William Elliot Griffis.

A maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work online

. (page 3 of 14)
Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 3 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thrown away their antipathies, their supersti-
tions, and their idolatries, joining with the multi-
tudes of Christendom in acknowledging and
worshiping the true God."

In order to make the society known in Eu-
rope and America and obtain aid and sympathy,
the first public meeting was deferred until Sep-
tember 28, 1836, when at No. 2 American Hong
a small number convened. The report showed

6o A Maker of the New Orient

that $9977 were in the treasury and 1500 vol-
umes of books in the library — a heterogeneous
and not overattractive collection. Officers were
elected and a constitution adopted. At an ad-
journed meeting held on November 9, 1836, six-
teen persons were present. Most of them bore
names that now shine with luster as those of men
who have helped to make China the progressive
nation she is to-day. By the constitution, the
trustees were to meet four times a year. " Chi-
nese youths of any age, of either sex, and in or
out of China may be received, though children
of six, eight, and ten years of age were pre-

It was decided to procure from Europe and
America two or more young men, ambitious to
become perfect masters in the science of teach-
ing who, " with the spirit and enterprise of a
Pestalozzi or a Lancaster, will at once come to
China, learn the language of this people, ex-
amine their books, and investigate their method
of teaching, giving their whole strength to the
work." At first most of their time would be
occupied in acquiring knowledge. Meanwhile
a few pupils might be placed under their care
and be trained up to become the teachers of
others, who in their turn would be qualified for
the discharge of the same duties.*

*The authority for the above outline of fact is a
pamphlet of sixteen pages, printed at the office of the
Chinese Repository in 1836, Samuel Wells Williams

Trade and the Gospel 6i

The second annual meeting was held October
3, 1828, at which fourteen were present. One of
the members of the society was an American
merchant who had a name, David Washington
Cincinnatus Olyphant, which suggests shining
virtues and a link of friendliness between Eng-
lish-speaking peoples, and to this name he lived
up. He was one of that firm of American Chris-
tian merchants and China's tireless benefactors
Talbot, Olyphant & Co. When in America he
went to Yale College and interested Professor^
Silliman, Goodrich, and Gibbs in the Morrison
Society's movement for Chinese education.
Finding them warmly interested, he appointed
them as trustees to procure a teacher.

These gentlemen at once approached the
young but experienced teacher Samuel Robbins
Brown, who had already instructed the deaf and
the dumb, besides those in full sight, hearing,
and voice. They offered him, on the 4th of Oc-
tober, 1838, the appointment.

The summons came to one ever alert for duty,
at short notice. The nobly named ship Morri-
son was to sail on the i6th. There were there-
fore but twelve days to find out from his be-
trothed whether she would go with him to the
ends of the earth on so short notice, to obtain
release from the Institute, to visit New Haven,

having been already three years in China as printer
and founder, with Dr. Bridgman, of the Chinese Re-

62 A Maker of the New Orient

Monson, and East Windsor, and to secure a
complete outfit.

She would. After that initial problem was
settled, all the rest of the way was clear. He re-
ceived first his commission at New Haven, bade
his parents and friends at Monson good-by, and
then hied to East Windsor to rejoice as a bride-
groom, before starting out on his long mission-
ary race.

Perhaps it was not so easy for the prospective
bride to make all her preparations for the wed-
ding and get all things ready at short notice be-
fore sailing on the four-months' voyage round
the globe. On the loth of October, the mar-
riage took place. He stood with his bride, the
minister's daughter, in his own and her own
birthplace, where as children they had played

On Manhattan Island the bride and groom
were entertained at Mr. Olyphant's home
— " that mansion of Christian hospitality " — in
Rivington Street from the 12th to the 17th of
October. To this house the gifts which con-
stituted their outfit for the voyage were sent.
These came from Monson, East Windsor, Hart-
ford, Norwich, Lyme, New Haven, Brooklyn,
Philadelphia, and New York. Thus a series of
delightful events filled up the time between Mon-
day the 8th, and Wednesday the 17th, of Oc-

The Connecticut Observer of Hartford, Conn.,

Trade and the Gospel 63

for Saturday, November 10, 1838, tells some of
these events and about the ordination and sail-
ing, so we turn to its pages. This paper is a
curiosity. It gives pictures of other forms of
Christian life and work, seventy years ago. It
tells of the Colonization Society's meeting in
Hartford; of the movement of the Cherokees to
their western home, and the removal of Indians
from Florida; the arrival of whaling ships at
Poughkeepsie, N. Y.; and of a Baltimore clip-
per, fifty-three days from Chili, besides giving
many other interesting items.

