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Last Updated on March 25, 2007

[A100] Joshua Coffin Papers, vol 1 pp. 70 (Reprinted in Publications of the Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury Massachusetts, vol. 5 pp. 13-16)

Rev. Christopher Toppan’s Letter on the Rights of the Indians.

                            Aug: 11. 1721

Honourbl Sr.,

     Please to pardon my boldness, for troubling you to read a few lines more - That expression in my writing, which your Honour Intimated you did not well understand, viz: that the Indians should have convenient Lands allowed ym for themselves and Posterity, I meant thus that in case, it be found, that the Indians formerly disposed of so much of their land as that they have not left Lands convenient for themselves, that then so much, as may be thought propper, of what was purchast of them, should be relinquish’d to them again - further to open what I Intend I’d offer a few things

1. That the Indians were the first Proprietors of the Lands in this Country.
2. That yy. had in themselves power to dispose off and convey away sd Lands.
3. That what Lands yy. formerly Sold and conveyed away yy. can have no just Claim unto, Now! I make no doubt but as your Honour sayes, yy. have as full, and firm a Right, to their Lands as any white men have to theirs but that I presume your Honour means, Lands yy.[yy - for your use] have not sold.
4. That if thro Imprudence and Inadvertency they have formerly conveyed away, so much of their Land, to the English as that if what be conveyed away be taken up and settled, by the English there be not convenient places left for themselves and Posterity, I think it very agreable to Reason and Religion that the Government take care that such places as may be thought convenient be allowed them, and Recompence made to such Persons (whose Predecessours formerly purchased sd Land of the Indians) of Province Lands elswhere.
5. That the Government having offered and done what may reasonably be thought Just and fair on this score, that then if the Indians continue yr [their] Insolent carriages - the English may justly commence a warr against them, and expect Gods blessing to be with them, in their Endeavors to subdue them; and in the mean time, that the English in the Eastern parts may be secure and safe I see no way, but for the Governmt to keep out some hundreds of men or a suficent number to keep the Indians in awe, till the People are become strong enough, to defend themselves which yy. would in a few years be, were yy. compelled to settle regularly, and secured from fear and danger, by a sufficient Army, kept, in a body, in those parts, well provided with snow shoos for the Winter and sufficient Number of whale-boats for passage by water in the summer - but lett me not forgett to mention here that I cant but think it is a duty to make further offers of the Gospell to them and by degrees to Instill into yr. minds the true Doctrines of Religion, doubtless some of them might be gained more especially if the Fryers could be fairly removed from among them. - I went this last Spring to the East-ward, and, being at Damariscotty on a Sabbath Day, there being a family there and several persons besides, I preacht to them both forenoon and afternoon, and there being hard by, an Indian Wigwam belonging to it a Nesop and his squaw he about seventy and shee near an hundred years of Age not able to stand or goe, both mentained by a Kinsman a young pretty fellow, who went a hunting and returned once a week or fort-night and brought them provisions to live upon. The old sonnop came of his own accord on the Sabbath Day to hear the word preacht and gave diligent Attention. The subject I insisted on was that in Rom: 10. 13. and whosever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved, and in the application I applyed my self to the Indian, shewing that yr nation if yy. called aright on the name of the Lord should be saved as well as the English, or any other, the next day I went to his Wigwam, he told me me very good speak-um yesterday and desired me to speak to his squaw, all one I speak yesterday for that very good. - I went severall times to his Wigwam and gave the best advice I could to the poor old Woman shee seemed to understand what I said but was not seemingly so much affected therewith, as her husband; the day I came away he came on board the vessel and praied me to goe once more to his Wigwam and speak to his old squaw about God and Christ and Heaven for may be, me never see her any more, so I went again, and as my coming away the old man took me by the hand expressing a great deal of thankfullness for the counsell and advice I had given his squaw - In my discourse with the old-man I us’t to mention and open the Articles of the Christian Religion which he allways readily assented unto and I am persuaded that by prudent methods in managing of them sndry of them mig[ht] be wrought upon and amongst other methods I have thou[ght] - but why should I presume to dictate to any who know much better then my self what will best sence the Interests of our glorious Lord in whose service that I may be found faithfull lett me have your prayers, as you have his, who is sr. your most humble servt.

Christopher Toppan



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