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After completing the canvas of England on behalf of the college, Ward was advised to visit Holland in the hope of raising a missionary spirit in the Mennonite community. Captain Angus, of Newcastle, who had repeatedly travelled through that country, and was familiar with the language, accompanied him as an interpreter. Ward was 8 days on the passage.

'Here,' he writes, 'twenty of us were crowded in a small packet, ten sleeping in one cabin, one above the other. The day passed amidst swearing and loose conversation, and the night among fleas and bugs and sea-sick passengers. Besides the wind was in our teeth, and there was lying to, and going back, and slipping out of our course, and I know not how many other grievances on our passage; such as rancid butter, bad tea, no milk, the soft bread exhausted, and no brandy at hand to correct the water, which was none of the best. Oh! what a misery would eternity be in one of these packets; no prayers, no divine service, no God.'

Ward's visit to Holland produced little result after a brief absence of 3 weeks.

Ward receives an enthusiastic welcome in America

He had received a cordial invitation from the most influential members of the Baptist community to visit America, which he was now prepared to accept. On his arrival there, he found that the same calumnious reports regarding Serampore, which had been industriously disseminated in England, had also been sent across the Atlantic; but his explanations served at once to dispel them, and he received the most enthusiastic welcome in every circle and from every denomination. All classes vied with each other in their expression of esteem; but it is due to the memory of one, of whom America has just reason to be proud, Mr. Divie Bethune, of New York, to state that nowhere did Ward feel himself so completely at home as in the bosom of his family. 'I felt myself again,' he writes, 'at Serampore.'

In England, not a voice had been raised to vindicate, or even explain, the conduct of the men who had built up the mission in India; though apologies were occasionally made for them by a charitable reference to the weakness of human nature, and the errors of even the best of men. But Mr. Bethune and another friend came forward to defend their characters with the warmest zeal, each in his own name, and, by the publication of articles in the most popular journals, set their conduct in its true light before the religious public of America. They were free to give vent to the most generous sentiments towards the man who, in conjunction with his colleagues, had opened up the path of modern missions in the East. Ward's journey through the country was a continuous ovation.

Click on the map to see the towns and cities Ward visited during his time in America; as recorded in the Boston Recorder of 17th April 1821 - see below.

During the 3 months Ward was in America, he omitted no opportunity of strengthening the principle of missions in a land which was then beginning to compete with the old country in the field of missionary benevolence. He succeeded in raising $10,000 for the college, which was placed in the hands of American trustees. (1)

The Boston Recorder of 17th April 1821. Courtesy the 'Centre for the Study of the Life and Work of William Carey D.D. 1761-1834.

'Farewell Letters'

During the voyage from America he employed his time writing 'Farewell Letters' (2) to his friends in England and America. He was subsequently induced to publish them, and the work speedily went through 3 editions. In successive letters he presents a vivid picture of the superstitions of the natives, the impurity and cruelty to which they gave birth, and the moral and religious degradation they entailed. He carries the reader before the presence of the idol, and brings before him the crowd of prostrate worshippers and the shouts of the frantic votaries. He then conducts him to the funeral pile, and depicts the sufferings of the living victim, and endeavours to raise a feeling of commiseration in his bosom, and engage him in a crusade against this horrid rite.

On the subject of female immolation, he writes:

'Oh that I could collect all the shrieks of these affrighted victims, all the innocent blood thus drunk up by the devouring element, and all the wailing of thirteen thousand orphans, losing father and mother on the same day, and present them at our missionary anniversaries, and carry them through every town in the United Kingdom. I should surely then be able to waken every heart to the claims of British India. Yes, it is British India where these agonising shrieks are heard, where the blood of these widows flows into a torrent, and where these cries of miserable orphans is heard. Not that I mean by these remarks to criminate the British Government; they would rejoice to put out these fires. My object is to awaken attention to these awful facts, but especially the attention of the Christian public.'

