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Nathaniel Whitaker, letter, to John Erskine, 1767 June 17

ms-number: 767367.2

abstract: Whitaker writes to Erskine about the terms of the Trust and to debunk charges made against Wheelock that he is promoting Presbyterianism.

handwriting: Formal hand is largely clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair-to-poor condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear that results in a slight loss of text. The paper is heavily reinforced.

ink: Brown ink is dimmed somewhat by preservation work.

signature: Signature is abbreviated.

layout: The first page of the letter is on one recto in portrait orientation, but the second page is on two verso, not one verso, in landscape orientation.

noteworthy: As noted in the trailer, this document is a copy. A modern hand has written “13 x” at the top right-hand corner of one recto.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Rev. and Dear Sir
Yours of the 12th instant came to hand
yesterday. I was Sorry that we could not See you
before we left Edinburgh which we Should have waited to
have done on your return had it not been for two
or three circumstances which are too lengthy to
recite now. I Should most cheerfully oblige you
in Sending the answers to the Objections, but hope
you will excuse it for the present as I Shall
probably want them in the course of my tra­
vels. and have not time possibly to transcribe them
at present; perhaps it may answer as well when
I return to Edinburgh which will be in a few weeks.
As to the expression which is not agreeable in the
Societies recommendation, I hope it will give none of­
fence—#
The Objection made in a Company of minister, that
Mr. Wheelock is promoting Presbytery in opposition to the
Church of England you treat with becoming contempt;
for the Church of England had not a Single missionary among
# for I can't See that the manner of expression will at all obstruct or hinder
the issuing the moneys to Mr. Wheelock through the Trust in London appointed
by your commission and to be accountable to you agreeable to what you
mentioned to Mr. Smith [gap: hole][guess: and] me.
the Indians — were doing nothing for their conversion, were educating
no youth for missions; but employed all their money to promote episco­
pacy, not among the Indians, but among presbyterians who fled from their Tyranny in England and found a more peaceable
retreat among the wild Savages of north America. They were doing
nothing for the Indians, and must the whole world lie Still, and follow
their example, or be branded with party if they do not! —God will
take care of his own cause and one day show who are the bigots, yea
he hath shown it already if people would but open their Eyes to
See— With most respectful compliments to you and Mrs. Erskine and
Children, in which Messrs. Smith and Occom join, and asking your
prayers, I am, Dear Sir

