7 - Almost-Chosen Peoples (1500-1910)
On 13 November 1622, the Virginia Company of London, then engaged in opening up the Atlantic Coast of North America, held a feast at the Merchant Taylors' Hall. The subscription was three shillings a head: 'And for that at such great feasts venison is esteemed a most necessary compliment, the Court hath thought fit that letters be addressed in the name of the Company unto such noblemen and gentlemen as are of this society to request this favour at their hands, and withal their presence at the said supper.' Before the feast, the Company listened to a sermon at St Michael's Cornhill, delivered by the Dean of St Paul's, John Donne. Dean Donne told the four hundred well-to-do merchants present that their object in crossing the Atlantic should not be so much the amassing of wealth as the recovery of souls, 'Act over the Acts of the Apostles; be you a light to the gentiles, that sit in darkness ... God taught us to make ships, not to transport ourselves, but to transport Him.'. Let them all be missionaries, he concluded, 'And you shall have made this island, which is but the suburbs of the-old world, a bridge, a gallery to the new; to join all to that world that shall never grow old, the Kingdom of Heaven.'
We have no means of knowing how seriously the Virginia merchants took Donne's exhortations to act in the spirit of the first Apostles. The Universalist urge which had animated the early Christians had never wholly disappeared. But it had become inextricably mingled with other motives and often completely subordinated to them. Moreover, it appeared to have lost some of its dynamism. In the seventh century, Christianity's expansion to the south and east was sealed off by the various Monophysite heresies, and by Islam, which constituted, and indeed still constitutes, an almost impenetrable barrier lo Christian progress. Byzantium abandoned its efforts in these directions, except in pursuit of purely political and military aims, and sent missions only to the northern pagans of Russia. The crusaders would not, or could not, proselytize in Africa or Asia, or even assist existing Christian communities to maintain themselves. The Latin mercantile cities were not primarily interested in converts, and certainly made few.
From the early thirteenth century, the Teutonic Knights, assisted by the Dominicans, undertook the systematic conversion of Prussia and the Baltic. Force was used. One of the treaties specified: 'All who are not baptized must receive the rite within a month.' Those who declined were banished from the company of Christians, and any who relapsed were to be reduced to slavery. Pagan rites were banned, monogamy enforced, and churches built. Neophytes were obliged to attend church on Sundays and feast- days and provide support for the clergy; and converts had to observe the Lenten fast, confess at least once a year and take Communion at Easter. But the prime object was conquest and settlement. So long as it instructed the pagans, the order was authorized to possess any lands it conquered; and when the new territories were divided into bishoprics, the bishops received a third. Thus paganism was finally eliminated from Europe, the process being completed in the last decades of the fourteenth century when Lithuania was settled. But during this long process, which had begun early in the sixth century, two propositions had become deeply rooted in Christian minds, both alien to Christian teaching or indeed to the practice of the early Church. The first was the association of conversion with conquest, or at any rate with economic penetration; the second was the identification of Christianity, or Christendom, with the European continent and its races. Just as the Latin crusaders had treated the eastern Christians (even when they were in communion with Rome) as inferiors, or even as enemies, so there was a tendency to regard non-European converts as second-class Christians.
This may help to explain the failure of the earliest European missions. For there were some, even though their ostensibly religious purpose was combined with the political and military object of weakening Moslem power. There were a number of Franciscan missions in both Central Asia and India in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, with the aim of reinforcing the semi-Christian element among the Mongol tribes. Early in the fourteenth century an 'Archbishop of the East' was established in or near Peking, and a team of fifty friars was despatched there in 1335. But the scheme was never very successful; and it collapsed when the Chinese retook Peking from the Mongols before the end of the century. Missions to Moslem and pagan Africa also proved ephemeral. In the late thirteenth century Raymond Lull worked out the first modern missionary programme, and established a college of oriental languages in Majorca. In 1311 the Council of Vienne asked the European universities to provide courses in modern oriental tongues. But very little came of these plans. There were Christian posts on the south side of the Straits of Gibraltar in 1415; in 1444 contact was made with the negro races of tropical Africa, in 1482 with the Congo, and five years later there was a landing at the Cape of Good Hope. In 1518 it appears that an African was consecrated a titular bishop and Vicar-Apostolic of West Africa; but we do not know whether he ever returned there. Virtually all the African missions seem to have died out by the mid sixteenth century.
The papacy took little part in these ventures. Indeed, it had no motive other than a purely altruistic one. In an age when power over the national churches was passing to princes, early missions, associated with trade or colonization, came under the crowns, and papal interference was almost invariably ruled out. It was a different matter for the great 'imperialist' orders, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and, later, the Jesuits. To them missionary work was an enormous and valuable extension of their activities. They dominated the first phase of Christian colonization. The Protestants, having no orders, lacked the personnel and the means to undertake missionary work. And they were not sure of its value. Luther's mind was limited by national, almost provincial, horizons. He scarcely thought in continental, let alone global terms. He thought 'the faith of Jews, Turks and Papists is all one thing.' He was interested in reforming Christians rather than converting pagans. And the Calvinists were preoccupied with the elite. Their faith did not focus on the heathen masses. With some justice Cardinal Bellarmine attacked Protestants for their lack of missionary activity: 'Heretics are never said to have converted Jews or pagans, but only to have perverted Christians.' Some Protestants argued that the command of Christ to preach the gospel ceased with the apostles: the offer had been made once and for all, and there was no need to make it again. But this was a minority opinion. Donne's sermon reflects Anglican orthodoxy. Many of the English seamen and Atlantic traders were pious, even fanatical, Protestants who felt an obligation to proselytize. Sir Humphrey Gilbert's charter of 1583 refers to the compassion of God 'for poor infidels, it seeming probable that God hath reserved these gentiles to be introduced into Christian civility by the English nation'. Many early company charters express a similar conviction. But such missions were left in secular and mercantile hands. The Anglican church created no organization; nor did the state. Chaplains were appointed for the benefit of the merchant or settler communities. Conversions served the objects of commerce or were the work of individuals.
It was in territories occupied by the Spanish and Portuguese that the missions were taken seriously. The work was undertaken almost entirely by the orders, led by the Franciscans, on the instructions of the crown. Motives were mixed. The authorities needed a docile labour force and a sense of security. Conversion was an element of the conquest, as it had been in eighth-century Europe: the Indians, like the Saxons, were told that their gods had failed them in allowing the Spanish to win. Some of the conquistadores were pious: Cortes had a devotion to the Blessed Virgin, carried her image with him. and her standard; his orders were ' ... the first aim of your expedition is to serve God and spread the Christian faith ... you must neglect no opportunity to spread the knowledge of the true faith and the church of God among those people who dwell in darkness.' One of his earliest messages home was to ask for the dispatch of missionaries 'with as little delay as possible'. On the other hand, Pizarro admitted brutally: 'I have not come for any such reasons. I have come to take their gold away from them.' Was it a case of Cortes being hypocritical and Pizarro honest? Medieval Christian soldiers were curious and volatile combinations; often the most savage among them were the most generous in Christian charity and works, as the rise of the Cistercians suggests. The friars were also divided in themselves. They were motivated by inter-order rivalry, by the quest for spiritual and material power, but also, right from the start, by compassion for the Indians. In Hispaniola. on Christmas Day 1511, the Dominican Antonio de Montesimos preached a sermon to the settlers to the text 'I am a voice crying in the wilderness' in which he demanded: 'By what right or justice do you keep these Indians in such horrible servitude? ... Are these not men? Have they not rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves?'
The first batch of twelve Franciscans arrived in Mexico in 1526: within thirty years there were 380 of them, plus 210 Dominicans and 212 Augustinians. By this time, it was claimed the Franciscans alone had baptized over five million natives, considerably more than the entire population of England at that time. There is no means of checking these figures or even of knowing how they were compiled. The whole conversion process was an extraordinary mixture of force, cruelty, stupidity and greed, redeemed by occasional flashes of imagination and charity. We have a copy of the first address by the original twelve Franciscans: 'We do not seek gold, silver or precious stones: we seek only your health.' Some Indians were baptized immediately after submission. Papal efforts to restrict defective ceremonies of baptism were failures. The catechism process was rudimentary. Moreover, we have an episcopal edict of 1539 forbidding missionaries to beat Indians with rods, or imprison them with irons, 'to teach them the Christian doctrine'. In Mexico there were six main languages and many minor ones, none of which the missionaries spoke at first. One witness, Munoz Camargo, says they pointed to the earth, fire, toads and snakes to suggest Hell, raised their eyes to Heaven, then spoke of a single God. More systematic conversion was attempted by seizing children, teaching them at missionary schools, and then using them as interpreters and proselytes.
The Aztecs were Polytheists, practising human sacrifice and, in some areas, ritual cannibalism; but there were also points of comparison with Christianity - their chief god was born of a virgin, they ate pastry images of him twice a year, they had forms of baptism and confession, and a compass-point cross. Yet there was no attempt to build on these foundations, contrary to early Christian practice and, indeed, to the instructions of Gregory the Great. From the time of Juan de Zumarraga, first Bishop of Mexico, a great destroyer of religious antiquities, a systematic attempt was made to erase all trace of pre-Christian cults. Writing in 1531, he claimed that he personally had smashed over 500 temples and 20,000 idols. (It
is true, of course, that temples were sometimes used as fortresses.) Little resistance is recorded. Some idols were taken away and hidden, and Indians refused to reveal them even under torture. But there is only one case in which they seem to have argued with the missionaries on theological grounds, defending their own religion. Usually they retreated to more remote areas, and only when this was impossible did they stage revolts. In settled areas, they were liable to prosecution by the Holy Office for concubinage, bigamy or heresy. Thus a chief was accused in 1539 of concubinage and idolatry; arms and idols were found in his house; and his ten-year-old son, as often happened in Inquisition trials, gave evidence against him. The chief, Ometochtzin, known as 'Don Carlos Mendoza', said in his deposition that the various orders of friars and seculars had different dress and rules; that everyone had his own way of life; so had the Indians, and they should not be obliged to give it up; he also argued that many Spaniards were drunkards and scoffed at religion. He was condemned to death.
Efforts were undoubtedly made to convey the subtleties and truth of Christianity. In teaching his converts, Maturino Gilberti tried hard to distinguish between devotion and image-worship - later he thought this was the chief reason why he was suspected of Protestantism. Francisco de Bustamente railed against the cult of the Virgin, because of the polytheistic confusion it produced. Most priests did not bother much. Luis Caldera, a Franciscan, who spoke only Spanish, taught the doctrine of Hell by throwing dogs and cats into an oven, and lighting a fire under it: the howls of the animals terrified the Indians. The difficulty was that the more imaginative or sensitive missionaries nearly always got into trouble with their superiors, ecclesiastical or secular. The most remarkable of the sixteenth century Franciscans, Barnadino de Sahagun, who spent over sixty years in Mexico, argued that it was vital to study the 'spiritual maladies' and 'the vices of the country' in order to effect Christianization. He employed native assistants and an original methodology to compile a gigantic Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana, whose twelve volumes covered the religion, customs, constitution, intellectual and economic life, flora, fauna and the languages of Mexico and its peoples. It was written in both Nahuatl and Spanish, and must be regarded as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the entire Renaissance. But it aroused the opposition of his colleagues, and in 1577 Philip ii ordered its confiscation, though one copy was to be sent to the Council of the Indies for examination; no one was to be allowed to 'describe the superstitions and customs of the Indians'. Barnadino died without knowing what had happened to his life's work, and the manuscript was not recovered until 1779; two similar studies were made, but none was printed until modern times. Nevertheless, some of the friars, especially the Franciscans, persisted in native studies; some could preach in three dialects, and by 1572 there were 109 publications (that we know of) in ten different native languages, most of them in Nahuatl, which the friars tried to raise to a lingua franca. The Holy Office seems to have disliked all publications for the Indians, even catechisms, especially if they were in translation; and the crown, too, tried to insist on Spanish, 'that the Indians be instructed in our Castilian speech and accept our social organization and good customs' (1550). The intrinsic difficulties of finding the exact translation for Christian concepts were greatly increased by fear of heterodoxy. The seculars, who took virtually no part in the missions, and who hated the friars, were always on the watch; and in each order there was a rigorist group in sly contact with the authorities at home. In 1555 the first Mexican synod ordered the seizure of all sermons in the native language; and ten years later a further synod forbade the Indians access to the scriptures, in any language.
We come here to some of the central problems which confronted mission work, which indeed have always bedevilled efforts to spread Christianity. To what extent should Christianity, in penetrating new societies and cultures, take on a native coloration and adapt its presentation of the essential truth? There is very good reason to believe, as we have seen, that the earliest Christian missionaries, spreading in Africa, Asia Minor and southern Europe, developed modulations and varieties which assisted the rapid dissemination of Christian ideas, and which were only later, in the course of three centuries, reconciled to a standard. It is hard not to believe that this was the apostles' intention; it is certainly adumbrated in Paul's Epistles. But by the sixteenth century, a millenium and a half of increasingly narrow doctrinal definition had deprived Christianity of its flexibility and ambiguities. And then, in its homeland, Christianity itself was locked in dispute over points of doctrine which had come to seem momentous. Any divergence was held to entail torture and death in this world and eternal horror in the next. Moreover, arrogant and insistent state power was involved: Christianity was identified with a national culture whose export was the whole point of the conquest.
In Spanish and Portuguese America, the missionary friars (and later the Jesuits) were far too closely supervised by state and church authorities to attempt, or permit, a marriage between Christian and local culture. They did what seemed to them the next best thing: attempted to effect a separation between the native Christians and the Spanish settlers and half-castes; and this was made possible because it was both official and ecclesiastical policy to gather the Indians in new villages. In Mexico all the orders, but especially the Augustinians, were enthusiastic founders of new villages and towns. This reorganization and separation of the people allowed the friars to impress their leadership on the Indians in their own way. Thus the Franciscan Antonio de Roa went barefoot, wore nothing but a coarse robe and slept on boards, took no wine, meat or bread, and in the sight of the Indians, threw himself on burning coals, had himself singed with a torch, and scourged himself every time he saw a cross. By such methods the Franciscans, says Suarez de Peralta, 'were almost worshipped by the Indians'. Scourging was one of the aspects of Christianity the Indians seem to have adopted eagerly. Missionaries were asked: 'Why do you not order me to be whipped?', after confession; and natives adopted the custom of scourging themselves in Lent, and in times of drought or epidemic. (Even today, in Tzintzuntlan, the natives scourge themselves, on occasion, for several hours with nail-studded straps.)
The new towns and villages enabled a specifically local way of life and decor to evolve, even if the faith presented was, and remained, alien. The friars laid out squares, streets and plantations, and built hospitals, convents and churches. Some of these places were huge, with 30,000 inhabitants, and involved major works. Near Mexico City, one friar, Francisco de Tembleque, took nearly two decades to build a gigantic aqueduct, 30 miles long, with 136 arches; he was the sole European engaged in this project, which worked for 126 years and is still virtually intact. In these places, the churches, like Aztec temples, took on the dual role of fortresses; they were often built in high or defensible places, as at Tepeaca, Tochimilco and Tula, for instance - huge, crenellated masses, with a single row of high windows, square buttresses and turrets, the roof a gun-platform. They had walled exterior enclosures, which could accommodate whole populations or up to 10,000 troops.
Some of these churches were gigantic. The Augustinians were the big builders. Often, three or four of them in a convent would cause thousands of Indians to set up churches bigger than Seville Cathedral. In 1554, one official, Lebron de Quinones, told Philip n that such churches were deliberately created 'of an extreme splendour and sumptuousness' to impress the Indians. Philip also got a complaint from the jealous cathedral chapter of Guadalajara that 'when the Augustinian friars built ... a new monastery, the few natives left alive disappeared because of the splendour the friars aspire to in constructing their churches and convents.' This was denied. The Dominicans claimed that 'we see to it that the Indians work on them with their full consent and at their pleasure, without abuse or vexation of any kind.' It is hard to know where the truth lay, since specific charges usually flowed from inter-order rivalry, or, more often, from the hatred of the seculars. In 1561 two bishops brought a case against all three orders of friars because they had 'inflicted and are now inflicting many mistreatments on the Indians ... they insult and strike them, tear out their hair, have them stripped and cruelly flogged, and then throw them into prison in cages and cruel irons.' All Christian organizations, lay or secular, flogged Indians at times. On the other hand, in some ways the Indians adapted themselves enthusiastically to mission civilization. Zummarago, writing to Charles v, noted: 'The Indians are great lovers of music, and priests who hear their confessions tell me they are converted more by music than by anything else.' In the enclaves, terrific religious ceremonies were developed. The Indians learned singing and especially plain-chant more easily than anything else, and they took rapidly to a wide variety of instruments - clarinets, comets, trumpets, fifes, trombones, Moroccan and Italian flutes, drums, bowed guitars and many others. Juan de Grijalva wrote: 'There is not an Indian village even of 20 inhabitants which is without trumpets and a few flutes to enrich the services.' It is typical of Philip H'S niggling attention to detail that he tried to reduce the numbers of singers and instrumentalists in these villages in 1561 - with no success. Equally futile were official bans on liturgical extravaganzas, including wild dancing, which grew up round religious fiestas.
But if these protected enclaves were intended (and the policy of the orders was never clear, even to themselves) to produce a distinctively native and self-sustaining form of Christianity, they were total failures. They necessarily involved the concept of tutellage. Travellers could not stay there for more than two days. In Mexico, no Europeans, mestizos, negroes or mulattoes were allowed to settle in them. In parts of Brazil and Paraguay, the Jesuits, with their customary efficiency, created entire colonies, or reductiones as they were called, stretching over thousands of square miles. By 1623 there were over a score of them, encompassing 100,000 inhabitants, and they continued to expand, especially after 1641 when the Portuguese authorities forebade access to these territories and allowed the Jesuits to maintain private armies to defend them. The friars also had their armed bands, and indeed were sometimes accused of fighting pitched battles with each other, with the seculars, and with the authorities themselves. In a way this idea of protecting vulnerable natives and their way of life from intruding European civilization is a modern one; but the instinct was paternalistic and necessarily condescending. 'All the Indians', Philip n was told, 'are like nestlings whose wings have not grown enough yet to allow them to fly for themselves ... religious, as your Majesty should know, are their true mothers and fathers.' There was an invincible reluctance to admit that the fledglings might grow up, or assist them to do so. The Dominicans refused to found any secondary schools, and it was always against their policy to teach Latin - the key to advance of any kind - to Indians.
