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Solomon Williams and Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to the Honorable Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, 1764 July 10

ms-number: 764410.2

abstract: Williams and Wheelock write to inform the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge that, per its commission, a Connecticut board of correspondents has been formed, and officers have been elected. They state that the best prospect for furthering the Society's design lies with Wheelock’s Indian charity school, and that they hope to employ Occom and Ashpo.

handwriting: Handwriting is clear and legible, with very few deletions and additions.

noteworthy: Contents of letter are identical to those of 763900.0. The narrative mentioned on one recto is the first of Wheelock's "Narratives," printed in Boston in 1763.

To the Honoured Sirs,
We take the earliest Opportunity, by Direction
of your Board of Correſpondents in the Colony of Connecti­
, to inform you, that, upon Receipt of your Commiſsion,
the Gentlemen named therein, met in Lebanon July 4:th,
& formed themſelves by chooſing the proper Officers named,
to enable them to act in Capacity of your Correſpondents,
and to give you an Account of their Doings, and preſent
Proſpects. And in the firſt place to return you our warm­
eſt & ſincereſt Thanks for the Honour you have done
them, in commiſsioning them to be Correſpondents of your
Honourable Society. We join our earneſt Prayers
with you, and ſhall by God's Grace unite our fervent
Labours to promote the excellent Purpoſe your pious
Hearts are ſet upon; the Advancement of the Kindgom
of our bleſsed Redeemer, & ſpreading the Savour of
his Knowledge among them who ſit in Darkneſs, and
the Region and Shadow of Death, the moſt glorious
Object of your and our Attention. As the doing this
will ſerve alſo the Intereſt of our King, ſo there is
one Circumſtance peculiarly obligatory on us, that the
Succeſs of it will be greatly beneficial to the Peace and
Happineſs of our own Country. We humbly take Leave
to inform your Honourable Board, that the beſt Proſpect
which at preſent lies in our View, is in the School, wch
has been for ſome Time under the Care of the Rev.d
Mr Wheelock; a Narrative of the Riſe & Progreſs of
which to November 1762 has been ſent to the moſt
Honourable Marquis of Lothian , & other Members of
your Society; but leſt they have failed to reach
you, we herewith tranſmit one; and expect you [below]will
[left]To the Honbl Society in Scotland
for propagating Chriſtian
july 1764

will be ſerved with the Continuation of it to November 1763, either from
the Preſs, or Manuſcript from Boſton, it having been ſome Months
ago tranſmitted to Mr John Smith, Merchant there. And our preſent
Proſpects & Purpoſes you will ſee as follows. Though we have no Aſsu­
rance of Peace with the Indians, yet entertain ſtrong Hopes that the
preſent Troubles will be brought to a ſpeedy Iſsue. And are perswa
ded, that when that Event happens, it concerns us, to be as ſpeedy
as Poſsible in exerting our utmoſt Endeavours to ſpread the Goſpel as far
as may be into the Bowels of the Pagan Country; if poſsible, before it is
thronged with unrighteous Dealers, whoſe unbounded Avarice threatens
the greateſt Miſschief to the Cauſe. We have voted to take the Rev.d
Mr Occom into our Service, if he may be freed from a Preengagement
to the London Commiſsioners, which we expect may be without Difficult[gap: worn_edge][guess: y]]
We have alſo referred to our Committee, the ſending of Samuel Aſhpo,
a judicious & pious Indian, when Providence ſhall open a Door.
We have alſo the pleaſure to inform you, that there are eight or ten
Indian Youth in this School, of good Moral Character, well accompliſhed
for ſhoolmaſters, except their Want of Age & Fortitude. We purpoſe
to ſend forth two or three of theſe, next ſpring, to remote Tribes, in the Capa­
city of School Maſters, & expect by the Bleſsing of God, that in the Courſe of a Year,
they will be ſo far accquainted with the Cuſtoms & Languages of theſe Nations,
that it may be probably expedient to ordain & improve them as Miniſters among
them. We expect the Revd Mr Charles Jeffry Smith will return as ſoon as it will
be ſafe for him, on a Miſsion to the ſix Nations. And the union of all theſe,
in the ſame Plan, we apprehend will afford a more agreeable Proſpect than has
ever yet appeared of this kind. But theſe Things we have determined upon
without a ſhilling in ſtock, relying only on him, whoſe the Earth is, & the Fullneſs
thereof, to ſupport the ſame; who has hitherto appeared to own the Deſign, &
increaſe it from ſmall Beginnings; nor has ſuffered thoſe, who have truſted in
him, to be aſhamed of their Confidence. And conſidering, the great Evidence
of the Piety & Generoſity of your Honourable Society, we doubt not that, when
the Importance of this Affair ſhall be maturely conſidered by you, you will,
agreeable to the other Expreſsions of your pious Zeal, do all that your Wiſdom
& Power enables you to do, to render us capable to execute theſe great & good
Deſigns ­ And as the expected openings will probably induce Miſsionaries and
School Maſters to viſit remoter Tribes than any of our Miſsionaries have hither
to reached; and theſe Miſsionaries moſtly Indians, we conceive will give them
more convincing Proofs of the Sincerity of our Intentions; and incline
them to ſend their promiſing Youth when invited, to receive an Education
with us: ſo we hope the Hon.ble Society will think this School, which ſubſists
on no other Fund but the Care & Bounty of Divine Providence, to be an Object
worthy of their kind Notice and Encouragement

Signed by the Order, & in the Name; of the Correſpondents,
Honoured Gentlemen,
Your moſt humble Servents
Solomon Williams Preſes.
Eleazar Wheelock Secr.try
NB. Jonathan
Esqr is of
Windham is choſen
Treaſurer of the Board of Correſpondents

