The Boston Daily Advocate Reports on the Mashpee “Revolt”

Book Excerpt

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

Excerpt from the Boston Daily Advocate, a newspaper, reprinted in Indian Nullification by William Apess

We are mortified for the honor of the State, to learn from Barnstable County, that the Court of Common pleas and Sessions there, (Judge Cummins,) have tried and convicted William Apes and six Indians of the Marshpee tribe, upon charges connected with the efforts of the Indians to obtain justice from their white masters. Apes is very popular with the Indians, and this persecution of him, which at least was unnecessary, will inflame them the more.

The papers say the conviction was for riot. This cannot be, for there was no riot, and no riot act read. Apes and his associates prevented a man from carrying wood off the plantation*. They were, perhaps, wrong in doing so, but the law which takes this wood from the Indian proprietors, is as unjust and unconstitutional as the Georgia laws, that take the gold mines from the Cherokees. Could the question of property have been tried, the act of stopping their own wood, by the Indians, could not have been made even trespass, much less riot. It is said that Apes and the rest were indicted under some obsolete law, making it a misdemeanor to conspire against the laws. We have looked for such an act, but cannot find it in the Statute Book.

As any rate, law or no law, the Indians were indicted and convicted. They were tried by their opponents, and it would be impossible to get justice done them in Barnstable County. An impartial jury could not be found there. It is the interest of too many to keep the Indians degraded. We think the conviction of these Indians is an act of cruelty and oppression, disgraceful to the Commonwealth. The Marshpee Indians are wronged and oppressed by our laws, nearly as much as ever the Cherokees were by the Georgians. But it is useless to call for the exercise of philanthropy at home. It is all expended abroad.

An attempt was made to indict some of the white harpies*, who are selling rum to the Indians, without license. Those men got clear, and are still suffered to prey on the poor Indians; but to stop a load of wood, which in reality belonged to the Indians themselves, was an outrage which the Court were ready enough to punish! Is it creditable to let the white spiders break through the laws, while we catch and crush the poor Indian flies?


  • plantation − reservation; settlement with special legal status

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts, Relative to the Marshpee Tribe: or, the Pretended Riot Explained
Boston Daily Advocate, September 10, 1833.
Edited by Old Sturbridge Village
William Apes
Jonathan Howe, Printer
Place of Publication: 
Old Sturbridge Village