INDIAN NULLIFICATION OF THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS. RELATIVE TO THE MARSHPEE TRIBE: OR, THE PRETENDED RIOT EXPLAINED,
BY WILLIAM APES, AN INDIAN AND PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five, by WILLIAM APES, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
TO THE WHITE PEOPLE OF MASSACHUSETTS
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The red children of the soil of America address themselves to the descendants of the pale men who came across the big waters to seek among them a refuge from tyranny and persecution.
We say to each and every one of you that the Great Spirit who is the friend of the Indian as well as of the white man, has raised up among you a brother of our own and has sent him to us that he might show us all the secret contrivances of the pale faces to deceive and defraud us. For this, many of our white brethren hate him, and revile him, and say all manner of evil of him; falsely calling him an impostor. Know, all men, that our brother APES is not such a man as they say. White men are the only persons who have imposed on us, and we say that we love our red brother, the Rev. WILLIAM APES, who preaches to us, and have all the confidence in him that we can put in any man, knowing him to be a devout Christian, of sound mind, of firm purpose, and worthy to be trusted by reason of his truth. We have never seen any reason to think otherwise.
We send this forth to the world in love and friendship with all men, and especially with our brother APES, for whose benefit it is intended.
Signed by the three Selectmen of the Marshpee Tribe, at the Council House, in Marshpee.
ISRAEL AMOS, ISAAC COOMBS, EZRA ATTAQUIN.
March, 19, 1835.
BOSTON, OCTOBER 2, 1834,
To whom it may concern.
The undersigned was a native of the County of Barnstable, and was brought up near the Marshpee Indiana. He always regarded them as a people grievously oppressed by the whites, and borne down by laws which made them poor and enriched other men upon their property. In fact the Marshpee Indians, to whom our laws have denied all rights of property, have a higher title to their lands than the whites have, for our forefathers claimed the soil of this State by the consent of the Indians, whose title they thus admitted was better than their own.
For a long time the Indians had been disaffected, but no one was energetic enough among them to combine them in taking measures for their rights. Every time they had petitioned the Legislature, the laws, by the management of the interested whites, had been made more severe against them. DANIEL AMOS, I believe, was the first one among them, who conceived the plan of freeing his tribe from slavery. WILLIAM APES, an Indian preacher, of the Pequod tribe, regularly ordained as a minister, came among these Indians, to preach. They invited him to assist them in getting their liberty. He had the talent they most stood in need of. He accordingly went forward, and the Indians declared that no man should take their wood off their plantation. APES and a number of other Indians quietly unloaded a load of wood, which a Mr. SAMPSON was carting off. For this, he and some others were indicted for a riot, upon grounds extremely doubtful in law, to say the least. Every person on the jury, who said he thought the Indians ought to have their liberty, was set aside. The three Indians were convicted, and APES was imprisoned thirty days.
It was in this stage of the business, after the conviction, that I became the counsel of the Indians, and carried their claims to the Legislature, where they finally prevailed.
The persons concerned in the riot, as it was called, and imprisoned for it, I think were as justifiable in what they did, as our fathers were, who threw the tea overboard; and to the energetic movements of WILLIAM APES, DANIEL AMOS and others, it was owing that an impression was made on the Legislature, which induced them to do partial justice toward this long oppressed race. The imprisonment of those men, in such a cause, I consider an honour to them, and no disgrace; no more than the confinement of our fathers, in the Jersey prison-ship.
BENJAMIN F. HALLETT,
Counsel for the Marshpee Indian.
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The writer hopes that the public will give him credit for an intention to adhere rigidly to the truth, in presenting his views of the late difficulties of the Marshpee Tribe, as it is as much his wish as his intention to do justice to all his brethren, without distinction of colour. Yet he is sensible that he cannot write truly on this subject without attracting the worst wishes of those who are enemies to liberty, or would reserve it exclusively to themselves. Could he speak without incurring such enmity, he would be most happy to do so; but he is fully aware that he cannot even touch this matter without exposing himself to certain calumny. This has been his portion whenever he has attempted to plead the cause of his ignorant and ever-oppressed red brethren. Nevertheless, he will endeavour to speak independently, as if all men were his friends, and ready to greet him with thundering applause; and he would do so if their voices were to pronounce on him a sentence of everlasting disgrace. He writes not in the expectation of gathering wealth, or augmenting the number of his friends. But he has not the least doubt that all men who have regard to truth and integrity, will do justice to the uprightness of his intentions. (Heaven be praised! there are some such men in the world.) He is equally sure that the evidence contained in this little work will be satisfactory, as to all the points he wishes to establish, to all who are open to conviction.
It is true that the author of this book is a member of the Marshpee Tribe, not by birth, but by adoption. How he has become one of that unfortunate people, and why he concerns himself about their affairs, will now be explained to the satisfaction of the reader. He wishes to say in the first place, that the causes of the prevalent prejudice against his race have been his study from his childhood upwards. That their colour should be a reason to treat one portion of the human race with insult and abuse has always seemed to him strange; believing that God has given to all men an equal right to possess and occupy the earth, and to enjoy the fruits thereof, without any such distinction. He has seen the beasts of the field drive each other out of their pastures, because they had the power to do so; and he knew that the white man had that power over the Indian which knowledge and superior strength give; but it has also occurred to him that Indians are men, not brutes, as the treatment they usually receive would lead us to think. Nevertheless, being bred to look upon Indians with dislike and detestation, it is not to be wondered that the whites regard them as on a footing with the brutes that perish. Doubtless there are many who think it granting us poor natives a great privilege to treat us with equal humanity. The author has often been told seriously, by sober persons, that his fellows were a link between the whites and the brute creation, an inferior race of men to whom the Almighty had less regard than to their neighbours, and whom he had driven from their possessions to make room for a race more favoured. Some have gone so far as to bid him remove and give place to that pure and excellent people who have ever despised his brethren and evil entreated them, both by precept and example.
Assumption of this kind never convinced WILLIAM APES of its own justice. He is still the same unbelieving Indian that he ever was. Nay, more, he is not satisfied that the learned and professedly religious men who have thus addressed him, were more exclusively the favourites of his Creator than himself, though two of them at least have been hailed as among the first orators of the day, and spoke with an eloquence that might have moved stocks and stones. One of them dwells in New York and the other in Boston. As it would avail him little to bespeak the favour of the world in behalf of their opinions by mentioning their names, he will proceed with the matter in hand, viz. the troubles of the Marshpee people, and his own trial.
INDIAN NULLIFICATION, &c.
It being my desire, as well as my duty as a preacher of the gospel, to do as much good as in me lay to my red brethren, I occasionally paid them a visit, announcing and explaining to them the word of life, when opportunity offered. I knew that no people on earth were more neglected; yet whenever I attempted to supply their spiritual wants, I was opposed and obstructed by the whites around them, as was the practice of those who dwelt about my native tribe, (the Pequods,) in Groton, Conn. of which more will be said in another place.
Being on a tour among my brethren in May, 1833, I was often asked why I did not visit my brethren of Marshpee, of whom I had often heard. Some said that they were well provided, and had a missionary, named FISH, who took care of their lands and protected them against the fraud of such of their neighbours as were devoid of principle. Others asserted that they were much abused. These things I heard in and about Scituate and Kingston, where I had preached. Some of those who spoke thus, were connected with the missionary. The light thus obtained upon the subject being uncertain, I resolved to visit the people of Marshpee, and judge for myself. Accordingly I repaired to Plymouth, where I held forth on the civil and religious rights of the Indians, in Dr. KENDALL'S church, and was treated with Christian kindness by the worthy pastor and his people. Dr. KENDALL gave me a letter of introduction to Mr. FISH, at Marshpee. Being unacquainted with the way, I strayed a little from it, and found a number of good Congregationalists of the old school, who invited me to tarry and preach to them in the evening, which I did, to their acceptance; for they and their pastor desired me to remain and preach on the Sabbath, which, however, I could not consistently do. I proceeded thence to Sandwich, where I made my mission known to Mr. COBB, the Orthodox preacher, who appeared to be pleased.
Mr. COBB said that he had agreed to exchange with Mr. FISH, on the Sabbath following, but as it was inconvenient for him to do so, he would give me a line to him. With this furtherance I set forward, and arrived at Mr. FISH's house before sunset, informing those I met on the way that I intended to preach on the next day, and desiring them to advise others accordingly. When I made my business known to Mr. FISH, he treated me with proper kindness, and invited me to preach for him. When I awoke in the morning, I did not forget to return thanks to God for his fatherly protection during the night, and for preserving me in health and strength, to go through the duties of the day. I expected to meet some hundreds of the tribe, and to hear from their lips the sweet song of salvation which should prepare their minds for the words of life, to be delivered by one of the humblest servants of God. I hoped that grace might be given to me to say something to my poor brethren that might be for their advantage in time and eternity; after which I thought I should see their faces no more. I looked to see them thronging around their missionary in crowds, and waited for this agreeable sight with great anxiety.