Williams, Solomon

Solomon Williams was a Congregationalist pastor in Lebanon, CT from 1722 until his death in 1776. As pastor at Lebanon, Williams rose to prominence as a theologian and engaged in extensive correspondence and debate with some of the most eminent minds of the day. He was one of the rare truly moderate New Lights during the Great Awakening: he managed to maintain the respect of both Charles Chauncy, the rabid anti-revivalist, and George Whitefield, the famous evangelical. Williams also established a library in Lebanon and a very well-known grammar school, which became something of a feeder for Yale. Williams supported Eleazar Wheelock and Moor’s Indian Charity School through much of the 1750s and 1760s. He was something of a mentor to Samson Occom, and he became president of Wheelock’s Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK). It is unclear why Williams is not named as a trustee of Moor’s in Wheelock’s 1768 will; perhaps Wheelock feared that Williams would not outlive him. Williams continued to run the Connecticut Board even after Wheelock relocated to New Hampshire in 1770. Despite the SSPCK’s disappointment in Wheelock, Williams and Wheelock seem to have remained on cordial terms. Their correspondence ceased in 1772, after Wheelock tried (and failed) to open a New Hampshire Board to replace the one in Connecticut (with, it might be added, the Connecticut Board’s blessing).

Wheelock, Eleazar

Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.

Kerr, William
Smith, John

John Smith was an affluent Boston merchant who supported Wheelock’s school throughout the 1760s. It is likely that Smith and Wheelock were introduced by George Whitefield or someone similarly involved in evangelical and missionary efforts in the British Atlantic world: John Smith made somewhat regular trips to London for business, and had been in contact with Whitefield since the 1740s. Like the other Boston merchants who supported Moor’s Indian Charity School (including Moses Peck, William Hyslop, and Nathaniel Eells), Smith traded with Wheelock and kept him up to date on political developments in Boston, especially as they concerned attitudes towards Moor’s Indian Charity School. However, Smith was better educated (and likely more affluent) than the other merchants that Wheelock worked with, and, correspondingly, played a more important role than his brethren in Wheelock’s efforts. Smith publicized the school independently (his letter to an unnamed friend, catalogued as 764318.2, is one of the most cited letters on the organization of Moor’s) and assisted Wheelock in publishing the Narratives. John Smith’s greatest contribution to Wheelock’s design was his support during Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Smith set out for Britain in July 1765 to improve his health, and while there, acted as a vanguard for Occom and Whitaker. He managed their correspondence, suggested destinations, and served on an ad hoc advisory council that included George Whitefield, Samuel Savage, Robert Keen, and several other influential men. The pace of the journey caught up with John Smith, however, and he died in 1768 while in Britain.

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Ashpo, Samuel

Ashpo was born into a very powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and became an influential Mohegan preacher. He was converted at Mohegan during the Great Awakening, and became a schoolteacher among the Indians at Mushantuxet from 1753 until 1757 and from 1759 until 1762, when he left to attend Moor's. Between 1757 and 1759, he worked as an interpreter, and supposedly struggled with alcohol. He attended Moor's for only six months, and then continued his teaching and missionary career on successive trips to Chenango (the first was cut short because of violence in the region). On July 1, 1767, the Connecticut Board dismissed him from their service because of further charges of drinking. He continued to preach successfully to various New England Indian tribes until his death in 1795. The variations of his name exist in part because Ashpo is an abbreviated form of Ashobapow.

Smith, Charles Jeffery

Charles Jeffery Smith was an independently funded Presbyterian missionary and itinerant preacher. After his father's early death, Smith inherited a large private income. Instead of enjoying a life of leisure, he chose to complete his education at Yale and then become a missionary. After graduating, he taught at Moor's Indian Charity School, gratis, for a few months in 1763. His first mission, and his only mission among Indians, was a 1763 endeavor to the Six Nations, accompanied by then-student Joseph Brant as an interpreter. However, Pontiac's War forced them to return. Although Smith continued his missionary career, he focused on slaves in the Mid/South-Atlantic region and English-colonist congregations. Smith held several important roles in Wheelock's Grand Design. He was Wheelock's heir-once-removed (after Whitaker) in Wheelock's 1767 will, and was proposed as Occom's companion on the 1765 fundraising tour. Wheelock consulted Smith about the location of what was to be Dartmouth College (Smith proposed Virginia or South Carolina), and solicited him as an envoy to the Six Nations in 1768; when Smith refused, the job fell to Ralph Wheelock, who severely alienated the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Sir William Johnson. Smith's residence was in Virginia at the time of his death, but he actually died in Long Island while visiting his family, from a gunshot wound sustained while hunting. It is unclear whether this was murder, an accidental shot, or suicide.

Frederick, George William

George William Frederick (King George III) became heir to the throne of England in 1751 upon the death of his father Frederick, Prince of Wales. He became King George III of England in the fall of 1760 at age 22, following the death of his grandfather King George II. George III passed many important edicts during his reign including that of the Royal Marriage Act of 1772; the Treaty of Paris in 1762, which ended the Seven Years War; the Stamp Act of 1765; and the Townshend Duties of 1767. However, he is most well-known for being the reigning monarch during the Revolutionary War. After the surrender of British forces to the Americans in 1782, George III considered abdicating the throne, but chose not to do so because he felt it would be too detrimental to Britain. The last 30 years of George's life were plagued with illness. In 1788 he had the first of many attacks of insanity, now believed to have been caused by an inherited disease known as porphyria. With George III unfit to rule, it was decided that his son George would become regent, an arrangement which was made permanent in 1810. King George III died on January 29, 1820 at the age of 81 after a reign of nearly 60 years (the third longest in British history). He was succeeded by his son George IV.

HomeSolomon Williams and Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to the Honorable Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, 1764 July 10
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