Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'

Author(s): Livingstone, David



The Right. Hon. Labouchere


In case it should be
out of your power to grant me
more than a minute or two in
the interview to which you kindly
invited me when I had the
honour to be introduced to you
in the House of Commons I now
beg leave to lay before you
in writing a subject to which
I most earnestly beg your
attention as it seriously affects
the pros-perity of English commerce
and the honour of the English

About half of the Frontier
of the Cape Colony is occupied
by independent tribes named
Guquas & Bechuanas who
have not only faithfully observed
the treaties made by [the]
former Colonial Governments
during the last 30 years
but have never been
even accused of cattle
or annoyance to the

the English. Many hundreds
of these people have
become Christians through the
teaching of English missionaries
and have engaged in commerce
so assiduously that about
£5000 worth of ivory and
30 000 skins of small
animals are annually sent to
the Colonial markets

Their feelings of con
-fidence in the English sense
of justice may be judged
of by the fact that when
the Transvaal Boers
attacked the town of Sechele
a chief living 10o degrees
of latitude from Cape
Town and contrary to
the express provision in
an Article of the treaty which
these Boers had entered
into with Sir George
Cathcart kidnapped about
200 of Sechele's children
whom I offered to identify
as members of Mrs Livingstones
school, this chief travelled

one thousand miles in
order to beg the English
Queen to have the article
against slavery enforced


and his children restored to the

When Sir George Cathcart
gave the Rebels Boers their
independance he also passed
a Powder Ordinance by
which ammunition to any
amount may be sent
into the Trans Vaal Territory
while not an ounce
is allowed to enter the
country of the Griquas &
Bechuanas. This I beg you
to observe has no reference
to the Caffres on our Eastern
Frontiers. It refers entirely
to the west, And as there
is not the smallest doubt
that these Trans Vaal Boers
continue in the open violation
of the treaty to enslave the
natives the enforcement
of the provisions of the
Powder ordinance against
those who have always
been our Friends amounts
to unintentional but direct
and to slavery.

So long as the Boers
retained the name of British
subjects the practice of
buying & selling native




My own inclination would
lead me to say as little as possible
about myself, but several
friends in whose judgement
I have confidence have suggested
that as the reader likes to
know something about the
author, a short account
of my origin and early life
would lend additional
interest to this book. Such
is my excuse for the
following egotism, and if an
apology be necessary for
giving my genealogy I find
it in the fact that it is
not very long and contains
only one event of which
I have reason to be proud.

My great grandfather fell
at the battle of Culloden fighting
for our old line of kings
and my grandfather was a
small farmer in Ulva, where
my father was born. It is one
of that cluster of the Hebrides
thus described by Walter Scott

“And Ulva dark and Colonsay”
And all the group of islets gay
“That guard famed Staffa round.”*

My grandfather who was

*Lord of the Isles. Canto IV.


intimately acquainted with all the
traditionary tales which that
great poet has since made
use of in the “Tales of a grandfather”
and other works, long before their
publication, I remember listening
to with delight as a boy for his
memory was stored with a
never ending stock of stories
many of which were wonder
-fully like those I have since
heard while sitting by the
African evening fires
While my grandmother sung
gaelic songs some of which,
as she believed, had been
composed by captive islanders
languishing hopelessly
among the Turks

My grandfather could give
particulars of the lives of our
ancestors for six generations
of the family before him
and the only point of the tradition
I feel proud of is this — one of
these poor hardy islanders
was renowned in the district
for great wisdom and prudence
and when on his death-bed, it is
related that he called all his
children around him and said.
“Now in my lifetime I have searched
most carefully through all the traditions
I could find of our family, and
I never could discover that there
was a thief among our fore fathers


since made use of in the “Tales
of a grandfather” and other works
Long before their publication, I
remember listening with delight as
a boy to the never ending stock of
stories with which his memory
was stored —(wonderfully like these
tales were to what I have since often
heard when sitting by the African
evening fires)— ; while my grandmother
sung songs in gaelic some of
which, she believed, had been
composed by languishing captive
islanders among the

Hecker history of
epidemics of Middle ages

if therefore any of you or any of your children should
take to dishonest ways it will not be because it runs
in our blood, it does not belong to you

I leave this word with you. Be
honest.” If therefore in
the following
pages I fall into
any errors
I hope they
will be dealt with
as honest mistakes
and not as
indicating that
I have forgotten
our ancient motto.

This event took place at a time
when the Highlanders according to Macaulay were much
like the [Cape Keffers] and every
one it was said could escape punishment
for theft by presenting a share
of the plunder to his chieftain.
My ancestors were Roman Catholics and
long afterwards they were made
Protestants by the laird coming
round with a man having a
yellow staff. The new religion
went long afterwards perhaps
it does so still by the name of
“The religion of the yellow stick.”

My grandfather finding
his farm in Ulva insufficient to
support a numerous family
removed to Blantyre works,
a large cotton manufactury on the
beautiful Clyde above Glasgow
and his sons having had the
best educators the Hebrides
afforded, were gladly received
as clerks by the proprietors,
Monteith and Co. My grandfather
highly esteemed for his unflinching
honesty was employed in the
conveyance of large sums of
money from Glasgow to
the works and in old age was
according to the custom of
company pensioned off so as


to spend his declining years in
ease and comfort

My uncles all entered H. M's service
during the last war either as
soldiers or sailors but my
Father remained
at home, and too conscientious
ever to become rich as a small
tea dealer, by his kindliness of
manner and winning ways
made the heartstrings of his
children twine around him as
firmly as if he had possessed
every worldly advantage to bestow.
During the last twenty years of his life he held the office of deacon of an independant church in Hamilton and deserves my lasting
gratitude and homage for
presenting me from infancy
with a continuously consistent pious
example such as that an episode of which is beautifully
and truthfully pourtrayed
in Burn's “cottar's saturday
night”. He died in February last
in peaceful hope of that mercy
which we all expect through the
death of our Lord and Saviour
when I was on my way below
Zumbo, expecting no greater
pleasure in this country than
sitting by our cottage fire
and telling him my travels.
I revere his memory.