The Franciscans and Augustinians were less dogmatic, and they in fact discovered that the natives took to Latin more easily than Spaniards. But the College of Santiago Tlatelolco, where the Franciscans taught it, did not produce a single native priest. Even so attempts to educate the Indians met bitter criticism. Jeronimo Lopez wrote in 1541: 'It is a most dangerous error to teach science to the Indians and still more to put the Bible and the holy scriptures into their hands. ... Many people in our Spain have been lost that way, and have invented a thousand heresies.' Teaching Latin bred insolence and, worse, exposed the ignorance of European priests. (Bishop Montufar quoted an instance in which, of twenty- four Spanish Augustinians brought to him for ordination, only two knew Latin.) One complaint was that 'reading the holy scriptures, [the Indians] would learn that the old patriarchs had many wives at the same time, just as they used to have.' Eventually the college was accused of teaching heresy, and entrance to Indians was forbidden; thus it lost its purpose and decayed. Synods repeatedly made it clear, in any case, that natives were not to be ordained, or indeed admitted to monastic orders except as servitors. We know of one case in which an Indian. Lucas, was refused admission to the Dominicans, despite 'his virtues and exemplary life', the reason being stated bluntly 'because he is an Indian'. If individual friars favoured Indian priests, the policies of their orders remained adamant until quite recent times. The Jesuits in South America were no more enlightened. They protected their Indian charges jealously but never accorded them the status of adult Christians. Hence, when the society was suppressed in the late eighteenth century, the reductiones had no native cadres to sustain them, and were quickly and ruthlessly pillaged by the settlers.
The failure to produce self-sustaining Christianity among the natives was paralleled among the Latin- American communities of European descent. In the Roman empire distinctive regional schools of Christianity had soon emerged, both before the development of orthodoxy, and after: Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, Spain, the Rhone Valley - all had made their cultural and doctrinal contributions to Christian richness within a few generations of receiving the faith. The process had been repeated again and again as Christianity spread over Europe. But the transplantation to Latin America bore no such fruit. This huge continent, where paganism was quickly expunged, where great cities, universities and sub-cultures were soon established, where Christianity was united and monopolistic, carefully protected by the State from any hint of heresy, schism or rival, and where the clergy were innumerable, rich and privileged, made virtually no distinctive contribution to the Christian message and insight in over four centuries. Latin America exuded a long, conformist silence. This is not entirely surprising. Spain, as we have seen, had staged its own orthodox reformation before the Lutheran schism. It possessed powerful and popular institutional machinery to stifle clerical initiatives of any kind. Ecclesiastical control was, if anything, even more effective in the crown colonies than at home. And then, too, the clergy has always been employed by the Spanish kings as royal agents, just as their councils had served as legislative assemblies. The Catholic Church was a department of the Spanish government, and never more so than in the Americas. Right from the start Charles v and Philip n used clerics to check abuses and limit the independence of early colonists and officials, the precedent being set by the appointment of Fr Bernado Boil to represent the crown's interests in newly discovered Hispaniola, the first settlement. In return, the Church required protection, privilege, and the crown's unswerving devotion to the orthodox faith. In these circumstances, there was no place or opportunity for experiment or deviation. Steadfast and united against change, both Church and crown liked this working arrangement, whereby the Pope was excluded along with heresy, and the crown ruled - but vicariously, through the hierarchy. The system was remarkably successful, and cheap. The royal garrisons were tiny. The clergy mesmerized Spaniards and natives alike. They could always be brought in to quell riots when soldiers failed.
The system broke down only when the crown itself, in the eighteenth century, deserted the orthodox Catholic camp and initiated reforms. This was all very well for enlightened despots in Europe, but it was fatal in the Americas, where the Church, not the army, was the instrument of control. The first warning came in 1769, when the Jesuits were suppressed, arrested and deported. Mobs of angry Indians tried to break into the barracks where the Jesuits were held, in an effort to release them; and a large military escort was required to march 500 Jesuits to the coast at Veracruz. The crown was repeatedly advised that moves against the clergy would weaken its grip on the colonies. There was need, the king was told for 'constant vigilance to preserve suitable conduct and healthy principles of obedience and love for Your Majesty among the clergy' (1768); 'the conduct of the people depends in large part on that of the clergy' (1789). The most effective way of quelling unrest, he was informed, was 'to station a friar with a holy crucifix in the nearest plaza'. In 1799 the cathedral chapter of Pueblo wrote to the king of the 'fanatical devotion' of the Indians to the clergy, whose hands 'they always knelt to kiss', and whose advice they 'blindly followed'. The same year an Indian crowd attacked a Pueblo gaol where a priest was imprisoned. The Indians, the king was warned, 'resented royal reforming efforts to remove ecclesiastical privileges'.
It was the failure of the Spanish crown and government to heed these warnings which led to the colonial revolution, under the cry 'America is the only refuge left for the religion of Jesus Christ.' The Latin- American clergy did not want an uneasy mixture of Bourbonism and Voltaire, and when they were given it they revolted, and carried the masses with them. It was the famous decree of 1812 abolishing clerical immunity which detonated the independence movement. The clergy provided many of the political and military leaders of the insurrection. Priests persuaded their entire parishes to 'pronounce' for the revolution. It was the clergy who drew up the first scheme for separation from Spain, in 1794, and provided most of the press propaganda. They were active politically throughout Spanish America, but in Mexico they also provided the military leadership. The rebellion of September 1810 was started by a village curate in the small town of Dolores in Michoacan. Among active rebels who had been captured or convicted, the government identified 244 secular priests and 157 monks and friars. One official wrote (1812): ' ... the ecclesiastics were the principal authors of this rebellion ... one can count by the hundreds the generals, brigadiers, colonels and other officers, all clerics, in the bands of the traitors, and there is scarcely a military action of any importance in which priests are not leading the enemy.' As the Bishop of Pueblo told the king, Mexico was a nation which hid 'a profound malice and irreconcilable hatred towards its conqueror underneath the most humble and abject exterior'; Spain had controlled its colonies with only a token force for 300 years because the clergy had constantly preached obedience to the king. For a time, the bishops, the cathedral clergy and the Inquisition officials (most of them born in Spain) remained loyal, though their efforts to rally the lower clergy to the crown were ineffective. The last straw came in 1820, when the triumph of the liberals in Spain, followed by anti-clerical legislation, brought all the prelates, with two exceptions, out on the side of independence. Fr Mariano Lopez Bravo told Ferdinand VII in 1822 that Spain lost Mexico because the clergy had persuaded the people that their choice lay between loyalty to the crown and 'defending their religion from destruction, their priests from persecution and their churches from despoliation'. He said that when he had attempted to preach against independence 'they branded me as a heretic'. Thus Spain forfeited the New World by reforming its colonial pillar, the Church. The attempt failed; the Church emerged stronger; it retained its political and
financial privileges. But it now reigned in isolation, without the support of the crown, and so in turn has tended to fall victim to the violent anti-clericalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, until, quite recently, it has resumed its revolutionary role in defence of a new orthodoxy.
The case of Latin America is without parallel. Yet it directs attention to what might be called the dynamic weakness of all the missions sponsored by mature Christianity. From the sixteenth century, Christian attempts to evangelize the world were continuous in one theatre or another, and at times extremely vigorous. But they have never set off a chain-reaction. They have tended to require continual reinforcement, guidance and creative stimulation. The lack of self-sustaining growth in Latin America was not fatal to the Church there since its only local opponents were primitive forms of paganism. But when Christianity had to compete with well-established and sophisticated religious cults in Asia it was a very different matter, especially when it lacked the political and military support of a colonial government. The western mercantile penetration of the Asiatic seaboard in the sixteenth century was extremely rapid, and was closely followed by the erection of an ecclesiastical structure. The Portuguese set up a bishopric in Madeira in 1514, Cap Verde in 1532, Goa 1533, Malacca 1557, and Macao in 1576. By this time the Spanish were in Manilla, which got its first bishop three years later. Yet Christianization was slow and remained unspectacular. Only the Philippines, which the Spaniards conquered in the 1560- 70s, and where they imposed their religion virtually by force, became a predominantly Christian country. And there the missionaries had to deal only with primitive pagan cults, or a debased form of Mohammedanism. This was the pattern for the next three hundred years. Where Islam was firmly and fully established, as in west Asia, northern India, Malaya and Java, the Christians made little progress, even when they disposed of overwhelming political, economic and military power. Where Islam merged into animism, as in some of the Indonesian islands, Dutch Protestant missions enjoyed some success. It was, broadly speaking, the same with the other great eastern religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Wherever they were well-established and mature, and associated with the cultural, social and racial consciousness of the locality, Christianity could not penetrate in depth. In short, it could not succeed, or at least did not succeed, against other imperial religions. But in the economically backward regions, in tribal areas of low cultural achievement, and indeed almost anywhere where primitive paganism was the predominant cult, Christianity quickly became established, especially where it had the backing of a colonial power.
Was the failure of Christianity to supplant other imperial religions intrinsic? Might the story have been different? The question is historically very important. If Asia had been Christianized in the period 15501900, during the European military and economic paramountcy, the twentieth century would have to be entirely rewritten; and indeed Christianity itself must have been radically changed. But therein perhaps lies the key: it was the inability of Christianity to change, and above all to de-Europeanize itself, which caused it to miss its opportunities. Far too often the Christian Churches presented themselves as the extensions of European social and intellectual concepts, rather than embodiments of universal truths; and, equally important, the Churches as institutions, and their clergy as individuals and as a collectivity, appeared merely as one facet of European rule. Though Christianity was born in Asia, when it was reexported there from the sixteenth century onwards, it failed to acquire an Asian face.
The mistakes that were made varied from country to country. Sometimes the dilemma was complex, and it is not clear how error could have been avoided. There was never a uniform policy on any great, central issue of missionary endeavour. Indeed, how could there have been? There was no one centre of authority even in the Catholic Church. Throughout the sixteenth century, and for much of the seventeenth, the papacy had virtually no control over the missions, which were entirely in the hands of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, and of the bishops they appointed. Or, rather, 'entirely' should be qualified, since the actual missionary work was chiefly in the hands of the friars and (from the 1540s) the Jesuits, who were often semi-autonomous and acted independently of both crown and pope. But these, in turn, all hated each other, and often deliberately and systematically attempted to frustrate each other's efforts. Unable to control the local bishops, the papacy used the device of appointing Vicars-Apostolic; but this, as often as not, was a further cause of friction and divided authority. And, finally, from the seventeenth century there was conflict with the rival efforts of the Protestant sects, usually envenomed by a background of European war and commercial competition.
These conflicts and divisions, exported from Europe, were compounded by local differences of opinion among missionaries as to the best way to proceed In India the Christians were confronted by the caste system, which raised dilemmas they were never able to resolve. Basically, there are two possible forms of proselytization of a society. One is to evangelize the lowest and least privileged elements, capture their allegiance in huge numbers, and so work upwards from the base. This was the method followed by the first Christians within the Roman empire. The second is to aim at the elite, or even at the individuals at the head of the elite, obtain recognition or adoption of the faith as a matter of state policy, and then work downwards, by authority, example or force (or all three). This was the method followed in the conversion of the Germanic and Slavonic tribes of the Dark Ages, and to some extent in Spanish America. In India, the caste system presented the choice in its most acute form, for it made a combination of the two approaches, at any rate in the same area, almost impossible. The religious instinct of the missionaries was to go for the masses, for, in the absence of military and state sanctions, Christianity is most successful when it appeals to the underdogs and the deprived, and so comes closest to its earliest pastoral attitudes. But their social instinct, coming from a European background where the will of the prince was paramount in matters of faith, was to go for the elite. Both were tried, but neither successfully.
Some of the most intelligent of the missionaries, especially among the Jesuits, believed passionately in the elitist approach. It was their proven method in Europe, and it gave the widest possible scope for their gifts as educators and scholars. It also reflected Jesuit admiration for many of the customs (including religious customs) and cultural achievements of the Asian societies. To capture the elite it was necessary not only to accept their culture but many quasi-religious assumptions and ways of presenting ideas. There was really no other way to do it successfully. But this posed the risk of conflict with superiors at home (and, of course, with other, rival orders, and the seculars). In South India, the Jesuit Robert de Nobili insisted to the high-caste Indians among whom he worked that he was not a low-caste Parangi (European). He accepted the caste system entirely, and placed himself in its highest rank as a Brahmin. He adopted Brahmin dress and diet, shaved his head, and wrote Christian poems in the form of Vedic hymns. These compromises might have been acceptable to authority. But De Nobili allowed India to penetrate his presentation of Christianity. He wrote Tamil poems which reconciled Christian doctrine with Hindu wisdom; he allowed his high-caste converts to wear the sacred thread and to observe certain
Hindu feasts, and perhaps most important of all he administered communion to inferior castes by holding the wafer on the end of a stick. As a result, he was repeatedly denounced in Rome. In 1618 he was summoned to the archiepiscopal court in Goa, and appeared in a Brahmin robe. In 1623, Rome refused to condemn him 'until further information is available'. But the effect of the campaign against De Nobili was to inhibit his own efforts and discourage others. The Church, in practice, was never able to go as far towards reconciliation as the Brahmins required, and the elitist campaign was almost totally unsuccessful. De Nobili's efforts over many years brought him only twenty-six Brahmin converts. By 1643, the Jesuits calculated that no more than 600 high-caste Indians had been baptized in thirty-seven years.
Nor was this surprising, since, apart from a handful of enthusiastic missionaries, the Europeans, either lay or ecclesiastical, would not accord even high-caste converts equality. The educated Brahmin Matthew de Castro (his Portuguese baptismal name) was refused ordination-by the Archbishop of Goa. He went to Rome where he was received into the priesthood. But his orders were not acknowledged when he returned to Goa. Back in Rome, he was consecrated a bishop in 1637, and given the see of Idalcan, which was outside Goa's jurisdiction. He was nonetheless suspended by the archbishop, who actually imprisoned priests whom Bishop de Castro had ordained. He spent the last nineteen years of his life in Rome as adviser on Indian affairs. By this time there were something like 180 Indian priests in Goa, but there was no prospect of promotion for them in the Church, then or for the next 200 years, since most European priests would not serve under Indian bishops, of whatever caste. Nor was there any prospect of the Brahmins making an impact on Christian rites or dogma.
The irony in De Nobili's case is that the low-caste converts to whom he handed the eucharist on a stick were far more numerous even in his mission than any other Indian element. The low-castes often welcomed Christianity enthusiastically; only among them was it possible to effect mass-baptism. Hence some of the friars, especially Franciscans, wanted to concentrate on this approach. But for this to be successful meant the presentation of Christianity in its primitive, revolutionary form (as, of course, St Francis would have wished). Neither the hierarchy in the East, nor Rome - nor indeed most of the missionary clergy - wanted the millenium. The Portuguese secular authorities and merchants (and, later their French and British successors) had no desire to subvert society, which would have meant conflict with the Mohammedans as well as the Indian princes; on the contrary, they were anxious to work through, and reinforce, the existing structure and hierarchy. Hence the missionary effort fell neatly between two stools: neither 'Asian' Christianity nor 'pure' Christianity was offered. Instead, the Indians were presented with European Christianity, and rejected it.
In China the missionaries did not face the problem of caste. But this meant there was less chance of adopting the strategy of conversions from the base. Indeed, it is hard to see how it could have been used unless as part of a deliberate plan to subvert the whole of Chinese government and society, something the sixteenth century Catholic Church could not have contemplated. In any event, it was not considered, since the first on the scene were the elitist Jesuits, in the steps of St Francis Xavier, who regarded China as the key to the Christianization of Asia. They deemed it essential to work through the imperial court. But that meant a confrontation with one of the oldest, most arrogant and least adaptable civilizations in the world, whose moral philosophy was permeated with powerful concepts such as Confucian ancestor- worship. The alternative to confrontation was alliance, in which Christianity would have to play the role of junior, and humble, partner. This, in effect, was the strategy the Jesuits tried to adopt.
Chinese imperial policy admitted only subject tribute-payers, Mohammedan merchants, and foreigners 'lured by the good fame of Chinese virtues'. They did not welcome European Christians. A local south China chronicle, c. 1520, gives their first recorded experience of the Christians (in fact Portuguese):
'Some time near the end of Ching-Te's reign, a people not recognized as tributary to China known as the Feringhis, together with a crowd of riffraff, filtered into the harbour between T'un Mun and Kwait Ch'ung and set up barracks and forts, mounted many cannons to make war, captured islands, killed people, robbed ships and terrorized the population by their fierce dominion over the coast.'
Hence the first Jesuit to penetrate to the imperial court, Father Matthew Ricci, spent seventeen years, 1583-1600, insinuating his way there, and his approach was suitably supplicatory: 'Despite the distance, fame told me of the remarkable teaching and fine institutions with which the imperial court has endowed all its people. I desire to share these advantages and live out my life as one of Your Majesty's subjects, hoping in return to be of some small use.' The Jesuits and other "Christians in China had to accept that the Chinese ruling class regarded them as learners, not teachers; and, initially at least, the only tolerable form of instruction the Chinese would take was in practical matters rather than the realm of ideas and concepts. The Jesuits operated through science, mathematics and mechanics. Ricci presented the Emperor Wan-Li with a clock in 1601, and then drew a map showing China as the centre of the world. By the time he died in 1610 he had established himself at the court. The salient was enlarged by Father Adam Schall over nearly half a century. He was able to demonstrate errors in the calculations of the Moslem astronomers at court, and was eventually made director of the Chinese observatory and minister for mathematics, with the title 'Master of the Mysteries of Heaven'. To the Chinese court Christianity was 'the religion of the great Schall', thus making its appearance as an epiphenomenon of physical science in an age when the papacy had condemned Galilean astronomy. His successor, Father Verbiest, made a series of long-range cannon for the Emperor, with the name of a saint engraved on each; and he dedicated them wearing stole and surplice.
