21 SEPTEMBER 1895, Page 17


"TWENTY YEARS IN KHAMA'S COUNTRY." Tms book has appeared opportunely at a moment when the attention of the British public is turned to the question of the duty of the Imperial Government in regard to the manner in which Imperial authority should in future be exercised over the country of Khama and other chiefs in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. It consists of a selection of letters from the late Rev. J. D. Hepburn, mainly to the authorities of the London Missionary Society, edited by Mr. C. H. Lyall, of Wynberg, Cape Colony, with an introductory chapter by Mrs. Hepburn. The letters, which were not at all intended for publication, give a very attractive and often pathetic picture of the work of a missionary of truly apostolic fervour among natives of a very interesting type, ruled by a chief of exceptional character and capacity.

It was in 1871 that Mr. Hepburn, having been appointed mis- sionary to the Bamangwato tribe, went out to Shoshong with his wife, at first as colleague to the Rev. John Mackenzie, the well-known and justly influential writer on native questions, who had been labouring in that district for several years, and who remained there for four or five years more, until he was called to the superintendence of the Moffat Institution (a native training-college) at Kuruman. Mr. Hepburn was thenceforward in sole charge at Shoshong until he came home for an eighteen months' furlough in 1882-84, soon after which, until the breakdown of health which necessitated his final withdrawal from African work in 1892, he had the assistance of the Rev. E. Lloyd, but retained the principal responsibility of the mission to the Bamangwato and its off-shoots. His letters are equally remarkable for their revelation of personal humility and of absolute con- fidence in the infinite power, wisdom, and love of the God whose message he bore. Yielding, as they do, the most perfectly frank acknowledgment of shortcomings, backslid- ings, and sometimes disastrous apostacies among the natives for whom the writer was spending his strength, they afford all the more impressive exhibitions of the transforming power of Christianity as operating upon a race which until yesterday was plunged in all the abominations of heathen barbarism. No one with any imagination, to say nothing of any religious feeling, can read these letters without being touched by the intense concentration of Mr. Hepburn's whole soul on the work of lifting the natives in his charge out of darkness into light, or without entering into the joy which irradiates his whole being when there are signs of a spread of Christian faith and morality, and the grief which possesses him when a wave of pagan reaction is manifested. His disappointments with regard to the outlying mission among the Batauana of Lake Ngami were almost heartbreaking, the more so as it was in response to urgent requests from Moremi, the chief of that district, that Mr. Hepburn had first visited his town in 1875 to preach the Gospel. The London Missionary Society not having felt itself able to provide missionaries for that dis- trict, Mr. Hepburn had deputed two native evangelists from among the Bamangwato to carry on the work which he had begun there, and had from time to time paid visits for the encouragement and further enlightenment of the Batauana converts. "In course of time Moremi himself, his wife, his mother, some of his headmen, and many of his people, became collected into a Christian Church,—a Church which resolved, and actually commenced, to do evangelistic work among the Bakoba and other slave tribes, and has the honour of having won some of these tribes to the faith of Christ." The Bakoba had become fellow-communicants with their Batanana

• Twenty Years in Khama's Country, and Pioneering among the Batauana of Lake Ngami. Told in the Lettere of the R,v. J. D. Hepburn. F..1.tkel by C. H. Lyall With IlInstrat oos. Lontou Hod ler and St,n;htou.

superiors. Yet at the end of twelve years from the planting of the Ngami Mission this same Moremi, with his headmen and people, resolved in a formal council to re-establish the long- disused rite of circumcision, which "they themselves declared to be head and front of every institution, ceremony, and heathen practice of the past;" and the chief defiantly de- clared: "Whether God will or not, we have always killed Bakoba, and taken their children, and we shall go on doing it—for ever and for ever." Nothing could exceed the courage- -ready to face martyrdom—displayed by Mr. Hepburn in face of this appalling recrudescence of the worst old pagan virus ; but he was compelled to return to Shoshong with the darkest forebodings as to the future of the Batauana, leaving only a small remnant of a Church at Lake Ngami. But that remnant was left; the renegade Moremi died of drink ; and in 1892, as we gather, two English missionaries were sent out, and succeeded in establishing the mission in the Lake District on a permanent basis.

Violent ebbs and flows of feeling are doubtless natural enough, in races to whom Christianity has been freshly brought, and it must always be desirable with a view to maintaining the hold, secured by our faith upon such races that, in the first instance at any rate, there should be constantly present fully instructed European missionaries. Even at Shoshong there was a sad falling-back—though nothing at all like what took place at Lake Ngami—during Mr. Hepburn's furlough in 1882.84. This was mainly due to Khama's absence in command of a force required to protect a portion of his territory against Matabele raids—a cause of disturbance now happily removed —and to the machinations of his ambitious younger brother, Khamane ; but if Mr. Hepburn had been able, which was quite impossible for him, to remain at his post continuously, the retrogression which depressed him on his return would in all probability not have occurred. The zeal of the Bamangwato- Christians, however, soon revived, and before Mr. Hepburn finally left—though neither he nor they knew that he was leav- ing finally—for England, they had proved its quality by raising as much as £3,000 for the building of the handsome church which is now standing in the new town of Palapye, to which place, as described in this book, the whole community of Sho- shong was successfully moved at Khama's orders, and under his direction, in 1889. The presence of such a native influence as that of Khama can, of course, seldom be secured. The book before us fully confirms everything that has been written alike of the genuineness of the Christianity and of the great natural gifts of that very remarkable chief, who with two neighbouring chiefs is now visiting this country in order to urge upon her Majesty's Government to retain the Bechuana- land Protectorate under the direct authority of the Crown. Mr. Hepburn's letters abound in illustrations of Khama's personal ascendency and of the nobility, as well as the strength, of the character on which that ascendency is based. His courage in battle, his military skill, and his firmness in administration, appear to be combined with a universally chivalrous treatment of enemies, and with a tender regard for those who have done him service, and who are in any way dependent on him. Mrs. Hepburn writes of him :— "For months at a time, while my husband was visiting the Lake Ngami people, have I been left with my children, under Khama's sole protection and guardianship ; and no brother could have cared for us more thoughtfully and kindly. During these absences of his missionary. I have often had to assist the chief, interpreting and corresponding for him, &c., and advising him in any difficulties which might arise. And in all our intercourse I can most gratefully say that he was to me always a true Christian gentleman in word and deed."

The story of Khama's steadfast refusal to engage in or countenance " rain-making " and other old pagan rites, and of his resolute policy in regard to the suppression of the spirit-trade, is told in Mr. Hepburn's letters with much graphic power, and no reader will be able to withhold his admiration from the resolute devotion of this native chieftain to the discharge of his duty as father of his people, in face of all opposition, whether from rea.etionists among his own family and kin, or from greedy European traders. Nor, we think, will any reader of this book fail to hope that her Majesty's Government will see their way to maintaining to the full a power which has been so honourably and beneficently used as that wielded by our loyal friend and ally, "Khama. the Good."