abstract: Peck encloses a bill, and copies a letter from Whitefield to Mason regarding the controversy involving Occom and the New England Company.
handwriting: Informal handwriting is somewhat scratchy, yet mostly legible. There are several uncrossed t’s that have been corrected by the transcriber.
paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with moderate staining, creasing and wear.
noteworthy: A tag reading "GIFT OF MRS. THOMAS C. ESTY" is affixed to the top of one verso.
signature: There is no signature from Peck; Whitefield’s initials are copied at the end of the excerpt.
layout: The first page of the letter is on one recto, but the second page is on two verso, not one verso.
events: Fundraising tour of Great Britain
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
of, Six Large Sides of Sole leather, [illegible][guess: c] 93 wt. £4.19-2 —
And as. Could not get any Good neats Leather
now — I Shall get some and Send the next opportunity
Except you forbid it— The sugar and other
things Mrs. Smith Will Send — Mr. Whitaker has
Sent Me a Long letter, with a copy of Mr. Olivers,
which I suppose You have — I Shall Send a copy
to Mr. Little of Newbury etc.— That part of Mr.
Whitefields letter to Mr. Mason, Which Relates to your
affairs is as follows— London July 23-1766
My Dear Jonathan.
Stamp act — old friendship will not permit you to be long
Silent — bodily illness and a multiplicity of business
prevents my frequent correspondence — but I am doing
what Little I can for those to whom I Cannot write—
Blessed be God the Indian affair Succeeds and
will Succeed even beyond Expectation — Strange that
it Should be opposed only at least chiefly from your
Side the water — a letter is Said to be written by a
certain Board of Correspondence insinuating that Con=
=tributions were procured in New England and elsewhere
by representing Mr. Occom as a Mohawk (not a Mohegan)
and all a Sudden converted from a State of Heathenism
Christianity — as this is a palpable untruth and proved to
be So on this Side the water, it has Greatly lessened the
Character of the persons supposed to be concerned—
Surely, it becomes them to Clear themselves
both have Dreadfully influenced them to take
this unguarded, ungenerous, unchristian Step—
All Shall Subserve His Standing word
Satan thwarts and Men object
And Yet the thing they thwart effect—
think proper— I wish Mr. Blair Good success in
the name of the Lord— Love to All— Cease not
to pray for, my Very dear Friends
Copy of a Letter from
The Rev. George Whitefield
in Mr. Peck's with account of sole
Leather September 1766—
Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
to the Care of Rev. Nathaniel
by Mr. Breed.
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.
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.
Mercy Smith was the wife of John Smith, an affluent Boston merchant who supported Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker on their fundraising tour of Great Britain. She appears to have been remarkably active in her husband’s public affairs: she sent Wheelock bills and kept him informed about donations raised in Boston, ran John’s business while he was in Britain (1765-1768), and seems to have continued engaging in some degree of business after John’s death in 1768.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ebenezer Pemberton was a New Light minister who wrote the infamous "Oliver letter" to try to discredit Samson Occom during the latter's 1765 fundraising tour. He also opposed Wheelock's efforts to obtain funding from the Massachusetts Assembly. After graduating from Harvard in 1721, Pemberton served a five-year stint as chaplain at Boston's Castle William (Fort Independence). In 1726, First Presbyterian Church in New York hired him, although they allowed him to be ordained Congregationalist in Boston. Pemberton served First Presbyterian until 1753, when battles within the Presbyterian Church drove him out. He is noteworthy as the only minister in New York who welcomed George Whitefield, transatlantic superstar of the First Great Awakening, into his pulpit. While in New York, Pemberton was a member of the New Jersey Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. This board hired several missionaries, including David Brainerd, John Brainerd, and Azariah Horton, and established the College of New Jersey (which awarded Pemberton an honorary D.D. in 1770). Pemberton also preached at the ordination of John Brainerd, a Presbyterian minister with whom Wheelock worked closely. After the fissure in his congregation, Pemberton returned to the comforts of Congregationalism in Boston at the Old North Church (also known as the New Brick Church, and not the same Old North Church connected to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere). Pemberton joined the New England Company once he reached Boston. Along with other New England Company board members, he discouraged Occom's fundraising tour. He was also the author of the 1765 letter attempting to discredit Occom and Wheelock. Pemberton opposed Wheelock's efforts to secure money from the Massachusetts Assembly on at least two occasions, once in 1762 and once in 1766. After Andrew Oliver retired from the New England Company around 1770, Pemberton took over as de facto secretary. The Revolution forced Pemberton to give up his pulpit. He was a Tory, and Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts was a loyal member of his Boston congregation. The rest of the congregation was not pleased by Pemberton's politics. From February 1774 on, Pemberton was more or less in early retirement, and he died a few years later. Pemberton should not be confused with 1) his father, Ebenezer Pemberton Sr., who was minister at the Boston Old South Church, or 2) Israel Pemberton, a wealthy Philadelphia businessman who gave money to Moor's.
Breed was a vendor who traded with Occom and Wheelock. His wares included food, building materials, alcohol, clothing, and finished metal goods. He was a staunch Wheelock supporter, and helped hold and deliver mail for Wheelock, as well as sending his (possibly first-born) son, John McLaren Breed, to Wheelock's school (J. Breed went on to graduate from Yale in 1768). While Occom was abroad, he was more lenient in supplying goods to Mary Occom than other local vendors, such as Captain Shaw, but eventually, he too refused to sell to her on credit.