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ELEAZER WHEELOCK TO GENERAL SCHUYLER.1
[It is thought that this letter as throwing light on educational conditions in colonial days will be of general interest, far from the immediate locality of Dartmouth. Hence it seems to find a fitting place in these PUBLICATIONS. -Eds.)
[Editorial Summary-ASKING ADVICE AS TO REMOVAL OF SCHOOL; DETAILS AS TO TEACHERS, ATTENDANCE, INDIAN STUDENTS, PROPERTY, FARM, ANIMALS, CROPS; NEED OF AID, DEBT OF £1000; HELP FROM CONGRESS, J. PHILLIPS, OTHERS; GOOD POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS REASONS FOR GOVERNMENTS TO ASSIST IN EDUCATING INDIANS; WANTS SUCH FAVOR AT END OF WAR.?]
Dartmo. College 18th. Feby. 1777. Much Respected Sir;
I shall not think strange if at first you wonder that after such signal smiles and favor of Heaven upon this College
Eleazar Wheelock was born in Windham, Conn., April 22, 1711; was graduated at Yale in 1733. He then studied divinity and became pastor of a church in Lebanon, Conn., where he served for 35 years. His salary proving insufficient for his support he began to take pupils into his house, and after he had thus received Samson Occom, à Mohican Indian, he conceived the idea of an Indian missionary school, and by 1762 he had some twenty youths under his charge, chiefly Indians. Afterwards a fund of £10,000 was raised in England and placed in the hands of a board of trustees of which Lord Dartmouth was president. This fund was used in the establishment of a new school at Hanover, N. H., called Dartmouth College.
In 1770 Wheelock removed to Hanover, which was then a wilderness, and built log cabins for the reception of his students. This was the inception of Dartmouth College, and the letter shows that trials and tribulations were the lot of the first president, who died
As usual, all bracketed [ ] insertions in text, and all foot notes are by the editor.
and School from its infancy, and especially since its settlement in this country, I should now so soon and at such a time of my life think of removing it into your vicinity, and give you such evidence of my real intention so to do (if God should smile upon the undertaking) as to be at the trouble and expense of sending the bearers on purpose to communicate the design to yourself and other Gentlemen of character and influence in your State for advice, and if you approve thereof, for your direction and encouragement therein.
But when you shall fully be availed of the many weighty considerations which have given such a turn to my thoughts, I am persuaded you will think the matter worthy your serious attention.
I have indeed seen much of the goodness of God in inaking every step I have taken in the affair hitherto to prosper, since I came to this wholly uncultivated Wilderness where my number of Indian Children at School has generally been from fourteen to twenty one and of all on Charity about thirty. My whole number of dependent and independent Students in College and School has generally been for several years about an hundred, and their behavior has been from the first to my good satisfaction, with very few exceptions. The generous and catholic charter by which the Royal Favor so liberally endowed it, my son can show you on your desire. The School is Possess'd of about 40,000 acres of land the most of it good. I have built four good mills beside a number of houses, barns, etc. to accomodate the School. I reap't 114 acres of English grain last season, and cut an 100 Tons of good hay, and might with ease have cut as much more had not the resources for the expense thereof been cut off by our public national controversy. The School owns about 30 cows and eight oxen, and horses sufficient for the family, and has 4 or 500 acres of land well seeded with grass, and could have fatted an hundred oxen last year if I had been able to purchase them, and I think there is a fair prospect of a fund here as permanent as the soil for the support of scores of Indian children and others on Charity to the end of time. I have now two Indian youth in College, one in his last, the other in his second year and eight more (five of which are Canadians) fitting for College and all promising. Their being here together with that friendship which has been cultivated by the Missionaries I have from time to time sent to visit them, I have esteemed the surest bulwark and so sure a one against any invasion from the Wilderness to lay us waste, that I have never yet been disquieted at all with any apprehensions of danger from that Quarter. But ever since the first blockading of Boston, all succours from beyond the seas have been suspended, where was about 3000 ster. collected for my use. And I have been left to scramble along hitherto with all the weight of near 30 on Charity, and considerably in debt for labor and necessary stores for the support of those with myself and private family, four Tutors and a School-master, beside the great occasionable expense which my situation and public Character necessarily exposes me to, and thus I have proceeded till my debt was near £1000 Ster, mostly on interest, and in such a state of anarchy here in addition to the general poverty of new setlers that I have been in no capacity to collect what is due to me or the School, and could see no present prospect of paying the School's debts any other way than by the sale of the small private interest which I left in Connecticut, and accordingly have sent a man for that purpose which may relieve me as to the debts which crowded upon me, but will do but little towards cloathing my naked boys and necessitous family which cannot be any other way done than by money, as we are yet in no capacity to manufacture cloathing among ourselves, nor will the produce of these lands help in that matter as they have not yet more than payed the labor laid out in fencing and perfecting the cultivation of them.
