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Nathan Clap, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 June 28

ms-number: 768378

abstract: Clap confesses his sin, asks forgiveness, and asks to marry Mary Foey, Wheelock’s maid.

handwriting: Handwriting is slanted and somewhat scrawling, yet largely clear and legible. Letter case is frequently difficult to decipher, especially with regard to the letter S. The trailer is in a different, unknown hand.

paper: Single small sheet is mostly in good condition, however a large portion of it is torn away, which results in a loss of text.

ink: Strong black.

signature: Due to tear, the signature is missing.


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


Reverend and worthy Doctor
I do take this opportunity with
A great deal of humility acknowledging myself
not worthy of the Least favour from your honour,
who ha[guess: s] been so kind to my poor despised
brethren, and in particular towards me — but as I
am made to see the power and dominion of sin
and what a weak and frail thing man is
when Left to himself — I must confess with shame
that I have sinned I have done foolishly and am
not worthy to be reckoned into your family [illegible]
to be treated as such — I hope I have heard the voice
of Christ in some measure calling upon me as he did
unto the unconverted peter — Satan hath desire
to have you that he might sift you as wheat
but I have prayed for you that your faith fail
not, and when you are converted strengthen your
brethern — I desire your prayers for me that I
might reform to live Soberly and be more watch‸
ful and prayerful, against the delusions of my
sinful Lust, and that I may become a true
penitent — I humbly desire the Doctor's forgive
ness and I do promise by the grace of god assisting
of me to repent and to reform to live to the praise
Nathan Claps
June 28. 1768
of his glory —I desire to submit and yield my
self into the hands of the sovereign will of god,
and as I am brought to see what the powers
of Love will do, I do come at last I desire to
come humble and ask one petition of your honour
begging your kind and honourable compassions upon
me — but how to ask you I know not o pray Sir,
forgive my ignorance and stupidity and pray Sir please to grant that
Miss Mary foey your maid might be given to me to
wife — or vanish me away from the School,
I never thought She would prevailed with me
so much as to get my heart, — but I hope it is all
ordered by gods holy Providence to keep me humble
and as she has been exorting of me about the
things that nearly concern my soul, I am filled
with wonder and amazement to hear that I hope
god put into her heart to Speak unto me to
awaken my Poor sinsick soul —nevertheless
I desire to Submit and yield myself under your
honourable fatherly correction if it is to van:
ish me from the School I will go away and ac
knowledge it is no more than what I deserve
my hearts desire and Prayer to god is that all
things might be ordered for the praise of his own
Glory — I am grieved to think that I have grieved
and dishonoured you So much pray Sir please to forgive
me — though I Shall never forgive myself I wan­
nt to Say and write a great Deal but I must break
off hear begging that god would direct your
way before you and order what concerns me
in great mercy your affectionate pupil and very
Nathan Clap
Clap, Nathan
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.

Foey, Mary
HomeNathan Clap, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 June 28
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