A letter to the Right Hon. J. C. Villiers

After his return to England, Ward had little intercourse with the members of the Committee and wrote to his friends in Serampore that he was now about to return to them and hoped to devote the remainder of his life, with increasing ardour, to the great cause in which they had been engaged together.

Before quitting England, Ward assisted in the formation of the British India Society, an association intended to promote the improvement of India through the medium of schools. It owed its origin to the exertions of Mr. Butterfield, a law bookseller and Member of Parliament, and one of the most active religious benefactors. At his insistence Ward drew up a long and interesting letter to the Right Hon. J. C. Villiers, (3) which contained a clear exposition of the moral, intellectual, and religious conditions of India. He joined it to an abstract of Marshman's 'Hints' and reports of native schools, and some remarks on female immolation, intended to bring that question before the influential men who patronised society in England. This communication was supported by statements furnished by. Mr. Harrington, Sir Edward Hyde East and Colonel Munro, all great authorities on India questions. At the inaugural meeting of the British India Association were Sir Janes Mackintosh, Sir William Boroughs, and Lord Teignmouth, in addition to those mentioned above. The benevolent effort did not lead to any practical result as the object was too vague and the committee too large, and it soon died a natural death.

John Mack. Reproduced by kind permission of BMS World Mission (formerly the Baptist Missionary Society).

Mr. John Mack is engaged by Ward as a professor at Serampore College

Ward now set his face to returning to the scene of his labours in India, from which he had been separated for two and a half years.

He had been happy to engage the services of Mr. John Mack, then 23 years of age, as one of the professors of Serampore College. Mack's father was a solicitor-at-law, and held an influential situation in the Sherriff's Office in Edinburgh. John Mack had attended high school and then the University of Edinburgh. The certificates of proficiency he received from the professors were flattering testimonials of his attainments. He subsequently attended a course of chemical and surgical lectures at Guy's. He was originally intended for the Church of Scotland; but having changed his opinion regarding baptism he went to the Baptist Academy at Bristol.

Mack was well versed in the different branches of natural science, though chemistry was his favourite study. His intellectual genius was of the first order. His judgement was always sound and judicious. He was a powerful and elegant writer, but he was pre-eminently distinguished for his eloquence, which has seldom been equalled, and has never been surpassed, in India. On one occasion, the Bishop of Calcutta, who was presiding at a meeting of the Auxiliary Bible Society in Calcutta at which Mack had been prevailed on to speak was so electrified by Mack's address that he involuntarily exclaimed "Why was that man a dissenter?" In all respects Mack was an accomplished man.

Ward embarked for India with John Mack and Hannah Marshman in May, 1821. Mrs Marshman had been visiting England on account of her health, and was now so completely invigorated by her stay in England that her exertions in running the schools around Serampore were prolonged for a further period of 25 years. The party included the first 2 missionaries of the General Baptist Missionary Society, sent out to commence work in Orissa.

A steam engine is imported for the paper-mill

The missionaries had experienced great difficulty in regard to the supply of paper for the printing of the Scriptures. The paper of the country from time immemorial had been sized with rice paste, and attracted voracious insects, (4) whose attacks even the stoutest parchment was unable to resist. Indeed, without incessant care, the first sheets of a work which lingered on the press were devoured by them before the last sheets were printed off. Paper which was imported from England was sold at so extravagant a price as to preclude the use of it for large editions. Various efforts had, therefore, been made at Serampore to manufacture paper which would be impervious to the worm. At one time a tread-mill was erected to reduce the material in the paper engine; it was worked in relays of 40 men, but the machinery was found to be cumbrous and expensive; and, one man being accidentally killed, the rest took a superstitious aversion to the wheel, and it was abandoned.

The existence of coal in the district of Burdwan had been known for many years. A Mr. Jones established machinery for working mines there, and the first collieries were opened by his skill and perseverance. The missionaries determined to take advantage of this circumstance and to import a steam-engine to work the paper mill. A twelve-horse engine was soon after sent to Serampore by Messrs. Thwaites and Rothwell, of Bolton, Lancashire.

