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Hezekiah Calvin, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 January 29

ms-number: 768129

abstract: Calvin confesses to drunkenness and going away without leave. He notes that he almost went to sea.

handwriting: Handwriting is small and clear, with commas used in place of periods.

paper: Four half sheets are folded like a book, with moderate wear, staining and creasing.

ink: There is some smudging and spattering of ink.

noteworthy: It is uncertain whether this is an original or a contemporary copy. Trailer is in another hand.

signature: Signature is abbreviated to “Hez, Calvin.”

layout: First page of letter is on two recto, not one recto. Pages follow normal sequence from there.


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



 Honoured Sir,
The Spirit of grati
tude lays me under an indispen
sable Duty of thanking you for
all the Care and Pains you have
taken in my Education. —
Tis true I have been Guilty of
drunkeness, but be assured the
misfortune which occasioned me
to Depart so, was my being in
Liquor, or I never would have
done it, I came to myself when
or after I had got to Lebanon Plains,
And after I found myself I was
so ashamed of myself that I did
not want to show myself in the
School no more, But designed
fully in my Mind to follow the
Seas or go home, But I concluded
to follow the Seas, I went to
sea brook and there I found my

me a sloop going to Virginia and in-
tended to gone off with her, but as I
was considering what I had been
about, there came in my Mind
something as if I could not go,
before I had given thanks' to
the Doctor for my Education
and then Leave to Depart from
his School and presence, — And
then after this I concluded to
come Back and see Mr. Wheelock
before I could go with clear
Conscience etc. —
Tis true I have been Guilty of
drunkenness now twice and of
going away without Leave numberless
and it is with Shame I put pen to
Paper, after having so notoriously
abused your goodness and have
brought a scandalous reproach
upon the School by being

Scandalously Drawn aside with
Liquor, thus to abuse thee, and thy
school
, for which I heartily beg
Pardon, promising double
diligence in watching against
any such evil Practices for the
future But having promised
so many times, I would not, that
you should any longer be deceiv-
ed — I am now returning from
my evil ways, to come home, and lay
myself on my bended knee, at
thy feet, that I may wholly
submit myself to the resent-
ment of a Master unjustly abused,
If the acknowledging my Crime,
can have any influence on
your goodness, I am sure of
success, I have incurred your
displeasure by my Ill Deed.

on the Eighteen Day of January
in the Year of our Lord 1768

A weakness in me that is always
attended with a hearty contrition
and therefore ashamed of that action
I leave the judgement of my
weakness to you all who are
present and am willing to suffer
the Judgment that ye will pass
upon me, having wholly
condemned myself already
worthy of great punishment
and then to be turned away from
the school with all the dis-
graces that can be. —
You know that our first
motions are so arbitrary in
their Violence, that in spite
of reason they will undergo
no Laws but their own

therefore I beg you would consider
that in the faults I have commit-
ted, there was more contributed
by Nature, than my own free will
But as all Mankind are subject
to failings, and none perfect I am
consequently liable to step aside
in Liquor and commit Errors
tis therefore I am heartily
Sorrow for being there drawn
aside from my reasons, but
laying myself low at the feet
of a just displeased Superior
imploring thy compassion
and acknowledging my fault

with Contrition subscribe
myself thine unworthy
Servant
Hezekiah Calvin

Calvins confession
January 29th 1768

Calvin, Hezekiah

Hezekiah Calvin was one of Eleazar Wheelock's first Native American students. Like Wheelock’s other early Delaware students, he was sent by the minister John Brainerd. Calvin was certified as a schoolteacher on March 12, 1765, and was sent to the Mohawks at Fort Hunter in June 1765. The Mohawks threw him out at the end of September 1766, and he returned to Moor's. Samuel Johnson, an Anglo-American Yale student who replaced Calvin at Fort Hunter, reported that the residents unanimously accused Calvin of being abusive and rude. Calvin, in turn, maintained that the Fort Hunter Mohawks had mistreated him. Calvin’s second stint at Moor’s did not go well. He wrote several confessions for drunkenness and bad behavior, and frequently spoke ill of Wheelock. He left the school in the spring of 1768, and took up residence with the Secutor family (Narragansett) at Charlestown, Rhode Island. Calvin left the Narragansetts sometime late in 1768, presumably after the dissolution of his relationship with Mary Secutor. Wheelock heard reports early in 1769 that Calvin had been imprisoned at Little Ease, NJ, for forging a pass for a Black man (Calvin does not appear in the county records, so either he was never indicted or Wheelock had his information wrong). By 1777, Calvin was in a position of prominence at Brotherton, NJ (a town of Christian Delawares founded under John Brainerd’s ministry). At some point after 1788, Calvin moved west with the Delawares: he may have moved directly to join the Delawares in Ohio territory, or he may have relocated to Stockbridge in 1802 and then moved west.

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.

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