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Samson Occom, letter, to Robert Clelland, 1768

ms-number: 768900.7

abstract: Occom writes a bitter complaint about the stories that Clelland has been spreading about him.

handwriting: Curvy, thick as if writer was pressing hard, lots of deletions, as well as some crossed l’s and uncrossed t’s, which transcriber has corrected; appears to have been written in an agitated state.

paper: Large rectangular sheet folded vertically; good condition with light-to-moderate creasing, staining and wear.

ink: dark brown

noteworthy: appears to be a draft; draft is undated

signature: abbreviated

events: Jewett Controversy


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


I wonder [illegible][guess: &] am amazed that you Cant let your
quiet neighbors alone, I hear and I believe it is
true, You are Continually writing, tittle tattles mak
ing disturbance among your good Neighbours, and I think
you may be properly called a busy Body according
to Scripture — If Mr. Jewett has called me a Serpent
I dont See that you have any business to call me
So — what if Mr. Jewett should kill a man, would you go
and kill another, because he did So, if you are
taking Example from Mr. Jewett why dont you
follow his good Deeds?— I heard you called a Thief and
liar in your own Country even at Edinburgh
and by your own Country men would it be right in me, or would you like it,
to Call you a liar and a Thief, and to Blaze it
abroad in writing — and You make great Complaint
and noise of being turned out, if You would but rightly
you could not Complain of any Body for You yourself turned
yourself out, of your own Country, You turned your
self out of our School, and You turned your self
of the Church, and You are turning yourself
out of the Favour of every Body as fast as you
Can, Except them that are of your Genus — take
Care that you don't turn your Self out of Heaven —

you represent me to be the vilest Creature in Mohegan
I own I am bad enough and too bad, Yet I am Hear
tily glad that I am not that old Robert Clelland, his Sins
won't be charged to me and my Sins wont be charged
to him, he must answer for his own works before
his maker and I must answer for mine — You
Signify, as if it was in Your Power to do me harm
you have been trying all You Can and You may
your worst, I am not concerned about, but I dont
Intend to Hurt you — Sir you have wrote to me
Several times and I never not wrote a Line, and you
have Extorted this from me. You need not write
to me any more for will not answer your
letters I won't Spend my Time and Paper about
them, if you have any thing to Say to me at any time
Say it by word of Mouth
I am, Sir, just what
you please

Samson:Occom

Blank page.
Sir
 I wonder you Cant be easy.
To Robert Clelland
Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is located in Lothian, a region of the Scottish Lowlands on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. When Romans arrived in the area in 79 AD, they found and fought with the Celtic Britonnic Votadini Tribe, though they never settled there. In 1093, the Scottish King Malcolm III built his castle in Edinburgh, establishing it as the royal seat of a newly united country. The 1707 Act of Union united the kingdom of Scotland and the kingdom of England to form Great Britain, which took the Scottish Parliament and Crown out of Edinburgh. In 1752, the New Town Proposal responded to overpopulation and the unrest that troubled Edinburgh after the Act of Union, and was highly successful in bringing wealth and culture to the city. As a result, Edinburgh became known as the “Athens of the North.” In the 18th century, Edinburgh, along with London and the American colonies, became a key component of the transatlantic Presbyterian network. The city was home to the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), the Presbyterian missionary society founded in 1709 to anglicize the Scottish Highlands. When the SSPCK turned its attention to the colonies and efforts to christianize American Indians, New England witnessed an influx of Presbyterian missionaries and ministers who hailed from Edinburgh, including Robert Clelland, the schoolmaster at Mohegan who clashed with Occom during the Mason Land Case. Because the Connecticut branch of the SSPCK sent Occom on his fundraising tour of Great Britain, it was fitting that he and Nathaniel Whitaker visited the parent organization while in Edinburgh. The same year, the University of Edinburgh offered Occom an honorary degree in divinity, which he turned down. The University conferred an honorary degree on Wheelock, but neglected to grant one to Whitaker, despite his best efforts to lobby the school. Today, the city is still known as a center for intellectual life and, in 2004, the Scottish Parliament returned to Edinburgh.

