Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Northern Ngoniland - Imperial Possibilities of Missions

  • Tuesday, December 14, 2010
  • Samuel Albert
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  • Extract from Missionary Idea in Life and Religion, 1926

    ....Perhaps the imperial possibilities of missions have never been better illustrated than in the story of Laws of Livingstonia of the annexation of Ngoniland. It was won for the British Empire, neither by the soldier, nor by the administrator, nor by the explorer, but by the missionary. Sir Alfred Sharpe, Commissioner of Nyasaland, put absolute confidence in the judgment of Doctor Laws about the precise moment when the country was ripe for annexation. On receipt of a letter from Doctor Laws, the commissioner "did a thing surely unparalleled in the story of British colonization. He went up into the wilds of Ngoniland to annex the country, unattended by the military, and taking only his wife with him." On September 2, 1904, the day fixed for the great palaver with the native chiefs, "the Ngoni gathered in their thousands, chiefs and indunas and fighting men, with spears and shields, the proudest and most warlike people in Central Africa, and the commissioner walked into their midst to take away their independence, with all the implication which that involved the surrender of their old care-free life, the submission to outside authority, the imposition of taxation and he was alone. The few soldiers he had brought with him as a matter of form mingled, unarmed, with the spectators."

    A mission teacher acted as an interpreter; and after a long palaver, with many explanations asked and patiently and tactfully given, without the firing of a single shot and with the good will of the "wild Ngoni," by the setting of the sun Ngoniland had been added to the British Empire. The commissioner gratefully acknowledged his great indebtedness to Doctor Laws and the other missionaries.

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