The American Christian Tumbles Islamism to the Ground

Henry Stanley

New York Herald/November 29, 1875

Mtesa’s Capital, Uganda

April 14, 1875

I had almost neglected to inform you and your readers of one very interesting subject connected with Mtesa which will gratify many a philanthropic European and American.

I have already told you that Mtesa and the whole of his Court profess Islamism. A long time ago, some four or five years, Khamis Bin Abdullah (the only Arab who remained with me three years ago, as a rearguard, when the Arabs disgracefully fled from Mirambo) came to Uganda. He was wealthy, of noble descent, had a fine, magnificent personal appearance, and brought with him many a rich present, such as few Arabs could afford, for Mtesa. The King became immediately fascinated with him, and really few white men could be long with the son of Abdullah without being charmed by his presence, his handsome, proud features, his rich olive complexion and his liberality. I confess I never saw an Arab or Mussulman who attracted me so much as Khamis Bin Abdullah, and it is no wonder that Mtesa, meeting a kindred spirit in the noble Arab of Muscat, amazed at the magnificent figure, the splendor of his apparel, the display of his wealth and the number of his slaves fell in love with him. Khamis stayed with Mtesa a full year, during which time the King became a convert to the creed of Khamis — namely, Mohammedanism. The Arab clothed Mtesa in the best that his wardrobe offered. He gave him gold embroidered jackets, fine white shirts, crimson slippers, swords, silk sashes, daggers and a revolving rifle, so that Speke’s and Grant’s presents seemed quite insignificant.

Until I arrived at Mtesa’s Court the King delighted in the idea that he was a follower of Islam; but by one conversation I flatter myself that I have tumbled the newly raised religious fabric to the ground, and, if it were only followed by the arrival of a Christian mission here, the conversion of Mtesa and his Court to Christianity would be complete. I have undermined Islamism so much here that Mtesa has determined henceforth, until he is better informed, to observe the Christian Sabbath as well as the Moslem Sabbath, and the great captains have unanimously consented to it. He has caused the ten commandments of Moses to be written on a board for his daily perusal, as Mtesa can read Arabic, as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the golden commandment of our Saviour, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is great progress for the few days that I have remained with him, and, though I am no missionary, I shall begin to think that I shall become one if such success is so feasible.

But, O that some pious, practical missionary would come here! What a field and a harvest ripe for the sickle of the Gospel! Mtesa would give him anything he desired — houses, lands, cattle, ivory, &c. He might call a province his own in one day. It is not the mere preacher that is wanted here. The bishops of all Great Britain collected, with all the classic youth of Oxford and Cambridge, would effect nothing here with the intelligent people of Uganda. It is the practical Christian tutor, who can teach people how to become Christians, cure their diseases, construct dwellings, understands agriculture and can turn his hand to anything, like a sailor — this is the man that is wanted here. Such a man, if he can be found, would become the saviour of Africa. He must be tied to no Church or sect, but profess God and His Son, and live a blameless Christian, be inspired by liberal principles, charity to all men and devout faith in God. He must belong to no nation in particular, but the entire white race. Such a man or men Mtesa, King of Uganda, Usoga, Unyoro and Karagwe — a Kingdom 360 geographical miles in length by fifty in breadth — invites to come to him. He has begged me to tell the white men that if they will only come to him he will give them all they want.

Now where is there in all the pagan world a more promising field for a mission than Uganda? Colonel Linant de Bellefonds is my witness that I speak the truth, and I know he will corroborate all I say. The Colonel, though a Frenchman, is a Calvinist, and has become as ardent a well-wisher for the Waganda as I am.

Then why further spend needlessly vast sums upon black pagans of Africa who have no example of their own people becoming Christians before them? I speak to the Universities Mission at Zanzibar and to the Free Methodists at Mombasa, to the leading philanthropists and the pious people of England. Here, gentlemen, is your opportunity — embrace it! The people on the shores of the Niyanza call upon you. Obey your own generous instincts, and listen to them, and I assure you that in one year you will have more converts to Christianity than all other missionaries united can number. The population of Mtesa’s kingdom is most dense. I estimate the number of his subjects at 2,000,000. You need not fear to spend money upon such a mission, as Mtesa is sole ruler, and will repay its cost tenfold with ivory, coffee, otter skins of a very fine quality, or in cattle, for the wealth of this country in all these products is immense. The road here is by the Nile, or via Zanzibar, Ugogo and Unyanyembe. The former route, so long as Colonel Gordon governs the countries of the Upper Nile, is the most feasible.

With permission I would suggest that the mission should bring to Mtesa as present three or four suits of military clothes, decorated freely with gold embroidery, with half a dozen French kepis , a sabre, a brace of pistols and suitable ammunition; a good fowling piece and rifle of good quality, as the King is not a barbarian; a cheap dinner service of Britannia ware, an iron bedstead and counterpanes, a few pieces of cotton print, boots, &c. For trade it should bring the blue, black and gray woolen cloths, a quantity of military buttons, gold braid and cord, silk cord of different colors, as well as binding, linen and sheeting for shirts, fine red blankets and a quantity of red cloth, a few chairs and tables. The profit arising from the sale of these things would be enormous.

For the mission’s use it should bring with it a supply of hammers, saws, augers, chisels, axes, hatchets, adzes, carpenters’ and blacksmiths’ tools, as the Waganda are apt pupils; iron drills and powder for blasting purposes, trowels, a couple of good sized anvils, a forge and bellows, an assortment of nails and tacks, a plough, spades, shovels, pickaxes and a couple of light buggies as specimens, and such other small things as their own common sense would suggest. Most desirable would be an assortment of garden seed and grain; also white lead, linseed oil, brushes, a few volumes of illustrated journals, gaudy prints, a magic lantern, rockets and a photograph apparatus. The total cost of the whole need not exceed £5,000.

(Source: “Stanley’s Despatches to the New York Herald,”