your Obliged humble servant
Nathaniel Whitaker
NB We have preached for the Rev. Mr. McCullock, and if possible
will visit the Rev. Mr. Stoddart, but if not will write
to him our excuse
The copy of
a Letter to Dr.
John Erskine
Sent June 17. 1767
Blank page.
Church of England
The Church of England is the governing body of the Anglican Church in Britain and the Episcopalian Church in America. In the eighteenth century, the Church of England was at odds with the “dissenting” sects that had broken off from it during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, including the Congregationalists and Presbyterians. The divide continued in the colonies. The southern colonies (Virginia, Carolina, etc) and New York were predominantly Anglican, while the mid-Atlantic and New England colonies were home to an assortment of dissenting sects. Wheelock and Occom both had conflicts with Episcopalians. Wheelock feuded with the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), a functional arm of the Church of England, over access to the Six Nations (the other important Anglican missionary organization, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, or SPCK, was more concerned with book distribution). Meanwhile, Episcopalian ministers in America ordained their own Indian minister and sent him to England prior to Occom’s 1765 fundraising tour to distract attention away from Occom. However, this Indian spoke no English and was not a success. Once in England, Occom met with a cool reception from Anglican clergy, and Occom doubted their sympathy for the Indian cause. He wrote, "they never gave us one single brass farthing. It seems to me that they are very indifferent whether the poor Indians go to Heaven or Hell. I can’t help my thoughts; and I am apt to think they don’t want the Indians to go to Heaven with them" (quoted J. Brooks 86-87). In the broader history of Moor’s Indian Charity School, notable Anglicans include George Whitefield, the famous New Light preacher, and Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent for British Indian Affairs in the North East. Anglican influence, especially via Sir William Johnson, was a large part of the reason why the Mohawks sided with the British during the Revolution.
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) is an Anglican missionary organization. It was founded in 1701 to promote Anglicanism worldwide. In the American colonies, the SPG not only pursued missionary efforts among Indians and African slaves, it also strove to convert members of dissenting sects, or sects that had split off from the Church of England (including Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and Baptists). Wheelock clashed with the SPG over access to the Six Nations. Starting in 1704, the SPG sent periodic missionaries to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), especially the Mohawks. Anglican influence in the area expanded with the appointment of Sir William Johnson, the Superintendent for British Indian Affairs in the Northeast, an Anglican who set up his headquarters in Mohawk territory. Johnson was also Wheelock's link to the Six Nations. He was willing to help Wheelock as long as the SPG was not trying to place missionaries among the Six Nations; however, as soon as Anglican missionaries were available, he supported them to exclusion of Wheelock's missionaries. Thus, religion was yet another factor in the dissolution of Johnson and Wheelock's relationship. Once Wheelock withdrew from the Six Nations in 1769, the SPG took over entirely. The SPG also interfered with Occom's fundraising tour of Great Britain in 1765. They sent over their own ordained Indian to try to pre-empt Occom; however, their Indian minister spoke no English and was not a success.
Trust in England
The Trust in England was an organization formed in 1766 to safeguard money raised by Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker on their fundraising tour of Great Britain. Initially, no trust had been planned, but less than a year into their trip, Occom and Whitaker had raised so much money it became clear that a trust was necessary to keep the money raised reputable and thus protect the images of those involved. On November 28, 1766, a trust was formed consisting of William Legge (the Earl of Dartmouth), Baron Smyth, John Thornton, Samuel Roffey, Charles Hardey, Daniel West, Samuel Savage, Josiah Robarts, and Robert Keen. These men all had prominent public reputations, and by association provided a guarantee that funds would be used for the purposes for which they had been given. All told, Occom and Whitaker raised nearly £10,000 (not including £2,000 in Scotland, which was put under the control of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge), a far greater sum than initially projected. The amount raised attracted intense public scrutiny and, given that its members had tied their reputations to the money’s collection and maintenance, the trust became enormously concerned with how Wheelock would employ it. Despite a minor scandal involving an impolitic and ultimately abandoned plan to transmit funds to America by buying trade goods and selling them at a profit, Wheelock and the English Trust managed to avoid any serious breach until March 1770, when Wheelock informed the men in England that he had obtained a charter for Dartmouth College. Wheelock had tried to get a charter for Moor’s Indian Charity School in Connecticut throughout the late 1750s and early 1760s, and there were two components to his plan: he wanted to move the school to a place where he could have room to expand, and he wanted to obtain a charter to open a college. The English Trust supported the first goal, but not the second, as a charter would interfere with its control of the funds. Wheelock was determined to have his charter, however, and when the time came, he told the English Trust only about his plan to move. The trust helped Wheelock select New Hampshire as the site for his relocation, but it did not learn about the charter -- granted by New Hampshire governor John Wentworth, with whom Wheelock had been secretly negotiating -- until more than three months after it had been issued. Adding insult to injury, Wheelock, without consultation, named the college after Lord Dartmouth, informing the man himself after the fact. (After the charter was issued, Dartmouth never wrote to Wheelock again.) The members of the English Trust were outraged; to placate them, Wheelock made superficial motions to keep Moor’s and Dartmouth separate, though in practice the institutions were one and the same. Despite its displeasure, the English Trust continued to honor Wheelock’s requests for money until 1775, when the fund ran out. It also drew from the fund to support Occom, whom it believed Wheelock had mistreated, and Kirkland, whom it saw as more faithful to the design of Christianizing Indians than Wheelock. Once the fund ran out, Thornton and Savage continued to provide Wheelock with some financial assistance when he found himself in debt.
Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is located in Lothian, a region of the Scottish Lowlands on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. When Romans arrived in the area in 79 AD, they found and fought with the Celtic Britonnic Votadini Tribe, though they never settled there. In 1093, the Scottish King Malcolm III built his castle in Edinburgh, establishing it as the royal seat of a newly united country. The 1707 Act of Union united the kingdom of Scotland and the kingdom of England to form Great Britain, which took the Scottish Parliament and Crown out of Edinburgh. In 1752, the New Town Proposal responded to overpopulation and the unrest that troubled Edinburgh after the Act of Union, and was highly successful in bringing wealth and culture to the city. As a result, Edinburgh became known as the “Athens of the North.” In the 18th century, Edinburgh, along with London and the American colonies, became a key component of the transatlantic Presbyterian network. The city was home to the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), the Presbyterian missionary society founded in 1709 to anglicize the Scottish Highlands. When the SSPCK turned its attention to the colonies and efforts to christianize American Indians, New England witnessed an influx of Presbyterian missionaries and ministers who hailed from Edinburgh, including Robert Clelland, the schoolmaster at Mohegan who clashed with Occom during the Mason Land Case. Because the Connecticut branch of the SSPCK sent Occom on his fundraising tour of Great Britain, it was fitting that he and Nathaniel Whitaker visited the parent organization while in Edinburgh. The same year, the University of Edinburgh offered Occom an honorary degree in divinity, which he turned down. The University conferred an honorary degree on Wheelock, but neglected to grant one to Whitaker, despite his best efforts to lobby the school. Today, the city is still known as a center for intellectual life and, in 2004, the Scottish Parliament returned to Edinburgh.

