ADONIRAM JUDSON (1788-1850)
American missionary, was born at Malden, Massachusetts, on the 9th of August 1788, the son of a Congregational minister. He graduated at Brown University in 1807, was successively a school teacher and an actor, completed a course at the Andover Theological Seminary in September 1810, and was at once licensed to preach as a Congregational clergyman.
In the summer of 1810 he with several of his fellows students at Andover had petitioned the general association of ministers to be sent to Asiatic missionary fields. This application resulted in the establishment of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, which sent Judson to England to secure, if possible, the co-operation of the London Missionary Society. His ship fell into the hands of a French privateer and he was for some time a prisoner in France, but finally proceeded to London, where his proposal was considered without anything being decided. He then returned to America, where he found the board ready to act independently.
His appointment to Burma followed and in 1812, accompanied by his wife, Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), he went to Calcutta. On the voyage both became advocates of baptism by immersion, and being thus cut off from Congregationalism, they began independent work.
In 1814 they began to receive support from the American Baptist missionary union, which had been founded with the primary object of keeping them in the field. After a few months at Madras, they settled at Rangoon. There Judson mastered Burmese, into which he translated part of the Gospels with his wife’s help.
In 1824 he removed to Ava, where during the war between the East India Company and Burma he was imprisoned for almost two years. After peace had been brought about (largely, it is said, through his exertions). Mrs Judson died.
In 1827 Judson removed his headquarters to Maulmain, where school buildings and a church were erected, and where in 1834 he married Sarah Hall Boardman (1803-1845). In 1833 he completed his translation of the Bible; in succeeding years he compiled a Burmese grammar, a Burmese dictionary, and a Pali dictionary.
In 1845 his wife’s failing health compelled Judson to return to America, but she died during the voyage, and was buried at St. Helena.
In the United States Judson married Emily Chubbuck (1817-1854), well-known as a poet and novelist under the name of “Fanny Forrester,” who was one of the earliest advocates in America of the higher education of women. She returned with him in 1846 to Burma, where the rest of his life was devoted largely to the rewriting of his Burmese dictionary. He died at sea on the 12th of April 1850, while on his way to Martinique, in search of health. Judson was perhaps the greatest, as he was practically the first, of the many missionaries sent from the United States into foreign fields. His fervour, his devotion to duty, and his fortitude in the face of danger mark him as the prototype of the American missionary.