William Apes.

Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts Relative to the Marshpee Tribe Or, the Pretended Riot Explained online

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to seek redress? Look at this circumstance, fairly, and I
think you will find in it the origin of all the prejudice
against William Apes, which may be traced to those of the
whites who are opposed to any change in the present government
of Marshpee. If aught can be shown against him, I hope it
will be produced here in proof, that the Indians may not be
deceived. If no other proof is produced, except his zeal in
securing freedom for the Indians, are you not to conclude that
it cannot be done. But his individual character has nothing to
do with the merits of the question, though I here pronounce it

I will allude to but one other suggestion in the memorial
of the Rev. Mr. Fish, [page 10.] To show the necessity of
continuing the present laws, he says, "already do we witness
the force of example in the visible increase of crime. But a
few weeks since, a peaceable family was fired in upon, during
their midnight repose; while I have been writing, another has
been committed to prison for a high misdemeanor."

Now what are the facts, upon which this grave allegation
against the whole tribe is founded. True, a ball was fired
into a house on the plantation, but without any possible
connection with the assertion of their rights by the Indians,
and to this day it is not known whether it was a white man or
an Indian who did it. The "high misdemeanor," was a quarrel
between Jerry Squib, an Indian, and John Jones, a white
man. Squib accused Jones of cheating him in a bargain, when
intoxicated, and beat him for it. The law took up the Indian
for the assault, and let the white man go for the fraud.

Respecting then, as we all do, the personal character of the
missionary, can you answer his prayer, to continue the present
government, in order to protect him in the reception of
his present income from the lands of the Indians? Are the
interests of a whole people to be sacrificed to one man?

What says the Bill of rights? "Government is instituted for
the common good, for the protection, safety, prosperity, and
happiness of the _people_, and not for the _profit_, honor or
_private interest_ of any _one_ man, family, or class of men."

I have now only to consider the report of the Commissioner,
Mr. Fiske, who visited Marshpee in July last. The
impartiality, candor and good sense of that report, are highly
honorable to that gentleman. Deriving his first impressions
from the Overseers and the whites, and instructed as he was
with strong prepossessions against the Indians, as rebels
to the State, the manner in which he discharged that duty,
deserves a high encomium. He has my thanks for it, as a friend
of the Indians. As far as the knowledge of the facts
enabled the Commissioner to go, in the time allowed him, the
conclusions of that report, substantiate all the positions
taken in defence of the rights of the Indians. The
Commissioner was instructed by the then Governor Lincoln, to
inform the Indians that the government had no other object
than their best good; "let them be convinced that their
grievances will be inquired into, and a _generous_ and
_paternal_ regard be had to their condition." They were so
convinced, and they come here now, for a redemption of this

But his Excellency seems to have been strangely impressed
with the idea of suppressing some rebellion, or another Shay's
insurrection. Mr. Hawley, one of the Overseers, had visited
the Governor, at Worcester, and because a few Indians had
quietly unloaded a wood-cart, the calling out of the militia
seems to have been seriously contemplated by the following
order, issued to the Commissioner, by the Governor, dated July
5. "Should there be reason to fear the insufficiency of the

Think of that, gentlemen of the Committee! Figure to
yourselves his Excellency, at the head of the Boston and
Worcester Brigades, ten thousand strong, marching to Marshpee,
to suppress an insurrection, when scarce twenty old muskets
could have been mustered on the whole plantation?

With the utmost respect for his Excellency, I could not
refrain on reading this "order of the day," from exclaiming,
as Lord Thurlow did, when a breathless messenger informed him
that a rebellion had broken out in the Isle of Man - "pshaw - a
tempest in a tea pot."

Let us not, however, because the Indians are weak and
in-offensive, be less regardful of their rights.

