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David Livingstone

      David Livingstone, missionary and traveller, was born at Blantyre, in Lanarkshire, March 19, 1813. His parents, who were in humble life, were of devout and exemplary character; his father in particular being a great reader, especially of travels and missionary intelligence, and much interested in the enterprise of the nineteenth century. At the age of ten David became a worker in a cotton-factory at Blantyre, and continued in that laborious occupation for fourteen years. His thirst for knowledge led him to read all that he could lay his hands on; he used also to attend a night-class, after the long hours of the factory, for the study of Latin. The reading of Dick's "Philosophy of a Future State" was not only the means of a profound impression on his mind, but kindled the desire to devote his life as a missionary to the service of Christ.

      Deeply impressed with the advantages of medical training to a missionary, he resolved to qualify himself in medicine, as well as the other attainments looked for in a missionary. The London Missionary Society having accepted the offer of his services, he went to London to complete his studies. His first desire was to labor in China, but, war having broken out between that country and Great Britain, this wish could not be fulfilled. The Rev. Robert Moffat's visit at this time to England turned many hearts to Africa--Livingstone's among the rest; ultimately he was appointed to that field, and, having been ordained on November 20, 1840, he set sail for Africa, reaching Lattakoo or Kuruman, Moffat's settlement, on July 31, 1841.

      For several years Livingstone labored as a missionary in the Bechuana country, at Mabotse, Chonuana, and Kolobeng, places that were chosen by him just because they were in the heart of heathenism. The conversion of Sechele, chief of the Bakwains, and several of his tribe, was a great encouragement. Repulsed by the Boers in an effort to plant native missionaries in the Transvaal, he directed his steps northward, discovered Lake 'Ngami and found the country there traversed by fine rivers and inhabited by a dense population. His anxiety to benefit this region led finally to his undertaking to explore the whole country westward to the Atlantic at St. Paul de Loanda, and eastward to the Indian Ocean at Quilimane.

      Livingstone had married at Mabotse, Mary, eldest daughter of the Rev. R. Moffat, and now he found it necessary to send her, with their children, to England, that he might be free for this vast and perilous undertaking. To accomplish it occupied from June 8, 1852, when he left Cape Town, to May 26, 1856, when he arrived at Quilimane. This journey was accomplished with a mere handful of followers, and a mere pittance of stores, amid sicknesses and other bodily troubles, perils, and difficulties without number. But a vast amount of valuable information was gathered respecting the country and its products, its geography and natural history, the native tribes, the regions that were favorable to health, and some great natural wonders, such as the Zambesi Falls.

      Livingstone, however, found that the London Missionary Society were not willing that he should be to so large an extent an explorer, and some time after returning to Britain he resigned his office as one of their missionaries.

      At home Livingstone was welcomed with extraordinary enthusiasm, receiving the acknowledgments and honors of scientific societies, universities, town councils, and other public bodies in every quarter of the country. In addition to these tokens of honor, the fifteen months spent at home were signalized by three things: the writing of his book, "Missionary Travels" (1857), which was received with the liveliest interest; his visit to Cambridge, awakening the enthusiasm of many of the students, and leading to the formation afterward of the "Universities Mission;" and his appointment by Her Majesty's Government as chief of an expedition for exploring the Zambesi and its tributaries, and the regions adjacent.

      On this expedition Livingstone set out on March 10, 1858. While successful in many ways, it led to not a little disappointment. Livingstone explored the Zambesi, the Shire, and the Rovuma; discovered Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, and came to a decided conclusion that Lake Nyassa and its neighborhood was the best field for both commercial and missionary operations. His disappointments arose from the grievous defects of a steamer sent out to him by Government, from the death of comrades and helpers, including his wife and Bishop Mackenzie; from the abandonment of the Universities Mission; from the opposition of the Portuguese authorities; but mainly from the distressing discovery that, encouraged by Portuguese traders, the slave-trade was extending in the district, and the slave-traders using his very discoveries to facilitate their infamous traffic. At length a despatch recalling the expedition was received, July 2, 1863. Livingstone, at his own cost, had brought out a new steamer, but she could not be put on the lake. Depressed though he was, he explored the northern banks of Lake Nyassa on foot; then in his own vessel, and under his own seamanship, crossed the Indian Ocean to Bombay; and after a brief stay there, returned to Britain, reaching London on July 23, 1864.

      At home Livingstone had two objects--to expose the atrocious deeds of the Portuguese slave-traders, and to find means of establishing a settlement for missions and commerce somewhere near the head of the Rovuma, or wherever a suitable locality could be found. His second book, "The Zambesi and its Tributaries" (1865), was designed to further these objects. He was again received with every demonstration of honor and regard. A proposal was made to him, on the part of the Royal Geographical Society, to return to Africa and settle a disputed question regarding the water-shed of Central Africa and the sources of the Nile. He said he would go only as a missionary, but was willing to help to solve the geographical problem.