In this way, Chinese congregations emerged in the big cities. It was claimed in 1664 that there were 254,980 Chinese converts. But this figure included multitudes of tiny children baptized at death. More important, there were virtually no Chinese priests; and the only Chinese prelate, Lo Wen-Tsao, made Vicar-Apostolic for North China in 1674, spent eleven years trying to find bishops who would consecrate him. (He had no successor as a Catholic bishop until the twentieth century.) The problem of a native clergy would have been formidable in any case. But there was no prospect of mass conversion until Christianity adapted itself to a whole range of Chinese assumptions. Ricci, studying the long history of China, pointed out that a wholesale revision of the Old Testament was required. The Christian assumption that the world was about 5,000 years old (Archbishop Ussher of Armagh, in his Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti, 1650-4, calculated that the date of Creation was 4004 BC, and this was widely accepted, especially in the Protestant world) was belied by Chinese chronology. If the Chinese were right on this point, might they not be right on others? To what extent could their burial customs or prayers, so crucial in almost every religion, be reconciled to Christian theory and practice? The Chinese were clearly not prepared to abandon what Europeans crudely termed 'ancestor worship', but which might be reinterpreted and adjusted to the doctrine of the resurrection and the first and second coming. An elementary system on these lines was worked out by Ricci and his successors. They incorporated Chinese nuances in, references to God, and used the same Chinese word for mass as was customarily used for ancestor-ceremonies. The compromise was secretly noted by Franciscans and Dominicans in 1631, and a triumphant complaint made to Rome.
The subsequent controversy over Asian rites was gradually broadened to include a number of other variations and translations, and became an explosive issue, as indeed it deserved to be. Was Christianity to throw off its European chrysalis and become at last the world religion, united in its central truth, infinitely varied in its presentation, which Christ implicitly and Paul explicitly had always intended? There was a time when the papacy seemed to be ready to grasp the opportunity. In 1615 Paul v had authorized a Chinese liturgy, and translations were made. In 1622 Gregory xv created a new Vatican Department of Propaganda, with the object of universalizing the missionary movement and freeing it from the narrow national horizons of Spain and Portugal. Francesco Ingoli, the first Secretary of Propaganda until his death in 1649, had a personal vision of global, post-European Christianity, and his philosophy was still reflected in instructions on propaganda sent out a decade after his death:
'Do not regard it as your task, and do not bring any pressure to bear on the peoples, to change their manners, customs and uses, unless they are evidently contrary to religion and sound morals. What could be more absurd than to transplant France, Spain, Italy or some other European country to China? Do not introduce all that to them but only the faith, which does not despise or destroy the manners and customs of any people, always supposing that they are not evil, but rather wishes to see them preserved unharmed. ... It is the nature of men to love and treasure above everything else their own country and that which belongs to it. ... Do not draw invidious contrasts between the customs of the peoples and those of Europe; do your utmost to adapt yourselves to them.'
The intention of this document was wise, indeed admirable; but of course the qualifying phrases laid it open to argument. How ruthless was Rome prepared to be in backing it up, against the protests of the conventional and orthodox? Or, to put it another way, how powerful was Rome's imagination in the vital process of reinterpreting Christian dogma in the light of strange cultures? In the event, Rome always proved more susceptible to European pressures, and to the arguments of colonial viceroys, bishops and vicars-general, than to the more creative of the missionaries. The kind of battles that Paul won, Ricci and his successors and emulators lost. Latin was reestablished as a universal requirement for the liturgy. The controversy lasted over a century, with repeated rulings, both curial and local, some flatly contradictory, with the 'Europeans' gradually prevailing. In both India and China, the Jesuits put up a stiff resistance; and they were backed by the Chinese court. But in 1742, Benedict xiv, in the bull Ex quo singulari, finally ruled decisively against any permission to relax the strict European rites, and condemned their Asian substitutes: ' ... we condemn and detest their practice as superstitious ... we revoke, annul, abrogate and wish to be deprived of all force and effect, all and each of those permissions, and say and announce that they must be considered for ever to be annulled, null, invalid and without any force or power.' These injunctions, repeated against 'Malabarian' rites two years later, effectively ended any hopes that a specific form of Asian Christianity might develop, as a prelude to a Christian conquest of
Indeed, by 1742, those hopes had perished anyway. The great chance for Christianity came in the sixteenth century, when its impact was new and tremendous, when the Christians themselves were still astonished by the boundless opportunities which seemed open to them, and when they possessed, in the Jesuits, an instrument of extraordinary adaptability and youthful vigour. Moreover, in the late sixteenth century, when the Jesuits reached the Far East, there was coming into existence for the first time as a united state and culture the perfect agent - perhaps the only one - for the Asianization of Christianity and so for the Christianization of Asia. This was Japan. The country already had twenty million inhabitants and a reputation throughout the area for bellicosity and imperial ambitions. It had only one language, albeit a complicated and primitive one, and was in the process of transforming itself from a vast number of fragmented lordships into a national state under military rule. It had two religions, in violent conflict: Shintoism, indigenous, crude and sinister, and Buddhism, imported and corrupt. Christianity had, perhaps, a unique opportunity to offer itself to Japan as the national creed of the new, unified state. And in the Japanese people it had a race astonishingly gifted in receiving and mutating ideas.
Francis Xavier was excited by reports of Japanese intelligence two years before he managed to get there, in 1549. He could not speak more than a few words of the language (the 'Apostle of the Indies' was a poor linguist), but he had with him three Japanese who had been taught Portuguese at Goa, and so he was able to preach and converse. He assumed, wrongly, that Buddhism was the key to Japan, and that therefore it might be necessary to convert China first. In fact the more successful war-lords who were coming to power were often violently anti-Buddhist - and consequently open to Christianity if, as was possible, it could expose the essentially primitive nature of Shinto. But Xavier noted of a Buddhist abbot: 'In many talks which I had with him, I found him doubtful and unable to decide whether our soul is immortal or whether it dies with the body; sometimes he told me yes, and sometimes no, and I fear the other wise men are all alike.' Xavier perceived that the Japanese had no answer to the question Christians had always been able to face fully and confidently: what happened to us after death? So he was full of hope: The people whom we have met so far are the best we have yet discovered anywhere, and it seems to me that we shall never find another heathen race to equal the Japanese.'
In the late 1560s, the Jesuits arrived in strength, to insert themselves into the fissures opened by a religious-civil war, at a time when the war-lord Nobunaga, an agnostic who was willing to let them preach, was emerging as the chief force. Moreover, they had in Alessandro Valignano, their Vicar- General in the Orient, perhaps the greatest of the missionary statesmen. He came to Japan first in 1579, aged forty, a Neapolitan noble, over six feet tall, immensely energetic, with clear, challenging ideas. Like St Paul, he saw missionary work as an opportunity for spiritual adventure; like Xavier, he found the Japanese exciting. His views on race were a curious mixture of prejudice and enlightenment. From his own experience he thought the Indians 'base and bestial people'. There could be no question of making them Jesuits because 'all the dusky races are very stupid and vicious, and the basest spirit, and likewise because the Portuguese treat them with the greatest contempt.' He did not like the Portuguese or the Spanish either; but he had, to his fury, to bow to their ruling that no one of Jewish (and, by extension, mixed) blood be admitted to the Jesuit order, as they could be classified as 'New Christians' or crypto- Jews.
But the Japanese were a different matter. Valignano delighted in 'these most cultivated and intelligent people'. He quickly grasped that Japan was totally different from anything Christianity had hitherto encountered: 'It is impossible either in India or in Europe to evaluate or settle the problems of Japan. Nor can one even understand or imagine how things happen there - it is a different world.' From the first he favoured a Japanese clergy, and on his third visit had two native priests ordained. Leaving aside Chinese culture, which he respected, 'this people is the best and most civilized of all the East, and it is the most apt to be taught and to adopt our holy law, and to produce the finest Christianity in the East, as it is already doing.' Three years later he boasted that Japanese converts numbered 150,000 and included a high proportion of the nobility and gentry, something which had not happened anywhere else in the East. The existence of a single language, he thought, made all the difference in staging a national mission. And then, he added, the Japanese appeared to be the only eastern people who accepted Christianity from disinterested motives, moved by faith and reason alone. 'We have no jurisdiction whatsoever in Japan. We cannot compel them to do anything they do not wish to do. We have to use pure persuasion and force of argument. They will not suffer being slapped or beaten, or imprisonment, or any of the methods commonly used with other Asian Christians. They are so touchy they will not brook even a single harsh or impolite word.' He liked their spirit. He admired their courage - 'the most warlike and bellicose race yet discovered on the earth'. He thought Japanese Christians would willingly die for their faith, and, in sum, he concluded that Japan was the only mission which held any prospect of soon becoming a healthy and self-supporting Christian kingdom with a trustworthy native hierarchy and clergy of its own. Other Jesuits shared his view; among them, Japan was by far the most popular posting.
Unfortunately, neither Rome nor Portugal was willing to take the risk of a native clergy. Neither was ready to treat Japan as a special case, and accord its inhabitants chances and privileges denied elsewhere. Nor did they accept Valignano's estimate of Japan's desire and capacity to preserve its political, economic and cultural independence. The Pope saw no reason to make concessions; and from 1580 the Portuguese were ruled by Philip n of Spain, and their policy thus submerged beneath an expanding imperialist system. What followed could be called one of the great tragedies of history. Of course, within the Church, the Jesuits were suspect: to outsiders it looked as though they were asking to be granted a monopoly of Japan's spiritual and economic welfare. In his report of 1580 Valignano emphasized that the Japanese derived enormous benefit from the Portuguese 'great ship' which called annually at Nagasaki. The Portuguese then had a virtual stranglehold over the trade in valuable goods between the Persian Gulf and the Yellow Sea, and as there was a ban on direct trade between China and Japan, the Jesuits acted as intermediaries, especially as bullion-brokers, from Nagasaki, which they made their headquarters. Trade and religion were inextricably mixed, not to say confused. It is not clear whether the Japanese authorities permitted Jesuit evangelism to continue because they feared that, if the Jesuits left, the great ship would no longer call. But they were certainly highly suspicious of western motives, as Valignano realized and warned. On the whole, the Japanese trusted the Jesuits but no one else. Unfortunately, no one else trusted the Jesuits. They needed the profit from their bullion-broking in order to finance their missions in Japan, which were run at a considerable loss. Valignano had drawn up a formal contract in 1578 with the Macao mercantile ring, which had been approved by Pope Gregory xiii - 'this could not properly be called trade, since it was done out of pure necessity' (1582). But if the Pope knew the facts he seems to have made little effort to convey them to other interested clerical bodies. The
Jesuits were actually in debt; but the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the secular clergy and the Protestants were quite sure the trade had made the Society fabulously rich. Moreover the Dominicans had great influence over the Spanish government, which of course controlled Portuguese possessions after 1580. Although the thrones had been united on the clear understanding that the two empires should be separately administered and independent, in fact the Spanish lay and ecclesiastical authorities, operating from Manila, never recognized an exclusive Portuguese sphere of influence east of Malacca.
In 1583 Valignano devoted a whole section of his report to the topic 'Why it is not convenient that other religious orders should come to Japan'. So far, he argued, the Christians had had a great advantage in Japan because they were under unitary command, whereas the Buddhists were splintered. Admitting the friars would lead to similar splits among the Christians, since experience showed they always ganged up on the Jesuits (as well as quarrelling among themselves). He particularly feared the Spanish Dominicans and Franciscans, and the conquistador methods they and the Spanish army commanders had employed against the Aztecs and the Filippinos. That would be disastrous with the Japanese: 'Japan is not a place which can be controlled by foreigners ... and the King of Spain does not and cannot have any power or jurisdiction here. There is no alternative to relying on training the natives in the way they should go, and then leaving them to manage the churches themselves. For this, a single religious order will suffice.' He added, truthfully:
'In the past, many of the Japanese lords had a great fear that we [Jesuits] were concocting some evil in Japan, and that if they allowed the conversion of Christians in their fiefs we would afterwards use them to raise a rebellion on behalf of the [Spanish] king who supports us; for they could not understand why these monarchs should spend such vast sums on the mission if it was not with the ultimate intention of seizing their lands. ... Now they know the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal are united, this existing suspicion will be vastly strengthened by the arrival of new foreign religious....'
The argument was deployed with passionate conviction. But to outsiders it looked like special pleading. Why should the Jesuits have a monopoly of the profits? In fact Valignano's request was formally endorsed by both the papal and the Spanish authorities, but from 1592 the Franciscans began to break in with the assistance of disgruntled merchants and adventurers, and they at once began to proselytize and celebrate mass openly. In 1597 a row broke out over the cargo of a wrecked Portuguese ship. The Spanish governor sent a threatening note to the Japanese tyrant, Hideyoshi, pointing out with unbelievable ineptitude that missionaries preceded conquistadors; and in response Hideyoshi promptly crucified six Franciscans, three Jesuit lay-brothers, and nineteen Japanese neophites.
What grounds were there for Japanese fears? Valignano himself was sincere in his belief that Japan should retain its political independence. But even he did not see this as unconditional. In response to the 1597 martyrdoms, he urged Philip n to cancel the 'great ship' the next year as a reprisal, in the belief that such a move would provoke economic crisis and unrest in Japan. He was not against force everywhere. Writing of India in 1601, he recalled that Xavier. 'with his customary spirit and prudence, realized how rude and incapable [Indians] are by nature in the things of God, and that reason is not so effective with them as compulsion.' As a group, the Jesuits were not above acting from nationalistic motives.
In 1555 Father Balthasar Gago said he taught his Japanese converts to pray for Joao II of Portugal as their potential protector Father Charlevoix, the Jesuit historian of the Society in Canada says the) persuaded their Indian converts to 'mingle France and Christ together in their affections'. Some Spanish Jesuits actively engaged in Far Eastern power-politics. In 1586, Father Alonso Sanches SJ produced a proposal for the conquest of China and its re-education to Christianity. He calculated thai 10,000-12,000 men should be sent from Europe, 5,000-6,000 natives recruited in Manila, and a similar number in Japan. The main invasion force was to set out from Manila, while a concerted attack was to be launched by the Portuguese from Macao and Canton. This project, conceived at almost the same time as the Armada against England, was supported by the governor, bishop and council of Manila, and by a number of Japanese merchants, which lends colour to the suspicion that it had been canvassed in Japan. Sanches was quite sure the Jesuits would cooperate in recruiting the Japanese volunteers. (The Spanish actually used Japanese mercenaries in their expedition to Cambodia in 1595, and to suppress the Chinese rebellion at Manila in 1603.) The Bishop of Manila begged Philip n to give his approval: 'Not even Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great had an opportunity such as this. And on the spiritual plane, nothing greater was ever projected since the time of the Apostles.' The Japanese leaders were not privy to Spanish official correspondence but they knew perfectly well that such schemes were being discussed. All along they proved much better informed than even the Jesuits supposed. They saw the connection between religion and politics perfectly clearly. In a letter to Don Francisco Tello, Governor of the Philippines, Hideyoshi pointed out that Shinto, which the Franciscans in Japan had crudely attacked, was the basis of the Japanese social structure: 'If perchance religious or secular Japanese proceeded to your kingdoms and preached the law of Shinto there, disturbing the public peace, would you, as lord of the soil be pleased? Of course not; and therefore you can see why I acted.'
The massacre of 1597 was intended as a warning. Having made their point, the Japanese authorities allowed the Jesuit mission to proceed, and the number of converts increased steadily, reaching an estimated 750,000 in 1606. Valignano ordered all Jesuits to conform as closely as was ethically possible to Japanese life. They showed no approval of Buddhist or Shinto rites but they did not preach against them, and they avoided crucifixes, associated in Japanese minds with the shame of criminal punishment. What they were not allowed to do, however, was to ordain large numbers of Japanese priests; and the papacy, and the Jesuit general, Aquaviva, ruled that even lay-brothers might be recruited only in sufficient numbers to disarm Japanese criticism. Thus the Jesuit aim of attaining rapid self-sufficiency, which would have allowed them to depart, leaving Japanese Christians in control of the mission, was made unattainable.
Worse, despite the appeals of all the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of Portuguese India, the papacy and the Spanish crown proved unable, or unwilling, to keep the friars out. Friar Jeronimo de Jesus proclaimed in 1598 that he and his team would stay in Japan despite pope, king, prelate or governor. They preached openly against 'pagan cults'. They flourished their crucifixes. They fuelled the suspicions of the feudal class by proselytizing among what the Jesuits called 'the poxy rabble'. And, despite Jesuit advice, they insisted on treating the victims of 1597 as honoured martyrs. In 1608 Paul v gave in and threw Japan open completely to the friars. This coincided with another blow the Jesuits had long feared but could not avert - the arrival of the Dutch Calvinists, with the English not far behind. By 1613 both Protestant groups were active in Japanese waters, making the annual great ship obsolete and the Jesuits no longer indispensable, or even necessary, as commercial brokers.
The English promptly engaged in anti-Spanish propaganda, preying on the very insecurity the Japanese already nursed. Had they not heard of Jesuit subversive plans in England, concerted and timed to assist Spanish naval plans to invade? That, said the English captain Richard Cocks, was exactly why his government had expelled Catholic clerics from England: 'Hath not the Emperor of Japan as much reason to put your Jesuits and friars out of Japan and to withstand the secret entrance of them, knowing them to be stirrers up of sedition, and turbulent people?' It was the last straw.
