Eliot, John (1604-1690) (DNB00)
|←Eliot, John (1592-1632)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17
Eliot, John (1604-1690)
ELIOT, JOHN (1604–1690), styled 'the Indian Apostle' (T. Thorowgood, Jews in America, 1660, p. 24) and by Winslow 'the Indian evangelist,' was born either at Widford, Hertfordshire, where he was baptised on 6 Aug. 1604 or at Nazing, where his father lived (W. Winters, Memorials of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1882, p. 26). He was the son of Bennett Eliot, a yeoman holding land in the parishes of Ware, Widford, Hunsdon, and Eastwick in the same county, who bequeathed by will, dated 5 Nov. 1621, 8l. of the profits of these lands for the maintenance of his son John at Cambridge University (ib. pp. 39-42). John Eliot entered as a pensioner at Jesus College, 20 March 1619, and took his degree in 1622. He was for some years usher in a school at Little Baddow, near Chelmsford, kept by the Rev. Thomas Hooker, afterwards (1633) pastor of the First Church at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cotton Mather owned a manuscript account of this school written by Eliot, whose leaning towards non-conformity commenced under Hooker's administration (Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702, bk. iii. p. 59). Eliot had taken orders in the church of England, but his opinions led him to quit his native country. He landed at Boston in New England on 4 Nov. 1631 (John Winthrop, Hist. of New England, Boston, 1853, i. 76), going over in the same ship with Governor Winthrop's wife and children. Three brothers and three sisters went with him either then or shortly afterwards. 'He adjoyned to the church at Boston, and there exercised in the absens of Mr. Wilson, the pastor of that church, who had gone bock to England' (Eliot's own 'Church Record,' reprinted in Report of the Boston Record Coinmissioners, Doc. 114, 1880, and portions in New England Hist. and Genealog. Register, vol. xxxiii. 1879). Ho was so much liked that 'though Boston laboured all they could, both with the congregation of Roxbury and with Mr. Eliot himself, alleging their want of him, and the covenant between them, &c., yet he could not be diverted from accepting the call of Roxbury' (Winthrop, History, i. 111). Before leaving England Eliot was engaged to be married to Hanna Mumford or Mountford, who followed him a year after his arrival in the colony, and to whom he was married on 4 Sept. 1632, or rather October, says Savage (Genealog. Dict. ii. 109). This was the first marriage recorded in Roxbury. On 5 Nov. following he was established a 'teacher' of the church at Roxbury, an office he continued until his death, and at once began to manifest that love of learning, devotion to religious obligations, and chivalric ardour for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Indians, which always distinguished him. In 1634, having censured the conduct of the colonial government in concluding a treaty with the Pequots without consulting the whole community, he was called upon publicly to retract his observations. He was a witness against the religious enthusiast, Mrs. Hutchinson, on her trial in November 1637 (T. Hutchinson, History of the Province of Massachisetts Bay from 1628 to 1749, 1768, ii. 494). With Richard Mather and his colleague, Thomas Weld, he helped to prepare the English metrical version of the Psalms, printed by Stephen Daye [q. v.] in 1640, and known as the 'Bay Psalm Book,' the first book printed in New England.
