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Alexander M. Mackay, the Hero of Uganda

by J. T. Gracey

Alexander Mackay"Mackay of Uganda," as he is familiarly spoken of, was never in "Orders" as a minister of the Gospel, but his illustrious example as a layman furnishes inspiration to a far more numerous company than that of the ministry, and will impel others who have never felt called of the Holy Ghost to take upon them the vows of the sacred office to join the great band of clerical workers. There are indications that the body of the Church—laymen—are to find vast opportunity in the missionary fields of the world, along not only professional lines as physicians and educators, but also along well-nigh all the vocations as mechanics and tradesmen, as engineers, inventors, and "pathfinders," in the introduction of Christian civilization as a handmaid to the Gospel minister. The career of Mackay of Uganda should be carefully considered by all administrators of missionary schemes, for the light it will shed on the great questions connected with the employment of lay missionaries, in all countries—eminently in Africa. But Mackay's character and career will repay close examination by the entire body of the laity of the Christian Churches, specially by young men, as affording them help in character-building. The heroic element is so prominent, the experiences so thrilling at times, and the noble balance of all manly qualities so remarkable, that, in fact, there is no class of readers who will not be instructed and interested by the life story of this man, who, when gauged by his mighty achievements, "was not too young to die."

Alexander M. Mackay was born in the village of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, October 13, 1849. His father, Rev. Alexander Mackay, LL.D., was a fine specimen of the "plain living, high thinking" northern Scotch; the manse was the resort of other "high thinkers," brainy and brawny men, and his sister, in the Preface to the biography of her brother, says of the father, his "painstaking interest in the training and early education of his children laid the foundation of the noble self-sacrificing life" of this pioneer missionary of the Church Missionary Society of Uganda. At three years of age we find the subject of our sketch reading the New Testament; at seven, Paradise Lost, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and kindred literature, and for four years thereafter he was a great devourer of books. His father taught him geography, astronomy, and geometry. From the age of eleven till he was thirteen his interest was diverted from books to engines, blacksmithing, and the trades; at thirteen his interest in book study revived, and he made progress in mathematics, but was at odd bits of time interested in photography, shipbuilding, and the like. His mother died when he was sixteen, charging him to search the Scriptures. At eighteen he entered a teacher's training college, and afterward studied applied mechanics, engineering, higher mathematics, physics, and, one year, surveying and fortification. He was twenty-four years old when he went to Germany, where he became the draftsman of a large engineering establishment at Berlin. He was intent on spreading a knowledge of evangelical truth among the German people while prosecuting his studies and occupied with his employment. In 1875, when twenty-six years of age, he offered himself for service in missionary work in Mombasa, but the place was already filled. He again offered himself for service in Africa, when Stanley's call for men for Uganda reached him in Germany. The Church of England Missionary Society accepted him gladly, the next candidate after Lieutenant Smith, and the party left England April 25, 1876, for Lake Nyassa.

There could be no question as to the motive which inspired him in tendering his services to the Missionary Society. Zinzendorf cried out, "I have but one passion; it is He, He alone." "God first put into my heart a compassion for the poor souls of these Indians," says the devoted Eliot. "I remembered a time, out in the woods back of the Andover Seminary," wrote Judson, "when I was almost disheartened. Everything looked dark. No one had gone out from this country. The way was not open. The field was far distant and in an unhealthy climate. I knew not what to do. All at once that 'last command' seemed to come to my heart directly from heaven. I could doubt no longer, but determined on the spot to obey it at all hazards for the sake of pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ."

Thus has it been with all great missionary souls. Thus was it with the young engineer Mackay. He was pushing the acquisition of his knowledge in this secular line, but his whole soul "burned for the deliverance of Africa."

The heroic element dominated him from the start. "Though a thousand fall, let not Africa be given up," said the devoted Melville B. Cox, when, as the first American Methodist missionary to any foreign country, he was starting for Africa. And thus Mackay's words on the threshold of his departure for Uganda rank among the great utterances of the world's greatest souls. The farewell interview of the representatives of the Missionary Society under whose auspices he and seven others were about departing as notable missionary "pathfinders" was about concluded. They had listened to tender words of encouragement and received their final instructions, delivered by Rev. Henry Wright, the honorary secretary. Each in turn made response. Mackay came last because he was the youngest of the invincible band. His words are worthy to be written in gold. "There is one thing," he said, "which my brethren have not said, and which I want to say. I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that one of us is dead." The words startled everyone present, and there was profound silence. "Yes," he resumed, "is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for Central Africa and all be alive six months after? One of us at least—it may be I—will surely fall before that. But what I want to say is this," and the solemnity deepened as he concluded, "when the news comes do not be cast down, but send some one else immediately to take the vacant place." The soldiers in the great charge of Balaklava who rode into the "jaws of death," with "cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon in front of them," were brave and disciplined, and the "rush" was under the immediate passion of the moment, but Mackay was not in the "fray;" there was no great audience; it was in a quiet missionary committee room in Salisbury Square, London, that he uttered these cool words of noblest courage and consecration.