On 27 January 1614 the Japanese government published an edict which accused the Christians of coming 'to disseminate an evil law, to overthrow true doctrine, so that they may change the government of the country and obtain possession of the land.' The attachment of the Christians to the cross was explicitly cited as grounds for believing they approved of criminal acts. All European Christians were to leave, and Japanese Christians were to renounce their faith. The reaction to the expulsion order took the form of a tremendous outbreak of mass religious fervour in Nagasaki, with ritual flagellations and mutilations, several Japanese Christians dying of self-inflicted wounds. This disgusted and infuriated the Japanese authorities. The Jesuits later blamed the Franciscans for setting off this frenzy, and it is true that the Franciscans often encouraged flagellation while the Jesuits hated it. But the truth is that the Japanese converts, as Valignano had perceived, made Christians of unrivalled determination and courage. Had the mission been allowed to proceed under the right conditions, the Japanese would have changed the face of world religion. As it was, they became the victims of one of the most ruthless and prolonged persecutions in the long, bloody story of confessional cruelty.
From 1614-43, up to 5,000 Japanese Christians were judicially murdered, nearly always in public. The exact total is not known, but 3,125 individual cases are recorded, 71 of them Europeans. About 46 Jesuits and friars contrived to 'go underground', but in the long run this merely served to prolong the agony, since the mission could not be effectively reinforced and fugitives were systematically and relentlessly hunted down. The most appalling tortures were inflicted on those, usually Japanese, who refused to recant. Some died of starvation in gaol. Others were tortured to death. Europeans were sometimes beheaded. Most of the Japanese were burned alive, loosely tied by one arm to a stake in the middle of a circle of fire. Some were mothers with small children in their arms.
The local governors stepped up the horrors when mere burning failed to secure apostasy. Many victims were killed by water-torture at the sulphur hot springs at Unzen - boiling water being slowly poured into slits in their flesh. From 1632, the martyrs were suspended upside down over a pit, some of them living up to a week. One young Japanese woman endured it for fourteen days, while the aged Jesuit provincial, Christova Ferreira, recanted after six hours. The Jesuits produced manuals teaching the faithful how to endure martyrdom: ' ... prepare yourself with confession. ... Never cherish an evil thought towards the official passing the sentence of death or the executioner. ... While being tortured visualize the Passion of Jesus.' In 1637 there was a rebellion, provoked by officials torturing the daughter of a Japanese Christian before his eyes. It was suppressed with the armed help of the Dutch, who were thereby able to end the Portuguese trade for good. Christianity survived for some time underground, though even in hiding the Jesuits and the friars quarrelled. In 1657-8, 600 Christians were rounded up in the countryside around
Nagasaki: 411 were executed, 77 died in prison, 99 apostasized. One girl, arrested at the age of eleven, remained a Christian until she died in prison in 1722. At Urakami a crypto-Christian community contrived to survive until it was brought to light in 1865, still baptizing correctly and insisting on clerical celibacy. But the episode as a whole seems to indicate that persecution, if applied with sufficient ruthlessness, intelligence and pertinacity, will eventually succeed, even against the most courageous. Thus a notable and poignant chapter in Christian history ended.
At precisely the time when Japanese Christianity was being exterminated, Presbyterians and Independents (Congregationalists) were establishing another elitist religious state on the east coast of North America. It was to be the greatest, indeed the only, realized experiment in post-European Christianity. It was also the first and only instance in which we can watch a major Christian community coming into independent being by the light of documentary sources. The birth of Protestant America was a deliberate and self-conscious act of Church-State perfectionism. As Donne said, in his Virginia sermon: 'You shall add persons to this kingdom, and to the Kingdom of Heaven, and add names to the books of our chronicles, and to the book of life.' Governor Winthrop, sailing the Atlantic on board the Arbella, wrote proudly: 'For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.' These dissenting groups were fleeing an Anglican Jacobean England of whose 'reformation' they had despaired. But they were not fleeing to religious liberty and diversity. On the contrary: like the Carolingians, they were seeking to create a total Christian society, where the divine instructions on every aspect of life would be obeyed to the letter, and a city of earth created as the antechamber or prelude to entry into God's city.
The original vision of America was Augustinian, rather than Erasmian. There could be no question of religion being 'private': civil and religious society were one, inseparable. William Penn, in his Preface to the Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, wrote in 1682: 'Government seems to me a part of religion itself, a thing sacred in its institution and end ... it crushes the effects of evil and is as such (though a lower yet) an emanation of the same divine power that is both author and object of pure religion ... government itself being otherwise as capable of kindness, goodness and charity as a more private society.' The founding of a colony was an individual and collective contract with the deity to set up a Church-State: 'We whose names are underwritten. ...' reads the Mayflower Compact of 1620, 'having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and of one another, covenant and combine ourself together in a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid. ...' The Church was also formally constituted, as at Salem 1629: 'We covenant with the Lord and one with another; and do bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together in all his ways, according as he is pleased to reveal himself unto us in his blessed word of truth.'
The official religion, set out in the Cambridge Platform of 1648, was based on the English Westminster Confession of 1643-5, and was Independent rather than Presbyterian - that is, councils and synods had advisory and admonitory powers, but no coercive authority. But there was no toleration either: the magistrates or 'nursing fathers' were to tackle heresy, schism and disobedience, 'to be restrained and punished by civil authority'. A man could not be a member of the State without being a member of the
Church, exactly as in medieval society, since the beliefs and objects of the two were necessarily identical. As Uriah Oakes, later President of Harvard, put it (1673):
'According to the design of our fathers and the frame of things laid by them, the interests of righteousness in the commonwealth and holiness in the churches are inseparable. ... To divide what God hath joined ... is folly in its exaltation. I look upon this as a little model of the glorious kingdom of Christ on earth. Christ reigns among us in the commonwealth as well as in the church and hath his glorious interest involved and wrapt up in the good of both societies respectively.'
Was New England, then, to expand into a gigantic Geneva? Not exactly. It was not a theocracy. It gave the clergy themselves less actual authority than any other government in the western world at the time. The minister's power lay in determining Church membership. Moreover, the churches were, right from the start, managed by laymen. The religious establishment was popular. not hieratic. This was the foundation of the distinctive American religious tradition. There was never any sense of division in law between layman and cleric, between those with spiritual privileges and those without - no jealous juxtaposition and confrontation of a secular and ecclesiastical world. America was born Protestant, and did not have to become so through revolt and struggle. It was not built on the remains of a Catholic Church, or an Establishment; it had no clericalism or anti-clericalism. In all these respects it differed profoundly from a world shaped by Augustinian principles. It had a traditionless tradition, starting afresh with a set of Protestant assumptions, taken for granted, self-evident, as the basis for a common national creed.
In any case, the idea of a gigantic Geneva was quickly rendered impossible by events. A Calvinist Church-State could not maintain itself without a terrifying apparatus of repression: even Geneva had had to expel people. Some of the problems of the Old World rapidly reproduced themselves in the New. Dissidents like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson emerged, were ejected and took refuge in the future Rhode Island, termed by the orthodox 'the sewer of New England'. Founding Providence, Williams wrote: 'I desired it might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience.' In 1644 he published his defence of religious freedom, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience Discussed, and his new instrument of government declared that 'the form of government established in Providence Planations is DEMOCRATICAL, that is to say, a government held by the free and voluntary consent of all, or the greater part, of the free inhabitants.' To its laws and penalties for transgressions, it added: 'And otherwise than thus, what is herein forbidden, all men may walk as their consciences persuade them, every one in the name of his God. And let the saints of the Most High walk in this colony without molestation, in the name of Jehovah their God, for ever and ever.' This was confirmed by royal charter in 1663: 'No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and who do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all ... may from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments.' This was the first commonwealth in modern history to make religious freedom, as opposed to a mere degree of toleration, the principle of its existence, and to make this a reason for separating Church and State. Its existence, of course, opened the door to the Quakers and the Baptists, and indeed to missionaries from the Congregationalists of the north and the
Anglicans of the south.
In fact, once this decisive breach had been made, it was inevitable that America, with its lay predominance, should move steadily towards religious liberty and the separation of Church and State, and that the vision should cease to be Augustinian and become Erasmian. Economic factors pushed strongly in this direction. The later waves of emigrants had not, for the most part, experienced 'conversion' and 'saving grace'; they tended, increasingly, to be a mere cross-section of Englishmen (and later of Northern Irish and Scottish Presbyterians). A New England synod of 1662 declared that baptism was sufficient for church membership, but not for full communion. This 'halfway Covenant' was the beginning of the end of a pure Church, which went into a period of what was woefully termed 'declension'; calamitous events, such as Indian attacks, were seen as divine punishments. In 1679 it was decided to make 'a full inquiry ... into the cause and state of God's controversy with us'. Thus a 'Reforming Synod' was called and reported: 'That God hath a controversy with his New England people is undeniable, the Lord having written his displeasure in dismal characters against us.' A new covenant and confession of faith were produced, but everything, it seemed, conspired to frustrate the elect. James II's attempt to reintroduce Catholicism, the Glorious Revolution, and the subsequent settlement, imposed toleration, an Anglican element, and a franchise based on property rather than church membership. Church leadership was discredited by the witchcraft mania at Salem in 1692, and weakened by the powerful backlash of public remorse which followed it. And the merchant element of Boston, who loathed the strict interpretation of the scriptures, especially the commercial restrictions derived from the Pentateuch, published a 'manifesto' in 1699 for a new Church 'on broad and catholick' lines, which accorded full status to any who professed Christian belief.
The liberal elements captured Harvard College in 1707, and founded Yale at New Haven nine years later. To the Calvinist elite, these hammer-blows threatened to destroy their theory that they had been appointed a chosen people to do divine work in America. In 1702 Cotton Mather published his Magnolia Christi Americana, documenting 'Christ's great deeds in America' and was forced to conclude: 'Religion brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother. ... There is danger lest the enchantments of this world make them forget their errand into the wilderness.' But by this time the original Calvinist monopoly in New England had gone for good.
The South, too, which had had an Anglican confession but a Puritan ethic and Church-State assumptions, had surrendered to diversity and economics. Tobacco and negro labour, rather than biblical institutionalism, became the determining factors. In 1667 Virginia laid down that 'Baptism doth not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage and freedom.' In 1731 George Berkeley said that American slaveholders held blacks in 'an irrational contempt ... as creatures of another species, who had no right to be instructed or admitted to the sacraments'. Religious belief had to be adjusted to fit social and economic realities, rather than vice versa. As Commissary James Blair reported in 1743: 'From being an instrument of wealth, [slavery] has become a moulding power, leaving it a vexed question which controlled society most, the African slave or his master.'
Yet the collapse of the total Christian society did not lead to a growth of secularism. In America as a whole, religion continued to be the dynamic of society and history. The difference was that Christianity now became a voluntary movement, or series of movements, rather than a compulsory framework. And it was these movements which determined the shape of America's constitutional and social development. The multiplicity of America's religious structure, and the continuance of the millenarian ideal, gave revivalism the opportunity to act as a unifying, national force. Moreover. the establishment of the voluntary principle led to an identification, in the minds of all religious groups, of Christian enthusiasm with political liberty. As John Adams put it in 1765, in his Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:
'Under the execrable race of the Stuarts, the struggle between the people and the confederacy of temporal and spiritual tyranny became formidable, violent and bloody. It was this great struggle that peopled America. It was not religion alone, as was commonly supposed, but it was a love of universal liberty, and a hatred, a dread, a horror of the internal confederacy of ecclesiastical, hierarchical and despotic rulers that projected, conducted and accomplished the settlement of America.'
That being so, revivalism tended to precede political action; and it was the so-called Great Awakening of the 1730s and after which prepared the American Revolution.
The Awakening was a much more complicated phenomenon than Wesley's revival in England, since it combined rumbustious and unsophisticated mass-evangelism with the ideas of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Both shared a distrust of doctrinal ideas, a stress on morality and ethics, an ecumenical spirit. The Awakeners would agree with Wesley: 'I ... refuse to be distinguished from other men by any but the common principles of Christianity. ... Dost thou love and fear God? It is enough! I give thee the right hand of fellowship.' But Jonathan Edwards, who first preached the revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1733, was also in the mainstream of the Erasmian intellectual tradition. He was the pupil, at New Haven, of Samuel Johnson, whose work reflected the liberation from the ancient theological system as it was still taught in the seventeenth century - 'a curious cobweb of distributions and definitions', as he termed it.
Johnson traced his own intellectual birth to the reading of Bacon's Advancement of Learning, which he says left him 'like one at once emerging out of a glimmer of twilight into the full sunshine of open day'. He read and admired Bishop Berkeley's attempt to reconcile idealism, reason and Christian belief, and he defended 'natural' law, holding morality to be 'the same thing as the religion of Nature', not indeed discoverable without revelation but 'founded on the first principles of reason and nature'. Edwards says he himself read Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding with more pleasure 'than the most greedy miser finds when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold from some newly-discovered treasure'. But he brought to Locke's methods of reasoning the warmth and the emotionalism they lacked. This might be termed providential: Locke was writing after a successful revolution, Edwards before one, at a time when unifying and energizing emotions were necessary to create a popular will for change. Much of his writing is capable of a political, as well as a theological interpretation. He sought in his preaching to arouse what he called 'affections', which he defined as 'that which moves a person from neutrality or mere assent and inclines his heart to possess or reject something'.
In his very widely read Treatise Concerning Human Affections (1746) he quoted from the Cambridge
Platonist John Smith a passage which should be read in the light of subsequent political history: 'A true celestial warmth is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of man, it will regulate and order all the motions in a due manner; as the natural head, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. ... It is a new nature, informing the souls of man.' Edwards argued strongly that the deeds of men were caused by God's will. There was thus no essential difference between a religious and a political emotion, both of which were God- directed. Within Edwards's rational theology there was a strident millenarian struggling to get out. In human history, he wrote, 'all the changes are brought to pass ... to prepare the way for that glorious issue of things that shall be when truth and righteousness shall finally prevail.' Men must know the hour when God 'shall take the kingdom' and he looked towards 'the dawn of that glorious day'. In his last work, on original sin (1758), he prophesied: 'And I am persuaded, no solid reason can be given, why God, who constitutes all other created union or oneness, according to his pleasure ... may not establish a constitution whereby the natural posterity of Adam, proceeding from him, much as the buds or branches from the stock or root of a tree, should be treated as one with him.'
It was against this eschatological background that the Great Awakening 'took off, being reanimated whenever it showed signs of flagging by the advent of new and spectacular orators, such as Wesley's friend George Whitefield, the 'Grand Itinerant'. A German immigrant woman who heard Whitefield in New England said that though she understood no English, she had never been so edified in her life. He preached, as he put it, 'with much Flame, Clearness and Power ... Dagon falls daily before the Ark'; and when he left Boston he handed over to a native evangelist, Gilbert Tennent. 'People wallowed in snow, night and day', wrote a jealous Anglican, 'for the benefit of his beastly brayings'. Another 'awakener' who served to 'blow up the divine fire lately kindled' was John Davenport from Yale, at one point arrested and judged mentally disturbed when he called for wigs, cloaks, rings and many works on religion to be burned. It was the beginning of American personal evangelism. Not everyone liked it. Its roots were in the country areas, where it helped to democratize society and arouse opposition to the restrictions of royal government, but it took fire in the towns, where hearers fainted, wept, shrieked and generally gave vent to their 'affections'. Charles Chauncy, who might be termed an Erasmian or an Arminian, and who reflected the eighteenth-century rationalist spirit in his Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (1743), disapproved of these antics; he considered even Edwards a 'visionary enthusiast', and warned: 'There is the Religion of the Understanding and Judgment, and Will, as well as of the Affections; and if little account is made of the former, while great Stress is laid on the latter, it can't be but People should run into Disorders.'
In fact, it was the marriage between the rationalism of people like Chauncy, and the Great Awakening spirit, which enabled the potential 'Disorders' to be channelled into the political aims of the Revolution, which was soon plainly identified as the coming eschatological event. Neither force could have succeeded without the other. Nor is the Revolution conceivable without this religious background. As John Adams was to put it afterwards (1818): The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; and change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.' We must remember that until the 1740s America was a collection of disparate colonies with little contact with each other and often (as with all Latin America) more powerful links with cities and economic interests in Europe than with other colonies. Religious evangelism was the first continental force, an all-American phenomenon which transcended colonial differences, introduced national figures and made state boundaries seem unimportant. Whitefield was the first 'American' public figure to be well-known from New Hampshire to Georgia, and his death in 1770 evoked comment from the entire colonial press. Thus ecumenicalism preceded, and shaped, political unity. And by crossing in many ways the sectarian religious barriers, just as it crossed the colonial-state ones, it helped to bring into being the real ethic of the American Revolution, which might be termed the Protestant consensus, the beliefs and standards and attitudes which the American majority had in common. If it was no longer possible, or necessary, to imagine the American people making a binding covenant with God for their Church-State, the Protestant consensus nevertheless had a definite utilitarian and civic purpose. As John Adams, who had lost his original religious faith, put it in his diary:
'One great advantage of the Christian religion is that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations, love your neighbour as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you - to the knowledge, belief and veneration of the whole people. Children, servants, women and men are all professors in the science of public as well as private morality. ... The duties and rights of the man and the citizen are thus taught from early infancy.'
The diversity of American religion thus seemed no barrier to its social and political unity since it rested on a Christian ethic which was infinitely more important than the dogmatic variations of the sects. Indeed, the key state in the formation of the union, Pennsylvania, was also the most diverse in religions. Philadelphia, its City of Brotherly Love', saw the last great flowering of Puritan political innovation. It was the city of the Quakers, a Presbyterian stronghold, the headquarters of the Baptists, an Anglican centre, and the home of a number of German pietistic groups, and of Moravians, Memmonites and other sects, as well as a place where Catholicism was tolerated and flourished. What mattered were not doctrinal differences but the fact that all were able to live there in harmony, alongside the seat of the American Philosophical Society - and at the centre of America's system of communications and economic traffic. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were thus framed in a highly appropriate and prophetic setting. What is tremendously significant and new about the American Revolution is that its victory for religious freedom and the separation of Church and State was won not so much by left-wing millenarian sects revolting against magisterial churchmen, but by the denominational leaders and statesmen themselves, who saw that pluralism was the only form consonant with the ideals and necessities of the country.
