The Barnstable Journal Reports on the Mashpee Revolt

Periodical Article

Background Notes

Most of the Mashpees’ campaign for self−government actually took place in print, not in physical struggle. During the course of the Mashpee Revolt, both supporters and opponents wrote numerous newspaper articles and pamphlets. William Apess compiled many of these documents, along with his commentary, into a book, Indian Nullification, which he published in 1835. This is one of the newspaper articles he included.

Note on spelling: The names “Apess” or “Apes” and “Mashpee” or “Marshpee” are spelled two ways reflecting the time when information was written. Apess and Mashpee are the preferred current spellings. Apes and Marshpee are the usual early nineteenth−century spellings.

Transcription of Primary Source

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.

Glossary

  • plantation − reservation; settlement with special legal status

Curator Notes

Type: Newspaper

Exact Title: The Mashpee Revolt
Periodical: Barnstable Journal
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Probable Date: August 22, 1833

Description: Quoted in William Apes, Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts, Relative to the Marshpee Tribe: or, the Pretended Riot Explained (Boston: Jonathan Howe, Printer, 1835), 60−61. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.

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Catalog Number: Old Sturbridge Village