Of the eight who started on that mission from the quiet little mission room in London only three ever reached their destination on the shores of Lake Nyassa. James Robertson, a skilled artisan, died of fever shortly after his arrival on the coast of Africa, before the last of the party started inward. It was again true, as in Krapf's case, "the first resident" was a dead person of the missionary circle. The medical member of the expedition, Dr. John Smith, soon after succumbed to sickness, and the leader of the expedition, Lieutenant George Shergold Smith, son of the Royal Navy officer who witnessed Samuel Crowther's release, was murdered, and with him Mr. T. O'Neil, second in command of the little craft Daisy, scarcely more than launched on the west side of Lake Nyassa. W. M. Robertson and G. J. Clark returned to England—only two of the original eight were left, Rev. C. T. Wilson on the shore of the lake, and Mackay hundreds of miles away, not yet having reached the field.

The Road-Builder

Little idea can be had of an African jungle even where forest trees are neither large nor numerous. The thicket of vines and underwood is such that Mackay, speaking
of the road from the coast to the interior, said he could not ''pull a donkey through it." He undertook to construct a rough road for bullock-wagons with only native laborers ignorant of such work. He equipped forty men with American hatchets, English axes, Snider sword-bayonets, picks, spades, and saws, cocoanut-ropes, a small grindstone, and a donkey load of nails, and for fifty miles cut this road through dense jungle, where even when a tree was "cut down" it would not fall over by reason of the thick creepers clustering in festoons from one tree to another. Over one great ravine he built a bridge hard as iron, to the astonishment of the inhabitants who gathered about their fires in the evening to talk about the "big road," which was finished in about a hundred days. Mackay walked backward and forward the two hundred and fifty miles which he constructed, a half-dozen times over. This was done with such food as could be got, and sleeping, as he says, in a cowbyre, a sheepcote, a straw hut not larger than a dog kennel, a henhouse, and often no house at all, caring little which, so he could get tolerably clear of ants and mosquitoes; the black ants he declared worse than any pestilence of the plagues of Egypt. His English food was exhausted because thieves took a fancy to it, and he subsisted on thick porridge, which tasted like sawdust and ashes. He believed this native food might be good enough for Europeans if only the natives were not too greedy to cook it properly, or cleanly enough to keep the sand out of the meal when grinding it. He had through all these months been exposed to the jealousy of native tribes, who looked upon his "big road" as only a highway for Europeans who hated the slave trade. Enormous stretches of the country through which he passed were mercilessly devastated by Arab slave-hunters, great caravans of whom were carrying tons of ivory to the coast, each with "a string of living little ones trotting on with necks linked together to be disposed of to the highest bidder at the coast."

A good deal of the detail of this road building experience has one way and another been preserved to us, though, like most such explorers, Mackay far preferred making history or civilization to writing about it. Speke was used to say he would rather walk across Africa again than write an account of his first journey, and Mackay declared he would rather brave a hundred days in this unsettled country than set his mind to report the events of a single day.

It must be borne in mind that Mackay's party had set sail from Teignmouth harbor, March 11, 1876, in the Highland Lassie, an eighty-ton sailing yacht. But Mackay did not sight the Victoria Nyanza till June 12, 1878, having, as we have seen, been taken ill on the journey to the coast, and sent back, and, after recovering, set at building two hundred and thirty miles of road from the coast inland to Mpwapwa, which occupied him more than two years, though his chief work was to have been to take out the small steamboat, the Daisy, and set it up on the great Victoria Nyanza. Others did this before Mackay arrived; six of the members of the mission perished; and when at length he reached the inland sea he found the little craft sadly out of repair.

With his first glance at the lake, just before reaching Kager, he shouted "Thalassa! Thalassa!" We will let him tell his own story of what he found on his arrival; the freed slaves and runaway slaves of Zanzibar, having been left in charge after Lieutenant Smith was murdered, had helped themselves to what they valued, and the rest was sadly spoiled. Mackay wrote:

"In a huge hut, lent us by Kaduma, the chief of the place, I found all that was left of the valuable property of the expedition, except such articles as have already been taken to Uganda. Piled in heaps promiscuously lay boiler shells and books, cowrie-shells and candle-molds, papers and piston rods, steam pipes and stationery, printers' types and tent poles, carbolic acid, cartridges and chloroform, saws and garden seeds, traveling trunks and toys, tins of bacon and bags of clothes, pumps and plows, portable forges and boiler fittings, here a cylinder, there its sole plate, here a crankshaft, there an eccentric. Despair might well be found written on my features as I sat down after two years' march to rest and look round on the terrible arrangement."