The time appointed for the service was half past ten. When it arrived, we got into our carriages and proceeded to the Meeting-house, which was about two miles and a half distant. The sacred edifice stood in the midst of a noble forest, and seemed to be about a hundred years old; circumstances which did not render its appearance less interesting. Hard by was an Indian burial ground, overgrown with pines, in which the graves were all ranged North and South. A delightful brook, fed by some of the sweetest springs in Massachusetts, murmured beside it. After pleasing my eyes with this charming landscape, I turned to meet my Indian brethren and give them the hand of friendship; but I was greatly disappointed in the appearance of those who advanced. All the Indians I had ever seen were of a reddish color, sometimes approaching a yellow; but now, look to what quarter I would, most of those who were coming were pale faces, and, in my disappointment, it seemed to me that the hue of death sat upon their countenances. It seemed very strange to me that my brethren should have changed their natural color, and become in every respect like white men. Recovering a little from my astonishment, I entered the house with the missionary. It had the appearance of some ancient monument set upon a hill-top, for a landmark to generations yet unborn. Could Solomon's temple have been set beside it, I think no one would have drawn an architectural comparison. Beautiful as this place was, we had little time to admire it; something more solemn demanded our attention. We were to prepare ourselves for a temple more splendid than ever was built by hands. When the congregation were seated, I arose and gave out the psalm. I now cast my eyes at the gallery, that I might see how the songsters who were tuning their harps appeared; but, with one exception, paleness was upon all their faces. I must do these Indians the justice to say that they performed their parts very well. Looking below, something new caught my attention. Upon two seats, reserved along the sides of the temple for some of the privileged, were seated a few of those to whom the words of the Saviour, as well as his scourge of small cords, might be properly applied, "It is written that my house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves;" for these pale men were certainly stealing from the Indians their portion in the gospel, by leaving their own houses of worship and crowding them out of theirs. The law, perhaps, allowed them to do so. After singing and prayer, I preached one of my humble sermons, after which I attended a Sabbath School, in which a solitary red child might be seen here and there. By what I saw, I judged that the whites were much favored, while the little red children were virtually bidden to stand aside. I understood that the books that were sent to them had been given to the white scholars.
After a slight refreshment, the duty of worship was resumed; and I discovered that plain dealing was disagreeable to my white auditory. I inquired where the Indians were; to which Mr. Fish replied, that they were at a place called Marshpee, and that there was a person called Blind Joe, who tried to preach to them, which was the cause of their absence. Though the said Joe was one of them, he had done them more harm than good. I asked why he did not invite Blind Joe, and get him to preach for him a part of the time. He answered, that that could not be; that Joe was not qualified to preach and instruct. I replied that he could not, perhaps, be sure of that, and that if he had followed the course I had mentioned, it would at least have been the means of uniting the people, which would of itself have been great good. It was then concluded to have a meeting at Marshpee; and, in the afternoon of the next day, I paid the people of that place a visit in their Meeting-house. I addressed them upon temperance and education, subjects which I thought very needful to be discussed, and plainly told them what I had heard from their missionary, viz: That it was their general disposition to be idle, not to hoe the corn-fields they had planted, to take no care of their hay after mowing it, and to lie drunken under their fences. I admonished them of the evil of these their ways, and advised them to consider any white man who sold them rum their enemy, and to place no confidence in him. I told them that such a person deserved to have his own rum thrown into his face. I endeavored to show them how much more useful they might be to themselves and the world if they would but try to educate themselves, and of the respect they would gain by it. Then, addressing the throne of grace, I besought the Lord to have mercy on them and relieve them from the oppressions under which they laboured. Here Mr. Fish cautioned me not to say any thing about oppression, that being, he said, the very thing that made them discontented. They thought themselves oppressed, he observed, but such was not the case. They had already quite liberty enough. I suggested to him the propriety of granting them the privileges enjoyed by the whites about them; but he said that that would never do, as they would immediately part with all their lands. I told him that, if their improvement was his aim, he ought to go among them and inquire into their affairs; to which he replied that he did go at times, but did not say much to them about their worldly concerns. He asked me if I thought it proper to preach about such things. I answered that I thought it proper to do good in any way; that a variety was not amiss, and that such a course would convince his flock that he had their welfare at heart.
I had now appointed to meet my brethren on Wednesday evening following, when I expected to bid them farewell forever; and in the mean while I had obtained a letter of introduction to Mr. Pratt, of Great Marshes. There I gave the audience a word in season, upon the subject of Indian degradation, which did not appear to please them much. I then visited Barnstable, and finding no resting place there for the sole of my foot, I journeyed as far as Hyannis, where I was entertained with hospitality and kindness. On the evening of the fourteenth day, I again preached on the soul-harrowing theme of Indian degradation; and my discourse was generally well received; though it gave much offence to some illiberal minds, as truth always will, when it speaks in condemnation. I now turned my face toward Marshpee, to preach the word there.
I had made up my mind to depart early on the morrow, and therefore, that I might hear of their concerns, and how they fared from their own mouths, I intended to commence my labours early in the day. I had not the least intention of staying with my brethren, because I saw that they had been taught to be sectarians, rather than Christians, to love their own sect and to hate others, which was contrary to the convictions of my own experience as well as to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. What ensued led me to look farther into their case. The lecture I had delivered in the Meeting-house, had wrought well, and a small pamphlet that contained a sketch of the history of the Indians of New England had had a good effect. As I was reading from it, an individual among the assembly took occasion to clap his hands, and with a loud shout, to cry, "Truth, truth!" This gave rise to a general conversation, and it was truly heart-rending to me to hear what my kindred people had suffered at the hands of the whites.
Having partook of some refreshment, we again met to worship God in the School-house; where I believe that the Spirit of the Lord was revealed to us. Then, wishing to know more of their grievances, real or supposed, and upon their invitation, I appointed several meetings; for I was requested to hear their whole story, and to help them. I therefore appointed the twenty-first of May, 1833, to attend a council to be called by my brethren. In the mean while I went to Falmouth, nine miles distant, where I held forth upon the civil and religious rights of the Indians. Some, who apparently thought that charity was due to themselves, but not to the red men, did not relish the discourse; but such as knew that all men have rights and feelings, and wished those of others to be respected as well as their own, spoke favourably of it. Of this number was Mr. Woodbury, the minister, who thought it would do good. I then returned to Marshpee, to attend the council.
The meeting was held in the school-room. Business commenced at about nine in the morning, and continued through the day. The first that arose to speak was an Indian, Ebenezer Attaquin by name. Tears flowed freely down his time-furrowed cheeks, while he addressed us in a manner alike candid and affectionate. The house was well filled.
After listening patiently to the tale of their distresses, I counselled them to apply for redress to the Governor and Council. They answered, that they had done so; but had never been able to obtain a hearing. The white agents had always thrown every obstacle in their way. I then addressed them in a speech which they all listened to with profound attention.
I began by saying that, though I was a stranger among them, I did not doubt but that I might do them some good, and be instrumental in procuring the discharge of the overseers, and an alteration of the existing laws. As, however, I was not a son of their particular tribe, if they wished me to assist them, it would be necessary for them to give me a right to act in their behalf, by adopting me; as then our rights and interests would become identical. They must be aware that all the evil reports calumny could invent, would be put in circulation against me by the whites interested, and that no means to set them against me would be neglected. (Had the inspiration of Isaiah spoken these words, they could not have been more fully accomplished, as is known to the whites of Barnstable County, as well as the Indians.)
Mr. Ebenezer Attaquin, being one of the prayer leaders, replied first, and said, "If we get this man to stand by us, we must stand by him, and if we forsake him after he undertakes for us, God will forsake us also."
Mr. Ezra Attaquin wished to know if I could not come and dwell with them, as so I could do them more good than if abiding at a distance. Mr. Ebenezer Attaquin said in reply, that if such a chance should be offered to a white man, he would be very glad to accept it.
I now inquired what provision could be made for me, if I should consent to their wishes. They answered that their means were small, but that they would provide a house for me to live in, and do what they could for my support. I said that, knowing their poverty, I did not expect much, and gave them to understand that I could dig, and fish, and chop wood, and was willing to do what I could for myself. The subject of religious instruction was then discussed, and the inquiry was made, what should be done with their poor, blind brother, (who was then absent among another sect.) I answered that I was very willing, to unite my labours with his, as there was plenty of work for both of us; and that had I but half a loaf of bread, I would gladly divide it with him. It was then agreed that we should unite, and journey together on the road toward heaven.
The case Of Mr. Fish was next laid before the council, and Complaints were made, that he had neglected his duty; that he did not appear to care for the welfare of the tribe, temporal or spiritual; that he had never visited some of the brethren at all, and others only once in five or seven years; that but eight or ten attended his preaching; that his congregation was composed of white people, to whom his visits were mostly confined, and that it seemed that all he appeared to care for was to get a living, and make as much as he could out of the Indians, who could not see any reason to think him their friend. It was, therefore, agreed to discharge him, and three papers were draughted accordingly. One was a petition to the Governor and Council, a second to the Corporation of Harvard College; the first complaining against the Overseers, and the laws relating to the tribe; and the second against the missionary set over them by Harvard College and the Overseers. The third document was a statement of my adoption into the tribe, and was signed by all present, and subsequently by others, who were not present, but were equally desirious of securing their rights. It was as follows,
To all whom it may concern, from the beginning of the world up to this time, and forever more.
