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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Concerning Learned Indian Youth

By Daniel Gookin (1612–1687)

[From Historical Collections of the Indians in New England. Written in 1674.]

THERE was much cost out of the Corporation stock expended in this work, for fitting and preparing the Indian youth to be learned and able preachers unto their countrymen. Their diet, apparel, books, and schooling, was chargeable. In truth the design was prudent, noble, and good; but it proved ineffectual to the ends proposed. For several of the said youth died, after they had been sundry years at learning and made good proficiency therein. Others were disheartened and left learning, after they were almost ready for the college. And some returned to live among their countrymen; where some of them are improved for school-masters and teachers, unto which they are advantaged by their education. Some others of them have entered upon other callings: as one is a mariner; another, a carpenter; another went for England with a gentleman, that lived sometimes at Cambridge in New England, named Mr. Drake, which Indian, as I heard, died there not many months after his arrival.

I remember but only two of them all, that lived in the college at Cambridge; the one named Joel, the other, Caleb; both natives of Martha’s Vineyard. These two were hopeful young men, especially Joel, being so ripe in learning, that he should, within a few months, have taken his first degree of bachelor of art in the college. He took a voyage to Martha’s Vineyard to visit his father and kindred, a little before the commencement; but upon his return back in a vessel, with other passengers and mariners, suffered shipwreck upon the island of Nantucket; where the bark was found put on shore; and in all probability the people in it came on shore alive, but afterwards were murdered by some wicked Indians of that place; who, for lucre of the spoil in the vessel, which was laden with goods, thus cruelly destroyed the people in it; for which fault some of those Indians was convicted and executed afterwards. Thus perished our hopeful young prophet Joel. He was a good scholar and a pious man, as I judge. I knew him well; for he lived and was taught in the same town where I dwell. I observed him for several years, after he was grown to years of discretion, to be not only a diligent student, but an attentive hearer of God’s word; diligently writing the sermons, and frequenting lectures; grave and sober in his conversation.

The other called Caleb, not long after he took his degree of bachelor of art at Cambridge in New England, died of a consumption at Charlestown, where he was placed by Mr. Thomas Danforth, who had inspection over him, under the care of a physician in order to his health; where he wanted not for the best means the country could afford, both of food and physic; but God denied the blessing, and put a period to his days.

Of this disease of the consumption sundry of those Indian youths died, that were bred up to school among the English. The truth is, this disease is frequent among the Indians; and sundry die of it, that live not with the English. A hectic fever, issuing in a consumption, is a common and mortal disease among them. I know some have apprehended other causes of the mortality of these Indian scholars. Some have attributed it unto the great change upon their bodies, in respect of their diet, lodging, apparel, studies; so much different from what they were inured to among their own countrymen.

These awful providences of God, in frustrating the hopeful expectations concerning the learned Indian youth, who were designed to be for teachers unto their countrymen, concurring with some other severe dispensations of God obstructive to this work,—some whereof may be hereafter mentioned,—caused great thoughts of heart unto the well-willers and promoters thereof. Some conceived, God was not pleased yet to make use of any of the Indians to preach the Gospel; and that the time of the great harvest of their ingathering is not yet come, but will follow after the calling of the Jews. Others thought that this honor of their instruction and conversion shall be continued with Englishmen. Others were of opinion, that Satan, the great enemy and opposer of men’s salvation, who had for many years held these poor barbarians under his dominion, did use all his stratagems and endeavors to impede the spreading of the Christian faith, that he might the better keep possession of his kingdom among them. But others, whose faith I hope in God was active and vigorous, did conclude that there was nothing more in these providences and remoras, than did usually attend and accompany all good designs, tending to the glory of God and salvation of souls; whereof plentiful examples are recorded in Holy Scriptures, especially in the primitive times; which in several chapters of the Acts of the Apostles may be demonstrated.