Thus for the first time since the Dark Ages, a society came into existence in which institutional Christianity was associated with progress and freedom, rather than against them. The United States was Erasmian in its tolerance, Erasmian in its anti-doctrinal animus, above all Erasmian in its desire to explore, within a Christian context, the uttermost limits of human possibilities. It was Christianity presented not as a total society, but as an unlimited society. De Tocqueville, in Democracy in America (1835), says the attitude of and towards the churches was the first thing that struck him in the United States: 'In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other: but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.' He concluded: 'Religion ... must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions.' And Americans, he added, held religion 'to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions'.
Some of them saw it as much more than this. In the period 1750-1820. Presbyterianism and Congregationalism, the two formative sects of American Protestantism, ceased to be dominant, and, in numbers at any rate, the Baptists and Wesleyans took over. In New England, as indeed in England itself, many well-educated Presbyterians, under the impact of the Enlightenment, became Unitarians; and it was the New England Unitarians who created the so-called American Renaissance, centered round the North American Review (1815) and the Christian Examiner (1824), papers whose editors included William Emerson, the father of the poet, Edward Everett. George Ticknor, Jared Sparks, Richard Henry Dana, Henry Adams, James Russell Lowell and Edward Everett Hale. Harvard, whose staff included John Quincy Adams, Longfellow, Lowell and Oliver Wendell Holmes, was largely Unitarian. Unitarianism was, to a great extent, the religion of the elite-critics joked that its preaching was limited to 'the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man and the neighbourhood of Boston'. In fact it had its ultimate roots in Arminianism and the third force, and could trace its pedigree not so much to the Founding Fathers as to Erasmus himself, who saw true Christianity in full alliance with the Renaissance. One could even push it back further, for the idea of human rebirth, the 'new man' was the central point of St Paul's moral theology. 'Christianity', wrote William Ellery Channing, '... should come forth from the darkness and corruption of the past in its own celestial splendour and in its divine simplicity. It should be comprehended as having but one purpose, the perfection of human nature, the elevation of men into nobler beings.' The declaration of the American Unitarian Association (1853) spoke of God 'forever sweeping the nations with regenerating gales from heaven, and visiting the hearts of men with celestial solicitations'.
The prime instrument in this progressive process was the American Republic itself. Jonathan Edwards had predicted in 1740: 'It is not unlikely that this work of God's spirit, that is so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least the prelude, of that glorious work of God so often foretold in scripture, which in the progress and issue of it shall renew the world of mankind. ... And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America.' To the Unitarian elite, the work had already, manifestly, begun. The old Calvinist theory of the Elect Nation infused nineteenth-century American patriotism. Thus Longfellow:
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears.
With all its hopes for future years, Is hanging breathless on thy fate.
Within the framework of this early nineteenth-century concept of the chosen people, or what was termed the 'favouring providence', at work by using America as the 'melting pot' - a new nation arising from the debris of the old- American Christianity and the Republic it infused acquired their modern characteristics. America's most typical churches tended to leap back straight from the nineteenth century to the age of the New Testament, and to seek to combine both. The Middle Ages, the age of religious wars, were dismissed as nightmares, and the association of Christianity with force ('compel them to come in') was broken. The assumption of the voluntary principle, the central tenet of American Christianity, was that the personal religious convictions of individuals, freely gathered in churches and acting in voluntary associations, will gradually and necessarily permeate society by persuasion and example. It is not so much the instrumentation of the good doctrine, as the agency of the good man, which will convert and reform the world. Thus the world was seen primarily in moral terms. This became a dominant factor whether America was rejecting the Old World and seeking to quarantine herself from it (a concept used as recently as 1963 during the Cuban Missile Crisis), or whether America was embracing the world, and seeking to reform it. It was characteristic of the American State, first to reject espionage on moral grounds, then to undertake it through the Central Intelligence Agency, a moralistic institution much more like the Society of Jesus than its Soviet equivalent.
In American religion, the reflective aspect of Christianity was subordinated, almost eclipsed. The Catholic-medieval emphasis on the perfection of God - and man's mere contemplation of Him - was replaced by the idea of God as an active and exacting sovereign, and man's energetic service in his employment. Augustinian pessimism was rejected, and Pelagianism embraced. It was not the Christian's duty to accept the world as he found it, but to seek to make it better, using all the means God had placed at his disposal. There was little mysticism, little sacramentalism or awe before the holy. There was no place for tragedy, dismissed as an avoidable accident, and its consequences as remediable. American religion, in its formative period, owed nothing to Pascal. Indeed, for essential purposes, it had no theology at all. Theological matters were points, all agreed, on which the various religions and sects happened to differ. This aspect of religion was important to individuals but not to society and the nation, since what mattered to them was the deep Christian consensus on ethics and morality. So long as Americans agreed on morals, theology could take care of itself. Morals became the heart of religion, whether for Puritans or revivalists, orthodox or liberal, fundamentalist or moralist - the eccentric hot- gospeller at the street-corner shared in this consensus as much as the Episcopalian prelate. Moreover, this was a consensus which even non-Christians, deists and rationalists, could share. Non-Christianity could thus be accommodated within the national framework of American Christendom. It could even (the argument is ironic) accommodate Roman Catholicism. Both American Catholicism and American Judaism became heavily influenced by the moral assumptions of American Protestantism, because both accepted its premise that religion (meaning morality) was essential to democratic institutions.
Now here we come to an important stage in the argument around modern Christianity. The Augustinian total society had come into being in Carolingian times in great part because the Christian clergy operated a monopoly of education, which they only began to lose just before the Reformation. How could the total voluntary society of American Christianity come into being if Church and State were separated, and education were a secular concern? The Founding Fathers saw education and faith as inseparable. Schools were established in Boston as early as 1635, and in 1647 the Massachussetts General Court passed an act requiring towns within its jurisdiction to set up public schools. Harvard itself had been founded eleven years earlier. These institutions were run entirely by religious bodies, were instruments of the Church and were designed to serve religion. The pattern varied, but the principle was the same throughout the early states. Virginia set up the future William and Mary College in these terms (1661): 'Whereas the want of able and faithful ministers deprives us of those great blessings and mercies that always attend upon the service of God, be it enacted that for the advance of learning, education of youth, supply of the ministry, and promotion of piety, there be land taken up or purchased for a college and free school.' This tendency was reinforced during the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.
However, at about the same time, American Christian rationalists were finding a way out of the dilemma. Benjamin Franklin's Proposal Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (1749) put forward a scheme to treat religion as one subject in the curriculum, and relate it to character-training. Similar theories were advanced by Jonathan Edwards when President of Princeton. This was the solution adopted when the modern American public school movement, directed by Horace Mann, came into existence in the nineteenth century. The State took over financial responsibility for the education of the new millions by absorbing all primary and secondary education but not (after the Dartmouth decision of 1819) of higher education, where independent colleges survived side by side with state universities. Thus the true American public school was non-sectarian from the very beginning. But it was not non- religious. Mann thought religious instructions should be taken 'to the extremist verge to which it can be carried without invading those rights of conscience which are established by the laws of God, and guaranteed by the constitution of the state'. What the schools got was not so much non-denominational religion as a kind of generalized Protestantism, based on the Bible. As Mann put it, in his final report: 'That our public schools are not theological seminaries is admitted. ... But our system earnestly inculcates all Christian morals; it founds its morals on the basis of religion; it welcomes the religion of the Bible; it allows it to do what it is allowed to do in no other system, to speak for itself.' Hence, in the American system, the school supplied Christian 'character-building' and the parents, at home, topped up with sectarian trimmings.
Naturally there were objections. The Reverend F. A. Newton, on behalf of some episcopalians, argued that 'a book upon politics, morals or religion, containing no party or sectarian views, will be apt to contain no distinctive views of any kind, and will be likely to leave the mind in a state of doubt and scepticism, much more to be deplored than any party or sectarian bias.' This kind of point could be brushed aside. More serious, however, as America increasingly took on the characteristics of a secular state, which she was, ab initio, by definition, and as she accepted millions of non-Protestants, especially Catholics and Jews, was the association of moral character-building in the schools with specifically Protestant labels. Gradually, and especially in the big cities, religion as such was eased out of the schools. As the Presbyterian Samuel T. Spear wrote (1870): 'The state, being democratic in its constitution, and consequently having no religion to which it does or can give any legal sanction, should not and cannot, except by manifest inconsistency, introduce either religious or irreligious teaching into a system of popular education which it authorizes, enforces and for the support of which it taxes all the people in common.' But something had to supply the cultural machinery by which the immigrant millions were turned into Americans; and, Spears added, the schools had to have some spiritual foundation. Therefore, since the State was not Christian but republican, republicanism should constitute it. The solution was neat, since in effect republicanism was based on the Protestant ethical and moral consensus, which was what the schools already taught the two concepts stood or fell together. So in this way the American way of life began to function as the operative creed of the public schools, and it was gradually accepted as the official philosophy of American state education, which it remains. Horace Mann Kallen, writing in the Saturday Review (July 1951) under the title 'Democracy's True Religion', summarized the theory: 'For the communicants of the democratic faith, it is the religion of and for religion. For being the religion of religions, all may freely come together in it.' The case was pushed a little further by J. Paul Williams in What Americans Believe and How they Worship (1952):
'Americans must come to look upon the democratic ideal ... as the Will of God, or, if they please, of Nature ... Americans must be brought to the conviction that democracy is the very Law of Life ... government agencies must teach the democratic idea as religion. ... Primary responsibility for teaching democracy might be given to the public school. ... The churches deal effectively with but half the population; the government deals with all the population. ... It is a misconception to equate separation of church and state with separation of religion and state.'
It was on the basis of such assumptions, imperfectly carried out though they might be, that the two great non-Protestant religions of America, the Catholic and the Jewish, became to some extent Protestantized, and the political ideals and practices of the United States were aligned with a broad-based form of Christianity. The process was already operating even in the seventeenth century, and it began to come to maturity after 1800. As Conrad Moehlman was to put it in 1944 (in School and Church): 'The religion of the American majority is democracy.' Hence religion and government were tied together rather as, in the Dark Ages, the State was personalized in the pontifical king. anointed at his coronation so that he might possess regal characteristics. The American people were anointed, as children, and filled with the ethics and morality of standardized Protestant Christianity so that, as adults and voters. they might rule wisely. The institutions were different but the assumption that the spiritual and secular worlds were interdependent was exactly the same.
The system could work granted two preconditions. The first was what might be termed a high level of religiosity in the nation. Religious enthusiasm must be continually replenished to make the ethical and moral ideology seem important. This was supplied by the American system of creedal plurality Having abandoned the advantages of unity, the Americans sensibly turned to exploit the advantages of diversity. And these proved to be considerable It was the very competitiveness of rival religions in the United States, acting by analogy to the free enterprise system, which kept the demands of the spiritual life constantly before the people. Whereas unity, it was argued, led to mechanical Christianity, apathy and, eventually, atheism, religious competition produced an atmosphere of permanent revival. And this to some extent was true, especially along the expanding frontier and in the areas of nineteenth-century settlement. The second Great Awakening, starting in the 1790s, continued until the middle decades of the new century. The Wesleyans and Baptists spawned multitudes of cults and sub-cults, and the campmeeting became, for several decades, the characteristic form of American religious experiment.
The atmosphere as one might expect, was Montanist, second-century - the reinterpretation of the central ideas of Christianity by a multitude of exalted individuals, 'speaking with tongues'. A Maryland Presbyterian, Barton Stone, who held a great meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801, described the actions of the 'saved', which he strongly approved, in great detail. Thus, there was the 'falling exercise' - 'the subject of this exercise would, generally, with a piercing scream, fall like a log on the floor, earth or mud, and appear as dead. ...' Then there were the jerks: 'When the head alone was affected, it would be jerked backward and forward, or from side to side, so quickly that the features of the face could not be distinguished. When the whole system was affected, I have seen the person stand
in one place, and jerk backwards and forwards in quick succession, their head nearly touching the floor behind and before.' The barking exercise: 'A person affected with the jerks, especially in his head, would often make a grunt or bark, if you please, from the suddenness of the jerk.' The 'dancing exercise' was 'indeed heavenly to the spectators . .. the smile of heaven shone in the countenance of the subject.' The 'laughing exercise' was 'loud, hearty laughter ... it excited laughter in none else. The subject appeared rapturously solemn, and his laughter excited solemnity in saints and sinners. It is truly indescribable.' There was also a running exercise, the subject motivated, apparently, by fear, and a singing exercise, 'not from the mouth or nose but entirely in the breast, the sounds issuing from thence -such music silenced every thing.'
Such descriptions conjure up, not only the realities of many medieval (and, indeed, sixteenth-century sects), but forms of religious enthusiasm visible in Tertullian's day - run by the same kinds of prophets, attracting the same categories of people, criticized by the same kinds of purists and for similar reasons. But of course in America they were allowed to manifest themselves, for the first time in history, virtually without supervision by the State or by a State Church. Most of the cults sprang from Methodist or Baptist trees; and they were a spontaneous rediscovery of ancient forms of Christian enthusiasm. But some could trace a long history. Thus a French medieval sect of Shakers, which became Huguenot in the sixteenth century, and was expelled by Louis xiv after 1688, settled in England, where they re-christened themselves the 'Shaking Quakers', and were brought to the United States in the eighteenth century by the visionary daughter of a Manchester blacksmith, Anne Lee Stanley. They profited from the second Great Awakening to establish a number of Utopian centres, distinguished by separation of the sexes and community spiritualist séances, and they continued to shake, in the form of a wild group dance derived from Huguenot camisards.
Hundreds of such communities were founded in the nineteenth century. As Emerson wrote to Carlyle in 1840: 'We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a new community in his waistcoat pocket.' One of the more rational ones was Brook Farm, in West Roxbury, founded by a Unitarian minister from Boston, George Ripley. It included Nathaniel Hawthorne on its agriculture committee, produced books, pottery and furniture and ended in bankruptcy. Carlyle wrote its epitaph by describing Ripley as 'a Socinian minister who left the pulpit to reform the world by growing onions'. Many central and east European sects successfully established themselves, and still flourish today. Others proved unstable: the German pietist group, under George Rapp, which settled at Harmony, Pennsylvania in 1804, practised auricular confession, opposed procreation and marriage, and contrived to dogmatize itself out of existence. And the Oneida Community of western New York State, which combined socialism with free love or 'complex marriage' - procreation as distinguished from other sexual 'transactions' was decided communally, and the children brought up in a kibbutz - flourished by making steel-traps, lost its faith and eventually became a prosperous Canadian corporation, thus justifying Wesley's worst fears.
As in the first and second centuries, some groups of enthusiasts ceased to belong to the prophetic or Montanist type and moved into forms of Gnosticism, that is, claimed to have discovered secret codes, texts or systems of knowledge which provided keys to salvation. As such, they tended to part company with Christianity since they replaced Revelation with arcane documents of their own. In about 1827, for
instance, Joseph Smith Junior was given by the Angel Moroni a new Bible in the form of golden plates inscribed in 'reformed Egyptian' hieroglyphics, with a set of seer-stones, called Urim and Thummim, with which to read them. The Book of Mormon, as Smith translated it, was put on sale in 1830, after which the angel removed the original plates. Its 500-page text describes the religious history of America's pre-Columban people, who originally crossed from the Tower of Babel in barges, surviving only in the form of Mormon and his son, Moroni, who buried the golden plates in AD 384. The text clearly derived from the King James Bible, but it fitted into some of the social realities of the frontier, and its early rejection, harassment by authority, and difficulties created by 'wicked men', followed by great success, soon gave the movement a genuine tribal history. Smith was providentially murdered by a mob in Illinois in 1844, after which Brigham Young was able to take the sect on a great exodus to Salt Lake City in 1847. Even at this stage Mormonism had crossed the farthest frontiers of Christianity, but it did so in a more obvious sense when Young introduced polygamy. Under the controlling provision of the First Amendment, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...', sects did not become illegal if they offended Christian dogma. But Christian morals and social customs were a different matter, and Mormonism was in continuous battle with the state until polygamy was renounced in 1890. Gnosticism was thus perfectly acceptable within the American total, and voluntary, Christian society, but only provided it genuflected to Protestant morality.
It was subject to this qualification that Catholicism was tolerated. It was not so much forced to change itself as to develop a highly defensive posture, which to some extent came to the same thing. Although American Christianity escaped religious warfare, the witchcraft frenzy showed that it was not immune to fanatical infection, and at times the development of Protestant horror-literature aimed at Catholics came close to bringing about a breakdown in the consensus. Of course, to many Protestants, a number of Catholic institutions infringed the moral consensus in spirit, even if they did not actually defy it legally, as the Mormon polygamists did. One example was convents, the objects of a campaign by the Protestant Vindicator, founded in 1834. The next year saw the publication in Boston of Six Months in a Convent, and, in 1836, Maria Monk's Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery in Montreal, written by a group of New York anti-Catholics. This was followed by Further Disclosures and The Escape of Sister Frances Patrick, Another Nun from the Hotel Dieu Nunnery in Montreal. Maria Monk herself was arrested for picking pockets in a brothel and died in prison in 1849; but her book had sold 300,000 copies by 1860 and was termed 'the Uncle Tom's Cabin of Know nothingness'. (It was reprinted as recently as 1960.) An Ursuline convent was burned down by a Boston mob in 1834 and those responsible were acquitted - Protestant juries believed Catholic convents had subterranean dungeons for the murder and burial of illegitimate children.
There were also widespread fears of a Catholic political and military conspiracy - fears which had existed, in one form or another, since the 1630s, when they were associated with Charles I. In the 1830s, Lyman Beecher's Plea for the West revealed a plot to take over the Mississippi Valley, the Emperor of Austria being in league with the Pope. Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, made the conspiracy more plausible by suggesting that the reactionary kings and emperors of Europe were deliberately promoting Catholic emigration to America as a preliminary to a take-over. (Morse was not particularly Protestant, but, during a visit to Rome, he had been outraged by a papal soldier who had knocked off his hat when Morse failed to doff it to a religious procession.) In fact, during the 1850s, America's population rose from 23,191,000 to 31,443,000, or almost fifty per cent, more than a third of the increase being due to immigration. This brought the Catholic issue into politics with the emergence of the secretive ultra-Protestant American Party, whose 'I don't know' answer to a key question led to their popular title, the 'Know Nothings'. The party became a national force before being merged into the Republican Party in 1854; and it was a matter of note that, whereas the Republican Party became identified with the anti-slavery campaign, the Roman Catholic hierarchy remained non-committal on the issue, and took virtually no part in the crusade.