He found the Daisy without a sound plank in her; the rays of the sun had split them, the teeth of the hippopotamus had pierced them, and the white ants had honeycombed them. All the parts were, however, here, after having been separated into manloads of seventy pounds, and carried seven hundred miles overland.

Day after day the natives stood round in wonder while Mackay patched the planks and caulked the cracks, sprawled on the ground, with hammer and chisel, copper plates, zinc sheets, cottonwood, nails, screws, bars of iron, brass rods and bolts, the use for which no native could guess, beneath the vessel, which gradually grew before the admiring natives, who, like all Africans of Central Africa, knew of no better way to fasten two pieces of wood together than lashing.

The Country of Uganda—Political, Social

We have said nothing of the country or people of Uganda to whom Mackay and his companions were designated as missionaries, the first from any civilized country. It will be well to keep in mind the root-word Ganda, to which prefixes are attached. U or Bu before it makes it the country of Ganda; as Uganda, Buganda. If the prefix be Wa or Ba it indicates the people of the country, Waganda or Baganda; if the prefix used is Ki, Lu, or Ru, it means the language of Ganda.

Uganda, or Buganda, covers, with its dependencies, some seventy thousand square miles bordering on the northeast coast of Lake Nyanza, or Victoria Lake, the second largest lake in the world—second only to Lake Superior. Uganda contains the richest and most fertile part of the section of the great lakes of eastern equatorial Africa. The people (Waganda or Baganda) are supposed to belong to the great Bantu family, and number about five million souls. The Swahili language, which dominates the eastern coast and is extensively used over large parts of central and southern Africa, is spoken fluently in the capital of Uganda and generally in the market towns.

The government of Uganda is a moderately limited monarchy, the king being supreme and absolute master of the land, though in state affairs his power is measurably controlled by three hereditary vassals, called "wakungu;" the Governor of Udi, a sort of "mayor of the palace," being also a member of the council, and, in the king's absence, takes his place. He is nominated by the king. The governing body is composed of these four persons, together with other grand persons, feudatory lords of the district and palace dignitaries, which together constitute a privy council, or a sort of cabinet. The three "wakungu" select the successor of a king, on his death, from among his children.

Polygamy prevails, and there are more women than men, as in war the Waganda kill the males and make captives of the females. The women perform all the labor, the strength of the men being reserved for war. A young man only works till he can, by purchase or by war, get wives enough to perform the labor in his stead. They treat their slaves with gentleness and the stranger with kindness, but have small regard for human life. When Speke first entered their country he found them well clad, and they have made much progress since that time.

In matters of religion they are in strong contrast with natives of the west coast. They agree in recognizing one God; but these of East Central Africa have no idols or fetiches, while their Supreme Being, who made the world and mankind, is esteemed to be too exalted to pay any attention to human interests. Their worship is chiefly confined to inferior deities, good and bad demons supposed to inhabit special localities, known by the general name of lubari (spirits). The principal of these is a sort of Neptune who inhabits the lake to control its waters, and whose influence extends more or less over the whole country; he enters some human beings, through whom he speaks as an oracle, and becomes the source of disease, and controls the rain, war, famine, or pestilence, and also foretells events. When about to make a voyage the Waganda seek to propitiate this spirit; canoes are gathered together, the chief holding a banana on the uplifted paddle of his canoe over the water, praying at the same time for a prosperous voyage; or they may pray to other spirits supposed to abide in hills for protection for their cattle, each being known by his specific name. There are also river spirits, and former kings become demigods. They are specially superstitious and constantly use charms of pieces of wood, horns, or rubbish for protection against evil. Medicine men have peculiar power with them as regular doctors as well as in the role of fortune-tellers. Foreign religions have made but little impression upon them. Moslems, after sixty years among them as traders, made no converts. Mtesa would never submit to circumcision, and though at times he favored Mohammedanism, the Arabs never claimed him as a convert. Mr. Wilson, missionary, however, thought on his first acquaintance with the people that the lower classes could be drawn to Christianity.

The Missionary Mechanic

Mtesa, King of Uganda, had received Wilson, the only other survivor besides Mackay, at his court, and erected for him a tiger-grass hut a mile from the palace. He was fairly friendly, and allowed religious services to be held regularly on Sunday mornings when the king hoisted his "flag," a "nondescript thing consisting of pieces of red, blue, and white calico sewn together." Passages of Scripture were read in Kiswahili, the king translating into Luganda, even at times exhorting the people to become Christians, though he never did so himself. For three months Wilson lived in Uganda alone. He returned to the south end of the lake, where he met Mackay, arrived from the coast.

