George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Ettwein, 28 March 1788

From John Ettwein

Bethlehem [Pa.] March 28th 1788

May it please your Excellency to spend a few moments in kind remembrance of Bethlehem in Pensilvania and to accept as a Small Token of my continuing thankfulness for your Excellencys kindness during the War, a copy of some remarks or annotations concerning the customs, Language &c. of the Indians, which I took from the memoirs of our Missionaries, to gratify an enquiring Gentleman; As also a printed Copy of the stated Rules of a Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen, lately incorporated by an Act of Assembly in this State.1 That health and all hapiness may long attend your Excellency’s person and Lady Washington is the sincere prayer of Your Excellencys Humble Servant

John Ettwein2

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection; ADfS, PBMCA: Ettwein Papers; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW.

John Ettwein (1721–1802) was born in Germany and came to America in 1754. He promoted and himself undertook missions to the Indians, first in the South and, after 1766, in Pennsylvania and the Ohio country. In 1784 he became bishop of the Moravian Church in America.

1Ettwein’s enclosures included: (1) “Extract from the Instruction, or Rules, for ⟨illegible⟩ of the United Brethren, as are used as missionaries, or Assistants, in propogating the Gospel among the Indians”; and (2) “Some Remarks and Annotations concerning the Traditions, Customs, Languages &c. of the Indians in North America, from the Memoirs of the Reverend David Zeisberger, and other Missionaries of the United Brethren.” The second of these included 5½ pages headed “1. Of their old Traditions”; 2½ pages headed “2. Of the political Constitution of the Indians”; and 5 pages headed “3. Of their Customs &c.” Finally Ettwein enclosed “A Collection of Words,” a 6–page vocabulary of several Indian tribes.

2GW replied from Mount Vernon on 2 May: “Revd Sir, I have received your obliging letter of the 28th of March enclosing a copy of some rema[r]ks on the Customs, Language &c. of the Indians, and a printed pamphlet containing the stated rules of a Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen, for which tokens of polite attention and kind remembrance I must beg you to accept of my best thanks.

“So far as I am capable of Judging, the principles upon which the society is founded and the rules laid down for its government appear to be well calculated to promote so laudable and arduous an undertaking, and you will permit me to add that if an event so long and so earnestly desired as that of converting the Indians to Christianity and consequently to civilization, can be effected, the Society of Bethlehm bids fair to bear a very considerable part in it. I am Revd Sir, With sentiments of esteem Yr most Obedt Hble Servant Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

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