Eliot states that he set himself to learn the Indian language with the assistance of 'a pregnant-witted young man, who had been a servant in an English house, who pretty well understood his own language, and had a clear pronunciation' (The. Indian Grammar begun, 1666, p. 66). He studied two years before he allowed himself to preach. His first pastoral visit to the Indians was on 28 Oct. 1646, at a place afterwards called Nonantum, on the borders of Newton and Watertown, Massachusetts. Here he delivered a long sermon in the native dialect, but prayed in English. Three other meetings were held, and the Indians are reported to have taken a lively interest in the proceedings. A practical step towards the civilisation of his converts was taken by Eliot in establishing settlements, giving them industrial occupations, clearings, houses, and clothes. They ultimately enjoyed some kind of self-government, with the comforts and securities of white citizens. He thought it 'absolutely necessary to carry on civility with religion.' The work was regarded with approval by his brother ministers, and money to found schools was sent by well-wishers even from England. An order of the home parliament was passed on 17 March 1647 requiring the committee on foreign plantations to prepare an ordinance 'for the encouragement and advancement of learning and piety in New England'(Francis, p. 132). An ordinance was passed on 27 July 1649 for the advancement of civilisation and Christianity among the Indians, and 'A Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating the Gospel among the Indians of New England' was instituted. The first township of 'praying Indians' was at Natick, where in 1651 a considerable number were established. A dozen more settlements were founded under the care of Eliot, who sought for the support of the general court in his proceedings. While fulfilling his duties at Roxbury he visited Natick once a fortnight, riding horsebock across open country. He begged clothing and other necessaries for his pupils. A water-drinker and abhorrer of smoking himself, he did not forbid his converts either wine or tobacco. The papooses always found small gifts in his deep pockets. The medicine men and sachems were hostile, and King Philip refused to entertain tlie English missionaries. A considerable sum of money was transmitted to America from the corporation in London. Salaries were paid to preachers (Eliot in 1662 receiving 50l.), an Indian college erected, schools founded, and the expenses of printing translations defrayed by the corporation, which was kept informed by Eliot ot his progress (sec letters in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc. November 1879, and Birch, Life of Boyle, 1772, pp. ccv-xiv). After the Restoration, 'the corporation being dead in law,' Robert Boyle procured a charter re-establishing its rights (Birch, Life, p. lxviii). The history of the missionary labours of Eliot and others is detailed in the series of 'Indian tracts' described below.
'The Christian Commonwealth' was printed in London by a friend of the author in 1659. On 18 March 1660 the governor and council in New England found it 'full of seditious principles and notions... especially against the government established in their native country' (Francis, p. 210). Eliot recanted before the court, which suppressed the book. The first Indian church was founded at Natick in 1660 the ecclesiastical organisation continued until the death of the last native pastor in 1716.
All this time the great work of Eliot's life, the translation of the Bible, was slowly progressing, in spite of his missionary labours and family cares. His earliest published volume in the Indian language was a catechism, printed in 1653, and five years later a translation of some psalms in metre. The two books are described by Thomas as having been printed at Cambridge by Green, but no copy of either can be traced (Printing, i 65, 66, ii. 311, 312). The version of the whole Bible in the dialect of the Massachusetts Indians was finished by December 1658, and the corporation in London was at the expense of putting the first sheet of the New Testament into type before 7 Sept. 1659. Samuel Green, successor to Stephen Daye, was the first printer, and was afterwards helped by Marmaduke Johnson. By 5 Sept. 1661 the New Testament was completed, and a copy sent by the commissioners to Charles II and others. Two years later the whole Bible was completed, being the first over printed on the American continent. The commissioners directed that a metrical version of the Psalms should be added. There is a page of 'Catechism' or rules for holy living. The paper is of good quality, of 'pot quarto' size, the type 'full-faced bourgeois on brevier body' (Thomas, ii. 314). Seventeen years afterwards a new edition was called for, and with the help of the Rev. John Cotton of Plymouth Eliot undertook a thorough revision. Green, the printer, and a native journeyman began the New Testament in 1680, and finished it about the end of the following year. The Old Testament was in course of printing from 1682 to 1685. The Psalms and 'Catechism' are included as in the first edition. It was produced at a cheaper price than its predecessor. Some well-used copies are preserved bearing the names of long-forgotten Indian, owners. Nine hundred pounds were forwarded by the corporation towards the expenses, to which Eliot himself contributed part of his modest salary. This marvellous monument of laborious piety is of considerable linguistic value, although no one using the language has been living for many years. The first edition is very rare, and good copies have sold for over 200l. The second edition is also eagerly sought for by American collectors. Baxter states that after Eliot had sent the king first the New Testament and then the whole Bible in the Indian's language, 'next he would print my "Call to the Unconverted" and the "Practice of Piety." But Mr. Boyle sent him word it would be better taken here if the "Practice of Piety" were printed before anything of mine' (Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, pp. 290-1). The translation of Baxter's 'Call' was, however, printed about the middle of 1664. An abridged version of Bayly's 'Practice of Piety,' a work of extraordinary popularity in its original form, appeared in 1665, as well as Eliot's 'Communion of Churches,' defending the utility of councils or synods; 'although a few copies of this small script are printed,' the preface states 'yet it is not published, only committed privately to some godly and able hands.'
