HerbSwanson.com ...A Resource for the Study of the Thai Church

MA Thesis Chapter 7

This Heathen People: The Cognitive Sources of American Missionary

Westernizing Activities in Northern Siam, 1867-1889

Herbert R. Swanson

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland
in partial fulfillmentof the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts



Abstract 2006 Intro 1987 Intro Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Conclusion Bibliography

Perfectionist, reformist, dualistic evangelical Presbyterian thinking about the "threatening other" permeates the writings of McGilvary, Wilson, and the other members of the Laos Mission. The mission sought to Christianize and civilize, that is to reform, the whole of northern Thai culture and society of people. In the tradition of Old School Presbyterian thought, furthermore, the mission sought the perfection of northern Siam through the conversion of individuals to American Protestant Christianity. It labored over each conversion and tested the convert to discover the genuineness of his or her desire to become a Christian. Their Old School emphasis on the importance of literacy in the life of the potential convert and on the need to study and to rationalize one's decision to convert slowed the conversion process and made it even more of a process focused on individuals.

The rationale behind the Laos Mission's activities lay in the dynamic of its intention to reform northern Thai society through individual conversions. That intention severely limited the scope of its activities to those that it believed would "save" northern Thai society from the "evils" of its animist-Buddhist culture. The Laos Mission could not draw upon northern Thai ways and values to determine its own activities because heathenism tainted everything northern Thai. Consequently, the mission felt that it had to use only activities it learned from its own American Protestant heritage.


The fact that the Laos Mission could only draw from its own cultural heritage for its work and that it looked to individual conversions as the way to save the whole society determined the underlying strategy upon which the mission acted. That strategy dictated that the Laos Mission must convert northern Siam to Christianity by segregating individual converts from their culture and assimilating them into a "missionary culture" derived from American evangelicalism. The mission, in other words, used the same strategy found in Grob's concept of moral therapy whereby mental patients were segregated from the outside world and assimilated into the moral culture of the hospital. It might well be argued that the mission looked upon its converts as mental patients. Just as antebellum mental health care interpreted mental illness as a moral and religious condition, so too did the Laos Mission look upon heathenism as a religious and moral condition. In order to cure the northern Thai of the moral illness of heathenism, the mission felt it must segregate northern Thai Christians from the taint of their former culture and assimilate them into a culture compatible with their new religion, that is an American-like culture.

In the years between 1867 and 1889, the mission segregated converts and potential converts primarily by housing them in mission compounds and/or employing them as domestic servants in mission homes. In this way, the mission exposed northern Thai individuals to an alternative culture that it believed would remove the stain of heathenism from the lives of its converts and potential converts. The mission's institutions and compounds became the means by which it carried out its program of moral therapy for northern Siam.

In his study of domestic service in nineteenth-century America, Katzman argues that domestic service was a modernizing agent that introduced poor immigrant and black women to the values and habits of mind of their employers. They had to learn to live by the clock, follow certain procedures and schedules, and learn new values of efficiency and orderliness. Katzman observes about young immigrant domestics that, "In effect, young girls moved through both space and time, from the backward agrarian countryside into the modern urban industrial society."[1] Northern Thai converts and potential converts took a similar journey when they entered the employ and the homes of the missionaries.

While no statistics are available for the numbers of individuals who lived with the members of the Laos Mission for the period 1867 to 1889, mission records leave the impression that the number was substantial. As early as 1869, the McGilvarys had a blind convert who lived with them. In 1872 McGilvary commented of another potential convert who had lived for him for some time that he "...has long since ceased to be an idolater."[2] In 1877 Saan Kam, an important official from the village of Mae Dok Daeng, came to McGilvary very ill, and McGilvary treated him in his own home for some time. After an extended period of recuperation, Saan Kam left convinced of the truth of Christianity and eventually converted.[3] In 1880 a young man spent a month with the Wilsons during which time. they spoke often about Christianity, and after his conversion he returned to his village where he helped found a church.[4]

Accusations of witchcraft frequently drove people to live with the missionaries in the 1870s and 1880s. Villagers reacted to local calamities by claiming that an evil spirit possessed someone among them, and they would drive the person considered possessed and his or her family out of the village. Many of these people fled to the missionaries for refuge. In 1878, the year McGilvary remembers taking in the first of such refugee families, a family from that same village of Mae Dok Daeng fled to the McGilvarys where they also learned about and converted to Christianity. They returned to Mae Dok Daeng to become the nucleus of a church there. Holt Hallet recorded that when he visited Chiang Mai in 1884 he found sixteen families accused of witchcraft living with the missionaries.[5]

