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

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summer heat of this latitude that we feel it if a
cloud obscures the sun. We never see frost
here, but we keep fires for our comfort during
about three months of the year." He enjoyed

Education in Middle Kingdom 8i

the tea and fruits of China, but did not Hke the
cramped quarters, for there was Httle room for
walks or exercise in the space within which for-
eigners were shut. He sent home curiosities to
his young friends in New England. This was
the time when the wave of enthusiasm for silk
culture was passing over the United States, and
tens of thousands of people were infected with
the idea that silkworms could be profitably
raised in our northern climate and with our sys-
tem of labor. He purchased at the request of
some friends in Connecticut ten dollars' worth of
mulberry-tree seed, that is, two and two-thirds
pounds, and no doubt the good people of the
Nutmeg State who experimented soon found
that neither as to soil, climate, or labor prices
was Connecticut likely ever to be a rival of
southern China. The monuments of failure are
found all over the Eastern and Middle States, in
those avenues of plantations of mulberry trees
which to-day make the uninformed wonder how
they came to be where they are. I remember a
pleasant summer spent at Mount Airy, near
Philadelphia, under rows of these trees.

Under the British Flag


Under the British Flag

THE issue of the " opium war " was the
cession of the island of Hong Kong to
Great Britain. After four years at
Macao, at the dawn of peace, the governor of
Hong Kong offered the Society an ehgible lot
on Morrison Hill for its edifice. The president
of the Morrison Education Society, Mr. Dent,
gave three thousand dollars toward the erection
of a new building. This gave Mr. Brown the
opportunity for founding the school under the
Union Jack, and on British soil, where his ideas
could be better carried out. The school was re-
moved from Macao to Hong Kong, November
I, 1842. In the dormitory there were rooms for
twenty-four boys. On April 7, 1843, the Eng-
lish department was ready.

Dr. D. B. McCartee, in 1894, thus pictures the
Hong Kong of 1844, the year of his arrival in

" Hong Kong gave little promise of being,
what it has since become, one of the best known
and most important of Great Britain's foreign


86 A Maker of the New Orient

possessions; with its splendid landlocked har-
bor, its numerous handsome public buildings,
the palatial establishments of its merchant
princes, its beautiful botanic gardens, and its
well-built streets crowded with a bustling throng
made up of people of almost every nation and
tribe under heaven, speaking discordant lan-
guages, and dressed in almost every kind of

'' The sides of the hills were ragged with exca-
vations. Streets or building sites were being dug
out; huge round masses (' bowlders,' as the un-
learned called them) of syenite or basalt lay here
and there, to the uncovering and disintegration
of which was then attributed the great mortality
that prevailed among the European and East In-
dian residents. With the exception of the resi-
dence of the Chief Justice of the Colony, the
Morrison School taught by the Rev, S. R.
Brown and the London Mission's Hospital under
Dr. Benjamin Hobson (these two side by side
upon one of the smaller hills), and the mercan-
tile establishment of Messrs. Jardine & Mathe-
son, at Eastpoint, European buildings were few
and interspersed promiscuously with mud houses
and mat sheds.

" Among the foreigners then at Hong Kong
were Sir Henry Pottinger, the negotiator of the
new treaty; Sir Hugh (afterwards Lord) Gough
and Sir Gordon Bremer, the military and naval
Commanders in Chief in the war that had so

Under the British Flag 87

lately terminated. They could generally be seen
at the early Sunday service in the large mat
shed, long since replaced by the Cathedral of the
Bishop of Victoria."

In the Morrison School the pupils devoted half
the time of each day, except Saturday and Sun-
day, to the study of Chinese under native mas-
ters and half to English under himself. He was
now working to much better advantage with a
text-book of his own preparation. Seeing the
need of such a work, Mr. Brown had, during a
seven weeks' visit with his wife to Singapore in
1 84 1, prepared, on the basis of Dr. James
Legge's " Lexilogus," a new language book for
Chinese pupils studying English. In the origi-
nal the colloquial portion was given in English,
Malay, and Chinese literary style and the Foh-
kin and Canton colloquial dialect. At Singa-
pore he met Dr. J. C. Hepburn and his wife.
After five years in China, they were afterwards
to work together for twenty years in Japan.