The profits of this paper were devoted to the
Domestic Missionary Society of Connecticut.
On page 2 is the notice of " Missionary Ordina-
tion and Departure," wherein it is told that Mr.
Samuel R. Brown, a licentiate of the Third Pres-
bytery of New York, was married October 10,
and on the next Sabbath evening was ordained
to the Christian ministry by the same presbytery
in the Allen Street Church, of which Mr. Brown
had for several years been a member, and where
he had labored with very happy success for the
improvement of the choir in the knowledge and
practice of sacred singing.

Rev. Dr. Peters presided, and in the name of
the Presbytery, in union with Rev. Mr. Bradley,
pastor of the church, affectionately invited three
of their brethren, pastors from Congregational
churches in New England, to take part with
them in ordination to the ministry of reconcilia-

64 A Maker of the New Orient

tion. Rev. S. Bartlett, his father-in-law, of-
fered the introductory prayer and read the 47th
Psalm, second part, in church psalmody. Rev.
D. M. Lord of Boston made the prayer before
the sermon. Rev. Mr. Bradley, the pastor,
preached the sermon on " The Christian Min-
istry as an Institution of Christ." Rev. Dr.
Peters offered the consecrating prayer, and with
all the members of the Presbytery, the congre-
gational ministers. Revs. Bartlett, Whittelsey,
and Lord, joined in laying on of hands : " For
the separation of this young brother as an am-
bassador of the Lord Jesus to the idolaters of
China, to labor for turning them from the power
of Satan unto God."

Professor White of Union Seminary gave the
charge, and all the members of the presbytery
and the three New England ministers gave the
right hand of fellowship. Then the Rev. S. R.
Brown read the 137th Psalm and pronounced
the apostolic benediction. The sacred song
was under the care of Mr. S. L. Hart, a dear
friend of the young missionary.

On Wednesday morning, October 17, with
clear sky and favorable winds the missionaries
embarked, Rev. David Abeel being one of

At twelve o'clock parting salutations were ex-
changed, and the returning company left the ship
for the steamboat, singing when on board,

*♦ With joy shall we stand, when escaped to the shore."

Trade and the Gospel 65

Thus happily began the voyage of 125 days,
around the Cape of Good Hope to Macao. The
Morrison was the same good ship which had al-
ready in 1837 voyaged to Japan, sent by the
American Christian merchant, Mr. King, to re-
store shipwrecked waifs who were natives of
that sealed country. Then it had been driven
away at the mouth of hostile cannon. Now,
under God, it was on a more successful mission
to the oldest of empires. Her flag at the peak
carried in its blue field twenty-six stars.

Pioneer Education in the Middle


Pioneer Education in the Middle


BY way of the Cape of Good Hope, the In-
dian Ocean, and the Dutch East Indies,
the Morrison arrived at Macao on Feb-
ruary i8, 1839.

Some of the " Fa-ke Yuns," as the Americans
were called, in the ship Morrison, had wives, but
how to land them was a problem. Foreign
women and opium were not then allowed to
enter Chinese ports. What should be done?

Mr. S. Wells Williams, the missionary printer,
came out in a covered boat to the ship, which lay
at anchor nine miles from Macao, and brought
the newcomers to the Customhouse. The gov-
ernor, being half Portuguese, was willing to ad-
mit Mrs. Brown and the ladies as " goods," or
" freight," into the country. So the Browns
were soon safely ensconced under Mr. Williams'
roof. There they remained during eight months,
while " tutor Brown " was mastering the Chi-
nese language — " the oldest child of Babel," as
Mr. Williams dubbed it.

Strange experiences awaited the Yankee


70 A Maker of the New Orient

teacher. It was in the midst of events leading
to the opium war, and on the day of his arrival
in Canton he saw a Chinaman strangled to
death for selling the " dirt," as the natives called
the hated drug. The next year he saw the cap-
ture of the Bogue forts by the British fleet. It
was something like a " baptism of fire."

