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Guinness and the Regions Beyond Missionary Union

In 1903, a fourth force entered the lists: Dr Harry Grattan Guinness of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU), the umbrella organization that included the Congo Balolo Mission. Many accounts of the reform movement understate the role of the religious elements, and Guinness was a particular casualty from the 1970s until Kevin Grant rescued him from obscurity in 2004.[1] Harry Guinness was the son of the famed divine Rev. Henry Grattan Guinness, DD, a preacher with close ties to several Protestant denominations.[2] He and his wife, Fanny, married in a Friends’ meeting house and baptised their children with the Plymouth Brethren. Harry himself married in a Baptist tabernacle.[3] For years, the senior Guinness had overseen a web of training schools in England and missions mostly outside the British Empire as a family enterprise thanks to Fanny’s able administrative work. The RBMU missions’ doctrinal requirements were a basic Protestantism, and the missions were nondenominational.[4]

Harry Guinness studied at the London Hospital from 1880-85 to become a medical missionary, but discovered a vocation for preaching that diverted him

Dr Harry Grattan Guinness

Figure 2.6 Dr Harry Grattan Guinness

Source: Catherine Mackintosh, The Life of Dr. Harry Grattan Guinness.

from his medical training. As his parents aged, he took increasing responsibility for running the family mission enterprise, starting with its East London missionary training school, Harley House. He developed the Congo Balolo Mission and, after finishing his MD in Brussels in 1891, traveled to the Congo to set up its first mission stations. When Fanny died in 1898, 37-year-old Harry became Acting Director of the family missionary enterprise, now renamed the Regions Beyond Missionary Union.

Guinness was heir to a missionary tradition undergoing major changes.[5] The new faith missions movement, which included the Guinnesses, undertook its work with urgency based on the impending end of days. Doctrinal particulars and formal conversion were less important than preaching the Gospel to prompt repentance and acceptance of Christ to prepare for the imminent apocalypse.

Guinness’s first Congo criticisms had appeared in the house journal, Regions Beyond, in May 1891, then stopped when the Congo Council (which Guinness chaired) set a policy to avoid any chance of a public expose.[6] Five years later, the CBM suppressed Sjoblom’s report, though he had trained at Harley House and served at a CBM station before joining the ABMU. This policy led to the controversy about reporters at the 1897 APS Congo meeting. Guinness arrived at what he thought was a private meeting to find Dilke, whom he loathed, chairing, reporters taking notes, and Houdret, the Congo’s Consul General, watching the proceedings for Leopold. Guinness spoke after being promised anonymity and carefully praised the King for listening to his concerns.

Guinness’s top priority was saving souls, and Congo Free State misgovernment impeded that objective. In 1895, Murphy and Sjoblom convinced him that the problems were pervasive, but he still hesitated to speak out for fear of repercussions, preferring to discuss his concerns in private with Leopold, who sometimes transferred abusive agents away from CBM missions.[7] As Fox Bourne wrote to Morel, “He told me a good deal about atrocities of which he knew but always on the understanding that I was to publish nothing, as he thought it would hinder his missionary work.”[8] Events proved him right; the more public his statements, the more constraints his missions faced; his nearperfect public silence from 1898 to 1902 earned the CBM a new station.[9]

When Morel sought information from the RBMU in late 1902, Guinness would not release it without the Congo Council’s permission. “The problem is to do good without doing harm,” Guinness explained, “We do not want to incur the restriction of the benevolent operation of our mission except for the promulgation of facts more serious than what we have to complain of now.”[10] Morel badgered Guinness for months, even when Guinness did not answer his letters.[11] Morel’s appeals coincided with a RBMU Congo Council investigation begun in November 1902 into accusations against several missionaries: Rev. Daniel J. Danielson, who ran the mission steamer, whipped his crew with a hippopotamus-hide whip, or chicotte, and put local people in the stocks for not bringing enough wood; Rev. Somerville Gilchrist and others knew that another missionary had used the chicotte several times; yet another had used it on a woman and two little girls; Rev. John Harris asked an Abir agent to whip an African mission worker; and Rev. William Armstrong took cookware and fowl from villagers when they would not listen to him preach or satisfy his demand

for food.[12]

To their credit, Guinness and the Congo Council took the bull by the horns, meeting a week later with all the Congo missionaries home on furlough. They confirmed many of the accusations and identified other incidents; the missionary who had first accused the others had beaten his personal servant with a stick. Their conclusion, documented by James Irvine, a devout Liverpool merchant on the Congo Council, was that only Danielson had seriously abused his power. The Council believed that it was “necessary and wise” to disciple Africans parentally, a concept they distinguished from the practices of the concession companies and the Congo government. The Council also confirmed the missions’ existing ban on corporal punishment, especially the chicotte.[13]

This investigation was a major issue; if the allegations were true, the RBMU would be vulnerable when it revealed its evidence of Congo State abuses. All Protestant missionary societies were wary because the Congo Free State’s apologists routinely attacked critics by accusing them of similar behavior.[14] Gilzean Reid gloated in a letter to Van Eetvelde, “One by one from Salusbury to Murphy to that Danish ‘missionary’ so-called, I have destroyed them and even stopped the hostile criticism in our Parliament. The need never ceases for action.”[15] Leopold’s publicists could have used the missionaries’ use of floggings, imprisonment, and the stocks to damage the cause and undermine the mission’s ability to raise money.

