by Samuel White Baker
Indigenous Productions - Botanical Gardens - Suggested Experiments - Lack of Encouragement to Gold-diggers - Prospects of Gold-digging - We want "Nuggets" - Who is to Blame? - Governor's Salary - Fallacies of a Five Years' Reign - Neglected Education of the People - Responsibilities of Conquest - Progress of Christianity.
The foregoing chapter may appear to decry in toto the indigenous productions of Ceylon, as it is asserted that they are valueless in their natural state. Nevertheless, I do not imply that they must necessarily remain useless. Where Nature simply creates a genus, cultivation extends the species, and from an insignificant parent stock we propagate our finest varieties of both animals and vegetables. Witness the wild kale, parsnip, carrot, crab-apple, sloe, etc., all utterly worthless, but nevertheless the first parents of their now choice descendants.
It is therefore impossible to say what might not he done in the improvement of indigenous productions were the attention of science bestowed upon them. But all this entails expense, and upon whom is this to fall? Out of a hundred experiments ninety-nine might fail. In Ceylon we have no wealthy experimentalists, no agricultural exhibitions, no model farms, but every man who settles in a colony has left the mother country to better himself; therefore, no private enterprise is capable of such speculation. It clearly rests upon the government to develop the resources of the country, to prove the value of the soil, which is delivered to the purchaser at so much per acre, good or bad. But no; it is not in the nature of our government to move from an established routine. As the squirrel revolves his cage, so governor after governor rolls his dull course along, pockets his salary, and leaves the poor colony as he found it.
The government may direct the attention of the public, in reply, to their own establishment - to the botanical gardens. Have we not botanical gardens? We have, indeed, and much good they should do, if conducted upon the principle of developing local resources; but this would entail expense, and, like everything in the hands of government, it dies in its birth for want of consistent management.
With an able man as superintendent at a good salary, the beautiful gardens at Peredenia are rendered next to useless for want of a fund at his disposal. Instead of being conducted as an experimental farm, they are little more than ordinary pleasure-grounds, filled with the beautiful foliage of the tropics and kept in perfect order. What benefit have they been to the colony? Have the soils of various districts been tested? have new fibres been manufactured from the countless indigenous fibrous plants? have new oils been extracted? have medicinal drugs been produced? have dyes been extracted? have improvements been suggested in the cultivation of any of the staple articles of Ceylon export? In fact, has ANYTHING ever been done by government for the interest of the private settler?
This is not the fault of the manager of the gardens; he has the will, but no funds. My idea of the object of a botanical garden is, that agricultural theories should be reduced to facts, upon which private enterprise may speculate, and by such success the government should ultimately benefit.
It is well known to the commonest school-boy that soil which may be favorable to one plant is not adapted to another; therefore, where there is a diversity of soils it stands to reason that there should be a corresponding variety of crops to suit those soils, so as to make the whole surface of the land yield its proportion.
In Ceylon, where the chief article of production is coffee, land (upon an estate) which is not suitable to this cultivation is usually considered waste. Thus the government and the private proprietor are alike losers in possessing an amount of unprofitable soil.
Now, surely it is the common sense object in the establishment of a botanical garden to discover for each description of soil a remunerating crop, so that an estate should be cultivated to its uttermost, and the word "waste" be unknown upon the property.
Under the present system of management this is impossible; the sum allowed per annum is but just sufficient to keep the gardens in proper condition, and the abilities of the botanist in charge are sacrificed. Many a valuable plant now lies screened in the shades of remote jungles, which the enterprising botanist would bring to light were he enabled by government to make periodical journeys through the interior. These journeys should form a part of his duties; his botanical specimens should be his game, and they should be pursued with the ardor of the chase itself, and subsequently transferred to the gardens and their real merits discovered by experiments.
But what can be expected from an apathetic system of government? Dyes, fibres, gums may abound in the forests, metals and even gold may be concealed beneath our feet; but the governor does not consider it a part of his duty to prosecute the search, or even to render facilities to those of a more industrious temperament. What can better exemplify the case than the recent discovery of gold at Newera Ellia?