It was soon after his arrival that Mr. Brown
went up to Canton in one of Mr. Olyphant's
ships, the Roman. From Whampoa, in the cap-
tain's gig, he was rowed nine miles to the Fac-
tory, or foreign quarter, at Canton. All along
the river they were saluted with mud, stones,
and bad names, of which that of " foreign devil '*
was heard oftenest. This was his welcome to
China. Very different from what he had sung
at home, " They call us to deliver," etc.

At Canton Mr. Brown, with the Rev. David
Abeel, met Dr. William Lockhart of England,
and Mr. Lionel Dent, president of the Morrison
Education Society, who thanked him very
heartily for bringing his wife with him.

One pleasant episode in May, 1839, was the
visit of the U. S. frigate Columbia and the sloop
of war John Adams. Very pleasant acquaint-
anceship was made with Commodore Reed and
a number of the officers, some of whom were ear-
nest Christian men. The letter describing this
event, like the others in Mr. Brown's China cor-
respondence, is folded, and a square portion of
the outer sheet is addressed without envelope or

Education in Middle Kingdom 71

postage stamp, the post-office mark being New
York, October 12.

Two letters written from Macao, April 3 and
May 29, 1839, are upon the blank sides of the
circular printed on Mr. S. W. Williams' press
and sent out by Mr. Charles Elliot, chief super-
intendent of British trade in China. They de-
scribe the methods of the mandarins' coercion.
Under pressure, the foreign residents surren-
dered twenty thousand chests of opium, worth
two million pounds sterling. With thirty-four
ships manned by fifteen hundred seamen lying
at anchor in the Macao roads, where they were
denied water and food for offered payment,
though they could easily take what they ask for
as a boon, it is asked, " How long will England
continue to wear the lion as her crest, and yet
play the part of the hare? "

Mr. Brown wrote, " Do not be anxious on our
account. We have no fears of personal danger."

In the autumn of 1839 ^ large Portuguese
house at Macao, 1 10 x 60 feet in area, formerly
occupied by Mr. Gutzlaff and in which Mrs.
Gutzlaff, assisted by her cousins the Misses
Parkes, sisters of the lad who afterwards became
Sir Harry Parkes had taught Chinese girls, was
rented for a residence and school. It was close
to the cave of Camoens, in which, according to
tradition, the banished poet in 1568 wrote his
" Lusiads," in which he prophesied the full open-
ing of Japan to the gospel

72 A Maker of the New Orient

The time was one of tremendous excitement
on account of the vigorous measures of the Chi-
nese government to get rid of opium. The old
town of Macao had seen its best days as to com-
merce, and Canton was the only port yet open to
foreign trade. The Chinese did not yet care to
have their sons taught English, being content to
use " pidgin " or business English as a trade
lingo, which answered their purpose sufficiently
well. Further, no normal Chinese in the An-
cient Land of Shams, of painted eyes, of paper
tigers, and canvas forts, could understand how
anybody without a selfish purpose could ever
want to come from afar to teach their sons.
With all the talk of the Chinese about " benevo-
lence," despite the abundance of gilt paper
mottoes inculcating liberality, they could not
understand unselfishness. It was difficult to get
any pupils for this reason, and a beginning had
to be made with half a dozen boys only by offer-
ing them board, clothing, and tuition free.
This promising initiative did not portend great

The records of the Morrison Education So-
ciety show that there was no meeting held
in 1837, as had been expected, for the whole
British community had left port and were gath-
ered on deck. Macao and Canton were empty
of aliens, and for a while they lived on the ships
at Hong Kong. There was no gathering until
1840. Then the Society was convened at the


1— I












Education in Middle Kingdom 73

house of Rev. S. R. Brown in Macao, Wednes-
day, September 29. Thirteen members were
present, of whom six were ministers.

Mr. Brown's first report to the Society shows
that he had devoted his mornings to his personal
study of Chinese and the afternoon and evening
to teaching EngHsh. He, Hke the pupils, gave
himself to the mastery of the characters and the
language in both its spoken and written forms.
An elderly Chinese teacher taught the boys in
the Chinese classics, after the noisy manner of
the country, which consists in bawling out the
sounds, in committing the ideograms to mem-
ory, in learning to write the characters, a matter
of pure penmanship, and in expressing them-
selves correctly in their native tongue.

