May 20, 2013
Who was William Carey, and why has he had such a major impact on our global culture? On May 26th , I graduated with my Doctorate from Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus. While at Carey College, I often walked past a painting of Carey, showing his humble beginning as a village shoemaker in Paulersbury, England. Carey was fascinated with reading books about science, history and travel journals of explorers like Captain Cook. His village playmates nicknamed him Christopher Columbus. Carey said that he was addicted as a young person to swearing, lying, and alcohol. A major turning point happened when he was caught by his employer embezzling a shilling. Fortunately his employer did not press charges. For such petty larceny, Carey could have easily paid the price of imprisonment, forfeiture of goods and chattel, whipping or transportation for seven years to the plantations of the West Indies or America. Facing his own selfishness, Carey had a spiritual breakthrough by personally meeting Christ that had a lasting impact on his values and lifestyle.
Carey had a quick mind and a natural love of learning. He would have normally become a farm labourer, but suffered from a skin disease that made it painful for him to go out in the full sun. If Carey’s face and hands were exposed to the sun for any lengthy period, he would suffer agony throughout the night. So instead he became a cobbler, making shoes. While making shoes, he was able to read and pray. Through this, Carey developed a conviction that he was to go to India. His unimaginative friends and colleagues tried to talk him out of this fantasy. His five-month pregnant wife Dorothy was also dead-set against it. His own father Edmund wondered if his son had lost his mind. Carey said to his dad: “I am not my own nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where he thinks fit.”
With unshakable determination, Carey went to India in 1793 which was under the control of the East India Company. He later ended up becoming a Professor of Bengali and Sanskrit in Calcutta, India. Through teaching at Fort Williams College in Calcutta, he was investing in young civil servants from England, helping them to have a good start in India. Carey believed that the future was as bright as the promises of God. He had an exceptional natural gift for languages. Carey called himself a plodder; whatever he started, he always finished. Unlike a number of his family members and closest friends, Carey survived malaria and numerous other tropical diseases. His first wife Dorothy however had a nervous breakdown before later dying. Carey was heartbroken.
Some bureaucrats from the East India Company did their best to expel Carey and his team from India. Anything that might affect financial profit was seen as a threat. William Wilberforce however, having finally abolished the slave trade, presented 837 petitions to the British Parliament representing over half a million signatures, requesting that ‘these good and great men’ be allowed to stay in India. Carey’s enemies attacked him in Parliament for being a lowly shoemaker. Wilberforce won the day in the Charter Renewal Bill of 1813.
Carey’s motto was “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Entirely self-taught, Carey impacted the emerging generation of Indian leaders that birthed the burgeoning modern democracy of India. Serampore College was founded by Carey and his colleagues in 1818. He produced six grammars of Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Panjabi, Telugi, and Kanarese, and with John Clark Marshman, one of Bhutia. He also translated the whole Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages or dialects. Scholars say that Carey significantly contributed to the renaissance of Indian Literature in the nineteenth century.
While an ordained preacher and a church planter, Carey was fascinated with all aspects of daily living. In 1818 Carey founded two magazines and a newspaper, the Samachar Darpan, the first newspaper printed in any Asian language. He was the father of Indian printing technology, building what was then their largest printing press. Carey was the first to make indigenous paper for the Indian publishing industry. He brought the steam engine to India, and pioneered the idea of lending libraries in India. Carey introduced the concept of a ‘Savings Bank’ to India, in order to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury at interest rates of 36% to 72%.
Carey introduced the study of astronomy as a science, teaching that the stars and planets are God’s creation set by him in an observable order, rather than astrological deities fatalistically controlling one’s life. He was the founder of the Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England. Carey was the first person in India to write about forest conservation. In 1823, he was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, one of the world’s most distinguished botanical societies even today. As Carey’s favorite flowers were lilies, he had the honour of having one (Careyanum) named after him.
Having a strong social conscience, Carey was the first man to oppose the Sati widow-burning and female infanticide. Sati was finally banned by the Government of India in 1829. He also campaigned for humane treatment of lepers who were being burned or buried alive because of their bad karma. The view at the point was that leprosy was a deserved punishment in the fifth cycle of reincarnation.
Carey loved India and never returned home to England, dying in 1834 at the age of 73. Near the end, he said: ““You have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey-speak only about William Carey’s Saviour.” My prayer for those reading this article is that we too would have the passion for learning and making a difference that William Carey once had.
The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-an article for the June 2013 Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
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September 4, 2010
Catharine Parr Traill was a pioneer Canadian mother who made a phenomenal impact on the life of our nation.
England in the early 1830s was caught in a Canada-mania. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, England was thrown into an economic depression. Thomas Strickland, the father of Catherine Parr Traill, was caught in the economic downturn, resulting in near-bankruptcy and his premature death. He left behind an impoverished widow and six unmarried daughters whose chances of marriage were seriously limited.
