Decision Activity: Nicholas Collin
Raccoon (Swedesboro) Gloucester County (1777)
February 10th, 1777
It has been over seven years since I have seen my family and my beloved country of Sweden. Seven years since they urged me not to come to this country, warning me that it was dangerous and full of Indians who were ready to scalp me. I laughed them off all those years ago, but it seems they were right about the danger, just not about its source. But how could they have predicted a civil war?
I came to this country full of wonder and ready to serve the Lord and the mission of the Swedish Lutheran Church. I do not regret this decision. Since coming to Raccoon, New Jersey, I feel I have faithfully served God. I have visited the sick and dying, no matter the time of day. I have married dozens of couples, provided funeral services for those who need them, and preached to all those who are willing to accept God into their lives. Just last year, I baptized “several children…one [child] 4 years old, two above 2 years, and another [child] 18 months” (Journal 236). Despite the sickness and destitution I have endured as result of my endeavors, this work has given me great joy.
When this war began, I, like many, felt great anxiety over it. But I continued to fulfill my duties as best as I could. I did not expect to one day have the American militia accuse me of treason and then haul me off for a 16 Swedish mile journey, on which I felt I could be shot and killed at any moment. My captors, one of which I deem to be a man of “bad character” as he seems to lack religion, claim I am a supporter of the British (Journal 237). They point to the fact that I, upon my arrival to this country seven years ago, paid a visit to the royal governor. They say my neighbors have reported that I seem unsympathetic to the rebel cause.
But how can I be sympathetic to the rebel cause when it goes against my duties as minister? I did not come to this country to become involved in their political affairs! I did not come to support or condemn a revolution! I came but only to “chastise godless persons and to prevent arson and theft…” (Journal 238). Why should I be condemned for simply doing the work of God?
My captors have given me a choice, of which they demand an answer in the near future. Either I must go join the British or sign an Oath of Allegiance to the new American government. The former option would require me to abandon the post I have been given by my own government, sell all of my belongings for less than half their worth, and join a group of people to whom I do not have a connection to. The latter option asks me to betray my allegiance to the Swedish government. I do not see how either option is a desirable one.
God, please give me guidance on how to navigate this difficult situation so that I may continue to do Your work in this beautiful country.
What do you think Nicholas Collin should do?
- Join the British
- Sign the Oath of Allegiance, pledging his support for the American cause
- Another course of action — come up with your own suggestion!
Ultimately, Nicholas Collin was able to convince his imprisoners to let him sign an Oath of Neutrality, in which he swore to remain neutral in the war and “to do nothing which would be unworthy of [him] as a Swedish subject” (Journal 238). Later that year, he was accused of being a spy and nearly lost his life to the gallows. However, he was able to convince his captors that he was innocent through the testimony of a man who Collins had once sheltered from the English army. While Collins did consider returning to Sweden in 1781, he ultimately remained in New Jersey until his death in 1831.