Here was the plain fact that gold was found in small specks, not in one spot, but everywhere throughout the swamps for miles in the vicinity - that at a depth of two or three feet from the surface this proof was adduced of its presence; but the governor positively refused to assist the discoverers ("diggers," who were poor sailors visiting Ceylon), although they merely asked for subsistence until they should be able to reach a greater depth. This may appear too absurd to be correct, but it is nevertheless true.
At the time that I commenced these sketches of Ceylon the gold was just discovered, and I touched but lightly upon it, in the expectation that a few months of labor, aided by government support, would have established its presence in remunerating quantities. The swampy nature of the soil rendered the digging impossible without the aid of powerful pumps to reduce the water, which filled the shaft so rapidly that no greater depth could be obtained than eighteen feet, and even this at immense labor.
The diggers were absolutely penniless, and but for assistance received from private parties they must have starved. The rainy season was at its height, and torrents fell night and day with little intermission. Still, these poor little fellows worked early and late, wet and dry, ever sanguine of success, and they at length petitioned the Government to give them the means of subsistence for a few months - "subsistence" for two men, and the assistance of a few coolies. This was refused, and the reply stated that the government intended to leave the search for gold to "private enterprise." No reward was offered for its discovery as in other colonies, but the governor would leave it to "private enterprise." A promising enterprise truly, when every landholder in Ceylon, on referring to his title-deeds, observes the reservation of all precious metals to the crown. This is a fair sample of the narrow-minded, selfish policy of a government which, in endeavoring to save a little, loses all; a miserable tampering with the public in attempting to make a cat's paw of private enterprise.
How has this ended? The diggers left the island in disgust. If the gold is there in quantity, there in quantity it remains to the present time, unsought for. The subject of gold is so generally interesting, and in this case of such importance to the colony, that, believing as I do that it does exist in large quantities, I must claim the reader's patience in going into this subject rather fully.
Let us take the matter as it stands.
The reader will remember that I mentioned at an early part of these pages that gold was first discovered in Ceylon by the diggers in the bed of a stream near Kandy - that they subsequently came to Newera Ellia, and there discovered gold likewise.
It must be remembered that the main features of the country at Newera Ellia and the vicinity are broad flats or swampy plains, surrounded by hills and mountains: the former covered with rank grass and intersected by small streams, the latter covered with dense forest. The soil abounds with rocks of gneiss and quartz, some of the latter rose-color, some pure white. The gold has hitherto been found in the plains only. These plains extend over some thirty miles of country, divided into numerous patches by intervening jungles.
The surface soil is of a peaty nature, perfectly black, soapy when wet, and as light as soot when dry; worthless for cultivation. This top soil is about eighteen inches thick, and appears to have been the remains of vegetable matter washed down from the surrounding hills and forests.
This swampy black soil rests upon a thin stratum of brownish clay, not more than a few inches thick, which, forming a second layer, rests in its turn upon a snow white rounded quartz gravel intermixed with white pipe-clay.
This contains gold, every shovelful of earth producing, when washed, one or more specks of the precious metal.
The stratum of rounded quartz is about two feet thick, and is succeeded by pipe-clay, intermixed with quartz gravel, to a depth of eighteen feet. Here another stratum of quartz gravel is met with, perfectly water-worn and rounded to the size of a twelve-pound shot.
In this stratum the gold was of increased size, and some pieces were discovered as large as small grains of rice; but no greater depth was attained at the time Of writing than to this stratum, viz., eighteen feet from the surface.
No other holes were sunk to a greater depth than ten feet, on account of the influx of water, but similar shafts were made in various places, and all with equal success.
From the commencement of the first stratum of quartz throughout to the greatest depth attained gold was present.
Upon washing away the clay and gravel, a great number of gems of small value remained (chiefly sapphire, ruby, jacinth and green tourmaline). These being picked out, there remained a jet-black fine sand, resembling gunpowder. This was of great specific gravity, and when carefully washed, discovered the gold - some in grains, some in mere specks, and some like fine, golden flour.
At this interesting stage the search has been given up: although the cheering sight of gold can be obtained in nearly every pan of earth at such trifling depths, and literally in every direction, the prospect is abandoned. The government leaves it to private enterprise, but the enterprising public have no faith in the government.
Without being over-sanguine, or, on the other side, closing our cars with asinine stubbornness, let us take an impartial view of the facts determined, and draw rational conclusions.