Mr. Brown's fifth annual report, in 1843, was
duly printed and sent out, though no meeting of
the Society was held. His philosophical insight
and grasp of the educational situation in China
are shown in his report. He says:

" The Morrison Education Society would set
the wheel in motion by which the old superan-
nuated process of making men mere peaceable
machines shall be exchanged for another, in
which human nature shall be aided to put forth

88 A Maker of the New Orient

a vigorous growth of knowledge and virtue.
As things now are, these are nipped in the bud.
It is no thanks to the Chinese system of training
if here and there a blossom survives and comes
to wholesome maturity. We come then to res-
cue the youth of China from this destructive
blight, and what do we find upon our hands at
the outset? When a pupil is received into our
school he is young, ignorant of almost every-
thing but the little affairs of his home, prejudiced
against all that is not of Chinese origin, the dupe
of superstition, trembling at the shaking of a leaf
as if earth and air were peopled with malignant
spirits, trained to worship all manner of sense-
less things, and in short having little but his
mental constitution to assimilate him to the child
of Christendom, or to form the nucleus of the
development we will give him. It is quite im-
possible for me to describe my emotions when
looking for the first time on a class of new

The Chinese pupil then had to have " his mind
emptied of a vast accumulation of false and
superstitious notions that can never tenant an
enlightened mind, for they cannot coexist with
truth." Young as they were, the pupils were
victims of habits among which were " an utter
disregard of truth, obscenity, and cowardliness.
I have never known a Chinese boy who was not
at first possessed of them all. Is it possible to
transform these beings who have grown up . . .

Under the British Flag 89

under a false and defective training into enlight-
ened Christian men?"

The American teacher believed that the ful-
crum to rest his lever upon for the elevation of
degraded minds was in the affections. He
soon found that kindness met with a quick re-

Both the colloquial and the book languages
were ill suited to right education, the school-
books then in use being the " Four Books " and
the " Five Classics," written by men who lived
before the Christian era. The primer or first
elementary book was in poetical form, three
characters to a line, and in most concise and
elliptical style. The other works are chiefly
interesting on account of their antiquity, the
pupil " drinking only the froth of words, without
once tasting of the water beneath."

Mr. Brown's report, in nineteen printed pages,
is a masterly analysis and summary of the staple
of Chinese education.

He writes that after a few months the false
notions of the lads respecting the physical uni-
verse have vanished away, " their very counte-
nances have exchanged their original leaden as-
pect for one of comparative activity and life.
The slumbering mind has been awakened to a
consciousness of its own power, exercises have
increased their fondness for reflection and ob-
servation, and their spontaneous inquiries are
frequent and often puzzling. Many of them are

90 A Maker of the New Orient

not satisfied until they know the truth of the

At the seventh general meeting of the society-
held September 24, 1845, ^^ the society's house
on Morrison Hill, twenty-seven members were
present, Mr. Brown's summary of progress
chows that he was overcoming the suspicions of
the Chinese and raising up a new kind of mind
in the land of Confucius.

Seeing the need of a class book on political
economy which should be a thousand or two
years nearer present conditions than the writ-
ings of Confucius and Mencius, Mr. Brown pre-
pared an elementary work on this science which
he translated into the Chinese and had published
at Canton, in 1847.

The eighth annual report at the meeting of the
Society, September 30, 1846, when seventeen
were present, was read by Mr. Brown. In this
he urged that the order of development in China
should be first the school, then the academy, and
then the college, as in Christendom. He be-
lieved in stooping down first to the child's intel-
lect, teaching the Bible with its wealth of wis-
dom and simplicity of power, and then going
forward in the regular order of training in the
higher branches of science.

There was not much variety to break the
monotony of steady toil, so the Browns found
their joy in work and home, and their recreation
in social interchange. The seven weeks* travel

Under the British Flag 91

and rest at Singapore made one notable break,
and besides there were occasional trips to Can-
ton. One was to spend Christmas of 1843 with
the Parkes (two sisters and a brother), at Can-
ton. The boy who was to grow up to be Great
Britain's able minister and consummate diplo-
matist in Japan, China, and Korea, was then fif-
teen years old, and serving as interpreter on the
staff of Sir Henry Pottinger. Of his two sisters,
the elder had married Dr. William Lockhart,
who founded the first hospital in China.

