Schwartz, Christian Friedrich (DNB00)
|←Schwanfelder, Charles Henry||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
Schwartz, Christian Friedrich
SCHWARTZ or SWARTZ, CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH (1726–1798), Indian missionary, was born on 22 Oct. 1726 at Sonnenburg in Neumark, Prussia. George Schwartz, his father, was a brewer and baker. His mother's maiden name was Margaret Grundt. Her first husband was Hans Schönemann, by whom she had three children, who all died young. By her second husband, George Schwartz, she had, besides Christian, a daughter, Maria Sophia, three years his senior. On her deathbed (before 1731) she charged her husband and her pastor to devote Christian to the ministry of Christ. At the age of eight he was sent to the grammar school at Sonnenburg, remaining there until his confirmation and first communion. About 1740 he was removed to Küistrin. His father's allowance to him there was beggarly. The syndic, Kern, engaged him to teach his daughter for a small pittance. From Kern Schwartz heard of the Danish missions in India, then largely directed by H. A. Francke, a philanthropical professor of Halle. In 1746 Schwartz entered the university of Halle, boarding at an orphan-house founded by Francke. A copious notebook which he filled during his attendance at the lectures of Baumgarten, Michaelis, and Freylinghausen, at Halle, is preserved by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in London. While becoming proficient in Hebrew, Greek, and divinity, he met Schultz, who had just returned from the Danish mission at Tranquebar, and invited Schwartz's help in his new edition of the Tamil Bible. Schultz inspired Schwartz with a wish to become a missionary, and Francke proposed that he should go out to Tranquebar. With two other missionaries destined for Tranquebar, Huttemann and Poltzenhagen, Schwartz was ordained at Copenhagen by Harboe, bishop of the Danish church, on 17 Sept. 1749. They spent six weeks in London from 8 Dec., and preached several times. Schwartz preached on Christmas day at the Chapel Royal, and afterwards at the Savoy. They also made the acquaintance of Whitefield. On 29 Jan. 1750 they sailed in an East India vessel, the Lynn, from Deal, and, after stormy weather, landed on 17 June at Cuddalore. Thence they travelled to Tranquebar.
The Danish settlement of Tranquebar, formed for trade purposes, was the home of the first mission founded by a reformed church. Frederick IV of Denmark sent thither in 1705 its first missionaries, Ziegenbalgh and Plutscho. With Schwartz and his two companions the missionaries now numbered six or eight. There were 1,674 native converts. The war which Clive was waging with Dupleix for predominance in Southern India left Danish territory almost untouched. With the work in the schools and churches Schwartz's life was bound up for the next twelve years. His first business was to learn Tamil, and his first charge a Tamil school. His power of acquiring languages was remarkable, and he came to speak fluently Tamil, Hindustani, Persian, Mahratta, as well as German, English, and Portuguese. Owing to his zeal and ability the district south of the Caveri, on which the cities of Tanjore and Trichinopoly stand, was entrusted to him. In 1760 he travelled among the Dutch missions in Ceylon.
In 1762, with a brother missionary, he visited Trichinopoly, which was then held by a large English garrison under Major Preston. The latter and the other officers welcomed Schwartz warmly, and offered to build a mud house for a school and church. One incident after another prolonged his stay. In 1764, at Preston's request, he accompanied his troops to the siege of Madura as chaplain, and received for his care of the sick and wounded nine hundred pagodas (360l.) from the nawab of Arcot, who had a palace at Trichinopoly. This sum he devoted to the school for the orphans of English soldiers and the needs of the mission. He actively aided Colonel Wood, the successor of Preston, who fell at Madura, to build a stone church in the fort; and a substantial structure, capable of holding fifteen hundred people, was dedicated as Christ's Church on 18 May 1766. In after years a mission-house and English and Tamil schools were added. In 1768 he received a salary of 100l. a year as chaplain to the troops at Trichinopoly, half of which he devoted to the mission. After much correspondence to and from the authorities in London, Madras, Halle, and Copenhagen, Schwartz in 1770 agreed to settle permanently in Trichinopoly as a missionary and chaplain to the troops under the British flag. His relations with Tranquebar were thenceforth unofficial, although he maintained close relations as a friend and counsellor with the mission there.
Schwartz proved an ideal military chaplain. Until he could speak well enough to preach extempore he used to read sermons of English divines. His piety and self-denial told on officers and men alike. At the same time he pursued his work as a missionary. Five catechists, with whom he prayed morning and evening, went out daily in the city and villages. He made missionary tours to distant places. At Tanjore there had been a Christian community as early as 1759, but in 1773 the nawab of Arcot stormed the city, dethroned the rajah, and destroyed the little mission church. The mission, however, recovered the blow under Schwartz's direction. In 1776 the reinstatement of the rajah added largely to Schwartz's influence, and in 1778, leaving Trichinopoly in charge of a new chaplain, Pohlé, he took up his residence, by the rajah's own request, at Tanjore. He set to work to provide a stone church. A few months later he was summoned to Madras, and ordered to undertake a secret mission to Hyder Ali, so as ‘to prevent the effusion of blood.’ His knowledge of Hindustani enabled him to dispense with the services of an interpreter. During the journey of eight weeks he preached at every place of halt. Arrived at Seringapatam, he was received by Hyder in a courteous audience, and was dismissed with a present of three hundred rupees. Schwartz's report was not published. He gave the governor of Madras the three hundred rupees, and, when desired to retain them, made them the nucleus of a fund for an English orphan school at Tanjore. From the government he declined to receive anything beyond his expenses, but he secured to Pohlé, the missionary at Trichinopoly, a salary of 100l. a year.