With his sons John (1636-1668) and Joseph (1638-1694) (Sibley, Harvard Graduates, Cambr. 1873, i. 476, 530), who helped him in his versions, he had long talked over a proposal to put the dialect of the Indians into grammatical form, and, upon the suggestion of Boyle, printed, in 1666, 'The Indian Grammar begun,' described in the dedication to him and the corporation as 'an essay unto this difficult service... some bones and ribs preparatory at least for such a work. It is not worthy the name of a grammar.' The 'Indian Primer' (1669) and 'Logick Primer' (1672) were written for the native proselytes. In 1674 the number of 'praying Indians' was estimated at 3,600 (N. Morton, New England's Memorial Boston, 1826, pp. 407-15). During King Philip's war (1675-6) many fell victims to the suspicion both of their own countrymen as well as of the colonists, although they fought on the side of the English. The progress of Christianity among them never recovered from the blow. In the autumn of 1675 the Natick Indians were removed to Deer Island, 'patiently, humbly, and piously, without complaining against ye English,' says Eliot. In May 1678, when the exiles returned to Natick, one-fourth of all the natives in New England were considered to have been civilised, but their extinction was rapid after Eliot's death. One of his latest acts was to give by deed in 1689 seventy-five acres of land for the teaching of Indians and negroes in Roxbury. Down to 1733 all the town officers of Natick were Indians, who thirty years later were reduced to a single family. At the celebration in 1846 of the two hundredth anniversary of Eliot's first service one young girl was the sole surviving native representative.
'The Harmony of the Gospels' (1678) is a life of Jesus Christ with practical remarks. Eliot's tender solicitude for the natives was unbounded. For those taken prisoners in war he had the same active kindness as for his own converts. Writing to Boyle, 27 Nov. 1683, he requested him to use his influence to redeem some enslaved captives who had been carried to Tangiers (Life, p. ccx). He was visited by John Dunton [q. v.] in 1685, who states, 'He was pleased to receive me with abundance of respect' (Life and Errors, i. 115), and of the Indians, 'I have been an eye-witness of the wonderiful success which the gospel of peace has had amongst them' (ib. p. 121). Leusden dedicated his Hebrew English Psalter (1688) to Eliot. Mather, in giving Leusden at Utrecht, 12 July 1687, an account of Eliot's labours, describes him as formerly preaching once a fortnight, 'but now he is weakned with labours and old age, being in the 84th year of his age, and preacheth not to the Indians oftner than once in two months' (Magnalia, 1702, bk. iii. pp. 194-5). Elliot himself says to Boyle, 7 July 1688, 'I am drawing home' (Birch, p. ccxiii). The latest of his translations, that of Shepard's 'Sincere Convert,' was printed in 1689, and revised for the press by the Rev. Grindnll Rawson, an active missionary among the Indians. Eliot's lost words were 'Welcome joy.' He died at Roxbury 20 May 1690, aged 86, and was buried in the parish tomb in the old burying-ground. Monuments to his memory have been erected in the Forest Hills cemetery, Roxbury, in the Indian cemetery at South Natick, at Canton, Mass., and at Newton, near the site of his first Nonantum preaching. His 'dear, faithful, pious, prudent, prayerful wife,' as he called her, died three years before him. They had six children, a daughter and five sons, of whom one alone survived the parents (Savage, Genealogical Dictionary, ii. 109-10).
This was the Rev. Joseph Eliot, minister of Guilford, Conn., from 1664 to 1694, who graduated at Harvard in 1658, and whose son, Jared (1685-1763), is known as a theologian, physician, agriculturist, author, and friend or Franklin. Other American descendants of John Eliot are Fitzgreene Halleck, the poet (1790-1867), Professor Elisha Mitchell, geologist (1793-1857), Charles Wyllys Elliott, author (1817-1883), and Ethelinda Eliot Beers, poetess (1827-1879).