You will gather from the Report of Mr. Fiske, conclusive
evidence of the long continued and deep rooted dissatisfaction
of the Indians with the laws of guardianship, that they never
abandoned the ground that all men were born free and
equal, and they ought to have the right to rule and govern
themselves; that by a proper exercise of self-government, and
the management of their own pecuniary affairs, they had it
in their power to elevate themselves much above their present
state of degradation, and that by a presentation of new
motives for moral and mental improvement, they might be
enabled, in a little time, to assume a much higher rank on
the scale of human existence. And that the Legislature would
consider their case, was the humble and earnest request of the

Is not the conclusion then, from all the facts in the case,
that the system of laws persisted in since 1763, have failed
as acts of paternal care? That the true policy now is to try
acts of kindness and encouragement, and that the question of
rightful control over the property or persons of the Indians
beyond the general operation of the laws, being clearly
against the whites; but one consideration remains on which the
Legislature can hesitate: the danger, that they will squander
their property. Of the improbability of such a result, Mr.
Fiske informs you in his report, [page 26.] He found nearly
all the families comfortably and decently clad, nearly
all occupying framed houses, and a few dwelling in huts or
wigwams. More than thirty of them were in possession of a cow
or swine, and many of them tilled a few acres of land, around
their dwellings. Several pairs of oxen, and some horses are
owned on the plantation, and the Commons are covered with an
excellent growth of wood, of ready access to market. Confine
the cutting of this wood to the natives, as they desire, and
they never can waste this valuable inheritance.

Mr. Fiske also says in his report, [page 30,] "that it is
hardly possible to find a place more favorable for gaining a
subsistence without labor, than Marshpee." The advantages of
its location, the resources from the woods and streams, on one
side, and the bays and the sea on the other, are accurately
described, as being abundant, with the exception of the
_lobsters_, which Mr. Fiske says are found there. The
Commissioner is incorrect in that particular, unless he adopts
the learned theory of Sir Joseph Banks, that _fleas_ are a
species of lobster!

Is there, then, any danger in giving the Indians an
opportunity to try a liberal experiment for self-government?
They ask you for a grant of the liberties of the constitution;
to be incorporated and to have a government useful to them as
a people.

They ask for the appointment of magistrates among them, and
they ask too for an _Attorney_ to advise with; but my
advice to them is, to have as little as possible to do with
Attornies. A revision of their laws affecting property by the
Governor and Council, would be a much better security for them
than an Attorney, and this they all agree to. Is there any
thing unreasonable in their requests? Can you censure other
States for severity to the Indians within their limits, if you
do not exercise an enlightened liberality toward the Indians
of Massachusetts? Give them then substantially, the advantages
which they ask in the basis of an act which I now submit to
the Committee with their approval of its provisions. Can you,
gentlemen, can the Legislature, resist the simple appeal of
their memorial? "Give us a chance for our lives, in acting for
ourselves. O! white man! white man! the blood of our fathers,
spilt in the revolutionary war, cries from the ground of our
native soil, to break the chains of oppression and let our
children go free."

The correctness of Mr. Hallett's opinions are demonstrated in the
following article.

Other editors speak ill enough of Gen. Jackson's treatment of the
Southern Indians. Why do they not also speak ill of all the head men
and great chiefs who have evil entreated the people of Marshpee. I
think Governor Lincoln manifested as bitter and tyrannical a spirit as
Old Hickory ever could, for the life of him. Often and often have our
tribe been promised the liberty their fathers fought, and bled, and
died for; and even now we have but a small share of it. It is some
comfort, however, that the people of Massachusetts are becoming
gradually more Christianized.

[From the Daily Advocate.] THE MARSHPEE INDIANS.

The Daily Advertiser remarks that the Indian tribes have been
sacrificed by the policy of Gen. Jackson. This is very true,
and we join with the Advertiser in reprehending the course
pursued by the President toward the Cherokees. If Georgia,
under her _union_ nullifier, Governor Lumpkin, is permitted to
set the process of the Supreme Court at defiance, it will be a
foul dishonor upon the country.