It appears that from a depth of two and a half feet from the surface to the greatest depth as yet attained (eighteen feet), gold exists throughout.
It also appears that this is not only the case in one particular spot, but all over this part of the country, and that this fact is undeniable; and, nevertheless, the government did not believe in the existence of gold in Ceylon until these diggers discovered it; and when discovered, they gave the diggers neither reward nor encouragement, but they actually met the discovery by a published prohibition against the search; they then latterly withdrew the prohibition and left it to private enterprise, but neglected the unfortunate diggers. In this manner is the colony mismanaged; in this manner is all public spirit damped, all private enterprise checked, and all men who have anything to venture disgusted.
The liberality of a government must be boundless where the actual subsistence for a few months is refused to the discoverers of gold in a country where, hitherto, its presence had been denied.
It would be speculative to anticipate the vast changes that in extended discovery would effect in such a colony as Ceylon. We have before us the two pictures of California and Australia, which have been changed as though by the magician's wand within the last few years. It becomes us now simply to consider the probability of the gold being in such quantities in Ceylon as to effect such changes. We have it present these simple data - that in a soft, swampy soil gold has been found close to the surface in small specks, gradually increasing in size and quantity as a greater depth has been attained.
From the fact that gold will naturally lie deep, from its specific gravity, it is astonishing that any vestige of such a metal should be discovered in such soil so close to the surface. Still more astonishing that it should be so generally disseminated throughout the locality. This would naturally be accepted as a proof that the soil is rich in gold. But the question will then arise, Where is the gold? The quantities found are a mere nothing - it is only dust: we want "nuggets."
The latter is positively the expression that I myself frequently heard in Ceylon - "We want nuggets."
Who does not want nuggets? But people speak of "nuggets" as they would of pebbles, forgetting that the very principle which keeps the light dust at the surface has forced the heavier gold to a greater depth, and that far from complaining of the lack of nuggets when digging has hardly commenced, they should gaze with wonder at the bare existence of the gold in its present form and situation.
The diggings at Ballarat are from a hundred to an hundred and sixty feet deep in hard ground, and yet people in Ceylon expect to find heavy gold in mere mud, close to the surface. The idea is preposterous, and I conceive it only reasonable to infer from the present appearances that gold does exist in large quantities in Ceylon. But as it is reasonable to suppose such to be the case, so it is unreasonable to suppose that private individuals will invest capital in so uncertain a speculation as mining without facilities from the government, and in the very face of the clause in their own title-deeds "that all precious metals belong to the crown."
This is the anomalous position of the gold in Ceylon under the governorship of Sir G. Anderson.
Nevertheless, it becomes a question whether we should blame the man or the system, but the question arises in this case, as with everything else in which government is concerned, "Where is the fault?" "Echo answers 'Where?'" But the public are not satisfied with echoes, and in this matter-of-fact age people look to those who fill ostensible posts and draw bona fide salaries; and if these men hold the appointments, no matter under what system, they become the deserved objects of either praise or censure.
Thus it may appear too much to say that Sir G. Anderson is liable for the mismanagement of the colony in toto -for the total neglect of the public roads. It may appear too much to say, When you came to the colony you found the roads in good order: they are now impassable; communication is actually cut off from places of importance. This is your fault, these are the fruits of your imbecility; your answer to our petitions for repairs was, "There is no money;" and yet at the close of the year you proclaimed and boasted of a saving of twenty-seven thousand pounds in the treasury! This seems a fearful contradiction; and the whole public received it as such. The governor may complain that the public expect too much; the public may complain that the governor does too little.
Upon these satisfactory terms, governors and their dependants bow each other out, the colony being a kind of opera stall, a reserved seat for the governor during the performance of five acts (as we will term his five years of office); and the fifth act, as usual in tragedies, exposes the whole plot of the preceding four, and winds up with the customary disasters.
Now the question is, how long this age of misrule will last.
Every one complains, and still every one endures. Each man has a grievance, but no man has a remedy. Still, the absurdity of our colonial appointments is such that if steps were purposely taken to ensure the destruction of the colonies, they could not have been more certain.
We will commence with a new governor dealt out to a colony. We will simply call him a governor, not troubling ourselves with his qualifications, as of course they have not been considered at the Colonial Office. He may be an upright, clear-headed, indefatigable man, in the prime of life, or he may be old, crotchety, pigheaded, and mentally and physically incapable. He may be either; it does not much matter, as he can only remain for five years, at which time his term expires.