Be it known, that we, the Marshpees, now assembled in the presence of God, do hereby agree to adopt the Rev. William Apes, of the Pequod tribe, as one of ours. He, and his wife, and his two children, and those of his descendants, forever, are to be considered as belonging to the Marshpee tribe of Indians. And we solemly avow this, in the presence of God, and of one another, and do hereby attach our names to the same, that he may take his seat with us and aid us in our affairs. Done at the Council House in Marshpee, and by the authority of the same, May 21st, 1833.
EBENEZER ATTAQUIN, President.
ISRAEL AMOS, Secretary.
To this instrument there are about a hundred signatures, which were affixed to the other papers above mentioned also. The resolutions which were sent to the two bodies were these:
Resolved, That we, as a tribe, will rule ourselves, and have the Constitutionso; for all men are born free and equal, says the Constitutien of the country.
Resolved, That we will not permit any white man to come upon our plantation, to cut or carry off wood or hay, or any other article, without our permission, after the 1st of July next.
Resolved, That we will put said resolutions in force after that date, (July next,) with the penalty of binding and throwing them from the plantation, if they will not stay away without.
These resolutions were adopted by the tribe, and put in force, as will be seen hereafter. It was hoped that, though the whites had done all they could to extinguish all sense of right among the Indians, they would now see that they had feelings as well as other men.
The petition to the corporation of Harvard set forth the general dissatisfaction of the tribe with the missionary sent them by that honorable body, according to the intended application of the Williams Fund. The money was no more intended for Mr. Fish than for any other clergyman; neither had the Indians given him a call. They thought it right to let his employers know that he had not done his duty, because he not only received between five and six hundred dollars from the college, but had possession of five or six hundred acres of the tribe's best woodland, without their consent or approbation, and converted them to his own exclusive use, pretending that his claim and right to the same was better than that of the owners themselves. Not liking this, the Indians solicited his discharge. The document runs thus:
To our white brethren at Harvard College and trustees of the Williams fund, that is under the care of that body, for the important use of converting the poor heathen in New England, and who, we understand, by means of that fund, have placed among us the Rev. Phineas Fish.
We thought it very likely that you would like to know if we, as a people, respected his person and labors, and whether the money was benefiting the Indians or not. We think it our duty to let you know all about it, and we do say, as the voice of one, with but few exceptions, that we as a tribe, for a long time, have had no desire to hear Mr. Fish preach, (which is about ten years) and do say sincerely that we, as a body, wish to have him discharged, not because we have anything against his moral character, but we believe his labors would be more useful somewhere else, and for these reasons,
1st. We, as a people, have not been benefited by his preaching; for our moral character has not been built up, and there has been no improvement in our intellectual powers, and we know of no Indian that has been converted by his preaching.
2d. We seldom see him upon our plantation to visit us, as a people. His visits are as follows—To one house, one visit in one year—to another, two visits in five years—to another one in seven—and to many, none at all. (We would here remark that Mr. Fish has not improved, but rather lost ground; for history informs us that such was the anxiety of the whites, that it was thought best to visit the Indians twice in one year, and preach to them, so as to save them.)
3d. We think that twenty years are long enough for one trial. Another reason is that you and the people think that we are benefited by that fund, or money paid to him for preaching to the Indians—and we are not. White people are his visitors and hearers. We would remark here that we have no objection to worship with our white neighbors, provided they come as they ought to come, and not as thieves and robbers, and we would ask all the world if the Marshpee Indians have not been robbed of their rights. We wonder how the good citizens of Boston, or any town would like to have the Indians send them a preacher and force him into the pulpit and then send other Indians to crowd the whites out of their own meeting house and not pay one cent for it. Do you think the white men would like it? We trow, not; and we hope others will consider, while they read our distressing tale. It will be perceived that we have no objection if hundreds of other nations visit our meeting house. We only want fair play; for we have had foul play enough.
4th. We do not believe but that we have as good a right to the table of the Lord as others. We are kept back to the last, merely because our skins are not so white as the whites', and we know of no scriptures that justify him in so doing. (The writer would here observe, that he wonders any person guilty of a dark skin will submit to such unchristian usage, especially as the minister is as willing to shear his black sheep as his white ones. This being the case, ought he not to pay as much regard to them? Should he turn them loose to shift for themselves, at the risk of losing them?)
5th. We never were consulted as to his settlement over us, as a people. We never gave our vote or voice, as a tribe, and we fully believe that we are capable of choosing for ourselves and have the right to do so, and we would now say to you, that we have made choice of the Rev. Wm. Apes, of the Pequod tribe, and have adopted him as one of ours, and shall hear him preach, in preference to the missionary, and we should like to have him aided, if you can do it. If not, we cannot help it—he is ours—he is ours.
Perhaps you have heard of the oppression of the Cherokees and lamented over them much, and thought the Georgians were hard and cruel creatures; but did you ever hear of the poor, oppressed and degraded Marshpee Indians in Massachusetts, and lament over them? If not, you hear now, and we have made choice of the Rev. Wm. Apes to relieve us, and we hope that you will assist him. And if the above complaints and reasons, and the following resolutions, will be satisfactory, we shall be glad, and rejoice that you comply with our request.
Resolved, That we will rule our own tribe and make choice of whom we please for our preacher.
Resolved, That we will have our own meeting house, and place in the pulpit whom we please to preach to us.
Resolved, That we will publish this to the world; if the above reasons and resolutions are not adhered to, and the Rev. Mr. Fish discharged.
The foregoing addresses and resolutions were adopted by a vote of the tribe, almost unanimous. Done at the Council House at Marshpee, May the 21st, 1833.
EBENEZER ATTAQUIN, President.
ISRAEL AMOS, Secretary.
The Hon. Josiah Quincy, President of the College, promised to attend to this matter, said that he had long been satisfied that the money from the Williams fund had not been applied to the object for which it was intended, and hinted at an intention to send no more to Mr. Fish till he should be better informed concerning the matter. (We understood that he actually did retain the money, though he never found leisure to make the inquiry alluded to.) He said that, had it been in the summer, he would have gone himself to the place. Summer has passed away, and we have seen no Mr. Quincy yet. We have heard that he was requested by several gentlemen to come and investigate our affairs, but we suppose he thinks that the poor Marshpees cannot have been wronged. However, as nothing has been done, we think it is time that the public should be made aware of our views and intentions.
Leaving Marshpee for New Bedford, I preached at several places on my way, and delivered lectures on Indian affairs. Many of the advocates of oppression became clamorous, on hearing the truth from a simple Indian's lips, and a strong excitement took place in that quarter.
Some feared that an insurrection might break out among the colored people, in which blood might be shed. Some called me an imposter, and others approved of my proceedings, especially the Quakers, whom I ever found benevolent and ready to help us. Their generous good will toward colored people of all races is well known. I feel bound to say, too, that there were others of the highest respectability in those parts who were anxious that their red brethren should obtain their rights and redress of their grievances.
When the time I had fixed for my return to my friends at Marshpee arrived, I turned thitherward, and reached the place on the sixth of June. Here I met the blind preacher, whom I had never before seen. He bade me welcome, and cordially agreed to join me in my labors, saying that God had listened to his prayers. He had for several years prayed for an assistant, and now consented to labor in conjunction with me for the spiritual and temporal advantage of our brethren. We went through the plantation together. On the Sabbath there was a large meeting, and the assistance of God enabled me to preach to them, after which we set forth, as a delegation to the Governor and Council in Boston. We stopped at several towns by the way, to discharge our duties, as Christian ministers, and were kindly and hospitably received by the teachers.
When we arrived in Boston, we communicated our business to a certain doctor, who lived in Roxbury. He did not think so favorably of it as we had expected; but, nevertheless, agreed to lay it before the board of trustees, which we presume he did, as he is a man of truth. We told him that we asked for justice, not money, and said that we wished the Marshpee Indians to avoid the meeting-house, if it did not belong to them. With this we left him, and have never heard from him from that day to this. He is gone where his deeds done in the flesh will receive their just reward; which I hope is a crown of blessedness and glory.
We did not find the Governor in Boston; but were advised to wait on Mr. Armstrong, the Lieut. Governor. We showed him our petition and resolutions, which he said, would avail us nothing, unless enforced. We answered that they would be enforced, at the appointed time. He then suggested that we might have been instigated to the measures in question by some of our enemies; probably meaning some of our unprincipled white neighbors. We replied that ill usage had been our only instigation, and that no one had interfered in the matter. He advised us to deliver our petition to the Secretary of State, to be submitted to the Council at their next session; which we did.