The church in the fort at Tanjore, capable of holding five hundred people, was completed on 16 April 1780. At the same time a house in the suburbs was converted into a Tamil church for the use of the native converts, and other mission buildings grew up around it. When Hyder's troops overran the Carnatic nearly to the gates of Madras, Schwartz busily tended the sick and wounded. Hyder allowed him to pass unmolested even among his own troops. ‘He is a holy man,’ he is reported to have said, ‘and means no harm to my government.’ When at last negotiations for peace began, Schwartz twice agreed to be interpreter to the commissioners at Tippoo Sahib's court; but on his first journey he was stopped at Tippoo's outposts, and on the second a scorbutic eruption in the legs made travelling impossible. Colonel Fullarton, the commander-in-chief of the Madras army, declared at the time: ‘The integrity of this irreproachable missionary has retrieved the character of Europeans from imputations of general depravity.’
To Schwartz, at the suggestion of Mr. Sullivan, the resident of Tanjore, was apparently due the first scheme of government schools. He induced the princes of Ramnad, Tanjore, and Shevagunga to initiate them; and they were afterwards subsidised from Madras. In these schools the teaching of Christianity was a conspicuous element. Subsequently he was instrumental in founding the greatest native church in India in Tinnevelly. A Brahmin woman, resident at Palamcottah, in this district, who was cohabiting with an English officer, learnt from him the doctrines of Christianity, but when she applied to Schwartz for baptism, she was of course refused. In 1778, after the officer's death, she applied again; and Schwartz, having satisfied himself as to her sincerity, baptised her at Palamcottah under the name of Chlorinda. There she caused a church to be built; the congregation grew rapidly, and Schwartz placed a resident catechist, Sattianadan, in the place. In 1790 he ordained this catechist as the native pastor of Palamcottah.
The war left Tanjore in terrible distress, which was aggravated by the oppression and avarice of the rajah. Thousands fled the country and left it waste. Schwartz was nominated a member of a committee of investigation. Through his means the rajah was induced without coercion to do his people justice; seven thousand of them returned to cultivate the fields on the faith of Schwartz's pledges. For this service the government appointed him interpreter at a salary of 100l. a year. Later on, the rapacity of a new rajah demanded his interference. He drew up an able state paper on the subject of the administration of justice, and for a time was entrusted with the superintendence of the courts. When the rajah lay dying (1787) he adopted Serfojee, a cousin of ten years old, as his heir, and begged Schwartz to be the boy's guardian; Schwartz, however, then declined the office. The boy was set aside, and a brother of the rajah, Ameer Sing, was placed on the throne by the English. He began to ill-use Serfojee, keeping him in a dark room and refusing him education. Thereon Schwartz appealed to the government, and was appointed the boy's guardian. He caused his removal to another house, where he lived under a guard of sepoys, and provided for his instruction; when Ameer threatened a renewal of persecution in 1793, he obtained his transference, along with two widows of the late rajah, to Madras, and procured a rehearing there of the boy's claim to the throne, which issued in his favour. The East India Company in England did not formally sanction the enthronement till Schwartz was dead. In his last illness Schwartz gave the young man his blessing, bidding him to rule justly, be kind to the Christians, and forsake his idols for the true God.
Schwartz died on 13 Feb. 1798. Serfojee was present at the funeral, and wrote some touching English doggerel for his grave in the mission church. In the church in the fort he placed a monument by Flaxman, in which the old man is represented on his deathbed among his people, holding the rajah's hand. At Madras there is a monument by Bacon, with a long eulogy, erected by the East India Company. With the exception of a bequest to his sister's family, Schwartz left his property—nearly a thousand pounds—to the mission, which had enjoyed most of his income while he lived. Amid almost universal corruption Schwartz's probity was unsullied to the last, and he evinced a rare indifference to power or wealth. ‘He was,’ as Heber wrote, ‘really one of the most active and fearless, as he was one of the most successful, missionaries since the Apostles.’ Heber estimates his converts at six thousand.
There is a fine oil painting of Schwartz at the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge house, and another identical in pose at the Missionary College, Leipzig. There is also a profile drawing at Halle. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge house possesses his quarto Bible in two volumes; and a high-backed chair belonging to him is in the chapel.[Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Christian Frederick Swartz, 1834, 3rd ed. 1839, by Hugh Nicholas Pearson [q. v.]; Dr. W. Germann's Missionar Christian Friedrich Schwartz, 1870.]