Letter of William Whitman to Josiah Quincy

President Quincy1

Dear Sir,

The bearer of the letter is one Nathan Pocknet, an Indian of Mashpee, and one of its oldest inhabitants, with one William Amos, another Indian of that tribe, who have come up to Boston as remonstrants2 to a petition of one William Apes, a Pequot Indian, who has removed his family on that Plantation, and who has endeavoured under the pretence of preaching to subvert the Government of the Plantation, to dismiss Mr. Fish3 and the Guardians and totally to change rules and orders of the Overseers of that tribe.

He has committed a riot on the Plantation, has been apprehended, indicted, convicted, and punished for the offence, by imprisonment, served his time out in gaol for the offence,4 and is now returned to his family on the Plantation, ready for new scenes of riot and disturbance.

The bearer of this letter has one for you, which he is directed to deliver, and will answer any questions you may wish to ask him, respecting Mr. Fish, and, believing you may wish to know, the proceedings that have taken place on the Plantation and what Apes and his followers are doing in the General Court, I send you copies, as far as they are printed, of the petition and documents by which you will perceive that the removal of the Reverend Mr. Fish from his office as missionary, and the removal of the Board of Overseers, and the management of the affairs of the Plantation by Apes is contemplated. As one of the Overseers of that Plantation for the last ten years, and all that time, well-acquainted with Mr. Fish, I must say his conduct has been good, his exertions to fulfill as a minister, his duties, unabated, and his example, such is as becomes a Minister of the Gospel, and, though his creed is not so liberal as President Kirkland5 supposed when he attended his ordination, yet I believe him sincere, pious and devout, and I enquire no further.

This man ought to be protected in the discharge of the duties of his office, from the attacks of an imposter and fanatic, and such a man I believe Apes to be; but such is the age in which we live, and such the unsettled condition of our clergy – that there is very little that may not be expected from the times.  My solicitude, therefore, that Mr. Fish should not be injured in his usefulness, much less removed from his station is great, for it is my opinion it is not his fault.  He has no more hearers or a larger church.

You will, Sir, pardon this trouble I have given you, as it arises from a sense of duty as an Overseer of that tribe and from an anxiety to have some expression from you that may have a bearing on the investigation that will be had next week before a Joint Committee of the General Court, of which Mr. Barton6 of the Senate is Chairman.

With much respect and esteem, I am your friend and humble servant,

Boston, February 1, 1834

Note: Papers Sent are as follows:


Petition to the Governor and Council    

May 21, 1833


Report of Committee of Council               

June 25, 1833


Commission of Governor Lincoln to Honorable Josiah J. Fiske

June 30, 1833


Letter of Governor Lincoln to Mr. Fiske No. 1 

June 30, 1833 


Letter of Governor Lincoln to Mr. Fiske No. 2

June 5, 1833


Report of the Honorable Mr. Fiske, the Commissioner, lately reported


A copy of the charges made by Apes and his followers to Mr. Fiske, or extracts from them, and the answer to them made by the Overseers, on their being presented as Mashpee

July 9, 1833


The Memorial of the Mashpee Indians, the present General Court, and which is now pending before them*

* The copy is marked by me and was intended to be used at the hearing before the Committee next week, but, having no other copy, I forward it underscored as it is that you may have all the documents that are printed

January 1834


The memorial of the Reverend Phineas Fish, one other, being in the hand of the printer, presented to this Legislation

December 30, 1834


The Remonstrance of Nathan Pocknet and fifty-one others to the Petition of Israel Amos and 78 others, etc.

January 1, 1834


Honorable Josiah Quincy, President of Harvard College, Cambridge


Whitman Introducing Indians, December7 1, 1834



  • 1. Josiah Quincy
  • 2. For more on Pocknet and Amos, see Lopenzina, Through an Indian's Looking Glass, 215 and O'Connell, On Our Own Ground, 229.
  • 3. Phineas Fish
  • 4. Apes' conviction for riot on the Mashpee Plantation required him to spend thirty days in prison, pay a fine of one hundred dollars, and to post bond with a surety to keep the peace for six months. Boston Traveler, Sept. 12, 1833, p. 2.See O'Connell, On Our Own Ground, xxxvii, 186.
  • 5. John Thornton Kirkland
  • 6. Ira Barton of Oxford, Massachusetts
  • 7. This may be an error for February.