This done, we called on one of the tribe who was engaged in the coasting business, and had done much to teach the Indians, and to bring them to a right knowledge of their degraded condition. He said that he would willingly relinquish his business, and join in the efforts of his brethren to shake off the yoke which galled them; and thereupon it was resolved to hold a convention on the twenty-fifth of June, for the purpose of organizing a new government. He desired to be there, and his name is Daniel Amos.
I now set out for Essex, where my family was living, accompanied by the blind preacher. I put my wife and little ones on board a small vessel, bound for Boston, while I and my blind brother returned thither by land. We all arrived safely, and soon after embarked for Barnstable, where we arrived on the eighteenth of June, and landed at a spot about twelve miles distant from the hospitable Indians. Here we found ourselves breathing a new atmosphere. The people were very little prepossessed in our favor, and we certainly owe them small thanks on the score of hospitality. We succeeded in obtaining the shelter of an old stable for two nights, by paying two dollars. We applied to one individual for accommodations during that time, for one of our party who was sick, but were refused. He said he had no room. If any white man should come to Marshpee and ask hospitality for a night or two, I do not believe that one of the whole tribe would turn him from his door, savages though they be. Does not he better deserve the name who took from us two dollars for sleeping in his stable? This usage made me think that in this part of New England prejudice was strong against the poor children of the woods, and that any aid we might receive must come from the more hospitable Indians, among whom we arrived on the twenty-first, and rested till the twenty-fifth. We regarded ourselves, in some sort, as a tribe of Israelites suffering under the rod of despotic Pharaohs; for thus far, our cries and remonstrances had been of no avail. We were compelled to make our bricks without straw.
We now, in our synagogue, for the first time, concerted the form of a government, suited to the spirit and capacity of free born sons of the forest; after the pattern set us by our white brethren. There was but one exception, viz. that all who dwelt in our precincts were to be held free and equal, in truth, as well as in letter. Several officers, twelve in all, were elected to give effect to this novelty of a government; the chief of whom were Daniel Amos, President, and Israel Amos, Secretary. Having thus organized ourselves, we gave notice to the former board of overseers, and the public at large, of our intentions. This was the form of our proclamation:
Marshpee Plantation, June 25th, 1833.
Having heretofore been distressed, and degraded, and robbed daily, we have taken measures to put a stop to these things.—And having made choice of our own town officers to act instead of the whites, and having acquainted the Governor of our affairs and resolutions, he has nothing against our putting them in force. And now we would say to our white friends, we are wanting nothing but our rights betwixt man and man. And now, rest assured that said resolutions will be enforced after the first day of July, 1833. Done at the National Assembly of the Marshpee Tribe, and by the authority of the same.
DANIEL AMOS, President.
ISRAEL AMOS, Secretary.
Hereupon the Missionary and agents and all who put faith in them, combined together to work our destruction, as is well known to all men.
We then proceeded to discharge all the officers appointed by the Governor and Council, firmly believing that each and every one of the existing laws concerning the poor Israelites of Marshpee was founded on wrong and misconception. We also forwarded a letter and resolution to Gideon Hawley, to the effect that we were dissatisfied with his proceedings with regard to our affairs and with those of the other officers, that we desired their stay among us no longer, that we were seeking our rights and meant to have them, and we therefore demanded of them all a final settlement, and warned them not to violate our regulations. The resolution was as follows:
Resolved, That we will no longer accede to your terms after the first day of July next, 1833.
Done by the authority of the Marshpee Tribe.
DANIEL AMOS, President.
ISRAEL AMOS, Secretary.
We also proceeded to discharge the missionary, telling him that he and the white people had occupied our meeting house long enough, and that we now wanted it for our own use. We likewise gave him notice that we had complained against him to the authorities at Harvard.
Those who had, as we think unlawfully, ruled us hitherto, now awoke in astonishment, and bestirred themselves in defence of their temporal interests. Mr. Hawley was despatched to the Governor at Worcester, to whom he represented the state of affairs in colors which we cannot acknowledge to have been faithful. He stated that the Indians were in open rebellion, and that blood was likely to be shed. It was reported and believed among us that he said we had armed ourselves, and were prepared to carry all before us with tomahawk and scalping knife; that death and destruction, and all the horrors of a savage war, were impending; that of the white inhabitants some were already dead, and the rest dreadfully alarmed! An awful picture indeed.
However, several weeks previous to this the Governor and Council had been apprised of what was going forward, and had authorised one of the Council to visit the tribe, in order to hold counsel, and if possible, restore peace among them. But the first of July arrived before he came, and we did even as we had pledged ourselves to do, having in view no other end than the assertion and resumption of our rights. Two of the whites, indeed, proved themselves enemies to the Indians, by holding themselves in readiness to break up the new government, and daring them to carry it into effect. They were brothers, and one of them has since gone to his reward. Their name was Sampson. They came, in defiance of our resolutions, to take away our wood, in carts. As I was walking in the woods, I discovered them in the act of removing our property, and called to him who was the owner of the teams to come near me. He complied, and appeared much agitated as he approached. I mildly stated to him the views and intentions of the tribe, saying that it was not their design to wrong or harm any man in the least, and that we wished them to desist till we should have had a settlement with the Overseers, after which every thing should be placed upon a proper footing. I begged them to desist, for the sake of peace; but it was to no purpose. They said that they knew what they were about, and were resolved to load their teams. I answered, that the men who owned the wood were resolved to carry their resolutions into force; and asked if they had not seen the notification we had posted up. One of them replied that he had seen, but had not taken much notice of it. I again told them that the owners of the wood were at hand, and by the time one of the teams was laden, the Indians came up. I then asked William Sampson, who was a member of the missionary's church, if he would, even then, unload his team and wait till things were more quiet; to which he replied that he would not. I then, having previously cautioned the Indians to do no bodily injury to any man, unless in their own defence, but to stand for their rights, and nothing else, desired them to unload the teams, which they did very promptly. One of the Sampsons, who was a justice of the peace, forbade them, and threatened to prosecute them for thus protecting their own property, which had no other effect than to incite them to work more diligently. When they had done, I told the justice, that he had, perhaps, better encourage others to carry away what did not belong to them, and desired the teamsters to depart. They said they would, seeing that it was useless to attempt to load the carts. Throughout this transaction the Indians uttered neither a threat nor an unkind word, but the white men used very bitter language at being thus, for the first time, hindered from taking, away what had always been as a lawful spoil to them hitherto.
The defeated Sampsons hurried off to get the aid of legal might to overcome right, and were wise enough to trouble the Indians no further. The tribe were thus left in peaceable possession of all their property. Mr. Fiske stated in his report of the case, that we wanted possession of the mission house; but in this he was mistaken. No such thing was intended or even mentioned among us, though it is true that the meeting-house and the two school houses, and all the land, excepting that on which Mr. Fiske's house stood, were in our hands.
The Indians now made it part of their business to watch their property; being determined to disappoint the rapacity of the whites. They soon learned that the Governor had sent an envoy to deal with them, and the news cheered their hearts not a little; for they earnestly wished for peace and quietness. A verbal message was brought, desiring us to meet him. We replied by asking why the agent did not come to us, if the Governor had sent him for that purpose, instead of going to a tavern and calling on us to come to him there. I now suppose that this proceeding on his part was not so much his fault as that of one Ezra Crocker, who received twenty dollars per annum for entertaining the Indians in his house, and who not unfrequently thrust them out of doors. Nevertheless, we sent the agent an answer in writing, to the following effect.
To the Honorable Agent sent by the Governor to inquire into our affairs.
We are much gratified to see that the Governor has noticed us so much as to inquire into our affairs. Your request could not be attended to yesterday; our people being very busy in the affairs of the day; but we will meet you with pleasure this morning at nine o'clock, at our meeting-house, there being no other place where we should like to see you for an interview.
DANIEL AMOS, President. July 4th, 1833.
At the time appointed, we met the Counsellor, and he appeared to enjoy himself very well among us. When the meeting had been called to order, it was observed that the Overseers were not present, and it was proposed to send for them, that they might have fair play and hear of what faults they were accused. They came, accompanied by the High Sheriff of Barnstable County, the Hon. J. Reed of Yarmouth, and several other whites, who were invited to take seats among us. The excitement which pervaded Cape Cod had brought these people to our council, and they now heard such preaching in our meeting-house as they had never heard there before; the bitter complainings of the Indians of the wrongs they had suffered. Every charge was separately investigated by our people, who gave the entire day to the work. The white persons present seemed very uneasy; often getting up, going out and returning, as if apprehensive of some danger. The ground work of their fears, if they had any, was this: Three of our people, who had been out in the morning, hunting deer, had brought their guns into the meeting house, and this circumstance was thought, or pretended to be thought by a few of our neighbors to portend violence and murder. Also the Counsellor had brought a letter from the Governor, indicating that he had been led, by wrong reports, to believe that something of the kind was likely to take place.
