Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Between 1740 and 1790, Moravians and Delaware Indians fostered a spiritual and political alliance even as they endured a series of internal divisions and external threats. Although the relationship withstood the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution splintered both groups and estranged them from their neighbors. When the Revolution ushered in a radical new democracy that undermined the authority of eastern leaders, the Moravians proved powerless to control white settlers who enforced their own vision of justice against Native peoples. The Moravian-Delaware partnership unraveled as the dramatic upheaval of the American Revolution fundamentally reshaped the political landscape and rendered the alliance futile. The Moravian-Delaware partnership is a striking example of intercultural cooperation during a period of intense conflict and change in the mid-Atlantic borderlands. Native peoples were drawn to the Moravians for a variety of reasons, including the role of women in the church, the Brethren’s unique theology, and their overlapping spiritual practices, as scholars have noted. Equally significant, as my research suggests, was the alliance that the Moravians offered in an era plagued by political and cultural upheaval. Prior to the American Revolution, Pennsylvania’s unique political dynamics allowed the Moravians to garner a degree of political influence that eluded them in other colonies and convinced Delaware leaders that the Brethren could be a valuable political ally in their quest to secure a homeland and protect their people. Despite the Moravians’ marginal social position, they successfully developed connections within both Pennsylvania’s Quaker and Proprietary factions. Moravian office-holders including William Edmonds, Timothy Horsfield, and William Henry cultivated associations with prominent leaders such as Governor Robert Morris and Benjamin Franklin and used their influence to address the concerns of those living in and around Moravian communities. The Gnadenhütten Massacre of 1782 highlighted the racial violence that characterized much of the bloodshed in the west during the American Revolution as well as the breakdown of political authority in the outer edges of the state. I argue that it also offers a striking example of how Delaware men combined Native and Moravian understandings of manhood and demonstrates the extent to which some Indians adopted a distinctly Moravian model of masculinity. The massacre offered horrific proof that the Moravians could not protect the Delaware or their land from attack. But their failure was not a reflection of the Indians’ misjudgment in cultivating an alliance with the Moravian church or the Brethren’s unwillingness to use their political connections for the benefit of their Native friends. In spite of the Moravians’ tenuous social position in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania, they proved to be savvy political actors and valuable allies to Native peoples until the American Revolution undermined their carefully established political connections and limited their ability to defend the mission communities.
Miller, Jennifer L., ""Our Own Flesh and Blood?": Delaware Indians and Moravians in the Eighteenth-Century Ohio Country." (2017). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8183.