Colony of Connecticut

Variant name:

Government of Connecticut; Assembly in Hartford; Our General Assembly; the government

Address:

Hartford, CT and New Haven, CT

Description:

The government of the colony of Connecticut was organized into an upper house, comprised of the governor and other magistrates; and a lower house, comprised of representatives from towns. Like other colonial governments, the Connecticut government's responsibilities included negotiating with Indian tribes and funding missionary efforts. Naturally, the Connecticut government had a substantial impact on both Occom's and Wheelock's lives. For Occom, the colony's most defining act may have been the Mason Case. For Wheelock, it may have been the colony's refusal to support a charter for Moor's Indian Charity School. The Mason Case or Mason Controversy was a land dispute between the colony of Connecticut and the Mohegan tribe that formally lasted from 1703 until 1773. The Controversy spanned most of Occom's life and ended with the Mohegan tribe losing legal control of almost all their land. Although the case became very complicated, in brief, it was a question of whether the Mohegans had entrusted their land to John Mason, a private individual and ally of the tribe, or to the colony of Connecticut. If the lands were in trust to Mason, then Mason and his heirs could protect Mohegan land rights. However, if the lands were in trust to the colony, then the colony could do with them as they pleased. In 1703, the colony forcibly expelled Mohegans from their land and redistributed it for towns and private property. For the next 70 years, the Mohegan tribe appealed the case in both Connecticut and London. The colony took increasingly aggressive steps to maintain control over the land, including ignoring a 1721 royal order to return it and interfering in Mohegan succession to make sure that Ben Uncas, a man who was not inclined to oppose the colony on the Mason issue, became sachem. The ensuing dispute over sachemship split the tribe into two different settlements. Occom was born in 1723, at the height of the controversy over the sachemship. Because he and his father both participated in the Mohegan tribal council, the Mason Case and the problems it brought must have played a substantial role in Occom's young adulthood and also affected his later missionary career. (In 1764 and 1765, Occom was censured by the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge for speaking openly about the Mason Case.) Wheelock also had a difficult relationship with the colony of Connecticut. While Connecticut's government helped quite a few missionary efforts, it rarely gave Wheelock any kind of support (and never any money). Wheelock initially sought a charter from Connecticut in 1758. However, Connecticut would not grant a charter without royal support, and Wheelock's allies in England would not seek royal support without a Connecticut charter. In 1764, Wheelock again petitioned the CT Assembly for incorporation (legal control over the town his school was in). Again, they refused. The 1764 rejection likely stemmed from the Mason Case because Wheelock, via Occom, was implicitly on the side of the Mohegan tribe. The Connecticut government also rejected Wheelock on several more minor matters related to funding and legal power. It is not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that part of Wheelock's motivation for leaving Connecticut was his inability to obtain support from the colony's government.

All related documents: retrieve them
Sources:

Brooks, Joanna. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Oxford 2006. Brooks, Lisa. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2008. Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. Sanford, Elias Benjamin. A History of Connecticut. Connecticut: S. S. Scranton 1887. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Silverman, David J. Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010.