We will suppose that the crotchety old gentleman arrives first. The public will be in a delightful perplexity as to what the new governor will do - whether he will carry out the views of his predecessor, or whether he will upset everything that has been done in the past five years; all is uncertainty. The only thing known positively is, that, good or bad, he will pocket seven thousand a year!* *[since reduced to five thousand pounds].
His term of government will be chequered by many disappointments to the public, and, if he has any feeling at all, by many heartburnings to himself. Physically incapable of much exertion, he will be unable to travel over so wild a country as Ceylon. A good governor in a little island may be a very bad governor in a large island, as a good cab-driver might make a bad four-in hand man; thus our old governor would have no practical knowledge of the country, but would depend upon prejudiced accounts for his information. Thus he would never arrive at any correct information; he would receive all testimony with doubt, considering that each had some personal motive in offering advice, and one tongue would thus nullify the other until he should at length come to the conclusion of David in his haste, "that all men are liars," and turn a deaf ear to all. This would enable him to pass the rest of his term without any active blunders, and he might vary the passive monotony of his existence by a system of contradiction to all advice gratis. A little careful pruning of expenses during the last two years of his term might give a semblance of increase oŁ revenue over expenditure, to gain a smile from the Colonial Office. On his return the colony would be left with neglected roads, consequent upon the withdrawal of the necessary funds.
This incubus at length removed from the colony, may be succeeded by a governor of the first class.
He arrives; finds everything radically wrong; the great arteries of the country (the roads) in disorder; a large outlay required to repair them. Thus his first necessary act begins by an outlay at a time when all outlay is considered equivalent to crime. This gains him a frown from the Colonial Office. Conscious of right, however, he steers his own course; he travels over the whole country, views its features personally, judges of its requirements and resources, gathers advice from capable persons, forms his own opinion, and acts accordingly.
We will allow two years of indefatigable research to have passed over our model governor; by that time, and not before, he may have become thoroughly conversant with the colony in all its bearings. He has comprehended the vast natural capabilities, he has formed his plans methodically for the improvement of the country; not by any rash and speculative outlay, but, step by step, he hopes to secure the advancement of his schemes.
This is a work of time; he has much to do. The country is in an uncivilized state; he sees the vestiges of past grandeur around him, and his views embrace a wide field for the renewal of former prosperity. Tanks must be repaired, canals reopened, emigration of Chinese and Malabars encouraged, forests and jungles cleared, barren land brought into fertility. The work of years is before him, but the expiration of his term draws near. Time is precious, but nevertheless he must refer his schemes to the Colonial Office. What do they know of Ceylon? To them his plans seem visionary; at all events they will require an outlay. A correspondence ensues - that hateful correspondence! This ensures delay. Time flies; the expiration of his term draws near. Even his sanguine temperament has ceased to hope; his plans are not even commenced, to work out which would require years; he never could see them realized, and his successor might neglect them and lay the onus of the failure upon him, the originator, or claim the merit of their success.
So much for a five years' term of governorship, the absurdity of which is superlative. It is so entirely contrary to the system of management in private affairs that it is difficult to imagine the cause that could have given rise to such a regulation. In matters great or small, the capability of the manager is the first consideration; and if this be proved, the value of the man is enhanced accordingly; no employer would lose him.
But in colonial governments the system is directly opposite, for no sooner does the governor become competent than he is withdrawn and transferred to another sphere. Thus every colony is like a farm held on a short lease, which effectually debars it from improvement, as the same feeling which actuates the individual in neglecting the future, because he will not personally enjoy the fruits of his labor, must in some degree fetter the enterprise of a five years' governor. He is little better than the Lord Mayor, who flutters proudly for a year, and then drops his borrowed feathers in his moulting season.
Why should not governors serve an apprenticeship for five years as colonial secretaries to the colonies they are destined for, if five years is still to be the limited term of their office? This would ensure a knowledge of the colony at a secretary's salary, and render them fit for both the office and salary of governor when called upon; whereas, by the present system, they at once receive a governor's salary before they understand their duties.
