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Eleazar Wheelock, letter, to the Trust in England, 20 June 1771

ms-number: 771370.1

abstract: Wheelock writes to enumerate his reasons for obtaining an incorporation for his seminary. He also writes that the Society in Scotland will not reply to his letters regarding the funds in their hands; and that Occom, about whom Wheelock has heard rumours of drunkenness, has not replied to recent offers of missionary work.

handwriting: Formal handwriting is clear and legible; it is not Wheelock’s. The signature, however, appears to be in Wheelock’s hand.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

noteworthy: An editor, likely 19th-century, has added the note "censure of Boston Board occum" to two verso. This note has not been included in the transcription.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain

Much honourd Sirs — —
The last I have receiv’d from the honourable Truſt
was of July 30th in answer to which I have wrote two Letters, the laſt
was of Nov.r 27th and am aſsurd by one from M.r Savage that one
(and I hope both) arriv’d safe —
I send this to the Care of M.r Patton inof Hartford in Connecticut,
with orders to incloſe a short Narrative which I latly sent to (and hear
has got thro’) the Preſs there; by which I flatter myself if my hon’d Pa‐
trons will give thimselves the Trouble to compare my Plan propoſ’d in
my former Letters with my Procedure since, you will find I have inva‐
riably kept the Same object in view, and that there has been as cloſe &
exact Conformity to it as could be expected amidst Scenes so various shifting
and difficult as I have been called to paſs through, and I am confident
had you been upon the Spot you would have approvd every Step I have taken
unleſs it was my attempt to effect so great an affair, as settling here
in this Willderneſs in so short a time, which the Event has Justified tho’)
my Trials have been were very great —
As to an Incorporation every Body here knows the Neceſsity of it
unleſs the Grants and Donations to this School had been made to me perſonally; and
even then I and my Succeſsors should have been expoſ’d to a Thouſand Slan‐
ders and evil surmiſings: Witneſs the Loads of Reproach which dear Mr
sufferd in all theſe Collonies not withstanding his great Popularity
extenſive acquaintance, and his having collected the moſt that was given by a
personal application, and that only or chiefly in Money commited to his Truſt,
and his Character at the same time supported by so many Persons of Repu‐
tation and Distinction throughout the Kingdom. Had there been 40000 Acres of
Land given for that Purpoſe instead of Money and that, by Gentlemen scattlerd thro’
the Country, none can reaſonably think that his Deſign could have surviv’d
the Standers and Reproaches of his Enemies, or that any thing short of an In‐
corporation could have inspird sufficient Confidence, that the pious De‐
sign should never be perverted either by him or his Succeſsors —

