Petition of Elijah Pocknet and Other Mashpee Indians to to the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Most Honored Gentlemen,
Firstly, we are most certain that our late misfortunes have come to your knowledge; however, we most humbly presume on your good virtues, being assured by sundry examples of your compassion, that you will think of and take pity on the distressed of late being deprived of our liberty and property thereof as an objects truly deserving compassion, we most humbly implore and petition to Your Honors to consider the many losses and disappointments that we have lately met with which have reduced us to such necessitous circumstances that we cannot possibly proceed in any of our affairs. Your Honors was pleased once to style us your friends, and so we was indeed by going into the service, and so we would most certainly be now and shew it by a signal proof of kindness if our circumstances were changed by standing between us and misfortunes by giving us our once enjoyed liberty and screening us from the contempt incident to poverty and distresses by the other people that lives on our lands. Most Honored Gentlemen, we doubt not, Sirs, but your generosities and goodness is as great, and we hope with all humility, you will be pleased to interpose your good offices between ruin and we poor Indians for we are certainly poor creatures destituted of all liberty and property and all by the means of one man, G. Hawley,1 our treasurer, the most independent creature that ever was among us. He has no love nor regard for us only to get all our interest in his own hands, and he has got it and keeps it from us and weighs and measures it out by the spoonfuls to us in the sense of it the youngest of us that have from treasurer must certainly spend one day and half and get but one peck or half bushels of corn at most but seldom that and sometimes pint of molasses and the like such small draughts is dealt out to us. The change of them is as much as the articles and if any of us are sick, especially them of us that are old. We must certainly suffer if we can't have no subsistence only from him if we go to our white neighbors, they will inflect on us that G. Hawley has got our interest and we must go to him, and, when we go to him, he will send us to the guardians, and away we must go or come home as we went, and so this man distresses us, and yet we have interest enough, and we must certainly suffer under this constitution.
Secondly, we humbly pray Your Honors that you would realize our conditions, and let this constitution pass away from us. It will certainly be our ruin and let the old constitution to comes in force with us again that we can choose our selectmen among ourselves yearly and carry on our own licenses among ourselves. We beg for no bigger enjoyment of liberty for now we have not the liberty of selling a little wood to get little necessaries nor can't get it out of our treasurer, and all most deprived of our fishery for the last summer past, there was some of us was carried before the Justice of the Peace, and there made charge and interest disposed, and we are dreadfully distressed by the means of one man, G. Hawley, and by his conduct, we are heroist almost from post to pillar. We have our marsh taken from us and have not enough to keep our cattle which we are obliged to sell our corn or hire out our planting land for hay or sell our sheep, if we have any, for little hay or hire our cattle, kept, or put them out for their work, so in the spring, we can't get up our planting land. And so, we can't raise corn enough for our families and can't have little and nothing out of the treasurer and what chance we have to live, it is hard, heart-breaking work for us to live, if we have little hay for our cattle nearly enough. We are sued and cattle taken from us and what can we do less than to desire Your Honors to grant us the old constitution and our liberty, for this constitution gave this man, G. Hawley, liberty to take all from us, and he almost do it, too.
Thirdly, we do not want his conduct in our affairs. We want nothing at all that is his own. He has conducted in such manner that we have left his meeting entirely and never more want to hear him preach nor even to see his face in our place any more, for he is ruin of us, for he don't care for us, and he don't want to see us, and if we go to his house for anything, he will turn us out of doors or by his cause he has served us in such a manner that we are all most afraid to go to his house, for he quarrels with us when we meet him on the road and sometimes almost strike us, and is this the character of a minister of the gospel? Who can blame us for leaving him or wanting him gone from among us, and if he was gone off our land and had the liberty for another minister to be pleased in his room, it seems although we should be just set about religion to have one to encourage us therein, but this G. Hawley discourages us both spiritual and temporal seemingly, for he sells our wood and fencing stuff close by our houses and in closer and allows the white people to cut our oak wood and carry it to market, and he sells most all of our marsh and the rent of the white people that lives on our lands and the old fields, if there is ever so near ours to them, they are all hired out and he, G. Hawley, takes it to his own disposal, and this goes to pay charge for our great men that is over us are chargeable for being at such great distance, these finer men and G. Hawley takes even all the collection, and if there is any that is left, then our poor haves that with a great deal difficulty, there is poor old men and womens, that is hardly able to go about, are obliged to go after some food and raiment, often times suffer with hunger and cold hardly clothes enough to cover their nakedness and what little clothes they have is nothing but rags and are obliged to pick up anything to eat to satisfy nature that you would refuse to give to your hogs or dog all by the means of G. Hawley. Most Honored Gentlemen, we can't but ask for liberty and to enjoy our property as we once did, for we think it very necessary, and if we could enjoy our privilege once more, it would seem of we just entered on a new life. One necessary thing is for the white people to be removed off our lands, for there is so many, they encroach exceeding hard on us, and there is no help for us, for they multiply so fast that they will devour us, for as fast as they come to maturity, they settle little distance from their parents, and so they increasing and will root us all out 'fore long. So, this is our desire: to have this done for us. This is out of our power if they drive us from the land. We humbly implore Your Honors to let our lands still continued to be entailed that we can't dispose of it to no nations, only among ourselves, the proprietors, and we may buy and sell or gave to none, but the proprietors' Most Honored Gentlemen, we humbly beg and pray Your Honors to set us at liberty and to enjoy our property once more peaceably.
And this we humbly ask for at this time now and evermore.
As we the subscribers,
Most Honored Gentlemen, we desire an answer of peace as soon as Your Honors will allow, for we are poor creatures, not able to furnish ourselves for a long siege or else we must suffer nothing but what we pick up ourselves and very little, too. So, we pray, Your Honors, to dismiss the banners as soon as the Gentlemen can.
In Senate, January 14, 1792, Read and committed to Joshua Thomas and Alex Campbell,2 Esq., with such as the Honorable House may join to concur and report, Sent down for concurrence, Samuel Phillips, President / In the House of Representatives, January 14, 1792, Read and concurred and Mr. Greenleaf and Mr. Thatcher of Yarmouth and Mr. White are joined, David Cobb Speaker
- 1. Throughout the text Gideon Hawley is identified only as "G. Hawley." While our editorial policy normally provides the complete name in regularized annotated transcriptions, we leave the name as in the original textual format here since it represents a powerful rhetorical device in marginalizing the minister.
- 2. The name David Mitchell was crossed out in the original.