Wilson and Mackay started for Uganda, arriving, after being wrecked in the Daisy on the way, February 14, 1879. Mackay soon had two workshops of wickerwork plastered with clay, and built a carriage for the king to be drawn by bullocks. He was always finding time, if only late at night, to teach the natives letters. He was occupied, too, in trench-making, translating, making a vocabulary, learning the language, washing, ironing, brick-making and candle-making, planting, printing, and a host of things besides. More than fifty men and boys came to him daily for instruction. His house and his workshop were filled with visitors admiring his versatility of genius and the results of it. The king even asked for baptism, but on conditions which could not be complied with. Mackay's teaching was by what he called the "look-and-say" method, for which he prepared large fly-sheets in the Uganda language. He carved wooden types for making reading sheets, giving away and teaching alphabets from the types as he finished cutting them. Many a day he worked hard at vice and lathe to get plantains, which was the substitute for bread; but pupils were at his side while he worked at the bench, even chiefs shouting out their sheets side by side with their slaves. He even had a limited font of lead types, cast by himself, before one year had passed at Uganda.

Opposition

The Arabs had no fondness for the missionaries, because they antagonized not only Mohammedanism, but the slave trade, of which they were the principal agents. Mohammedanism has been spread all through this country by firearms. A village was selected by the slave hunters, surrounded at night, the able-bodied men slaughtered or captured, and the whole secured for transportation to the coast at Zanzibar for the slave market. They were frequently, however, offered the alternative of turning Mohammedans, in which case those able for war were made to join the raid on other villages. All those captured were taken, not out of the country, but traded for elephants' tusks, ivory being as great an object with the Arabs as slaves. These Moslems had extended their influence greatly through Uganda, and Mtesa, the king, was turned from allegiance to that faith by Mr. Stanley, who translated some portions of the Scriptures for his use, and induced him to appeal to England for teachers of Christianity.

The old heathen element, however, stoutly held its influence, and there came a great revival for lubari worship, which burst suddenly one day on the king and the missionaries. They sought to compel the king to forbid Mackay teaching his religion, and to reinstate the lubari at court. Mackay wrote: "For several months I have found the word lubari more or less in every one's mouth. Many spoke the name with awe, while others refused to say anything, good or bad, of such a being."He then learned that the lubari was a spirit personified in an old woman living on the lake. Traders were unable to cross the lake just now because the lubari was about to visit this section of the coast of the lake. This lubari (woman) was coming to the capital to cure the king of his sicknesses. This goddess was known by the name of Mukasa, and Mackay so actively antagonized the lubari that he gained the title "Anti-Mukasa." Added to all else the Jesuits reached Uganda and were doing all in their power to proselyte the Christians and gain control of the king. Thus the complications thickened.

Poor Mtesa was vacillating, now asking for baptism, now refusing to hoist the flag over the chapel for Sunday service, and again ordering the return of the old Moslem worship and theory "Allah Akbar." He was Christian, Moslem, or worshiper of the lubari, all in turn, or neither of them, as the whim or the passion of the hour prevailed. But he had unlimited power of life and death, was weakened by inherited superstitious fears, and everyone, without exception, in his realm knew that at Mtesa's order his head might come off any hour, with or without cause, be he noble, chief, or peasant.

Human sacrifices were performed on a large scale at Mtesa's court. His diviners recommend these at times as a remedy for the king's disease, and the executioners are ordered out to collect victims.

Fighting Superstition

Mackay or any other missionary was no less subject to the whim of this spoiled, flattered, vacillating tyrant than was any other person in his realm. Hence it may be seen that it required coolness, courage, and infinite tact to make any headway with him without losing one's own head. That was a contingency never absent, and Mackay was never free from peril from the monarch nor from the superstitious people.

"I sit before you," said Mackay to the king one day, "your servant and the servant of Almighty God, and in his name I beg of you have no dealings with this lubari, whether a chief tries to persuade you to do so or a common man advises you." "If this Mukasa is a lubari then he is a god," he continued, when arguing at court, "and thus there are two gods in Uganda—the Lord God Almighty and Mukasa; but if Mukasa is only a man, as many say he is, then there are two kings in Uganda—Mtesa, whom we all acknowledge and honor, and this Mukasa, who gives himself out as some great one."

The adroitness with which Mackay kept up the religious discussion with the king, the court, the Moslems, and the defenders of the lubari can only be appreciated when followed day by day with all the turns of the debate and the complexity of events.

