George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Christopher Kunze, 7 January 1790

From John Christopher Kunze

Chatham street [New York] N. 24.January the 7. 1790.


Supposing, that many abuse Your Condescension by taking up Your previous Time in Conferences of an indifferent Nature, I was not bold enough, to intrude myself into Your Presence, without knowing first Your Pleasure, and wishing nevertheless to lay something before You, that appears to me at least to be not incompatible with Your other high Employments, I take this Method, to communicate it.

A Year ago I recieved a Letter, directed to my Father in Law, Mr Muhlenberg, who was then dead already, from one Mr Anton Theodore Brown,1 in which he acquainted him, that being convinced of the fundamental Errors of that Church, in which he had been a minister for a Number of Years, the Church of Rome, and not finding any Rest in his Soul at the Attempts to counteract the Dictates of his Conscience and Reason, he begged his Advice and adjoining a Testimony from a Lutheran Congregation in Canada, he wished to be approved and confirm’d by him as a Minister of the Lutheran Church. As the Person, to whom the Letter was intended, was not among the living and as no Investigation could be made without Mr Browns personal Attendance, I took no further Notice of this Matter, mistrusting besides the Sincerity of the Motives a little.

This Gentleman is now in this City and hath by his Testimonials, Conversation, preaching in my Church and Marks of Self denial removed all my Doubts concerning him. Last Sunday he renounced before my Congregation his former Errors and was taken into the Communion of the Lutheran Church.

His Employment in Canada was preaching among the Indians he being a Missionary to them, and for some Years Superior for Six Indian Missions, and understands therefore the Language of the Northern Indians. At present he recieves a little Support from my Vestry and from the german Society in this Town, till I can find an Opportunity, to recommand him to a german Lutheran Congregation in the State.

Yesterday I recieved a Letter from him, which I take the liberty to inclose with an annexed Translation.2 In a Conversation which I had afterwards with him I could not but judge his Zeal for the Indians commandable, and though I am entirely ignorant of the Practicability of his Proposals, yet I thought it my Duty to lay the Matter before the President of the United States, as we have the Happiness, to be govern’d by a Man, who with the Hero unites the Christian and the Friend of Mankind. Our Government, I know dos’ not interfere in Matters of Religion, but to give a small Salary to an Indian Preacher, might perhaps, as Mr Brown imagines, be consider’d in a political Light. At all Events, I think, the President will perhaps deem this truly pious man not unworthy of a kind and condescending Attention, and pardon the Freedom of the Person, who introduced him to His Notice. I am with profound Deference and Respect Sir Your most devoted Servant

John Christopher Kunze
Lutheran Minister in the City of New York

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

John Christopher Kunze (1744–1807), a Lutheran clergyman, was pastor of Christ Church in New York City. A native of Saxony, Kunze was educated at the University of Leipzig and in 1770 immigrated to Philadelphia to become coadjutor to Henry Melchior Mühlenberg. He married Mühlenberg’s daughter Margaretta Henrietta in 1771. In 1784 he moved to New York City to become pastor of Christ Church, soon becoming popular in New York social circles and widely known as one of the country’s leading scholars and linguists.

1Anton Theodore Braun (Brown; d. 1814) was born in Treves, Germany. After his ordination as a Catholic priest, Braun was sent to North America where he preached for some years to the Canadian Indians in the area of Frontenac and Dundas, Ontario, eventually overseeing six Indian missions. After his conversion to Lutheranism, Braun served at Schoharie Parish from 1790 to 1793, as pastor at Albany from 1794 to 1797, and again at Schoharie from 1798 to 1800. From 1800 to 1814 he was stationed at Troytown, Guilderland, and New Brunswick, New York.

Braun’s letter to Kunze, dated at New York, 4 Jan. 1790, described his views on missionary activity to the Indians and advocated the establishment of an Indian mission on the United States-Canadian border. “Many Indians would by the Establishment of such a Mission be united into one Body, their Trade would be ours, and in Case of a War, they could be Serviceable or at least be kept quiet” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Braun’s letter appears in its entirety in CD-ROM:GW.

2GW replied to Kunze’s letter on 12 Jan.: “The subject of your letter of the 4th [7th] instant enclosing one of the same date from Mr Brown to you, appears to be of a nature requiring the operation of legislative power rather than any agency of mine at present. For however desirous I might be to promote the wishes of Mr Brown, either from a view to benefit the public by attaching those Indians which he mentions to the United States—or to advance their temporal or spiritual good by his services among them, I could not with propriety give encouragement to his plan without the previous interference of the Legislature of the Union.

“I can, therefore, only observe, that the opinion of those Gentlemen in Congress with whom you may be acquainted will enable you to judge of the proper means by which this business might be forwarded” (LB, DLC:GW).

Index Entries