abstract: Wheelock writes on behalf of the Narragansett Indians, who are losing their lands, and requests to know whether the reports of missionaries arriving from Europe are true.
handwriting: Formal handwriting is not Wheelock's. It is clear and legible.
paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. There is preservation work along the heavy vertical crease.
noteworthy: "HAVEMEYER COLLECTION" is typewritten across the top of one recto. As is marked on two recto, this document is a copy. A note in pencil has been added to the top left of two recto; this note has not been included in the transcription. There is some scratch writing in an unknown hand on two verso beneath the address.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
May it please your Excellency.
while I was on a journey; by which means it failed of an earlier convey‐
-ance. And with respect to the context of it, I would only beg leave, at the
desire of some concerned, to certify you, that the Rev. Mr. Fish is, so far as I
know, universally esteemed, a gentleman of Integrity and good Ability.
And accordingly the Representation he has made of the Case of the
poor suffering Indians at Narragansett, is to be relied upon, as being
faithfully and impartially done
Behalf of that poor people, that your Excellency would please take their
piteous Case into your Consideration, and if there be any way of relief
for them (which under God they expect chiefly, or only by your inter‐
position) that something effectual may be done to prevent that
total ruin which otherwise, according to all human probabilities,
is very speedily to be expected— They have bid the fairest to
be built up, and become a people, of any party of Indians
I know of in New England— and now just as they have got
well engaged in cultivating their Lands, and begin to know
the worth of them, by tasting the sweets of a civilized Life,
their best farms are slipping from under them, one after
another (as they express it) with much expense of Labour
and money also, which they have bestowed to subdue them.
And they have reason to expect in a very little Time, they
shall have none left, unless something effectual be speedily
done for their Help. The piteous complaints of this poor people
are truly such, as I make no doubt, sir, would greatly move
your Excellency's Compassions towards them, could you hear
Resolution, prevent all occasion to enlarge on this Head—
winter and spring, from your Quarter, as well as diverse Hints in
the public News, that a Number of Missionaries and schoolmasters were daily
expected from Europe to supply the Vacancies in your Vicinity:
on which I wrote your Excellency desiring to be certified of the
truth of the report, and to know your pleasure relating thereto:
But I have received no written answer— and as I have always esteemed
your Countenance and Patronage to be of such Importance, in this
Affair, that I would by no means take one step without your Appro‐
-bation; I have neglected to send either Missionary or schoolmaster,
this Year, to those places near you, 'til you should please to signify
your pleasure in that matter: and I have now sent my son to
wait upon you with this, desiring you would please to advise
me fully, whether you desire the board of Correspondents in this
Colony to provide supply of preaching for the parties of
Indians of the six Nations who are willing to hear, and school‐
masters for their Children; and whether your Excellency will
encourage those we shall send, in their respective services,
so long, and so far, as their conduct and Behaviour shall be agreeable to
to their [illegible][guess: "]respective Characters and professions?
-tion under my care, is now, by the blessing of Heaven, much
increased, and become respectable at home and abroad; and is honoured
with the patronage of gentlemen of Character, and great worth
in England, who have accepted the Trust of, and become
Guarantees to the public, for the fund collected in Europe, for
the use and support of it; (of which Trust the Right honourable the Earl
of Dartmouth is appointed president) whose Characters, and
influence are such, that I would by no means, have a step
taken which may not have their Approbation. And I should
be very sorry, if, by any means, party names, and circum‐
-stantial differences in matters of Religion. should so operate,
as to retard or prevent the progress, and success of the general
Design in View—
fully as shall be needful to determine my conduct
in this matter. and please, sir, to be assured that you
shall always be served with humility, and the greatest
cheerfulness, in anything that comes within the
Your most obedient, humble Servant
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.
