Sir Harry Johnston & the Scramble for Africa

By Roland Oliver | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2

THERE survives among Johnston's private papers a curious document, belonging evidently to the period immediately after his return from Tunis, entitled "The Future of the Human Race".1 It is a fragment merely, and obviously intended solely for his own use; but it contributes much to the understanding of a character, apparently subtle and even at times deceitful, which was nevertheless really more straightforward and co-ordinated than many of his contemporaries supposed.

The parable of the mustard seed is among the most beautiful of those apt and touching similes attributed to Jesus Christ, and with the substitution of the Kingdom of Man for the vague and less satisfactory Kingdom of Heaven, it may serve for all time to illustrate the History of the Human Race. Sprung from so little. And man a mere accident. The chance combination of certain elements, as accidentally combined perhaps, as endued with that mysterious property we call life. This original cell, this protoplasm, has in the course of time, and almost inevitably, given rise to man, who individually illustrates in his embryonic development the stages he has passed through in his progress from the uncomplicated structure of the single cell to the complicated combination of many cells. . . .

Such being the origin of man [the paper goes on], what is to be done with him? How can he, just entered into his heritage, employ his inherited powers with the utmost advantage? How can he sufficiently apply the great lesson he has been learning all his life in such a way as to most profit by his precepts?

It is clear to begin with that both for the individual and the community there is no surer help towards improvement than a great ambition. The greater the ambition, the greater the advance. Though the goal may seldom or never be touched— perhaps never, for the more we advance, the higher mounts our ambition—yet ere our efforts cease we are sure to find ourselves considerably further on the road than when we started, and can at least leave the task to be continued by our descendants. The very fact of willing an advance is an immense progress in itself, for the desire brings about the accomplishment of the thing desired. One can recognize the immense power of will in the

It occurs in the Tunis MS, referred to on p. 26, between chapters 4 and 5.


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