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.

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

Rev. and Ever honoured Dr.  
forgive me for my Repeated presumpti‐ ‐on in Writing to you; But this once more give me leave to  acquaint you my Once kind Benefactor, the Case I at pres‐ ent am in; But as I have So often been found deceitful,  I know not as you will have patience to Read over this  my pretended Confession, as I said, Seeing I have showed  So much Deceitfulness in my pretensions, and 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. honoured Sir; to retu‐ ‐rn to you whom I have so greatly grieved, I dare not;  I am ashamed, and Conscience stings me to the very heart;  I am Sorry; my spirits cast down, Methinks, I feel in  Some measure the down Cast spirits of Cain when  he received his curse; but no Equal to his; though my —  Crimes are more than Equal, the thoughts of your  School haunts my mind daily, 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 everywhere, and is Acquainted with Actions  past. and will punish without Mercy those that  Be disobedient to his Laws, and Commandment  ere 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. though at other times all hopes Vanish  and leave me Under the Unfortunate Circumstances of a  Dissolute 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 destitute   Condition. But this encourages 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 their Misconduct.  But how can I make my sorrow Credible — which  none can Believe, but those that take Notice of me and  see it in my countenance which is Sad daily — 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  anyone Else. this I am sensible that your kind dispositi ‐on towards the Indians is very Great. neither am  I less sensible that my ungrateful, and vicious Actions  deserve Gods, and your highest Displeasure: —  it seems that I am forced to try the best Endeavours  in order to get myself once more under your kind directi‐ ‐on though I Undergo Ever so much that I Might at last at‐ ‐tain my End; though you sentence me to Ever so severe pu ‐nishment, or Even Banish me to the Unknown corner of the   world. yet I Believe I will wholly Leave myself to your  entire 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 seem 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 both of these I have) or of enduring hardships (for I do  live well and Easy as Ever I did during my whole Life) that I  want to Return to you, but entirely Because I am not in  my duty or in the way that God requires   Good God seems to be yet lengthening out his mercy to  me, though I have so openly Rebelled against Him, and has  graciously guided my doubtful 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 servant of God, by whose  kind advice, admonition, and precaution, Restrained me  from seafaring way which if I pursued would beyond   all doubt been the Ruin of me both for time and Eternity.  here he has persuaded me to stay and given me the privilege   of his Library out of which this winter I hope to gain  Instruction. here I am Under great Advantage of getting   knowledge, though far Short of what I could get at your  house. where I was as it were daily Under the droopings  of the Sanctuary. what would I give Even all that I have  or all that my care or Industry would gain Could I Recall  these fatal hours which which I consumed in senseless  vanities for now they Increase and Urge my pain and  trouble my Rest, Rest I have none in my Mind. I  am daily vexed with myself for my wickedness I am  sensible 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. although great part has  been by those who wished me well and had tender  Regards for me, Upon my promising a thorough   Reformation, has been Concealed. to my sorrow and  shame do I now Confess them, once, twice, yea three times  have I indulged myself in Brutish Ease whilst in the — 
wilderness, first Accidentally 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   Notice of By the Indians which was Occasioned by the  temptation of the Devil and together with the Distresses of my  mind and Uneasiness which perhaps you are altogether Ign ‐norant of or anyone Else besides the Indians. which by the  advice of Thomas I publicly 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 and Ruin.  as well as in many other which are well known to you.  I am sensible but too late it is no advantage to Cover things, under  deceit, as to any more of my Crimes they have perhaps already  shown themselves or will ever long. — Thus have I in  few faint words tried to Communicate my Thoughts to  you, with hopes and raised Expectations of being favoured   with an Answer. though I do not deserve 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 Condescend as to give me a word of encourage‐ 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 Miseries. honoured Sir; Should I say that  this was from the bottom of my Heart, perhaps like the Rest  would be full of Deceit, but I shall no longer trouble you with this   Unhappy Subject. I would just inform 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 encouragement, or so Unhappy as to entirely be Excluded I humbly  Beg that you would Be so 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 anything 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 though more the devils.   Joseph Johnson.  now living at providence  at Dr. Samuel Carrews an  Inn holder west side of the  Great Bridge. — 
To —  the Rev. Dr.   Eleazar Wheelock. 
Joseph Johnson's  December 28. 1768   
To —  The Reverend,  Eleazar Wheelock  D. D.  Lebanon.    Connecticut    per favour of  Mr. [illegible][guess: ] salster]