My earliest recollection
of my mother was that so often
seen among the Scottish poor


of anxious striving to make ends
meet, and at the age of ten
I was put into the factory
as a “piecer” to aid by my earnings to lessen
her anxiety. With a part of my
first weeks wages I purchased
“Ruddiman's rudiments of Latin”
and pursued the study of that
language for many years
afterwards with unabated
ardour at an evening school
which met between the hours of eight & ten
The dictionary part of my labours
was followed up till twelve o clock
or later, if my mother did not
interfere by jumping up and
snatching any books out of my
hands I had to be back in
the factory by six, and continue
my work with intervals for
breakfast and dinner till eight
o clock again. I read in this
way many of the classical authors
and knew Virgil and Horace
better at sixteen than I do now.
Our schoolmaster (supported in
part by the company) was
kind and so moderate in his
charges that all who wished for
education might have obtained
it. Many availed themselves
of the privilege and some of my schoolfellows
now rank in positions far
above what they appeared ever


likely to come to in the village
school. If such a system were
established in England it would
prove a never ending blessing
to the poor.


In reading I devoured
everything I could lay my hands
on except novels. Scientific
works and books of travels
were my especial delight
though my father believing
with many of his
time who ought to have known
better, that these were inimical


to religion, would have preferred
to have seen me at the “Cloud of
Witnesses or “Boston's fourfold
state”. Our difference of opinion
reached the point of open
rebellion and his last application
of the rod on my refusal to
peruse “Wilberforce's practical
christianity”. This dislike to
dry doctrinal reading & to religious reading of every sort continued
for years afterwards but having lighted
on those admirable works
of Dr Thomas Dick — “the philosophy
of religion.” and “the philosophy
of a future state” I was glad
to find my own ideas that
religion and science are
not hostile but friendly to each
other fully proved and enforced. In the glow of love
which Christianity inspires I
soon resolved to devote my life to
the alleviation of human
misery. Turning this idea over
in my mind I felt that to be
a pioneer for Christianity
in China would prove of
essential benefit to that immense
empire I therefore set myself
to get a medical education in
order to fit myself for that

In botany I had the guidance
of a book on the plants of
Lanarkshire by “Patrick”


in recognizing the plants pointed out
in my first medical book that
extraordinary old Author on
astrological medicine — “Culpeper's
Herbal” Limited as my time
was I found opportunities to
scour the whole countryside
“collecting simples”. Deep and
and anxious were my studies
on the still deeper and more
perplexing profundities of
astrology and I believe I
got as far into that abyss
of phantasies as my author
said he dared to lead me . It
seemed perilous ground to
tread farther on for the dark hint
seemed to my youthful mind
to loom towards “selling soul
and body to the devil” as the
price of the unfathomable
knowledge of the stars. These
excursions often in company
with brothers, one now in Canada and
the other a clergyman in the
United States, gratified the
intense love of nature I possessed
and though we generally
returned so unmercifully
hungry and fatigued that the
embryo parson shed tears;
yet we discovered so many
to us new and interesting


things that he was always as
eager to join us next time as he was
the last. # On one of these exploring
tours we entered a limestone
quarry, long before geology was
so popular as it is now.
It is impossible to describe the
delight and wonder with which
I began to collect the shells
of the Carboniferous limestone
which crops out in high
Blantyre and Cumbuslang.
The quarry men seeing
a little boy so engaged looked with that
pitying eye which the benevolent
assume when viewing the
insane. I addressed him with
“However did these shells come
into these rocks”? “When God
made the rocks he made the
shells in them” was the damping
reply. What a deal of trouble
geologists might have saved
themselves by adopting the
Turco philosophy of this Scotch

In my reading I could by
placing my book on a portion
of the Spinning Jenny, catch sentence
after sentence as I passed at my
work, I thus kept up a pretty
constant study undisturbed by
the roar of the machinery. To
this part of my education I owe



I owe my present ability of completely
abstracting my mind from
surrounding noises so as to
read and write with perfect
comfort amidst the play of
children or near the dancing and
songs of savages. The toil of
cottonspinning to which I was
promoted in my 19th year was
excessively severe on a slim
loose jointed lad, but it was
well paid and it enabled me
to support myself at the medical and Greek
classes as also the Divinity lectures of Dr Wardlaw in Glasgow in winter
by working with my hands
in Summer. I never received
a farthing of aid from anyone
and would have accomplished
my project of going to China
as a medical missionary
in the course of time by my own efforts but some
friends advised my
joining the London Missionary
Society on account of its
perfectly unsectarian character.
It “sends neither Episcopacy
nor Presbyterianism nor
Independancy, but the gospel
of Christ to the heathen” This
exactly agreed with my ideas of
what a missionary society
ought to do. but it was not
without a pang I offered myself
for I felt as if I should now



become in a measure dependant
on others. And I would not
have been much put about
though I had been rejected.
Looking back now on that
life of toil I cannot but feel
thankful that it formed such
a material part of my early
education, and were it
possible I should like to begin
life over again in the same lowly
style and pass through the
same hardy training. Our
American cousins call the factory
life one of white slavery. i.e.
when they descend to
that poor logic which
shrivels before the common
sense proverb “Two blacks dont
make a white — known in
Africa by the phrase “One fault
cannot wipe out another”.

I passed through every grade
of factory labour from
the lowest to the highest and
the warmest sympathies of
my heart being with the English
and Scottish poor I
would denounce any oppression
in them no matter by whom practised.
It is therefore with the fullest
conviction of truthfulness
I declare that anything like
slavery does not exist
in English cotton factories



I consider it in the highest
degree unfair to speak of those
as slaves whose blood boils
at the thought of oppression,
and who glory in being the
sons of the Covenanters
and of the men who bled
at Bannockburn. Though
we are the victims of great
social evils arising from
overpopulation, those evils
are not to be mentioned
in the same breath with that
slavery which is indissolubly
connected with the idea of
outlawry & bloodhounds. There is no one
here so degraded as not to be able
to claim his pay and though
that is often far too low
no Englishman can be guilty
of the prime element of
slavery viz. the shabbiness
of expecting services from an
inferior class without pay=
-ment. This meaness does not
exist on English soil.