This brings us to the second precondition needed to make the American politico-religious system work. As we have seen, there was no difficulty about the level of religiosity. But the second precondition was a level of agreement on certain basic moral and ethical notions as interpreted in public institutions. It was here that the system broke down, for American Christianity could not agree about slavery. One sees why St Paul was chary of tackling the subject head-on: once slavery is established, religious injunctions tend to fit its needs, not vice versa. In the United States, the dilemma had been there right from the start, since 1619 marked the beginning both of representative government and of slavery. But it had slowly become more acute, since the identification of American moral Christianity - its undefined national religion - with democracy made slavery come to seem both an offence against God and an offence against the nation. Political and religious arguments reinforced each other.
On the other hand, weren't the Southern slave-owners Christians too? Indeed they were. There had been a strong anti-slavery movement among the churches, particularly the Baptists and Quakers, in the 1770s; it had petered out because the churches came to terms with Southern practice. But this did not, indeed, could not, remove religion from the slavery question. The doctrinal position might be arguable, but the moral position - which was what mattered - became increasingly clear to the majority of American Christians. The Civil War can be described as the most characteristic religious episode in the whole of American history since its roots and causes were not economic or political but religious and moral. It was a case of a moral principle tested to destruction - not, indeed, of the principle, but of those who opposed it. But in the process Christianity itself was placed under almost intolerable strain.
The movement which finally destroyed American slavery was religious in a number of different senses. It reflected a degree of extremism in the northern Christian sects. William Lloyd Garrison, a Baptist converted to activism by Quakers, who founded the Boston Public Liberator and Journal of the Times, wrote in its first issue: 'I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. ...' Extremists on this issue had many links with revivalism. which gave it a nationwide platform and constituency. Then, too, the cause was watered with the blood of martyrs, especially by Elijah Lovejoy. murdered in Illinois in 1837 while defending his printing-press. (The printing-press had had a special symbolic significance in the minds of Anglo-Saxon Protestants since the sixteenth century, being equated with liberty and antipapal propaganda.) Finally, there was the theology of abolition which, as one would expect, was primarily a moral theology. In 1845 Edward Beecher published a series of articles on what he termed the nation's 'organic sin' of slavery, which invested the abolitionist cause with a whole series of evangelical insights, mostly ethical. Theology, but again of a moral nature, was the background to Uncle Tom's Cabin which appeared seven
years later, Harriet Beecher Stowe being the wife of a Congregationalist Old Testament professor, and a lay-theologian herself.
The defence of the South was sociological rather than doctrinal. Nevertheless there was little internal opposition to slavery among white Southern Christians, and a notable closing of Christian ranks after the black preacher Nat Turner led the Virginia slave revolt of 1831, in which fifty-seven whites were killed. Revivalism, which in the North was used to strengthen the mass following of abolition, was put to exactly the opposite use in the South, where it was, if anything, more powerful. The South Carolina Baptist Association produced a biblical defence of slavery in 1822, and in 1844 John England, Bishop of Charleston, provided a similar one for Southern white Catholics. There were standard biblical texts on negro inferiority, patriarchal and Mosaic acceptance of servitude, and of course St Paul on obedience to masters. Both sides could, and did, hurl texts at each other. In fact revivalism, and the evangelical movement generally, played into the hands of extremists on both sides. Of course, it could be argued that the slavery issue could just as easily have split the Christian movement in the first century AD, if it had not been side-stepped by Paul; his evasions - so the argument might continue - made it possible for the issue still to be unresolved in the nineteenth century. But the answer to this was that the bulk of Christian opinion and teaching had been anti-slavery for more than a millenium, that Christianity was the one great religion which had always declared the diminution, if not the final elimination, of slavery to be meritorious; and that no real case for slavery could be constructed, in good faith, from Christian scripture. The fact that Southerners from a variety of Christian churches were prepared to do so, in the second half of the nineteenth century, was a shocking and flagrant stain on the faith.
What followed when war came was even worse. The Presbyterians from North and South tried to hold together by suppressing all discussion of the issue, but split in the end. So did the Wesleyans. (In 1843, 1200 Methodist clergy owned slaves, and 25,000 church members collectively owned over 200,000.) So did the Baptists. The Congregationalists, because of their atomized structure, remained theoretically united, but in fact were divided in exactly the same way as the others. Only the Lutherans, the Episcopalians and the Catholics successfully avoided public debates and voting, but the evidence suggests that they, too, were diametrically opposed on a salient matter of Christian principle. The parallel was not exactly with the wars of religion, but rather with the papal schisms and the papal- imperial contests of the Middle Ages, with both sides operating from precisely the same assumptions and using the same agreed texts, but reaching diametrically opposed and dogmatically asserted verdicts.
Having split, the churches promptly went to battle on opposing sides, exactly like feudal bishops. Leonidas Polk, Bishop of Louisiana, immediately entered the Confederate army as a major-general: 'It is for constitutional liberty, which seems to us to have fled for refuge, for our hearthstones and our altars that we strike.' Thomas March, Bishop of Rhode Island, told the militia on the other side: 'It is a holy and righteous cause in which you enlist ... God is with us ... the Lord of Hosts is on our side.' The Southern Presbyterian Church resolved, 1864: 'We hesitate not to affirm that it is the peculiar mission of the Southern Church to conserve the institution of slavery, and to make it a blessing both to master and slave.' (It also justified its separation from the Northern Church on the grounds that otherwise 'politics would be obtruded on our church courts'.) The dogma that slavery was inherently sinful was 'unscriptural and fanatical. . . one of the most pernicious heresies of modern times'.
To judge by the many hundreds of sermons and specially-composed church prayers which have survived, ministers were among the most fanatical on both sides. The churches played a major role in the dividing of the nation, and it is probably true that it was the splits in the churches which made a final split of the nation inevitable. In the North, such a charge was often willingly accepted. The Northern Methodist Granville Moddy said in 1861: 'We are charged with having brought about the present contest. I believe it is true we did bring it about, and I glory in it, for it is a wreath of glory around our brow.' Southern clergymen did not make the same boast, but it is true thai of all the various elements in the South they did the most to make a secessionist state of mind possible. Both sides claimed vast numbers of ' conversions' among their troops, and a tremendous increase in church-going and prayerfulness as a result of the war; and Southern clergymen were mainly responsible for prolonging the futile struggles. Thus Christianity on both sides contributed to the million casualties and 600,000 dead.
The clerical interpretations of the war's lessons were equally dogmatic and contradictory. Robert Lewis Dabney, the Southern Presbyterian theologian. blamed the 'calculated malice' of the Northern Presbyterians, and he called on God for a 'retributive providence' which would demolish the North. Henry War Beecher said the Southern leaders 'shall be whirled aloft and plunged downward for ever and ever in an endless retribution'. The New Haven theologian Theodore Thornton Munger declared that the Confederacy had been 'in league with Hell'; the South was now suffering 'for its sins' as a matter of 'divine logic', the North being the 'sacrificing instrument'. He worked out that General McClellan's much- blamed vacillations were an example of God's hidden cunning, since they made a quick Northern victory impossible and so ensured that the South would be much more heavily punished in the end. But this sort of thing was mere theologian's Billingsgate, the sort of abuse with which St Jerome cheered himself up in his Jerusalem monastery. More intelligent people tended to see the war as a national purging process, or, more optimistically, as a preparation, through self-redemption, for America's coming role in advancing world freedom. In his Second Inaugural, the Baptist Abraham Lincoln tried to rationalize God's purpose. America was 'the almost-chosen people'; the war was part of God's scheme, a great testing of the nation by an ordeal of blood, showing the way to charity and thus to rebirth. Less sophisticated Christians did not want to rationalize, but to indulge their feelings. Some Northern churchmen clamoured to destroy the dissident Southern branches. The Independent, an influential church paper, wrote in 1865: 'The apostate church is buried beneath a flow of divine wrath; its hideous dogmas shine on its brow like flaming fiends; the whole world stands aghast at its wickedness and ruin. The Northern church beholds its mission.'
In fact, nothing happened. As in the Middle Ages, once peace had broken out, the rival prelates came together again, provided they were white. Southern Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans continued to proclaim their loyalty to the lost cause, but otherwise resumed standard Christian attitudes. The liberated slaves formed their own churches, chiefly Baptist and Methodist. These flourished, encompassing more than a third of the black population by 1900. The fact that white Baptist and Methodist ministers had recently preached slavery (and still defended it, sot to voce) seems to have made no difference to black Baptists and Methodists, so long as they could run their own churches. Nor, in a wider sense, does any sect appear to have suffered from the fact that its clergy and members were on both sides or that, institutionally, it evaded the issue. What was necessarily damaged, or at any rate challenged, was the identity between the political aims of the nation and its religious beliefs. For the first time America began to miss the Pascalian element in its Christian philosophy, and to feel the lack of theodicy.
Yet the majority of American Christians came to look on the Civil War not as a Christian defeat, in which the powerlessness or contradictions of the faith had been exposed, but as an American-Christian victory, in which Christian egalitarian teaching had been triumphantly vindicated against renegades and apostates. It fitted neatly into a world vision of the Anglo-Saxon races raising up the benighted and ignorant dark millions, and bringing them, thanks to a 'favouring providence' into the lighted circle of Christian truth; thus the Universalist mission of Christ would be triumphantly completed. For, by the 1860s, the United States, along with Britain, was in the forefront of a huge missionary effort whose aim was no less than the evangelization of the globe.
It must be said that it took the Protestant powers, and Protestantism generally, a very long time to get themselves into this posture. Until the early nineteenth century, Protestantism cannot be called a missionary faith. It is true that some efforts were made. As early as 1622, the Dutch set up a seminary in Leyden to train missionaries for work in the East Indies and Ceylon. But the chief object, linked to economic and political penetration, was to combat Spanish and Portuguese efforts to Catholicize the islands, and when Catholic power declined, Dutch efforts slackened too; in the eighteenth century the Dutch claimed many converts, but less than one in ten of them were admitted to communion, and in 1776 only twenty-two ministers (five of whom spoke a native language) looked after the entire East Indies.
The English were even less energetic in the East. In the whole of the seventeenth century, there is only one recorded case of an Anglican baptism in India, though the English had been active there from 1600 - and this was a Bengali boy brought back to London in 1616, for whom James I chose the name Peter Pope. In fact the Anglicans did not have a service for adult baptism until 1662. The Puritans did, and in 1648 a Calvinist House of Commons had recorded: 'The Commons of England assembled in parliament, having received intelligence that the heathens of New England are beginning to call upon the name of the Lord, feel bound to assist in this work.' The Presbyterian John Elliot, following the practice of Catholic friars, learned the Iroquois language and founded 'praying towns'; by 1671 he had gathered 3,600 Christian natives into fourteen settlements. But these, and similar, efforts were ruined by the Indian wars and the Anglo-French struggles, and today none of the surviving Indians can even read Elliot's 'Moheecan' Bible. The Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, founded in 1701, claimed that its activity 'doth chiefly and principally relate to the conversion of heathens and infidels', but in fact most of its missionaries worked among the English settler communities, both in New England and in the West Indies. Indeed, Protestant settlement, and Protestant missions, in the true sense, were mutually exclusive, or at least incompatible, for where Europeans found it climatically and economically possible to settle in large numbers, the natives were expelled or exterminated. (This happened in Catholic areas too: for example, the French settlements in Canada, and the Spanish in Argentina.)
The first sophisticated Protestant missionary work was a product of late seventeenth-century German
pietism. In 1706, the Lutheran Frederick iv of Denmark started a carefully organized but small-scale mission in the little Danish settlement of Tranquebar on the Coromandel Coast of south-east India. He employed two German pastors, Bartholomew Ziegenbald and Henry Plutschau, who based their work methodically on a number of assumptions which became standard. The mission church must be associated with a mission school (and later a hospital or clinic). The gospels (and preferably the whole of the Bible) must be translated. Missionaries must possess an accurate knowledge of the native mentality and language Conversions must be made of individuals not of groups. And native missionaries and ministers must be trained as rapidly as possible. The last two of these principles raised controversy of a type which had already puzzled the Jesuits. The earliest Christians had made individual conversions, partly because they had no state power behind them. In the Dark Ages, missionaries had worked through kings and tribal leaders; the Germans and Slavs had become Christians in entire social units, sometimes indeed at the point of the sword. Both methods had worked. In India, it could be argued that only personal conversion enabled the adult neophyte to understand the true meaning of the Christian message and the privileges and responsibilities he was receiving. On the other hand, he thereby became detached from his social group - hence the practice of transplanting converts and bringing them together in new settlements, a method used, with variations, by Catholics and Protestants alike, all over the world. Others argued that it was much better to work on a whole community, and bring them over together when the moment was ripe, without damaging the social structure. Christianity then became fully integrated with the native way of life. But against this it was urged that the whole object of Christianity was to change the way of life. As a new religion, or cult, it necessarily involved the adoption of new cultural and social norms. This was the meaning of Paul's expression, becoming 'a new man'. Polygamy was a case in point. Enforcing Christian monogamy meant a huge and unwelcome change in the social structure. But this was unavoidable unless it was seriously proposed that Christianity should accept polygamy. If polygamy, why not cannibalism?
The argument remained unresolved throughout the period - that is up to the end of the nineteenth century - when collective conversions were a possibility, at least in some areas. It was the same with the debate over a native clergy. As in the Catholic missions, the Protestants became divided, and usually in the same way. The home and secular authorities, and the hierarchies, were less anxious to train and promote natives than the men on the spot. Native clergy were regarded as incompatible with colonial rule; or with doctrinal orthodoxy. Some of the actual missionaries were much more ready to try experiments. One of the earliest Baptists in India, William Carey, wrote in 1805 that his chief object was 'the forming of our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius, and cherishing every gift and grace in them; in this respect we can scarcely be too lavish in our attention to their improvement. It is only by means of native preachers we can hope for the universal spread of the Gospel through this immense Continent.' Again, one of the Protestant pioneers in East Africa, Lewis Krapf, from the Basel Seminary, who worked for the Christian Missionary Society in the 1830s, thought the training of black clergy would bring about a qualitative change. 'When the colour of a man's skin no longer excludes him from the office of an evangelist, the traffic in slaves will have had its knell. A black bishop and a black clergy of the Protestant church may ere long become a necessity to the civilization of Africa.' But then he was against colonialism too: 'Banish the thought that Europe must spread her protecting wings over East Africa, if missionary work is to prosper in that land of outer darkness. Europe would, no doubt, remove much that is mischievous and obstructive out of the way of missionary work, but she would probably set in its way as many, and perhaps still greater checks.' Examples of similar views could be produced from all the missionary territories.
The missions themselves were divided. Those, like Carey and Krapf, who identified themselves with the natives and gave high priority to creating an independent clergy and Church, included most of the ablest and most sensitive of the missionaries, but constituted only a minority of the workers in the field. Most of those who lived among the natives, both in India and Africa, were more struck by their ignorance than by their potentialities. Whereas the Acts of the Apostles, for example, while drawing attention to gentile wickedness, never refers to cultural and economic inferiority of a kind to make the reception of Christianity difficult or the emergence of fully-fledged Christians impossible, the European evangelists tended to feel themselves confronted with a different, and inferior, kind of being. The New Testament seemed to give them no guidance on this point. Charles Grant, who cannot fairly be accused of prejudice against non-European races, who was one of the prime organizers of the anti-slavery campaign, and who strongly urged the case for missions, formed a very pessimistic view during the many years he spent in India. Writing in 1797, just eight years before Carey, he admitted: '... we cannot avoid recognizing in the people of Indostan a race of man lamentably degenerate and base; retaining but a feeble sense of moral obligation; yet obstinate in their disregard of what they know to be right. governed by malevolent and licentious passions, strongly exemplifying the effects produced on society by a great and general corruption of manners, and sunk in misery by their vices.' Here, one feels, there is an almost total confusion between economic, cultural and moral 'inferiority'. This was very common. The missionaries were not anthropologists or sociologists; they found it exceedingly difficult to think in terms of relative scales of moral values. They did not see European-Christian notions of right and wrong as the indices of a particular culture and society but as absolutes, springing from divine revelation. A man's conscience was a kind of direct line to the Deity. Everyone had such a thing. The Baptist George Grenfell wrote of the Congo: The chief characteristics of the Bolobo people appear to be drunkenness, immorality and cruelty, out of each of which vice spring actions almost too fearful to describe. In hearing of these, anyone living out here almost gets to feel like calling the people terrible brutes and wretches, rather than poor miserable heathen. The light of their consciences must condemn them in most of their sins.' Another missionary, Holman Bentley, commented on can nibalism : 'To this awful depth have these children of the Heavenly Father fallen, until they have indeed become children of the devil. ... This is how they live up to their light! Again we say, if the light that is in them be darkness, how great is that darkness!'
It was hard indeed for missionaries with such feelings, and they formed by far the majority, to visualize the emergence of a predominantly native clergy, or indeed to visualize natives as fully-fledged Christians at all. They were seen to approximate to Christianity in so far as they successfully imitated European modes of behaviour. Thus missionaries found themselves exporting not so much Christianity as European or western culture - including, of course, its moral culture. The idea of Christianity as a series of matrices, capable of being applied to all societies, and indeed to all individuals, tended to be smothered in the cultural packaging. When it came to selecting native converts for training as clergy - and very few missionaries objected to the idea in principle - the most Europeanized tended to be chosen. Naturally, the influence they had among the unconverted diminished pari passu with their departure from native norms; they were, not unjustly, regarded as poor imitations of European missionaries. Thus
experiments in training native clergy were liable to be classified as failures, or as not justifying the amount of trouble and debate they involved.