Young girls composed another important category of residents in missionary homes. Chantah, a daughter of one of martyrs of 1869, went to live with the McGilvarys after her father died, and in 1875 she reached an age where she could work as a domestic in the home. She learned how to care for the McGilvarys' son, to perform domestic chores, to sew, and to read. When Sophia McGilvary began her small class that led to the Girls' School, Chantah became her teacher's aide and later a full-time assistant teacher. Cole and Campbell regularly housed some of their students in their own home on a permanent basis. In 1882 Cole had eight girls living with her, and she consciously attempted to create a pious, disciplined, and literate environment for "her girls" hoping that they would become capable Christian mothers, wives and church leaders.[6] Some twenty years later another member of the Laos Mission commented on another eight young Christian women who had all been housed by missionaries for extended periods of time She wrote,

While these women are not perfect...it does our hearts good to see beautiful Christian character being developed in them After all, that is the great and important work--character building, rather than receiving mere numbers into the church. In the missionary homes these girls were taught to sew, cook, wash dishes, serve the table, sweep, etc., and in the school to read and write In both places they were taught to think. Above all, they early learned of the love of God and to serve Him and their fellow men.[7]

This statement presents the rationale behind the entire process of segregation and assimilation that guided, unconsciously in many ways, the work of the Laos Mission. It also quite aptly restates the process Katzman described regarding domestic servants in the United States.

The above quotation also points to the importance of the mission's boarding schools, the clearest and most significant long-term examples of the segregate and assimilate strategy. In the period under study, the mission founded two boarding schools, the Girls' School in 1879 and the Boys' School in 1888, and most of the mission's students boarded at the schools under the daily supervision of missionary teachers. In October 1880, for example, twenty-two of the Girls' School's thirty-three pupils boarded, and in July 1889, thirty-five of fifty-five regular attendees at the Boy's School stayed in the dormitory.[8]

Both schools used an entirely western curriculum that duplicated without adaptation subjects and methods used in the United States, especially literacy and religious instruction.[9] In the years after 1889, these two schools bred the first northern Thai professional teachers, produced a number of church leaders, and remained for many years the leading examples of western education in northern Siam. The comments of one later mission educator shows that the mission's boarding schools sought nothing less than the assimilation of its pupils into the westernized missionary culture. Kate Fleeson in Lampang wrote in 1893 that she valued the boarding schools because, "One can have so much more influence over the girls when they are under one's control all the time."� She described how the boarding schools could insure that Christian girls possessed the skills, the knowledge, and the morals needed to make good Christian mothers and wives.[10]

The mission, seeking the same ends, regularly employed converts in a wide range of domestic and institutional positions.[11] In 1872, when the mission only had six converts it employed at least three of them. One recent convert had been in mission employ for almost a year before his conversion. McGilvary commented upon the death of one of the leading members of the convert community that for the five years after his conversion he regularly lived with and worked for one or another of the mission families. Later, when the mission began to ordain leading converts into formal church positions, such as deacon and elder, it normally employed them as teachers and evangelists.[12] At times the missionaries hired non-Christians and then used their increased proximity and influence with these people to encourage them to convert Dr. Cheek in 1875 influenced his language teacher that way.[13]

In a significant number of instances, the Laos Mission pursued the segregation and assimilation of converts through mission hospitals. In December 1872 McGilvary recounted how two men treated at the mission's crude bamboo hut hospital became potential converts. One, interestingly enough, stayed in missionary homes for some time after his hospital stay. The other one died in early 1873 but not before he demonstrated the influence of the hospital upon him by refusing the care of spirit doctors.[14] In 1876 Lung (Uncle) Nan Panya and Lung Tooi converted to Christianity after extended stays in the hospital during which time they studied Christianity. The following year Chai Ma converted while he was staying with his wife who was in the hospital.[15]