After the investigation, the Congo Council began moving toward more publicity in February 1903.[16] They asked Guinness to confer with Fox Bourne and with Baynes, the BMS Secretary, to determine if Morel could be trusted. Guinness proceeded slowly, writing to Fox Bourne almost a month later.[17] Meanwhile, Guinness notified the Field Committee in the Congo that he would publish their reports only if publicity would aid the missions.[18] [19] Morel told him that his delays were tantamount to a defense of the Congo Free State:

I can only say that so long as the Missionary Societies will not join us openly in our efforts to better the state of things, our efforts are bound to be paralyzed all along the line. I do earnestly beg of you to consider this matter once again, and see if you cannot do anything. I had a talk with Mr Irvine, who belongs to your Mission, yesterday, and he fully shares my view.131

On 26 March, the Congo Council, with Irvine in attendance, permitted Guinness to write a Congo article for Regions Beyond. There is no discussion of Morel’s request in the minutes, and, a few days later, having not heard anything, Morel’s annoyance was palpable: “We will never get anything out of these missionaries.”[20]

But the Congo Council appears to have given Guinness permission to cooperate. Morel’s annoyance notwithstanding, Guinness publicly condemned the Congo Free State. Morel had left West Africa after acrimonious disputes with its proprietor and started his own weekly journal in April 1903, the West African Mail. Guinness launched his Congo reform campaign that month, with simultaneous and identical articles in Regions Beyond, Fox Bourne’s Aborigines’ Friend, and the third issue of the West African Mail, just in time to influence the May 1903 Congo debate in Parliament. The Regions Beyond of June 1903 further discussed the atrocities, including their commercial aspect, announced a forthcoming pamphlet, and praised the MPs willing to take up the charge, even the old reprobate, Dilke.[21] The same issue reproduced the correspondence of BMS missionary John Weeks with the Congo government, showcasing the State’s unwillingness to deal with abuses.

However, Guinness was an unreliable ally, alternating between caution and boldness. Alfred Jones, as Leopold’s Consul in England, sought to manipulate Guinness by interceding with Leopold and obtaining an offer of subsidies for the mission.[22] The implied quid pro quo for this payment from rubber profits was silence. The Congo Council discussed and rejected the offer; after more prodding from Morel and Stead, Guinness’s campaign against the Congo Free State came to life again in October 1903.[23] He gushed to Morel, “I rejoice that you are able to be of such splendid service in enlightening the British public in regard to what seems to me the most dastardly outrage that civilized Europeans could possibly perpetrate on defenceless Africans.”[24]

A CBM missionary briefly became a key figure in late 1903: Rev. Daniel Jacob Danielson, by background a sailor from the Faroe Islands.[25] The Congo Council dismissed him in March 1903 after their investigation into missionary cruelty, but withdrew the dismissal shortly thereafter, because Guinness told the Council that the charges had turned out to be false or gross exaggerations. In July, while the reprieved Danielson was travelling downriver to go to Britain on furlough, he encountered Roger Casement at the BMS Bolobo mission as the Consul was about to transfer to the ABMU steamer Henry Reed. On 17 July Danielson agreed to skipper the Henry Reed as replacement for Arthur Billington. Danielson accompanied Casement for the rest of his journey of investigation, through 15 September.[26] Historian Oli Jacobsen has shown that Danielson used his journey with Casement to take some of the earliest atrocity photos and develop his own campaign against the Congo Free State.

In October, Danielson arrived in Britain, eager to share his photographs and to speak out against the atrocities. After Foreign Office personnel encouraged the Congo Council to publicize the information Danielson had learned while traveling with Casement, the Council allowed him to go on a speaking tour in Scotland and decided to publish his evidence.[27] His talks were well-attended, with audiences reaching the thousands, but there was little press coverage, no recorded resolutions to government offices, and thus little lasting impact apart from his photographs, which continued to appear in Congo reform literature without correct attribution for the duration of the movement. Despite his obvious star-power, in January 1904 the Congo Council once again talked of dismissing Danielson, noting that he was hard to work with and that his agitation had made him unwelcome in the Congo. After further consideration, they paid his passage back to the Faroes in June 1904.[28]

Inspired by Danielson’s lectures and a similar meeting Guinness had held on 24 November in Colston Hall, Bristol, the RBMU directors agreed on 26 November 1903 that Guinness should hold large meetings on the Congo. But Guinness hesitated; de Cuvelier, the Congo State’s Foreign Secretary, accused him of inciting natives to rebel.[29] Guinness’s silence for the next week may indicate second thoughts, but if so, he quickly recovered his gumption.

