Marshman, Joshua, Dd
Marshman, Joshua, D.D.
a noted English Baptist missionary to India, one of the "Serampore Brethren," as the band of missionaries among whom he and Dr. Carey were the most prominent often styled themselves, the person who, above all others, gave to the English Protestant mission in India the strength, consistency, and prudence which it wanted, was born April 20, 1767, at Westbury Leigh, in Wiltshire. While yet a lad, Joshua Marshman attracted attention by his passion for reading, and his quiet, heartfelt religion. His parents were poor, and he had to struggle hard to secure an education. In 1794 he became master of a school at Bristol, at the same time entering himself a student at "Bristol Academy," where he stludied thoroughly Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. His mind became imbued at this time with the missionary spirit which the noted English cobbler, Carey, was spreading in England, and in 1799 Marshman offered to become one of the party sent out to India by the "Baptist Missionary Society," to further the cause which Carey was advocating. Oct. 13, 1799, the company found themselves sixteen miles above Calcutta, at Serampore, on the Hooghly, "a town pleasantly situated, beautiful to look at, and full of a mixed population of Danes, Dutch, English, and natives of all hues." The intention was to proceed to British ground, Serampore being at that time Danish territory; but the Anglo-Indians objected to Christian missionary enterprises in their midst, and the mission was finally established at Serampore, to spread thence, in God's own appointed time, the truths of his Gospel among the benighted of all India. The fate of the missionary enterprise has been spoken of in the article INDIA SEE INDIA (q.v.); the activity of each member in the biographical sketches of these faithful servants of Christ, SEE CAREY; SEE WARD, THOMAS; we can here deal only with the part Joshua Marshman himself played in this, one of the most important of missionary enterprises.
Marshman had married the daughter of a Baptist minister before he became teacher at Bristol; his wife now accompanied him to India, and proved a helpmeet indeed from the very outset. Shortly after landing at Serampore, finding the support granted by the home society inadequate to the wants of the colony, Marshman, with the assistance of his wife, opened two boarding-schools for European children, and, succeeding even beyond their most sanguine expectations in securing not only a support for themselves, but a maintenance of the mission, shortly after opened a school for the natives also, which was quickly filled; and the pecuniary return of this enterprise, together with the additional income which Carey received for his services as an instructor in the government college at Fort William, enabled these good people in a short time to render their mission nearly independent of home support. The Baptists of England, however, failed to appreciate these heroic and self-sacrificing labors of Carey, and Marshman, and Ward, and much fault was found by the committee of the general society. "There were among them many men of good intentions, but without breadth of views, and used to small economies. They listened to false reports, censured without sufficient information, pinched their missions, and dictated the management, so that to deal with them was but a vexation of spirit ... Moreover, the American subscribers [American Baptists joined their English brethren until Judson went out from the American society] sent a most vexatious and absurd remonstrance against any part of their contributions for training young men to the ministry being employed in teaching science. 'As if,' said Dr. Marshman, 'youths in America could be educated for ministers without learning science.'
Had the government of the mission been in the hands of a body acquainted, by personal experience, with the needs of the Serampore Brethren, any misunderstanding springing up could easily have been allayed; but, managed by the class of men we have just spoken of, the disagreement between the Baptist Missionary Society and the Serampore missionaries (originating in 1817) lasted for some time, and even seriously threatened the success of the enterprise. In 1822 Dr. Marshman had dispatched his son John to England to restore pleasant relations. The disagreement continuing, Dr. Marshman decided to go before the society in person, and in 1826 returned home. But even he failed in his mission; and in 1827, after much argument, the matter ended in the separation of the Serampore mission from the general society. To a man like Dr. Marshman, now hoary with age, this matter became a serious annoyance, and his strength of body and of mind were greatly impaired. Additional trouble came when the ownership of the buildings at the Serampore mission was to be disposed of, the home society naturally enough claiming the property, although it had been secured mainly by the hard labors of Carey and Marshman. In 1823, Dr. Marshman's trials had become very heavy. At that time Mr. Ward was taken away by cholera. "For twenty-three years had the threefold cord between Carey, Marshman, and Ward been unbroken. They had lived together like brothers, alike in aim and purposes, each supplying what the other lacked; and the distress of the parting was terrible, especially to Dr. Marshman, who, at the time of his friend's illness, was suffering from an attack of deafness, temporary indeed, but for some days total, so that he could only watch the final struggle without hearing a single word." His mental strength was even then sorely tried, for "he wrote as if he longed to be with those whose toils and sorrows were at an end." Greater was the shock that the treatment of the home society brought upon him. "Morbid attacks of depression came on, during which he wandered about unable to apply himself so much as even to write a letter." June 9, 1834, Dr. Carey died, and he was left alone to defend his cause. In 1836 a daughter of his, who had married the afterwards so celebrated Christian soldier of the British army, Henry Havelock, barely escaped with her life from her bungalow, which had caught fire, losing one of her three children, a baby, in the flames. The nervous excitement which this affair caused Dr. Marshman prostrated him completely, and he died Dec. 5, 1837. A few days previous to this event arrangements had been concluded in London for the reunion of the Serampore Mission with the parent society, and for retaining Dr. Marshman in the superintendence.
By severe and diligent labor Dr. Marshman had acquired a complete knowledge of the Bengalee, Sanscrit, and Chinese languages. Into the Chinese he translated the four Gospels, the Epistles of Paul to the Romans and the Corinthians, and the book of Genesis. He also wrote A Dissertation on the Characters and Sounds of the Chinese language (1809, 4to): — The Works of Confucius' containing the original Text, with a Translation (1811, 4to, reviewed in London Quarterly Review, 11:332):Clavis Sinica: — Elements of Chinese Grammar, with a Preliminary Dissertation on the Characters and Colloquial AIedium of the Chinese (Serampore, 1814). In Sanscrit and Bengalee he assisted Dr. Carey in the preparation of a Sanscrit grammar in 1815, and a Bengalee and English dictionary in 1825. In 1827 he published an abridgment of the dictionary. He also engaged in a controversy with Ramimolhun Kloy (q.v.), who distinguished himself greatly among his countrymen in India by his spirited attacks upon idolatry, and by the publication of a work entitled The Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace, in which, while exalting the precepts, he asperses the miracles of Christ. Dr. Marshman answered this work by a series of articles in the Friend of Idia (a periodical issued by the Serampore missionaries), subsequently republished in book form (Lond. 1822), entitled A Defence of the Deity and Atonement of Jesus Christ, in reply to Rammnohun Roy, of Calcutta. In 1824 appeared a second London edition of Rammohun Roy's work, illustrated with a portrait of the author, and containing a reply to Dr. Marshman. In a sketch of Dr. Marshman's character at the end of the first volume of Dr. Cox's History of the Baptist Missionary Society he is spoken of as "possessed of great mental power and diligence, of firmness bordering upon obstinacy, and of much wariness." See Lond. Gent. Mag. 1838, pt. ii, p. 216; English Cyclopaedia of Biography (1.857), 4:120; Kaye, Christianity in India, ch. vii; Yonge, Pioneers and Founders (Lond. 1872,12mo), ch. v; Trevor, India, its Natives and Missions, p. 316; Marshman (J.), Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward (Lond. 1859, 2 vols. 8vo; popular ed., N.Y. 1867, 12mo).