title of “My African Journey,” Mr. Churchill gives us a readable account of the expedition which he made through British East Africa during the latter part of 1907, while still officially connected with the Colonial Office as Under Secretary. The record of his wanderings which he here gives us takes the form of a popular narrative of travel. Facts and figures, as he reminds us in his preface, are already on record in profusion, and–mindful, perhaps, of laborious hours spent in enforced perusal of statistical abstracts and blue-books–he decides to avoid them, a decision for which the reader will doubtless be duly grateful. On two or three occasions only do any figures creep into the narrative, and on one at least of these they would have been better left out, for while we are told at one moment (p. 85) that the Victoria Nyanza is 4,000 ft. above sea level, we are led to infer at the next (p. 129) that its altitude is 3,500 ft. It matters little, however, to the average man whether the height of any particular sheet of water be 3,000 ft. or 5,000 ft.; what he desires is to obtain with as little mental exertion as possible a. vivid picture of lands which he will probably never see, but which constitute a not unimportant part of the British Empire.

In Mr. Churchill’s book the picture is vividly and attractively drawn. Here and there he employs a somewhat extravagant language to describe matters of insignificant detail, as, for instance, when, having presented a dressing gown purchased on the outward journey to a local chief in the Lado Enclave, he tells us that “thus the fabrics of Cathay were by the enterprise of Europe introduced into the heart of Africa”; and now and again the party politician peeps out, as when he describes those who preserve game in England “with so much artificial care, and to the inconvenience of other dwellers in a small island,” as “perverse and unenterprising folk”; but on the whole there is little to criticize and much to praise in the story which he unfolds.

From Mombasa he carries us along the Uganda Railway–“one slender thread of scientific civilization, of order, authority and arrangement, drawn across the primeval chaos of the world”–causing us to alight at intervals to accompany him in pursuit of rhinoceros, lion, or pig, to look on at the wildly gyrating figures of a Kikuyu war dance, or to take part in a discussion of the questions of the day as they present themselves to the white community of the East African Protectorate. “Every white man in Nairobi,” we are told, “is a politician.” A distracting medley of problems “confront the visitor in perplexing disarray,” of which, facile princeps, is that of the white man versus the black, and the brown man versus both. To this thorny question Mr. Churchill attempts to supply an answer. East Africa, he thinks, can never be a white man’s country in the true sense of the word, for proof is wanting that “the pure-bred European can rear his children under the equatorial sun and at an elevation of more than 6,000 ft.” The same doubt is expressed later on with regard to Uganda. Here “every white man seems to feel a sense of indefinable oppression. A cut will not heal; a scratch festers. In the third year of residence even a small wound becomes a running sore…. Whether it be the altitude, or the downward ray of the equatorial sun, or the insects, or some more subtle cause, there seems to be a solemn veto placed upon the white man’s permanent residence in these beautiful abodes.“

In any case the desire of the white man to make East Africa a white man’s country does not bring him into collision with the black aboriginal. The black aboriginal plays an important part in the white man’s scheme, for, whatever Mr. Churchill may have said with regard to a similar question in another part of Africa from his political platform in 1906, he here admits that “the white man absolutely refuses to do black man’s work.“

But the brown man from India is another matter. In all manner of occupations–trading, farming, banking, contracting, engineering, building, accounting–the Asiatic steps in and ousts the European. Here, then, in Equatorial Africa. we find waiting for solution a problem–immeasurably complicated by reason of the fact that the brown man from India is himself a. British subject–which is at the same time perplexing the statesmen of Great Britain in such different parts of the Empire as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. The chances of finding a reasonable solution are, however, greater here than in other countries. The immediate course of sound policy, Mr. Churchill thinks, would seem to lie in reserving the highland areas for exploitation at the hands of the white man, while at the same time encouraging the Asiatic to trade and settle in “ the enormous regions of tropical fertility to which he is naturally adapted.”

From Nairobi the railway winds through magnificent scenery to the great lake. At Naivasha we are given a glimpse of a Government stock farm and learn how by judicious crossing the progeny of the native sheep “a hairy animal” is being transformed into “the woolled beast of familiar aspect,” and that of the humped African cattle into a “respectable British shorthorn.”

Beyond the railway lies Uganda. Of its entrancing scenery, its immense productivity, and its attractive people Mr. Churchill writes with undisguised admiration. “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale.” In the rich domain between the Victoria and Albert Lakes “an amiable, clothed, polite, and intelligent race dwell together in an organized monarchy.” Everything grows here better than it grows anywhere else–cotton, rubber, hemp, cocoa, coffee, tea, oranges, pineapples. “As for our English garden products, brought in contact with the surface of Uganda they simply give a wild bound of efflorescence or fruition, and break their hearts for joy.” At first sight, indeed, Uganda appears to be paradise upon earth, and it is not until closer acquaintance is made with this fair country that the dark shadows which overhang it become apparent. Nature resents the intrusion of man, and sends forth her armies in the shape of insects to fight him. The dreaded spirillum tick infests the land and takes satanic delight in spreading the poison of a peculiarly painful ‘fever. But far worse than the Spirillum tick is the species of tsetse-fly known as Glossina Palpalis, whose baneful occupation of carrying the germs of “sleeping sickness” from man to man is carried on with hideous success. “In July, 1901, a doctor of the Church Missionary Society hospital at Kampala noticed eight cases of a mysterious disease.” By the middle of 1902 over 30,000 deaths had been reported, and by the end of 1905 the number had reached 200,000 out of a population in the plague-stricken regions “which could not have exceeded 300,000.” The story of the war now being waged against this scourge will provide one of the most interesting alike in the annals of British administration and of medical science.

We have no space to follow Mr. Churchill as he trekked north, passing from the regions of equatorial luxuriance to the two great deserts–“the desert of sudd and the desert of sand”–to emerge finally in the tourist-ridden land of Egypt, traversed by the “comfortable sleeping-cars of the Desert Railway and the pleasant passenger steamers of the Wady Haifa and Assouan reach.” But we note that in spite of his being fully alive to the dark side of the Uganda picture, his first enthusiastic impressions of that country remain uneffaced by subsequent travel. Speeding down the White Nile to the Sudan and Egypt which lie before him, he reverts to his opinion that “the best lies behind. Uganda is the pearl“; and when finally he comes to sum up the conclusions formed as a result of the journey, they are comprised in the words–“Concentrate upon Uganda.” In a concluding chapter the steps which should be taken to develop the immense latent wealth of the country are discussed, and the conclusion arrived at is summed up in the three words–“Build a railway.” The Uganda Railway at present stops short on the threshold of that country: with steam transport linking up the Victoria Nyanza with the Albert Nyanza immense stimulus would be given to enterprise and an incalculable boon conferred upon the country.

Jonathan Musere