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Robert Keen, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1767 August 11

ms-number: 767461

abstract: Keen writes to Whitaker that he has forwarded letters and Narratives to him, including a letter for Occom about Mr. Mason being in London on Indian affairs.

handwriting: Very clear and formal, with large flourishes at the opening.

paper: Small sheet with heavy staining, creasing and wear. A large tear results in loss of text.

ink: Dark brown.

signature: Missing, due to tear.

layout: Concluding lines of the letter are written horizontally across the left side of 1 recto.

events: Fundraising Tour of Great Britain, Mason Land Case

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Dear Sr

I'm sorry your mind is uneasy in not hearing
from us — we have nothing particular to write about — you
are afraid we are displeas'd at your conduct by not hearing
from us; but that is a plain strategem of the Enemy to distreſs
you, for we have been always plain and open with you,
therefore hearing nothing from us, you should infallibly judge
there is nothing of that sort in our minds — on the contrary
I have wrote Two Letters to you both directed for you at ye Revd
M:r Ogilvie's at Newcastle upon Tyne — which if you have
not reced I would have you see after; the last did not go from hence
till ye 8th Inst & will be at Newcastle on ye which place you will have left
I suppose before that time; it contains 1 letter for you from abroad &
another from me to Mr Occom about Mr Mason who is here on the
Indian affairs — — — dont you hurry from places too much [gap: tear] [guess: ?]
one would think according to Mr Smith & others accot of Newcastle,
you might have spent 3 weeks or a month & done very considerable
things there — I shall repeat nothing of my 2 former letters in this, but
refer you to them — M.r Oliver sent 200 Narratives on Friday Morng 31st July
which though he blunder'd & sent by the Waggon they must get there in a week & a
little after sent 3 quire of papers with the letters to it as you desir'd — if on your coming
to Leeds more Narratives is wanting word & they shall be sent — but Mr Edwards
[left]took 100 at least with him from London ye beginning of June to distribute at Sheffield &c&c as you desir'd [gap: tear]
when you was there & if Mr Edwards has not return'd from Scarborough his daughter can let you have wha[gap: tear]
all your friends here (yt knows of my writing) desires [gap: tear] [guess: to] be kindly remember'd to you & Mr Occom [gap: tear]
I am D.r S.r
[gap: tear]
[left]P. S. Mr Smith read yours of ye [gap: tear] [guess: 5th Inst ] [gap: tear] this day to Sheerneſs [gap: tear] ye benefit of ye Saltwater
for 3 or 4 [gap: tear] [guess: d]ays — he seems pretty well

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From Mr Keen
of Augt 11. 1767

Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Newcastle upon Tyne, commonly called Newcastle, is a city located in northeastern England. The Romans occupied this area as early as 122 A.D. and used it as a military defense site. After the Norman Conquest, Richard II, eldest son of William the Conqueror, built a castle to defend eastern England against potential invaders from Scotland; hence, the town's name. Due to its key location along the Tyne River and near the North Sea, Newcastle became a center for trade in medieval England. During the English Civil War, Newcastle was put under siege and the city’s economic growth was hindered until after the Restoration. One of Newcastle’s chief exports was locally mined coal, which was often shipped to burgeoning London. By the end of the 17th century, other industries blossomed in Newcastle as well, further establishing the city as an economic center. In 1755, Carr’s Bank was founded in Newcastle, which was probably England's first bank outside of London. Newcastle was one of the stops on Occom and Whitaker’s fundraising tour of England. Their stop in the city was recorded in a London newspaper, which, according to ms. 767569, reported that “a subscription is open at the Newcastle bank for the promoting that truly charitable and benevolent scheme,” a reference to Wheelock’s Indian school.


