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Alexander Chamberlain, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 October 19

ms-number: 767569

abstract: Chamberlain copies an excerpt from a London paper about a local appearance by, and the successful fundraising activities of, Whitaker and Occom.

handwriting: Formal hand is highly stylized, which somewhat mitigates legibility.

paper: Single small sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear. A tear at the bottom of the sheet results in a slight loss of text.

ink: Dark-brown ink is visible through opposite sides of the paper.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Rev. and Honoured Sir/
By Capt. Hall who arrived last Friday from London
we have Prints to the 13th August and the following paragraph is an extract
"London August 13th The Rev. Nathaniel Whitaker, D.. D.. and the Rev. Samson
Occom
, an Indian preacher from North America, who had been soliciting
contributions with great success, for the support of the Indian academy
in America
, under the care of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, D.. D.. instituted
and carried on by him for the instruction of Indian youths in the
English language, christianity and the civil arts, arrived at Newcastle last
week, from Scotland — and we hear that a subscription is opened at
the Newcastle bank for the promoting that truly charitable and
benevolent scheme, which has met with generous encouragement in all
parts of this kingdom where it has been proposed—"
Mrs. Smith has received letters from Mr. Smith
[gap: tear][guess: both] by Deverson and Scott, but mentions nothing of his returning
[gap: tear][guess: this] Fall, neither does he write any thing relative to your connections
 Mr. De Berdt writes me by Deverson
and desires a Copy of the receipt may be sent him, meaning the
Donaton of Mr. Hollis is for £ 100 Sterling, and that his Christian name
is Isaac, not Thomas—; as the receipt which you sent me was
Thomas and which receipt I forwarded Mr. De Berdt as you will please
to enclose me one by the Post, if no other opportunity presents
I dont further enlarge save in the Respect of,
your Obedient humble Servant
Alexander Chamberlain Junior
Chamberlain, Alexander Jr.

Alexander Chamberlain was a member of Wheelock's Boston support staff. He worked with Moses Peck to process Wheelock's finances. There was an Alexander Chamberlain in eighteenth-century Boston who was a sail maker and prominent member of the Old North Church. This identification would explain the Peck connection, as Peck was also a Boston merchant. However, there is little information on this sail maker and it is impossible to confirm that the two are the same man. This sail maker did have a son whom he named Alexander (b. 1754) which suggests that Alexander may have been a standard family name, and that the sail maker himself could have been a "junior." The paucity of genealogical evidence about Alexander Chamberlain does suggest that it was not an especially common name combination in eighteenth-century Boston and supports associating him with Wheelock's Chamberlain.

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.

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.

DeBerdt, Dennys

Dennys DeBerdt was a London merchant of Dutch descent, a dissenter who took an avid interest in American affairs and politics. Although he was not especially prominent in British eyes, many Americans, including Wheelock, venerated him as a valuable ally. DeBerdt tried to help Wheelock secure a charter for Moor's, but his efforts failed because the Connecticut Assembly was opposed. Otherwise, DeBerdt helped Wheelock in much the same way as other supporters did: he collected and forwarded donations and circulated information. He also hosted Occom, Whitaker, and J. Smith on their fundraising tour. In 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly elected DeBerdt as their agent in London, a post he held until his death in 1770. He also served as an agent for the Assemblies of Connecticut and Delaware. He frequently advocated for American interests in London, and was instrumental in the repeal of the Stamp Act. DeBerdt invested heavily in American trade, with poor results for his estate. Perhaps because he was a Dissenter and enjoyed limited opportunities in England, he thought American religious freedom was well worth defending. Virtually all correspondence between DeBerdt and Wheelock dates from between 1757 and 1763. DeBerdt's last letter to Wheelock was written in 1763, and Wheelock wrote to DeBerdt only sporadically after that (his last two letters are dated October 1765 and February 1767). It is not clear why the two men stopped corresponding.

Hollis, Isaac

Isaac Hollis was a Baptist minister in England and a philanthropist for Indian education in the colonies. He was the eldest son of John Hollis (1666-1733) and Hannah Sanford (d. 1740). John was a successful draper in London, and after his death, Isaac Hollis was invited by the minister Isaac Watts to donate to Indian missions in the colonies, a type of charity that had become fashionable in England. Through a complex ministerial network, Watts contacted the Reverend Benjamin Colman in Boston, who wrote to John Sergeant, missionary to the Housatonic Indians, with Hollis' offer to fund the support and education of 20 Indian scholars. Although this proved too expensive, Hollis did support 12 Indian students. He was also the major donor for Jonathan Edwards' mission to the Stockbridge Indians in the 1750s. Thus, it is not surprising that Dennys DeBerdt, who was raising money for Wheelock's school in London, reports soliciting funds from Hollis in 1761. That initial request failed, he reports to Wheelock, because for a long time Hollis has been a "French Prophet, and will think of nothing but his Enthusiastical Revealation." French Prophets were a millenarian group that grew out of the persecution of the Hugenots and left France to proselytize in England, where they attracted important followers. In 1767, Hollis eventually donated £100 to Wheelock's school, but was recorded in the accounts as Thomas Hollis. Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was Isaac's uncle, a well-known English philanthropist who gave large sums of money to restore Harvard's library when Harvard Hall was destroyed by fire in 1764. Wheelock's thank you letter to Hollis (manuscript 767170.2 in Dartmouth Rauner special collections, not in the Occom Circle) addresses him as Thomas, hence the message from Alexander Chamberlain in manuscript 767569.

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.

Smith, Mercy (née Bridgham)

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.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
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