The perfect freedom of
speech we enjoy in Britain
and the fact that the man
who exposes domestic evils
in the most startling terms
instead of being in jeopardy
for speaking out is lauded
on all sides, leads strangers


to the conclusion that where
evils are most exposed they
most exist. My humble
belief is that in England
we have more true liberty with
the greatest amount of
happiness for the greatest
possible number of any
country in the world.

The poorest among us could stroll at pleasure over the
ancient domains of Bothwell
and other spots hallowed by the
venerable assocations of which even our school books made us well aware and
few of us could view such
memorials of the past without
feeling that these carefully
kept monuments were
our own- The masses
of the working people have read history
and are no revolutionary
levellers. They rejoice in
the memories of “Wallace and
Bruce and 'a the lave”
who are still much revered as the former champions
of our freedom, and while
foreigners imagine we want
spirit to overturn our
capitalists and Aristocracy we are content
to respect our laws. Till
we can change them and hate
those stupid revolutions which
might sweep away time honoured
institutions dear alike to rich & poor
be imposed on such people, if slavery were attempted
no human power could restrain their vengeance


Having finished the medical
curriculum and presented
a thesis on a subject which
required the use of the stethescope
for its diagnosis, I unwittingly
procured for myself an
examination rather more
severe and prolonged than
usual among examining
bodies. The reason was
a difference of opinion existed as
to whether this instrument
could do what I asserted
However I was admitted
a licentiate of Faculty of
Physicians and Surgeons
but though qualified for
my original plan the
opium was then raging
and it was deemed inexpedient
for me to proceed to China
I had previously pursued
theological studies both in
Glasgow and in England
so I went to Africa to
spend the following sixteen
years of my life as a
medical man and missionary

The general instructions
I received from the Directors
of the Missionary Society
led me as soon as I reached
Kuruman or Lattakoo then
then farthest inland station



from the Cape to turn my
attention to the North. Without
waiting longer at Kuruman
than was necessary to recruit
the oxen now pretty well
tired by the long journey
from Algoa I proceeded
in company with another
missionary to the Bakuena
country and found Sechele
with his tribe located at
Shokuan. I had a very different
object in view than running
in three hundred miles and
back again as this journey
proved to be. Accordingly
after again resting three months
at Kuruman which is a sort
of head station in the country I
returned to a spot about 15 miles
south of Shokuan called Lepelole
(now Litubaruba) and in
order to obtain an accurate
knowledge of the language, cut myself
off from European society for
about six months at once and
gained by the ordeal an insight into
the habits, ways of thinking laws
and language of that section of the Bechuanas called Bakuena which have proved
of uncalculable advantage in my
intercourse with them ever



In this second journey to
to the place called Lepelole from a cavern of that
name, I began preparations
for a settlement by making
a canal to irrigate gardens
from a stream then flowing
copiously. When preparations
were well advanced we went
Northwards to visit the Bakaa
and Bamangwato and the
Makalaka living between 22° & 23
south lat. The Bakaa mountains had been
visited before by a trader who
with his people all perished
from fever. In going round
the Northern part of the Basaltic
hills near Letloche I was only
ten days distant from the
lower part of the Zouga which
passed by the same name as
Lake Ngami, and I might then
(in 1842) have discovered that
Lake had discovery alone been
my object. Most part of this
journey beyond Shokuan was
performed on foot in consequence
of my waggon oxen having
become sick. Hearing my
companions discussing my
appearance & abilities on the
supposition that I did not
understand their speech. “He
is not strong. He is quite slim”



and only appears stout because
he puts himself into those bags (trousers). He
will soon knock up.” My
highland blood rose and made
me despise the fatigue of keeping
them all at the top of their speed
for days together and untill I
heard them expressing proper
opinions of my pedestrian powers

Returning to Kuruman
in order to bring my luggage to
our proposed settlement I was
followed by the news that my
friendly tribe of Bakuen had
been driven from Lepelole by
the Barolongs and my prospects
blasted. One of those periodical
outbreaks of war which seem
to have occurred from time
immemorial for the sake of cattle
had burst forth in the land and
so changed the relations of the tribes
to each other I was obliged to set out anew
to look for a proper locality for
a settlement.

In going North again a comet
blazed on our sight exciting
the wonder of every tribe we
visited. That of 1816 had been
followed by an irruption of the
Matibele the most cruel enemies
they ever knew and this might
portend something as bad, or
it might be only the death of
some great chief. On the



subject of comets I then knew as
as little than they did themselves but
I had more confidence in a kind over
ruling Providence which makes
such a difference between us
and both the ancient and modern
heathen. As some of the
Bamangwato people had
accompanied me to Kuruman
I was obliged to restore them
and their goods to their chief
Sekomi This made a journey
to that chief
again necessary and I for the first
time performed a distance of
some hundred miles on ox back


Returning towards Kuruman I selected the beautiful
valley of Mabotsa Lat 25˚ 14' South Long 26˚ 30'(?) to form a
missionary station and thither
I removed
in 1843. Here happened an episode
concerning which I have
frequently been questioned in
England and which but for
the importunities of friends
I meant to keep in store to tell
my children when in my dotage
The Bakatla of the village
Mabotsa were much troubled
by lions which leaped into
the cattle pens by night and destroyed
their cows. They even attacked
the herds in open day. This was
so unusual the people believed



that they were bewitched “given
as they said “into the power of lions”. by
a neighbouring tribe. They went
once to attack the animals but
being rather a cowardly people
compared to Bechuanas in
general on such occasions,
they returned without killing
any. If one in a troop of
lions is killed it is well
known the others take the
hint and leave that part
of the country. So the next time
the herds were attacked I went
with the people in order to
encourage them to rid themselves
of the annoyance by destroying
one of the number. We found
the lions on a small hill of
about a quarter of a mile
in length and covered with trees
A circle of men was formed
round it and they gradually
closed up, ascending pretty [near]
to each other. I being down below
on the plain with a native schoolmaster
a most excellent man, called
Mebalwe, saw one of the lions
sitting on a piece of rock within
the now closed circle of men.
Mebalwe fired at it before I could
and the ball struck the rock on
which the animal was sitting
He bit at the spot struck as a
dog does at a stick or stone