His first purpose was to know the Chinese
mind and conduct his pedagogics in the most
philosophical and efifective manner. He called
attention to the absurd character of the books
read and their stilted style, which made a nation
of prigs. Theirs was education turned upside
down. It compelled small boys to read and talk
about themes fit only for their elders. " We
should rarely look for or find young persons like
them, even in England or America, who could
discourse on moral or political economy, and
these are the topics which fill entire volumes of
the books which are put into the hands of tyros
in China."

The other difficulty of the Chinese boy was the

74 A Maker of the New Orient

nature of the Chinese language, which is neither
alphabetic nor syllabic in its written expression.
" The English child has only to learn the powers
of twenty-six letters and then he is master of
most of the phonetic elements that compose all
words. Not so with the Chinese youth; he has
no such royal road to the art of reading. . . He
must commit to memory the names and mean-
ings of at least as many characters as there are
words to be read." Nevertheless, he declared
" that there is more philosophy than absurdity in
the method of instruction pursued in the schools
of China." Hence Mr. Brown would make no
change in the methods of Chinese schoolmasters.
Until he had qualified himself as soon as possible
to interfere with this part of their education.
** If it is necessary for a teacher among his own
countrymen to understand the minds of those
whom he instructs, how much more imperative
is the necessity in order to insure its success
among a strange people in a foreign land. Now
language is the portrait of the mind in action,
and he who would be familiarly acquainted with
it must become qualified to judge of its picture
with the skill of an artist."

The Yankee tutor had already noticed that it
was because such an attainment as a knowledge
of the language of China was so rare among for-
eigners, that there was so much misconception
and ignorance as to Chinese feelings, prejudices,
and habits. Who indeed can understand a

Education In Middle Kingdom 75

people unless he understands their history? He
wrote, '* There is Httle or no play of sympathies
between us. Our intercourse is much like that
of two untaught mutes that meet with ideas cir-
cumscribed by the limits of what their eyes have
seen, and picture to each other in pantomime the
mere outlines of the true thoughts they have in
common, and then part again in utter ignorance
of each other's spiritual being."

In attacking the Chinese language, the
American teacher found that some of the first
links in the chain that should unite the alien and
the native in mutual understanding were still
wanting. The simplest questions in grammar
were at that time " unasked and unanswered in
any work on Chinese philology in the English
language." Hence his determination to achieve
some mastery of the Chinese before attempting
to revolutionize old methods. His idea through-
out life was evolution rather than revolution.

He laid emphasis on the fact " that if we
should hope to effect any great change in the
system of education prevalent in China, it must
mainly be done by efforts made in China itself."
He then points out the unwisdom of establishing
schools for the Chinese in Chinese colonies, as
had been done, rather than in China itself. By
inquiring, he found that in those days only three
or four in a hundred of emigrants from China
ever returned. " Our point of attack, all friendly
as it is, should be in China itself, and nowhere

76 A Maker of the New Orient

else. . . In this service I am ready to toil until
I die."

He soon found out how excessively rare it was
that a foreigner in China could read a Chinese
book, or write the Chinese language, while
even among the natives of this reputed " nation
of scholars," it was the exception rather than
the rule to find a man who could read freely in
Chinese literature or write fluently the language
in general, rather than a limited stock of ex-
pressions or technical or trade terms. His
pupils could more quickly and pleasantly write
English than their own native tongue. With
tens of thousands of ideographs or '' characters "
the Chinese have no alphabet.

'* Nor is it at all strange that the boys in our
school find it easier to write English than Chi-
nese. Every alphabetic or syllabic language
must, in the nature of things, be less difficult of
acquisition than one formed after the model of
the Chinese, which exhibits only in the remotest
manner any design to meet that demand of the
mind which has usually resulted in the inven-
tions of alphabets."

After discussing with acuteness, ability, and
insight the defects of Chinese education, he adds,
concerning his pupils, " They are exceedingly
fond of Western music, and I should have
yielded to their repeated solicitation to instruct
them in vocal music, had the pressure of other
duties been less. When I shall have the happi-

Education in Middle Kingdom 77

ness to welcome an assistant to China, this
branch of education must not be omitted, both
because of the habits it inspires and the soften-
ing, elevating influence it exerts upon the minds
of the young. As it is, they are now familiar
with quite a number of English melodies."