Under and since the beginning of these tryalls I have received several charitable assistances, particularly several hundred pounds from Col. John Phillips, Esq., of Exeter, and 500 dollars two years ago from the Hon'ble Continental Congress to assist me in supporting missions to Canada. And I may take this opportunity to express my gratitude to your Honor for an additional expression of your friendship in rcommending my necessity to the charitable consideration of said Congress through the influence of which they kindly sent me 500 dollars, which assistances are the chief I have had by charities from abroad, and though I have been often urged to disburden myself by sending the boys home etc. and turn my attention wholly to my own private interests till our public troubles which crowd so distinguishingly hard upon me shall end, yet apprehending the continuance of these boys here to be of such consequence to the public, I cannot yet be persuaded to that step for relief.
But though I thought proper to let your Honor know my present state and some of the necessities of it (a more full and particular account you may have from the Bearer) yet none of these things discourage me. I hope in that same fountain of goodness which has supported this Institution hitherto that it will yet live and prosper through all storms and against all the devices of enemies to overthrow it.
But the considerations which have prevailed upon me to seek a new settlement for it, and if it may be at Mount Johnson which was Sir William Johnson's seat, and I understand originally granted to him by the Crown to encourage and accomodate him to serve God and his country as superintendent of Indian Affairs, but I understand his successor and all his lawful heirs have forfeited all rightful claim thereto and will likely be judged by your State to have so done (if God shall determine the present controversy in favor of the United Colonies) by joining with the ministerial party and drawing their own sword and inducing the Savages to draw theirs against their Country, etc.
If your State shall think favorable of this proposal the same object will be still kept in view, and it seems will be such a kind of retaliation for the malice of the grand adversary and his instruments against the redeemer and his cause and people in the land, as will inspire something agreeable to the minds of good men and occasion the thanksgivings to God of many to the latest posterity.
And I flatter myself that besides all the great religious motives in the Case your State may see such political reasons as may abundantly justify a very generous grant of that interest to introduce and incourage a Seminary so amply endowed by the Royal Favor (as you may see by a copy of the Charter) and which has already obtained such respect on both sides the water, as will naturally and justly raise the esteem and value of all your possessions and interests especially in that quarter of your State, and may be esteemed by all the United States as a proper expedient not only to christainize the Savages but attach and conciliate their friendship and prevent trouble and mischief from them in future times.
The present situation of this Seminary has been judged to be good by its Patrons in England, and a School or Academy may be continued here equal to the fund which has been or may be provided for its support without any disadvantage to the first object, on account of such a removal of the College, and another School may be collected for the same purpose where the College shall be fix't, and I apprehend from all accounts there is no part of our Country more inviting, which consideration was first and principal in engaging my attention since I heard of the forfeiture made of it, and I apprehend it may likely be much more agreeable to the Indians to have their children in the place and among the people of their acquaintance than at a greater distance and among strangers. And here we shall always be so far from any sea-port as will render the expense of transport