Joseph Johnson, letter, to Eleazar Wheelock, 1768 December 28


abstractJohnson writes a long and melancholy letter confessing his sins and failures, and asking forgiveness.

handwritingHandwriting is small and somewhat uneven, but mostly clear and legible. The trailer is in an unknown hand.

paperThere are two separate sheets of paper: a large sheet folded in half to make four pages, and a large single sheet. The former is in good condition, with light staining, creasing and wear. The latter is also in good condition, but with more wear along the creases and some preservation work.

inkBlack-brown ink is slightly faded in spots.

Revd and Ever honoured Doct.r  
forgive me for my Repeated preſumti ‐on in Writing to you; But this once more give me leave to  acquaint you my Once kind Benefactor, the Caſe I at pre‐ ‐ſent am in; But as I have So often been found deceitfull,  I know not as you will have patiance to Read over this  my pretended Confeſsion, as I ſaid, Seeing I have ſhewed  So much Deciitfullneſs in my pretentions, & Undertak  ings, Since I have been Capable of being Improved  in ſome good way; But for Grant,— Which way, to Betake  myſelf — I know not, I am at a ſtand. hond Sir; to retu‐ ‐rn to you whom I have ſo greatly grieved, I dare not;  I am aſhamed, & Concience ſtings me to the very heart;  I am Sorry; my ſperits cast down, Methinks, I feel in  Some meaſure the down Cast ſpirits of Cain when  he received his curse; but no Equal to his; tho my —  Crimes are more than Equal, the thoughts of your  School haunts my mind day-ly, and to turn my face  that way I dare not, I ſee nothing but my Actions  in the deepest dye of Ingratitude ſtare me in the face  which Cauſes my heart to faint Under the thoughts  of Returning; but what Courſe to take, I know that  god is Every whire, and is Acquainted with Actions  past. and will punish without Mercy thoſe that  Be Dis Obedient to his Laws, and Commandment  Er long. — — — 
But how, it ſeems as if there was ſome probability, ſome  glimpse of hope yet, Some way of Being Recovered from this  Unhappy State. Tho at other times all hopes Vanish  and lave me Under the Unfortunate Circumſtances of a  Disſolate mind, which Roams at large with an Unſteady  temper. Once this Courſe of Life, at another that, but all  ſeem to yield no Comfort nor Satisfaction to My distitute   Condition. But this Encourges me at this time to make  this feeble Attempt, that you are ready to forgive when you  ſee a true Real and hearty ſorrow for there Misconduct.  But how can I make my ſorrow Credible — which  none can Believe, but thoſe that take Notice of me &  ſee it in my Countinence which is Sad day ly — upon  the thoughts of my past Behaviour. with how little  Consideration have I ſpent my past time little car‐ ‐ing whether I did any good or no Either to myſelf or  any One Elſe. this I am ſensable that your kind dispositi ‐on towards the Indians is very Great. neither am  I leſs Sinsable that my Ungratfull, & Vitious Actions  deſerve Gods, and your highest Displeaſure: —  it ſeems that I am forced to try [illegible]the best Endeavours  in order to get my ſelf once more under your kind directi‐ ‐on tho I Undergo Ever ſo much that I Might at last at‐ ‐tain my End; tho you ſentance me to Ever ſo ſevere pu ‐nishment, or Even Banish me to the Unknown corner of ye   world. yet I Believe I will wholly Leave my ſelf to your  Intire dispoſal. had you punished me Ever ſo ſevere and after ‐wards, ſent or Bound me to an auſtere man. I ſhould not  have been ſo Uncomfortable — for then I ſhould have been  in my duty but now ſeeme to be lost no one to Order or di‐ ‐rect me, but wholly trust to giddy chance of fate. 
It is neither for want of Improvement, nor for want of good‐ living (for booth of theſe I have) or of Induring hard ſhips (for I do  live well and Eaſy as Ever I did during my whole Life) that I  want to Return to you, but Intirely Becauſe I am not in  my duty or in the way that God Requ^i^res.   Good God ſeems to be yet lenghtening out his mercy to  me, tho I have ſo openly Rebeled against Him, and has  gracious ly guided my Doubtfull ſteps and has kept me  In good health, and not only that but has this once more  put me under an advantage of gaining Inſtruction.  Here I am Under the Roof of the ſarvant of God, by whoſe  kind advice, admonition, and precaution, Reſtrained me  from ſeafaring way which if I perſued would Beyound   all doubt been the Ruin of me booth for time & Eternity.  