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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to John Thornton, 1770 January 8

ms-number: 770108.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to deny reports of his having neglected Kirtland. He mentions Thornton's kindness to Occom and the fact that John Wheatley has been drawn upon for 40 pounds towards Occom's support.

handwriting: Informal handwriting is small, crowded and occasionally difficult to decipher. Letter case is occasionally difficult to discern, particularly with regard to the letters W and S.

paper: Single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining and creasing. Wear at the edges results in a minor loss of text.

ink: Black-brown.

noteworthy: This document is likely a draft.

My dear & Hon.d ſir.
I thankfully acknowledge your kind Fav.r of
Aug.t 26. 1769. And I bleſs God on Your Behalf, who has given
you ability and largneſs of Heart to releive the Needy, and eſpecially
that he has made you Studious to diſpose your Charity So
that the Kingdom of the Redeemer May be advanced thereby
The Expreſsions of Your Kindneſs towards Mr. Occom, were pe‐
‐cutiarly wellcome & refreſhing to him, as they were at a Time When
his Circumſtances calld for help. He preaches Steadily to his own
and to Neighbouring Tribes, but they are all under the care and
Patronage of the Boſton Com̅iſsrs, Who Suppose they have otherwiſe
provided for them, and therefore M.r Occom has no penſion, nor
any thing publickly allowed him for his Labour among them, nor
can I do any thing publickly for his Support in his preſent Service with
out giving offence, and exposing Myſelf to thbe cenſured as a Meddler
in that which belongs to others.
I have wrote M.r Wheatly of Boſton, (who, M.r Occom informs me,
deals with you, and by whom he Supposed he might moſt naturally
receive your Beneficence) deſiring him to pay M.r Occom £40.
Sterling & draw for it on you. I Suppose M.r Occom has wrote yo
fully of the Affair.
As to M.r Kirtland's Supply in every thing within my Power, he
has never been neglected one Day, when his Neceſsities have been
known to me, & I have generally exceeded what he has deſired, & have
never gave below. And Since the Collections in England I have always told him there
was enough, and it was only for him to let me know what he
wanted and it was at his Service. nor am I conſcious that I have
ever wanted the Heart or Hand of a Father towds him in one Inſtance
ſince I firſt took him under my Patronage, and eſpecially since his firſt going
into the wilderneſs. However I have had a Scene of Trials of late of ſuch
a Nature & So greivous as I never expected from that Quarter, & which
I hope I Shall never have occaſion fully to diſcloſe to you. I ſuppoſe
they have originated in part from, & been greatly incouraged by a Sect of
people in these parts Who are commonly known by the Name of Separets
and eſpecially by Saveral in Connection with them, who, it is ſaid, are deſirous
of being Preachers, and of being Introduced as Miſsionaries Among the Indians

[left]To Jn.o Thornton Esq.r
 Jany 8. 1770.

