The Rev. Philip Quaque is one of
the historical characters who makes an appearance in Ama.
Please click on the bulleted headings to
G. McLean, Cape Coast in Historical Perspective, 1994
1752, the first SPG missionary to West Africa, the Rev. Thomas Thompson
arrived in Cape Coast having been given instructions "to make trial
with the natives and see what hope there would be in establishing among
them the Christian religion." Cape Coast was then described
as a town of "heathens, steeped in fetishism and idolatry."
The Rev. Mr. Thompson who was Chaplain to the garrison at the
Castle, found the task of converting the townsfolk to Christianity
difficult to accomplish. In 1756 after four years of relentless
efforts, he was invalidated (sic!) home, broken in health.
The germinal seed of Anglicanism had however been sown. Happily,
before his departure, Thompson had already selected three Cape Coast
lads for education in England at the expense of SPG with the hope
thereafter to train them for ordination into the priesthood to form the
nucleus of priests for the local Anglican Church. Of the three -
Philip Quaque, Thomas Krabu and William Codjoe - only Philip Quaque
survived, completed his education and priestly training. In 1765, Quaque
was duly ordained priest of the Church of England (the Anglican Church
as it is today). The Rev. Philip Quaque MA (Oxon.) thus became the
first African from the Gold Coast to be ordained priest (by the Bishop
of London in the chapel of St. James in May 1765) in the Church of
England after the Reformation.
Appointed "Catechist, Chaplain and School-Master" of the
Castle School, Quaque returned home to work among his people at Cape
Coast. Under the peculiar circumstances of that time the work
proved to be a daunting task for Quaque in so far as converting his
country men into the Christian faith which the townsfolk called the
"White man's fetish." Quaque nevertheless persevered in
the work, against all odds, convinced that the germinal seed had already
been sown, his part being patiently to water and tend the seedling to
grow and flower in due time. It was in this spirit, the Rev. Philip
Quaque laboured for 51 years and died in 1816. He was buried in
the courtyard of the Cape Coast Castle beside the grave of Captain
F. L., Phillip Quaque 1741-1816 Tr Hist Soc Gh Vol 1 154 (quotations and
born 1741 Son of Cudjo (Birempon Cudjo) (possibly
not so, may be his grandfather, see Curtin, Africa Remembered)
1754 To England with Thomas Caboro, William Cudjo
1759 Baptized Islington
1758 Caboro died of TB after smallpox
1764 Cudjo died after mental breakdown
1765 Quaque ordained. Married Catherine Blunt in May.
She could read and write, unlike the witnesses who made their marks.
Same month, general meeting of Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
(SPG) including the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Quaque
Missionary, Catechist and Schoolmaster of the Negroes on the Gold Coast
of Africa with a salary of £50 p. a.
1766 Feb. Arrived at Cape Coast. Given two rooms in Castle. Opened a
school in his rooms for mulatto boys and girls only. Intended to include
"some of the rougher kind" later. Enrolment never exceeded 16.
Often none, or one, or four. Religious instruction: "godly
principles were instilled". Reading by alphabetic spelling method -
primers and spelling books ordered. Catechism was the principle reading
book. Within a year 3 of 10 could read primers surprisingly well and say
catechism as far the first commandment. Copy books - writing started
after reading. Copy: three quotations from the Bible (re Crucifixion and
"From Art and Science true contentment flow,
"For 'tis a Godlike attribute to know."
Arithmetic only after reading and writing perfected.
1778 Had a simple room in the castle which he also used as a school. One
of the governors openly ridiculed religion and made nonsense of the work
in church and school. Quaque a lonely man, left to his own resources. No
evidence that Quaque was of more than average ability. Not a strong
character. In 1772-3 he spent four months in Accra. In 1774-5, 8 months
at Dixcove at the invitation of the Chief.
1816 Died at age of 75.
In Britain it was “the conviction of the English-speaking people that
the English tongue was the heaven-sent medium of religion and
Excuses for avoiding divine service on Sundays: 'making of custom' by
the townspeople (the noise of their guns); absence of the Governor or of
officers in the town; presence of a stranger; the weather; hall freshly
painted; coughs and colds.
Mrs. R. (Mrs. T. Edward Bowdich), Stories of Strange Lands, London, 1835
consequence of the rapid mortality which took place at Cape Coast, and
which was in after-years diminished by more temperate habits, and
skilful medical officers, it was suggested that a coloured man should be
educated in England for the chaplaincy. Accordingly, one named Quawquee,
aged nineteen was taken from among the canoe-men. In the first place, it
was injudicious to choose him from the worst set of men in the
community; and, in the next he was too old but he was sent to England,
christened, educated at Westminster, and, in a few years, ordained by
the then Bishop of London. He returned to Cape Coast as the Rev. Philip
Quawquee, and for some years performed the church service in his rooms
at the Castle; he married a black woman, himself performing the
Christian rites; his life was tolerably moral, and he was supposed to
have no fear of death, and even to desire it, and he sent to England for
a tombstone, properly inscribed with his name and profession. But the
hour arrived which proves us all; and he sent for the old fetishwomen of
Cape Coast, who smeared his doorposts with blood and eggs, practised
every charm ever invented by African pagans and he died in the midst of
their yells and incantations; his greatest consolation being that,
according to his request, he should be buried in the spur of the
fortress, and every one would see “he had been parson Quawquee.”
Hans. W., A History of Christianity in Ghana, Accra 1967.