The sight of Christian children born in China
was a rare one in 1843, and the two Brown chil-
dren made a decided sensation. They were
petted almost to the spoiling of them by those
whose language they spoke, while the Chinese
were very eager to see these " children of devils "
as they then spoke of aliens.

Of his visit to Canton, December 28, 1843, he

** My dear wife and her two bairns, Julia and
Robert, with their nurse and Miss Gillespie to-
gether with myself formed the party. We have
spent eight days at Canton, passing Christmas
there, and having spent the time most agreeably.
Our American and English friends were very
happy, it appeared, to see us, and did much to
express this gratification at having the company
of the ladies and children. The little ones were
rare visitors, even more so than the ladies. The
Chinese were loud in their expressions of ad-

92 A Maker of the New Orient

miration at seeing these kwai tsai (children of
devils), as they very modestly and politely styled
them. We went out in boats into the country
once or twice, to a considerable distance, and
nowhere met with any obstruction to our
rambles. There has been a great change here
since 1839, when I first ascended the river.
Then I was stoned and saluted with mud all
along on the banks of the stream as I passed up
from Whampoa to the city. Now no such thing.
A beginning of change has made its appearance,
which I confidently regard as only the begin-
ning. A few years more will exhibit still greater

" While at Canton Mrs. Parkes and the other
ladies all went one day to see the judge of the
district, Hwang by name, who was formerly at
our house in Hong Kong, on an evening's visit.
He met Mr. Lay, the British consul, and Sir
Henry's aid-de-camp. Captain Brooks, on the
day first mentioned, to hand over to them the
supplementary treaty, with the Emperor's sig-
nature attached to it. Hwang is very much of
a gentleman, a really refined man in his manners,
and he went into the side room to shake hands
with the ladies and take a cup of tea with them.
He chatted away for nearly an hour with them,
and the ladies returned home much pleased with
their visit. A respectable Chinese merchant of
Canton came to me at Dr. Parker's, to secure a
place in our school for two of his nephews. I

Under the British Flag 93

think it will not be long before the wealthy Chi-
nese will send their sons to us to be educated.
The reproach of the thing is fast passing away."

Another pleasing incident was the arrival of
the U. S. S. S. Brandywine, the man-of-war
named in honor of Lafayette's visit to America
and to the battlefield of that name, and which
Captain Matthew C. Perry commanded when an
American squadron gathered at Naples in 1832.
The Rev. Mr. Jones, former tutor of Mr. Brown,
at Yale College, was chaplain. Besides meeting
his old friend, the exile from home keenly en-
joyed the music.

" The band of the U. S. S. S. Brandywiney
which is now in this harbor, has just closed a
serenade to one of our neighbors. Dr. Ander-
son, on the hill next to us, and it has reminded
me so much of home in Yankee land that I feel
a strong penchant for writing to the dear ones of
the cottage under the sycamores. That band,
though small, has given us such a musical treat-
as we have never had on this side of the world.
* Oft in the Stilly Night ' was played beautifully,
and sent its solemn, lengthened notes around
this amphitheater of mountains and hills and
over the star-lit waters, most thrillingly. I
wanted to hear * Yankee Doodle.' Little Julia,
who was out on the brow of the steep in front of
the house with us, part of the time, could hardly
contain herself. She whispered every half min-
ute, * That's nice, that's nice. Is that * Monkey

94 A Maker of the New Orient

Doodle '? Is it Yankee?' Then she added/ I've
never been in America.' She was on board the
Brandywine some weeks ago, and the band filled
her ear then."

Other agreeable friends were Mr. and Mrs.
King, who had voyaged on the ship Morrismv
to Japan to return shipwrecked natives, only to
be driven away by powder and ball. Mrs. King
was the daughter of the Rev. James M. Math-
ews, Chancellor of the University of the City
of New York and pastor of the South Dutch Re-
formed Church in New York, in which later, in
1859, the mission to Japan was planned and
financed. In the Morrison, she was probably the
first white woman to look upon Japan.

