book report: Samson Occom by Love 1899 - abolitionist

Samson Occom was a complex man. He was highly accomplished, intelligent, gifted and full of the Holy Spirit. Regarding human rights, opposed slavery but also opposed miscegenation of Indians and Africans. His biographer in 1899, W. DeLoss Love, wrote
We may as well just here make record of this Indian's opinion as to slavery. At that time most wealthy families in New England held slaves. The ministers very commonly had one or more lacks as servants in their households, and the servant class being then small they could hardly do without them. Doctor Wheelock himself [Occum's Christian mentor], in 1757, paid ₤50 for a negro, "Ishmael" by name, whom he bought from William Clark of Plymouth, Mass. The Indian of the full blood generally despised the negro and such of his own race as would marry among them. It was Occom's opinion that such marriages wrought degeneracy in both races. At the same time he had a warm sympathy for the slave, whose estate was not always pleasant or respectable, even in New England. Who would think to find in Samson Occom an abolitionist? Such, however, he was. He lifted up his voice boldly for emancipation seventy years before Uncle Tom's Cabin was written. In one of his discourses he made the following pointed application on the subject referring to slaveholders:
I will tell who they are, they are the Preachers or ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been very fashionable for them to keep Negroe Slaves, which I think is inconsistent with their character and function. If I understand the Gospel aright, I think it is a Dispensation of Freedom and Liberty, both Temporal and Spiritual, and [if] the Preachers of the Holy Gospel of Jesus do preach it according to the mind of God, the Preach True Liberty and how can such keep Negroes in Slavery? And if Minsiters are True Liberty men, let them preach Libery for the poor Negroes fervently and with great zeal, and those Ministers who have Negroes set an Example before their People by freeing their Negroes, let them show their Faith by their Works.
p. 176
Occom provides a great example of the use of biblical reasoning to oppose slavery within the church. He appeals to first principles, Liberty, which is not prevented to slaves in the Bible but encouraged. Occom's opposition to African-Indian miscegenation will be looked at a little more in a subsequent post.


Anonymous said…
Been awhile since I've commented here. Interesting post re: Occom's opposition to Indian/black intermarriage. All the tribes in Southern New
England- Mashpee and Gay Head Wampanoag, Narragansett, Pequot and Mohegan all have large admixture of black ancestory. Why is this? Well, In King Philip's War 1675-76 roughly 6,000 Indians lost their lives [out of a pre-war population of 20,000 Indians in southern New england], another 1,000 were sold into slavery, and 2-3,000 dispersed to northern NE and Canada to joiun with the Abnaki groups and continue fighting the puritan white settlers from there.

The Indians who remained in southern NE were mostly Christianized and under Strict English control. The tribes who fought for the English- Mohegan and Pequot, Mashpee and Gay Head Wampanoag- came out of the war stronger than when they went in, and had much more autonomy than the remnants of the Wampanoag, Nipmuc and Narragansett.

Anyway, many Indians were enslaved at that time, and the native population had lost a huge percentage of their male populations due to war, slavery, migration. Many times the only mate available to a native woman were black men, slave or free. Also during the 18th century, many Indian men from the southern NE tribes hired themselves out to fight against the french and Indians who were killing and raiding whites on a regular basis. Many Indian men lost their lives as scouts and mercenaries in those conflicts, and a huge number of Indian men from the southern NE praying tribes were killed in the Revolutionary War agaisnt the British [especially the battle of Long Island.] This depleted the male population more and accelerated intermarriage with both blacks and whites.

I wonder if Samson opposed intermarriage with whites?

Anyway, the only way these tribes could continue was to marry other races and so today if you go to Mashpee, Gay Head, or any other tribe in southern NE you will see Indians who look black. In fact, that was used against the Mashpee when they tried to get some of their lands back in 1978. The thinking was that if they looked black then they cannot be Indian. You can be part white and still be considered Indian but not part black. But it seems that many Indians ofthe period disagreed with Samson's sentiments.

Interesting post,


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