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David Crosby, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1767 November 4

ms-number: 767604.1

abstract: Crosby writes to Wheelock about a conversation among gentlemen who suspected Wheelock of insincerity, and criticized his plan for converting Indians before “civilizing" them by means other than force.

handwriting: Formal, somewhat stylized handwriting is largely clear and legible.

paper: Large sheet folded in half to make four pages is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear.

ink: Black.

noteworthy: The date at the top of one recto appears to have been added in a different hand and ink.


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


Reverend, and dear Sir

The unmerited friendship you have shown to me, and the generous
regard you seem to have for mankind in general; especial‐
ly the poor Heathen of the Land, discovered in your indefatiga‐
ble endeavours after their salvation, has, I confess, brought
me under some obligations of love and friendship to yourself,
And I am constrained to own, (that while you seem disinterested
in your views, while exercising your kind offices to others) that
I feel myself, strongly attached to your interest in all its Branch
es: accompanied, with my constant Prayers. for the
blessing of Heaven on your person, and family, and that
your endeavours for the conversion of the Poor Heathen might meet
with success. I could willing, at this time give you
a narrative of some conversation which passed at a gentleman's
table, the other Day, at Middletown, concerning your person
and interest, as also some account, of the mortification, and
pain I endured at the discove‐
ry of that malevolent disposition, harboured in the breast's of
too too many gentlemen, pretenders to honour, and Christianity.
Did I not foresee how much my officiousness might be liable
to be misconstrued into a meanness, which rather becomes
a meddling Fool, than a hearty Friend. but the confidence
I place in your charitable disposition, joined with the testimo
nies of my grateful friendship as expressed above shall serve in
the room of any further apology at this time.
I dined the other Day with several gentlemen whose
conversation ran for some time on indifferent things, and
finding my place quite at the lower end of the Table, I thought
my wisest part to learn my distance and to use my Knife
and fork handsomely, than to let my Tongue run, especially, as
I heard nothing uttered worthy of my attention until the
Reverend Mr. Wheelock's Name was brought on the Board
neither can I persuade myself I should then have been so
saucy, had you been present to have spoken for yourself.
While the gentleman of the house was only pleased
to observe that Mr. Wheelock was a very cunning
Man, and one who took care to Look before he leaped
and that he did not commonly act without design
I dont know but I could have borne that well enough
but when he came to deride your Plan for Christianizing
the heathen, and to insinuate as though your love for the heathen was
a pretence only, and sprang from the mean Motives of
avarice, and a desire of worldly wealth principally, I must
confess I lost all patience. 'Twas well the several gentlemen
were so well pleased with the countenance of each other
as that they took no notice of mine: otherways they would
have discovered the emotion of my Heart by the Blood in my face
while I was chiding my Heart for having offered to have betrayed
an angry party— the aforesaid gentleman was giving it
as his humble Opinion; that the only way to Christian‐
ize the Heathens was first to civilize them. The other gentleman
replied, that he humbly conceived that Powder and Ball were
the best ingredients to affect either. Having banished as I
hoped, that officious thing could anger, who is apt sometimes
to intrude himself, when his company would do more hurt
than good, and summoned reason into her office, I boldly de‐
manded of them what they thought would have become of
us gentiles: if so be the Lord Jesus and his Apostles had said the
same of us and so have denied us the means of salvation.
Upon this bold question, the company seemed to start, and look
at each other, as much as to say, who have we got here? but
the gentleman who was just now, so free with his Powder and Ball,
having recollected himself, as boldly demanded of me if I were a
Married Man? upon my answer in the affirmative, he demand
ed again; that if in case I were single, could I consent to Marry
an Indian squaw? I am sure you will not blame me, if I own
I took time to deliberate what answer to give. My antagonist perceiving
me, first to pause, then about to reply; prevented me, with an air of
insult, Why (said he) your put to your Trumps, now, it seems?
Why, I thought by such a question, I should soon prove your
Love to the Indians? but let me inform you (continued he)
that the only way to civilize the Indians, is first to Marry and in‐
ter-marry with them: unless we have recourse to Powder and Ball
as I just now hinted. Ah rejoined the other gentleman. you per‐
fectly accord with my Judgment, 'twas ever my opinion they
must in this way, first be civilized, before Christianized: but
as I am so well acquainted with human nature, as to know
the irreconcilable aversion, that white people must ever have
to black, I think I am warranted to judge of Mr. Wheelock's attempts
as altogether absurd and fruitless. For continued he,— so long as the Indians
are despised by the English we may never expect success in Chris‐
tianizing of them. I replied that what he said last might
probably be true, but then I was at a loss to account for the
conclusion they seemed to draw from this premise, viz. That because
I could not Marry a squaw, I must therefore of necessity despise
the Indians. They both warmly replied, that this must be
the necessary, and unavoidable consequence of not Marrying and
inter-marrying with them, and that for their own parts
they could never respect an Indian, Christian or no Christian so as
to put him on a level with white people on any account especially
to eat at the same Table. no— not with Mr. Occom himself be
he ever so much a Christian or ever so Learned. I was not suffered
to make a reply neither can I say I much desired it, but was more
glad to make my Exit so soon as the Table was dismissed. I most desire giv‐
ing you my private reflections on this discourse 'til further opportunity

Meantime beg leave, dear Sir— to subscribe myself your affectionate
Friend and very Humble Servant
David Crosby
East Hartford 1767.
PS I've not forgotten the encouragement Mr. Wheelock gave me of an honourable
employment, nor the reasons for which I suspected he might alter his mind
From David Crosby
East Hartford. 1767.
Received November 4th 1767
To
To the Reverend
Eleazar Wheelock
at
Lebanon Crank
Crosby, David

David Crosby was born, 1729, in Billerica, MA to David Crosby and Sarah Foster. There is very little information about his life. He married Elizabeth [Unknown] in 1756. They would have three children. By Sept. 1766, Crosby was acquainted with Eleazar Wheelock, whom Crosby admired and championed. He wrote and visited Wheelock at least through the late 1760’s. It is likely that Elizabeth died within the few months following November 1767. Mentioning his own mortality and his wish for a useful life, Crosby writes to Wheelock in March 1768 offering to indenture himself in order to join Wheelock’s school and be prepared as a missionary. Sometime after June 10, 1768, he married Anne Thomas of Lebanon, CT. They would have four children together. Crosby then returned to or settled in East Hartford where he died in 1819; Anne died there also the following year.

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.

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