— ?[cf chat]?



thrown at him. The circle opened
and allowed him to escape. The
men were afraid perhaps on
account of their belief in
witchcraft. Reforming the
circle we saw other two lions
in it but the men allowed them
to burst through also. If they
had acted according to the
custom of the country they
would have speared them
in their attempt to get out.
Seeing it in vain to get them
to kill one of the lions we bent
our footsteps towards the village
and in going round the end of
the hill I saw one of the beasts
sitting on a piece of rock as
before but this time he had a little
bush in front. Being about
30 yards off I took a good aim
at his body through the bush
and fired both barrels into
it. The men then called out
“he is shot” “he is shot”. Others cried
he has been shot by another too
let us go to him”. I did not see
any one else shoot at him, so
I said “stop a little till I load again”
and when in the act of ramming
down the bullets I heard a shout,
starting round I saw the lion just
in the act of springing upon
me. I was upon a little height


he caught my shoulder in the
act of the spring and we both
came down to the plain ground
below together. He shook me
as a terrier dog does a rat.
I turned round to relieve myself of as he had one
the weight paw on the back of my head
and saw his eyes directed
to Mebalwe who was trying
to shoot him at a distance
of 10 or 15 yards. His gun
being a flint one
missed fire in both barrels
the lion left me and bit his
thigh. Another man whose life
I had saved before after he had been
tossed by a buffalo attempted
to spear the lion when he was
biting Mebalwe. He left Mebalwe
caught this man by the shoulder
and then his bullets took
effect for he fell down dead
The whole was done quickly
and must have been his
paroxysm of dying rage. In
order to take out the charm from
him the Bakatla on the following
day made a huge bon fire
over the carcase which was
declared to be that of the largest
lion they had ever seen. Besides
craunching the bone he left eleven
teeth wounds of the upper part
of my arm. A wound from


this animals tooth resembles a
gunshot wound. There is a
great deal of sloughing and
discharge, and pains are
felt in the part periodically
ever afterwards. Having on
a tartan jacket on the occasion
I believe that wiped off any
virus from the teeth that
pierced the flesh for my two
companions have both suffered
from the peculiar pains while
I have escaped with only the
inconvenience of a false
joint in my limb. The man
whose shoulder was wounded
actually showed me his wound
burst forth afresh on the
same month of the following
year. This curious point deserves
the attention of enquirers.


The different Bechuana tribes
are named after certain animals
showing probably that in former
times they were addicted to
animal worship like the ancient
Egyptians - The Bakatla = they
of the monkey. Bakuena = they
of the alligator. Batla pi = they
of the fish. each tribe having
a superstitious dread of the animal
by which it is called. they also
use the word “bina” to dance
in reference to the custom
so that when you wish to ascertain
what they are you say “what do you
dance” as if that had been a
part of the worship of old. they
never eat this animal using the
term “ila” hate or dread in reference
to killing it and we found traces
of many ancient tribes in the
country in individual Batau
they of the lion - Banoga they of the
serpent though no such
tribes now exist. the use of the
personal pronoun they. Ba. Ma
Wa. Va or Ova, Am. Ki &c prevails
very extensively in the names of
tribes in Africa. I attached
myself to the tribe called Bakuena
or Bakwains the chief of which
called Sechele was then living
with his tribe at a place named Chounane
I was from the first struck


by his intelligence and the marked
manner in which we both
felt drawn to each other rather
than to others — and as this remarkable
man has not only embraced
Christianity but expounds its
doctrines to his people let me
offer a brief sketch of his

His great grandfather
Mochoasele was a great traveller
and the first that ever told of
the existence of white men. In his
father's life time two white travellers
whom I suppose to have been
Mr Cowan and Dr Donovan
passed through the country and
passing down the Limpopo
were all cut off by fever
The Rain makers fearing their
waggons might drive away
the rain ordered them to be
thrown into the river. This is the
true account of the end of that
expedition. They were not killed
by the Bangwaketse as reported for
they passed the Bakwains, all well.
The Bakuena were then rich in
cattle and as one of the many
evidences of the dessication of
the country streams are pointed out
where thousands and thousands of
cattle drank in which water never
now flows and where a single herd
could not find fluid for its support




When Sechele was still a boy his father
was murdered by his own people for
making free with the wives of his
rich underchiefs, the children being
spared, their friends invited Sebituane
then in those parts to reinstate them in
the chieftainship. Sebituane surrounded
the town of the Bakuena by night &
just as it began to dawn his herald
proclaimed in a loud voice that he
had come to revenge the death of
Mochoasele. this was
followed by beating loudly on their shields
of sebituane's people all round the
town. the panic was tremendous
and the rush like that of a theatre on
fire while the Makololo used their
javelins on the terrified males
with a dexterity they alone can employ. Sebituane had
given orders to his men to spare
the sons of the chief and one of
them meeting Sechele put him in
ward by giving him such a crack
with a club on the head as to
render him insensible, the usurper
was put to death and Sechele reinstated
in his chieftainship felt much attached
to Sebituane. The influence here
noticed it will yet be seen led me
at last into the new well watered
country to which this same Sebituane
had preceded me by many years.

Sechele married the daughters of
three of his underchiefs who had
on account of their blood relationship



stood by him in his adversity. this is
one of the modes adopted for cementing
the allegiance of a tribe. the government
is patriarchal, each man being
by virtue of paternity chief of his
own children. they build their
huts around his and the greater
the number of children the more
his importance increases. Hence
children are esteemed one of the
greatest blessings and are always
treated kindly. Near the centre of
each circle of huts there is a spot called
a “Kotla” with a fire place in
which they work, eat or sit and
gossip over the news of the day
A poor man attaches himself to the
Kotla of a rich one and is considered
a child of the latter. An underchief
has a number of these circles
around his and the collection
of kotlas around the great one
in the middle of the whole
that of the chief constitutes the
town. the circle of huts immediately
around the Kotla of the chief is
composed of the huts of his
wives and those of his blood
relations. He attaches the underchiefs
to himself and government by
marrying as Sechele did their
daughters or inducing his brothers
to do so. They are fond of the
relationships to great families



