Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/77

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MADAGASCAR.

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ous proofs which we already have, of the great blessings which a Christian people enjoy, and of the source from which those blessings are derived.

In 1853 the condition of Madagascar was such as to induce the London Missionary Society to send out agents to see if the missionary work of former years could be resumed there. The Rev. Mr. Ellis, from whose excellent writings the most of this account has been taken, and Mr. Cameron were the agents chosen, and they arrived at Tamatavé in July of that year. They found that the state of sentiment in the country had assumed a distinct party shape, and that while the government and its supporters were decidedly in favor of maintaining the idols, the Sikidy, tangena, slavery, coerced labor, and all the other customs of their ancestors, there was another party which was equally decided in favor of learning, of having the schools reopened, and of Christian improvement generally. Though many Christians had been put to death, driven into exile or reduced to bonds and degradation, yet there were found to be at least one thousand persons, in the capital and its vicinity, who were known to each other and mutually recognized as disciples of Christ. Many of them were even holding offices of great responsibility, chiefly, if not solely, in consequence of their ability, integrity, and known worth. It was supposed that the Christianity of some of them was known and connived at, on account of the value of their services to the government.

The heir apparent at that time, the son of the Queen, was a man of gentle manners and amiable disposition, and both he and his wife were supposed to be members of the church, and devoted friends of its persecuted and afflicted flock. His manners were described to be more like those of an English gentleman than of a Malagasy. Prince Rakodond-Radama, or Prince Rakoto, as he was more commonly called, was then about twenty-three years of age, and he was marked as being unlike any tribe of the islanders, resembling rather the Moldavian-Greek than the Malay, or the African race. His features wore an expression of child-like goodness, and he was beloved by the people, and especially by his mother. Yet he had bitter enemies among the supporters of idol-worship, the chief of whom was a nephew of the Queen, and his rival to the throne. He was kind-hearted, as averse to the shedding of blood as his mother was prone to it, often interfered to obtain a reversal of the sentences of death, showed a fondness for the society of