John Eliot

John Eliot

John Eliot was born in Widford, England on 5th August, 1604. Eliot graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1622. A Puritan, he emigrated to America and settled in Boston in 1631. He taught at Roxbury church for nearly sixty years. He spent a great deal of his time with local Native Americans and attempted to learn their Algonquian language.

Eliot's converts were gathered into Christian villages, governed by a biblical code of laws. These were eventually published in a pamphlet, The Day-Breaking, if not the Sun-Rising of the Gospel with the Indians in New England. Each village had a school where the Native Americans were taught English and handicrafts. By 1674 there were 14 villages with 4,000 converts.

Eliot published A Primer or Catechism in the Massachusetts Indian Language (1653). He wrote a translation of the Bible in to the Algonquian language and in 1654 it became the first Bible printed in North America. Other books by Eliot included The Christian Commonwealth (1659) and The Harmony of the Gospels (1678). John Eliot died on 21st May, 1690.

Primary Sources

(1) The Day-Breaking, if not the Sun-Rising of the Gospel with the Indians in New England.

Me thinks now that it is with the Indians as it was with our New English ground when we first came over - there was scarce any man who could believe that English grain would grow, or that the plow could do any good in this woody and rocky soil. And thus they continued in this supine unbelief for some years, till experience taught them otherwise; and now all see it to be scarce inferior to Old English tillage, but bears very good burdens. So we have thought of our Indian people, and therefore, have been discouraged to put plow to such dry and rocky ground, but God, having begun this with some few, it may be they are better soil for the gospel than we can think.

(2) The Day-Breaking, if not the Sun-Rising of the Gospel with the Indians in New England.

(1) That if any man be idle a week, at most a fortnight, he shall pay 5s.

(2) If any unmarried man shall lie with a young woman unmarried, he shall pay 20s.

(3) If any man shall beat his wife, his hands shall be tied behind him and he shall be carried to the place of justice to be severely punished.

(4) Every young man, if not another's servant and if unmarried, he shall be compelled to set up a wigwam and plant for himself, and not live shifting up and down to other wigwams.

(5) If any woman shall not have her hair tied up but hang loose or be cut as men's hair, she shall pay 5s.

(6) If any woman shall go with naked breasts, she shall pay 2s. 6d.

(7) All those men that wear long locks shall pay 5s.

(8) If any shall kill their lice between their teeth, they shall pay 5s.