The mission's annual report for 1875-1876 justified its desire for a permanent hospital on the grounds that such a hospital would make it easier to get potential patients away from spirit doctors and under the influence of the mission.[16] Hospital conversions continued throughout the entire history of the Laos Mission and culminated in 1912 when a severe malaria epidemic brought hundreds of new patients under hospital care and thousands more under the treatment of mission-trained medical evangelists. Hundreds converted as a result of successful treatments. In 1908, meanwhile, the mission opened a leprosarium, and because of the social fear of leprosy in northern Siam it was a highly segregated community under the full control of the mission. By 1913 most patients at the leprosarium were converting and the mission founded a leper church.[17]

The mission drew no boundaries between these various means for segregating and assimilating its converts and potential converts. In 1872, for example, McGilvary wrote about one recent convert who had first studied Christianity during a long stay in Dr. Vrooman's temporary hospital and then lived with the McGilvarys in their home for more than a year. McGilvary planned to take this convert on a missionary tour with him because the trip would be a good "school" for him.[18] The mission's treatment of that unnamed convert encapsulates the consistent segregate and assimilate strategy it employed to Christianize northern Siam.

Virtually every westernizing activity of the Laos Mission repeated that same strategy. It's stringent, insistent demand that converts live according to the rhythms of the Christian calendar effectively segregated them from the holidays and rest days provided in the traditional northern Thai calendar while it cast them more deeply into westernized patterns of living.[19] As was seen earlier, the "simple" mission requirement that converts must not work on Sundays changed their relationship with their patrons and, thereby, weakened their participation in one of the central, traditional human relationships of their society. When the mission insisted that its converts only use western medicines and medical treatment, it further segregated them from a traditional society that relied heavily on animistic practices for medical treatment.[20] In the same manner, the Laos Mission tried to develop a northern Thai Christian literature so that its members would not have to read traditional literature, that was mostly either Buddhist or bawdy (by missionary standards). In fact, the mission established its press partly to exercise control over what was printed in the northern Thai script so that only that which might aid their cause was published.[21]

In order to understand, then, why the Laos Mission engaged in any particular activity, the historian must always search for evidence of the strategy of segregate and assimilate. In what ways does a particular activity segregate converts and potential converts from their former culture?� In what ways does the activity in question try to assimilate them into the missionary?


From within the worldview of dualism, the strategy of segregate and assimilate was entirely logical. One "saved" those trapped in the sphere of the "damned" by segregating them from that sphere and by assimilating them into the sphere of the "saved."� The Laos Mission, it must be said again, did not create something new in its work. American evangelicals used this same strategy long before the founding of the Laos Mission because it was a logical consequence of their worldview. They both cared about and feared the people of other races, cultures, creeds, and philosophies. They believed those people would burn in hell for eternity and would destroy the purity of evangelical faith and American republicanism unless they changed their beliefs and moral standards. "Logically," segregating them from their old ways and assimilating them into evangelicalism and Americanism represented the best hope for them and for evangelical America.

While nineteenth-century evangelical reformers and missionaries drew on a varied arsenal in their war on sin and infidelity, they frequently turned to educational programs as the chief weapon in that war. Conservative evangelicals, in particular, reasoned that well educated people could better understand and accept the truths of Christianity. They also assumed that educated people would see the value of a pure life and, therefore, would lead more upright lives. Evangelicals valued education, especially literacy, because it gave people direct access to the Bible. They also believed that education in and of itself stimulated intelligence. At the heart of the matter, lay the need for evangelicals to communicate their beliefs and values in ways that would substantially shape or reshape the beliefs and values of others.[22] Education represented the essence of the evangelical strategy.

As the essence of the evangelical strategy of segregate and assimilate, education had a place in the intricate web of evangelical thinking that linked it to the other elements of that web. Evangelicals looked to education as the means by which they would achieve the "Great Society" of the millennium. Since the millennium would bring the end of ignorance and superstition, education seemed an important way with which to advance the coming of the end time. And because of its millennial role, the drive for universal education became an important element in antebellum strategy for attaining the millennium, reform.[23]

Evangelicals linked their hopes for moral reform and the control of vice to education as well. Up to at least 1870 American schools at every level took it upon themselves to instruct children and young people in what amounted to a Protestant morality. They sought to dispel doubts and questions about moral standards and to insure the prosperity and stability of the nation through sound moral education. Education, then, became the primary means of social control in antebellum America.

