The Mohicans of Stockbridge

By Patrick Frazier | Go to book overview

2
DECLINE OF THE SPIRITUAL

The people in London who wished to save Indian souls were professionals and businessmen who belonged to a philanthropic dissenter organization known as the Company for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and Parts Adjacent in America, later called simply the New England Company. Since 1649 its members had been interested in furthering the Puritan version of Christianity and had sponsored a number of Indian missions, including those of John Eliot and Thomas Mayhew. The company operated through its American representatives, known as Commissioners of the United Colonies, who in 1734 were headed by Massachusetts governor Jonathan Belcher.

Converting the American natives to Christianity had ostensibly been the principal aim of the Massachusetts Bay settlement, according to the charter of 1628. A century later some believed that this aim had been forgotten. Solomon Stoddard, a respected clergyman, suggested in 1723 that recent epidemics, Indian wars, and Indian alliances with the French might be signs of God's anger with the English for failing to spread the gospel among the natives. Massachusetts also had critics in London, and even Governor Belcher claimed that the colony had done little to live up to the goal of its charter. In March of 1730 he had suggested to the New England Company that it ask the provincial government to lay out a tract of land for the Indians to share with a minister, a schoolmaster, and some tradesmen, who could teach civilized Christian living and pro-

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