Mohegan

Mohegan is a village in southeastern Connecticut at the site of the present-day town of Montville, and is the location of the Mohegan Indian Reservation. The village gets its name from the Mohegan Tribe, or wolf people, who split from the Pequots in the early 17th century under the leadership of the sachem Uncas. In the 1720s, the Mohegans requested the colony of Connecticut provide them with an English educator. An English minister and schoolteacher named John Mason (no relation to Captain John Mason) moved to Mohegan in order to provide English-styled education to the Mohegans, convinced his sponsors, the New England Company, to build a schoolhouse at Mohegan, which eventually served as a boarding school for other Native American children from the surrounding area. During the 17th century, the Mohegan Tribe became embroiled in a complicated controversy over control of Mohegan land — known as the Mason Land Case or, more specifically, Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut — that included the village of Mohegan. The Tribe claimed that it never authorized a transfer of their lands, held in trust by the Mason family, to the colonial government. In 1662, the colony of Connecticut was incorporated by a royal charter, which included the disputed tribal land. The land controversy was revived in 1704 when descendants of John Mason, the original trustee, petitioned the Crown on behalf of the Mohegans, but the suit was finally decided against the Tribe in 1773. Born in Mohegan, Occom became involved in the Mason Land Case and vehemently argued for the rights of the Mohegan Indians to maintain their land, opposing Eleazar Wheelock and other ministers in the area. Although Occom left Mohegan for a 12-year mission with the Montauk Indians of Long Island, he returned at the end of 1763 with his large family to build a house in Mohegan, establishing it as his base of operations. Even after the creation of the Brothertown settlement in Oneida country, for which he served as minister, Occom continued to commute back and forth from Mohegan; he didn't sell his house in Mohegan and move his family to Brothertown until 1789. Many members of his family remained in Mohegan, including his sister Lucy Tantaquidgeon, who lived there until her death at 99 in 1830.

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.

Clelland, Robert

Robert Clelland was the Scottish schoolmaster at Mohegan who became a contentious figure. He began as schoolmaster in 1752, supported by the Boston commissioners of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge. Clelland resided in an apartment that was either adjacent or close to the school, and although he had a limited income, the Colony provided him with bread daily. Clelland had a close relationship with Reverend David Jewett, the white minister at Mohegan who oversaw the school and often lectured there; both Clelland and Jewett supported Connecticut in the Mason Case. However, Clelland conflicted with many other leaders in Mohegan. He repeatedly wrote to Eleazar Wheelock complaining about Ben Uncas III and his drunkenness, even though the sachem did not oppose the colony in the Mason Case and Clelland typically supported him. Clelland also developed a hostile relationship with Samson Occom; notably they held opposing positions during the Mason Case. Occom brought concerns regarding Clelland to the commissioners’ attention. He claimed the schoolteacher preferred the paying English students to the point that their presence was displacing Mohegan pupils, and criticized other ways in which Clelland ran the school. On September 19, 1764, the commissioners voted to release Clelland of his duties as schoolmaster. Notwithstanding, he remained until he was dismissed again on July 5, 1765. Occom’s involvement with Clelland’s dismissal further disrupted what was already a contentious relationship between him and Jewett. Clelland appears to have remained in Mohegan even after his dismissal.

Jewett Controversy
This crisis comes to a head in 1764 when Occom returns to Mohegan from Montauket and gains a following among the Indians and English. Robert Clelland, schoolmaster at Mohegan, fears he is being supplanted, and his patron, the minister David Jewett, thinks Occom is interfering and not sufficiently respectful. More importantly, Occom supports the Mohegan tribe’s claims in the Mason Land Case, in which Jewett, who opposes them, stands to lose considerable property. Finally, Jewett brings an official complaint to the Boston Board of Correspondents for the Society in Scotland for progagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), which employs Clelland, and to his own employers, the New England Company. The Connecticut Board of Correspondents for the SSPCK (of which Jewett was a member) tries Occom, and acquits him on all charges except that of involvement in the Mason Case. Despite a nominal reconciliation, bitter feelings linger between Occom and Jewett.
HomeSamson Occom, letter, to Robert Clelland, 1768
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