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African tribes, who indeed, in their gross darkness, were evidently content to remain in happy ignorance. Their inaptitude for civilization was strikingly shown in the strange fact that five hundred years of contact with semi-civilized people had left them without the faintest reflection of the higher traits which characterized their neighbors -not a single good seed during all these years had struck root and flourished. This seemed to me a very remarkable fact, and the only conclusion I could then come to was, that the negro was so hopelessly ossified in his degraded state as to be next to unimprovable, by moral suasion at least-a view somewhat strengthened on seeing the martyred lives of missionaries and the great treasure thrown away in endeavors to reach them through the divine teaching of Christ. That these latter practically failed to attain their noble ends I did not wonder at when I saw how the missionaries attempted the impracticableexpecting to do in a generation the work of centuries, and to instil the most beautiful, sublime, and delicate conceptions of religion into undeveloped brains. The more I saw of East Central Africa the more I tended to take a despondent view of the future improvability of the negro, simply because I could not see how he was to be got at in such a way as to touch the depths of his soul, and light some spark which would give him new life. So far as I could judge, I had not as yet seen more than a semblance of something better-a sort of veneer of Christianity, which made a good show and looked satisfactory only when described in a missionary magazine.
It was not till last year that I was destined to be converted from this scepticism about the negro, and to begin to see infinite possibilities lying latent, encased in his low thick cranium. My conversion took place in West Central Africa. It was not, however, brought about by the sight of the thriving community of Sierra Leone or that of Lagos, though both were encouraging. Neither was it brought about by seeing the civilizing influence of European trade, of which we sometimes hear so much; for, as I have stated elsewhere, "for every African who is influenced for good by Christianity a thousand are
driven into deeper degradation by the gin trade." Four hundred years of contact with Europeans have only succeeded, along the greater part of the coast, in raising a taste for gin, rum, gunpowder and guns. The extent of the intercourse between a village and the European merchant is only too often gauged by the size of its pyramid of gin bottles. It is a painful fact to admit, but there is no shirking the naked reality, that in West Africa our influence for evil enormously counterbalances any little good we have produced by our contact with the African. The sight of the small headway Christianity was making, and the aptitude in the negro to adopt all that was evil in the white man, only deepened the impression I had acquired in East Africa.
My conversion from this pessimistic view took place when passing up the Niger, through the degraded cannibals who inhabit its lower reaches. I reached the Central Sudan, and the sights and scenes I there witnessed burst upon me like a revelation. I found myself in the heart of Africa, among undoubted negroes; but how different from the unwashed, unclad barbarians it had hitherto been my lot to meet in my travels in Africa! I could hardly believe I was not dreaming when I looked around me and found large well-built cities, many of them containing 10,000 to 30,000 inhabitants. The people themselves, picturesquely and voluminously dressed, moved about with that selfpossessed sober dignity which bespeaks the man who has a proper respect for himself. I saw on all sides the signs of an industrious community, differentiated into numerous crafts, evidence sufficient to show how far advanced they were on the road to civilization. I heard the rattle, the tinkle, and the musical clang of workers in iron, in brass, and in copper. I could see cloth being made in one place, and dyed, or sewn into gowns or other articles of dress, in other places. In the markets, crowded with eager thousands, I could see how varied were the wants of these negro people, how manifold the productions of their industry, and how keen their business instincts. Almost more remarkable than anything else, no native beer or spirits, nor European gin and rum, found place
in their markets. Clearly there were no buyers, and therefore no sellers. Outside the towns, again, no forest covered the land; the density of the population and its numerous requirements had made the virgin forest a thing of the past, and its place was taken by various cereals, by cotton and indigo, and other vegetable productions which minister to the inner and outer man.
What could have produced this great change?—for that a change had occurred could not be doubted. Certainly, contact with Europeans had had nothing to do with it. The character of the industries, the style of art, indicated a certain amount of Moorish influence, giving them the direction which they had assumed. How had the first great steps been taken? No Moors or Arabs were to be seen among the people. No such races held the reins of government, and by their powerful influence caused the introduction of new arts and industries. Evidently, whatever had been done had been done through the free aspirations of the negroes toward higher things.
