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.
- What is the tone of the writing? What words set the tone?
- To whom and to what does the Rev. Apess compare King Philip? What impression do you get from these comparisons?
- What words best describe King Philip as the Rev. Apess remembers him?
- 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?
- What do we learn about the Rev. William Apess from his writing?