But while we condemn the conduct of General Jackson toward the
Southern Indians, what shall we say of the treatment of our
own poor defenceless Indians, the Marshpee tribe, in our own
State? The Legislature of last year, with a becoming sense of
justice, restored to the Marshpee Indians a _portion_ of their
rights, which had been wrested from them, most wrongfully, for
a period of _seventy-four_ years. The State of Massachusetts,
in the exercise of a most unjust and arbitrary power, had,
until that time, deprived the Indians of all civil rights, and
placed their property at the mercy of designing men, who had
used it for their own benefit, and despoiled the native owners
of the soil to which they hold a better title than the whites
hold to any land in the Commonwealth. These Indians fought
and bled side by side, with our fathers, in the struggle for
liberty; but the whites were no sooner free themselves, than
they enslaved the poor Indians.

One single fact will show the devotion of the Marshpee Indians
to the cause of liberty, in return for which they and their
descendants were placed under a despotic guardianship, and
their property wrested from them to enrich the whites. In
the Secretary's Office, of this State, will be found a muster
roll, containing a "Return of men enlisted in the first
Regiment of Continental troops, in the County of Barnstable,
for three years and during the war, in Col. Bradford's
Regiment," commencing in 1777. Among these volunteers for that
terrible service, are the following names of Marshpee Indians,
proprietors of Marshpee, viz.

Francis Webquish, Samuel Moses, Demps Squibs, Mark Negro,
Tom Cæsar, Joseph Ashur, James Keeter, Joseph Keeter, Jacob
Keeter, Daniel Pocknit, Job Rimmon, George Shawn, Castel
Barnet, Joshua Pognit, James Rimmon, David Hatch, James
Nocake, Abel Hoswitt, Elisha Keeter, John Pearce, John Mapix,
Amos Babcock, Hosea Pognit, Daniel Pocknit, Church Ashur,
Gideon Tumpum.

In all twenty-six men. The whole regiment, drawn from the
whole County of Barnstable, mustered but 149 men, nearly
_one-fifth_ of whom were volunteers from the little Indian
Plantation of Marshpee, which then did not contain over one
hundred male heads of families! No white town in the
County furnished any thing like this proportion of the 149
volunteers. The Indian soldiers fought through the war; and as
far as we have been able to ascertain the fact, from documents
or tradition, all but one, fell martyrs to liberty, in the
struggle for Independence. There is but one Indian now living,
who receives the reward of his services as a revolutionary
soldier, old Isaac Wickham, and he was not in Bradford's
regiment. Parson Holly, in a memorial to the Legislature in
1783, states that most of the women in Marshpee, had lost
their husbands in the war. At that time there were _seventy_
widows on the Plantation.

But from that day, until the year 1834, the Marshpee Indians
were enslaved by the laws of Massachusetts, and deprived of
every civil right which belongs to man. White Overseers had
power to tear their children from them and bind them out where
they pleased. They could also sell the services of any adult
Indian on the Plantation they chose to call idle, for three
years at a time, and send him where they pleased, renewing the
lease every three years, and thus, make him a slave for life.

It was with the greatest effort this monstrous injustice was
in some degree remedied last winter, by getting the facts
before the Legislature, in spite of a most determined
opposition from those who had fattened for years on the spoils
of poor Marshpee. In all but one thing, a reasonable law was
made for the Indians. That one thing was giving the Governor
power to appoint a Commissioner over the Indians for three
years. This was protested against by the friends of the
Indians, but in vain; and they were assured that this
appointment would be safe in the hands of the Governor. They
hoped so, and assented; but no sooner was the law passed, than
the enemies of the Indians induced the Governor to appoint
as the Commissioner, the person whom of all others they least
wished to have, a former Overseer, against whom there were
strong prejudices. The Indians remonstrated, and besought, but
in vain. The Commissioner was appointed, and to all appeals to
make a different appointment, a deaf ear has been turned. It
seems as if a deliberate design had been formed somewhere, to
defeat all the Legislature has done for the benefit of this
oppressed people.