Warm friendships sprang up between the
Browns and the English missionaries, many of
whom, especially on their first arrival, found
hearty welcome from the American educator.
** Yankees though we arc, they seem to enjoy
us," he wrote home to his father, who was long-
ing to see his grandchildren, born in semi-
tropical China, ** coasting down the Monson
hills, on which lay snow a yard deep." His
mother sent contributions regularly to sustain
the work in China. To the children at home he
wrote, " Large-hearted people are the happiest,
because they are most like God."

From a letter to his sister Fanny, from Vic-
toria, Hong Kong, 29th of March, 1844, we have
a lively picture of his surroundings:

Under the British Flag 95

" From our windows wc have a panoramic
view of the harbor and town, a charming pros-
pect that never tires. We only want a little
verdure to look at, to make it one of the prettiest
spots you might wish to see. We are now put-
ting an additional covering of tiles on the roof,
and inclosing the rear veranda (or piazza, as you
would call it) to keep the rain and wind out.
On the top of this hill there is nothing to break
the force of the wind. A typhoon would be no
trifle to us, I fear. The veranda extends round
the four sides of the house, and the wind might
lift it up and lay it one side some day, without
much ceremony. But notwithstanding it is a
good house and accommodates forty-four indi-
viduals very well. This much for the * house
we live in.' Now for what is done in it. We
rise betimes in the morning, that is, at the time
we get up. I dare not mention the hour, lest
you should think us late risers, though I can as-
sure you we are not a whit behind you in that
respect, for we can boast of rising at least twelve
hours earlier than our folks do at home. Presi-
dent Day and the faculty used to say that, if a
man was up the proper time in the morning
through his college years, he would acquire the
habit and it would not easily forsake him. Per-
haps this may account for my habitual early
rising. If not, I don't know how to explain it.

" Before breakfast the boys (twenty-eight are
now here) go to the schoolroom. At half-past

96 A Maker of the New Orient

seven they come into the dining room to family
worship, when all the older boys read with us.
The seraphine stands before a fglding door that
leads from the parlor to the dining room, and
when this door is thrown open, the room is vir-
tually double. After reading we sing and
* kneel before the Lord our Maker.' Then at
eight o'clock comes breakfast, a light meal. At
nine the boys, who have likewise breakfasted, re-
turn to the schoolroom, and their English
studies commence. Elizabeth and a lady by the
name of Marshall, who is now here, then ac-
company me thither, and we teach, talk, and ex-
plain, and expound till one o'clock, when we go
to our dinner and the boys have a recess till two.
At two they commence their Chinese studies
again under a native master, and the rest of the
day till half-past six is spent by us in the various
duties that call for our attention. At five the
boys go to their dinner and from that time till
half-past six they do what they please, provided
it is proper. They are generally at play on the
hill. At half-past six we again assemble for
family worship and then we take tea, with little
besides, and the boys go to their studies till nine,
when they are dismissed for the day. At ten
they are all required to be in bed. Each has a
room to himself and none sleep together, except
one or two little shavers, brothers. Ten is
our professed hour for retiring, but it is often

Under the British Flag 97

" Such is the general outline of the routine of
our daily performances. Wednesdays we have
no school in the afternoon, and the boys study
Chinese in the forenoon. On Saturday they
study English in the forenoon and have a half-
holiday after that. This is to allow them time to
wash their clothes. All the boys do their own
washing. It is the custom of the country. We
give them their board and tuition. They fur-
nish their own clothes in most cases and Chinese
books and stationery. We now have thirty on
our catalogue, two are absent. They are in the
government service as interpreters at Shanghai.
They will return in about a month to be replaced
by two others, thus spending six months away
and six months at school. The first six months
are nearly expired, and soon one of the boys now
at school will go up to relieve one of those who
are absent. Elizabeth's hands are very full of
work as well as mine, what with teaching a class
or two, and superintending her household affairs.
We are greatly in want of a teacher to help us.
It seems as if I could secure one in a day, were
I in the United States. When will that New
Haven committee get one? * I dinna ken.' I
am afraid they do not. But really it is too bad
to have everything suflFer as it now does, for
want of a man."

We must now relate an adventure in which,
besides incurring deadly peril, our educational
pioneer left some of his blood on China's soil.

