Charles Livingstone (1821–1873)
Ineffectual “General Assistant”
“I am at a loss how to treat him,” wrote David Livingstone about his brother, eight years his junior. These words summarize the frustration Charles engendered among the seven men who constituted the ill-fated Zambezi Expedition.
He had worked in the same cotton factory as young David and, like his brother, used what little free time he could spare for education. Feeling a call to missions, he emigrated to America to get ministerial training.
He pastored in, coincidentally, Livingstone County, New York, and later traveled to England on a leave of absence (likely due to a nervous breakdown). Though he had not seen his brother for years, David asked Charles to join him on the Zambezi Expedition.
His official title was “General Assistant and ‘moral agent,” and his unofficial duties included photography (which he knew little about) and personal assistance to David. However, “As an assistant he has been of no value,” wrote David in his journal. “Photography very unsatisfactory. . . . Meteorological observations not creditable, and writing the journal in arrears.”
Charles returned home (the last expedition member to leave his brother) after contracting dysentery and rejoined his family in America. He eventually reconciled with his brother and returned to England to assist in the publication of Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi and its Tributaries. David, through his clout, solicited for Charles an appointment to a consulship on the West Coast of Africa, a position he filled with great credit and turned to account in doing much good to the heathen. In 1873 his health broke down, and he started for Scotland, but died on the passage home.
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