If you meet a party of strangers and
the headman's relationship to some
uncle of a certain chief is not at once
proclaimed by his attendants you
may hear him whispering “tell
him who I am”. this usually
involves a counting on the fingers
of a part of his genealogical tree ending
by the important fact that the head of the party is half cousin to some well known ruler

Sechele was thus firmly seated
in his chieftainship when I made
his acquaintance. On the first
occasion in which I ever
attempted to hold a public religious
service he remarked that it was
their custom when any new
subject was brought before them
to put questions on it. And he
begged me to allow him to do the same
in this case. On expressing my
entire willingness to answer
him, He enquired if my forefathers
knew of a future judgement. I replied
in the affirmative and began to
describe the scene of the “great white
throne and him who shall sit on
it from whose face the heaven
and earth shall flee away.” &c.
He said “You startle me. these words
make all my bones to shake
I have no more strength in me.”
but my forefathers were living
at the same time yours were
and how is it they did not
send word about these terrible
things sooner? they all passed



away into darkness without knowing whither
they were going.” I got out of the difficulty by
explaining the geographical barriers in the
North and the gradual spread of knowledge
from the South to which we first had access
by means of ships, and expressed my belief
that as Christ had said it so the whole world
would yet be enlightened. Pointing to the great
Kalahari desert he said, you never can
cross that country to the tribes beyond, it is utterly
impossible even for us black men except in
certain seasons when more than the usual
supply of rain falls and an extraordinary
growth of water melons follows. Even we
who know the country would certainly perish
without them. Re-asserting my belief in the
words of Christ we parted and
it will be seen farther on that
Sechele himself assisted in
crossing that Desert which had
proved an insurmountable barrier
to so many adventurers

As soon as he had an opportunity
of learning he set himself to read
with such close application was
that from being comparatively
thin the effect of having been
fond of the chase he became
quite corpulent. Mr Oswel
gave him his first lesson
at figures and he acquired the alphabet
on the first day of my residence
at Chonuane He was by no means
an ordinary specimen of the people



for I never went into the town
but was pressed to hear him read
some chapters of the bible and
Isaiah was a
great favourite
and he used
the same phrase
nearly as our
Professor of
Greek at Glasgow
Sir D.K. Sandford
used respecting
the apostle Paul
when reading his
in the Acts.”
“He was a fine”
fellow that Paul”
“He was a fine
man that Isaiah
he knew how
to speak”
he invariably made an offer
of something to eat on every
occasion of visiting him.
Seeing me anxious that his people
should believe the words of Christ
he said once “Do you imagine
these people will ever believe
by merely talking to them. I can
do nothing but by thrashing them
and if you like I shall call
my head men and with our
“litupa” (whips of Rhinoceros hide) we
shall soon make them all
believe together.” The idea of using
entreaty to subjects whose opinion
on no other subject he would ask
and persuasion to become Christian
which they ought if he ordered them
only to be too happy to embrace were
especially surprising. During
the space of two and a half years
he continued to profess to his people
[the] full conviction of the truth of
Christianity — and in all discussions
on the subject he took that side
acting at the same time in an
upright manner in all his
relations. He felt the difficulties
of his situation long before
I did and often said, “O
I wish you had come to this
country before I became



in the meshes of our customs”
In fact he could not get rid of his
superfluous wives without
appearing to be ungrateful to
their parents who had done
so much for him in his

In the hoping that others
would be induced to join him
in his attachment to Christianity
he asked me to begin
family worship with him in
his house. I did so and by &
by was surprised to hear him
conduct the prayer in his
own simple and beautiful
style for he was quite a
master of his own vernacular
We were suffering from the
effects of a drought which
will be described and none
except his family whom
he ordered to attend came near
his meeting. “In former times”
said he “when a chief was
fond of hunting, all his people
got dogs and became fond
of hunting too. If fond of
dancing or music all showed
a liking to these amusements
too. If he loved beer they all
rejoiced in strong drink. But
in this case it is different.
I love the word of God and not
one of my bretheren will join me”



One reason why we had no
volunteer hypocrites was the
hunger from drought which was associated
in their minds with the presence
of Christian instruction and I
believe hypocrisy is not
prone to taking the line which
seems to ensure empty stomachs

He continued to make
a consistent profession
for about three years and
percieving at last some of
the difficulties of his case
as also feeling compassion
for the poor women who
were by far the best of our
scholars, I had no desire
that he should be in any
hurry to make a full profession
by baptism. His principal
wife too, was about the
most unlikely subject in
the tribe ever to become
anything else than an out & out
greasy disciple of the old school.
She has become greatly
altered, I hear, for the better
since but again and again
have I seen Sechele send her
out of church to put her gown
on and away she went with
her lips shot out the very
picture of unutterable disgust at
his new fangled notions



When he at last applied for baptism,
I simply asked him how he
having the bible in his hand
and able to read it, thought he
ought to act. He went home
gave each of his superfluous
wives new clothing and all
his own goods which they
had been accustomed to
keep in their huts for him,
and sent them to their parents
with an intimation that he
had no fault to find with
them, but that in parting with
them he wished to follow
the will of God. On the day
in which he and his children
were baptized great numbers
came to see the ceremony
Some thought from a stupid
calumny circulated by enemies
to Christianity in the South that
they would be made to drink
an infusion of “dead's men's
brains” and were astonished
to find it water only. Seeing
several of the old men actually
in tears during the service
I asked them afterwards the cause
of their weeping — they were crying
“to see”, as the Scotch remark over
a case of suicide, their
father so far left to himself”
They seemed to think I had
thrown the glamour over him
and he had become mine

38 36

Here commenced an opposition
of which we knew nothing
previously; for all the friends
of these castaway wives
became our enemies. The
attendance on school & church
diminished to very few besides
the chief's and own family. They
treated us still with respectful
kindness, but to Sechele himself
said things (which he often
remarked) had they ventured
in former times to enuntiate, would have cost
them their lives. It was
trying to see our labours so
little appreciated at last;
but we had sown the good
seed and have no doubt but
it will yet spring forth though
we may not live to see it.

