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Nathaniel Whitaker, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 December 18

ms-number: 765668

abstract: Whitaker details the reasons for Occom's and his delay in sailing, and notes that Andrew Oliver was compelled to give up his position as Stamp Master.

handwriting: Whitaker's hand is formal and clear. It is occasionally difficult to differentiate between the letters “e” and “i” — in these instances the transcriber has used the correct spelling.

paper: Large single sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. There is some light repair work on a particularly heavy crease.

ink: Black-brown.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.



My Rev. and Dear Brother
You will doubtless wonder at the Date
of this Letter when you find I am Still in Boston
But he that rules all things hath So ordered it. I have
been assured by Capt. and owner too that next week,
and next week the Ship Should Sail but one thing and a­
nother has prevented, and chiefly, I believe, because the
custom house was not open for clearances, which yesterday
was opened, but not on Stamps
We have had a pleasant and odd farce here yesterday
Night before last, notes were Set up about town requiring
Mr. Oliver to appear at the tree of Liberty in order public
ly to renounce his commission of Stamp Master, which he
had received Since the former mob; on this the Secretary
Sent to the magistrates and principle merchants to wait on
him and protect him from insult; accordingly they went
yesterday in the rain to a certain house, where Governor
MacIntosh
appointed, and there Mr. Oliver renounced
his commission before the magistrates and merchants to their
satisfaction, judging that his honour was Sufficient to
satisfy the world that he would not act — where on the writ­
ing in which he renounced his commission was Sent into
another room to be approved by Gov. MacIntosh; and he Saw
fit to declare it would not do unless he would walk to the
tree of liberty and swear to it under said tree before the people.
and his Sovereign Mandate was immediate obeyed, and the Se­
cretary, magistrates and merchants walked in the Storm of
rain near half a mile in obedience to his Excellency's
command — So things Seem to be quiet — Capt. Scot came
in 7 weeks from London last sabbath brings no letters from Mr. Smith
who wrote and sent by Capt. Bruce a few days before. He
tells me that it Seems to be the general talk of gentle
men at home, that it will never do to put the Stamp act
From Mr. Whitaker December 18. 1765
Boston. into execution — If the weather favours we Shall Sail to
morrow or Saturday — One Mr. John Williams of this town goes
with us. He is going home to Seek the Superintendency of In­
dian affairs in Canada, and tis likely he will obtain it; and if he
does he Says he will give 5 or 600 per. annum to your design
He is a lover of good things and a generous gentleman, I wish we
may help him in this affair — I can't but think he may be a
great blessing — his wife is a pious woman; and I hope he
is not void of religion —
What the design of providence is in detaining us here I
can't tell, but I believe and trust that all is for the best —
Mr. Occom is well, and I am hitherto much pleased with his conduct
he behaves with great modesty and caution — he is not in­
vited to preach by any minister in town except Mr. Morehead
but he does not resent it — I have preached 5. or 6 evenings
every week, or thereabouts, Since I have been here, and never
Saw people more attentive and ready to crowd together, except
in times of awakening — I have not preached in public on a
week day except the Thursday lecture last week —
I hope you will endeavour to bear me on your heart
every day — The Eyes of all the continent almost are on me;
and if I should miscarry, what a wound would it give to religion
and to the cause I am on — o pray for me every day — and
for my family and people — Mr. Peck and wife Send love to
their Son and to you all, and Mr. Occom too — and how much, I
can't tell you, is Sent you all from
your brother in the best bonds
Nathaniel Whitaker
N.B. Yesterday Mr. Peck received from
Mr. Little 17 Pair of Shoes and a bun­
dle of Striped cloth etc. in a bag
which he will Send to Mrs. Whitaker the first opportunity
they were given last Spring by that people for your
School —
Mr. Wheelock
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.

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.

Marshall, John
Hancock, John
Oliver, Andrew

Andrew Oliver was an influential Boston merchant and politician, who was a member of several societies that funded Eleazar Wheelock, including the Boston Board of the New England Company (treasurer) and Massachusetts General Assembly (secretary). Oliver played an important political role in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts and, as a firm advocate of Indian missions, attended multiple conferences with Indian tribes. He believed that Anglican and Dissenter missionaries and societies could cooperate, and after Oliver and Wheelock were introduced in 1756, Oliver helped Wheelock access funding from the New England Company, the Massachusetts Assembly, and the Boston Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Their relationship deteriorated, however, when the London Board of the New England Company turned against Wheelock late in 1765. Wheelock became aware of the London Board’s change of heart through the “Oliver letter,” a letter purportedly written by Oliver (actually written by Ebenezer Pemberton) that was “injurious” to the characters of Wheelock, Whitaker, and Occom. In 1765, Wheelock also lost his funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. It is unclear what role Oliver played in these events. On the one hand, the breach between Wheelock and the New England Company coincided with the collapse of Oliver’s political career over his attempts to enforce the Stamp Act. Oliver may have been too preoccupied to be involved in the London Board’s change of heart; after all, Boston mobs were burning him in effigy. On the other hand, if Oliver was not involved, it is more difficult to explain why his correspondence with Wheelock ended abruptly in 1767 or why Wheelock lost funding from the Assembly and the London Board at the same time. Oliver would be the obvious link; but of course, Wheelock had many detractors in Boston and another explanation is certainly possible.

MacIntosh, Ebenezer
Whitaker, Sarah (née Smith)

Sarah Whitaker (maiden name Smith) was the wife of the prominent Presbyterian minister Nathaniel Whitaker. They had seven or eight children, the first being born in 1756. She wrote to him and raised their children while Nathaniel was away on his fundraising tour with Samson Occom (1765-1768). She must have lived at least until the birth of their last child, Jonathan Whitaker (born December 10, 1771), but she does not appear in the historical record after that time.

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.

Williams, John
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.

Peck, Moses

Watchmaker Moses Peck took collections for Occom, and Wheelock had an account with him that involved shipping items to Lebanon and debits/credits for funding Occom. It is possible that Peck was Occom’s credit source in Boston. He was enthusiastic about and involved in the Indian education mission, and offered Wheelock advice about how to deal with Anglicans. Wheelock had Peck print his brief defense of Occom to counter the London Society’s rumors. Peck paid to send his son Elijah to school with Wheelock, although Elijah eventually failed his graduation examinations.

Peck, Elijah

Son of Moses Peck. Moses paid to send Elijah to school. He occurs first in Moses' letter to Wheelock, dated December 24 1765. On September 18 1767, Wheelock wrote to inform Moses that Elijah had failed his examinations. It is unclear whether Elijah retook the examinations. He traveled home to Boston on September 23rd, and appears to have stayed there, as he went for a pleasure-ride on a boat with David McClure and John Wheelock on September 28 1769. Although both McClure and J. Wheelock were involved in Moor's/Dartmouth at the time (McClure as teacher, John Wheelock as student), it is unlikely that Elijah re-enrolled. He never graduated from Dartmouth, and although two Pecks graduated in the early years of the 19th century (1800 and 1807), neither was his son. Elijah disappears from written history around the time of his father's death in 1801.

Peck, Elizabeth (née Townsend)
Little, Ebenezer

Ebenezer Little was a Massachusetts merchant and a supporter of Wheelock's school, who shipped goods to Wheelock and helped the design however he could. His commitment to Wheelock's Indian School was such that the Reverend Parsons mentioned it in his sermon at Little's funeral. Manuscript 764662, not included in the Occom Circle, relates to Wheelock and Little's trade relationship. Little was very involved in the Presbyterian Church at Newburyport, as well as local government.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeNathaniel Whitaker, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1765 December 18
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