What progress the Chinese boys soon began
to make may be guessed at from a letter to Mrs.
Brown in Monson, from one of her son's pupils,
named Awan. His father was one of Dr. Mor-
rison's proteges, a son of an old servant of his
father's. Dr. Robert Morrison. Mr. Brown had
at first almost despaired of the boy's being any-
thing, but lately, as he wrote. May 7, 1842, " he
has brightened up wonderfully. He was fifteen
years old, and made nothing of algebra." It re-
veals some of the difficulties which enlightened
lads had to contend against from elderly rela-
tives in a land so populous with idols and gov-
erned out of the graveyard, as China is. The
letter is reprinted verbatim:

Macao, May 7, 1842.
My Dear Mrs. Brown:

Mr. Brown left his father, and mother, and
friends and came to China to teach the Chinese
boys. When he came to China, after eight
months, he had some Chinese boys living with
him. In about a year and a half some of them
ran away, and no longer did many boys come to
Mr. Brown's house. Sometimes the father, and

78 A Maker of the New Orient

friends call the boys home to worship the idols,
and at the graves.

The English and Americans have made a
great many Chinese books about Jesus Christ,
and give them to the Chinese. Sometimes
when walking round about the streets, some men
ask them, and they give them to them. By and
by the Chinese men look at them, and find out
Jesus Christ, and God in the book, and mock,
and laugh. Sometimes the Chinese tear them
into shreds, and burn them up. Some of them
go to a distance, with the books, and meet the
Chinese soldiers, and they are beaten. The
Chinese mandarins are very severe. One of the
officers is named the Tso-Tong. When he wishes
to go out, he calls some of the beggars to be sol-
diers, and two of them beat gongs, and the sol-
diers hold some whips in their hands. The Tso-
Tong sits in a sedan chair, and all the men go
before him through the streets, and everybody
stands up. If they don't do so, they beat them
with their whips. Sometimes the soldiers catch
a man, and say, You do opium business? Yes,
says he. They take him to the mandarins to be
tried. Sometimes he is beheaded. Some of
them are rich, and give many dollars, and the
officers let him out. Some of them are poor,
and have not any money to pay out, and are put
to prison for life. The Chinese mandarins do
not improve at all ; but they are always about the
same. The Chinese are proud, and easily pro-

Education in Middle Kingdom 79

Voked, and envy each other, and everyone is bad.
They care for nothing but money.

Every week there is a monitor in the school.
When the boys get up at six o'clock in the morn-
ing, the monitor rings the bell, then all the boys
come up into the school, and read Chinese
books, till half-past seven o'clock. The monitor
rings the bell again, and all the boys go to the
dining room, and read the Bible, and pray to
God. Then Mr. Brown explains it to us and we
sing a hymn every morning, and every evening.
Mr. Brown has a Chinese teacher to teach the
boys from nine to twelve o'clock, then all the
boys go to play. At one o'clock all the boys
come again to the school, and then he explains
history to us, and afterwards we write it out in
the evening.

Another letter dated Macao, June 7, 1842, is
from Afun, in the first class, but the youngest of
the boys and very promising. He says to Mrs.
Brown, " I have never heard of any Chinese who
would give his own son to go so far as from
China to America for other men's good. They
are always afraid they will lose their lives."

Moral training and the building of character
were set before merely intellectual discipline at
the Morrison School. One day Mr. Brown,
after looking for certain books to use, found that
his oldest pupil, during one year, had stolen
them. The lad had gone back to his father's

8o A Maker of the New Orient

house in the country, whither he had taken also
the purloined property. There conscience smote
him. He felt very bad and finally brought
back the books; coming with flowing tears to
Dr. Brown in his study at evening, he told his
storv. " It seems as if I had two hearts within
me, one heart said ' don't take them back,' the
other said * take.' " Raising his right hand, he
smote his breast and said, '' I put down that bad
heart, and resolved to bring these books back.
So here they are and now will you forgive me?"
Mr. Brown forgave cheerfully and told him to
ask God to forgive him. It was a true conver-
sion to repentance.

Another pupil, Awing, fourteen years old,
small and smart, had been in school one and a
half years when he wrote, June 7, 1842, to Mrs.
Brown at Monson, Mass., as follows: "In the
school there were sixteen boys, six of whom
form the first class and ten of them form the
second." He had been on board an English
man-of-war and on the ship Surprise. " Few
Chinese have been over to America. In our
country the people are so proud that they swell
up as balloons."

The climate during the first summer was try-
ing. " We are so softened and enervated by the

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 3 of 14)