[Maka] the
name of the




Leaving this sketch of the chief we
now proceed to give an equally rapid
sketch of our dealing with this people of the Bakuena or Bakwains
A small piece of land sufficient for a
garden was purchased when we first went to live with them
though that was scarcely necessary
in a country where the idea
of buying land was quite new.
It was expected that a request
for a suitable spot would have been
made and occupation follow
as in the case of any other
member of the tribe. But on
explaining that we wished
to avoid any cause of dispute
when land had become more
valuable or when a foolish
chief began to reign and
we had erected buildings
of value he might wish to
claim the whole. About £5
of goods were given and
the stipulation made that
a similar garden should be
given to any other missionary
at any other place to
which the tribe might remove
the particulars of the sale
sounded as strangely
in the ears of the tribe as did
a certain Roman Emperor's tax in the ears of his son and
the coin in either case emitted
no bad efluvium




In our relations with this
people we were simply strangers
exercising no authority or
controul whatever. Our
influence depended entirely
on persuasion, and having
taught them by kind conversation
as well as by public instruction
I expected them to do what their
own sense of right and wrong
dictated. We never wished
them to do right merely because it
would be pleasing to us
nor thought ourselves to
blame when they did wrong.
although we were quite aware
of the absurd idea
to that effect
we saw that our teaching did
good to the general mind of
the people
I am certain
of five cases
in which by
good influence
on public opinion
war was
and where in
individual cases we failed
they were no worse than they
were before we came., In general
they are slow like our African
people hereafter to be described
in coming to a decision on
religious matters, but in
matters affecting their worldly
affairs they were keenly alive
to their own interests — they
might be called stupid in matters
which have not come under
the sphere of their observation



but in all matters which have
they shew more intelligence than
is to be met with in our own
peasantry. They are remarkably
accurate in their knowledge
of cattle, sheep and goats,
knowing exactly the kind of
pasturage suited to each, and
they select with great judgement
the kinds of soil best suited
to different kinds of grain
They are adepts in knowledge
of the habits of wild animals

The place where we first
settled with the Bakuena is called
Chonuane, and it happened to
be visited during the first year of our
residence there by one of those
periodical droughts which occur
in even the most favoured
districts of Africa



. Now the belief in rain making
is one of the most deeply rooted
articles of faith in this country.
The chief Sechele being himself a
noted rain doctor believed in it
implicitly, and he has often assured me
that he found it more difficult
to give up his faith in that than in
anything else required by Christianity.
I pointed out the only feasible
way of watering the gardens to be
to select some good never
failing river, make a canal
and irrigate their lands. this
suggestion was immediately adopted
and soon the whole tribe was
on the move to Kolobeng about
40 miles distant. the experiment
succeeded admirably during the first
year. the Bakwains made the canal
and dam in exchange for my
labour in assisting to build a
square house for their chief. they
also built their own school under
my superintendance. Our own house
at Kolobeng was the third which
I had reared with my own hands
. A native smith taught me
to weld and having improved by
scraps of information in that line
and in capentering and gardening
and as my wife could make
candles soap and clothes we




came nearly up to what may be
considered the essential part of a
Central African missionary's
accomplishments viz. the husband
to be a Jack of all trades without
and the wife a maid of all work
within. But in our second
year no rain again. In the third
the same extraordinary drought
followed. Indeed not ten inches
of water fell during these two years
and the Kolobeng ran dry, so many
fish being killed the hyaenas of
the whole country collected to
the feast and were unable to
finish the putrid masses. A
large old alligator which had never
been known by any depredations
was among the victims. the
fourth year was equally
unpropitious. Too little rain
to bring the grain to maturity, Nothing
could be more tantalizing, We
dug down in the bed of the river
deeper and deeper as the water
receded, striving to get a little to
keep the fruit trees alive for
better times, but in vain. Needles
lying out of doors for months
did not rust, and a mixture
of sulphuric acid and water
used in a galvanic battery
parted with all its water to the
air instead of imbibing more



as it would have done in England.
the leaves of indigenous trees
were all drooping, soft, & shrivelled
though not dead. And those of
the Mimosae were closed at midday
as they are when going to sleep.
In the midst of this dreary
drought it was wonderful to see
these tiny creatures the
ants running about with their
accustomed vivacity. I put the bulb
of a thermometer 3 inches under the soil
and found the mercury to stand at 132˚—134˚
and if certain kinds of beetles were
placed on the surface they ran
about a few seconds & expired,
but this broiling heat only augmented
the activity of the long legged black
ant. they never tire. Their organs
of motion seem endowed with the
the same power as is ascribed by
Physiologists to the muscles of the human heart
by which that part of the frame
never becomes fatigued and
which may be imparted to all
our bodily organs in that higher
state to which we fondly hope to
rise. Where do they get their
moisture.? Our house was built
on a hard ferruginous conglomerate
in order to be out of the way
of the white ant but they came in in spite of
the precaution and not only
were they in this sultry weather



able individually to moisten soil
to the consistency of plaster for
the the formation of galleries towards
any vegetable matter they might
wish to devour, but when their
inner chambers were laid open
these were also surprising
-ly humid. Yet there was
no dew and the house being
placed on a rock they could
have no subterranean passage
to the bed of the river almost 300
yards below the hill.*

Rain however would not
fall. the Bakwains believed that
I had bound Sechele with some
magic spell, and I received
deputations in the evenings
of the old counsellors entreating me
to allow him to make only a few showers
“the corn will die if you refuse, and
we shall become scattered.” “Only
let him this once and we shall
come to the school and sing & pray as
long as you please” It was in
vain to protest that I wished Sechele
to act first according to his own
ideas of what was right as he found
the law laid down in the Bible.
And it was distressing to appear
hard hearted to them. the clouds

*When we come to Angola I shall describe
an insect there which distills several
pints of water every night



often collected beautifully over us, and
Rolling thunder seemed to portend
refreshing showers, but next morning
the sun would rise in a cloudless
sky. Indeed these were more frequent
by far than days of sunshine in