The authenticity of the portrait belonging to the Whiting family is doubtful. A good engraving from it is in the 'Century Magazine,' May 1883. A chair which belonged to Eliot is preserved in the First Church in Dorchester, Mass. A bureau considered to have been his is described in 'New England Hist. and Gen. Register,' October 1855 and January 1858. The position of his estate and house in Roxbury is pointed out by Drake (Town of Roxbury, 1878, pp. 174-5).
'Since the death of the apostle Paul,' proclaims Everett, 'a nobler, truer, and warmer spirit than John Eliot never lived ' (Address at Bloody Brook, in Orations, Boston, 1836, p. 614). This is no modern sentimental rhetoric. Eliot's contemporaries speak of him in enthusiastic terms. 'He that would write of Eliot,' says Mather, 'must write of charity or say nothing;' and Baxter, 'There was no man on earth whom I honour'd above him' (Magnalia, bk. iii. p. 210). He was the first to carry the gospel to the red man, and perhaps the earliest who championed the negro. Strangers with whom he came in contact spoke of the peculiar charm of his manners. He united fervent piety and love of learning to burning enthusiasm for evangelisation, these qualities being tempered with worldly wisdom and shrewd common sense. Taking into consideration the nature of his life, his literary activity is remarkable. No name in the early history of New England is more revered than his. Eliot was truly of a saintly type, without fanaticism, spiritual pride, or ambition.
The following is a list of the 'Indian tracts' already referred to. Most of them contain letters of Eliot, and some are wholly from his pen : 1. 'Good Newes from New England, by E[dward] W[inslow],' London, 1624, 4to. 2. 'New England's First Fruits,' London, 1643, 4to (anonymous). 3. 'The Day-breaking, if not the Sun-rising, of the Gospel with the Indians in New England,' London, 1647, 4to (erroneously ascribed to Eliot, says Francis, p. 346). 4. 'The Cleare Sun-shine of the Gospel breaking forth upon the Indians in New England, by T. Shepard,' London, 1648, 4to (contains letter of Eliot; reprinted in T. Shepard's 'Works,' vol. ii.) 5. 'The Glorious Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, by E. Winslow,' London, 1649, 4to (with three letters by Eliot). 6. 'The Light appearing more and more towards the Perfect Day, published by H. Whitfield,' London, 1651, 4to (contains five letters from Eliot). 7. 'Strength out of Weakness, or a Glorious Manifestation of the further Progresse of the Gospel,' London, 1652, 4to (the first published by the 'Corporation;' three editions in the same year; with two letters from Eliot). 8. 'Tears of Repentance, or a further Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel, related by Mr. Eliot and Mr. Mayhew,' London, 1653, 4to (published by the 'Corporation'). 9. 'A late and further Manifestation of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, related by Mr. John Eliot,' London, 1655, 4to. 10. 'A further Accompt of the Progresse of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, by J. Eliot,' London, M. Simmons, 1659, 4to ('This tract I have never seen,' Francis, p. 349). 11. 'A further Account of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, being a relation of the Confessions made by several Indians sent out by Mr. J. Eliot,' London, J. Macock, 1660, 4to (not the same as No. 10, unmentioned by Marvin or Dexter, copy in Brit. Mus.) 12. 'A Briefe Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel among the Indians, 1670, given in by Mr. Eliot,' London, 1671, 4to ('a small tract of 11 pp. which I have been unable to find... it was probably the first publication of the Corporation after their charter was confirmed or renewed by Charles II' (Francis, p. 349, reprinted with introduction by W.T.R. Marvin, Boston, 1868, 4to). 13. 'An Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in 1675-7' (presented to the 'Corporation' by Daniel Gookin, printed in 'Collections of Amer. Antiq. Soc.,' vol. ii., 1836, contains letter from Eliot). 14. 'A Letter about the Present State of Christianity among the Christianized Indians of New England, written to Sir William Ashburst, governour of the Corporation,' Boston, 1705, 18mo (this may be added to the series). Nos. 1 , 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, reprinted in 'Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections,' 1st ser. vol. viii., 2nd ser. vol. ix., 3rd ser. vol. iv., Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, in Sabin's 'Reprints.'