Sir William Johnson was a powerful British colonial official who amassed wealth and influence by integrating into the Mohawk tribe. For a brief window of time (1761-1768), he provided support for Wheelock’s missionary efforts among the Six Nations. He also helped the Brothertown Nation of Indians procure land from the Oneidas. Johnson was born in Ireland in 1715. His family had been part of the Catholic elite, but after William of Orange’s 1690 victory at the Battle of the Boyne, they at least nominally converted to the Episcopalian Church. In 1738, Johnson emigrated to America to manage his uncle Peter Warren’s estate in Mohawk territory. Over the next decade, Johnson became wealthy in his own right through trade and land sales, acquiring a vast estate crowned by his manor house, Johnson Hall, which became the central location for British and Indian treaty making. In 1745, Johnson began collecting official British titles and positions. He played an important military role in the French and Indian War and was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756 and first baronet of New York in 1757. Much of Johnson’s success was due to his influence among the Mohawks, which he obtained by learning their language and customs and integrating himself into their society. He participated in Mohawk rituals and entered into a common-law marriage with a powerful Mohawk woman, Molly Brant (also called Mary Brant). Because Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) society is matrilineal, this marriage was an essential element of his participation in Indian affairs. Wheelock desperately wanted to wield missionary influence among the Six Nations, and sought to obtain Johnson as an ally in his endeavors. At first, the two found grounds for cooperation. Wheelock sent Occom as a missionary to the Oneidas in 1761 and again in 1762, and sent a substantially larger group of missionaries and schoolmasters in 1765, 1766, and 1767. Johnson, meanwhile, encouraged Haudenosaunee children, including his brother-in-law Joseph Brant, to attend Moor’s. Johnson’s support proved indispensible to missionaries in the field; he helped with supplies, language skills, and relations with the Mohawks and Oneidas. Wheelock also valued Johnson for his influence in Britain, and drew on him for recommendations and public statements of support numerous times. From 1763 on, however, Johnson found himself decidedly uncomfortable with Wheelock’s missionary efforts, and by 1769, their relationship had dissolved completely. In 1766, Johnson was invited to join the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the largest and most influential Anglican missionary society in the 18th-century British-Atlantic world. He began working to place Anglican missionaries, rather than Congregationalist and Presbyterian ones, among the Six Nations, which alarmed Wheelock. Johnson was generally supportive of Native American tribes’ efforts to maintain their land and sovereignty. As the historian Linford Fisher has noted, “virtually every major Native group in southeastern New England successfully petitioned Johnson to act on their behalf during the late 1760s and early 1770s.” Among these groups was the Brothertown Nation, a Christian composite tribe formed by Southern New England Algonquian Moor’s alumni. Johnson helped them negotiate with the Oneidas, which proved essential to their successful land purchase and relocation to central New York.
Joseph Fish was a moderate Congregationalist minister who held the pulpit at North Stonington, CT, from 1731 until his death in 1781. He is notable as 1) an ally of Wheelock and a member of the Connecticut Board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, 2) a moderate in the throes of the Great Awakening, and 3) a missionary to the Pequots and Narragansetts. The first point requires no explanation; the second two are closely related. Fish graduated from Harvard in 1728 and took a temporary post at Stonington in 1731. He was so popular with the congregation that they offered him a permanent position. For the first 10 years of his ministry all was well, but the Great Awakening segmented his congregation. The problem was that Fish was not strongly opposed to or strongly in favour of the Awakening, which led his church to split into not two, but three factions. As Fish's congregation dwindled so did his salary; however, when other congregations offered him their pulpits, what was left of the North Stonington congregation interfered, jealously guarding Fish's services. In addition to his career as a minister, Fish acted as a missionary to Native Americans throughout his life. From the 1730s on, he delivered sermons to the nearby Pequots and employed a schoolmaster for them (his employees included Moor's alumni John Shattock Jr. and Jacob Fowler). In 1765, Fish also began preaching to the Charlestown Narragansetts. He secured financial support from the Boston Board of the New England Company to open a school there as well, and hired Edward Deake to fill the post. However, Fish did not get along well with the Narragansetts, who had an established indigenous ministry, led by Samuel Niles and based around separatist principles. For Bible-centric Fish, illiterate and popular Samuel Niles was a ministerial nightmare. Fish and Deake served the Narragansetts until the mid-1770s, when the tribe politely requested that they stop.