[left]The Honourabe Trust
Some of you my hon’d Sirs, have had a small specimen of the fruit
of this Temper towards this Deſign, and that too from a reputable Board
in Scotland Boston
— and what abuſive Slanders and falſhoods they pri‐
vatly and with solemn Profeſsion of Conſcience towards God, transmited to
their Constituents and this profeſsedly with a view to prevent the Succeſs of
Doctor Whitakers Miſsion to England; Theſe Men are not alter’d beſure not
for the better; I have repeatedly heard of the Boaſts of one of the chief of the[illegible]m
“That they have now done the Buſineſs for Doctor Wheelock, in England, and
that he knew it was done —
I have repeatedly wrote to Scotland respecting the Collection in the
the Hands of the Society there, but have receivd no Anſwer — by the Favour,
of a Friend I latly obtaind an Abſtract of a Letter from the Clerk of that
Society, to one of their Board of Corrispondents in Boſton, wherein he writes
them in the Name of the Society, in theſ[illegible]e words, “I am authorizd to in form
you that they at present give M.r Kirtland [illegible]£50 [illegible]Sterling, and Mr
the other Miſsionary £20 Sterling — This the Society continue to
allow and deſire it may [illegible][guess: continue to] be under the Management of your
Board.” signed James Forrest Clerk of Soc.” — —
If they deſign this to be the Improvment of that Money agreeable
to the Deſign of the Donors, you may judge as well as I whether it be under‐
standingly and wiſly bestow’d.— And to be quite plain I know of no other
Reaſon; and in my heart believe there is no other Reaſon of their Enmity,
and oppoſition to me and this Cauſe, than their Apprehenſion (and that
not without some Reaſons) [illegible]that our Colleges are generally reputed to be corr‐
upt, and on that Account are fallen into general Disasteem, by the more
religious Part of our Land, and that therefore the[illegible]ir [illegible] Eyes are (or like to be)
generally turnd upon this Seminary for the Supply of the Ministry am‐
ong Engliſh as well as Indians — It is not my hon’d Sirs a Mote in
the Eye that (Matt, 7.3) which they are offended at, but at the Eye itſelf,
and nothing will content them ‘till that be put out as well as the mote, — Before
I got a Charter the grand Objection was “He is alone and tis too much to
trust any one man so far: if he should be honest his Succeſsors will not &c &c
this Objection was too plauſible to be well refuted; but now that is removd
by a Charter, yet their Enmity and Oppoſition still continues the same
though that Weapon be taken away, and continue it will till God
give them an other view of things — nor have I any hope of Reconciliation
with them till then — And if the Servants of the Lord should imbibe the
Prejudice and turn against me, what a Caſe should I be in? But
my Hope is in God alone. and I cannot be afraid,— I have seen a great
sight the Buſh burning but not conſumed, the leaves all green and flou‐
riſhing while incir[illegible]cled with fire; and I dont believe their fire ever will
or can conſume it — I have greatly rejoiceed in the Goodneſs of God, in
honouring you to be emminently Instrumentsal, to honour Encourage &
further this deſign, — and I would not be instrumental to dishonour
you by for any worldly Conſideration whatsoever, — and I pray God you may
yet have the Satisfaction of and honour of seeing this Cauſe of the Re‐
deemer prosper in your Hands —
I have about 30 Labourers some finishing theſe Buildings in the
plainest and cheapeſt Manner, — others clearing and seeding these Lands —
others building a Saw mill, and grist Mill — my Expenſe is neceſsarily
very great at preſent,— I have made it my Rule not to exceed what
my little personal Estate will pay, in Caſe all my Friends should
forsake me — that I may not have the Uneaſineſs and Reproach of wrong‐
ing my Labourers —
It is a time of great Scarcity of Proviſions in this new Country, occaſioned
by the Worms and Drouth the last Summer,— all or the cheapeſt of my Bread
and Meat for my numerous Family, is transported above an hundred Miles
The preſent Crop looks very promiſing. I hope for plenty when that is ripe;
I shall accompliſh the whole in the cheapeſt Manner I can —
M.r Occum was left last Summer to fall a second time into the Sin of
Drunkenneſs in a public and very agravated Manner — In his Drunken fit
he got into an affray, and fought with a Man of the Company, and got much
bruiſed and wounded, in so much that he was confin’d & conceald in his Houſe for
some time — The Report of this spread far and wide, the wound given to the Cauſe
iswas great and it is yet bleeding — It is said that he humbles himself and walks
softly — He sent to me laſt Winter deſiring I would put him into Buſineſs —
I return’d him anſwer that if his moral Character was such that it might be
done without Dishonour to the Cauſe, I would indeavour to introduce and support
him on a Miſsion among the Onondagugas, which I had before repeatedly
deſird him to accept, as the London Board in Boſton have the Care
Care of his Tribe, and all others on the Sea shore[illegible][guess: s], and had done what they
suppoſ’d to be a supply for them,— He has yet made no Return, perhaps he may
think that the Proviſion made for his Support by the Scotiſh Society, may
suffice for his Support without the Fatigues of a Miſsion abroad —
I am impatient to hear from you and know whether my Doings are
approv’d or not— as I am with greateſt Duty & Esteem
Right Honourable, honorable, & worthy Sir’s

your moſt obedient & moſt humble Servt
Eleazar Wheelock
To The Honorable Trust
in England
June 20th

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.

Savage, Samuel

Samuel Savage was a London merchant and a member of the English Trust, the body formed to oversee money raised by Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker in England between 1766 and 1768. His shop was on Gun Street, in Spitalfields, and he was likely a weaver. Few other personal details are known. Like most of Eleazar Wheelock’s English contacts, Savage was a follower of the evangelical George Whitefield, transatlantic celebrity of the First Great Awakening, and it was through Whitefield that Savage became involved in Wheelock’s initial attempts to gain a charter in the 1760s. Once Occom and Whitaker arrived in London in February 1766, Savage was part of the informal committee that handled their correspondence and suggested targets for fundraising. He was also made a member of the Trust when it was formally established in 1766. Savage, like John Thornton, continued to provide Wheelock with financial support after the fund was exhausted in 1775. Although most of the Englishmen who worked with Whitaker and Occom found Whitaker insufferable and praised Occom, Savage displayed a marked preference for Whitaker. Like Wheelock, he was worried that Occom would become prouder than he thought was appropriate for an Indian, and he expressed concerns that Whitaker had not been paid enough to compensate for his long absence from his family (no similar concerns about Occom’s family were voiced). Since Savage’s views on Occom were very close to the New England norm and represent a deviation from most Englishmen’s views, one is tempted to conclude that he had spent time in America or had been born there, but that is pure conjecture.