Eliot's other works are: 1. 'A Catechism in the Indian Language,' Cambridge, S. Green, 1653. (No copy of this is known. The same printer issued a second edition of one thousand copies in 1662, and a third or fourth in 1687, all at the expense of the 'Corporation,' see J. H. Trumbull, Origin and Early Progress of Indian Missions, Worc. l874, from Proceedings of Amer, Antiq. Soc. No. 61; and I. Thomas, Printing in America, 1874, i. 65, &c. ii. 311, 313). 2. 'Psalms in metre in the Indian Language,' Cambridge, 1658 (no copy known; mentioned by Eliot in a note to the 'Corporation,' 28 Dec. 1628, and in the Treasurer's Account, 16 Sept. 1659, see Trumbull, p. 34). 3. 'The Christian Commonwealth, or the Civil Policy of the Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ, written before the interruption of the government by Mr. John Eliot, teacher of the church of Christ at Roxbury in New England, and now published (after his consent given) by a servor of the season,' London , 4to (see Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. 3rd ser. vol. ix.) 4. 'The Learned Conjectures of Rev. John Eliot touching the Americans' were included in 'Jews in America,' by T. Thorowgood, London, 1660, 4to. 5. 'A Christian Covenanting Confession' [Cambridge, 1661], small 4to (one page, only two copies known, not alike, see Trumbull, p. 36). 6. 'The New Testament translated into the Indian Language, and ordered to be printed by the Commissioners of the United Colonies in New England at the charge and with the consent of the Corporation in England for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England,' Cambridge, S. Green and M. Johnson, 1661, 4to (with title-page in English and Indian,' Wusku Wuttestamentum,' &c., some copies have dedication to Charles II (see Trumbull, pp. 35-6; and Thomas, i. 66 and App.); a second edition of 2,500 copies was printed in 1680-1, at Cambridge, without printer's name, five hundred of them were bound up with the Indian catechism (1 p.) and the remainder issued with the second edition of the complete Bible in 1685). 7. 'Psalms of David in Indian Verse,' Cambridge, 1661-3, 4to (translated from New England version: bound up with No. 8). 8. 'The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament and the New, translated into the Indian Language, and ordered to be printed by the Commissioners of the United Colonies in New England, at the charge and with the consent of the Corporation in England,' &c., Cambridge, S. Green and M.Johnson, 1663, 4to (with Indian title-page,'Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe up-Biblum God,' &c., see Trumbull; O'Callaghan, American Bibles; Hist. Mag. ii. 306-8, iii. 87-8; a second edition was published at Cambridge by Green in 1685, 4to). 9. 'The Psalter, translated into the Indian Language,' Cambridge, S. Green, 1664, sm. 8vo (150 pp., five hundred copies printed, which Trumbull (p. 38) considers were worked from the forms used for the Old Testament, and that they were printed in 1663). 10. ‘Wehkomaonganooa asquam Peantogig kah asquam Quinnuppegig,’ &c., Cambridge, M. Johnson, 1664, 8vo (translation of Baxter's ‘Call to the Unconverted,’ not one of the one thousand copies printed for the ‘Corporation’ is known to exist; reissued in 1688). 11. ‘Communion of Churches, or the Divine Management of Gospel Churches by the Ordinance of Councils, constituted in order according to the Scriptures,’ Cambridge, M. Johnson, 1665, 8vo (very rare; the first American privately printed book). 12. ‘Manitowompae Pomantamoonk Sampwshanam Christianoh,’ &c., Cambridge, S. Green, 1665, sm. 8vo (translation for the ‘Corporation’ of Bishop Lewis Bayly's ‘Practice of Piety;’ again in 1685 and 1687). 