When at last the king declared they would all leave the Christians and Moslems and go back to the religion of their fathers, Mackay reminded him that he was in Uganda because the king had requested Stanley to ask for white men to teach his people. The king parried this by saying he wanted them to teach his people how to make powder and guns. Mackay said he had never refused to work for the king, and there was not a chief present for whom he had not done work, and like Paul, showing his chains, he exhibited his hands black with working in iron every day. But as to merely working for them, he came to Uganda for no such purpose, and he would return to England if that was all they wanted of him.

But, strange to say, that was the last thing either chiefs or king would consent to, so far as Mackay was concerned. Other missionaries might leave, be put out of the country, or be put to death in it, but Mackay was their wizard at work, all the while rendering himself so necessary to them as artisan, inventor, road-builder, boat-builder, house-builder, engineer, printer, doctor, or what not; and though always as shrewd a theologian as he was anything else, he was not to be dispensed with. Thus it occurred that the lay missionary was in favor, had influence and permanence of position, which the mere teacher and preacher had not.

It was not merely to the king and his court that Mackay was a missionary, nor was he confined to his industries as a teacher. One day he bought a powerful charm to give the crowd a lesson in the worthlessness of idols. Some said, in answer to his questions, that the lubari or spirit was in the charm. "Will it burn?" asked Mackay. "O no, the lubari will not burn." "Is not this charm mine? Did I not buy it?" said Mackay." "Yes, yes, it is yours." "Then may I not do with it what I like? " "O yes." "Very good," said the missionary. Then taking out his pocket lens he made fire with the sun's rays, gathered a bundle of wood, and soon had a brilliant blaze. "Can your witches make fire out of the sun as I have done?" he asked. "No, no." "Then you see I am cleverer than these gods whom you worship?" "Yes, you make magic," they said. "Well, you say there is magic in this charm which I have bought?" "Yes." "Well, let us see;" and he threw the charm into the fire, and it was soon ashes. "You are a god," some said; others, "You are a devil;" but, being neither the one nor the other, he was ever on the alert to instruct the people in the truth, a veritable powerful missionary to the common people.

We have no space to interweave a history of the Uganda Mission, not even an account of the reinforcements from time to time arriving from England and their part of the work, especially the church organization which fell to them as clergymen. But Mackay had been training native Baganda, and many whom he brought to Christ afterward suffered martyrdom. The other missionaries were greatly indebted to the foundation work of Mackay. Mr. O'Flaherty, one of the missionaries, wrote: "We have a text-book of theology, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Decalogue, texts of Scripture so arranged that they teach the plan of salvation, the duties of a subject to his sovereign, and sovereign to subject, and all to Christ." These had been printed by Mackay—three hundred copies, besides an equal number of alphabetical spelling sheets in Luganda, "no small work on a toy press," as Mr. O'Flaherty said. These two years, 1882 and 1883, were altogether a time of encouragement. The Rev. R. P. Ashe, whose name is linked with the after history of the Mission, arrived in Uganda in April, 1883. A few converts had been baptized. Four lads were baptized March 18, 1882, and Sembera, a slave of one of the chiefs, who had received instruction under Wilson and Mackay, had learned to write without ever having a lesson in writing, wrote his application for baptism to Mr. Mackay in Luganda with a painted piece of spear-grass and some ink of "dubious manufacture," received baptism, taking the name of Mackay.

A New King—"The Great Tribulation"

In October, 1884, Mtesa died, and died a heathen. His son, Mwanga, a weaker and far wickeder man than the father, came to the throne. From various causes he soon began a persecution against the Christians. The Arabs reported that the missionaries were harboring malefactors, and orders were given to arrest all Baganda found on their premises. Mr. Mackay asked leave of the king to cross the lake. An army was raised intended to entrap and kill him the next morning. Some of the native Christians were arrested, taken to the borders of a dismal swamp, a rough scaffold was erected and heaped with firewood. The crowd mocked their poor victims. The chief said, "O, you know Isa Masiya (Jesus Christ), you believe in the resurrection. Well, I shall burn you, and see if it be so." The lads behaved bravely, and one report says they sang in Luganda, "Daily, daily, sing the praises." They were tortured before death, their arms being cut off and flung upon the burning scaffold. The youngest pleaded that they would do him the one favor of throwing him unmaimed upon the flames, but they would not heed his request.

That night Mackay wrote in his diary, "Our hearts are breaking." The death of the young martyrs was only the beginning of persecution that acquired the title of "the great tribulation."