Both Catherine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna married economically-challenged Scottish soldiers who were offered land grants in the colonies. Canada began to be seen as the land of milk and honey! Altogether 655,747 people sailed away from British shores between 1831 and 1841 (almost three times as many as had moved abroad during the previous ten years).
The two key Canada-promoters William Cattermole and Captain Charles Stuart were being paid so much per head for every Brit that they could recruit for Canada. In their glowing description of Canada, Cattermole and Stuart forgot to mention the backbreaking work required to clear the forests, the total absence of household comforts, the aching loneliness, and the grinding poverty of most early Canadian pioneers. Catharine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna, being gifted writers, were able to record a vital part of our Canadian pioneering history. In Catherine Parr Traill’s book ‘The Canadian Settler’s Guide’, she insightfully wrote:
“In cases of emergency, it is folly to fold up one’s hands and sit down to bewail in abject terror: it is better to be up and doing.”
Catharine’s book “The ‘Backwoods of Canada quickly sold its first printing of eleven thousand copies, being translated into German in 1838 and French in 1843.
Of the six Strickland daughters including Catherine, five of them became published authors! Catharine’s older sister Agnes in England was the leading royal biographer of the 19th century. Sister Agnes caustically commented: “Who in England thinks anything of Canada?” and “Nothing that is first published in Canada will sell well in England”.
In Charlotte Grey’s book ‘Sisters in the Wilderness’, Catharine Parr Traill and her sister Susanna are described as laying “the foundation of a literary tradition that still endures in Canada: the pioneer woman who displays extraordinary courage, resourcefulness and humour. This ‘Canadian character type’, as critic Elizabeth Thompson calls her, is a pragmatist who discovers her own strength as she overcomes adversity.” Sir Sandford Fleming, inventor of one-hour time zones, and the engineering genius behind the Canadian Pacific Railway, said of Catharine: “She has rendered service of no ordinary kind in making known the advantages offered by Canada as a field for settlement, and by her very widely read writings she has been instrumental in inducing very many emigrants from the United Kingdom to find homes in the Dominion.”
Catharine Parr Trail had a remarkable ability to rise above adversity and make the best of every situation. Charlotte Grey: writes in her book about ‘the stamina, talent and determination that allowed two English ladies to overcome the hardships of pioneer life and leave a powerful legacy to Canadian culture.’ It is hard for us almost two hundred years later to fully imagine the miseries of hunger, disease, cold, and disappointment faced by our early Canadian pioneers. I was shocked to discover that both Catharine and her sister’s families came down with malaria, a widespread problem in Canada as pioneers were struggling to drain mosquito-infested swamps.
Catharine Parr Traill commented in the early days: “I have not seen a woman except those in our company for over five months….” As Charlotte Grey put it, “Being wrenched from one’s homeland leaves deep scars in the psyche of every emigrant in any era: Susanna and Catharine bore these scars for the rest of their lives.”
Catharine’s motto was ‘Hope! Resolution! And Perseverance!’. She would assure her relatives back home that Canada is the ‘land of hope.’ Her sister Sarah spoke of Catherine/Kate: “Her blue eyes always sparkled with happiness and curiosity about the world. She had a warm smile and an air of stolid contentment, and even as a baby, Catharine ‘never cried like other children –indeed we used to say that Katie never saw a sorrowful day – for if anything went wrong, she just shut her eyes and the tears fell from under the long lashes and rolled down her cheeks like pearls into her lap. We all adored her.”
Charlotte Grey commented how Catharine loved “the wild and picturesque rocks, trees, hill and valley, wild-flowers, ferns, shrubs and moss and the pure, sweet scent of pines over all, breathing health and strength.” Nature, for Catharine, was saturated with divine meaning – its splendor and concord displayed the authority and goodness of its Creator. That is why Catharine wrote many “books that reflected sheer love of nature’s bounty and admiration in God’s handiwork.” The flowers of the field, for her, were good reminders of the teachings of Christ. Catherine often illustrated her dried specimens with biblical quotes, particularly from the Psalms or the book of Revelation.
Charlotte Grey commented that “In future years, Catharine would rely on her love of nature, the beauties of which she saw as the expression of God’s will, to carry her through one disaster after another. ‘Strength was always given to me when it was needed.’ As she dug and weeded in the kitchen garden, or lifted heavy cast-iron pans of porridge from the stove, she would pause briefly, straighten her aching back, close her eyes and utter silent prayers. needed,’ she noted at the end of her life. ‘In great troubles and losses, God is very Good.’
In the midst of her very busy writing and pioneering, Catharine never neglected her family. As Charlotte Grey put it, “Motherhood came as naturally to Catharine as breathing. It was the most meaningful activity in her life. She was always prepared to give more love than she took, and she saw no conflict between her family and her impulse to write.”
My prayer is that every mother reading this article would receive that same strength as Catharine Parr Traill in the challenges of life.