It has been reported far round y.t M.r Kirtland has been treated with
Neglect &c—that he deſigns to leave me & break off his Connection with
my School and put himſelf under the Boſton Com̅iſsrs —that my
School is coming down—and these Reports though they have no
credit near home have gaind credit with many Gentlemen of
worth at a Diſtance—but it has perſpired from ſome of that party
that M.r K–ds 's Character & influence is So great with the Hon.le Truſt in
that he has power to undermine me, and turn the Channe[gap: worn_edge][guess: l]
of those Collections in their Hands as he pleaſes &c how far M.r K–d
has been knowg to these Reports, or w.t he has done to diſcount[illegible][guess: em] & diſcredet
them I cant Say. before he wrote begging Letters without any Knowle[gap: worn_edge][guess: dge]
which were read in Several of the moſt reſpectible Congregations in New Hamſhire
at above a hundred miles Diſtance from me, and where collections wer[gap: worn_edge][guess: e]
publicly made for the Supply of his neceſsities. When he had the
fulleſt aſsurance that I could give him that there was money
enough for him if he would only let it be known that he ſtood in
need, and also y.t my Heart and the Hearts of the Honle Truſt were
always open to Supply him. I have reproved this Conduct as carrying
in it an unreaſonable reflection on me &. y.e Trust, as well as exposing himſelf and
the cauſe to the Reproaches of the Enemy it being about y.e Time in w.c large diſburſemts had been publicly made for his uſe &c but whether this was
more than an Inadvertency, and whether there has been a clanning
for a Revolution, I am not fully able to Say. however there have
been Several things that have been unintilligible if there be no
deſign forming which is yet [illegible]induſtriouſly [illegible][guess: be] conceald.
I Should not have hinted these things to you (which are not yet known
by a Soul in my Pariſh further than they have the Reports from abroad)
had not your repeating thes Important Caution to take Care for
his Support, raiſed a Strong Suſpicion in my mind that Something of
the kind has been tranſmitted.— yo may expoſe w.t I here write if you think beſt to my Hon.d Patrons, but I have confidence in y.o & in y.m y.t will be [below]no ill improvemt made of it—
 I am ſenſible the powers of Darkneſs are combind againſt the
progreſs of the great Deſign before us, but I have found it is not in
vain to hope & truſt in the Lord. I have obtaind an ample incorporatn
for my School & am now waiting for the Return of Col.o Phelps my Agent
to take the Deeds & Secure the Donations made in from New hamſhire whom
I have imployed to take the Deeds & Secure the Donations made [illegible]to the
School in that Province, and than I Shall endeavour to write my
Hond Patrons fully of the gracious dealings of Heaven, & I truſt they [illegible][guess: will]
I Shall offer that which will excite them to joyn in praiſes to God who has
not forſaken this Cauſe, but is more and more abundant in his mercys
towards it. I am my Hond Friend with high Eſteem & Reſpect.
Your Obed.t & very Humble Serv.t
Eleazar Wheelock
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.

Thornton, John

John Thornton was born in Yorkshire on April 1, 1720. As a young man, Thornton inherited money from his father Robert Thornton, who was the Director of the Bank of England, which he used to begin his career as a merchant. In 1753, Thornton married Lucy Watson, with whom he had four children. Watson had a Christianizing influence on Thornton, which ultimately led to his 1754 conversion to evangelical Anglicanism under Henry Venn, the curate of Clapham. Thornton's and Venn’s sons would continue their fathers’ religious traditions, going on to form the “Clapham sect,” an influential group of evangelical Christians who championed social reforms. As a result of his conversion, Thornton pursued charity just as much as trade, a major part of which involved managing the English Trust that oversaw the funds Occom and Whitaker collected for Wheelock’s Indian Charity School. Thornton met and hosted Occom several times during his stay in England, and eventually became the Treasurer of the Trust. After Wheelock moved the School to Hanover, however, he focused on the establishment of Dartmouth College to educate Anglo-American men as missionaries, and was accused of using the Trust's funds to this end. This shift in focus contributed to the rift that developed between Occom and Wheelock upon Occom’s return to America –- a rift Thornton tried to repair. Thornton thought of Occom as an equal and, in his role as Treasurer of the Trust, often reminded Wheelock of Occom's vital role in securing the funds that made the School possible. Thornton financed Occom's further missionary activities and insured that Wheelock did not forget Occom's hard work and Christian morals. In addition, Wheelock –- who knew that Occom respected Thornton –- often called upon the merchant when he himself could not convince Occom to undertake further missionary activity. The exchanges between Wheelock and Thornton ended once Wheelock had used up the funds that Occom had raised in England, yet Occom and Thornton kept in touch up through the Revolutionary War, with Thornton remaining one of Occom's most prominent supporters. He died on November 7th, 1790 as one of the wealthiest men in England, despite giving away nearly half his salary each year. In 1828, Thornton's role in the establishment of Dartmouth was memorialized in the College's naming of Thornton Hall.

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.