In casually regarding the present picture of Ceylon, it is hard to say which point has been most neglected; but a short residence in the island will afford a fair sample of government inactivity in the want of education among the people.
Upon this subject more might be said than lies in my province to dwell upon; nevertheless, after fifty years' possession of the Kandian districts, this want is so glaring that I cannot withhold a few remarks upon the subject, as I consider the ignorant state of the native population a complete check to the advancement of the colony.
In commencing this subject, I must assume that the conquerors of territory are responsible for the moral welfare of the inhabitants; therefore our responsibility increases with our conquests. A mighty onus thus rests upon Great Britain, which few consider when they glory in the boast, "that the sun never sets upon her dominions."
This thought leads us to a comparison of power between ourselves and other countries, and we trace the small spot upon the world's map which marks our little island, and in every sphere we gaze with wonder at our vast possessions. This is a picture of the present. What will the future be in these days of advancement? It were vain to hazard a conjecture; but we can look back upon the past, and build upon this foundation our future hopes.
When the pomps and luxuries of Eastern cities spread throughout Ceylon, and millions of inhabitants fed on her fertility, when the hands of her artists chiseled the figures of her gods from the rude rock, when her vessels, laden with ivory and spices, traded with the West, what were we? A forest-covered country, peopled by a fierce race of savages clad in skins, bowing before druidical idolatry, paddling along our shores in frames of wickerwork and hide.
The ancient deities of Ceylon are in the same spots, unchanged; the stones of the Druids stand unmoved; but what has become of the nations? Those of the East have faded away and their strength has perished. Their ships are crumbled; the rude canoe glides over their waves; the spices grow wild in their jungles; and, unshorn and unclad, the inhabitants wander on the face of the land.
Is it "chance" that has worked this change? Where is the forest-covered country and its savage race, its skin-clad warriors and their frail coracles?
There, where the forest stood, from north to south and from east to west, spreads a wide field of rich fertility. There, on those rivers where the basket-boats once sailed, rise the taut spars of England's navy. Where the rude hamlet rested on its banks in rural solitude, the never-weary din of commerce rolls through the city of the world. The locomotive rushes like a thunder-clap upon the rail; the steamer ploughs against the adverse wind, and, rapid as the lightning, the telegraph cripples time. The once savage land is the nucleus of the arts and civilization. The nation that from time to time was oppressed, invaded, conquered, but never subjected, still pressed against the weight of adversity, and, as age after age rolled on, and mightier woes and civil strife gathered upon her, still the germ of her destiny, as it expanded, threw off her load, until she at length became a nation envied and feared.
It was then that the powers of the world were armed against her, and all Europe joined to tear the laurels from her crown, and fleets and armies thronged from all points against the devoted land, and her old enemy, the Gaul, hovered like his own eagle over the expected prey.
The thunder of the cannon shook the world, and blood tinged the waves around the land, and war and tumult shrieked like a tempest over the fair face of Nature; the din of battle smothered all sounds of peace, and years passed on and thicker grew the gloom. It was then the innate might of the old Briton roused itself to action and strained those giant nerves which brought us victory. The struggle was past, and as the smoke of battle cleared from the surface of the world, the flag of England waved in triumph on the ocean, her fleets sat swan-like on the waves, her standard floated on the strongholds of the universe, and far and wide stretched the vast boundaries of her conquests.
Again I ask, is this the effect of "chance?" or is it the mighty will of Omnipotence, which, choosing his instruments from the humbler ranks, has snatched England from her lowly state, and has exalted her to be the apostle of Christianity throughout the world?
Here lies her responsibility. The conquered nations are in her hands; they have been subject to her for half a century, but they know neither her language nor her religion.
How many millions of human beings of all creeds and colors does she control? Are they or their descendants to embrace our faith? - that is, I are we the divine instrument for accomplishing the vast change that we expect by the universal acknowledgement of Christianity? or are we - I pause before the suggestion - are we but another of those examples of human insignificance, that, as from dust we rose, so to dust we shall return? shall we be but another in the long list of nations whose ruins rest upon the solitudes of Nature, like warnings to the proud cities which triumph in their strength? Shall the traveler in future ages place his foot upon the barren sod and exclaim, "Here stood their great city!"
The inhabitants of Nineveh would have scoffed at such a supposition. And yet they fell, and yet the desert sand shrouded their cities as the autumn leaves fall on the faded flowers of summer.