      He set out in August, 1865, via Bombay and Zanzibar. On March 19, 1866, he started from the latter place, first of all trying to find a suitable settlement, then striking westward in order to solve the geographical problem. Through the ill-behavior of some of his attendants a report of his death was circulated, but an expedition, headed by Mr. E. D. Young, R. N., ascertained that the report was false. Livingstone pressed westward amid innumerable hardships, and in 1869 discovered Lakes Meoro and Bangweolo. All the while he was doing what he could for the religious enlightenment of the natives. Obliged to return for rest to Ujiji, where he found his goods squandered, he struck westward again as far as the river Lualaba, thinking it might possibly be the Nile, but far from certain that it was not, what it proved afterward to be, the Congo. Returning after severe illness once more to Ujiji, Livingstone found there, Mr. H. M. Stanley, who had been sent to look for him by the proprietor of the New York Herald. But no consideration would induce him to return home till he had made one more effort to solve the geographical problem.

      He returned to Lake Bangweolo, but fell into wretched health. His sufferings always increasing, when he reached Chitambo's village in Ilala, he was obliged to give in. On the morning of May 1, 1873, he was found by his attendants on his knees, dead. His faithful people embalmed his body as best they could, carried it amid the greatest perils to the shore, where it was put on board a British cruiser, and on April 18, 1874, it was buried in Westminster Abbey.

      Among the remains brought home were his "Last Journals," brought down to within a few days of his death; these were published in 1874. Stanley suggested the name of Livingstone for the main stream of the Congo (hence the Baptist Mission on the Lower Congo was called the "Livingstone Inland Mission"), and Mr. H. H. Johnston proposed that part of the East African territory acquired by Britain in 1890--the lower drainage area of the Zambesi--should be called Livingstone Land.

      The following letter, written by him to his children in 1853, during his first exploring tour, gives the character of the man, and shows his deep religious feeling:

      "Sekeletu's Town, Linyanti, 2d October.--My dear Robert, Agnes, and Thomas and Oswell.--Here is another little letter for you all. I should like to see you much more than write to you, and speak with my tongue rather than with my pen, but we are far from each other--very, very far. Here are Scipone, and Meriye, and others who saw you as the first white children they ever looked at. Meriye came the other day and brought a round basket for Nannie. She made it of the leaves of the palmyra. Others put me in mind of you all by calling me Rananee, Rarobert, and there is a little Thomas in the town, and when I think of you I remember, though I am far off, Jesus, our good and gracious Jesus, is ever near both you and me, and then I pray to Him to bless you and make you good.

      "He is ever near. Remember this if you feel angry or naughty. Jesus is near you, and sees you, and He is so good and kind. When He was among men, those who heard him speak said, 'Never man spake like this man,' and we now say, 'Never did man love like Him.' You see little Zouga is carried on mamma's bosom. You are taken care of by Jesus with as much care as mamma takes care of Zouga. He is always watching you and keeping you in safety. It is very bad to sin, to do any naughty things, or speak angry or naughty words before Him.

      "My dear children, take Him as your Guide, your Helper, your Friend, and Saviour through life. Whatever you are troubled about, ask Him to keep you. Our God is good. We thank Him that we have such a Saviour and Friend as He is. Now you are little, but you will not always be so, hence you must learn to read, and write, and work. All clever men can both read and write, and Jesus needs clever men to do His work. Would you not like to work for Him among men? Jesus is wishing to send His gospel to all nations, and He needs clever men to do this. Would you like to serve Him? Well, you must learn now, and not get tired learning. After some time you will like learning better than playing, but you must play too in order to make your bodies strong and be able to serve Jesus.

      "I am glad to hear that you go to the academy. I hope you are learning fast. Don't speak Scotch. It is not so pretty as English. Is the Tau learning to read with mamma? I hope you are all kind to mamma. I saw a poor woman in a chain with many others, up at the Barotse. She had a little child, and both she and her child were very thin. See how kind Jesus was to you. No one can put you in chains unless you become bad. If, however, you learn bad ways, beginning only by saying bad words or doing little bad things, Satan will have you in chains for sin, and you will be hurried on in his bad ways till you are put into the dreadful place which God hath prepared for him and all who are like him. Pray to Jesus to deliver you from sin, give you new hearts, and make you His children. Kiss Zouga, mamma, and each other for me.

      "Your ever affectionate father."

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