They were obliged to accommodate their plans to the exigencies of a country where the division of labour was unknown, and it was necessary to provide in the same establishment for cutting the punches, and casting types, and manufacturing paper required for the printing of the Scriptures.

The steam engine was the first ever erected in India and excited almost as much interest as the first steam boat, or the first railway. The natives crowded to see the 'machine of fire,' as they called it, which equalled the achievements of Vishwu-Kurmu, the architect of the gods. Gentlemen of scientific tastes who had never had an opportunity of seeing a steam engine, came to Serampore and studied its mechanism under the instructions of the engineer. In a letter to Ward dated 27th March, 1820, Marshman said, 'the engine went in reality this day.' (5)

A meeting between the Senior and Junior Brethren

At the request of the Committee of the Society a meeting of the Senior and Junior Brethren was held in Calcutta in July 1820, with a view to reconciling differences and restoring concord. It was opened with devotional exercises, and when the discussion commenced, the meeting turned upon 2 points: the alleged alienation of the premises from the Society, and the refusal of Carey and his colleagues to hold their incomes at the Society's disposal.

The Junior Brethren were somewhat surprised to learn from Carey that the right of the Society to the premises had never been questioned, and that the deeds, of which attested copies had been sent to the Committee, had never been altered. On the second point, the difference was broad and irreconcilable. Carey asserted his own right, and that of his colleagues, to the exclusive control of their own incomes, and their determination to maintain it. The Junior Brethren, on the other hand, stated, that they did not consider a farthing of their receipts as belonging to themselves; they were the absolute property of the Society. Notwithstanding this diversity of opinion, the meeting produced a satisfactory result by clearing away misapprehension, and, for a time softening asperities.

A few months after the reconciliation meeting, Mr. Adam, one of the Junior Brethren, embraced Unitarian sentiments, withdrew from the connection, and demanded his 6th share of the £3,000 they had accumulated over about 3 years. The demand was resisted by his associates, but Mr. Adam refused to relinquish his claim and the question was referred to arbitrators to resist the odium of a lawsuit. The arbitrators unanimously repudiated the right of the Society to the self-acquired property, and awarded Mr. Adam a sixth of £1,800.

As a consequence, Marshman drew up a brief document, with the consent of his colleagues, to which their seals were immediately affixed, and which Ward signed and sealed after his return. It affirmed that the entire product of their labour from February 1800, and nine tenths of it since September 1817, had been thrown by common consent into their common stock, and that each of the subscribers had relinquished all individual right to it, and barred their heirs, executors, administrators, or assigns from advancing any claim to any portion of it.


(1) In 1830 the rumours of 'colossal fortunes' were this time believed in America, and Dr. Staughton, one of the trustees, wrote informing Carey that he determined to stop the transmission of the dividends to Serampore until he received assurances that the teaching of science should stop. They were not for self aggrandisement, either, but were intended solely for the purpose of training Hindu youths in the gospel ministry.

(2) A copy of this book is in the collection of the Derby Local Studies Library entitled 'Farewell Letters to a few Friends in Britain and America, on returning to Bengal in 1821', by William Ward of Serampore. Second Edition. Printed for Black, Kingsbury, Parbury, and Allen, Leadenhall Street, London. 1821.

(3) A copy of this book is in the collection of the Derby Local Studies Library entitled 'A letter to the Right Honourable J. C. Villiers, on the Education of the Natives of India,to which are added an account of Hindoo Widows, recently burnt Alive in Bengal'. There are also some extracts from the reports of the Native Schools, published by the Serampore Missionaries. By William Ward of Serampore, Bengal. London, 1820. Extracts regarding suttee can be read on the Digital Library Page.

(4) These were termites, otherwise known as white ants. Wooden furniture had to have the legs resting in bowls of water to prevent white ants crawling up and destroying them. Beams in buildings were also particularly prone. An article about bookworms etc. is at the bottom of the Digital Library Page.

(5) According to 'The Story of Serampore and its College', Serampore College, 1961, the Paper Mill was owned by John Clark Marshman.

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