Item of the Day: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College (c. 1815)

Full Title: Sketches of the History of Dartmouth College and Moors’ Charity School, with a Particular Account of Some Late Remarkable Proceedings of the Board of Trusties, from the Year 1779 to the Year 1815. [n.i.]




Proper informations, and satisfactory evidences being given to the Hon. Society in Scotland, by their respectable Board of Commissioners established at Boston, its incumbrances were removed, and the school, at length, brought into more extensive operation.

In the year 1799, Dr. Wheelock employed the Rev. Lyman Potter on a mission to the Cherokees, 1100 miles to the south. He mingled with these wild natives–opened to them the book of life; and they appeared to receive the messages of divine grace with gladness. Soon after, communication was opened with the tribes of the Six Nations in Upper Canada. Joseph Brant, so memorable in the Indian annals for his improvements and exploits, sent two sons to be members of the same School, in which he had been educated, with letters of grateful remembrance of the founder, as, to whom, under God, he owed his elevation above the savage. One of them, more promising, died not long after his return and many hopes were buried with him. In 1802 Rev. Mr. Merrill, then preceptor of the School, visited the tribes in Lower Canada. The chiefs of St. Francis gratefully rejoiced to place their children in the path of instruction; and several of them were received. Three in general, and at times four, from the St. Francis, Caghnewaga and Algonquin tribes, have been maintained annually at the school till the last year. By obstruction of intercourse and interruptions by the war, there is only one at present; others are expected so soon as peaceful communications are opened.

All these have been supported at the school with every necessary, by the interest of its fund in the care of the society, through the medium of their commissioners, at the rate of about one hundred and thirty dollars per annum for each. Generally, they were regular and attentive, their improvements useful; and since their return, their conduct becoming so far as we have heard. . . .

A propension to improvement is natural to the human race, and to be discerned in nations and individuals. It is checked by  the incontroulable power of the elements, the occasional circumstances of living, and the oppression of despotism. The first cause operates on the Samoiede’s, the inhabitants of Lapland and Greenland: the second on uncultivated nations, in temperate climates, which may advance civilization, as the ancient Germans, Gauls and Britons; or on the lower order of people, in moderate goverments, confined to hard labor and want: the third on all who wear the servile yoke of despotic power, as in the empires of Turkey and Persia.

But some account of the American savages, as an anomaly. They consider the measures, and the zeal of two hundred years, to draw them to christianity and civilization–they note of the attempts, many abortive, and none answerable to expectation–and hence conclude, that they are either not susceptible of improvement, or consigned by the mystery of divine providence to ignorance and idolatry. The former opinion erases them from the list of our species, the latter is vitated by the pride of human exertions. The experiments, under unfavourable circumstances, have been imperfect, and the induction from them erroneous.

 1. The strongest attachment of man is to himself and his own opinions. His manners, deeply rooted in early life, and strengthened by age, are obstinate against the attacks of foreign influence; but yield to familiarized examples in the circle of his social intercourse. Conquerors never raised nations by the point of the sword, from ignorance to knowledge, from their cradle to manhood in improvements; but men, who sprang up in the bosom of their own societies, who were one with the people, and possessed talents and qualities which as the president de Goguet justly remarks, “gained the public esteem and confidence.” Such were the patriots, who, as Osiris and Phoroneus and Cecrops and Numa, by their examples, instructions and laws, accorded by their free countrymen, gradually improved their manners, and led them from barbarism towards refinement. Thus it was with the nations of Europe, whose early histories have been best preserved–and, turning to America, we may conclude it was so when they exchanged their wig-wams for cities in the empire of Mango-Capac; and the same in the advancememt of social order among the Mexicans. The Spaniards undertook by conquest and violence, and reduced the natives to servitude; but could never improve their manners.

In North-America, the English and French emigrators, actuated by milder motives, made use of forcible or accommodating measures, according to circumstances, in forming their settlements. Still, as the Spaniards, they have held the natives in the same contempt, that is natural for the civilized to hold the savage–they have treated them, as an alien and inferior race, never mingling in the interchanges of the social state, needful to inspire confidence, and familiarize, and draw the mind to descern, and taste the pleasures of cultivation. The colonial and state governments have beheld with a despotic eye the tribes within their limits: the laws have provided for them some protection, without affording the rights of citizens. If the friends of the Redeemer, actuated by the benign precepts of the gospel, have, at times, ardently engaged to promote instruction, and reform, among these western pagans, the work, for the most part, was attempted by solitary missionaries, occasional or transient residents, strangers to the manners of those, who were equally estranged to them and their cause. Far different were the undertakings of the apostolic age, which were sustained and prospered by miracles, and wonders, supernatural aids, not to be expected in after times. And far different in the fifth and following centuries, when to extend christianity the pious adventurers were more zealous and persevering, unappalled by perils and wo; when the political influences of the eastern and western Roman empires, and various orders of men. enlisted the clergy to promote the cause.

. . .


Leave a comment

Filed under American Indians, Canada, Early Republic, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s