Fergusson, Malthus and Ricardo in support of his contention that liberty was the necessary precondition for industry, but civil liberty in itself was inadequate without the aid of Christianity, whose conviction of the incalculable worth of the human soul could alone impart 'the thinking principle' that was the first step towards true civilisation.8
By the late 1830s the arguments of Philip and Buxton's Aborigines Report had become evangelical orthodoxy. Preaching the word remained as central as it was in the days of Wesley or Whitefield, but missionaries were now much more aware of the structural constraints that both slave and nomadic societies imposed on the process of 'improvement'. Their persuasion of the necessity of an independent economic base for indigenous people owed much to Scottish political economy but also reflected the accumulating wisdom of field experience. Voluntaryism was intrinsic to Congregational and Baptist tradition, and by now part of Methodist tradition also. But in the mission field, it was increasingly the case that all, even Anglicans or Presbyterians, were de facto voluntaryists: the missionary objective was, as the Select Committee's terms of reference put it, 'the voluntary reception of the Christian Religion', and voluntary reception implied voluntary support. The preoccupation of early and mid-Victorian missions with instilling the virtues of agricultural production and free commercial exchange has been blamed by John and Jean Comaroff for unleashing the spirit of capitalism in the world of the southern Tswana, and contributing to the creation in South Africa of a 'population of peasant-proletarians trapped in a promiscuous web of economic dependencies'.9 If this was indeed the result, it was the very opposite of missionary intentions, which were remarkably congruent with the goals of modern development theory in its concern to enable rural communities to achieve the economic independence which permits human capabilities to develop and flourish.
T. F. Buxton applied the conclusions of the Aborigines Report to his African Civilisation Society (1839) and the resulting Niger expedition of 1841. Buxton's concern was to counter the African slave trade by drawing out 'the capabilities of Africa, and thence to deduce the possibility of her becoming peaceful, flourishing, and productive, by the force of legitimate commerce'. Yet true evangelical that he was, Buxton placed no confidence in commerce or civilisation without the saving grace of the gospel: 'It is the Bible and the plough that
8 J. Philip, Researches in South Africa: illustrating the civil, moral, and religious condition of the native tribes ..., 2 vols. (London: J. Duncan, 1828), vols. i, pp. 362-78; ii, pp. 315-16,355-70.
9 Comaroff and Comaroff, Of revelation and revolution, vol. ii, pp. 163-4.
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