Leeds is a city located on the River Aire in West Yorkshire in the northern half of England. Leeds was first known as Loidis (which may have been the name of a local tribe) in Anglo-Saxon times and was a Welsh-speaking area that defended itself against Anglo-Saxon invaders for a time. Loidis became known as Leedis in the medieval period, which is the basis for its current name. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, wool-making became the most prominent industry in Leeds and the town grew significantly. In 1661, Leeds appointed its first mayor. The wool and cloth industries were bolstered by Leeds’s location with links to the sea and to wool- and cloth-producing districts, and the town continued to expand throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom, London is located in the southeastern region of England along the Thames River. The outpost that would become London originated as a military storage post for the Romans when they invaded Britain in the year 43. It soon developed as a trading center and financial hub for Roman Britain. During a revolt against the Romans in 61, London was burned to the ground; the rebuilt town appeared in Tacitus’s Annals as Londinium. With the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Londinium became a Saxon trading town. Following the Norman Conquest, London retained its central political and commercial importance. In the 14th century, under Edward II, Westminster became an administrative center and London became the capital of England. In the early 18th century, London was an important hub for evangelical Christianity and home to many influential people, like the charismatic Anglican minister, George Whitefield, who were sympathetic to Wheelock’s missionary endeavors. Occom arrived in London in February 1766 on his fundraising tour for Wheelock’s school and preached his first sermon at Whitefield’s Tabernacle. London would be Occom’s home base for the next two years, as he and Whitaker travelled throughout England and Scotland. Occom made many friends in London who would continue to support him after his break with Wheelock and the School. By the late 18th century, London had replaced Amsterdam as the center of world commerce, a role it would maintain until 1914.

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.

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.

Smith, John

John Smith was an affluent Boston merchant who supported Wheelock’s school throughout the 1760s. It is likely that Smith and Wheelock were introduced by George Whitefield or someone similarly involved in evangelical and missionary efforts in the British Atlantic world: John Smith made somewhat regular trips to London for business, and had been in contact with Whitefield since the 1740s. Like the other Boston merchants who supported Moor’s Indian Charity School (including Moses Peck, William Hyslop, and Nathaniel Eells), Smith traded with Wheelock and kept him up to date on political developments in Boston, especially as they concerned attitudes towards Moor’s Indian Charity School. However, Smith was better educated (and likely more affluent) than the other merchants that Wheelock worked with, and, correspondingly, played a more important role than his brethren in Wheelock’s efforts. Smith publicized the school independently (his letter to an unnamed friend, catalogued as 764318.2, is one of the most cited letters on the organization of Moor’s) and assisted Wheelock in publishing the Narratives. John Smith’s greatest contribution to Wheelock’s design was his support during Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker’s fundraising tour of Great Britain (1765-1768). Smith set out for Britain in July 1765 to improve his health, and while there, acted as a vanguard for Occom and Whitaker. He managed their correspondence, suggested destinations, and served on an ad hoc advisory council that included George Whitefield, Samuel Savage, Robert Keen, and several other influential men. The pace of the journey caught up with John Smith, however, and he died in 1768 while in Britain.


J. and W. Oliver were the London printers who printed Moor's Indian Charity School publications in England, including Wheelock's 1766, 1767, and 1769 Narratives, and the 1767 composite narrative, "A brief narrative of the Indian charity-school in Lebanon in Connecticut, New England : founded and carried on by that faithful servant of God, the Rev. Mr. Eleazar Wheelock." They printed primarily religious and missionary titles. A Mr. Oliver, perhaps either J. or W., appears in several letters from Robert Keen to Nathaniel Whitaker written during the fundraising tour. In these letters, Keen responds to Whitaker's complaints about not receiving narratives from Mr. Oliver as quickly as expected. These letters offer an illustration of Keen and Whitaker's deteriorating relationship, as well as how difficult Keen found Whitaker's personality. Mr. Oliver the printer should not be confused with Andrew Oliver, a member of the London Commissioners in Boston and Massachusetts Assembly, who appears in different letters from the same time.

Fundraising Tour of Great Britain
After many months of planning and shifting personnel, Occom, accompanied by the minister Nathaniel Whitaker, sets sail in December 1765 for a two-and-a-half year tour of England and Scotland in order to solicit contributions to Wheelock’s Indian Charity School and missionary efforts. Introduced to aristocrats and prominent clergy by the minister George Whitefield, Occom preaches many sermons, travels widely, and collects a large sum of money.
Mason Land Case
This enduring and complex controversy begins with an ambiguous agreement of September 28, 1640 in which Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, either gives or entrusts a large tract of the Tribe’s territory to the Colony of Connecticut, to be overseen by Major John Mason, a long-time advisor to the Mohegans. Over the years, Mason’s heirs, on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe, resist the Colony’s claims that it owns the lands through a series of suits and appeals. In 1743, Occom attends hearings of the case, which has split the Tribe into opposing factions. The case is finally decided in the Royal Courts in London in 1773 against the Mohegans.
HomeRobert Keen, letter, to Nathaniel Whitaker, 1767 August 11
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