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David Livingstone: Explorer and Missionary

David LivingstoneEarly Life and Education. David Livingstone, explorer and missionary in Africa, was born at Blantyre (8 miles southeast of Glasgow, [Scotland]) March 19, 1813, and died in Ilala, Central Africa, May 1, 1873. He grew up amid the austere Scotch piety of his home, with very limited schooling. At ten he went to work in a cotton factory, and formed the habit of putting most of his earnings into the acquisition of books (a Latin grammar, works on natural science, etc.), which he studied far into the night. His studies were so successful that in 1830 he was able to enter the University of Glasgow, with the object of studying medicine, supporting himself by factory work in the summer months.

To this period belongs his awakening to personal Christianity. He describes his inner transformation as being similar to the curing of color-blindness. His desire to serve the kingdom of God was directed by an appeal of Gützlaff's toward the mission in China. He began to study theology with the design of going to China as an independent missionary. Some friends, however, induced him to join an organized mission. In 1838 he entered the service of the London Missionary Society, at whose expense he continued his studies. When these were completed, his proposed expedition to China was prevented by the outbreak of the Opium War. Through the influence of Robert Moffat, then in England, his thoughts were turned to South Africa, for which he was duly commissioned on Dec. 8, 1840.

Early Missionary Labors. At Moffat's station, Kuruman, Livingstone was to learn the language of the Bechuana people. While astonished at the results already achieved there, he was obliged to modify his earlier conceptions. In many particulars he was not in harmony with the existing methods. Before long his characteristic impulse to go further manifested itself. A few months after his arrival he made a journey of over 700 miles, winning the confidence of the natives wherever he went by his medical activity. Upon Moffat's return with the young missionary Edwards, Livingstone migrated with the latter to the Ba-katla tribe. Here, with great practical efficiency, he organized the Mabotsa station, to which in 1843 he brought Moffat's daughter as his wife.

On account of difficulties arising apparently out of the wounded vanity of his colleague, who even brought charges against him before the missionary board of directors, Livingstone proceeded in 1846 to the country of the Bakwena, deserting the house and plantations at Mabotsa. He now founded a station on the river Kolobeñ to which Setshele, the chieftain, transferred his capital. This chief, who had known Livingstone since his first journey, was deeply impressed by his teaching, and when he made up his mind to abandon polygamy he was baptized. Unfortunately, but few of his subjects followed him. Concerning Livingstone's personal missionary labors at this period little is known, as his diaries have been lost. Since he refused to take in any but true believers, the congregation remained very small. He himself seems to have been far from satisfied with his labors here, which would never have made him famous.

His great nature impelled him onward. There was no rest for him at Kolobeñ. At the cost of laborious journeys, he was continually seeking new tribes. The immediate occasion was furnished by the destruction of his station by the Boers, who, having retreated before the English power into the interior, kept a sharp watch to prevent the natives from obtaining firearms, while Livingstone, a thorough free-trader, paid no attention to their wishes. So when Setshele failed to comply with the demand of the Boers that he should suppress this traffic in his tribe, a retaliatory expedition was undertaken against his capital, in which the mission station was destroyed. At the time Livingstone with his wife and child was on the journey in course of which he discovered Lake Ngami, and was paving the way by his acquaintance with Sebituane, chief of the Makololo, toward wider enterprises.

After escorting his family to Cape Town, he returned, and in 1853 began some preliminary missionary labor with the tribe at Linyanti on the River Tshobe, which was in time to spread abroad to the Barotse race, then subject to the Makololo, in the luxuriantly fertile Zambesi plain. A mission of this kind, however, required a direct and easy way of communication with home. In order to seek such a way, Livingstone, supplied by Sekeletu (son and successor of Sebituane) with a great company of bearers, undertook the journey to Loanda, where he arrived May 31, 1854. After a short rest he returned to the Makololo, whose capital, by his advice, was transferred to the north bank of the Zambesi. Next he proceeded down stream to the east, discovered Victoria Falls, and in the spring of 1856 reached the Portuguese colony of Tete, where he left his Makololo companions and returned by way of Kilimane to England.

Livingstone the missionary had become a world-renowned explorer. While writing the accounts of his travels, and in the midst of diverting influences, very extensive new plans took shape in his mind. A mission on vast lines, combined with colonization and trade, was contemplated. He severed his connection with the London Missionary Society, after it had sanctioned the founding of a Makololo mission, which he promised to support. He personally assumed the leadership of an expedition to the Zambesi with government support, in the capacity of British consul. With this was combined an enterprise of the Universities Mission looking toward the establishment of a "colonizing mission" in the Zambesi district.

Explorations 1858-64.This second period of Livingstone's activity in Africa (1858-64) was full of difficulties, disappointments, and failures. In the ascent of the Zambesi, the expedition found little support among the Portuguese. What proved the most serious obstacle to Livingstone's plans was their toleration of the slave-trade. Meanwhile he explored the Shire, a left-bank tributary of the Zambesi; discovered Lake Shirwa and reached, by way of the South, Lake Nyasa, which had been recently discovered along its eastern shore by the German explorer Roscher. He then journeyed overland to the Makololo, among whom in the mean time a mission had been founded by the London Society amid the greatest difficulties, but fever had carried off its entire staff. Shortly afterward, in an uprising of the subject tribes, the Makololo were exterminated. Their tribal lands were assigned to the Barotse, among whom eventually the Paris mission assumed the labor toward, which Livingstone had aspired in connection with that region.