13. ‘The Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew in the Indian Language,’ Cambridge, S. Green, 1665 (mentioned by Thomas (Printing, ii. 315), but no copy known). 14. ‘The Indian Grammar begun, or an essay to bring the Indian Language into rules,’ Cambridge, M. Johnson, 1666, 4to (dedicated to R. Boyle and the ‘Corporation,’ very scarce, five hundred copies printed; Thomas cannot have seen a copy, as he only (p. 68) mentions an unknown edition of 1664 of about 60 pp.; new edition by P. S. Du Ponceau, Boston, 1822). 15. ‘The Indian Primer, or the way of training up youth of India in the knowledge of God,’ Cambridge, 1669, 24mo (the only known copy is in the library of the university of Edinburgh, see Trumbull,, p. 40). 16. ‘Indian Dialogues,’ Cambridge, 1671, square 16mo (copies in Bodleian and Lenox Libraries). 17. ‘The Logick Primer, some logical notions to initiate the Indians in the knowledge of the rule of reason, and to know how to make use thereof, especially for the instruction of such as are teachers among them, composed for the use of the Praying Indians’ [Cambridge] M. J[honson], 1672, 32mo (in Indian, with interlinear translation, copies in the Bodleian and the British Museum). 18. ‘The Harmony of the Gospels, in the History of the Humiliation and Sufferings of Jesus Christ from his Incarnation to his Death and Burial,’ Boston, J. Foster, 1678, 4to. 19. ‘A Brief Answer to a small book by John Norcot on Infant Baptism,’ Boston, 1679, 8vo (Lenox copy unique). 20. ‘Dying Speeches of several Indians,’ Cambridge [about 1680], 18mo (Lenox copy unique; reprinted in ‘Sabbath at Home,’ 1868, p. 333, and partly in Dunton's ‘Letters,’ Prince Soc. 1867). 21. ‘Shepard's Sincere Convert translated into the Indian Language,’ Cambridge, 1689, sm. 8vo (‘Sampwutteahae Quinnuppekompauaenin,’ &c.).
[The best and most complete life is that by C. Francis (Lib. of American Biography, by J. Sparks, vol. v., Boston, 1836); the first is by Cotton Mather, 1691, afterwards incorporated in his Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702; of less importance are the different biographical sketches by R. B. Caverly (Boston, 1882), H. A. S. Dearborn (Roxbury, 1850), M. Moore (Boston, 1822), J. S. Stevens (Cheshunt, 1874). Engravings of portraits, localities, &c., and facsimiles of handwriting are to be seen in J. Winsor's History of America, vol. iii., and Memorial History of Boston, vol. i. (especially chapters on the Indians of Eastern Massachusetts and the Indian tongue and its language). See also Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1887, vol. v.; F. S. Anderson's History of the Church of England in the Colonies, 1856, ii. 196, &c.; S. G. Drake's Boston, 1857; Drake's Town of Roxbury, 1878; Biglow's History of Natick, 1830; Orme's Life and Times of Baxter, 1830, 2 vols. For genealogical information see W. Winters's Memorials of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1882 (also Hist. and Gen. Register, 1874, xxviii. 140); W. H. Eliot's Genealogy of the Eliot Family, by Porter, 1854; W. H. Whitmore's Eliot Genealogy, 1856, and in New Engl. Hist. and Gen. Reg. July 1869; Savage's Genealogical Dict. A list of the tracts relating to the Indians is given by Francis (Life, pp. 345–50) and in Trumbull's Origin and Early Progress of Indian Missions in New England, 1874, from Amer. Antiq. Soc. Proc. Bibliographies of Eliot's writings are in J. Dunton's Letters from New England (Prince Soc.), Boston, 1867, pp. 204–6, and in the reprint of Eliot's Brief Narrative by Marvin, 1868, pp. 9–16. See also Thomas's History of Printing in America, 1874, 2 vols.; O'Callaghan's Editions of the Holy Scriptures, printed in America, 1861; Dexter's Congregationalism, 1880; Field's Essay towards an Indian Bibliography, 1873; Sabin's Dictionary of Books relating to America, vi. 134–42; Brinley Catalogue.]