Scottish common sense philosophy contributed to the American concern for education. From its premise that the conscience is grounded in a set of moral first principles, common sense philosophy reasoned that knowledge of those principles would aid people in leading moral, happy lives. The Scottish philosophers believed that children were born into a "brutish" state from which they could be rescued only through education. Education could protect children from the influences of ignorant parents, lift them out of the state into which they were born, and guide them toward a higher plane where they could escape from false ideas and opinions. Fallible human conscience, in short, must be properly educated in order for it to know and adhere to the first principles of morality. The American academic moralists, a dominant voice in American education until after the Civil War, put these common sense views at the heart of American education.[24]

Grounded in the reasoning of common sense philosophy, antebellum education generally emphasized moral instruction and discipline as the core of its curriculum. Moral instruction comprised, for example, the core of the antebellum common school movement, one of the most important of the pre-Civil War reform movements. Horace Mann looked upon the common school as the means to insure the continuance of republican government because it would cure vice, ignorance, and poverty. The common school movement constantly reminded students through textbooks and instruction that Protestant Christianity was the one true religion, that America was a divinely favored nation, and that moral behavior was important for personal happiness and national survival.[25] Gordon concludes, "the educational awakening [in its early stages] was a Protestant crusade to establish a culture that became the dominant system of values in the new nation."� The instilling of Protestant values amounted to nothing less than the moral instruction of students.[26]

The Protestant domination of American education and use of the schools to inculcate Protestant morality continued through the end of the century. In places like Cincinnati, postbellum educational reform aimed at teaching Protestant values, limiting the influence of "infidels" and Catholics, and maintaining a virtuous republic. Even in the early twentieth century when educational practices moved away from heavy doses of Protestant moralizing, the underlying aims of education to instill values and protect public order remained unaltered.[27]

Post-Revolutionary Presbyterian uses of education reflected that Scottish heritage and the dualistic worldview Presbyterians shared with all evangelicals. In theory and in practice, Presbyterians relied on education to maintain the doctrinal and moral purity of their own denomination and to inculcate Presbyterian ideals and values in the general population. Trinterud summarizes the Presbyterian role in education in the post-Revolutionary period by observing that they were "pre-eminently the educators of the middle states," and used their schools to combat the spread of deism, reverse the decline of religion, and train a generation of leaders who shaped the new nation politically as well as religiously.[28]

The Presbyterians played a particularly important role in spreading higher education to the frontier. Sharing with other Eastern evangelicals the fear that the frontier regions were regressing into a state of savagism and infidelity, and they turned to educational strategies to combat the dangers the frontier posed to evangelical religion and American republicanism. Presbyterians devoted large amounts of resources in frontier colleges in order to maintain the high educational standards of their own clergy and laity and plant those same standards in frontier society in general.[29]

The concept of moral therapy aptly describes the uses to which Presbyterians put their education Old School Presbyterians, it will be remembered, emphasized the importance of careful reflection and intellectual struggle as key elements in the conversion process takes place gradually and without great emotional outbursts. Presbyterians assumed that such a process required a carefully controlled educational environment that fed students heavy doses of religious and moral instruction. Such education would turn the students into moral, orthodox beings.[30]

Antebellum Presbyterian higher education, like antebellum mental hospitals, attempted to isolate its "inmates" from the pernicious influences of society and parents by maintaining a strong discipline. The Presbyterian colleges feared that society would contaminate their students, and, therefore, the colleges had to become moral communities in which students would learn how to live moral lives. The colleges restricted students' rights to leave campus, expelled rebellious students, and even limited the amount of money parents could give students, all in an attempt to protect the students from vice, idleness, extravagance and disorder. In short, Presbyterian educators sought to exert a strict social control over their students and, through them, influence the larger society. Presbyterians placed their colleges next to their churches as the pillars of their drive to Christianize the frontier.[31]

They used parochial schools in exactly the same way. Between 1846 and 1870 the Old School denomination established 264 parochial schools around the nation largely out of anxiety over the growth of radical revivalism, the increasing secularization of public education, and a shortage of Presbyterian ministers. It believed that its parochial schools would strengthen its influence over the minds of its children by making sure that they receive a proper religious and moral education. The ultimate purpose of the schools was to provide the children with the religious knowledge they needed to have a conversion experience. As in the case of the Laos Mission's schools, these parochial schools were small, often operated under primitive conditions, opened somewhat irregularly, often included boarding arrangements, had irregular student attendance, and more often than not was taught by women.[32]