Bishop MacKenzie meanwhile had arrived with missionaries and colonists. The first station of the colonizing mission was founded near Lake Shirwa. But while Livingstone was occupied with the farther exploration of Lake Nyasa (1862), the new establishment once again succumbed to the ravages of fever, drought, famine, and the assaults of the savage slave-hunter Ajawa. After the bishop's death, the few remaining members removed the colony to the Shire. They succeeded no better in effecting a permanent settlement; and thus the realization of Livingstone's favorite plan was frustrated. Besides all this, he had been troubled by dissensions among the officers of the expedition. A fresh reinforcement arrived, including Mrs. Livingstone, who desired to share her husband's journeys. A few weeks later, he had to commit his wife to the grave (1862). From the depth of mourning he roused himself to new labor. He sought to discover a better approach to Lake Nyasa and the interior by way of the Rovuma. Here again many difficulties and disappointments were encountered. It grew plainer and plainer that the objects of the expedition were not yet to be realized, and in 1864 it was recalled by the Government.

Livingstone remained only a year in England. With the vigorous cooperation of persons of influence, he formed new plans, which no longer had to do with definite missionary labors, but contemplated the solution of that great problem of civilization, the opening up of central Africa, especial stress being laid on the suppression of the slave-trade.

Final Period of African Work, 1865-73. Directly after completing his second book, The Zambesi and its Tributaries (London, 1864), he sailed for Bombay with the idea of organizing a new expedition from that base. He recruited soldiers in India; and two native Africans, Chuma, and Susi, trained in an Indian mission school, became his faithful servants. The bearers were, recruited on Johanna Island. Provision was made for beasts of burden, including camels, buffaloes, mules, and asses. This imposing expedition was led by Livingstone, the sole European member of it, by way of Zanzibar to the mouth of the Rovuma. His plan was to pass around the Portuguese colony and open a route for legitimate trade communication and Christian influences all the way to the interior of the continent. As the expedition proceeded, geographical exploration became more and more prominent in its work. Again, and very soon, unexpected difficulties occurred. In course of a few months the Indian soldiers had to be sent back as totally unserviceable. Livingstone understood the Africans very well, but not the Indians. The animals perished down to the last one. Lake Nyasa was reached with great efforts. Attacked by the savage Mafitu, the carriers from Johanna fled back to their home, and spread the report that Livingstone had been murdered, but he and the remnants of the caravan eluded the pursuers.

While all Europe was mourning over his death, he still pushed on amid the greatest obstacles, sick, without medicine or proper food; and, falling in with an Arab caravan, arrived at Kasembe, thence discovering Lake Moero, and reaching Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. Provisions were to await him here, but the Arab agent, weary of the delay, squandered them and embezzled the money. Despite all this, Livingstone so promptly recovered his strength in the wholesome air that he soon (1869), with his few attendants, undertook a new expedition westward through the district of the cannibal Manyema. At Nyangwe he reached the Lualaba, and supposed he had discovered the upper reaches of the Nile. He sought vainly to obtain a boat of some kind, fell sick again, and wearily dragged himself, with three attendants, back to Ujiji. Here he was met by the intrepid explorer, Henry M. Stanley, who had been sent out in search of him. Under his fostering care Livingstone recovered, and they both undertook a journey of exploration to the north end of Tanganyika, ascertaining that this lake was not connected with the Nile.

The search for the source of the Nile had come to be more and more Livingstone's preoccupation, and with this in view he withstood Stanley's entreaties to return with him to Europe. They parted with regret in March, 1872, and Livingstone turned to the exploration of the sources of the Lualaba. He discovered Lake Bangweolo, by a journey which took him largely through swampy and flooded country. His servants carried their sick master day after day, many a time through long reaches of water. At Tshitambo's village in Ilala they built him a hut and nursed him faithfully, until one morning they found his dead body in a kneeling posture by his couch. They embalmed his corpse, packed it in a bale of merchandise, and carried it in a wonderful funeral procession, amid many perils, to the coast. On April 18, 1874, it was deposited in Westminster Abbey.

Livingstone the missionary developed into the pioneer of civilization, and ultimately into the geographical explorer. But he never lost sight of the fact that only the Gospel could bring true succor to the peoples of Africa. During his very last journey, he still observed regular devotions with his attendants, and, as long as his strength lasted, divine worship on Sunday. The latest entries in his diary evince unswerving profound piety.

His discoveries were carried further with much success by Stanley, and the African continent was opened to European civilization and to the colonial enterprises of ambitious nations. Although this is unhappily not always directed by a Christian spirit, yet missionary work also has received a great impetus and achieved successful results in the spirit of the great pioneer, whose name can never be forgotten by the peoples of Africa. By R. Grundemann.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The works of Livingstone consist of his Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, London. 1857; Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries, London, 1865; and Last Journals, ed. H. Waller, 2 vols., London, 1874. Besides the standard biography by W. G. Blaikie, London, 1888, other lives have been written by: J. S. Roberts, London, 1874; S. Mossman, in Heroes of Discovery, Edinburgh, 1877 and Livingstone, the Missionary Traveller, London, 1882; J. Marratt, London, 1877; A. Gavard and A. Perier, Paris, 1878; T. Hughes, London, 1891; H. H. Johnston, London, 1891; T. B. Maclachlan, Edinburgh, 1901; B. K. Gregory, London, 1906; and in DNB xxxiii. 384-396. Further material is found in: H. M. Stanley, How I Found Livingstone, London, 1872; W. D. Cooley, Dr. Livingstone and the Royal Geographical Society, London, 1874; C. F. Loriot, David Livingstone et sa mission sociale, Paris, 1881; R. Noel, Livingstone in Africa, London. 1895; and Sir Bartle Frere in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xviii., 1874.

From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge... New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1910.

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