Bishop Hannington and all his party, recently arrived in Africa from England, were all murdered at the king's command as they approached Uganda by the northeast end of the lake, that being called "the back door of Uganda," and everyone was forbidden to approach the country by that route—a fact unknown to the bishop. This was owing to political jealousies which cannot be here narrated. Mackay wrote October 20, "After dark Ismail came to tell us that messengers had returned from Busoga with the tidings that the white men had been killed and all their porters. O night of sorrow! What an unheard-of deed of blood!"

The year 1885 ended in great sorrow to the missionaries. What was there to prevent Mwanga from taking their lives when he had not stuck at murdering their chief? The king complained that the missionaries knew all his secrets from his own pages—Christian lads—who with wonderful devotion and courage continued to visit the mission houses to apprise the missionaries, from time to time, of their peril. Roman Catholics and Protestants were alike in jeopardy, and all became far more so after Hannington's murder, as Mwanga feared vengeance on the part of Great Britain. The missionaries knew they were more and more in peril, and Mackay tried to get the boats (twelve miles distant) in order, to facilitate their flight when necessary and if possible.

June 28, 1886, Mackay, writing to his father, said, "Only a month ago a violent persecution against Christians broke out, and they have been murdered right and left. 'The Christians are disobedient and learn rebellion from the white man. I shall kill them all,' said the king. He ordered their arrest, and a dozen were hacked to pieces the first day and their members left lying in all directions on the road. Bands were sent out in all directions to catch and kill."

Alone

The king gave out that the missionaries would not be allowed to leave the country, but would be held as hostages, as he feared the English would be upon him for the murder of Hannington. August 28, 1886, Mackay wrote to his father: "Recently Ashe and I have been trying to get permission to leave. This was refused. Next we tried to get leave for one of us to go. The king has again and again absolutely refused permission for me to leave the country, but he has allowed Ashe to go... I must be content to remain alone, yet not alone. I can ever be of service to the scattered remnant of the infant Church; and our God will prepare the way for better things to come."

Mackay was now left alone, the sole survivor once more of all the mission force, for eleven months, in Uganda. His position was extremely uncomfortable and disquieting, being constantly suspected by the chiefs and king of having some secret understanding with the government of England to obtain possession of the country. Not only was he restricted in his movements, but again and again plots were laid to destroy him, though he made no attempt to escape, but continued busy, now making an enormous flagstaff for the king, now translating Scriptures, now freely using the printing press, and now seeking to bring Mwanga to his plans for free communication with Emin Bey. He wrote to his friends in England that he had not the slightest desire to escape if he could do a particle of good by staying. The Eleanor was in port twelve miles away, and he might possibly make a dash for it, but he did not feel himself warranted in doing so at this time. Meanwhile he was endeavoring amid the multiplicity of his industries to complete the translation of the gospel of Matthew, which he did, rewriting the whole to the end, having it in type as far as the twenty-third chapter. In case of sudden expulsion the manuscript, he thought, might be saved and the mere printing done somewhere else. Books and papers continued to be purchased, and it was difficult to keep his stock well up. His sheets of the Litany were exhausted, and he had but a few copies of the hymns on hand.

Although the rest of the missionaries had been permitted to leave Uganda, and the king refused to let Mackay go under the pretension of his great affection for him, yet his enemies, the Arabs, never intermitted their purpose either to kill or to get rid of him. He had, from the first, been the opposer of their wicked deeds, and they could recognize that he had the ear of the king. They endeavored to arouse the king's distrust and anger against him by representing his object as a political one. After much disputing and questioning the king at last decided that Mackay should leave the country on condition of sending another missionary to take his place. This spoiled the plans of the Arabs, who had it in their thought to plunder the station after Mackay had gone. The last plan of Mackay's arch-enemy was to get himself appointed as a messenger to take him across the lake, which plan, however, Mackay was able to avert. On July 21, 1887, Mackay locked up the mission premises, "left the keys with the French priests, and worn with worry, work, and farewells, started for the port, where he had to patch and repair the Eleanor before starting on his voyage to the south end of the lake," where he arrived on August 1.

"We do not want to see Mackay's boat again in these waters," were the words of the Mohammedans as they drove out the missionaries in October, 1888, and never again was it to touch the shores of Uganda. The vessel had done its work and was worn out. "The man who had put her together and completed another boat to replace her," says Miss Stork in the Story of Uganda, "the man whom all Uganda knew and respected, whom heathen and Mohammedan feared, the man whom they looked upon as inseparably connected with the cause of Christ in these regions, was never again to revisit the land for which he had toiled and prayed; but the cause of Christ, his Master and King, triumphed over all foes and all obstacles, and before he closed his eyes on earth he saw this, the greatest and most tyrannical power in all East Africa, in the hands of men who rejoiced in the name of Christian."