This letter was read to the people, and was to them as a provocation and a stimulus. They thought it grievous that the Governor should think they had put him in mind of his oath of office, to secure the Commonwealth from danger, and given him cause to call out perhaps fifty or sixty thousand militia; especially when the great strength and power of the Marshpee tribe was considered. To this supposed great demonstration of military power they might, possibly, have opposed a hundred fighting men and fifteen or twenty rusty guns. But it is written, "One shall chase a thousand, and two shall put ten thousand to flight;" so there might have been some reason for persons who believe the Bible to fear us. Who can say that little Marshpee might not have discomfitted great Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the birth place of American freedom was spared so great a disgrace; for the governor, very wisely, remained at home.
Toward the close of the day Mr. Fiske desired the Hon. Mr. Reed to explain to the Indians the laws, as they then stood, and the consequences of violating them. He told us that merely declaring a law to be oppressive could not abrogate it; and that it would become us, as good citizens whom the government was disposed to treat well, to wait for the session of the Legislature, and then apply for relief. "He went fully," says one reporter, whose name it may be well to omit, "into the situation of the tribe, in a very forcible and feeling manner, warning them against the rash measures they had already taken or adopted."
Mr. Fiske then pathetically stated his opinions concerning the awful consequences which would result from a violation of the laws, and spoke much at large of the parental feeling of government for the remnant of a once mighty and distinguished race. Wm. Apes replied that the laws ought to be altered without delay; that it was perfectly manifest that they were unconstitutional, and that, even if they were not so, there was nothing in them to authorize the white inhabitants to act as they had done. Being very anxious to learn what amount of good his brethren might expect, he spoke with an energy that alarmed some of the whites present considerably. The Hon. Mr. Reed questioned him as to his right to interfere. He replied that he had obtained it by the adoption of the tribe.
Mr. Reed, if I correctly understood him, answered that the Indians had no right to do such an act; no power to confer such a privilege. I replied, that if the plantation belonged to them, they undoubtedly had a right to give me leave to dwell upon it. Many other things he said of which I could not see the reasonableness and propriety, and therefore we could not come to an agreement.
While these things were being done and said, as I have reason to believe, a warrant for my apprehension was put into the hands of the High Sheriff, who, it appeared to me, was not very desirous to execute it. He approached me, and with some agitation, told me I must go with him to Catuiot; and added, that if I did not accompany him peaceably, he would have out the whole county of Barnstable. I was not conscious of giving any cause for this perturbation of mind, but I suppose others saw my conduct in a different light. It is admitted by all that nothing was done contrary to good order, though I admit, that if I had refused to obey the warrant, the Sheriff would not have been able to enforce it. The fact is I was in no wise unwilling to go with him, or to have my conduct brought to the test of investigation, or to give all the satisfaction that might be required, had it appeared that I had done wrong. I was also very desirous to have the truth appear, viz. that it was not the intention or wish of the Marshpees to do violence or shed blood.
The Sheriff told me that I should not suffer any injury or injustice, and that I should have a hearing in the presence of my friend, Mr. Fiske. I went with him very quietly. The excitement ran very high, and almost all Cotuet was present at my examination. If wishes could have availed, I doubt not that I should have been ruined forever. I was arraigned on three charges: for riot, assault, and trespass; and pleaded NOT GUILTY.
The Messrs. Sampsons, four in number, were called, and testified as follows, That on the first day of July, between eight and nine, A.M. they were carting wood from the Marshpee plantation, that they were hailed by Wm. Apes, and forbidden by him to take any wood away until a settlement with the overseers should have been had; that the said Apes threatened them that he would call his men if they persisted, who would "cut up a shine with them," (the Sampsons.) They all agreed, however, that no unchristian temper was manifested, and no indecorous language used. They admitted that they had no fear for their personal safety, and that no harm was done to any of the persons concerned, save unloading their teams, and ordering them to depart.
Now if I had taken any neighbors' wood without his leave, and he had thrown it out of my cart, and told me to go away, and had given me no farther molestation, I should think I had gotten off very easily. If a poor Indian wishes to get into a jail or penitentiary, that is just the course I would advise him to pursue. I leave it to the reader to say who were the persons aggrieved and injured, and that had the right to complain of trespass.
It was thought proper, by those who had the power so to do, to bind me over to appear and take my trial before the Court of Common Pleas, at the next session, in the sum of two hundred dollars, and sureties for the like amount were also required. Compliance was not difficult. I had only to send for Lemuel Ewer, Esq. of South Sandwich, who had, in former times, been the treasurer of the tribe, knew their wrongs, and was their friend. It was well for me that there was one man who knew on which side the right lay, and had the courage to support it, for I verily believe that no other person would have dared to become my bondsman. I owe Mr. Ewer the justice further to say that he has done much to advance the interests of the Marshpee tribe, by giving information respecting them to the Legislative body, for which we cannot easily show our gratitude.
The Cotueters now waxed exceedingly wroth at what Mr. Ewer had done. Truth had been shot into their hearts, and if I should say that they bellowed like mad bulls, and spouted like whales, gored mortally by the harpoon, I do not think the figure of speech would be too strong. Mr. Crocker, the contractor or agent, for our wood, felt himself especially aggrieved that I had gotten bail, and was let loose upon the plantation, to hinder him in his business. His life, he thought, would be in danger. There was a great deal of loose talk and a pretty considerable uproar.
While I was waiting for Mr. Ewer, to bail me, I had some conversation with the Hon. J.J. Fiske, who expressed himself concerned about the Indians, and thought that something ought to be done. I said to him that my object was to get them righted, and allowed that I might possibly have gone too fast and far. In this I am now satisfied that I was mistaken. I believe that neither I nor any of my brethren went fast enough. I think there is no white man, Christian or Infidel, who would have shown half so much forbearance as we did in the like circumstances. Mr. Fiske said he would do all he could for me, and I have no doubt that he did so. It was very proper in him to endeavor to quiet the whites. The Indians were already quiet, and had no disposition to be otherwise.
Nevertheless, it seemed to be the common opinion that the imprisonment of Apes would frighten the rest of the tribe, and cause them to forego their efforts to recover their rights. Had this been the case, they might have carted a few more good suppers and dinners out of our woods, and have eaten them on their town meeting days, for two or three days together, twice in the year, and have thrown the bones and crusts to the poor, old and ignorant, among the natives, as they had done, year after year. The missionary, as usual, might have helped them to devour the spoil, and have seen his flock degraded and abused, before his eyes. Much was also said about the pains that had been taken to educate the Marshpees, and it was averred, that, instead of going to the schools opened for them, they preferred going about the country picking berries, and basket making. Mr. Crocker said he had been at great pains to induce the Indians to go to school. Let him who has been prejudiced against the Marshpees, by such argument, look at the legislative act of 1789, section 5, for the regulation of the plantation, prohibiting the instruction of the Marshpees, in reading and writing, under pain of death. Who, then, dared to teach them?
Mr. Hawley, the former missionary, spent fifty or sixty years in Marshpee. He is mentioned in the history of Berkshire County, as a schoolmaster, for the Mohawks, Onedias and Tuscaroras, in 1748, and nothing more is known of him, up to his arrival in Marshpee. Thither he came to teach, in A.D. 1757, and there he staid till his death. What his care to educate the tribe was, may be judged from the facts that he did not teach one Indian to read during his residence among them, as I am informed by those who knew him. He had probably imbibed the opinion that the natives were incapable of being taught, and therefore spared himself trouble that he thought would be of no use. Nevertheless, he was willing to preach to them, and had a good portion of their land set off for his support. Truth obliges me to say that not one Indian was converted during the fifty years of his ministry. The neighbouring whites were the sole recipients of the good resulting from his labors, if there was any. Speaking on this subject, the Rev. Cotton Mather Smith says that the arrangements for managing Indian schools were never thoroughly made; admirable as was the general plan, and much as it promised. I think I may safely vouch for the truth and honesty of the reverend gentleman's admission.
Mr. Fish succeeded Mr. Hawley, in 1809, and was confirmed in his office by the authorities at Harvard, and the white overseers at Marshpee. The arrangement was sanctioned by the General Court, in 1811; contrary to law, as we think. Surely it takes two sides to make a bargain, and the consent of the Indians was never asked or obtained. Both of the divines mentioned above were willing to have the use of the property of the Marshpees; I fear, under a mere pretext of doing them good; and, therefore, that they and the overseers might have a support from the plantation, the owners were constantly proclaimed to be savages. I wonder what the whites would say, should the Indians take possession of any part of their property. Many and many a red man has been butchered for a less wrong than the Marshpees complain of.
Neither of the reverend gentlemen set up schools, and when the Marshpee children were put out to service, it was with the express understanding, as their parents all agree, that they should not be schooled. Many of those who held them in servitude, used them more like dogs than human beings, feeding them scantily, lodging them hard, and clothing them with rags. Such I believe has always been the case about Indian reservations. I had a sister who was slavishly used and half starved; and I have not forgotten, nor can I ever forget, the abuse I received myself. To keep Indian children from hearing the gospel preached in a land of gospel privileges, in order that they might do work unbefitting the Sabbath at home, has been the practice, almost without an exception, wherever I have had opportunity to observe. I think that the Indians ought to keep the twenty-fifth of December, and the fourth of July, as days of fasting and lamentation, and dress themselves, and their houses, and their cattle, in mourning weeds, and pray to Heaven for deliverance from their oppressions; for surely there is no joy in those days for the man of color.