I was not left long in ignorance of the agency which had thus transformed numerous tribes of savages into semicivilized nations, ruled by powerful sultans who administered justice of a high order (for Africa), and rendered life and property safe. That agency was almost exclusively Mohammedanism. I say almost, because there were in reality a few secondary causes at work, which tended to elevate the negro, apart from the religious. One of these causes-the one of chief importance-was the physical conditions which prevailed over a great part of the Central Sudan.
Mohammedanism it was, without a doubt, which had breathed this fresh vigorous life into these negroes. Mohammedanism which supplied the living tie which bound a hundred alien tribes together-tribes which without it were deadly foes. The Koran supplied the new code of laws. Islam had swept away fetishism, with all its degrading rites, and replaced it with a new watch word-a watchword of a truly spiritual sort. No longer did the naked savage throw himself before stocks and stones, or lay offerings before serpents or lizards; but as a well-clothed and rev
erent worshipper he bent before that One God whose greatness and compassionateness he continually acknowledged. How impressive it was to me, when I wandered in these lands, to hear the negro population called to the duties of the day by the summons to prayer at the first streak of dawn; sung out in the musical stentorian notes of the negro muezzin, it echoed and re-echoed throughout the sleeping city. "God is most great! Come to prayers! Prayer is better than sleep!'' was the burden of the call and even as the thrilling notes still lingered in dying cadence, and the gray dawn but faintly illumined the houses of the town, doors were heard to open, and devout Muslims-such as submit themselves to have faith in God -appeared. Some would go through their morning duties in the courtyards of their compounds, and others, more devout, would wend their way to the mosque, where, looking in the direction of Mecca, and with faces humbled to the dust, they would acknowledge their utter dependence on God. At other times I could see these negroes, during the thirsty march, in the dusty field, or while engaged in ordinary industrial occupations, stop for a moment in their several employments, and seeking out one of the numerous places marked off by stones which did duty as mosques wean for a time their thoughts from the sordid cares of this world, and fix them on the things which are above mere sense.
In these Sudanese towns not only did I find mosques, but the importance of studying religion at the fountain-head had made education necessary, and hence in every quarter of the town were to be found schools of the usual Eastern type, where the rising generation learned at one and the same time the articles of their faith and the Arabic language. The desire for education was very general, and a village without several men who could read or write Arabic was a rarity. In the larger towns, such as Sokoto, Wurnu, and Gandu, there were to be found men who, not content with the education they could get at home, had found their way through manifold dangers and toils to the great Mohammedan university, El-Azhar, in Cairo, to complete their studies.
A volume might be written in describ
ing the various modes in which Mohammedanism has affected the negro and civilized him; but I have said enough to draw attention to the incontestable fact that Islam is a powerful agency for good in Central Africa. It may be remarked that in the Central Sudan the Muslim is not fanatical. The negro has not the intense nature of the Arabs and kindred people, and is consequently inclined to live and let live on easier terms than his co-religionist in the Egyptian Sudan.
Like all Eastern and African races, the Sudanese is a polygamist, but his free and sociable nature has not permit ted the seclusion of his wives in harems, nor does he consider it necessary that they should be veiled. They occupy probably a better position in the Central Sudan than in any other country where polygamy is the rule.