These points are worth a digression because it is important to realize that the methods adopted by the early German missionaries in India, though they became standard, always remained subjects of debate. Missionaries differed greatly and sometimes violently among themselves on virtually every issue. There was no such thing as a missionary 'attitude', and it is hazardous indeed to generalize about missionary history. All one can do is to try to indicate certain salient features. Of course, missionary effort tended to reflect the level of religious commitment and enthusiasm in the Christian West. The Catholic missions undoubtedly decayed after the Treaty of Westphalia and the end of religious warfare. During the eighteenth century they virtually ceased in most areas, especially after the dissolution of the Jesuits led to the enforced withdrawal of over 3,000 of the best field-workers, and by far the most efficient international organization. In the eighteenth century, then, the Protestants were left with virtually a clear field. They were slow to take advantage of their opportunities. In Protestant countries too, the flame of faith burned low. Not only were German freelances the first in India; for a long time they were the only ones. The British upper classes and the Anglican Church were very slow to endorse missionary work. The East India Company did not want missionaries at all, and approved of clergymen only to minister to the European community. The most famous of the south Indian missionaries, Christian Friedrich Schwartz, who served there for forty-eight years ending in 1798, was not only a German but was not even validly ordained by Anglican standards. One British officer wrote of him: 'The knowledge and integrity of this irreproachable missionary have retrieved the character of Europeans from imputations of general depravity'. But this was the view of an enthusiast. The British establishment did not want such people. The first Anglican bishop sent out to India, Thomas Fanshawe Middleton, consecrated Bishop of Calcutta in 1814, did not know what to do with his largely German missionaries: 'I must either license them or silence them.'
Indeed, the first positive missionary efforts by the British had nothing to do with government, officialdom, the ruling class or the Anglican Church. They were essentially lower middle-class, dissenting ventures. The first modern missionary society, 1792, was Baptist, and was followed by the largely Congregationalist London Missionary Society in 1795. These people actually got missionaries working in the field. Carey, for instance, was a Northampton shoemaker, the son of a weaver; his companion in India, William Ward, was a printer. Such men were not necessarily ill-educated. Carey, who was self-taught, spoke Latin, Hebrew, Greek and Dutch, and he produced a Sanskrit grammar of 1,000 pages; his 1792 pamphlet, An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, was the most influential of all tracts in getting a large-scale missionary movement going. Again, his printer friend Ward wrote a book on Manners and Customs of the Hindus; and together they created Serempore College for the Instruction of Asiatic, Christian and Other Youth, in Eastern Literature and European Science. But, as a rule, they were impelled more by simple Bible- reading enthusiasm than by any knowledge of the peoples and territories involved. The first mission to the Pacific, sent out by the Congregationalists in the ship Duff to Tahiti in 1796, consisted of four ministers, six carpenters, two shoemakers, two bricklayers, two weavers, two tailors, a shopkeeper, a harness-maker, a servant, a gardener, a surgeon, a blacksmith, a cooper, a butcher, a cotton- manufacturer, a hatter, a draper and a cabinet-maker. This class and occupational composition was characteristic. Very few of the early missionaries had educational qualifications. The effort was earnest but it was unsophisticated and often wildly off target. What Protestantism lacked was an elite organization like the Jesuits, which could develop a thorough under-standing of the cultural and social structure of the mission-territory, appeal to its intellectual leaders, and argue from its own assumptions rather than from European ones.
From the 1780s, a section of the British upper classes became interested in the global responsibilities of British Christianity, but they concentrated almost exclusively, at first, on the slave trade; in other words, their focus was on English vice rather than the spiritual demands of the black heathen. In a way this was natural. Slave-trading had become a huge English industry by the 1780s. In four centuries, the European slave trade carried over ten million slaves from Africa, over sixty per cent of them between 1721 and 1820. Some of them went east. Thus the East India Company had a few slaves, but left the business in 1762. By then the trade had become largely transatlantic, shipping an average of 60,000 a year, with Portuguese America the chief market, followed by the West Indies and the United States. The trade was shared out between the French, British and Portuguese, with Britain taking half. After 1792, the French dropped out, and the British took up the slack, making 1798, for instance, a record year, with 160 British slaving ships operating, mostly from Liverpool. Slaving was one of the largest, and certainly the most profitable, sectors of the British economy. In England, 18,000 people were employed simply on making goods to pay for slaves in Africa; this trade alone formed 4-4 per cent of British exports in the 1790s. The trade had been traditionally tolerated by Anglican divines. It was defended even by some missionaries. One of the founders of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, Thomas Thompson, who had worked among negroes in New Jersey, and then spent four years in Guinea, 'to make a trial with the Natives', wrote The African Trade for Negro Slaves shown to be Consistent with the Principles of Humanity and the Laws of Revealed Religion, setting out the kind of case made by southern state Christians in the 1840s and 1850s. In fact the SPG itself actually owned slaves in Barbados.
Of all the Christian sects, the Quakers were the first to adopt the view that slavery was intrinsically wrong in all circumstances. Indeed in 1780 they forced the Pennsylvania legislature to make slavery illegal in the state. It had already been declared illegal in England in 1772, when Lord Mansfield ruled against it not on religious but on Common Law grounds. Thereafter the change of Christian opinion in England was steadily brought about, as all the Christian groups were forced to declare themselves. The movement coincided with the first full-blossoming of upper-class evangelicalism, and William Wilberforce became its leader and made ending the slave-trade the principal object of its enthusiasm. Without this conjunction, slavery would undoubtedly have persisted for much longer. As it was, Britain made the trade illegal in 1807, and in 1824 it was legally ranked with piracy, and punishable by death; nine years later slavery was outlawed in all British territories. The preoccupation with slavery and the slave-trade explains why British upper-class Christians were slow to engage in the missionary venture. But of course the two were closely related, above all in Africa. So long as slaving continued, it was very difficult in practice for missionaries to get into the African interior. But once it was illegal, and the British Navy, consuls, and other agents and agencies instructed to enforce the law, the missionaries found themselves propelled powerfully forward on a ubiquitous secular force. For the first time, in effect, the British empire was giving practical, even if indirect, support to missionary endeavour.
This big change coincided with the development of missionary societies not only as a huge middle-class movement but as a global Protestant phenomenon. The Anglican Church Missionary Society was formed in 1799, the British and Foreign Bible Society (Anglican and Free Church) in 1804, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (mainly Congregational) in 1810, the American Baptist Missionary Board in 1814, the Berlin Society in 1824, the Basle Mission in 1815, and mission-boards in Denmark (1821), France (1822), Sweden (1835), and Norway (1842). These societies were the first evangelical wave, to be followed by a second, much bigger one, which in the 1850s came from across the Atlantic. The United States began to take the lead in missionary enthusiasm, especially in the Far East. For the first time, women were dispatched as missionaries, eventually coming to outnumber the men; and for the first time, too, missions began regularly to operate medical as well as educational services, and so to become associated with the developing secular idea that the white man held colonies in a form of trusteeship.
Inevitably, then, large-scale missionary effort became involved with colonialism and commerce. In Asian and African eyes it was inextricably involved. As the century progressed, Indian intellectuals, for instance, came to see Christianity as nothing more than an epiphenomenon of western political and commercial expansion. Westerners put it a different way. Grant, in his Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain (1797) observed:
'Those distant territories ... were given to us not merely that we might draw an annual profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants ... the light and benign influence of the truth, the blessing of well-regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active industry. ... In every progressive step of this work, we shall also serve the original design with which we visited India, that design so important to this country -the extension of our commerce.'
The point was made more crudely by Holman Bentley: 'So, with the opening up of Africa, Manchester may take heart; not only are there thousands more to wear its cloth, but thousands more to be buried in it.' Yet here again, the western mind was not unanimous, or even quite sure of itself. Officially, the British empire, for instance, was not a proselytizing organization. The proclamation which replaced the East India Company by direct British rule began: 'Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solaces of religion, We disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose Our convictions on any of Our subjects. ...' This prolegomena was only agreed after much argument. Again, the 1854 provision of state aid to Indian schools, from which missionary establishments chiefly benefited, was defended by Sir Charles Wood, first Viscount Halifax, with notable ambivalence, on the grounds that 'it will strengthen our empire. But. .. even if the result should be the loss of that empire, it seems to me that this country will occupy a far better and prouder position in the history of the world, if by our agency a civilized and Christian empire should be established in India, than if we continued to rule over a people debased by ignorance and degraded by superstition.'
Sometimes it is extremely hard for the historian, trying to peer into a nineteenth-century mind, to decide exactly how important the Christian impulse was among so many others. Was David Livingstone, for instance, primarily a Christian evangelist, an imperialist - or an egoist? It is possible to make out a case for all three. (His father-in-law, Robert Moffat, was also a puzzling figure: in 1857 he finished the vast work of translating the Bible into Tswana, but he seems to have had no interest in the African background, believing quite wrongly, for instance, that the Bechuna had no word for God.) Livingstone's initial motive was almost wholly spiritual: 'Can the love of Christ not carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the trader?' His life can be quite plausibly interpreted as a sacrifice. Yet after fame came to him, he left the London Missionary Society for a consulship in East Africa, the government backing his venture with £5,000. He told the University of Cambridge in 1857: 'I beg to direct your attention to Africa. I know that in a few years I shall be cut off in that country, which is now open. Do not let it be shut again! I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity. Do you carry on the work which I have begun. I leave it with you' - the speech ending in a shout. Again, the next year, he wrote to Professor Sedgwick:
That you may have a clear idea of my objects, I may state that they have more in them than meets the eye. They are not merely exploratory, for I go with the intention of benefiting both the African and my own countrymen. I take a practical mining geologist to tell us of the mineral resources of the country, an economic botanist to give a full report of the vegetable productions, an artist to give the scenery, a naval officer to tell of the capacity of river communications, and a moral agent to lay a Christian foundation for anything that may follow. All this machinery had for its ostensible object the development of African trade and the promotion of civilization; but what I can tell to none but such as you, in whom I have confidence, is that I hope it may result in an English colony in the healthy high lands of Central Africa! ... I have told it only to the Duke of Argyll.'
In some cases, the missionaries regarded colonialism (and commerce) with open hostility. New Zealand, which the missionaries first penetrated in 1814, was a battleground between the Church, which wanted to create an independent, self-sustaining Maori Christian state - rather like the Jesuits in Japan - and the colonizing interests, which recognized the country as an ideal area for European settlement. Darwin, who was there in 1835, warmly praised the missionaries' work: ' ... all this is very surprising when it is considered that five years ago nothing but the fern flourished here. ... The lesson of the missionary is the enchanter's wand.' Five years later, the declaration of British sovereignty marked the victory of the settlers and colonists, and was the prelude to Maori wars. Yet the defeat of mission policy, and the Maori-European conflict does not seem to have sullied the Christian image: by 1854 it was reported that ninety-nine per cent of the Maoris were Christian. In the Far East, by contrast, the missionaries undoubtedly supported the use offered by the great western powers to open up opportunities. In 1839-42, the consequence of the first Opium War was the cession of Hong Kong to Britain, and the transfer to the great powers of five treaty ports. Missionaries took the view that the deplorable war had been in some way manipulated by divine providence to make China accessible to the gospel. Missionary societies from the main sects sent teams to all six places. The Perry ultimatum to Japan in 1853 was followed, five years later, by the arrival of the first Christian mission since the destruction of Japanese Christianity in the seventeenth century. The same year, the end of the Second Chinese War brought the further concession of toleration for Christianity throughout China, and in effect ensured the protection of missionaries and their penetration of the interior. In both countries the ability of missionaries to operate was conditional on western military preponderance, and the willingness to exert it.
In Africa, the process was taken a stage further when the British government (followed by others) became directly involved in missionary enterprise. This was, to some extent, inevitable because government needed missionary help in suppressing the slave-trade, and the churches were eager to supply it. But it was in Africa, too, that the British ruling establishment first became fully involved in the evangelizing effort. The upper-class Evangelicals moved straight from anti-slavery to missions. Thomas Powell Buxton, who succeeded Wilberforce as leader of the anti-slavery campaign, coined the phrase: 'It is the Bible and the plough that must regenerate Africa.' The Reverend Charles Simeon, the key figure in the Evangelical take-over of bishoprics and parishes, also began to deal in colonial appointments, and to send out his protégés to be, as he put it, 'princes in all lands'. The Evangelicals dominated the Anglican Church Missionary Society, and in 1840 they launched the new African campaign with an enthusiastic meeting at Exeter Hall, attended by Prince Albert, Sir Robert Peel, Mr Gladstone, Lord Shaftesbury, the French Ambassador, the leader of the Irish Nationalists, Daniel O'Connell and, among others, the young David Livingstone. Archdeacon Wilberforce, William's sonorous son, told the distinguished throng that their purpose was to make sure 'that every ship laden with commerce might also bear the boon of everlasting life, that from no part of the earth should they receive only, without giving for the gold of the west and the spices from the east the more precious wealth - the more blessed frankincense of Christ their master'.
Fowell Buxton persuaded the government to turn this pledge into reality by providing £80,000 for an expedition to open up the Niger in West Africa. It set off in 1841 in three iron ships, the Albert, the Wilberforce and the Soudan, but was defeated by malaria, which struck down 130 out of the 145 European members of the expedition, and killed 40 of them. But two more sorties were made, under Admiralty protection, and Christianity was established permanently under the aegis of a British presence which inevitably turned into a series of colonies. Some of the local African rulers, such as Eyo Honesty II, king of Greek Town in Old Calabar, were inclined to welcome Christian evangelism, believing it would strengthen their authority. In fact the missionaries tended sooner or later to provoke violence, leading to armed European intervention, a constitutional crisis, and outright annexation. The pattern was not necessarily deliberate, but it was remarkably similar in various parts of the African coast. The missionaries might seek to dissociate themselves from European colonization, but the fact is that most of them, in Africa at least, found it far more convenient (and safe) to operate with whites in control.
In Calabar the missions soon focused their hostility on the Old Town and Duke Town, described as 'an African Sodom and Gomorrah', where obnoxious customs, such as infanticide, were said to flourish. They promptly formed a Society for the Abolition of Inhuman and Superstitious Customs and for Promoting Civilization in the area, and the British Consul was signed up as a founder member. The missionary stationed in the Old Town, the Reverend Samuel Edgerley, made no secret of his anxiety to change the habits of those he termed 'a degraded and heathen people'. In 1849 he kicked over a religious drum; and in 1854, following an alleged massacre of fifty slaves by the deposed king of Old Town, Willie Tom, Edgerley smashed up images in a local shrine and broke its sacred egg; he also removed various objects as souvenirs. In the ensuing trouble, the missionaries, seconded by European traders, persuaded the Consul that he would be 'forwarding the work of civilization' if he got HMS Antelope to bombard Old Town; and this was done. A CMS missionary, the Reverend C. A. Gollmer, commented: 'I look upon it as God's intervention for the good of Africa.' Two years later,. Gollmer instigated another naval attack, this time on the Ijebu tribe. Vessels like HMS Scourge were repeatedly used on the coast and river to frighten chiefs into complying with missionary demands to operate freely. Local bylaws soon reflected the needs of Christian evangelism. Thus Greek Town legislated for the Sabbath: 'Henceforth, on God's day, no market to be held in any part of Greek Town territory; no sale of strong drink, either native or imported, in doors and verandahs; no work; no play; no devil making; no firing of guns; no Egbo processions; no Palaver.' From this it was a short step to the permanent deposition of kings and the assumption of all executive power in the hands of white officials.
On the other hand, as experience in both Central and East Africa showed, without European rule, one of two things was likely to happen. The missionaries nearly always found a demand for Christian teaching. Many of the Africans were looking for a new and less primitive religion, and for a refuge from the often appalling cruelties of cults centered on tyrannical chiefs. It was comparatively easy for missionaries, even in territories where Europeans exercised no direct power, to set up new Christian villages, thus falling into a form of evangelization with strong social and political (and indeed economic) implications. They then rapidly found themselves becoming de facto chieftains. Dan Crawford, in a thoughtful survey of mission problems called Thinking Black (1912), wrote: 'Many a little Protestant pope in the lonely bush is forced by his self-imposed isolation to be prophet, priest and king rolled into one.' He himself founded a new inter-Christian tribal city (he was a Plymouth Brother) and was known to the Africans as konga vantu, 'the gatherer of the peoples'. The alternative, which was worse, was for the missionaries to become, as it were, agents of powerful kings whom they could not control or even influence. Discussing the local tyrant in Katanga, an English vice-consul reported in 1890: 'The missionaries treat Msidi as a great king, do nothing without first asking his permission, and are at his beck and call, almost his slave. ... They dared not come to see me on my arrival for several days, because Msidi told them not to come. They live like natives, on corn porridge, and occasionally stinking meat.' Msidi was eventually shot by British mercenaries in the Belgian service, and Crawford complained: 'The stupid and mischievous notion has got currency that since Msidi's death we are the chiefs of the country.' Mischievous, yes; but scarcely stupid, since Africans were often right to associate the downfall of their kingship with the coming of the missionaries.
This was also, perhaps especially, true when kings tried to preserve their independence by playing off one faith against another. It became a possible tactic as the nineteenth century progressed, and the Catholics once again became active in the missionary field. By 1815, the Catholic missions had been virtually extinguished; they had only 270 field-workers in the entire world. The recovery was due not so much to the restoration of the Jesuits in 1814 as to the emergence of popular French ultramontanism, and its close alliance with a reinvigorated papacy. New mission orders were founded: the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1816, the Marists in 1817, the Salesians in 1859, the Scheut Fathers in 1862, the White Fathers in 1868. French diplomacy pushed missionary work far more ardently than any other major power - French missionaries in China, for instance, were provided with special diplomatic passports - and the growth, from the 1820s, of a huge French African empire provided a natural field of endeavour. France did not hesitate to back up missions with force. It was attacks on missionaries which led to Napoleon ill's Indo-China expedition of 1862, and in 1885 to the occupation by France of the entire country; and in North and Central Africa, missionaries, most of whom had served in the French army, worked closely with the military commanders, nearly all of them bien-pensant Catholics.
