Friday 8 July 2022

The history of the Church Missionary Society, its environment, its men and its work by Eugene Stock (1899)

John Baptist Dasalu

When Dahomey attacked Abeokuta in 1851, an Egba Christian, John Baptist Dasalu, once a slave-dealer, but then a faithful though severely persecuted servant of the Lord, was supposed to have been killed; his brother identifying as his a headless body found among the dead. 

Some time after, a ransomed Egba prisoner said he was alive, in captivity at Abomey; but all efforts to hear of him further, or to obtain his release, failed. 

When Miss Tucker's delightful little book, Abeokuta, or Sunrise within the Tropics, was published in 1853, his fate was still unknown; but his name and story became familiar in England, and " prayer was offered continually unto God for him." 

In 1855, there arrived at Plymouth, from Cuba, a party of fifty "emancipados," men, women, and children. The "emancipados" were Negro slaves in the Spanish West Indies who had, by dint of strenuous labour through many years, worked out their freedom, under an arrangement extorted from Spain by the British Government. 

As soon as they were free, they set about earning enough to take them back to Africa; and these fifty were the first to get away.

Henry Townsend, who happened to be in England, went to Plymouth to see them, and found that they were Yorubas; and the elder of them, who were African-born, were overjoyed to meet a man who could speak their native tongue. 

But when he told them his name, they recognized it at once, having heard it in Cuba from a recently-imported slave there; and that slave was John Baptist Dasalu, who had been carried across the Atlantic in a Spanish ship. They knew from him what had been going on at Abeokuta, and something, too, of the Christian religion. 

In due course they sailed for Lagos; but now the Church Missionary Society moved the Government to obtain Dasalu's release from the Spanish authorities. 

This was granted; the British Consul at Havana, with some difficulty, discovered him there; he arrived in England in August, 1856, was warmly welcomed, and sent on to Africa; and at length, after an absence of five years and a half, he reappeared in Abeokuta, to the astonishment and joy of the people.

For years afterwards, no story was more often told at missionary meetings.

In 1860, a calamitous war broke out within the Yoruba country, particularly between the Egbas and Ibadans; and fresh attacks on Abeokuta were made by Dahomey.

* Dasalu © Yale University. Divinity School. Day Missions Library

1 comment:

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