Wheatley, John

John Wheatley was a prominent Bostonian and owner of the slave, Phillis Wheatley, who became the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. Wheatley was a tailor with a wealthy clientele that included men like John Hancock. He was also a merchant and money-lender, and he became one of two constables of Boston in 1739. In 1761, Wheatley purchased a young girl from West Africa to serve as a servant for his wife Susanna. The Wheatleys supported the Revolutionary cause and had a large and influential circle of friends and acquaintances; many visiting Presbyterian and Anglican Methodist ministers stayed at their house. John Thornton, the English philanthropist and treasurer of the English Trust for Wheelock's Indian School, sent Wheatley donations for Indian missions in the colonies. Although Susanna was more actively involved in furthering Phillis's carreer as a prodigy and poet, John Wheatley put his name to the letter circulated in Boston and published in the newspapers attesting to the authenticity of Phillis's authorship of the poems (although some critics argue it was dictated by his son Nathaniel); this document is one of several that preface the edition of Phillis's "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" published in London in 1773. Wheatley freed Phillis after she returned from England and she continued to live in his house while she nursed Susanna through her final illness.

Kirkland, Samuel

Samuel Kirkland (b. Kirtland) was Eleazar Wheelock’s most famous Anglo American student. He conducted a 40-year mission to the Oneidas and founded Hamilton College (established in 1793 as Hamilton Oneida Academy). Kirkland won acclaim as a missionary at a young age by conducting an adventurous and risky mission to the Senecas, the westernmost of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations. After his year and a half among them, which was well publicized by Wheelock, he was ordained and sent as a missionary to the Oneidas under the auspices of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He spent most of the rest of his life serving the Oneidas as a minister. Kirkland’s sincere devotion to serving as a missionary was excellent publicity for Wheelock’s program, but it also brought the two men into conflict. Wheelock became jealous of Kirkland when the school’s British benefactors began urging Wheelock to make Kirkland his heir, and Kirkland, meanwhile, was upset that Wheelock had failed to provide him with sufficient supplies on his mission — a complaint that he was unafraid to publicize (and that almost all of Wheelock’s other students shared). The breaking point came in 1770, when Kirkland split from Wheelock’s Connecticut Board and affiliated with the New England Company, a missionary society that had abruptly turned against Wheelock in 1765. Wheelock and Kirkland briefly made up in 1771, but their relationship quickly dissolved into further acrimony. Although Kirkland spent most of his life as a missionary to the Six Nations, he generally held disparaging views of Native Americans. He did not approve of Wheelock’s plan to educate Indians as missionaries, and was haughty towards the Moor’s alumni that worked with him (notably David Fowler, Joseph Johnson, and Joseph Woolley). Prior to the Revolution, Kirkland had been stringent in his refusals to take Oneida land, even when offered to him. The Revolution seems to have shifted his loyalties from the Oneidas to local Anglo Americans. Kirkland served as a chaplain in the American army and was instrumental in convincing the Oneidas to remain neutral (or, more accurately, to side with the Americans). At one point he was the chaplain with General Sullivan’s army, the force sent to ransack Seneca and Cayuga territory in 1779. It is unclear what emotions this aroused in Kirkland, who had served the Senecas less than 15 years earlier, yet after the war, Kirkland freely engaged in Oneida dispossession. Along with James Dean, another Wheelock alumnus with close ties to the Oneidas, Kirkland played a pivotal role in urging the Oneidas to sell land illegally to the state of New York. The land deals that resulted gave Kirkland the property, financial capital, and connections to establish Hamilton Oneida Academy. The last decades of Kirkland’s life were difficult. He found himself in a three-way battle with Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr., who were also ministers in Oneida territory, for the hearts and minds of their congregations; he was fired as a missionary in 1797, although he continued to serve sans salary; one of his son’s business enterprises failed, leaving Kirkland nearly destitute; and two of his three sons died unexpectedly. Hamilton Oneida Academy, like Moor’s Indian Charity School, largely failed at its goal of educating Indians, and in 1812, four years after Kirkland’s death, it was re-purposed as Hamilton College, a largely Anglo-American institution. At some point in the mid-to-late 18th century, Kirkland changed his name from Kirtland, although the reasons for this are uncertain.

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