Revolution in Uganda

Leaving Mackay for the present, we will continue our glance at the immediately succeeding history of events in Uganda. Mwanga's cruelties had disgusted the people. He had a large bodyguard, consisting of Mohammedans and Christians, and it was ascertained that he had a plot to destroy them all: the Mohammedans because they would not eat the king's meat, and the Christians because they would not work on Sunday. His plan was to have them carried to a small island in the lake and leave them there to starve. Most of the young chiefs of the country had forsaken the worship of the lubari (spirits), and were alarmed at Mwanga's cruelties, as were the people at large. In September this bodyguard, becoming aware of Mwanga's scheme for their destruction, quietly rose up against him and in a single day effected the most peaceful and satisfactory of revolutions.

They immediately reorganized the government with Kiwewa, an older son of Mtesa, as king, and making a Roman Catholic Christian chief judge, a Protestant Christian the next high officer, put Christians and Moslems in all other important posts. Religious liberty was proclaimed, and the real feelings of the people of Uganda toward the missionaries were manifested by a rush to them for instruction. The Mohammedans, however, soon fell out with the Christians, and after a brief struggle overcame them, killing the Christian admiral and some others, placing Moslems in all offices, and summoning the missionaries before them.

Mackay had been allowed to leave Uganda on condition of sending some other missionary in his place, probably with the purpose of holding him as a hostage in case the English attempted to visit with vengeance the murder of Bishop Hannington. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Walker were sent to the Mission, but on arriving at court were seized and imprisoned in a miserable hut for seven days, the Mission property being destroyed at the time when they were summoned to court. The upshot of the whole matter was that the missionaries were driven out of Uganda and most of the native Christians fled the country, finding shelter under the protection of a native prince in the adjoining country immediately west of Uganda. How many of them thus found refuge it is impossible to say, but Mr. Stanley, in a letter written to the Church Missionary Society presently afterward from Ankoli, which was supposed to be tributary to Uganda, but at the fall of Mwanga became semi-independent, makes the statement on their own authority that they numbered between two and three thousand. Mr. Stanley gives in this letter an account of an interview with Samuel and Zachariah, of the Protestant Mission of Uganda, who told him the wonderful story of the deposition of Mwanga and the growth of the Christian Mission. Mr. Stanley says:

"I would have liked nothing better than to have had one of these two men in London to have told it in their own Swahili, and to have got some interpreter to interpret sentence after sentence. It was most graphic, most beautiful." He says: "Now I notice that as soon as they left my presence they went to their own little huts and took out little books that they had in their pockets in their clothes, and one day I called Samuel to me and asked him, 'What book is that you have? I did not know Uganda read books;' and that was the first time I knew they had the gospel in Luganda. Then I took greater interest, for I found that almost every one of the party had a small pamphlet in Luganda—prayers and the gospel of Matthew, and, I think, of Luke. I remember very well seeing the word Mathaio, or Matthew, on the top of the book on its title-page. I noticed that after the conference where the princes and leaders of Ankoli ceded their country they retired to their huts and threw themselves upon the ground, and took out the books and began to read them; and they gathered together and began to talk. And the question was asked me by one of them, with a sort of deprecating smile, 'Are all white men Christians?' That was more than I could venture to say, though I hoped, of course, they were. Then he put a point-blank question to me and said, 'Are you a Christian?' Then I asked him, 'Do you consider yourself a Christian?' 'Of course I do,' he replied. 'How long have you been a Christian?' 'Well,' he said, 'I am one of Mackay's pupils, and learned from him; and this book was given to me and to every one
of us. There are about twenty-five hundred of us, all belonging to Mackay's Mission.'"

Mackay at the South End of the Lake

It is not possible for us to follow the history of the Mission in Uganda in further detail, as our object is to follow Mackay, who had removed to the south end of the lake and was occupied in the mission at Usambiro, in the territory of a friendly chief. Bishop Parker arrived there just out from England soon after, and a missionary conference, composed of six brethren, was held for days at the station. One of the missionaries, and also the bishop, were within a fortnight suddenly smitten with fever and died. The others removed to other mission stations, except Mr. Ashe, who remained a little while longer, and was obliged on account of ill health to return to England, leaving Mackay once more alone. Mackay carried on his retranslation of St. John's gospel, and also occupied himself with gathering the material in the forest for building another steam launch. In a letter of April 23, 1888, he says: "Twice within a fortnight Ashe and I have performed the sacred duty of commending our dying brethren to the Saviour whom they served, and closing their eyes. On both occasions I read the funeral service at the grave, in Swahili, a score of African Christians from Freretown standing around. It has indeed been a heavy time of sorrow to us all, but more so to the distant friends will the news bring sudden grief. The conquest of Africa has already cost many lives, but every one gone is a step nearer victory. The end to be gained is, however, worth the price paid. The redemption of the world cost infinitely more." On August 8, 1888, he wrote: "I have my hands full preparing to build our new boat. I have to cut the timber some twenty miles distant and have it carried here. You will probably be disgusted at hearing that I am busy just now in making bricks to make a house in which to construct the vessel. Within the last fortnight we have made some ten thousand. That is doubtless poor work to be occupied with in a mission field, but it must be done, and in even such humble occupation I hope the good Lord will not withhold his blessing. Mission boats, unfortunately, do not grow of themselves; they have to be built, every
inch of them, but trees have been growing for ages, of the Lord's planting, and as we fell them I like to think that he ordained them for this purpose."