here he has perſuaded me to ſtay and given me the Previledg   of his Library out of which this winter I hope to gain  Inſtruction. here I am Under great Advantage of geting   knowledge, tho far Short of what I could get at your  houſe. where I was as it were day ly Under the droopings  of the Sanctuary. what would I give Even all that I have  or all that my care or Industry woud ^would^ gain dCould I Recall  theſe fatal hours which which I conſumed in ſenſleſs  vanities for now they Increaſe and Urge my pain and  trouble my Rest, Rest I have none in my Mind. I  am day ly Vext with my ſelf for my wickedneſs I am  Sensable that I have been guilty of the most heinous  Sins which has hurt and wounded the Redeemers Cauſe  and been of great disadvantage to your ſchool and dis‐ grace to the Religion of Christ. altho great part has  been by thoſe who wished me well and had tender  Regards for me, Upon my promising a thurrow   Reformation, has been Concealed. to my ſorrow and  ſhame do I now Confeſs them, once, twice, yea three times  have I indulged my ſelf in Brutish Eaſe whilst in the — 
wilderneſ, first Accidently and can well anſwer for it.  ſecond on purpoſe perhaps can as well anſwer for that,  the Third and the Only one (Beſides that of the last fall  which you have already had an Account of.) was taken [illegible]  Notice of By the Indians which was Occaſioned by the  temptation of the Devil and together with the Diſtreſses of my  mind and Uneaſsineſs which perhaps you are altogether Ign ‐norant of or any one Elſe beſides the Indians. which by ye  advice of Thomas I publickly made Confeſsion as is their  Custom. where they promised as it were to Bury in Oblivion  and let things be as if it never happened ſo. That of the last  fall I can ſay no more than has already been ſaid of it.  Theſe taken in Rank has been my misconduct & Ruin.  as well as in many other which are well known to you.  I am ſensable but too late tis no advantage to Cover things, under  deceit, as to any more of my Crimes they have perhaps already  shewn themſelves or will E'er long. — Thus have I in  few faint words tryed to Communicate my Thoughts to  you, with hopes and raiſed Expectations of being favourd   with an Anſwer. Tho I dont deſirve the least Notice or  Regards taken of what I write or ſay. yet this Once  grant that my mind may be at Eaſe in ſome meaſure  Either ſo much Condeſend as to give me a word of Incourage ‐ment. which will afreſh Revive my Drooping ſpirits  and kindle a ^new^ flame of Gratitude in me, in which way  might kind heaven grant I might End my days.  But if on the other hand which I most justly deſerve, that  you would turn a deaf Ear to my humble petition as I did  to your most kind Advices warnings, and Labours of love  for my own good and none Elſe the Returns of the ſame  is what I fear and justly Expect   if this— 
if this would Be the Event, I must in ſilence depart, and weep with  a Bitter cry as Eſau when he lost his Bleſsing. Then ſhould I  in ſadneſs ſpend the Remainder of my days, and would kind  Heaven grant, that I might be prepared to die; and then kind ‐ly put an End to my Miſerys. Hond Sir; Should I ſay that  this was from the Boottom of my Heart, perhaps like the Reſt  would be full of Deceit, but I ſhall no longer trouble you with th^is^   Unhappy Subject. I would just Enform you that through the Bound ‐leſs goodneſs of god I have Enjoyed my Unprofitable health, and  I hope that God has Indulged you with your health as Uſual.  I am so guilty that I have no heart to write any more only  this whether I ſhall be ſo happy as to be Indulged with a word  of Incouragement, or ſo Unhappy as to Intirely be Excluded I humbly  Beg that you would Beſo kind as to ſend me a word of Anſwer  Between this and the ſpring if you pleaſe So as I might be aſsured  one way or the other. pardon me if I have wrote any thing that ſeem to  have an air of pride for I feel much otherwiſe diſpoſed. Theſe few  Lines with my best wiſhes for the proſperity of all your Vast Un  [gap: stain][guess: der]takings I humbly Recommend to your wiſe Conſideration  and now ſuffer me the honour of ſubſcribing myſelf   
your  once humble ſervant tho more the devils.   Joſeph Johnſon.  now living at providence  at Dr ſamuel Carrews an  Inholder westſide of the  Great Bridge. — 
To —  the Revd Doctr   Eleazar Wheelock. 
Jos: Johnson's  Dec.r 28. 1768   
To —  The Reverend,  Eleazer Wheelock  D. D.  Lebanon.    Connecticut   
[left]pr favour of  Mr [illegible][guess: ] ſalster]