North America
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.

Erskine, John

John Erskine was a prominent clergyman in the Church of Scotland. He came from a wealthy family, but despite his eventual inheritance decided to dedicate his life to the evangelical revival in Great Britain and America. In the mid-1730s, Erskine attended Edinburgh University where he took arts courses and began the law program, but in 1742, he transferred to divinity hall (after finally convincing his family of his desire to join the clergy). He was a leading member of Scotland’s Popular party, which opposed the law of patronage and supported popular votes for the clergy. By 1768, he became the party’s unofficial leader. Erskine was known for his dissemination of books with the hope of propagating religious ideas, and he used his influence to encourage booksellers to publish or print further editions of evangelical works at affordable prices. He regularly donated books to Harvard, Yale, the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), Dartmouth, and Dickinson College, as well as Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian School. He served as one of the chief directors for the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), securing funds for Indian Affairs and donating £600 to Wheelock's school in 1765. However, he objected to what he perceived as Wheelock's promotion of Presbyterianism as opposed to the Church of England. Nathaniel Whitaker worried about how Erskine's objection would affect the funds provided to Wheelock by the Trust in England. Still, Erskine remained committed to Native American causes and was present at the death of John Shattock in 1768, one of two Narragansett brothers who travelled to England in the hope of preventing the Niantic Sachem from selling further Niantic lands to the colony of Rhode Island. By the end of the 1760s, Erskine had become disillusioned with Wheelock and his school, and expressed displeasure with Wheelock's management of donated funds. He feared that Dartmouth would fall under Episcopal influence and questioned Wheelock's frankness in his procurement of the College’s charter. He was also disappointed that Occom and Kirkland were the only two distinguished missionaries with ties to Wheelock. When Erskine decided that Dartmouth College, with which Moor’s had merged, was not serving the intended purpose of providing a Christian education to Indians, he stopped providing funds. Throughout his life, Erskine penned pamphlets, sermons, and five theological treatises. During the Great Awakening, Erskine established relationships with a number of ministers in America, and because of these contacts became sympathetic to the American cause against Great Britain.

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.

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.

McCullock, William

William McCullock was a Scottish evangelical who oversaw a revival in his congregation at Cambuslang, near Glasgow, comparable to Jonathan Edwards' at Northampton. George Whitefield inspired both men, and together they demonstrate the Transatlantic nature of the Great Awakening. Occom and Whitaker preached at McCullock's church during their fundraising tour, and McCullock sent Wheelock boxes of books thereafter.

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.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
After many months of planning and shifting personnel, Occom, accompanied by the minister Nathaniel Whitaker, sets sail in December 1765 for a two-and-a-half year tour of England and Scotland in order to solicit contributions to Wheelock’s Indian Charity School and missionary efforts. Introduced to aristocrats and prominent clergy by the minister George Whitefield, Occom preaches many sermons, travels widely, and collects a large sum of money.
HomeNathaniel Whitaker, letter, to John Erskine, 1767 June 17
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