Friday, November 13, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Death of The Tribal Church Series
A Series of Blogposts about the Stockbridge Mohicans and their relationship to the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?

Today's post:
Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Although Jeremiah Slingerland was a Stockbridge Mohican, Cutting Marsh described him as the kind of man who might wear the same kind of clothes as the Englishmen in this drawing.

One of Cutting Marsh's biggest charges against Jeremiah Slingerland regarded his handling of money. Marsh felt that "if an Indian has money he will lay it out for anything he may fancy he needs....[and] I find Mr. S an Indian still in this respect"(letter from Marsh to Greene, 11/18/1847, ABCFM Papers). Slingerland had asked the ABCFM for money more than once and he had explained that he needed it to buy clothes. When asked about the matter Marsh opined

His complaint about clothes would appear strange to one who should have seen...his wardrobe, the genteel manner in which he dressed daily and on the Sabbath and especially the pile of clothes he would furnish Monday morning for the wash. Mrs. M[arsh] repeatedly remarked whilst he lived with us [that] she would rather do the washing and ironing of two common men than Mr. S[lingerland] (quoted from Marsh's letter to Greene of 11/11/1847, ABCFM Papers).

Given the opportunity to defend himself, Slingerland wrote,

Respecting my economical habits, I suppose I have not shown them to that degree I might have done. But Sir, I ask who does? Who is not conscious of greater indulgences than what he ought to have allowed upon himself? (quoted from Slingerland's letter to Greene of 2/9/1848, ABCFM Papers).

Although we know that racism prevented Native ministers of earlier generations from making a decent living, there is really no way for us to determine whether or not Slingerland received enough pay for his work or whether or not he was disciplined enough to budget it properly. From our modern perspective it is nobody's business how one spends one's own money, but Marsh believed that the repairs on the mission property that Slingerland would make "would amount to five times as much as they would under a white man's direction." Furthermore, Marsh predicted that the mission property, if turned over to Slingerland, would be mortgaged within five years in order to pay debts. Marsh went into further detail explaining why he felt this way, bout, once again, it is impossible for us to know with any certainty how fair or unfair his opinion of Slingerland's spending habits were (letter from Marsh to Greene, apparently undated, ABCFM Papers).

But when it came to budgeting, it wasn't just Slingerland that Marsh complained about to the ABCFM, it was the tribe as a whole:

I have long felt and others have said the same that the Stockbridges ought to do something themselves towards [financially] supporting he gospel. when they want to send a delegation to Washington[,] which has been often since I resided amongst them[,] they will always find a way to get the means. When they want to employ a lawyer[,] which they often do[,] they will raise enough money to pay him. And it has appeared to me that the gospel ought to be considered as being worth something as well as the services of lawyers (quoted from Marsh's letter to Greene of 10/18/1847, ABCFM Papers).

Marsh acknowledged that the Indians were poor. but he noted that the neighboring Brothertown Indians provided some of the financial support for their missionary (letter from Marsh to Greene, 4/12/1848, ABCFM Papers).

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