Positioning the Missionary: John Booth Good and the Confluence of Cultures in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia

By Brett Christophers | Go to book overview

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In the early summer of 1860 Bishop Hills set off from Vancouver Island to visit the mainland portion of his diocese, covering some 1,300 kilometres, mostly on foot or on horseback, over the next three months. His only previous experience of the mainland colony had been a brief trip to its capital, New Westminster, in February, and he had little idea of what to expect in the unfamiliar territory beyond. What he saw in the way of religion, particularly white religion, clearly shocked and disappointed him, and on returning to Victoria he had this to say of his fellow colonists: 'The state of religion is as low as it can possibly be amongst civilized people. There is no recognition of it... Morals I fear are as far from what is right as the case of religion. Some have acknowledged to me their dislike of the ungodly & immoral life which are common with those around them. With others, sin is a matter of indifference. They will speak of their acts, & disparage religion with the most unblushing boldness & without an effort.' 1

Other Anglican missionaries, arriving from England tutored in Native, not white, ignorance, were as critical as Hills of British Columbia's immigrant population. The thrust of their (increasingly virulent) rhetoric was that the tension between civility and savagery did not reduce to empire's alleged racial cleavages. Instead, Anglican mission discourse identified a diverse field of sin, constituted primarily by Natives but compounded, and complicated, by ungodly whites. Most of the bishop's clergymen would have accepted The Mission Field's judgment that 'the Missionary to the heathen who have been brought into contact with the white man has invariably to contend not with the sins of heathenism only, but with them, and the foul train of misery and sin breeding sin which have been added to them by the white man.' 2

Gambling, drinking, and Sabbath-breaking were common complaints. When, at the first annual meeting of the Columbia Mission, the bishop of Oxford raged against gold miners 'risking all and endeavouring to gain

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Positioning the Missionary: John Booth Good and the Confluence of Cultures in Nineteenth-Century British Columbia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Abbreviations xxiii
  • 1 - Beginnings 3
  • 2 - Redemption 19
  • 3 - Reproduction 41
  • 4 - Space 67
  • 5 - Conversion 92
  • 6 - Morals 119
  • 7 - Dissolution 137
  • Notes 153
  • Bibliography 182
  • Index 193
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