Chapter 22: The Beginnings of American Foreign Missions (4/11)
“I then procured an order from the governor, for my admittance into prison; but the sensations, produced by meeting your brother in that wretched, horrid situation-and the affecting scene which ensued, I will not attempt to describe. Mr. Judson crawled to the door of the prison-for I was never allowed to enter-gave me some directions relative to his release; but before we could make any arrangement, I was ordered to depart, by those iron-hearted jailers, who could not endure to see us enjoy the poor consolation of meeting in that miserable place. In vain I pleaded the order of the governor for my admittance; they again, harshly repeated, ‘Depart, or we will pull you out.’ The same evening, the missionaries, together with the other foreigners, who had paid an equal sum, were taken out of the common prison, and confined in an open shed in the prison enclosure. Here I was allowed to send them food, and mats to sleep on; but was not permitted to enter again for several days.
“My next object was to get a petition presented to the queen; but no person being admitted into the palace, who was in disgrace with his majesty, I sought to present it through the medium of her brother’s wife. I had visited her in better days, and received particular marks of her favor. But now times were altered: Mr. Judson was in prison, and I in distress, which was a sufficient reason for giving me a cold reception. I took a present of considerable value. She was lolling on her carpet as I entered, with her attendants around her. I waited not for the usual question to a suppliant, ‘What do you want?’ but in a bold, earnest, yet respectful manner, stated our distresses and our wrongs, and begged her assistance. She partly raised her head, opened the present I had brought, and coolly replied, ‘Your case is not singular; all the foreigners are treated alike.’ ‘But it is singular,’ said I, ‘the teachers are Americans; they are ministers of religion, have nothing to do with war or politics, and came to Ava in obedience to the king’s command. They have never done any thing to deserve such treatment; and is it right they should be treated thus?’ ‘The king does as he pleases,’ said she; ‘I am not the king, what can I do?’ ‘You can state their case to the queen, and obtain their release,’ replied I. ‘Place yourself in my situation-were you in America, your husband, innocent of crime, thrown into prison, in irons, and you a solitary, unprotected female-what would you do?’ With a slight degree of feeling, she said, ‘I will present your petition, come again to-morrow.’ I returned to the house, with considerable hope, that the speedy release of the missionaries was at hand. But the next day Mr. Gouger’s property, to the amount of fifty thousand dollars, was taken and carried to the palace. The officers, on their return, politely informed me, they should visit our house on the morrow. I felt obliged for this information, and accordingly made preparations to receive them, by secreting as many little articles as possible; together with considerable silver, as I knew, if the war should be protracted, we should be in a state of starvation without it. But my mind in a dreadful state of agitation, lest it should be discovered, and cause my being thrown into prison. And had it been possible to procure money from any other quarter, I should not have ventured on such a step.
“The following morning, the royal treasurer, Prince Tharyawadees, Chief Woon, and Koung-tone Myoo-tsa, who was in future our steady friend, attended by forty or fifty followers, came to take possession of all we had. I treated them civilly, gave them chairs to sit on, tea and sweetmeats for their refreshment; and justice obliges me to say that they conducted the business of confiscation with more regard to my feelings than I should have thought it possible for Burmese officers to exhibit. The three officers, with one of the royal secretaries, alone entered the house; their attendants were ordered to remain outside. They saw I was deeply affected, and apologized for what they were about to do, by saying that it was painful for them to take possession of property not their own, but they were compelled thus to do by order of the king.
“‘Where is your silver, gold, and jewels?’ said the royal treasurer. ‘I have no gold or jewels; but here is the key of a trunk which contains the silver-do with it as you please.’ The trunk was produced, and the silver weighed. ‘This money,’ said I, ‘was collected in America, by the disciples of Christ, and sent here for the purpose of building a kyoung, (the name of a priest’s dwelling) and for our support while teaching the religion of Christ. Is it suitable that you should take it? (The Burmans are averse to taking what is offered in a religious point of view, which was the cause of my making the inquiry.) ‘We will state this circumstance to the king,’ said one of them, ‘and perhaps he will restore it. But this is all the silver you have?’ I could not tell a falsehood: ‘The house is in your possession,’ I replied, ‘search for yourselves.’ ‘Have you not deposited silver with some person of your acquaintance?’ ‘My acquaintances are all in prison, with whom should I deposit silver?’
“They next ordered my trunk and drawers to be examined. The secretary only was allowed to accompany me in this search. Everything nice or curious, which met his view, was presented to the officers, for their decision, whether it should be taken or retained. I begged they would not take our wearing apparel, as it would be disgraceful to take clothes partly worn into the possession of his majesty, and to us they were of unspeakable value. They assented, and took a list only, and did the same with the books, medicines, etc. My little work table and rocking chair, presents from my beloved brother, I rescued from their grasp, partly by artifice, and partly through their ignorance. They left also many articles, which were of inestimable value, during our long imprisonment.