Dele JM It is irksome
to sit and wait so helplessly as is
implied in the idea of God giving
the rain from Heaven. It is
more comfortable to help themselves
and they can do so by such a
variety of . preparations
Charcoal made of burned bats
inspissated urine of the mountain coney Hyrax Capensis (which
by the way is used by old Dutch
ladies in the form of pills as a
good antispasmodic under the
name of “Klipsweit”= stone sweat)
The internal parts of different animals
as Jackalls livers, Lion's and
baboons hearts and hairy calculi
from the bowels of old cows
serpents skins & vertebrae. And


every kind of tuber, bulb, root,
and plant to be found in the
country. Disbelieving their efficacy
in charming the clouds to pour
out their refreshing treasures
and knowing that civility is
useful every where you kindly state
you think they are mistaken,
as to their power, the rain
doctor selects a bulb, pounds it
and administers a cold infusion
to a sheep which in five minutes
afterwards expires in convulsions.
Part of the same bulb is converted
into smoke which ascends
to the sky, rain follows in
a day or two. The case is clear.
Were we as much harassed by
droughts, the logic would be
irresistible in England in 1857.

Have we ought else in support of
the powers of the homeopathic
globule? A powerful medicine
capable of appreciable effects is
manipulated into a decimal
fraction & post quad the cure
follows. The inference is irresistible



As the Bakwains believed that there
must be some connection
between the presence of “Gods word”
in their town and these successive
and distressing droughts, they
looked with no good will at
the church-bell. but still they invariably
treated us with kindness and
respect. I am not aware of
ever having had an enemy
in the tribe. the only cause of
dislike was
expressed by a very influential
and sensible man the uncle
of Sechele. “We like you as well
as if you had been born among
us, you are the only white man
we can become familiar with” (tloaela)
but we wish you to give up that
everlasting preaching and praying
We cannot become accustomed
to that at all” “You see we never
get rain while those tribes who
never pray as we do get abundan"
This was a fact, and we often
saw it raining on the hills 10 miles
off while it would not look at us
“even with one eye.” If the Prince
of the power of the Air had
no hand in schorching us up
I fear I often felt uncharitably
towards his majesty.

As for the Rain makers they
carried the sympathies of the



people along with them and not
without reason. With the following arguments
they were all acquainted.
and in order
to understand
their force we
must place
ourselves in
their position
& believe as they
and [homoæpathes]
do that all
medicines act
by a mysterious
charm. the
term for cure
may be trans
lated “Charm”

Medical Doctor Hail friend!
How very many medicines you have
about you this morning. Why
you have every medicine in the country
about you [this]

Rain Doctor. Very true my friend
and I ought for the whole country
needs the rain which I am making

M.D. So you really believe that
you can command the clouds
I think that can be done by God

R.D. We both believe the very
same thing. It is God that makes
the rain but I pray to him
by means of these medicines
and of course the rain is mine.
It was I who made it for the
Bakwains for many years
when they were at Shokuane,
Through my wisdom their
women became fat and shining
Ask them they will tell you the
same as I do.

M.D. But we are distinctly
told in the parting words of our
saviour that we can pray to
God acceptably in his name
alone and not by means
of medicines.

R.D. Truly, but God told us
differently. He made black




men first, and did not love us
as he did the white men. He
made you beautiful. and gave you
clothing and guns and horses
and gunpowder and waggons
and many other things about
which we know nothing
But toward us he had no heart
He gave us nothing except the
assegai and cattle, and rainmaking and did
not give us hearts like yours
We never love each other
Other tribes put
medicines about
our country to
prevent the rain
so that we may
be dispersed by
hunger and
augment their
power. We
must dissolve
their charms by
our medicines
God has given us one little thing
which you know nothing
of. He has given us the
knowledge of certain medicines
by which we can make rain
We do not despise those things
which you possess though
we are ignorant of them.
We dont understand your book
yet we dont despise it. You
ought not to despise our
little knowledge though you
are ignorant of it.

M.D. I dont despise
what I am ignorant of I only
think you are mistaken in
saying you have medicines which
can influence the rain at all.

R.D. Thats just the way
people speak when they talk on a subjec
of which they have no knowledge
When we first opened our eyes
we found our forefathers —



making rain, and we follow
in their footsteps. You who
send to Kuruman for corn
and irrigate your garden
may do without rain, we
cannot manage in that way.
If we had no rain the cattle
would have no pasture. the
cows give no milk. Our
children become lean and
die. Our wives run away
to other tribes who do make
rain, and have corn, and
the whole tribe become dispersed
and lost. Our fire would go out.

M.D. I quite agree with you
as to the value of the rain, but
you cant charm the clouds by
medicines. You wait till you
see the clouds come then use
your medicines and take the
credit which belongs to God only.

R.D. I use my medicines
and you employ yours. We are
both doctors, and doctors are
not decievers. You give a patient
medicine. Sometimes God is pleased
to heal him by means of your
medicine sometimes not — he
dies. When he is cured you take
the credit of what God does. I do
the same. Sometimes God grants
us rain sometimes not. In each
case we take the credit of the cure.



When a patient dies you dont
give up trust in your medicine
neither do I when the rain fails,
If you wish me to leave off
my medicines Why continue

M.D. I wish you would
try and God would give us
rain without your medicines.

R.D. Mahalama-kapa,a,a. Well I always thought
white men were wise till this
morning. Who ever thought of
making trial of starvation
Is death pleasant then?

M.D. Could you make rain on
one spot and not on another

R.D. I wouldnt think of trying
I like to see the whole country
green and all the people glad,
the women clapping their hands
and giving me their ornaments
for thankfulness — and lullilooing for joy

M.D. I think you decieve
both them and your-self.