The Presbyterian understanding of education, in sum, fit perfectly into the larger web of dualism. The Presbyterians held that progress could only be achieved and civilization maintained through education. They depended upon education to maintain the morality and, therefore, the virtue of God's Chosen Nation. They expected that the millennium would arrive only when "knowledge of the Lord" reached all peoples, knowledge spread only through education. Presbyterians associated moral reform and benevolent activities with education, and they believed that through education they could improve the lot of the poor and assimilate all of the diverse alien groups immigrating into the United States. Education, then, came down to a matter of exerting social control over more than just students in Presbyterian colleges and schools. It amounted to nothing less than the way in which the Presbyterian Church intended to apply moral therapy to the whole nation so that it could exert a benevolent social control over the nation and, thus, protect republicanism and liberty.[33]

Geiger makes an important observation about the founding of Presbyterian colleges in the West, one that may be extended to Presbyterian schools and academies as well. He notes that their founding was "essentially a missionary activity."[34] On the Indiana frontier, Presbyterian missionaries and churches founded Sunday schools, parochial schools, colleges, and a seminary. Rudolph notes that Indiana Presbyterians considered higher education "the very capstone of Hoosier Zion."[35] In New Mexico Presbyterian missionaries created a school system that preceded public education, trained many early New Mexico leaders, and dominated education among the Spanish in New Mexico into the twentieth century. Presbyterians had a similar impact on Texas where they were leaders in education even though Texans did not flock to the churches of this Eastern-dominated denomination. The Presbyterian drive to civilize the Alaskan frontier, likewise, utilized education to achieve its purposes.[36]

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. looked to education not only to extend its geographical reach but also to attack "problem" groups. In 1864 the P.C.U.S.A. established a Committee for the Education of Freedmen as its mission arm for the freedmen, and from that time onwards the Presbyterian Church relied primarily on education to achieve the "uplift" of the freedmen. As late as 1916 the P.C.U.S.A. still had some ninety schools for black students in the South.[37] The Presbyterians dealt with the "danger" the Mormons presented by establishing the first Protestant parochial schools in Utah, which they used to try to wean Mormon children away from their parents.[38]

One might cite such examples endlessly because the Presbyterians so persistently and consistently emphasized education in their campaigns to purify the world of Satan. It is not surprising, then, to find the Laos Mission also using education to the extent that it did in its campaign to purify northern Siam. Nor is it surprising to find that the Laos Mission called upon exactly the same array of educational strategies and programs as did Presbyterians and evangelicals in the United States. In both nations they established Sunday schools, emphasized literacy, established boarding schools, created a parochial school system, focused on religious and moral training, and provided a large place for women in education. Given the Scottish heritage of the Presbyterian Church, its concept of conversion, and the dominance of common sense philosophy over it, it felt "only natural" for Presbyterian in the United States and in northern Siam to rely on education to achieve their missionary and social control goals.

The Laos Mission's educational program had a long, honorable history in the United States before the mission imported them into northern Siam. Sunday schools, for example, paved the way in evangelical education, provided the earliest opportunities for women to involved themselves in education, played a major role in the Evangelical United Front's drive to civilize the West, and were closely related to revivalism. From its American beginnings in the late eighteenth century, evangelicals used Sunday schools to try to extend their control over alien ethnic and racial groups and to instruct the nation in moral purity. The evangelicals in Britain and the United States first used Sunday schools to teach literacy to impoverished adults and children.[39]

The boarding school, another key element in the program of the Laos Mission, had long received particular attention by those working with the American Indians. They favored the strategy of segregate and assimilate, and the boarding school seemed to them an ideal way to accomplish that strategy.[40] Boarding schools for Indians, in fact, provided outstanding examples of Grob's description of institutional moral therapy for mental patients. The boarding schools attempted to instill in their Indian pupils that long list of rural, middle class evangelical values alluded to frequently in this thesis as well as evangelical piety and the skills to survive in American society. It should be noted that government-sponsored schools acted as aggressively in their attempts to "reeducate" Indian children as did missionary boarding schools, and they both pursued the same goals of teaching white morality, piety, and mores to their "savage" charges.[41] The application of moral therapy to boarding school situations went beyond the Indian boarding schools, and the Protestant-dominated nineteenth-century American society frequently turned to boarding schools as one way to deal with potentially "dangerous" children, including orphans and those from poor families.[42]

