Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Jonathan Edwards, Indian Country


T he move to Indian country was an uncommon one for a preacher of Jonathan Edwards's status and age, but the seven years he lived in Stockbridge preaching to Mohawks, Mahicans, and colonial settlers proved to be some of the most fruitful of his career. Jonathan Edwards accepted the position in Stockbridge after his Northampton congregation voted to dismiss him in 1750 and, after visiting the mission town multiple times, he was officially installed as pastor in August of 1751. Edwards valued Protestant mission imperatives, and although the pastorate was remote and he faced a significant language barrier between him and his new congregation, the move offered him the opportunity to be involved in important mission work as well as the opportunity to engage with political activity of the colony as it expanded. The Stockbridge Indian Mission was founded by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England-most often just called the New England Company. In 1724, the Housatonic Mohican Indianseastern Algonquians-sold some of their land to the General Court and English settlers who arrived the following year. In 1736, the General Court changed course and created Stockbridge along the Housatonic River, which would be a town for both Christian Indians and for white colonists. It was an important military outpost for the French and Indian wars. The Mohicans had ties with western Indians in Ohio, and their alliance with the British was crucial to ongoing warfare with the French. Stockbridge was on the very edge of settled British territory in a region where indigenous people interacted often with missionaries, soldiers, traders, settlers, and each other-a middle ground, to borrow Richard White's geographic and conceptual phrase.