Moreover, in Charles Lavigerie, Bishop of Nancy at the age of thirty-eight, and later Cardinal- Archbishop of Algiers, French colonialism found an enthusiastic spiritual leader, and the Vatican a superb international propagandist. Lavigerie was a flamboyant French patriot from Bayonne, a region where the Gallic spirit was forged in fierce combat with Basque nationalism. He was a Frenchman first, an ultramontane second, but his attachment was to France as a culture rather than a crown, and he took the lead in reconciling the papacy and the French hierarchy to republican institutions. Marshal McMahon picked him for the Algiers job, and the papacy doubled his powers by making him Apostolic Delegate for the Sahara region. Colonel Playfair, British consul in Algiers, noted: 'We have St Augustine amongst us again.' The comment was shrewd: Lavigerie clearly saw himself in the role of a Constantinian patriarch, knitting together the ecclesiastical infrastructure of a new African empire.
In Carthage, on the site of the ancient citadel, he built a cathedral bigger even than Augustine's basilica at Hippo, and installed in it, ready for his own reception, an elaborate and grandiose tomb. He held strongly to the Elect Nation theory: 'God has chosen France to make of Algeria the cradle of a great and Christian nation ... our country is watching ... the eyes of the whole church are fixed upon us.' He thought of Algeria as 'the open port of entry to a barbaric continent with 200 million inhabitants.' The White Fathers were created by him as a Jesuit-style elite of priests, bound to mission-work by special lifelong vows. To assist them, Lavigerie became the first prince of the Catholic Church to take a vigorous line against the slave-trade, and swung France, and the other Catholic powers, into line. At the 1884 Berlin Conference on Colonial Questions, the Protestants at last got Catholic backing on this issue, and all the powers undertook to suppress slavery and to exterminate the traffic; they agreed, too, to adopt full religious liberty in colonial territories and to guarantee special protection for Christian missions. Five years later, at the Brussels Conference for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, Lavigerie got a definitive international agreement drawn up and signed.
There is no doubt that Lavigerie's initial aim was to Christianize the Arab peoples, and thus begin to reverse the ravages introduced by the Monophysite schism over 1300 years before. He sent his White Fathers into the desert (where they were often murdered by Tuaregs) and for a time ran his own 'Christian Militia' to protect them. But like Raymond Lull before him, and indeed everyone else, he found it impossible to make any real headway against Islam. The French could conquer Arab territories, and annex them, or establish protectorates; and they planted huge numbers of Christian settlers in Algeria; but they could not make Moslem converts. It was this failure which led them (later followed by the Belgians) to push south of the Sahara into black Africa, and the easy missionary pickings among the pagans. Here they did exceedingly well; on the whole, much better than the Protestants. Lavigerie's advice was: 'Be all things to all men.' He told his Fathers: 'Love the poor pagans. Be kind to them. Heal their wounds. They will give you their affection first; then their confidence; and then their souls.' The Catholic missions had a number of distinct advantages in competition with Protestants. Their unmarried missionaries were much cheaper to maintain, between one-fifteenth and one-twentieth of the cost of a full-time Protestant (even in 1930, Catholic missionaries cost, on average, only £35 a head a year; the CMS paid a married European missionary £650 a year, and an African clergyman £10-£25). They were better educated than the largely lower middle-class Protestants. They lived much closer to native living standards, were less identified with European social and cultural absolutes, and were often much more flexible in their approach.
Superficially, at least, Catholicism tended to be more attractive to Africans than most brands of Protestantism. Protestants often made war on images -Holman Bentley recorded: 'My dinner ... was cooked with the wood of a fetish image four feet high, which was publicly hacked to pieces without a word of dissent by one of our new church members' - and their barter-stores, which stocked virtually everything, often including guns, never sold dolls. The Catholics, with their multiple statues of saints, seemed to offer an easier bridge to Christianity than the overwhelmingly Low Church Anglicans and Nonconformists. Moreover, the Catholics were not internally divided, for the removal of crown control, and the discipline of the new papacy, made inter-order squabbles of the old kind virtually impossible. As in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Catholics vigorously pursued the policy of creating Christian villages, and of removing converts or prospective converts from what were termed 'the temptations of tribal life'. They set up scores of very large orphan settlements, and units known as ferme- chapelles, in which groups from the main villages were hived off into farming colonies. Where they failed to compete effectively with the Protestants was in the training of native priests: if the Protestants were slow, the Catholics were positively backward. For most of the nineteenth century their policy on this issue was less enlightened than it had been in sixteenth century Japan.
Of course neither side talked in terms of competition. When Lavigerie launched his missions into areas where Protestants were already established, his orders were that the White Fathers must never be nearer than eight to ten kilometers to Protestant mission-stations. But these instructions were widely ignored, as perhaps Lavigerie knew they would be. When he decided to penetrate East Africa he did so in the knowledge that conflict was virtually certain, and despite remonstrances and appeals by R. N. Cust of the CMS. He was also aware that on the upper Nile, and to the south of it, French and British political interests were on the point of contact. In fact in Uganda, where the trouble came to a head, the clash was three-sided since the Moslems had been proselytizing there first, since 1844.
The explorers Speke and Grant had arrived in 1862, and impressed King Mutesa of the Baganda: 'I have not heard a white man tell a lie yet ... the time they were in Uganda they were very good.' When H. M. Stanley arrived, he was encouraged by Mutesa to bring missionaries, and he appealed for them in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. The first came in 1877, and within five years were followed by a Catholic mission. Baganda society was in some ways orderly and sophisticated, but royal rule was arbitrary and savage. Mutesa ordered summary executions almost every day, and he had the largest collection of wives on missionary record. As Britain, through the presence of military and naval units to the East, through the operations of the British East Africa Company - which evolved from Livingstone's trading organization - and through the projected railway, was the power most closely involved, the Protestants felt the obligation to protest against royal depravity fell on them; at any rate, that is what they did. Thus the royal house came to fear the Protestants, and to align itself with the Catholics (and, on occasion, with the Moslems). Both Christian groups built up parties, which armed themselves.
The climax came under Mutesa's heir, Mwanga. In 1885 he had James Hannington, an Anglican bishop, speared to death; and when Christian boys refused to submit to his sodomitic practices - learnt from the Arabs, so the missionaries claimed - he murdered thirty-two of them, three being roasted alive. From the
coast, Captain Lugard and a detachment of Askaris were summoned; and in 1892 they fought, and won, the so-called Battle of Mengo against the royalists and their Catholic allies. The event took place perhaps appropriately on a Sunday, and was decided by Lugard's new Maxim gun. He did not blame the missionaries, but the Africans (probably rightly): 'My own belief was that the Baganda were par excellence the greatest liars of any nation or tribe I had met or heard of, and that it appeared to be a point of honour that each side should out-lie the others, especially to their missionaries.' In the House of Commons, Sir Charles Dilke said that the only person who had benefited from the British presence in East Africa was Mr Hiram Maxim; and Sir William Lawson claimed that Uganda was being 'turned into the Belfast of Africa'. Two years later, Anglican pressure led Britain to take Uganda into protective custody.
The Mengo affair caused great scandal at the time, but largely among agnostics and professional antiChristians. It does not seem to have damaged the image of any of the Christian sects among the Africans; on the contrary, Catholics and Protestants alike reported an increase in converts; and it was a Baganda, Canon Apolo Kivebulaya of Kampala Cathedral, who translated the Gospel of St Mark into pidgin. Indeed, it is a curious and perhaps melancholy fact that violence seems nearly always to have stimulated Christian evangelism. Thus, from 1835 in Madagascar, the native Christians were ferociously persecuted by Queen Ranavalona for more than a quarter of a century. At least two hundred were killed, by being thrown over a cliff, burned alive or scalded to death in pits. But during this time the Christians increased four-fold, and eventually reached forty per cent of the population.
It was, with variations, the same story all over the world. Despite difficulties, Christianity appeared to have made advances everywhere during the second half of the nineteenth century. To the shrewd and analytical observer the salient fact remained the almost unrelieved failure of the missions to penetrate the heartlands of the great imperial cults: Islam, the Hindu family, Confucianism, Buddhism or for that matter, Judaism. But among the primitives and the pagans, the hills tribes and the mountains, in swamps and islands - everywhere where cultural standards were low or imperial religions had not yet penetrated - Christianity made spectacular conquests. And even in India, China and Japan, and in cities throughout the Moslem world, the Christians could boast of flourishing, if select, Christian communities, well- staffed and amply-financed missions, and an air of confidence and hope for the future.
It is true there were critics, eager to pounce on any missionary detected in an un-evangelical posture. Missionaries tended to take too easily to firepower. Francis McDougal, first Bishop of Labuan, reported of an attack by pirates in 1862: 'My double-barreled Torry's breechloader proved a most deadly weapon for its true shooting and certainty and rapidity of firing.' In East Africa, the year before, Bishop Mackenzie's battles against the slave-trading Ajawa, which involved burning villages, brought haughty protests from the High Church party, which kept aloof from missionary work. 'It seems to me a frightful thing,' grumbled Pusey, 'that the messengers of the Gospel of Peace should in any way be connected, even by their presence, with the shedding of human blood. ... The Gospel has always been planted not by doing, but by suffering. ...' The missionaries retorted that this was bad history, and most of them were only too glad to invoke military aid on occasion. The Reverend Denis Kemp, from the Wesleyan Gold Coast mission, asserted, in Nine Years at the Gold Coast (1898): 'I should consider myself worse than despicable if I failed to declare my first conviction that the British army and navy are today used by God for the accomplishments of His purpose.' They were also under fewer illusions than those at home about the virtues of their 'charges'. The Reverend Colin Rae, from the Anglican South Africa mission, spoke for the majority: 'The native must be kept under control, and subjected to discipline, and the keynote must be work! work! work!'
How much discipline? There was constant criticism of Catholic missions for inflicting corporal punishment on natives. But then, so did all colonial (and native) governments; and, it soon emerged, so did Protestant missions, especially the Scots ones. In 1880 there was much criticism of the Free Church of Scotland mission in Nyasaland, which had a pit-prison, and where a man died after receiving over two hundred lashes. Andrew Chirnside reported to the Royal Geographical Society: 'Flogging with the whip is an everyday occurrence, three lads in one day getting upwards of 100 lashes; and it is a fact that after being flogged on several occasions, salt has been rubbed on their bleeding backs.' He claimed he had seen a man executed without trial. In 1883 there was a similar case in Nigeria where a woman died after she had been beaten and had red pepper rubbed in her wounds. These cases were rare, and caused uproar. More damaging, in the long run, was the gentle deprecation of missionary work by travellers like Mary Kingsley, whose Travels in West Africa (1897) was a huge success; she hinted that the natives were probably better if left alone, polygamy and all, and she poured scorn on missionary efforts to dress African women in the asexual 'Mother Hubbard'.
In general, though, missionaries were held in high esteem, and reporting on their work was almost universally favourable. The pattern of hero-worship was set by the Livingstone legend, and in the late nineteenth century they provided a new type of hero for European, and still more American, society. Their competitors for fame, imperialists and business tycoons, had their opponents; but to all except a tiny minority, the missionaries seemed harmless as well as valiant. Biographies of well-known missionaries sold in large editions, and formed a special department of literature. S. W. Partridge, the leading performer in the field, wrote no less than thirty-six; and they often had children's editions. For the Catholics, the missionary became a new type of saint, and even the Protestants indulged in hagiography. There were children's games, such as The African Picture Game; What Next?, which had thirty-six cards, four series of nine each devoted to famous missionaries; A Missionary-Tour of India, like snakes and ladders; Missionary Outpost, 'an instructive round-game for children'; missionary jigsaws and painting-books, and, for adults, Missionary Lotto. In Catholic countries there were elaborate money-raising schemes, run by convent schools, by which schoolgirls could buy stamps and 'adopt' African orphans. The climax of missionary expectations coincided with the climax of European imperialism, and it was very widely supposed that the entire world would be Christianized in the process of being westernized - that is, incorporated politically, economically, or at any rate culturally, in a system which was still wholly identified with Christendom.
It is this optimistic background of global predominance which helps to explain the triumphalism of the age. For it is important to realize that there were two kinds of triumphalism. As we have seen, there was the populist triumphalism of the reinvigorated papacy, whose new victories in the missionary field were seen as adumbrating an ultimate - if still far distant -reinstallation of Rome as the world centre of a ubiquitous Christian creed; every baptized black and yellow baby was bringing that inevitable day nearer. But there was also, during these decades, a species of Protestant triumphalism, linked closely to
the huge industrial paramountcy of the Protestant powers, to their burgeoning economic and political empires, and to the very widespread conviction that Protestant theology and moral teaching were intimately, indeed organically, linked to worldly achievement.
The picture we have, then, is of two forms of Christianity struggling, peaceably but persistently, for a world religious supremacy which both believed was inevitable. Nowhere was this conviction more strongly held than in the United States. The American Christian Republic was a gigantic success. It was a success because it was, essentially, Protestant; failure was evidence of moral unworthiness. In the 1870s, Henry Ward Beecher used to tell his congregation in New York: 'Looking comprehensively through city and town and village and country, the general truth will stand, that no man in this land suffers from poverty unless it be more than his fault - unless it be his sin. ... There is enough and to spare thrice over; and if men have not enough, it is owing to the want of provident care, and foresight, and industry and frugality and wise saving. This is the general truth.' And a related general truth was that God's will was directly related to the destiny of a country where success-breeding virtue was predominant.
The dynamic of Protestant triumphalism was American triumphalism. George Bancroft, in his History of the United States (1876 edition) began: 'It is the object of the present work to explain ... the steps by which a favouring providence, calling our institutions into being, has conducted the country to its present happiness and glory.' Was it not, as Jonathan Edwards had termed it, 'the principal kingdom of the Reformation'? Sooner or later the world would follow suit - it was urged to do so, in 1843, by the American missionary Robert Baird, in his Religion in America, projecting the principal of Protestant voluntarism on to a global frame. History and interventionalist theology were blended to produce a new kind of patriotic millenarianism, as in Leonard Woolsey Bacon's History of American Christianity (1897): 'By a prodigy of divine providence, the secret of the ages (that a new world lay beyond the sea) had been kept from premature disclosure. ... If the discovery of America had been achieved ... even a single century earlier, the Christianity to be transplanted to the western world would have been that of the Church of Europe at its lowest stage of decadence.' Hence he saw 'great providential preparations as for some "divine event" still hidden behind the curtain that is about to rise on the new century.'
The 'divine event' could only be, in some form, the Christianization of the world according to American standards. Hence in the period 1880-1914 America, too, developed its own form of Christian imperialism, linked generally to missionary endeavour but sometimes embodying armed Christian - indeed Protestant - force. In the McKinley-Roosevelt era, the Protestant churches were vociferous supporters of American expansion, especially at the expense of Spain, since they saw it as a God- determined process by which 'Romish superstition' was being replaced by 'Christian civilization'. President McKinley justified the American seizure of the Philippines - where Philip n had imposed Catholicism by the sword - in Christian evangelical terms: 'I am not ashamed to tell you, Gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance that
one night. And one night late it came to me this way There was nothing left
for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filippinos and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.'
It was among the evangelical sects, with their predominance in the missionary field, that the consciousness of a national or racial destiny was strongest. In 1885, when the movement was just getting under way, Josiah Strong, General-Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, argued in Our Country: its Possible Future and its Present Crisis:
'It seems to me that God, with infinite wisdom and skill, is here training the Anglo-Saxon race for an hour sure to come in the World's future ... the find competition of races, for which the Anglo-Saxon is being schooled ... this race of unequalled energy, with all the majesty of numbers and the might of wealth behind it - the representative, let us hope, of the largest liberty, the purest Christianity, the highest civilization - having developed peculiarly aggressive traits calculated to impress its institutions upon mankind, will spread itself over the earth. And can any one doubt that the result of this competition of the races will be the survival of the fittest?'
In 1893, in The New Era: or, The Coming Kingdom, he pushed the argument further. 'Is it not reasonable to believe that this race is destined to dispossess many weaker ones, assimilate others, and mould the remainder, until in a very true and important sense, it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind?'
Such racial theories were not uncommon in the 1890s: they reflected popular misconceptions of Darwin. What was significant in the United States was that they radiated from a Christian context, and could be, and were, presented in less strident and offensive terms as part of a scheme to Christianize the world. Just as America was now the leading missionary force, so the Anglo-Saxons in particular, but the white races as a whole, would succeed in bringing to reality Christ's vision of nearly two millennia before - a universal faith. The nineteenth century had been a period of such astonishing, and on the whole welcome, progress that even this great dream now seemed possible. In the 1880s, the young American Methodist John Raleigh Mott had coined the phrase 'The evangelizing of the world in one generation.' He repeated it in 1910 at Edinburgh, when the First World Missionary Conference, of which he was chairman, met to give ecumenical shape, and a specific programme of action, to Protestant triumphalism. Here was the modern and Protestant alternative gathering to the Vatican Council of 1870.
Of course, by evangelization in one generation Mott did not mean actual conversion; he meant that Christian preaching would be made available to everyone in the world during that period - the rest was up to the spirit. And the proposition, he argued, was hard-headed. It is true that the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox churches had boycotted the conference. But the rest of Christianity was there - including eighteen of the 'new' churches from missionary territories. Except in Tibet and Afghanistan, two places which, it was hoped, would soon be opened, missionaries were at work in every country in the world. The discoveries of tropical medicine had made it possible for white Christian preachers to be present in strength even in the harshest climates. There were now more missionaries than ever before. There were as many recruits as could be handled. Finance was no problem. The language barriers were being progressively removed.
The New Testament had been translated into all the main living languages, and the entire Bible would soon follow. The worst opposition, as in China and Japan, had been broken down. There were converts in every single area, and from all religions; no missionary now stood alone. There were 45,000 missionaries, backed up by more than ten times that number of national workers, and a wonderful generation of native Christian leaders was beginning to emerge. The tone of the summary was optimistic; but much of its factual content was solid and unarguable. It did not seem wholly absurd, at Edinburgh in 1910, to predict that the work of St Paul would be brought to its culmination, within the lifetime of some of those present: a hard-headed, calculated and costed millenium.