To a fatalist it can matter but little whether a nation fulfills its duty, or whether, by neglecting it, punishment should be drawn down upon its head. According to his theory, neither good nor evil acts would alter a predestined course of events. There are apparently fatalist governments as well as individuals, which, absorbed in the fancied prosperity of the present, legislate for temporal advantages only.
Thus we see the most inconsistent and anomalous conditions imposed in treaties with conquered powers; we see, for instance, in Ceylon, a protection granted to the Buddhist religion, while flocks of missionaries are sent out to convert the heathen. We even stretch the point so far as to place a British sentinel on guard at the Buddhist temple in Kandy, as though in mockery of our Protestant church a hundred paces distant.
At the same time that we acknowledge and protect the Buddhist religion, we pray that Christianity shall spread through the whole world; and we appoint bishops to our colonies at the same time we neglect the education of the inhabitants.
When I say we neglect the education I do not mean to infer that there are no government schools, but that the education of the people, instead of being one of the most important objects of the government, is considered of so little moment that it is tantamount to neglected.
There are various opinions as to the amount of learning which constitutes education, and at some of the government schools the native children are crammed with useless nonsense, which, by raising them above their natural position, totally unfits them for their proper sphere. This is what the government calls education; and the same time and expense thus employed in teaching a few would educate treble the number in plain English. It is too absurd to hear the arguments in favor of mathematics, geography, etc., etc., for the native children, when a large proportion of our own population in Great Britain can neither read nor write.
The great desideratum in native education is a thorough knowledge of the English tongue, which naturally is the first stone for any superstructure of more extended learning. This brings them within the reach of the missionary, not only in conversation, but it enables them to benefit by books, which are otherwise useless. It lessens the distance between the white man and the black, and an acquaintance with the English language engenders a taste for English habits. The first dawn of civilization commences with a knowledge of our language. The native immediately adopts some English customs and ideas, and drops a corresponding number of his own. In fact, he is a soil fit to work up on, instead of being a barren rock as hitherto, firm in his own ignorance and prejudices.
In the education of the rising native generation lies the hope of ultimate conversion. You may as well try to turn pitch into snow as to eradicate the dark stain of heathenism from the present race. Nothing can be done with them; they must be abandoned like the barren fig-tree, and the more attention bestowed upon the young shoots.
But, unfortunately, this is a popular error, and, like all such, one full of prejudice. Abandon the present race! Methinks I hear the cry from Exeter Hall. But the good people at home have no idea to what an extent they are at present, and always have been, abandoned. Where the children who can be educated with success are neglected at the present day, it may be imagined that the parents have been but little cared for; thus, in advocating their abandonment, it is simply proposing an extra amount of attention to be bestowed upon the next generation.
There are many large districts of Ceylon where no schools of any kind are established. In the Ouva country, which is one of the most populous, I have had applications from the natives, begging me to interest myself in obtaining some arrangement of the kind. Throngs of natives applied, describing the forlorn condition of their district, all being not only anxious to send their children to some place where they could learn free of expense, but offering to pay a weekly stipend in return. "They are growing up as ignorant as our young buffaloes," was a remark made by one of the headmen of the villages, and this within twelve miles of Newera Ellia.
Now, leaving out the question of policy in endeavoring to make the language of our own country the common tongue of a conquered colony, it must be admitted that, simply as a question of duty, it is incumbent upon the government to do all in its power for the moral advancement of the native population. It is known that the knowledge of our language is the first step necessary to this advancement, and nevertheless it is left undone; the population is therefore neglected.
I have already adverted to the useless system in the government schools of forcing a superabundant amount of knowledge into the children's brains, and thereby raising them above their position. A contrasting example of good common-sense education has recently been given by the Rev. Mr. Thurston (who is indefatigable in his profession) in the formulation of an industrial school at Colombo.
This is precisely the kind of education which is required; and it has already been attended with results most beneficial on its limited scale.
