E/MS Unit I

Lesson D: William Apess and the “Mashpee Revolt”

Key Questions

  1. Who was William Apess?
  2. How did Apess present the Native American view of King Philip's War?
  3. What led up to the "Mashpee Revolt" and how were the Mashpees' grievances resolved?

Primary Sources

Document E/MS I-12: King Philip—Leader of His People: Excerpts from the Rev. William Apess’s "Eulogy on King Philip," 1837

Document E/MS I-12: King Philip—Leader of His People: Excerpts from the Rev. William Apess’s "Eulogy on King Philip," 1837

William Apess was a powerful speaker. He first gave his “Eulogy on King Philip” in Boston in 1836. The following year, he published it as "Eulogy on King Philip as Pronounced at the Odeon, in Federal Street, Boston, by the Rev. William Apess, Indian, January 8, 1836.” In the 48-page booklet, he gave a detailed history of what led up to King Philip’s War, described King Philip, the events of the war, and what happened after it was over.

[T]he immortal [George] Washington lives endeared and engraven on the hearts of every white in America, never to be forgotten in time,—even such is the immortal Philip honored, and held in memory by the degraded who appreciate his character; so will every patriot… respect the rude yet all-accomplished son of the forest, that died a martyr to his cause, though unsuccessful, yet as glorious as the American Revolution. Where, then, shall we place the hero of the wilderness? I leave it for the world to judge.

Justice and humanity for the remaining few, prompt me to vindicate the character of him who yet lives in their hearts, and, if possible, show to our white brothers the high veneration we hold for our great chiefs and warriors…

Apess went on to explain the many injustices that came before war broke out. Once the fighting began,

[W]e find Philip as active as the wind, as dextrous as a giant, firm as the pillars of heaven, and as fierce as a lion, a powerful foe to contend with indeed; and as swift as an eagle, gathering together his forces, to prepare them for the battle. [It would take too long] to mention all the tribes in Philip’s train of warriors, suffice it to say that from six to seven were with him at different times…making in all about 1400 warriors when he commenced…. Philip’s young men were eager to do exploits… It does appear that every Indian heart had been lighted up at the council fires, at Philip’s speech, and that the forest was literally alive with this injured race. And now town after town fell before them. The pilgrims with their forces were ever marching in one direction, while Philip and his forces were marching in another, burning all before them, until Middleborough, Taunton and Darmouth were laid in ruins and forsaken by their inhabitants….

But who was Philip, that made all this display in the world; that put an enlightened nation to flight, and won so many battles? It was a son of nature; with nature’s talent alone… No warrior of any age, was ever known to pursue such wise plans as Philip did…and after all, it is a fact, that it was not the pilgrims that conquered him, it was Indians. And as to his benevolence, it was very great; no one in history can accuse Philip of being cruel to his conquered foes; that he used them with more hospitality than they, the pilgrims did, cannot be denied….

Full text of Apess' eulogy is on the Memorial Hall Museum website.

Questions:

  1. What is the tone of the writing? What words set the tone?
  2. To whom and to what does the Rev. Apess compare King Philip? What impression do you get from these comparisons?
  3. What words best describe King Philip as the Rev. Apess remembers him?
  4. Does it change our understanding of an event and/or a person when an account is written by someone of the same racial or ethnic background? If so, how?
  5. What do we learn about the Rev. William Apess from his writing?
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Document E/MS I-13: "Let Us Rule Ourselves": Excerpts from the Mashpee Petition to the Massachusetts Legislature, May 1833

Document E/MS I-13: "Let Us Rule Ourselves": Excerpts from the Mashpee Petition to the Massachusetts Legislature, May 1833

To the Governor & Council of the State of Massachusetts

We say in the voice of one man that we are distressed and degraded daily by those men who we understand were appointed by your honors. That they have the rule of everything. That we are not consulted, it is true, and if we are, they do as they please and if we say one word then we are called poor drunken Indians when in fact we are not….

Much of our land is also rented out and white people have the preeminence and the overseers will not rent our own land to us and we cannot turn our own sheep on what little stock we have… all of our priviliges (sic) are in a measure taken from us. Our people are foresaken (sic) – many of them sleep upon the cold ground and we know not why it should be so, when we have enough if properly managed to supply all our wants….

There is much more, but we think that this is sufficient to satisfy you. Knowing that if we were whites, one half would be enough for redress – and now in consideration thereof and believing that you sirs would do the same – we as proprietors of the soil proud to return your honors thanks for the interest that we believe that you have taken in our welfare yet afore. With a cheering hope that we one day would take care of ourselves believing that you will comply with our wishes and resolutions, and discharge those men, as we have several good trusted men who are capable men who are about to be chosen officers by us… For if we do not take such measures in five years our property will be gone…

Resolved

That we as a Tribe will rule ourselves, and have the right to do so for all men are born free and Equal, says the constitution 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 first of July next.

Resolved

That we will put said resolution in force after the date of July next with the penalty of binding and throwing them off the plantation if they will not stay away without.

Yours most obediently as the voice of one man we approve the aboveas the voice of one man we pray you hear. See list [of 108 signatories] Presented below.

Quoted in The Wampanoags of Mashpee, by Russell Peters (n.p., 1987)

Questions:

  1. Why did the Mashpees petition the governor? Did they need permission to do so? Why or why not?
  2. What happened as a result of the petition?
  3. What is the status of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation today? How can you find out?
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