Friday, December 24, 2010

Not a historian

One of the things I have in common with my grandfather is that we are not historians.  This is a disadvantage to me in writing this part of the blog, and it was a disadvantage to my grandfather in preparing the material for his pamphlet "Race Antagonism in Christian Missions".  However, the primary purpose of neither of us was to enlighten readers on the truth of some aspects of the past.  Mine, I suppose, is to find out, chiefly for myself, what makes me (feebly, unreliably) tick.  My grandfather's--well, here I shall just reproduce the first two paragraphs of his pamphlet referred to above.
"It is by no means a simple or pleasant task for one to put before the world the facts connected with his
 own marriage.  Yet, in the interests of truth I believe such is my duty as the facts relating to my inter-  
 national marriage reveal an alarming state of affairs in Mission Circles [his capitals], a revelation
which ought to lead all lovers of truth to unite in prayer and work for a great revolution of missionary
 policy in the East.
      There are of course those who look upon international marriages as not merely unnecessary and
 unwise but as positively wrong and ruinous to society.  It is not the intention of the writer to discuss
 the propriety or impropriety, the advantages or disadvantages, the rightness or wrongness of
 international marriages.  But recognizing that international alliances do exist, it is proposed in
 chronicling the events connected with my own case, to examine some forms and phases of
 opposition and the causes thereof, as well as to show that the worst forms of racial antagonism
 are met within quarters where one would least expect them."
Yes.  Before I go on I think I must find an alternative way of referring to my grandfather.  Oddly, my grandmother in her diary couldn't decide on what to call him--sometimes Chris (short for Christmas) and sometimes Kanaga (more often K.).  I was mildly tempted to call him, by expanding his initials S.C.K.R., "The Sucker" but that doesn't really seem appropriate to the man, always formidable despite many lapses.  So I shall call him Samuel, as his parents surely did, surely also knowing that Hannah, wife of Elkanah of Ramathaim-zophim, chose the name for her long-prayed for son because it meant "asked of God".
Samuel, then, earns some good marks as a historian in the ensuing pages by letting his enemies speak for themselves at considerable length.  Here is an example, from two sisters, the Misses Leitch, who had themselves worked in Jaffna from 1880-6 and then, on their return to the USA, performed such prodigies of fund-raising as to achieve for themselves overwhelming prestige in what Samuel called 'Mission Circles".  They addressed this letter in mid-1897 to Mary Irwin after hearing of an engagement between her and Samuel.  It is a long letter, and for the moment I will content myself with quoting a single paragraph:
"It is true that Mr Rutnam is somewhat light complectioned (sic).  But many of his relatives are very
dark and some of his children might be almost black.  And what about the laws of heredity?  Would it
not be reasonable to expect that the Hindoo traits of deceit, falsehood, in short moral crookedness
would appear in his children?
On 6 June 1906, Mary wrote in her diary:  "Chris said last night, the Eastern people had 'finer feelings' than the Western.  I wonder whether he thought that because I am Western I must consequently be stony-hearted and not feel the sting of deceitful and faithless conduct.  I think we of the West are trained to a finer perception of right and wrong and have more acute feelings than the phlegmatic East."

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