98 A Maker of the New Orient

The Chinese coast was infested with pirates,
and the good work, of improving this species of
human vermin off the face of the earth, so ably
carried on afterwards by British and American
sailors, had not yet been vigorously begun.
More than one missionary fell a victim to these
murderers on sea and land, nor was our pioneer
educator wholly to escape their attacks. It was
while Dr. Brown's first daughter was four or five
years old and his son Robert a baby, and Dr. D.
B. McCartee, a newly arrived guest, and some
Chinese boys were in the school with him, that
the startling episode took place. The house on
Morrison Hill overlooked the sea on one side
and the flourishing new settlement on the other,
the slope on either side being very abrupt. The
inclosure, or " compound," contained, besides
other outbuildings, a large henhouse. Several
Chinese workmen were employed in the garden
and about the place, and were in the habit of
coming and going freely.

One night, about midnight, Mr. and Mrs.
Brown were awakened by hearing angry voices
just outside the window. The talk was in Chi-
nese, and it was naturally supposed that the
speakers were quarreling workmen. Stepping
to the door, Mr. Brown called to them in a com-
manding voice to keep quiet. " It is I, your
master; you must make less noise and go away."
But instead of a calm, the tumult increased. He
heard men moving about, though in the darkness

Under the British Flag 99

he could see nothing. Meanwhile the pirates,
for such they were, kept lunging with their long
spears where the speaker stood. They thrust
first on one side and then on the other, at ran-
dom. Suddenly Mr. Brown felt the hot burning
sensation of a spear or dagger entering his right
leg. Then he knew that the noisy rascals were
not workmen, but robbers. At once he called out
to Mrs. Brown to fly with the children and hide
herself and them. With the aid of Dr. McCartee
and his Chinese pupils, she took the two little
children, and they fled to the henhouse and hid
quietly there. Among the Chinese boys was
Yung Wing, who showed nerve and presence of
mind and was of great assistance.

Mr. Brown, though wounded and suflFering
from loss of blood, seized a box containing valu-
ables, and dragging it to the edge of the bluflf,
overlooking the town, pushed it over. It rolled
down and fell into some bushes, where it was
afterwards found and recovered. Then he too
escaped and hid with the others in their strange
shelter. With such materials as they had at
hand, scraped from the floor of the henhouse,
they stanched the flow of blood, and tearing off
some of his clothing bound up the wound, thus
undoubtedly saving his life. Meanwhile the rob-
bers, finding nothing portable to satisfy their
greed, broke in the doors and windows, cut the
beds in pieces with their swords, hoping to find
hidden treasure, then gathered up the clothing,

lOO A Maker of the New Orient

made a heap of it on the floor, and setting every-
thing on fire, returned to their ship.

In their frightful situation the family re-
mained till daylight, not knowing but that at any
moment they might be discovered, and be mur-
dered in the barbarous manner in which Chinese
pirates delighted, for the foreigner was an es-
pecial tit-bit for them, and the process of slicing
up, or the " thousand cuts," was one of their
methods of amusement with unransomed cap-
tives. Happily the baby made no cry, and all
the others kept bated breath, while the pirates
did not think of looking among the chickens for
their prey. The next morning Mr. Brown had
his wound properly dressed.

Luxuries were not altogether absent. It was
not yet the day of importation of American
flour, petroleum, cotton, clocks, and machinery,
but from the Eastern States of America ice,
apples, and butter for foreigners, and ginseng
for the Chinese, with furs from Oregon and san-
dalwood from Hawaii, were then the staples. A
dish of " greenings " from Massachusetts, a keg
of Orange County butter, and some home-made
ice-cream, were the usual indulgences celebrat-
ing the arrival of a ship from New York or New

In literary activities and in preaching Mr.
Brown's labors, though without money and
without price, were notable. He contributed
steadily for years to the Chinese Repository,

Under the British Flag loi

preached in Chinese once a month in a chapel to
a full house, and frequently in his own tongue to
the congregation of English-speaking people in
Hong Kong.

Before being a teacher, missionary, or parson,
Robbins Brown was, first of all, a man. Hear an
anecdote told in 1901.

While Dr. Brown was at Hong Kong a half
dozen American boys landed one day. They
had wanted to go to sea, and had, at first, a plan
to run away which their sensible parents had
frustrated, sending them ofif in a body on a ship
bound for Hong Kong. By the time they
reached that port they were pretty homesick.
The captain told them they might have a day on
shore. " But," said they, " where shall we go?

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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 4 of 14)