Programs of literacy education also played a part in the evangelical campaigns of cultural conquest and social control. By the 1830s, evangelicals believed that literacy provided another channel through which they could transmit their piety and morality, and their frontier programs depended heavily on teaching literacy and distributing mountains of tracts and Bible portions. Literacy provided, furthermore, a means by which society could constantly reform itself because it gave the public direct access to literature needed to instruct it in moral, pious behavior[43]

When the Laos Mission, then, established parochial schools, Sunday schools, literacy classes, literacy as a test of the quality of church membership, domestic and industrial education programs, it used a strategy for religious and social control American evangelicals had long employed. It drew upon the worldview and the consequent experience of evangelicals, particularly Presbyterians, in dealing with the threatening other. Those threatening others embodied evil, disorder, and infidelity to the evangelicals, and one of the best ways evangelicals had of eliminating their threat was to put them and their children in classrooms where they could learn how to believe and behave as the "children of God" ought to believe and behave.


In addition to education, American evangelicals and their counterparts in northern Siam, used various forms of technology that presented a somewhat different approach to the relationship of missions to westernization than did education. Whereas educational activities directly engaged in moral therapy and social control and exemplified the strategy of segregate and assimilate, the importation of western building skills, sewing machines, or even printing technology did not do so directly. Yet, as was seen earlier, the Laos Mission could justify its uses of western techniques and technologies on the grounds that in one way or another they advance the "cause of Christ" in northern Siam.

Beneath those rationalizations lay a deeper evangelical habit of mind that identified progress and providence with technological advancement. Protestant Americans came to see railroads, canals, and rapid industrialization as the work of God leading the American nation ever upward towards the promised millennium. Protestants tended to look upon missions as a movement cut from the same cloth as technological advance. They, in fact, could look upon technological change as another type of reform that advanced in lockstep with the spread of education and other reform movements.[44]

The uses of medicine provide a case in point. The tradition of using medicine for missionary purposes went back to colonial times when Indian missionaries used prayer and bleedings to free Indians from the "heathen" influences to bring them under great missionary control.[45] As has been seen, in the nineteenth century, Protestants used medical institutions as elements in the campaign for moral reform. Dolan notes that Protestant zeal so dominated even public hospitals and asylums in antebellum New York City that the Catholic Church felt constrained to establish its own hospitals to protect its people from proselytization. In Protestant hospitals, Catholics felt surrounded by enemies.[46]

No single form of technology presented as clear a rationale for evangelical use for evangelistic purposes as did printing Protestant use of printing technology began during the Reformation when they mounted what one study refers to as the first propaganda campaign in history using the medium of printing. Luther, Calvin, and their followers used the printed word to make the Bible widely available in the vernacular languages, to spread their doctrines, and to attack the Catholic Church.[47] The Puritans brought printing with them to New England, where their missionaries not only translated and printed the Bible in Indian languages but also created a printed Indian-language literature as well.[48]

In the ensuing years, evangelicals used printing time and again to advance their cause against the forces of evil and disorder in American society. The American Tract Society, as already described, stood among the "Big Five" of the Evangelical United Front, and it, along with the American Bible Society, produced massive amounts of literature in the E.U.F. campaigns to "win" the South, the West, and the cities for evangelicalism. The Sunday School movement also gladly employed technological advances in printing to promote its cause.[49]

In the meantime, Lyman Beecher used the strategy of distributing printed tracts as early as 1806 in his moral reform crusade to influence public sentiment in favor of outlawing dueling. In later years evangelical reformers, such as those in the temperance movement, continued to rely on the distribution of printed tracts to try to mold public thinking.[50] Even during the Civil War, Northern evangelicals turned to the distribution of printed literature as one of the ways in which they tried to convert Union soldiers to evangelicalism.[51]

Printing, in short, fit back into the larger web of dualism because it joined education as a medium by which evangelicals argued their cause against the "outside world."� The evangelical desire to convert the world forced it to engage in campaigns of persuasion, and Findlay notes that, "Propaganda materials in bewildering profusion thus became the order of the day in support of every evangelical society. The benevolent societies created their own periodicals and scattered other printed items by the hundreds of thousands on to the public."[52]

Thus, the Laos Mission's use of medicine, printing, and other technological advances amounted to something much more than opportunism. The missionaries did not engage in these activities simply because they looked like good ways to convert the heathen. Rather, they were drawn to the use of medicine, printing, and western technologies because of their worldview that identified technological advances with the superiority of Christian, American civilization. Those advances pointed to a progressive future that would one day attain the promised millennium They helped to reform society by providing channels for the propagation of evangelical ideas.


