Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New England Company

A quote from William Kellaway highlights the difference between the Moravians and the Puritans: he wrote that "Puritanism was no religion for the illiterate." As a result, the Indians that lived in Stockbridge, Massachsetts from the 1730's to the 1780's received a better education than most white children that lived in the colonies, or at least it was better than the education of frontier whites. (Although it was generally understood then that school was for boys, not girls, the school at Stockbridge [MA] was for boys and girls.)

Anyway, as I've said before, the Stockbridge Mohicans accepted Christianity voluntarily. More specifically, they accepted an offer from the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, men mostly from Boston who were doing the legwork for a philanthropic mission society in London known by a number of long names, but later known more simply as "The New England Company."

William Kellaway's The New England Company, 1647-1776: Missionary Society to the Indians, was written over a hundred years ago, then reprinted by Barnes and Noble in 1962. Early in the book, Kellaway explains the Puritan mission philosophy: "The idea of the heathen receiving the grace of God while still in a savage state was inconceivable to the Puritan mind"(8).

There was no such thing as "diversity" then like we know it today. By teaching Indians to live according to white ways, the British believed they were doing the Indians a great service. And although today we believe in "diversity," the reality then was that white settlers were moving into the area and there was already a lot less game in the forests...the fur trade had already changed the Mohican economy and other parts of their society by the time they accepted their first missionary.

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