Let the reader judge from what has been stated, what good the Marshpee Indians have derived from their two missionaries. I say boldly, none at all. On the contrary, they have been in the way of the good that would have been done by others. I say also that all the religious advantages the Indians have enjoyed, have come from other ministers, and members of other churches. I am equally sure that the money paid for our use, from the Williams Fund, has been a curse, and not a blessing to us. Had some good Christian minister come to the tribe with half the sum, there is no doubt that God would have made him an instrument to raise up a respectable Christian Society; whereas the fund has only served to build up the missionaries and the whites about the plantation. I am glad that it has done even this good; though it be to our enemies; for I am not of a spirit to envy the prosperity of others; I rejoice in it. But I sincerely think it is wrong in the whites to take the gospel from the Indians, as they do in Marshpee, by occupying their meeting-house, and receiving the benefit of the missionary fund. I mean that the people about Cotuet and Marshpee go to our house, and fill it, to our exclusion, without any charge; while the Indians are enforced by the laws which deprive them of the use of their own lands, to pay a heavy tax, from which they derive no benefit. Is not depriving them of all means of mental culture the worst of all robberies? Can it be wondered, that the Indians become more and more degraded? I presume all honest people will regret that such has been the case. It will be seen that both the missionaries and their white followers, imbibed all the prejudices of the day, and by disseminating them, hindered others from doing us good. This is no excuse, however, for the government of this Commonwealth, whose duty it was to see that its red children were not abused in this way. We greatly fear that our white fathers did not much care about their colored children in Marshpee. At any rate, it may be some satisfaction to the philanthropists in the country to know how liberal they have been to their poor dependants.
To begin—the Indians owe nothing to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or to the inhabitants of New England generally, for religious instruction, excepting a single appropriation of four hundred dollars, made in 1816 or 1818, for repairing their Meeting-house. Four hundred dollars more were appropriated in 1831, for the purposes of erecting two school houses; but not one cent for a teacher.
The way the Marshpees have supported a school hitherto, has been this. Some of them have lived abroad among the whites, and have learned to read and write, with perhaps some small smattering of arithmetic. On returning to the tribe, they have taught others what they knew themselves; receiving pay from those who had the means, and teaching the rest gratuitously. At the same time they have been compelled to support a preacher whom they did not wish to hear, and to pay, in one way or other, to the amount of four hundred dollars per annum to white officers, for doing them injury and not good. Thus then, in one hundred and forty years they have paid fifty-six thousand dollars to the whites, out of their own funds, in obedience to the laws of the Commonwealth. In return, the whites have given them one thousand in labor and money. Truly the Commonwealth must make haste, or it will hardly be able to pay us the interest of our money. The principal we never expect to get.
Thus, though it is manifest that we have cost the government absolutely much less than nothing, we have been called State paupers, and as such treated. Those are strange paupers who maintain themselves, and pay large sums to others into the bargain. Heigho! it is a fine thing to be an Indian. One might almost as well be a slave.
To return to the proceedings of the court at Cotuet: When supper time was past, the Cotueter's were anxious to draw something out of me, by questioning. They said they knew more about the matter than I did; that I had gotten myself into difficulty, and that Mr. Fish was a good man, and had gained twenty members over to his church in twenty-five years. They might have added that these were infants, who became members merely by undergoing the rite of baptism. Perhaps they were very good members, when they grew up—perhaps not.
Mr. Fish, alluding to the charge that but eight or ten of the Indians heard him preach, stated, in his memorial to the Legislature, that more than twice ten were upon his Sabbath School list. That might be true; but it was no answer to the charge. There may well have been on his list the names of so many persons, who attended neither his meeting nor his school. Nor had he denied the statements of the Indians in the least. I said to the gentlemen who were rejoicing over my supposed downfall, that I was glad they had taken me into custody, as it would lead to an investigation of the whole ground in dispute. Mr. Ewer presently arrived; his bail was accepted, and I and my friends returned home.
On the seventh of July, I was again visited by the Hon. J.J. Fiske, who conversed freely with me on our religious affairs. He said it would be better for us to turn Congregationalists, as then we should probably be able to get assistance from the fund, I replied, that I cared little by what name I was called; for I was no sectarian, but could unite in the worship of God with all good Christians. It seemed to be the opinion of the Hon. J.J. Fiske, that it was wrong for the Rev. Mr. Fish to receive the salary he did, without attending to the concerns of the Indians.
On the sixth, the head men of the tribe held a meeting, and agreed to rescind the former meetings until the session of the Legislature, as the commissioner had fairly stated that whatever could be done for us, would be done by that honourable body. We could do no less than accept a promise coming from so high an authority, and await the leisure of our father, the Legislature, though he had neglected us and suffered us to be abused. Who could say but that he would uplift his voice and weep aloud, on hearing the story of our wrongs, as Joseph and his brethren did when they recognized each other. And indeed, though our tender parent proved a little hard-hearted at first, by and by there was a little relenting toward his poor suffering babes of the woods, as will be seen in the proper place. The following notice was drawn up accordingly:
Whereas, certain resolutions have been made by us, the Marshpee Indians, in reference to our plantation, we do hereby solemnly declare, upon the security of the Governor's Counsel, that we shall be righted; and that there shall be a change of government, if necessary, and that the governor has pledged himself to do right, and that the property sold for money or otherwise disposed of, shall be refunded to us again, and that justice shall be done. Now, in consideration thereof, we do hereby guaranty to our white neighbours that they shall not be molested in their lawful concerns upon our plantation, provided that no white man meddles or interferes in any way whatever in our lawful affairs; and that you may understand that it is so, we say the resolutions are revoked, and we will wait with pleasure the sitting of the Legislature.
Done by order of the Marshpee Tribe, July 6, 1833.
DANIEL AMOS, President.
ISRAEL AMOS, Secretary.
Soon after this, the Commissioner departed, and I saw him no more till the sitting of the General Court. About this time our affairs got into the public prints, and it was reported through the whole land that there were hostile movements among the Indians at Cape Cod, or Buzzard's Bay. All the editors were very willing to speak on the favorite topic of Indian wrongs; but very few of them said any thing about redress. On this head they were either silent or against us. Here and there was found one liberal and independent enough to speak in our behalf. Some of these articles shall be given, that it may be seen who were for or against our rights and privileges. It will be proper to state in the first place, however, that from July 4, to the sitting of the Court of Common Pleas, in September, there was little disturbance upon the plantation. We thought, from what we heard among the whites that they were inclined to spare no pains to frighten us; but we listened patiently and remained quiet, according to our promise.
In August, we had a four-day meeting, which was the means of much good. Twelve Indians were redeemed from sin, and during the eighteen months that I have known them, the power of God has been manifested in the conversion of some thirty. God forbid that I should glorify myself; I only mention the circumstance to show that the Marshpees are not incapable of improvement, as their enemies would have the world suppose. But, under these circumstances, is it not natural for the Indians to think that their missionaries have cared less for saving their souls than for filling their own pockets, and that their thousands have been expended on them to very small purpose? I do think that the result of this meeting was in no wise pleasing to our white enemies.
At harvest time the reapers cut their grain and carried it to their granaries. But they were under the control of their task masters. A dispute arose. A woman whose husband was absent, doing business upon the great waters, claimed a portion of the grain, while the overseers maintained that it belonged to them. She applied for assistance to one of the true proprietors, who, in the presence of five or six men who were with the overseer's team, unloaded it, and placed the grain where it ought to have been. I was present and happened to smile at this novel proceeding, which, I suppose was the cause of a prosecution that presently took place for trespass. My horse had bitten off five or six rye heads in a rye field, for which enormity his owner was obliged to pay ten dollars, though the actual damage was not to the value of six cents. I will not retort the petty malice which prompted this mean act of revenge, by mentioning names. I now proceed to mark out the state of public feeling, by some extracts from the newspapers. The following is from the New Bedford Press, of June 1, 1833:
The remnants of that race of men who once owned and inhabited the forests and prairies of the Old Colony that have new given place to large and populous villages and the busy hum of civilized man, are, it would seem, somewhat dissatisfied with the manner in which they are governed by the State authority. Communications illustrative of the condition of the Marshpee Indians in the County of Barnstable, have been forwarded to us by the agent of the tribe, by which it appears that they have been abused. Intelligence from other quarters comes fraught with bitter complaint, and there can be no manner of doubt that too ample room remains for the improvement of their condition. The communications at hand advise the Indians to stand out for their right to appoint their own overseers, and do all business now especially done by the State. That they ought to be allowed this privilege, (if privilege it may be called,) there is no question; but there is a question, whether this is the first important step to be taken. By a list of names which accompanies our advices, it appears that very few are able to write their own names, their mark being affixed instead; and in addition to this, we are informed that there are many who cannot even read. With this view of their condition the correct and efficient course to be pursued would seem to be that of sending Education Missionaries among them, that in contending for their rights, of which they say they are deprived, they may be enabled to act understandingly.
