abstract: Williams writes a lengthy letter regarding news of his sister-in-law, events in Great Britain and in the colonies, and the desire of various tribes to receive missionaries. Mention is made of Samson Occom.
handwriting: Handwriting is very informal and extremely difficult to decipher. There is shorthand sprinkled throughout.
paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is heavily reinforced, which renders it difficult to discern the condition of the paper. It appears to be in good condition, however, with light creasing, staining and wear. The preservation work is beginning to wear around the edges.
ink: Dark-brown ink is somewhat dimmed by reinforcement.
noteworthy: As noted in the trailer, this document is a copy. Due to the extreme difficulty of discerning Williams’ hand, the transcribers have used their discretion with regard to letter case, shorthand, and abbreviations.
signature: The signature is abbreviated.
events: Occom's First Mission to the Oneidas
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
Honoured and very dear Sir
sure and thankfulness in September I am the more obliged for your goodness
in it as It came [illegible] from your friendship without any Motive of
My repeated letters to you which as you dont mention I conclude
you have not received. I Return My warmest thanks for your kind and most desira
ble friendship and but blush to See what Great Notice
you take of My respect and affection for my Dear sister; the
best and one of the most deserving of women for whom If I had any Senti
ments of Piety virtue, or Even humanity, I could Not but have
the most tender respect for the Sincerity, Integrity, tenderness of her heart, the
distinguishing accomplishments of mind God has blessed her with, her
undissembled piety, constant, friendship and undeserved affection and also
knowing that Tender Love she expressed for my dear brother (Now no More)
which induced her leave her Native Land her Dear and most deserving
Friends and come into a far distant Country among persons Unknown to
her. Alas what have I done for her? how little could I do but wish
It had been in My Power to Render her as happy as she could wish
to be. long before this Reaches you you will know that she has
changed her condition and Situation and Married Mr. William Smith of New York
a very worthy Gentleman and of high Character Among all virtues
People there and In this Colony to whom he is known; a Gentleman
of ample Fortune and one of his Majesty's Council there. there
are some circumstances connected I was afraid would not be agreeable to her
his Large Family, and the Place. however I confess upon the whole
I thought it advisable for her to comply with the
proposal, as Providence seemed Evidently to Point out and lead the
way and to open a prospect for her more extensive usefulness, and
hoping also it would be a means to dissipate the Gloom and melancholy which is too apt to Cloud her mind. that the Troubles [illegible][guess: must attend] her Situation had not [illegible] the
the uncomfortable solitude of her widowhood. Yet I own in giving
advising her to a compliance with the [illegible][guess: proposal] I was obliged to go Counter to My own most Strong de
sires [illegible][guess: knowing that [illegible][guess: by] [illegible][guess: Remove] I must be] Deprived My of some of the dearest Comfort and society
of my life. Parting with her was a Painful and bitter thing one of
the hardest Partings of my Friends I have Ever Experienced. for though there
is no Sea between us yet I have Never had the Small Pox
and the fear of [illegible]g the Infection at New York which is Seldom
Clear of it bars me from the hope of Seeing her. but the
prospect of her Comfort and usefulness teaches Me that tis my duty to bear Patiently
the loss or want of that pleasure I should [illegible] have enjoyed [illegible] life been spending in seeing
her frequently at her own house and sometimes at Mine. May Every
blessing of Life and godliness Attend her.
It is a sensible Grief Dear Sir that your bodily Infirmities
should Prevent the execution of any of the wise and Pious Plans
for usefulness to mankind you are [illegible][guess: framing] from time to time
and among the rest hinder me from receiving your Kind and Edifying Letters
I doubt Not Sir but a wise and Good God Makes this one Means
of [illegible][guess: rendering] you more Active and serviceable to the Kingdom of the Great
Redeemer. to this End you ask My Poor Prayers and [illegible] a most
forcible and delightful argument the interest I have in yours.