The extent of country over which Islam holds sway is coterminous with that great continental zone called the Sudan, which extends from the Nile to the Atlantic, and from the Sahara to within between four degrees and six degrees of the equator. Along the Atlantic seaboard there are still some pagan spots, but Mohammedanisin is slowly but surely bearing down on them-establishing itself by moral suasion if it can; but if not, then, in the name of God, with fire and sword and all the dread accompaniments of war. But not only is it proselytizing among the heathen; it has its missionaries in Sierra Leone and Lagos. It has there thrown down its gage to Christianity for the possession of the natives, and reports speak of it spreading rapidly, and recruiting its ranks from the Christian community to no small extent. If that is so and I have no reason to doubt it-there must be something terribly wrong in the method of teaching Christianity. To me, as one having the interests of Christianity deeply at heart, it has always appeared as if the system adopted was radically unsuited to the people. Meanwhile I cannot help saying, better a good Muslim than a skin-deep Christian-a mere jackdaw tricked out in peacock's feathers. In reaching the sphere of European influence, Mohammedanism not only throws down its gage to Christianity, it also declares war upon our
chief contribution to West Africa-the gin trade. While we support antislavery societies, and spend great sums in sending missionaries to the heathen, it is very strange that we are absolutely indifferent to the shameful character of this traffic. We are ever ready to raise shouts of horror if a case of maltreatment of slaves occurs, and we will not see that we at this moment are conducting a trade which is in many respects a greater evil than the slave trade. That word, "European trade," as spoken of on our platforms, is complacently regarded as synonymous with civilization; it is supposed to imply well-dressed negroes as its necessary outcome, and the introduction of all the enlightened amenities of European life. It ought to mean that to some extent; but, as I have seen it in many parts of West Africa, it has largely meant the driving down of the negro into a tenfold deeper slough of moral depravity. And wewe Christians-leave it to the despised Mohammedans, those professors of a "false religion," to attack this traffic and attempt to stem the tide of degradation, to sweep it away utterly if possible, as they have already done fetishism and cannibalism over enormous areas. If this is its mission, then, in default of something better, let Islam continue its progress through Africa! It will be the vanguard of civilization., Whatever may be said about many aspects of Mohammedanism, it at least contains as much of good as the undeveloped brains of the negro can well assimilate; and so long as good is being done in genuine reality, why should we not heartily welcome it, even though it is accomplished through a religion we ourselves do not accept.
I had proposed to myself to enter into the questions, why Mohammedanism has been so successful in Africa? and why Christianity, in comparison with it, has done so little? I had further proposed to ask whether our missionaries could not derive some hints and lessons from the Mohammedans, and so be better able to enter into the field against heathendom?
These three questions cannot be adequately answered here. I may, however, be permitted to express my opinion in the briefest manner. The suc
cess of Mohammedanism has been largely due to the fact that it has asked of the negro apparently so little, and yet that little is so much, for in it lie the germs of a great revolution. The message is brought by men like themselves; its acceptance does not necessarily change any of their habits. Everything is within the range of the negro's comprehension a very terrible One God, who sits in judgment, and a very real heaven and hell. Belief in these and in God's messenger, and attention to a few practical duties-prayer, almsgiving, almsgiving, &c. -are all the requirements. To state the matter in another way, it is because of its very harshness, of its great inferiority, as compared with Christianity, that it has succeeded.
On the other hand, Christianity has done so little because it has tried to do
tract and impress him. From the Mohammedan missionary we might get hints as to the line this simplification should take. Better sow one good seed which will grow and fructify and permeate the life of the negro, than a thousand which will fail to strike root, but remain sterile on the surface.
In thus recognizing a good element in the spread of Mohammedanism, and in venturing to hint at desirable improvements in the methods of our own missionary propaganda, very probably I shall lay myself open to various forms of misconception on the part of those who recognize but the agency of the Evil One in good works which are not done in the orthodox manner. In any case, I shall be satisfied if, by indicating that some good can come out of Islam, I have shown that some Christoo much. Missionaries have proceed- tians may take hints from our vastly ed almost invariably on the assumption more successful rival in the work of that it is necessary to present the doc- civilizing Africa, and thus be able to trinal system of the Christian Church in present a purer, a nobler, a more inspirits entirety. They have forgotten that ing religion to the negro, which will satminds can only assimilate subtle or isfy his inner cravings for some light in beautiful truths in proportion to their his dark surroundings. For the negro, development. The ideas of the Chris- with all his intellectual deficiencies, is tian world at large are in many respects naturally a very religious individual. In not the same to-day as they were six a hundred ways he shows how much he centuries ago, or even one century ago. feels the necessity of depending on We have taken eighteen centuries to be- something else than himself. In his come the Christians we are, although helplessness he gropes aimlessly about through the ages the Bible remained the after an explanation of his surroundsame; and now we think that in a gen- ings, and finds but slight consolation in eration we can graft our conceptions of fetishism and spirit worship. The rapid Christianity on the low brains of the spread of Islam proves beyond a doubt negro. The idea is not in accord with that there is nothing to hinder the common sense. We present to him in Christian faith from making far more tangible and transcendental aspects of extensive conquests, if we would only religion. We stupefy him with unthink- meet the negro with weapons properly able dogmas about the Trinity and kin- selected from the Christian armory. dred topics. With all this we think We must also be content to let generthere ought to be a Pentecostal awaken- ations of wise education develop the ing that the inherent virtue of the capacities which as yet are in the most Word should produce a miracle, and rudimentary condition, and not expect when the miracle does not appear, we to work miracles. And, most imporgroan over the hardness of heart and tant of all, let us get up a missionary the ascendancy of the devil in the negro, agency for Christian Europe which when in reality the fault is in ourselves shall preach the doctrine of no more and in our methods of procedure. We gin trade, no more gunpowder and guns, must be simple in our creed, or rather for the African. Then, when we have in our presentation of the gospel. We set our own house in order, we shall be must find out what aspects of Christi- able to go with clearer conscience to the anity the negro can comprehend and heathen, and with brighter prospects of can assimilate, as well as what will at- success.- Contemporary Review.