This may serve to show that the Marshpees had long been dissatisfied with their government, and that very many complaints had been made; which will be illustrated by extracts from divers petitions, in another page. The next refers to the Marshpee trials, and is signed in a manner signifying that the writer speaks advisedly, and from knowledge.
From the Barnstable Journal of July 18, 1833.
Mr. Apes was arrested at the Marshpee Plantation on the 4th, by order of the Executive, and required to give bond for his good behaviour.
Mr. Apes now says, that this statement is not correct; that the Governor has ordered no such thing, and that he never was requested in all his life to give bond for his behavior.
Much has been said in and out of the papers about the Indians in Marshpee. All that the Indians want in Marshpee is to enjoy their rights without molestation. They have hurt or harmed no one. They have only been searching out their rights, and in so doing, exposed and uncovered, have thrown aside the mantle of deception, that honest men might behold and see for themselves their wrongs. The Indians could spread columns before the world which would cause the hearts of good men to be sad, and recoil at the conduct of their white brothers. All that Mr. A. wishes is, that people would tell the truth.
With regard to this article, I have to say that it speaks the truth. If an honest white man could look into our private affairs and know what wrongs we have suffered, it would change his complexion to a hue redder than the Indian's. But the crimes committed against our race cannot be enumerated here below. They will each and all, however, be judged at the bar of God, and it must be the comfort of the poor and oppressed, who cry for justice and find it not, that there is one who sees and knows, and will do right. The next is from the Boston Daily Advocate, of July 12.
Rev. Mr. Apes, who has been conspicuous in the Marshpee nullification, has, we learn, been taken and committed to jail in Barnstable county; upon what process, we are not informed, but we trust, for the honor of the State, that while our mouths are yet full of bitterness against Georgian violence, upon the Indians, we shall not imitate their example.
How true it is that men see the faults of others, rather than their own. If the good people of Massachusetts were as ready to do right as to have the Georgians do right, the Marshpee Indians might, perhaps, send a Representative to the Legislature. I hope the remark will give no offence. The next is from the same print, of July 15, 1833.
The Marshpee affairs, we are gratified to learn, are more quiet than they have been. The Indians took forcible possession of the Meeting-house the other day, and have retained it ever since, but no farther act has been committed on their part. They notified Mr. Fish that they had dismissed him from their Parish, and also formally gave notice to the overseers that their offices were at an end. Hon. J.J. Fiske, of the Executive Council, has visited the Indians, by request of the Governor, and has, we learn, discharged the duty in a highly conciliatory and discreet manner. The Indians would not at first consent to see him, but being satisfied of the disposition of the Executive to listen to their grievances, they met Mr. Fiske alone in the Meeting-house, where, by their special request, the overseers also appeared. The Sheriff of the county, Hon. John Reed, and others, were also present. About one hundred of the Indians appeared, many of them armed with guns. They were perfectly under the command of Apes, but all of them conducted with propriety, and seemed peaceably disposed. Mr. Fiske heard their complaints for one day. Their demands were to have the overseers removed, and the books and funds, now in the hands of the Treasurer, transferred to them; and in fact to be left to the entire management of their affairs. It was explained to them that the Governor had no power to do this, if he were so disposed. That he could only change their overseers, and lay their complaints before the Legislature, who alone could alter the laws now governing the plantation. To this, Apes would not agree, insisting that they should be relieved of the guardianship of the State, and that the Governor could do it at once.
He was questioned as to his own right to be on the plantation, to which he does not belong, and finding all argument useless with him, Apes was arrested in the assembly, (where he was acting as moderator,) upon a warrant for assault and trespass, in unloading the teams of Mr. Sampson. The Indians were perfectly quiet, and Apes having been bound over for his appearance to take his trial, in the sum of $200, he was immediately bailed by Mr. Ewer, a Justice of the Peace, and was not committed to jail, as has been represented. After his arrest, he expressed some contrition, and admitted he had gone too far. The ultimate understanding appears to be with the Indians, that they will offer no further resistance, but wait patiently for a redress of grievances, until the meeting of the Legislature, when they confidently expect to have their guardianship removed. As an evidence of their peaceable disposition, "President" Amos, at the request of Mr. Fiske, gave up the key of the Meeting-house, for Rev Mr. Fish to occupy the pulpit, and asked as a favor, that the Indians might occupy it half the time. The result of the mission of Mr. Fiske, is therefore very favorable, and if a similar course is pursued hereafter, there will be no further difficulty with the tribe. They should be treated with all possible lenity and kindness, for the honor of the Commonwealth.
The Indians would not consent to see Mr. Fiske at first, because they did not like to meet their enemies off their own ground, and I presume they would not have consented to do so to this day. As to the Counsellor's meeting us alone, it was the especial direction of the Governor that he should hear the parties separately, because, supposing the government to be oppressive, it seemed to him that the Indians would be afraid to speak plainly in presence of their masters, or proffer their complaints. The Indians wished to do nothing in a corner; but rather to proceed with an open and manly spirit, that should show that they were unjustly accounted abject and willing slaves. As to my opinion of the powers of the Governor, I have already admitted that I was in error; for I am not a man skilled in legal subtleties. My reason for pressing our claims so strongly was, to make the way easy for my brethren, till something could be done for them. The Indians were requested to give up their own Meeting-house to a gentleman who did not come at their request, and to gather other people into it to suit his convenience. The Indians asked for their own house for only half the time, and even this was denied them. The law not bearing out their petition, they could only obtain it by force, and, finding this to be the case, they forbore.
The question is, how can a man do good among a people who do not respect him or desire his presence, and who refuse to hear him preach? Yet Harvard College has forced such an one on the Marshpees against their will, right or wrong.
I heard a white lady observe, that Mr. Fish was not a preacher for every one; as though he was not fit to preach to any but us poor ignorant Indians. Nevertheless, if any people need a talented, enterprising preacher, we are the very ones. Some may suppose Mr. Fish to be a Unitarian. He was, when he was first settled at Marshpee; but his opinions underwent a change soon after, and he became what is commonly called an orthordox Congregationalist. In order to be a good one, he ought to make one more change—a change of inclination, to force himself on poor Indians. One who has such an inclination cannot be a good member of any sect, or an honor to it. Such a person can be no ornament to any ecclesiastical body. I would not have it inferred from this that a breath of reproach is in my mind, or in those of my brethren against any denomination of Christians. We love all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity.
I expressed no contrition because I thought I had acted morally wrong, or had asked any thing more than was right; but because I had mistaken the law, which in this case was a very different thing from justice.
The next article is from the Barnstable Journal, of July 25. It will serve to show that though the matter had been perfectly explained to the inhabitants of Barnstable County; yet it contained some of our worst enemies as well as best friends. Our enemies were those in office, and those under their influence. The majority believed the Indians to be wronged, and ought to have had redress; and these were unable to act in our behalf. Those who did act were either our enemies or persons who had no minds of their own, and were led by them in all they did. Many of them did, nevertheless, sympathise with the Indians, and pitied them when cast into prison, for all men can appreciate the blessing of liberty.
We observed in one of your late papers, some editorial remarks which breathed a spirit of candor and good will towards us, and not of ridicule and sarcasm, like that of your neighbor, the Patriot. Now Messrs. Editors, as our situation is but little understood, and the minds of the people much agitated, we feel a desire to lay before them some of the causes of the late excitement. We have long been under guardians, placed in authority over us, without our having any voice in the selection, and, as we believe, not constitutional. Will the good people of Massachusetts revert back to the days of their fathers, when they were under the galling yoke of the mother country? when they petitioned the government for a redress of grievances, but in vain? At length they were determined to try some other method; and when some English ships came to Boston, laden with tea, they mustered their forces, unloaded and threw it into the dock, and thereby laid the foundation of their future independence, although it was in a terrible war, that your fathers sealed with their blood a covenant made with liberty. And now we ask the good people of Massachusetts, the boasted cradle of independence, whom we have petitioned for a redress of wrongs, more grievous than what your fathers had to bear, and our petitioning was as fruitless as theirs, and there was no other alternative but like theirs, to take our stand, and as we have on our plantation but one harbor, and no English ships of tea, for a substitute, we unloaded two wagons loaded with our wood, without a wish to injure the owners of the wagons. And now, good people of Massachusetts, when your fathers dared to unfurl the banners of freedom amidst the hostile fleets and armies of Great Britain, it was then that Marshpee furnished them with some of her bravest men to fight your battles. Yes, by the side of your fathers they fought and bled, and now their blood cries to you from the ground to restore that liberty so unjustly taken from us by their sons.