I most heartily thank you Sir for kind and daily Remembrance of
Unworthy Me I beg Your Continuance of that most desirable
favour for her
in which I do Not Remember my dear and Good Friend Dr. wood
and Recommend him, and his deepest interests his Precious Life
and usefulness to the Father of Mercies — Dear sir may our Holy Father
help us to Continue this Friendly Christian intercourse and correspondence
by the way of Heaven daily meeting there so long as we are on
this Side of it. this favour this blessing of your Kind, and [illegible]
[illegible] Remembrance of Me I Rank Among many others owing to
that wise and Good Providence which brought my dear sister from
her Native Land to this Country. and while She thinks her Life is
almost useless and Spent in vain I [illegible][guess: Such] Great May [illegible][guess: bring] kind and merciful [illegible][guess: Events]
of Providence issuing from it in a very Extensive Manner, and may God Ren
der her More and More useful in proportion to the [illegible][guess: truest] and [illegible][guess: enlarged]
desires of his heart. I was sensibly touched with the Intima
tion you gave of an uneasiness and Clamour existing in the Nation
by the Tax or Additional Duty on beer or ale, I have not heard
how the issue of it was or what Influence it had on the Election
of Members of Parliament but hope the best and that the Kind Pro
vidence which has for Such a time past overruled the public
Affairs in such a wise, Steady, and kind manner has Given you a
wise and Good Parliament. we In these distant Regions of the British Empire
Share the general [illegible] in the Happy occasion of So Good a King so
excellent and amiable a Man to the [illegible] of his [illegible] we feel the pleasure of the Delight
ful prospect of his Long and happy Reign and daily Send up our
ardent vows to heaven for the best blessings upon him the Queen
[gap: tear][guess: his Amiable] Consort and that the Nation and all its [illegible][guess: dependences]
may in him and his Royal house Enjoy the most distinguishing pros
perity and future [illegible][guess: Ages] Call him blessed. God has Truly done Great
Things for the Nation and for us in America, things which though we
long and ardently wished yet Scarce dare we hope to see. The [illegible][guess: redemption]
of Canada deliverance from the most false Cruel Perfidious Enemies
that Ever were let loose upon Mankind. how wonderful a mercy if
God Please to Incline the heart of the King and his ministers to keep
North America and never let His acquisitions here
Return to such bloody and deceitful Men as have been the Scourge of
this Country in all past times and [illegible][guess: as soon] as it is in their Power
will Extirpate and Ruin the English here. The Lord has done Great
Things for us whereof we are Glad. I wish I could say for which
we are thankful; and that the goodness of God had led us to Repentance.
what can I Say here? but take up your Lamentation [illegible][guess: our] [illegible][guess: Brittons]
Still we are a very wicked People vice abounds the Power of Godliness
is much lost from Among us. we Sadly feel one of the dismal con
sequences of war the Corruption of our Morals.
Extravagance, Luxury, and love of Show, vanity and sensual pleasure
and much profaneness. [illegible][guess: Sad] Returns these to the divine and Glori‐
ous [illegible][guess: Author] of the distinguishing favours poured upon us. I must
entreat your Fervent Prayers for us and those of All your Praying
Friends. there Seem to appear Some hopeful glimmerings among
the Indians in several distant Parts. The Commissioners at New York
last [illegible][guess: Summer] upon a motion made to y[illegible] sent up one Mr. Samson
Occom a Mohegan Indian Educated [illegible][guess: here] chiefly under the instruction
Mr. Wheelock one of the ministers in this Town) and was ordained
by a Presbytery on Long Island. a Pious Man and zealous to serve his Country
men and promote the knowledge of Christianity among them. he has been here since
his Return; and Informs me that he has been among the Oneida Indians
and Tuscaroras who border upon them and are much intermixed with
them. was very kindly received by them and he thinks first and last he
had above 500 [illegible][guess: hearers] and there are Many who appear very desi
rous to be Acquainted with the Christian religion and have Sent by him
to desire the Commissioners to Send Among them a missionary
who can Inform them what the [illegible][guess: bible] [illegible][guess: is] and the [illegible] [illegible][guess: the Great Saviour]
. they desire him to tell the Commissioners
that they have turned their backs upon their former Idolatry and
and Never Intend to look that way again but their Faces are
now turned towards Christ the Saviour and they are looking for him and Greatly desire to
find him . we are also informed that there
are some of the Susquehannock Indians who are disposed to [illegible][guess: live]
[illegible] to the Gospel. May God open a Great door and Effectual to let in the
knowledge of his son Jesus Christ into the hearts of the Poor [illegible][guess: bereft]
[illegible][guess: Savages]. and oh that our abuse of the Gospel May not pro‐
voke him to lure us to a Dull formality nor to a depar
ture from the doctrines of Grace or the Main Principals of
Calvinism for [illegible] [illegible] that in Proportion to
such a departure we sink, and are gone. I [illegible][guess: join] My earnest prayers
that God May Return to you [illegible] [illegible][guess: deepening] Religion in the
Congregations of the [illegible][guess: Dissenters] Multiply the [illegible][guess: Seed Sown] and increase
all [illegible][guess: hints] of righteousness among you.