R.D. Well there is a pair
of us.—(meaning both are rogues
exit M.D. mentally writing Cont. Med.)

the above is only a specimen
of their way of reasoning in
which when the language is
well understood they are percieved to
be remarkably acute. these argument
are generally known and I
never succeeded in convincing



a single individual of their fallacy
though I tried them in every
way I could think of. Their faith
in medicines as charms is
unbounded. the general effect
of argument is to produce the
impression that you do not
feel anxious for rain at all
and it is very undesirable to allow
the idea to spread that you do not
feel a generous interest in their
welfare. An angry opponent
of rainmaking in a tribe
would be like a Greek merchant
in England during the Russian war.

the ?The Conduct of the people
during this long continued drought
was remarkably good. the women
parted with most of their ornaments
to purchase corn from more
fortunate tribes. the children
scoured the country in search
of the numerous bulbs and
roots which can sustain life,
and the men engaged in
hunting. Very large numbers
of the large game. buffaloes, zebras
giraffes, tsessebes, kamas, gnus
pallas, Rhinoceroses &c. congregated
at some fountains near Kolobeng
and the trap called hopo were constructed in
the lands adjacent for their destruction
the Hopo consists of two hedges
in the form of the letter V. very



high and thick near the angle at
the bottom and at the extremity
of that same angle a pit
is formed six or eight feet deep
and about ten in breadth & length
Trees are laid accross the edge
over which the animals are
expected to leap and attempt to
escape so as to form an over
lapping ledge which they cannot
possibly climb. As the hedges
are frequently a mile long and
about as much apart at their
extremities tribe making a circle
extending three or four miles
round the country ajacent to the
opening and gradually closing
up are almost sure to enclose
a large body of game. Driving
it up with shouts to the narrow
part of the hopo. men secreted
there through throw their javelins into
the affrighted herds and on they
rush into the pit till that is full
of a living mass. Some escape
by rushing over the others as
a Smithfield market dog does
over the sheep backs It is a frightful scene
the men wild with excitement spear
the lovely animals with mad delight
Others borne down by the weight
of their dead & dying companions
every now and then make the
whole mass heave in their smothering



agonies. No one but a born butcher
could look on that scene without
feeling sick at heart. The Bakuena
often killed between sixty and
seventy head of large game at
the different Hopos in a single
week and as every one both rich
and poor partook of the prey, the
meat counteracted the bad effects
of an exclusively vegetable diet.
When the poor who had no salt
were forced to live exclusively on
roots they were often troubled
with indigestion. Such cases
we had frequent opportunities of
seeing at other times for the district
being destitute of salt the rich alone
could afford to buy it. The native
doctors aware of the cause of
the malady usually prescribed
some of ingredient with their
medicines. The doctors themselves
had none so the poor resorted to
us for aid, We took the hint and
henceforth cured the disease by
giving a tea spoonfulful of salt minus
the other remedies.
Either milk or meat had the same
effect though not so rapidly as
the salt. Long afterwards when
I was myself deprived of salt
for four months at two distinct
periods I felt no desire for
that condiment, but I was



plagued by very great longing
for these articles of food
This continued as long as
I was confined to an exclusively
vegetable diet. And when
I procured a meal of flesh
though boiled in perfectly fresh
rain water it tasted as
pleasantly saltish as if slightly
impregnated with the condiment
Both milk and meat removed




entirely the excessive longing and
dreaming about roasted ribs of
fat oxen and bowls of cool
thick milk gurgling forth from
the big bellied calabashes
And I could understand the
thankfulness of poor Bakwain
women (in the interesting condition)
to Mrs L. for a little milk or meat.

Had there been no other adverse
influences at work the general
uncertainty though not absolute want
of food, and the necessity for
frequent absence, for the purpose of either hunting
or collecting roots and fruits, proved
a serious barrier to progress in
knowledge, our own education
was carried on at the comfortable
breakfast and dinner tables and
by the cozy fire, as well as in the
church and school. Few English
would be [decorous]
at church on over
empty stomachs
no more than
they are on overfull
Ragged schools would have been
failures had the teachers not
wisely provided food for the
body as well as food for the
mind. And not only must we shew
a friendly interest in bodily
comforts as a christian duty, but
we can no more hope for healthy
feelings among the poor either
at home or abroad without
feeding them into them than we can
hope to see an ordinary working
bee feed into a queen mother
by the ordinary food of the hive



Sending the gospel to the heathen
must if this view be
correct, include much more than
the usual picture of a missionary
implies; viz. a man going about with a
bible under his arm. The promotion
of commerce ought to be specially
attended to as this more speedily
than aught else demolishes
feeling of isolation which heathenism
engenders, and makes the
the tribes feel themselves
mutually dependant on and mutually
beneficial to each other. Those
laws which still prevent free
commercial intercourse among
the civilized, seem to be nothing
else but the remains of our own
heathenism. My experience
makes me intensely desirous
to promote the preparation of the
new materials of European
manufactures in Africa for
by that means we shall
not only put a stop to the slave
trade but introduce the negro
family into the body corporate
of nations no one member
of which can suffer without
the others suffering with it. Success
in this in both Eastern and
Western Africa would lead in
the course of time to a much
larger diffusion of the blessings

[If to work]



than efforts more purely spiritual
and educational. these however
it would be extremely desirable
to carry on at the same time
The English character should never
be exhibited except in connection
with Christianity.

Another adverse influence
with which the mission had to
contend was the vicinity of the
Boers of the Cashan mountains
otherwise named “Magaliesberg.”
These are not to be confounded
with the Cape Colonists who sometimes
pass by the name. The word simply
means “farmers” and is not
synonymous with our word
Boor. Indeed to them generally
the term is inappropriate for
they are a sober, , industrious
and most hospitable body of peasantry.
Those who however have fled
from English law on various
pretexts, and have been joined
by English deserters and every
other variety of bad character in
their distant localities are un-fortunately
of a very different stamp
The great objection many of them
had and still have to English law is that it makes
no distinction between black &
white. they felt aggrieved by their
supposed losses in the emancipation
of their Hottentot slaves, and


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APA Style:

Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'. 2023. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved February 2023, from

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"Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. February 2023.

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The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'," accessed February 2023,

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The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. 2023. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'

Document Information

Document ID 192
Title Lion chapter and intro from Livingston's 'Missionary Travels'
Year group 1850-1900
Genre Personal writing
Year of publication 1866
Wordcount 10660

Author information: Livingstone, David

Author ID 36
Forenames David
Surname Livingstone
Gender Male
Year of birth 1813
Place of birth Blantyre, Scotland
Occupation Missionary, explorer, mill worker
Education University
Locations where resident Blantyre, Glasgow
Other languages spoken Latin
Religious affiliation Protestant, Congregational Church