This school is conducted on the principle that the time of every boy shall not only be of service to himself, but shall likewise tend to the support of the establishment. The children are accordingly instructed in such pursuits as shall be the means of earning a livelihood in future years: some are taught a trade, others are employed in the cultivation of gardens, and subsequently in the preparation of a variety of produce. Among others, the preparation of tapioca from the root of the manioc has recently been attended with great success. In fact, they are engaged during their leisure hours in a variety of experiments, all of which tend to an industrial turn of mind, benefiting not only the lad and the school, but also the government, by preparing for the future men who will be serviceable and industrious in their station.
Here is a lesson for the government which, if carried out on an extensive scale, would work a greater change in the colony within the next twenty years than all the preaching of the last fifty.
Throughout Ceylon, in every district, there should be established one school upon this principle for every hundred boys, and a small tract of land granted to each. One should be attached to the botanical gardens at Peredenia, and instruction should be given to enable every school to perform its own experiments in agriculture. By this means, in the course of a few years we should secure an educated and useful population, in lieu of the present indolent and degraded race: an improved system of cultivation, new products, a variety of trades, and, in fact, a test of the capabilities of the country would be ensured, without risk to the government, and to the ultimate prosperity of the colony. Heathenism could not exist in such a state of affairs; it would die out. Minds exalted by education upon such a system would look with ridicule upon the vestiges of former idolatry, and the rocky idols would remain without a worshiper, while a new generation flocked to the Christian altar.
This is no visionary prospect. It has been satisfactorily proved that the road to conversion to Christianity is through knowledge, and this once attained, heathenism shrinks into the background. This knowledge can only be gained by the young when such schools are established as I have described.
Our missionaries should therefore devote their attention to this object, and cease to war against the impossibility of adult conversion. If one-third of the enormous sums hitherto expended with little or no results upon missionary labor had been employed in the establishments as proposed, our colonies would now possess a Christian population. But are our missionaries capable? Here commences another question, which again involves others in their turn, all of which, when answered, thoroughly explain the stationary, if not retrograde, position of the Protestant Church among the heathen.
What is the reader's conceived opinion of the duties and labors of a missionary in a heathen land? Does he, or does he not imagine, as he pays his subscription toward this object, that the devoted missionary quits his native shores, like one of the apostles of old, to fight the good fight? that he leaves all to follow "Him?" and that he wanders forth in his zeal to propagate the gospel, penetrating into remote parts, preaching to the natives, attending on the sick, living a life of hardship and self-denial?
It is a considerable drawback to this belief in missionary labor when it is known that the missionaries are not educated for the particular colonies to which they are sent; upon arrival, they are totally ignorant of the language of the natives, accordingly, they are perfectly useless for the purpose of "propagating the gospel among the heathen." Their mission should be that of instructing the young, and for this purpose they should first be instructed themselves.
I do not wish to throw a shade upon the efforts of missionary labor; I have no doubt that they use great exertions privately, which the public on the spot do not observe; but taking this for granted as the case, the total want of success in the result becomes the more deplorable. I have also no doubt that the missionaries penetrate into the most remote parts of Ceylon and preach the gospel. For many years I have traversed the wildernesses of Ceylon at all hours and at all seasons. I have met many strange things during my journeys, but I never recollect having met a missionary. The bishop of Colombo is the only man I know who travels out of the high road for this purpose; and he, both in this and many other respects, offers an example which few appear to follow.
Nevertheless, although Protestant missionaries are so rare in the jungles of the interior, and, if ever there, no vestige ever remains of such a visit, still, in spots where it might be least expected, may be seen the humble mud hut, surmounted by a cross, the certain trace of some persevering priest of the Roman faith. These men display an untiring zeal, and no point is too remote for their good offices. Probably they are not so comfortable in their quarters in the towns as the Protestant missionaries, and thus they have less hesitation in leaving home.
The few converts that have been made are chiefly Roman Catholics, as among the confusion arising from our multitudinous sects and schisms the native is naturally bewildered. What with High Church, Low Church, Baptists, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, etc., etc., etc., the ignorant native is perfectly aghast at the variety of choice.
With the members of our Church in such a dislocated state, progression cannot be expected by simple attempts at conversion; even were the natives willing to embrace the true faith, they would have great difficulty in finding it amidst the crowd of adverse opinions. Without probing more deeply into these social wounds, I must take leave of the missionary labors in Ceylon, trusting that ere long the eyes of the government will be fixed upon the true light to guide the prosperity of the island by framing an ordinance for the liberal education of the people.