Within less than a month he found himself with smallpox raging everywhere, and the duty fell to him of vaccinating hosts of people, old and young. Smallpox in some Eastern countries, as in India, is not so generally fatal as in other countries; but in Africa it is a dreadful scourge. Before the year closed a number of the Christian people of Uganda, who had succeeded in escaping from the country, found their way to Mackay at Usambiro and were hoeing ground and planting seeds. Mackay was meanwhile engaged in translating and pushing the building of his steam launch for facilitating communication on the lake, on the shores of which they hoped to have several stations.

Mackay's Death

On January 2, 1890, Mackay wrote his last message to English Christians, in which he appealed for reinforcements. He wrote as follows: "Mwanga says, 'I want a host of English teachers to come and teach the Gospel to my people.' I write, imploring you to strengthen our Mission, not by two or three, but by twenty. Is this golden opportunity to be neglected, or is it to be lost forever?"

Mackay's Ascension

It was about a month after this that Mackay himself received a call to "come up higher." His only fellow-laborer, Mr. Deekes, was suffering from ill health and about to return home, but on the morning Mr. Deekes was to start Mackay was taken ill with fever, was four days delirious, and February 8, 1890, at 11 P. M., he died, a few months more than forty years old.

A coffin was made for him out of the wood he had gathered for the boat, and the village boys and the Christians from Uganda sang in the Luganda language at his grave on the following Sunday afternoon, "All hail the power of Jesus' name."

Colonel Grant, who, with Speke, discovered this lake, wrote: "I had the utmost confidence in him and looked forward to the time when he would sail around the lake in his own steamer, and when we should have him among us to tell all he knew of that deeply interesting country which I almost love—Uganda. The blow to civilization in Central Africa which has fallen on us is not easily repaired, for a score of us would never make a Mackay." A great burst of lament and of admiration swept over the Christian world as it learned of the death of Mackay. The Church of England missionary authorities confessed frankly that, as much as they had admired him, they had not at all realized the position he had gained in the public mind, and declared that they were not in the least prepared for the burst of admiration elicited by the tidings of his death. The London Times correspondent at Zanzibar wrote of the "irreparable loss to the cause of African civilization" involved in his death. The Pall Mall Gazette called him "The St. Paul of Uganda." The Leeds Mercury, Manchester Examiner, and other great provincial daily papers gave much space to the consideration of Mackay and his work. One of his missionary associates, Mr. Ashe, declared that "the missionary work done in Uganda could never have been accomplished if it had not been for his determination to hold on at all costs. He had learned the secret of being steadfast and unmovable. He
had his temper wonderfully under control.

Sometimes the Highland fire would flash out, but never betrayed him into unworthy deeds. I remember him especially during our days of cruelest trial in Uganda, how on that first miserable day of persecution, when the bloody Mujasi seized us and our followers, Mackay, though only just recovering from fever, was perfectly cool and collected, and seemed not to feel the fatigue of the long and harassing march back; how clearly he stated our case to the unjust judge; how wise he was in counsel, how prudent in his dealings with the fickle Mwanga; and I believe, had it not been for Mackay's influence with the old chiefs, the Mission would hardly have weathered the three distinct storms of persecution which burst over it in Mwanga's first years as king."
Mackay's career exhibited such versatility of talent as rarely centers in one man. He could grapple with Mohammedans in sharp theological controversy, or sit for hours teaching boys to read, or patiently translate the Scriptures into a language that had neither grammar nor dictionary, and was thus a many-sided and intense missionary;
while the great variety of his industrial and civilizing agencies made him, all in all, the noblest lay missionary the Church and the world has seen, and the loftiest exemplar of which there is any record of what lay missionaries and industrial missions mean.

It is not for many to be so possessed with "diversities of gifts," but it is with all of us to present whatever gifts we have upon the same altar on which Mackay consecrated his.

"We plow it, and we dig it, and we sow the furrowed land,
But the growing and the reaping are in the Lord's own hands."


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Picket Line of Missions... by W. F. McDowell, et al. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1897.

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