  • [1] Grant, Civilised Savagery, 60-65.
  • [2] It is easy to confuse Guinness father and son; even the senior Guinness’s deathnotice did so, Annual Register, June 1910, 128. This occurred in Pavlakis, “British OverseasHumanitarianism,” but is remedied here.
  • [3] Klaus Fiedler, The Story of Faith Missions (Oxford: Regnum Books International,1994), 36, 196.
  • [4] Fiedler, Faith Missions, 36; Hardinge to Grey, 28 May 1909, FO 881/9530:201;Joseph Conley, Drumbeats that Changed the World: A History of the Regions BeyondMissionary Union and the West Indies Mission, 1873-1999 (Pasadena, CA: William CareyLibrary, 2000), 30, 39, 67; Lagergren, Mission and State, 36; Slade, English-SpeakingMissions,99.
  • [5] Andrew Porter, Religion Versus Empire? British Protestant Missionaries and OverseasExpansion (New York: Manchester University Press, 2004), 192-6, 198, 200, 256, 261,269-72.
  • [6] Regions Beyond, May 1896, 253-4; Ruth Slade, English-Speaking Missions, 241, 243.
  • [7] Catherine W. Mackintosh, The Life Story of Henry Grattan Guinness, M.D.,F.R.G.S. (London: RBMU, 1916), 69-71.
  • [8] Fox Bourne to Morel, 24 November 1903, F8/66:180.
  • [9] Lagergren, Mission and State, 244-5, 255, 260-67; Roger T. Anstey, King Leopold’sLegacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 57; Guinness to Morel, 16 December1902, F8/74:5.
  • [10] Guinness to Morel, 8 November and 16 December 1902, F8/74:1, 5.
  • [11] Morel to Guinness, 24 November 1902, F10/1:281-90 and 7 February 1903,F10/2:321-3.
  • [12] Congo Council, 27 November 1902, Reel 11, Vol. 3, 72-3.
  • [13] Congo Council, 4 December 1902, Reel 11, Vol. 3, 77.
  • [14] Grant, Civilised Savagery, 49.
  • [15] Gilzean Reid to Van Eetvelde, 6 December 1897, quoted in Slade, English-SpeakingMissions, 250.
  • [16] Congo Council, 5 February 1903, Reel 11, Vol. 3, 88ff.
  • [17] Ruth Slade, “English Missionaries and the Beginning of the Anti-CongoleseCampaign in England,” RevueBelge dePhilologie d’Histoire 33, no. 1 (1955): 55.
  • [18] Guinness to Field Committee, 12 February 1903, Archives Africain, Brussels M584(96), quoted by Lagergren, Mission and State, 307.
  • [19] Morel to Guinness, 12 and 17 March 1903, F10/4:234, 478.
  • [20] Morel to Stead, 31 March 1903, F10/4:317.
  • [21] Regions Beyond, June 1903, 173ff.
  • [22] Congo Council, 24 September 1903, Reel 11, Vol. 3, 108-9.
  • [23] Morel to Guinness, 13 October 1903, F10/8:265; Morel to Stead, 20 October 1903,F10/8:330.
  • [24] Guinness to Morel, 16 October 1903, F8/74:14.
  • [25] For more detail on Danielson’s contributions to Congo reform and his dealingswith the Congo Council, see Oli Jacobsen, Daniel J. Danielsen and the Congo: MissionaryCampaigns and Atrocity Photographs (Brethren Archivists and Historians Network, 2014),
  • [26] Congo Council, 26 March and 24 September 1903, Reel 11, Vol. 3, 101, 108-9, 112;Lagergren, Mission and State, 260.
  • [27] Guinness to Morel, 16 October 1903, F8/74 14; Congo Council, 24 October 1903,Reel 11, Vol. 3, 115; RBMU Directors, 6 and 26 November 1903, Reel 1, Vol. 1.
  • [28] Congo Council, 26 January, 25 February, 14 June, and 6 October 1904, Reel 11, Vol.3; RBMU Directors, 28 January 1904, Reel 1, Vol. 1.
  • [29] De Cuvelier to Guinness, 2 December 1903, FO 881/8268:334.
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