The consequences have been precisely what the Indians and
their friends feared. Party divisions have grown up among
them, arising out of the want of confidence in their
Commissioner. He is found always on the side of their greatest
trouble; the minister who unjustly holds almost 500 acres of
the best land in the plantation, wrongfully given to him by an
unlawful and arbitrary act of the State, which, in violation
of the Constitution, appropriates the property of the Indians
to pay a man they dislike, for preaching a doctrine they will
not listen to, to a _white_ congregation, while the native
preachers, whom the Indians prefer, are left without a cent,
and deprived of the Meeting-house, built by English liberality
for the use of the Indians. The dissatisfaction has gone on
increasing. The accounts with the former Overseers remain
unadjusted to the satisfaction of the Selectmen. The Indians
have no adviser near them in whom they can confide; those who
hold the power, appear regardless of their wishes or their
welfare; no pains is taken by the authorities to punish the
wretches who continue to sell rum to those who will buy it;
and though the Indians are still struggling to advance in
improvement, every obstacle is thrown in their way that men
can devise, whose intent it is to get them back to a state of
vassalage, that they may get hold of their property. All this,
we are satisfied, from personal inspection, is owing to the
injudicious appointment made by Gov. Davis, of a commissioner,
and yet the Governor unfortunately seems indisposed to listen
to any application for a remedy to the existing evils.

The presses around us, who are so eloquent in denouncing the
President for his conduct towards the Southern Indians, say
not a word in behalf of our own Indians, whose fathers poured
out their blood for out independence. Is this right, and ought
the Indians to be sacrificed to the advantage a single man
derives from holding an office of very trifling profit? Let
us look at home, before we complain of the treatment of the
Indians at the South.

The following; extract refers to the act passed to incorporate the
Marshpee District, after so much trouble and expense to the Indians.
I should suppose the people of Massachusetts would have been glad to
have done us this justice, without making so much difficulty, if they
had been aware of the true state of facts.


Restoring the rights of self-government, in part, to the
Marshpee Indians, of which our legislation has deprived
them for one hundred and forty years, passed the Senate of
Massachusetts yesterday, to the honor of that body, without a
single dissenting vote. Too much praise cannot be given to Mr.
Senator Barton, for the persevering and high-minded manner
in which he has prepared and sustained this act. With two or
three exceptions, but which, perhaps, may not be indispensable
to the success of the measure, it is all the Indians or their
friends should desire, under existing circumstances. The
clause reserving the right of repeal, is probably the most
unfortunate provision in the act, as it may tend to
disquiet the Indians, and to give the Commissioner a sort of
threatening control, that will add too much to his power, and
may endanger all the benefits of the seventh section. This
provision was not introduced by the Committee, but was opposed
by Messrs. Barton and Strong, as wholly unnecessary.

[_Daily Advocate_.

* * * * *


In the resolve allowing fees to the Marshpee Indians, who have
attended as witnesses this session, the high-minded Senator
Hedge of Plymouth, succeeded in excluding the name of William
Apes, as it passed the Senate; but the House, on motion of
Col. Thayer, inserted the name of Mr. Apes, allowing him his
fees, the same as the others. Mr. Hedge made a great effort
to induce the Senate to non-concur, but even his lucid and
_liberal_ eloquence failed of its _noble_ intent, and the
Senate concurred by a vote of 13 to 6. Mr. Hedge must be
sadly disappointed that he could not have saved the State
twenty-three dollars, by his manly efforts to injure the
character of a poor Indian. Mr. Hedge, we dare say, is a
descendant from the pilgrims, whom the Indians protected at
Plymouth Rock! He knows how to be _grateful_!

[_Daily Advocate_.

