Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Robert Keen, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1767 November 30

ms-number: 767630.4

abstract: Keen reports on Occom’s illness and return to London, and encourages Whitaker to continue the rest of the tour alone.

handwriting: Handwriting is formal, clear and legible. The trailer appears to be in Whitaker's hand.

paper: Medium-sized sheet is in good-to-fair condition, with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear that results in a minor loss of text.

ink: Brown-black.

signature: The signature is abbreviated.

noteworthy: There are ink spots sprinkled throughout that are easily confused with punctuation.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain


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


Dear Sir

I received yours of the 28th instant enclosing 2
Bank bills of £20 each and a Bill on Thomas Cloake 10 days
after date £42 Total value in the above letter. £82 with
the accounts to Tenterden to all which I shall acknowledge To‐
‐morrows post — — I was surprised to see Mr. Occom on Wednesday
last when as I told him you were to meet him the next day
at Tunbridge wells — he said he had left word for you; but
I find you were not acquainted with it — I asked him how he
came not to meet you at Tunbridge wells and then have come to
London — he said he found himself very poorly and had a fever
on him then — — he went pretty early to Bed and as Dr. Sparks and
I dined with Mr. Whitefield he came whilst we were there about 2
o'Clock —Dr. Sparks sent him something to take and some sack whey
was made him and he lay in his old lodging — I saw him on
Saturday and he looked pretty well in the parlour below — he
made an engagement to come about 5 o'Clock this afternoon
to my house to drink Tea and Sup with us and go home about ½ after 9
—I've just now sent to know how he does and why he did not come?
my Lad brings me word he was but poorly but thinks he shall be
better on the morrow and will then come and dine with me — — if he had been
here tonight he should have wrote you a letter himself or a part in
this — if he should be better I thought he should meet you at least on
Friday Evening at Canterbury — but if you can pursue the 2 weeks
From Mr. Keen
November 30.1767
route you mention without him, do … and then come yourself to London — perhaps
you can do it as well without him and it will be a pity to miss any
places that you can accomplish in that time — you and I must
bear the burden and I dare say have had more of it to our share
then all the rest put them altogether — but it is for God, and the pleasur[gap: worn_edge][guess: e]
we have had to see the cause prosper has greatly overbalanced all
our trouble and fatigue — your friends here will be glad to see you
at the end of this Tour —as it will be then 9 months since you left londo[gap: worn_edge][guess: n]
it has pleased God to remove by death which I suppose you hav[gap: worn_edge][guess: e]
heard before now viz Sir Charles Hotham — all the others are
pure well, met together last week and are quite harmonious — neve[gap: worn_edge][guess: r]
any one disagreed or jarred with another — though Mr. Robarts said he
heard otherwise at Bristol — Remember me kindly to
Mr. Bradbury and his Lady — we often remember them at Mr. Wests
where we are to be tomorrow Evening — dear Mr. Brewer is to be
at our Annual meeting at the Kings head in the poultry and our
worthy friend Mr. Whitefield is to meet them in his room — I shall send
my Money to the Kings head but propose to be at Mr. Wests — Mr. Brewer
may perhaps get time enough to conclude with prayer — let me
hear from you as often as convenient and believe me to be dear Sir

Yours in the best bonds
Robert Keen
Keen, Robert

Robert Keen was a London wool merchant and an ardent supporter of George Whitefield, the eminent evangelical. Although it is unclear when Keen and Whitefield first came into contact, by the 1760s Whitefield was writing to Keen frequently. In 1763, Keen, along with Daniel West, was given the task of managing Whitefield’s religious enterprises in London (specifically, his Tottenham Court Chapel and the Tabernacle, another London church), which they continued to do after Whitefield’s death. Keen was also one of the four executors of Whitefield’s affairs in England (along with West and Charles Hardy). As a result of his relationship with Whitefield, Keen was introduced to Occom and Whitaker upon their arrival in February 1766. He was a member of the informal committee that collected donations before October 1766 and provided Occom and Whitaker with advice on their route and strategies. Keen also became a member of the English Trust, the formal organization formed in October 1766 to safeguard donations. As secretary and deputy treasurer of the Trust, Keen played an important role in transmitting accounts and correspondence between the Trust and Wheelock during the tour and the long process of Wheelock’s relocation to New Hampshire. Along with fellow Trust members Samuel Savage and John Thornton, Keen continued to provide financial support to Wheelock after the Trust had been exhausted.

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.

Cloake, Thos
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.

Whitefield, George

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.

Hotham, Charles
Robarts, Josiah
Brewer, Samuel

Samuel Brewer was a minister who served for 50 years at the Broad Street Church, also called the Stepney Meeting, the largest of the dissenting congregations (Congregational or Presbyterian) of London. Starting in the late 17th century, many dissenters, separatists, and independents congregated in Stepney, now a working-class and immigrant neigborhood in London's east end, but originally a village developed around the Church of St. Dunstan's on the outskirts of the city. Brewer took over the ministry at Stepney in 1746, when the congregation had dwindled, and increased attendance over the years, leaving a very successful church at his death in 1796. Though an independent, he was friendly with clergy from the Church of England, and was part of the group of eminent clergymen clustered around the evangelical preacher George Whitefield, his particular friend, who welcomed Occom and Whitaker when they arrived in London in 1765. Occom calls Brewer "a warm Servant of Jesus Christ," and records preaching at Mr. Brewer's meeting several times to crowded audiences who made generous collections for the Indian Charity School. Robert Keen mentioned Brewer as part of a group that met weekly to advise Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker on their activities and send letters of introduction and recommendation to the leading men of surrounding churches. Whitaker urged Wheelock to write to Brewer, among other energetic supporters, but there is no evidence that he did so.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
HomeRobert Keen, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1767 November 30
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only