In a very important sense, then, evangelicals saw something much more than a piece of machinery when they looked at the printing press. They saw an idea. By the same token, the pills, the buildings, the literacy classes, and all of its other westernizing activities expressed the worldview of the Laos Mission, a world view it brought with it from evangelical America. The machinery and the brick and mortar and the schools rooms represented, finally, the hope of a Christian northern Siam that accepted not only the Christian religion but also the whole of Christianized American and western life.


[1] David M. Katzman, Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 134-37, 171.

[2] McGilvary, letter, 31 October 1869, Foreign Missionary 28(March 1870): 228; and McGilvary to Irving, 4 December 1872, vol. 3, BFM Records.

[3] McGilvary, Half Century, 195.

[4] Laos Mission Annual Report, September 1880, vol. 4, BFM Records.

[5] McGilvary, Half Century, 206-06; and Hallet, A Thousand Miles, 110.

[6] Swanson, "New Generation," 10-11.

[7] Anabelle K. Briggs, "Re-Stationed and Looking About," Woman's Work for Woman 16 (May 1901), 130.

[8] Edna S. Cole to Irving, 1 October 1880, vol. 4, BFM Records; and D. G. Collins to Mitchell, 9 July 1889, vol. 7, BFM Records.

[9] See descriptions of course work and teaching methods in Eliza L. Westervelt to Mitchell, 6 November 1888, vol. 6, BFM Records; William Clifton Dodd to Mitchell, 17 December 1889, vol. 7, BFM Records; and Collins to Mitchell, 9 July 1889, vol. 7, BFM Records.

[10] Kate N. Fleeson, "First Boarding-School for Girls at Lakawn, in Laos Land," Woman's Work for Woman 8(January 1893): 7-8.

[11] see Hughes, Proclamation and Response, 18.

[12] Wilson, letter, Foreign Missionary, 31(March 1872): 308; McGilvary, letter, 20 May 1878, Foreign Missionary 37(October 1878): 150; and Martin, letter, 9 June 1885, Foreign Missionary, 44(October 1885): 224-25.

[13] McGilvary to Irving, 1 November 1875, vol. 3, BFM Records.

[14] McGilvary to Irving, 4 December 1872, vol. 3, BFM Records.

[15] "Sessional Records," 46, 71.

[16] Laos Mission Annual Report, 1 October 1875 to 1 October 1876, vol. 3, BFM Records.

[17] Swanson, Krischak Muang Nua, 138-41, 152; Smith, Siamese Gold, 123-24.

[18] McGilvary to Irving, 10 April 1872, vol. 3, BFM Records.

[19] See E.P. Thompson, "Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism," Past and Present 38 (1977): 56-97, for a cogent presentation of the cultural impact of changes in the conceptualization of time.

[20] see Swanson, Krischak Muang Nua, 131-32.

[21] Swanson, "This Seed, 11-12.

[22] Clebsch, From Sacred to Profance, 15, 104-08; and Glyndon G. Van Deusen, "Some Aspects of Whig Thought and Theory in the Jacksonian Period," American Historical Review 63 (January 1958): 316.

[23] Glenn T. Miller, "Images of the Future in Eighteenth Century American Theology," Americastudien/American Studies 20(1975): 97-8; cf. Nye, Almost Chosen People, 12-6.

[24] J.C. Stewart-Robertson, “The Well-Principled Savage, or the Child of the Scottish Enlightenment," Journal of the History of Ideas 42 (July-September 1981): 503-25; Meyer, Instructed Conscience, esp. 47-8, 63-7; and Faler, "Cultural Aspects," 384-87.

[25] Frederick Binder, The Age of the Common School, 1830-1865 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1974), 48-51, 97-8.

[26] Gordon, "Patriots and Christians, 554, passim.