The next article is from the Boston Daily Advocate. In the editorial remarks will be discerned the noble spirit of independence and love of right which are prominent characteristics of Mr. Hallett's character, and which induced him, throughout the controversy, to lend the aid of his columns to the poor and oppressed descendants of the people who welcomed his forefathers to their shores. He is not ungrateful for the kindness showed them in a time so remote. I think it my duty to say of him, that he has been fruitful of good works in behalf of all the oppressed. We Indians have tried his integrity and have found it sound metal. He gave us the aid of his extensive learning and undeniable talent, and carried our cause before the Legislature with no other end in view than the good of the Commonwealth and of the Marshpee tribe, and a strong desire to wipe from the character of his native State the foul blot of our continued wrongs. He never asked where his pay was to come from; but exposed the iniquities which had been transacted in the affairs of the Marshpee people, without hesitation, fear or favor, a course he has steadily pursued to this day. We acknowledge his doings as acts of pure benevolence toward us, and we say that the sons of the pilgrim fathers may well be proud of such a brother. Had others been only a little like him, we should have had no reason to complain; and we recommend him as an example, to all who may hereafter have dealings with Indians. Let them do as he has done, and they will be honored as he is. To be sure, it is no great matter to be loved and honored by poor Indians; but the good will of even a dog is better than his ill will. The rich man fared sumptuously every day, while the poor one was lying at his gate, feeding on the crumbs that fell from his table, and the dogs only had compassion on him. They both died; and we read that God sent a convoy of angels to bring the poor man safe home. The rich man doubtless had a splendid funeral; but we do not hear that he had any favor from his Maker. O, ye who despise Indians, merely because they are poor, ignorant, and copper-colored; do you not think that God will have respect unto them?
THE MARSHPEE INDIANS.
We have received a genuine communication from one of the Marshpee Indians, and as we verily believe that tribe is in many respects wronged by the whites, and neglected by their legal guardians, the Legislature, we are desirous of giving them a hearing, that justice may be done them, if it be a possible matter to get such a thing as justice and good faith from white men toward Indians. Undoubtedly some of their supposed grievances are imaginary and much exaggerated, but others are real, and tend greatly to depress them. We have had an overflow of sensibility in this quarter toward the Cherokees, and there is now an opportunity of showing to the world whether the people of Massachusetts can exercise more justice and less cupidity toward their own Indians than the Georgians have toward the Cherokees. We earnestly exhort the Marshpeeians to abstain from all acts of violence, and to rely with full confidence upon the next Legislature for redress. That body has heretofore treated their claims too lightly, but there is a growing disposition to hear and relieve their grievances. A memorial from the tribe, setting forth the wrongs of which they complain, would unquestionably receive prompt attention. The laws by which they are exposed to the cupidity of their white neighbors, are extremely defective, and require a thorough reform. Our correspondent, who we believe speaks the sentiments of the tribe, shall be heard for himself, and we hold our columns free to publish any facts, on either side of this question, which may be offered to the public.
"MARSHPEE, AUG. 5, 1833.
Dear Sir—With regret I say that your white brethren still think it a privilege to impose upon us here. The men upon our plantation were gathering their rye harvest, and the poor women whose husbands were at sea, who had let out their land, confidently expected to have their share, but it was taken from them by unjust men, and not so much as a spear of it left to sustain them, or even the promise of help or aid in any way; it was not taken for debt and no one knows for what. The overseers have now become displeased, and choose at this time to use their great power. I hope we shall not have to call upon the State to protect us, but if we are imposed upon in this manner, we believe we shall. And while we are willing to be still and peaceable, we think that those of our white friends, with the light they possess, ought to show as much of the spirit of kindness as poor ignorant Indians. The Legislature has bound the poor Indians as they have. The Indians would propose one thing. We have some white men here who will smuggle rum, and sell it to the Indians, and as they have no license, they ought to be stopped. We are happy to say that many of our Indians are temperate, but we wish them all to be, and we want some way to have a stop put to these things, for these white men are ten times worse than any of the Indians. I might name a Fuller, a Chadwick, and a Richardson; we really wish that the honorable Legislature would place guardians over them, to keep them from wasting our property in this way. While I was absent, there was a man that sued me for trespass, and tried the case without my information. What kind of law is this? I had the liberty of baiting my horse in a field. A man had rye in a field he did not hire, but took it upon shares. My horse got in his rye, but six cents would pay all the damage. But the action is not damage, but trespass, and that done unknown to me.
It is impossible to give you the details of wrongs imposed upon the Indians. We are to be accused by our enemies, tried by them, and condemned by them. We can get redress no where, unless we trouble the government all the while, and that we are delicate to do.
Now we believe that some of these things published abroad would do good, and we should have more peace.
Yours, most obediently."
We have received another communication from Marshpee, upon the same subject.
"Having seen several articles in your paper, relating to the Marshpee tribe, we perceive that your paper is free, not muzzled. Marshpee Indians speak for themselves. It is not to be doubted but that the public would like to hear the Indians speak for themselves. It has been represented that the Indians were troublesome, and war-like movements were among us. If to make an inquiry into our rights by us, is war-like, so it is. Otherwise than this we know nothing about it, and we know of none that has a disposition to shed blood. It is true that the day the Hon. J.J. Fiske, of the Governor's Council, was present with us, in a council at the meeting-house, the Indians, three in number, were out in the morning, hunting deer, and when they came to the meeting-house, they had their business to attend to, and could not conveniently go four or five miles to put up their muskets, neither did we see the propriety of their so doing. We believe that a just man would not have trembled at an old rusty musket.
We are hard to believe, that any people, served as we have been here, would more kindly submit to it, than we have. We think now we have submitted long enough, and we thought it no crime to look, or ask after our rights. But we found our white neighbors had thrown their chains of interest around our principal stock, so much so that we began to think they soon would drag both interest and principal all away. And no wonder they began to cry out, when they saw that the Indians were likely to unhook their chains, and break their hold. We believe white men had more war in their hearts than any of the Indians.
We are willing to hint a few things. We thought white men would do well, that they were trusty. We doubt not but what they be among themselves; but we scarcely believe that they care much for the poor Indians, any further than what they can get out of them. It is true we have land in Marshpee. We can stay upon it; but we have had to pay one dollar per cord, to the overseers, for our own wood, and take it or carry it just where these men said. Our meadows were taken from us and rented out to white people, our pastures also. About twelve hundred cords of our wood has been cut the last year, and we judge the minister has cut one hundred and fifty cords for his share. And in a word, they did as they pleased. The poor could get a pound of meat, or a half peck of corn, and one quart of molasses for two weeks. Much might be said, but we forbear. It is true that we have had a preacher, but we do not believe that he cares any thing about us. Neither had we any hand in his settlement over us. To be sure, he likes to stay with us, but we think it is because he gets so much good pay. But five or six adult persons attend his preaching, there being not one Indian male belonging to his church. This gentleman has cut much wood, to the dissatisfaction of the Indians; and it is true they have passed resolutions that they will not hear him preach. Yet he wants to stay with us.
Interest men tremble and threaten, but we fear not, and sincerely hope they will soon tremble before God, and prepare to meet their Judge, who will do right, and who will have no regard for skins or color.
THINK OF THE INDIANS.
We turn from this judicious and liberal article, to one that is less favorable. It is from the Barnstable Journal, of August 22, 1833.
We learn from South Sandwich that the Indians, constituting the Marshpee tribe, intend to petition at the sitting of the next Legislature, for a redress of grievances, and a revision of the code of laws by which they are governed. The recent revolt among them, and the measures adopted to make known their situation and treatment, by themselves, and by those who have avowed their friendship toward them, (its validity time will determine,) gave rise to considerable excitement. An inquiry into the state of affairs was instituted, which terminated, as far as we have been able to learn, to the satisfaction of those employed in the investigation, that some of the evils under which they are labouring are real, and rendered so by the laws of the Commonwealth, but many imaginary. We do not doubt that the state of society among them is low and degraded, comparatively speaking, but what contributes to keep them in this situation we are unable to say, unless it be, that the plantation has been a resort of the vagrant, the indolent, and those whom refined society would not allow among them. If this is the case, and we believe it has been, something should be done, either among the Indians, or by the Legislature, to remedy the evil. We have understood also, that certain individuals, located contiguous to the plantation, retail ardent spirits to them in quantities as large as they are able to pay for. If this be the fact, such men should be ferreted out, and in justice to the Indians, to the community about them, and to the laws of the land, they should be made to suffer, by being exhibited to public derision, and by the penalty of the act prohibiting the retail of spirits. If they have not the power, and no one feels willing to go forward in shutting up these poisonous springs, give them the power, and if they do not exercise it, let them suffer.
Mr. Apes is among them, and attended the "Four Days Meeting," held during the present month, which we are told was managed with good order and regularity.
The writer here says that the Indians are vile and degraded; and admits that they can be improved. He gives no explanation of the causes of their degradation. If the reader will take the trouble to examine the laws regarding the Marshpees, he will see those causes of the inevitable and melancholy effect, and, I am sure, will come to the conclusion that any people living under them must necessarily be degraded. The Journal, however, does us the small justice to admit, that we are not so degraded but that we can hold a meeting of four days duration, with propriety and moderation. What, then, might we not do, were proper pains taken to educate us.