HALF a century hence, when any writer wants to give a true account of the times in which we live, he will experience no small amount of difficulty in making his readers believe the number and the extent of the social contradictions and anomalies which now exist, and are accepted as a matter of course among us. Of these, the rules and laws, written and unwritten, that have reference to all kinds of gambling, as well as to the crime of obtaining, or endeavoring to obtain, money on false pretences, will certainly be considered as by far the most extraordinary. Persons who have lived in London during the last twenty or thirty years have by degrees become so accustomed to things as they are that, save in very exceptional instances, unless their attention is specially drawn to passing events, they fail to observe how utterly impossible it is, in numerous instances, not to condemn many things which, under a different name, are regarded as perfectly allowable. To foreigners who study our English habits and customs, nothing is more utterly incomprehensible than the contradictory laws as to what may and what may not be done among us in financial and speculative matters.
There is no nation nor people in the world that I respect more than I do your country and your countrymen, said the late M. Thiers to the present writer, but," he continued, "truth compels me to say that you are the most contradictory people (le peuple le plus contradictoire) in the world. In many instances you condemn and punish very severely that which, under another name, you allow and seemingly approve of. It is true that such events as are now passing in France* could never happen in England, and it is certain that your Government will not permit gambling to be carried on under legal sanction. But have you not, for many
* This conversation took place at Versailles in 1871, when Paris was in the hands of the Commune, and a strong party in France was in favor of raising money by means of State lotteries.
years, allowed persons to be ruined by swindlers (par des escrocs) who delude the unsuspecting into taking shares in so-called companies, of which the different prospectuses and the promises held out are nothing more nor less than unmitigated falsehoods" (des mensonges purs et simples).
That the eminent French statesman was right in what he said few, if any, observant readers of London newspapers will deny. It is at present, as it has been for the last twenty years or more, almost impossible to look over the advertising columns of our leading journals without noticing the extraordinary number of new financial schemes which are inserted every week, nay, it might almost be said every day, with the almost avowed intention of informing all those who have any funds at command how they may increase their present income to almost any amount by investing in these schemes. But it is only those who take an interest in the subject that do, or can, know the immense number of these proposed short cuts to fortune which are put before our credulous and confiding public. Thus, during the month of October in the present year, from the 4th to the 30th of that month, there were registered in London no fewer than one hundred and thirteen perfectly new concerns of the kind, the total capital of which, submitted for subscription to a credulous public, amounted to no less than close upon sixteen million pounds sterling.* Of these, as of all other speculations in joint-stock shares, it need hardly be said that there are companies and companies. No doubt but what some few, such as Guinness's brewery-it is to be feared that they are exceedingly few in number of the undertakings put before the public are perfectly legitimate, and have a fair chance of success in the future. But of these hundred and thirteen undertakingsput forth, be it remembered, at a season
* See Investor's Guardian of October 16, 23, and 30, 1886.