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Collection 151 Papers of Philip Quaque

Identifier: CN 151

Scope and Contents

Complete microfilmed letters of Philip Quaque, first non-European ordained priest in the Church of England, native African and missionary to the Cape Coast (present day Ghana) for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Microfilm includes letters and other material concerning a wide variety of SPG mission efforts in North America, 1784-91, and Africa, 1817-1855. Letters describe progress in missionary work, relations with political authorities, daily life in colonial Africa, and indigenous religion and customs. 7/31/1775 letter comments on the American Revolution in regard to the slavery issue.

The bulk of this microfilm reel contains the complete existing correspondence of Philip Quaque, being letters and reports to the home office of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, in London. One letter is from John Moore, Quaque's teacher in England, recommending him; another is from Quaque to a fellow priest in America (dated July 31, 1775) which contains interesting commentary on the American Revolution in regard to the slavery issue. The letters to the Society describe in detail Quaque's progress in the mission work, his emotions and feelings for his countrymen and the slowness with which they took to the Gospel, mission relations with the political powers of Cape Coast, baptisms, marriages, health, and a wide scope of insights into day-to-day life in Colonial Africa. Native religion and customs also receive attention.

There are several samples of students' handwriting (in English), dated 1770 and 1795, found after the letter of April 12, 1770.

Following Quaque material is a miscellaneous collection of letters concerning a variety of Society for the Propagation of the Gospel mission work. These other sections follow in this order:

1. Letters, 1784-1791, from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

2. Letter from Rev. W. Philip, Chaplain at Cape Coast, asking for recognition as Society's missionary to succeed Quaque, 1817.

3. Application and letters from J.H. Short, requesting post of Society's schoolmaster at Cape coast.

4. Two letters from R. Harold, chaplain at Cape Coast, 1823.

5. Letter re chaplaincy at Bathurst, Gambia, 1827.

6. Letter re princes of Ashanti, lately in England and returning home.

7. Letters about mission work at Fernando Po, 1839-1841.

8. Five letters re chaplaincy at Bathurst, 1841-1842.

9. Notes about Gambia, ca. 1841.

10. Letter re Niger expedition, 1841.

11. Application of J. Smith for position of SPG missionary at Cape Coast, 1842-1843.

12. Request for missionaries to be sent to Calocbar (?) River area, 1843.

13. Three letters, Rev. F. Harrison Rankin, of the Gambia mission.

14. Application of Miss J. Gibbs to open a school for children in Sierra Leone, 1844.

15. Request for missionaries to be sent to a region of West Africa, 1847.

16. Letters proposing a church college on Island of St. Mary's in Gambia, 1847.

17. Letters re vacant chaplaincy in Gambia, 1849.

18. Letters re Sierra Leone mission, 1855

19. Philip Quaque, letter written while a student in England, March 13, 1765.


  • Created: 1765-1855

Conditions Governing Access

Permission to quote from film must be secured in writing from:

The Archivist

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel

15, Tufton St.

London, S.W.1. ENGLAND

Biographical or Historical Information

Philip Quaque was born ca. 1741, the son of Birempon Cudjoe, a successful caboceer (chief) of Cape Coast in what is present-day Ghana. As a youth, he was educated by Rev. Thomas Thompson, the first missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to work in the Gold Coast. Rev. Thompson arrived in Cape Coast in 1752 where he served as chaplain to the British military establishing the organizing of a small school.

Thompson, never in good health from the time he arrived in Africa, realized the necessity of establishing Africans as missionaries to their own people. He proposed a scheme of sending the brighter children to England for further study under the patronage of the S.P.G. with the understanding that they would return to Africa on behalf of the Society. In 1753, the S.P.G. approved the plan, authorizing a maximum of six boys. In June 1754 three boys were sent to England, all related to Birempon Cudjoe: Thomas Cobbers died of consumption in 1758, William Cudjoe suffered a mental breakdown and died in England in 1766, and Philip Quaque lived to become the first non-European ordained priest in the Church of England.

Quaque (pronounced "Kwaku") married in England in 1765 to Catherine Blunt, a white woman. The couple returned in February of the following year to Cape Coast where Quaque was to be employed as Thompson's successor, officially "Missionary, Catechist and Schoolmaster on the Cold [sic] Coast." His salary was fifty pounds per annum. The progress of the mission was slow, and by 1774 Quaque had baptized only fifty-two persons, and few of them Africans. A school was opened for mulatto children, with children of some very wealthy blacks in attendance. Instruction was given in religion, reading and writing; arithmetic came only after a certain reading proficiency was proved. This school was aimed at training clerks for colonial public offices, and was maintained jointly by the S.P.G. and the Committee of Merchants. When the Torridzonian Society, a local educational authority, was formed in 1787, control of the school passed to it. Internal bickering took a toll on the school and after 1790 it was largely ineffective.

Quaque faced numerous obstacles to success of his work. His dozen years in England had erased his native tongue from memory, and he never succeeded in relearning it, therefore was obligated to speak through an interpreter. His marriage to a white woman deprived him of some allegiance of nationals, although Catherine Quaque died within the first year of her arrival in Cape Coast. The British authorities at Cape Coast Castle were indifferent, if not hostile, to the missionary work, and church services were infrequent. Salary had to be partially taken out in barter, and when Quaque died in 1816, the S.P.G. owed him 369 pounds in arrears. The last years of his life were marred by family strife, his second wife's children treating his third wife with considerable malice. At the time of his death, and for a century afterwards, his life was seen as a failure, but he is more recently seen as a pioneer in indigenous church leadership.


1 Reel of microfilm

Language of Materials