[27] Handy, History, 181-83; and Janet A. Miller, "Urban Education and the New City: Cincinnati's Elementary Schools, 1870 to 1914," Ohio History 88 (Spring 1979): 152-72.

[28] Leybrun, Scotch-Irish, 43, 57, 72-3; and Trinterud, American Tradition, 258-61.

[29] C. Harvey Geiger, The Program of Higher Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America: An Historical Analysis of Its Growth in the United States (Cedar Rapids, IA: Laurance Press, 1940), 48-52, 55-6.

[30] Loetscher, Facing the Enlightenment, 171-72.

[31] Miller, Revolutionary College, 261, cf.260-70; and Trinterud, American Tradition, 271.

[32] Lewis Joseph Sherrill, Presbyterian Parochial Schools (1932; reprint, New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1969), 9-14, 25, 51, 108-23, 146-47.

[33] see Hood, Reformed America, 75ff; and Smith, Seeds of Secularization, 74ff.

[34] Geiger, Higher Education, 56; and Sherrill, Parochial Schools, 64-6.

[35] Rudolph, Hoosier Zion, 137-39, 159ff, 187.

[36] Edith J. Agnew and Ruth K. Barber, "The Unique Presbyterian School System of New Mexico," Journal of Presbyterian History 49 (Fall 1971): 197-221; Richard B. Hughes, "Old School Presbyterians: Eastern Invaders of Texas, 1830-1865,"� Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (January 1971): 324-36; and Hinckley, "Presbyterian Leadership," 744-45.

[37] Murray, Presbyterians and the Negro, 163-76.

[38] Topping, "Ogden Academy," 38-9.

[39] See Robert W. Lynn and Elliot Wright, The Big Little School: Sunday Child of American Protestantism (New York: Harper & Row, 1971); Grover L. Hartman, "The Hoosier Sunday School: A Potent Religious/Cultural Force," Indiana Magazine of History 78 (September 1982): 215-44; Foster, Errand of Mercy, 78-81, 157-67; Cremin, American Education, 66-7; Handy, History, 179-80, 281-83; and Mohl, "Urban Missionary Movement," 121-23

[40] see� Henry Warner Bowden,� American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 139-40; and Beaver, "Methods in American Missions," 134-38.

[41] Berkhofer, Salvation and the Savage, 36ff.� Several studies of individual schools make the same points.� See esp. Trennert, "Educating Indian Girls"; Adams, "Education in Hues": David Wallace Adams, "Schooling the Hopi: Federal Indian Policy Writ Small, 1887-1917," Pacific Historical Review 48 (August 1979): 335-56; and Sally J. McBeth, "Indian Boarding Schools and Ethnic Identity: An Example from the Southern Plains Tribes of Oklahoma," Plains Anthropologist 28 (May 1983): 119-28.

[42] See Trattner, From Poor Law, 109ff; for examples see, Marian J. Morton,� "Temperance, Benevolence, and the City: The Cleveland Non-Partisan Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1900," Ohio History 91 (1982): 68-9; and R.S Patterson and Patricia Rooke, "The Delicate Duty of Child Saving: Coldwater, Michigan, 1871-1896," Michigan History 61 (Fall 1977): 195-219.

[43] Harvey J. Graff, The Literacy Myth: Literacy and Social Structure in the Nineteenth-Century City (New York: Academic Press, 1979), 22-6, 35; Cremin,American Education, 70-2; and Clebsch, From Sacred to Profane, 15.

[44] Miller, Life of Mind, 52-3; and Nye, Almost Chosen People, 12-16.

[45] Simmons, "Conversion," 205ff.� See also Berkhofer, Salvation and the Savage, 115.

[46] Jay Dolan, The Immigrant Church: New York's Irish and German Catholics, 1815-1865 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1975), 130-31.

[47] Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and David Wootton, trans. David Gerard (London: NLB, 1976), 288-94, 295ff.

[48] Beaver, "Methods in American Missions," 145.

[49] Foster, Errand of Mercy, 71-7, 81, 108ff, 187-88; Hood, Reformed America, 168; and Boyer, Urban Masses, 45.

[50] Macler, "'True American Union,'" 49; and Jensen, Winning of the Midwest, 194-95.

[51] Smith, Revivalism, 76-7.

[52] Findlay, "The SPCTEW," 32.