Patten, William
Whitefield, George

George Whitefield, the English itinerant preacher who helped spark the Great Awakening, was an essential supporter of Eleazar Wheelock’s project. Whitefield studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the pioneers of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. He was ordained in 1736, and he made the first of his seven trips to America two years later. While abroad in 1740, Whitefield founded an orphanage in Georgia, and went on a preaching tour during which he met Wheelock and spread ideals that prompted the Great Awakening. Although Whitefield was ordained in the Church of England, his enthusiastic preaching style and charismatic personality made him a controversial figure, and traditional clergyman on both sides of the Atlantic censured him. Nonetheless, he continued to be an important contact and friend of Wheelock’s, and his dedication to Wheelock’s vision was evident. He contributed money to the cause, secured various other funders, and donated an eighty-pound prayer bell to the school. More importantly, Whitefield not only suggested to Wheelock the idea of a fundraising tour in Great Britain, he hosted Occom and Whitaker shortly after they arrived in England, provided a house for them to reside in for the remainder of their tour, and introduced the pair to influential figures such as William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth. Whitefield tabernacle’s was the setting of Occom’s first sermon in England on February 16, 1766, and many believe that Whitefield wrote the introduction to a pamphlet printed in London during the campaign (although he was not credited). Whitefield continued to be involved in Wheelock’s work until he died in Newburyport, MA in September of 1770.

Whitaker, Nathaniel

Nathaniel Whitaker was an outspoken Presbyterian minister with a long and wide-ranging career. Between his ordination in 1755 and his death in 1795, Whitaker ministered to five different congregations. His longest tenure was at Chelsea, CT (near Norwich), from 1761-1769, during which he joined Occom on his two-and-a-half-year fundraising tour of Britain. While in Chelsea, Whitaker was very involved in Wheelock's project. The two engaged in frequent correspondence, and Whitaker served on Eleazar Wheelock's Board of Correspondents in Connecticut, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Moor's Indian Charity School. At one time, he was Wheelock's presumed successor, but Dartmouth's Trustees demanded that Wheelock appoint another. Wheelock, in part due to his strongly-held belief that Native Americans were childlike and rash, was convinced that Occom needed an Anglo-American supervisor on his fundraising tour. After several candidates turned down the job, Wheelock selected Whitaker. He proved to be a poor choice; he was, by many accounts, a difficult man to get along with, and many of Wheelock’s British allies, including George Whitefield and the English Trust (the organization that took control of the money Occom raised in England) preferred to deal with Occom, although Whitaker insisted on handling the tour’s logistics. Furthermore, in Britain, Occom was the obvious star of the tour, and it was unclear to many why Whitaker asserted himself so prominently. Whitaker’s poor decisions seriously alienated the English Trust and increased their suspicion of Wheelock’s later dealings and treatment of Occom. He gave the English Trust the impression that they would have control over money raised in Scotland (which was in fact lodged with the parent organization of the SSPCK), and he was the executor of the “Eells Affair,” a plan initiated by the CT Board of the SSPCK to bring the money that Occom and Whitaker raised back to the colonies by investing it in trade goods and selling them at a profit (Eells was one of the merchants who was to help with the resale of goods). The English Trust learned about the plan by reading letters that Whitaker had given them permission to open in his absence, and were immediately shocked. The wording of certain letters made it appear that only a percentage of the profit from the resale of the goods would go towards Moor’s Indian Charity School, but beyond that detail, the English Trust was scandalized at the thought of money raised for charity being invested in trade. The English Trust blamed Whitaker entirely for these affairs, and issued specific instructions for Occom to notarize all documents requiring Whitaker’s signature. In short, they wanted Occom to supervise Whitaker, when Wheelock had envisioned the opposite relationship (both Occom and Whitaker seem to have ignored their instructions, preferring to have as little contact with one another as possible). In 1769, a year after his return to Connecticut in 1768, Whitaker found himself dismissed by his Chelsea congregation (likely because he had spent two and a half years away from them). He went on to serve several more congregations before his death in 1795. Whitaker was an outspoken Whig, and during the Revolution he published several pamphlets on his political opinions.

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.

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.

Forrest, James
Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
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