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The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge In British North America, 1730–1775

  • Frederick V. Mills (a1)


Three major Protestant missionary organizations—the Company for the ropagation of the Gospel in New England (the NEC, founded 1649), the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG, founded 1701), and the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK, founded 1709)—all played significant roles in Christianizing and civilizing the inhabitants of British North America. The New England Company had the longest history and is the oldest Protestant missionary organization. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts sent no fewer than three hundred missionaries to America between 1701 and 1783. While the NEC and the SPG have received scholarly attention, the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge has been virtually ignored.



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1. A precise statistical tabulation of the SSPCK's contribution of missionaries, interpreters, assistants, students, and materials to British North America, though highly desirable, is not possible. The records of the colonial boards have not survived (or have yet to be found) in the United States or Great Britain. Because the SSPCK Directors in Edinburgh authorized the colonial boards to recruit their personnel, the local records are essential to the full story of the society's service in America. The researcher is dependent upon fragments of records that appear in letters, journals, etc., but primarily in the minutes of the parent body which are in the Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, Scotland. Although the society was dedicated to the purchase and distribution of books and related materials, the minutes contain only infrequently stated titles, and no list of quantities of materials sent to America has been found. Efforts to ascertain this type of data is more difficult after 1750 because some members of the SSPCK's London board became active in the newly formed Society for the Promotion of Religion Among the Poor, which organization also sent parcels of books to America.Bush, Henry W., Sketch of the Origin and Recent History of the New England Company (London, 1884);Briggs, Charles, American Presbyterianism (New York, 1885);Weiss, Frederick L., “The New England Company of 1649 and Its Missionary Enterprises,” Colonial Society of Massachusetts—Transactions 38 (Boston, 1959): 153218 (hereafter Weiss, “New England Company”);Kellaway, William, The New England Company, 16491776 (London, 1961).Pascoe, Charles F., Two Hundred Years of the S.P.G. (London, 1901);Thompson, H. P., Into All Lands: The History of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts 1701–1950 (London, 1951);Calam, John, Parsons and Pedagogues (New York, 1971).Sefton, H. R., “The Scottish Society in Eighteenth Century America,” Records of the Scottish Church History Society, 17 (1971): 169184.

2. The Kirkwood Collection of Manuscripts, Prints and Books, 1687–1708 (New College, Edinburgh); Irish Bible Correspondence, MSS/NLS number 821 fols. 184–364, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; Minutes of the SPCK (1–5) 1689–1712 (Manuscripts in Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone, London); Thompson, H. P., Thomas Bray (London, 1954), pp. 103104.

3. Minutes of the SPCK (London) 5, p. 22.

4. Ibid., pp. 4–6.

5. Ibid., p. 10; Hunter, Henry, A Brief History of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (London, 1795), pp. 49, 76–77.

6. Trevelyan, G. M., The English Revolution, 1688–1689 (New York, 1965), pp. 70131;Schochet, Gordon J., “From Persecution to Toleration,” in Jones, J. R., ed., Liberty Saved? Britain Before and After 1688 (Stanford, 1992), pp. 122157;State of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, in the Year 1759 (Edinburgh, 1759), p. 53 (hereafter State of the Society in Scotland, 1759).Kerr, William, Marquis of Lothian, president of the SSPCK, when in England worshipped in the church of England.

7. An Account of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (Edinburgh, 1774), pp. 514, 63, 68 (hereafter Account of SSPCK, 1774);Papers relating to the Late Daniel Williams, D.D. (London, 1816), pp. 15, 21–22.

8. Account of SSPCK, 1774, pp. 10, 14, 15.

9. SSPCK Records, 14 vols. (Edinburgh, Scottish Record Office, 1709–1956) 3:339, 384, 392, 396; Weiss, , “The New England Company,” pp. 155, 210.

10. Sewall, Joseph, A Sermon (Boston, 1733), pp. 16, 22, 36.Beaver, R. Pierce, Pioneers in Mission (Grand Rapids, 1966), pp. 137146.

11. Belcher, , Jonathan, . “The Belcher Papers,” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th series, (Boston, 1893), 6:189; 7:12–14.

12. Shipton, Clifford K., Sibley's Harvard Graduates, 14 vols. (Boston, 1956), 8:141148, 246–247; 9:87–96.

13. SSPCK Records, 4:52. Meek, Donald E., “Scottish Highlanders, North American Indians and the SSPCK: Some Cultural Perspectives,” Records of the Scottish Church History Society 23 (1989): 378396.

14. Van Home, John C., ed., Religious Philanthropy and Colonial Slavery (Urbana, 1985), pp. 916.

15. SSPCK Records, 4:15, 48–49, 57, 111–117, 149, 156–157, 272–280.

16. Ettinger, Amos A., James Edward Oglethorpe (Oxford, 1936), pp. 153206.

17. Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America: Minutes of the General Presbytery and General Synod, 1706–1788 (Philadelphia, 1904), pp. 99, 100, 105.

18. SSPCK Records, 4:124–125, 156–157, 162, 279, 307, 314–315, 329, 335–336, 397–398, 570–571; A Letter from the Rev. (John) Sergeant of Stockbridge, to Dr. Colman of Boston (Boston, 1743), pp. 115 (hereafter Letter from Sergeant).

