Chauncy, Charles

first name (variants): Chauncy
last name (variants): Chancy
honorific(s): Reverend
Birth: January 1, 1705
Death: Febuary 10, 1787

Harvard College; Old Light Congregationalists; Boston Board of Correspondents of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America; First Church in Boston


Graduated from Harvard in 1721, Doctor of Divinity from Edinburgh in 1742


Old Light Congregationalist





  • Boston, MA (from 1705-01-01 to 1787-02-10)
Marital status

Married three times. He had three children from his first marriage, and none from his other two.


Charles Chauncy was an eminent Boston divine, the most zealous proponent of Old Light doctrine, and Wheelock's lifelong rival. Born into functional Puritan royalty -- his grandfather, also Charles Chauncy, had been president of Harvard in the seventeenth century -- Chauncy had every social connection possible. He entered Harvard himself at age 12, graduated in 1721, and became copastor at the First Church of Boston in 1727. From this pulpit, he launched his attacks on New Light Congregationalists. While the Old Light/New Light schism was deep, Chauncy alone saw the split as a cosmic battle between good and evil. His notable polemics include his 1743 work, “Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England," as well as a 1744 open letter against George Whitefield. Chauncy had a long, bitter conflict with Wheelock. Wheelock was among those specifically named in Chauncy's attacks, and Chauncy used every avenue possible to frustrate Wheelock's plans for Indian education. As chair of the Boston Board of Correspondents for the SSPCK, Chauncy had plentiful opportunities to frustrate Wheelock, and was likely the impetus for Wheelock's creation of a Connecticut Board in 1764. Notable clashes between the two men included: 1) In 1761-1762, the Boston Board reneged on a promise to fund the education of a certain number of Indian boys. 2) In 1762, Chauncy formed his own society -- the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge among the Indians of North America -- and competed with Wheelock for sources of funding (specifically, a fund left by the late Peter Warren). This society planned to a) set up English day schools in Indian country and b) bring Indian boys back to English towns to be educated. Given the overlap with Wheelock's own goals and methods, it is fortunate for Dartmouth's history that Parliament denied Chauncy's society incorporation. For what is perhaps the most often cited letter on the feud, see Chauncy to Wheelock, 762165.


Eliot, Samuel Atkins. Heralds of a Liberal Faith, Volumes I-IV. “Charles Chauncy.” Beacon Press 1952. Accessed online via Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Fea, John. “Wheelock’s World: Letters and the Communication of Revival in Great Awakening New England.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 109 (April 1999): 99 – 144. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932.