It appears that I, William Apes, have been much persecuted and abused,
merely for desiring the welfare of myself and brethren, and because I
would not suffer myself to be trodden under foot by people no better
than myself, as I can see. In connection with this, I say I was never
arraigned before any Court, to the injury of my reputation, save once,
at Marshpee, for a pretended riot. An attempt to blast a man merely
for insisting on his rights, and no more, is a blot on the character
of him who undertakes it, and not upon the person attempted to be
injured; let him be great or small in the world's eyes. I can safely
say that no charge that has ever been brought against me, written
or verbal, has ever been made good by evidence in any civil or
ecclesiastical court. Many things have been said to my disparagement
in the public prints. Much was said to the General Court, as that I
was a gambler in lotteries, and had begged money from the Indians to
buy tickets with. This calumny took its rise from certain articles
printed in the Boston Gazette, written, as I have good reason to
believe, by one Reynolds, a proper authority. He has been an inmate of
the State prison, in Windsor, Vermont, once for a term of two
years, and again for fourteen, as in part appears by the following
certificate of a responsible person.

CONCORD, N.H. JUNE 27, 1832.

_To all whom it may concern_.

This may certify, that _John Reynolds_, once an inmate
of Vermont State Prison, and since a professed Episcopal
Methodist, and also a licensed local preacher in Windsor,
Conn. came to this place about June, 1830, recommended by
Brother J. Robbins, as a man worthy of our patronage; and of
course I employed him to supply for me in Ware and Hopkinton,
(both in N.H.) in which places he was for a short time,
apparently useful. But the time shortly arrived when it
appeared that he was pursuing a course that rendered him
worthy of censure. I therefore commenced measures to put him
down from preaching; but before I could get fully prepared for
him, he was gone out of my reach. I would however observe, he
wrote me a line from Portsmouth, enclosing his license, also
stating his withdrawal from us; and thus evaded trial. We
have, therefore, never considered him worthy of a place in any
Christian church since he left Hopkinton, in May, 1831. And
I feel authorized to state, that he does not deserve the
confidence of any respectable body of people.

E.W. STICKNEY, Circuit Preacher,
In the Methodist Episcopal Church.

His wrath was enkindled and waxed hot against me, because I thought
him scarce honorable enough for a high priest, and could not enter
into fellowship with him. I opposed his ordination as an elder of
our church, because I thought it dishonor to sit by his side; and he
therefore tried to make me look as black as himself, by publishing
things he was enabled to concoct by the aid of certain of my enemies
in New York. They wrote one or two letters derogatory to my character,
the substance of which Reynolds took the liberty to publish. For this
I complained of him to the Grand Jury in Boston, and he was indicted.
The following is the indictment:

The Jurors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on their
oath present, that John Reynolds of Boston, Clerk, being a
person regardless of the morality, integrity, innocence and
piety, which Ministers of the Gospel ought to possess and
sustain, and maliciously devising and intending to traduce,
vilify and bring into contempt and detestation one William
Apes, who was on the day hereinafter mentioned, and still is a
resident of Boston aforesaid, and duly elected and appointed
a minister of the gospel and missionary, by a certain
denomination of Christians denominated as belonging to
the Methodist Protestant Church; and also unlawfully and
maliciously intending to insinuate and cause it to be
believed, that the said William Apes was a deceiver and
impostor, and guilty of crimes and offences, and of buying
lottery tickets, and misappropriating monies collected by
him from religious persons for charitable purposes, and for
building a Meeting-house among certain persons called Indians.

On the thirteenth day of August now last past, at Boston
aforesaid, in the County of Suffolk aforesaid, unlawfully,
maliciously, and deliberately did compose, print and publish,
and did cause and procure to be composed, printed and
published in a certain newspaper, called the "Daily Commercial
Gazette," of and concerning him the said William Apes, and of
and concerning his said profession and business, an unlawful
and malicious libel, according to the purport and effect, and
in substance as follows, that is to say, containing therein
among other things, the false, malicious, defamatory and
libellous words and matter following, of and concerning said
William Apes, to wit: _convinced at an early period of my_
(meaning his the said Reynolds) _acquaintance with William
Apes_, (meaning the aforesaid William Apes,) _that he_

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Online LibraryWilliam ApesIndian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts Relative to the Marshpee Tribe Or, the Pretended Riot Explained → online text (page 9 of 13)