our hearts Since I began the [illegible][guess: writing of yours] have Made [illegible][guess: Sad] by the News brought by the Packet
boat last week to New York that the Great Mr. Pitt has resigned his offices
New England, and America will be filled with Trembling on this
Important Event fearing the French will again Gain the possession
of that Country and be in A Capacity to be the Scourge and Plague
of the British settlements here. May that divinely wise and
all Powerful being who Rules the world Guide, and direct the
King, and Government and preserve the Nation from being again the
dupes of French Craft, and Perfidy, and [illegible][guess: losing] the blood, and treasure
Spent to humble that [illegible][guess: Haughty] and Ambitious Nation o
you Cant Conceive the
distress that Such [illegible] would bring upon Poor New England.
but if God So order we must Say the Lord is Right[gap: tear][guess: e]
ous our Sins and Ingratitude deserve it. ‡ ‡ if after all our raised hopes God pleases to [illegible][guess: let us] sink again under the dark prospects of [illegible] of trouble like the former [illegible] [illegible][guess: dismal]
I beg your Prayers that God would to [illegible] our posterity with him and be content that he should [illegible] as he [gap: hole] and [illegible][guess: taken in] to himself [illegible][guess: from]
the [illegible] to Come Never
the divine Spirit [illegible] [illegible][guess: me to] [illegible] together with you in My Prayers
that we may be daily [illegible] to Go to Jesus and the Spirit of the flesh
made perfect and meet together in the Joy and Peace of heaven. My
wife and children join in Most Respectful Salutations to you and
dear Mrs. wood, and your dear dr and her Rev. Consort whose Name
you dont mention.
Rev. Honoured dear Sir I am Your Most Affectionate Friend Brother and
Copy of My letter to Dr. Wood
of Norwich in answer to his
of February 16 last.
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).
William Smith (Sr.) was a famous New York lawyer and philanthropist who played an important role in establishing the College of New Jersey (which he served as a trustee) and King’s College (a project he abandoned once it became clear that the institution would be dominated by Episcopalians). He provided Eleazar Wheelock with some legal advice in the late 1750s and early 1760s, and his son, William Smith (Jr.), was a major proponent of Wheelock’s relocating the school to Albany, NY. William Smith immigrated from England to America in 1715 and earned his AM from Yale in 1722 (AB 1719). Despite potential as a minister and academic—he served as a tutor at Yale and was even offered the presidency of the college in 1724—Smith instead turned to the law and became one of the most eminent legal minds in New York and the mid-Atlantic. He was also very involved in New York City politics: he was an active participant in the Presbyterian faction and held several formal offices. He was Attorney General of New York in 1751 and a member of the Governor’s Council from 1753 until 1767. In 1763 he was made a judge. Several of William Smith’s political and legal activities affected Samson Occom’s life and career. First, he assisted Wheelock in legal problems surrounding the Joshua Moor estate (left to Wheelock by Moor, the school’s original benefactor) in the late 1750s. Second, he wrote a letter of recommendation for Occom prior to his aborted 1761 mission to the Oneidas. On less positive notes, William Smith was the counsel for Connecticut in the Mason Land Case, the 70-year legal battle that dispossessed the Mohegan tribe of much of its territory and which Occom vigorously opposed. More generally, he seems to have had a low opinion of Occom.
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.
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.
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.