William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth, was the reluctant namesake of Dartmouth College. Like many of his countrymen, Legge became involved in Eleazar Wheelock’s plans through George Whitefield, the famous evangelical who introduced Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker to Legge shortly after the pair’s February 1766 arrival in London. Legge proved critical in promoting Occom’s tour among the nobility, and took on a logistical role by helping to collect and oversee donations. Although Legge and Whitefield both felt it would be best if Wheelock were in total control of the funds raised in England, Occom eventually collected so much money that a formal trust was necessary to preserve propriety. This trust was formed in late 1766, with Legge as its president, to guarantee that Wheelock used the money appropriately. It soon proved that the Trust and Wheelock had different ideas as to what was, in fact, appropriate, but they were largely able to cooperate until 1769, when Wheelock obtained a charter for his school without informing the trust. (The trust, feeling that a charter would obviate its control over the British funds, had vehemently opposed it.) Adding insult to injury, Wheelock named the resulting institution Dartmouth—again without consulting Legge, and perhaps more to reassure the multitudes who had donated money than to honor the Earl. Legge never wrote to Wheelock again. Outside of his involvement with Wheelock, Legge had a brief political career. Although he was generally more concerned with religious and philanthropic matters, his station and connections (he was the step-brother of Frederick North, who was prime minister from 1770 to 1782) led him to take his first political post in 1765 as a member of the Board of Trade. During his tenure (1765-1767), and again while he was Secretary of State for the Colonies (1772-1775), Legge’s search for cooperative solutions proved unsuccessful during the build-up to the Revolution. His later positions were primarily ceremonial.
Ralph Rodulphus Wheelock was Wheelock's oldest son and heir apparent. While Wheelock believed that Ralph showed great aptitude for the "Indian business," others saw Ralph as arrogant and abrasive. He also suffered from epilepsy, which seriously impeded his ability to work. He died in Hanover as an invalid under almost constant care and guardianship. Wheelock's struggle to accept his son's illness and his son's struggle to overcome it provide an undercurrent for some of the stranger events in the history of Moor's Indian Charity School and Dartmouth College. Ralph grew up surrounded by and dedicated to Indian education, but also with an inflated sense of Wheelock's, and his own, importance, which stayed with him for much of his life. Joseph Brant recounts a telling anecdote: Ralph once ordered William Major, Sir William Johnson's son, to saddle his horse on the grounds that he was the son of a gentleman and William Major was not. Ralph was unable to finish coursework at the College of New Jersey, which he attended from 1761-1763, although he graduated from Yale in 1765. He made three tours of the Six Nations (in 1766, 1767, and 1768), assisting ministers in bringing back children and negotiating with tribes. He taught at Moor's for two years, and was briefly considered as a companion for Occom on the Fundraising Tour. Wheelock formally named him as his heir in the 1768 draft of his will. However, Wheelock's reliance on Ralph brought disastrous consequences for the school. In the spring of 1768, Wheelock sent Ralph to the Onondagas and Oneidas to negotiate about schoolmasters and missionaries. Once there, Ralph managed to offend the assembled chiefs beyond repair. Ralph blamed his failure on Kirkland, and it was not until 1772 that Wheelock learned the truth of the matter. It is likely that Ralph's conduct influenced the Oneidas' decision to pull their children out of Moor's later in 1768: Wheelock himself implied as much in his 1771 Journal. By the early 1770s, Wheelock had realized that Ralph was never going to take over Dartmouth College. In a later will, Wheelock provided Ralph with £50 per annum for his care, to be paid out by the College, and stipulated that his other heirs should look after his oldest son. Because Ralph was unable to serve as Wheelock's heir, the presidency of the College passed to John Wheelock, a soldier who had no theological training or desire to run a college.