19. SSPCK Records, 4:374–375; Pemberton, E., An Ordination Sermon (Boston, 1744).Beaver, , Pioneers in Mission, pp. 75–103, 105–124.

20. Hopkins, Samuel, Historical Memoirs, Relating to the Honsatunnk Indians: The late Reverend Mr. John Sergeant (Boston, 1753), pp. 122, 141;Szaz, Margaret C., Indian Education in the American Colonies, 1607–1783 (Albuquerque, 1988), pp. 207210.

21. Letter from Sergeant, pp. 14–15; Stephen, Leslie and Lee, Sidney, eds., The Dictionary of National Biography, 22 vols. (London, 1973), 1:766.

22. SSPCK Records, 4:374–375.

23. Ibid., 4:411–413; Doddridge, P., An Abridgement of Mr. David Brainerd's Journal (London, 1748).

24. State of the Society in Scotland, (1750), pp. 44–45.

25. SSPCK Records, 4:605–607.

26. Letters from the Rev. Samuel Davies, and Others (London, 1761), Letter #1, Davies to B[ellamy], 28 06, 1751;Randolph, J. Ralph, Travelers Among the Southern Indians, 1660–1763 (Norman, 1972), pp. 130141;Robinson, Walter S. Jr, “Indian Education and Missions in Colonial Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 18 (05 1952): 152168.

27. Kellaway, , The New England Company, pp. 188–189;State of the Society in Scotland, 1759, p. 70; Thompson, , Presbyterians In the South, pp. 189–190.

28. Manning, Bernard Lord, The Protestant Dissenting Deputies (Cambridge, 1952), pp. 29, 408–410.

29. Gilborn, Craig, The Reverend Samuel Davies in Great Britain (Charlottesville, 1973), p. 50;Pilcher, George W., ed., The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad: The Diary of a Journey to England and Scotland, 1753–55 (Urbana, 1967), pp. 49, 82;A General Account of the Rise and State of the College, Lately Established in the Province of New Jersey (London, 1754), 8 pp.

30. Matthews, Albert, Letters of Dennys De Berdt, 1757–1770 (Cambridge, 1911), pp. 296, 413.

31. Letters from the Rev. Samuel Davies, Etc. Shewing the State of Religion in Virginia Particularly Among the Negroes, 2d, ed., (London, 1757). pp. 8, 27 (hereafter Letters from Samuel Davies);Prize Essay on the Occasion of the Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge Among the Poor (London, 1850) (hereafter Prize Essay on SPRKP).

32. Alden, John R., John Stuart and the Southern Frontier (New York, 1966), Appendix C, pp. 351355;Letters from Samuel Davies, Letter #8, Richardson to J[oseph] F[orfitt], 6 May, 1760. William Richardson's Journal (MSS in the New York Public Library, New York City).

33. Letters from Samuel Davies, Letter #2, Davies to J[oseph] F[orfitt], April 1758.

34. Matthews, , Letters of Dennys De Berdt, pp. 296, 411, 420, 423;Love, W. DeLoss, Salmon Occom (Boston, 1899), pp. 5051.Beaver, , Pioneers in Mission, pp. 153–183.

35. Letters from Samuel Davies, Letter #13, Wheelock to Reverend Mr. [John] W[right], 4 May, 1761. Beaver, , Pioneers in Mission, pp. 185–209.

36. SSPCK Records, 8:57. Unfortunately, the record does not give the number or locations of these schools.

37. SSPCK Records, 5:38–42, 98–99.

38. Randall, Thomas, Christian Benevolence (Edinburgh, 1763), pp. 97105;Account of SSPCK (1774), p. 16.

39. SSPCK Records, 5:71, 80; Wheelock, Eleazar, A Plain and Faithful Narrative of the Original Design, Rise, Progress of the Indian Charity-School at Lebanon, in Connecticut (Boston, 1763), 55 pp.;Blodgett, Harold, Samson Occom (Brattleboro, 1935), pp. 5053.

40. Wheelock, Eleazar, A Brief Narrative of the Indian Charity-School in Lebanon in Connecticut, New England, 2d ed. (London, 1767), p. 5.

41. Kellaway, , The New England Company, p. 191;McClure, David and Parish, Elijah, eds., Memoirs of the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, D.D. (Newburyport, 1811), p. 45.

42. State of the Society in Scotland, 1771 (London, 1771), p. 18.

43. SSPCK Records, 5:146, 172, 189, 208. Pilkington, Walter, ed., The Journals of Samuel Kirkland (Clinton, New York, 1980).

44. SSPCK Records, 5:143, 177; 9:59, 97, 103; Shelling, Richard I., “Benjamin Franklin and the Dr. Bray Associates,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 63 (07 1939): 282293.

45. Andrew, I. Graham and Cairns, A. G., A Brief Survey of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (Edinburgh, 1957), p. 14.

46. Withers, Charles W. J., “Education and Anglicization: The Policy of the SSPCK Toward the Education of the Highlanders 1709–1825,” Scottish Studies, 26 (1982): 3756.State of the Society in Scotland 1754, 1759, 1763, 1769, 1774.

47. Instructions from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to Their Missionaries in North America (London, 1756);Smith, William, A Discourse Concerning the Conversion of the Heathen Americans (Philadelphia, 1760), pp. 1922.

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The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge In British North America, 1730–1775

  • Frederick V. Mills (a1)


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