Letter of Phineas Fish to Josiah Quincy

To Honorable President Quincy 

Dear Sir,

I sent you a long reply to yours of 25 November on the 5 December.  Lest it should not come to hand, I trouble you with a few lines just to show, in case of the miscarriage of the other, that I am not unmindful of your commands.

One or two remarks occur to me to which I meant to have adverted in my statement, but which escaped me in the press of matter.               

1.   I meant to have requested a statement of the charges (if any) that have been made against me, whether from the Indians or others, and other than the Indians have made representations.

I am confident that I can show their inaccuracy if you have only such as the Indians communicated to me in a written paper (which I suppose Governor Lincoln has handed to you), then I know myself, able to explain every thing and to prove the uprightness of my own conduct. Should that paper be in your possession, I should be glad to have it again because I sent it away immediately on receiving it and had no time to take a copy.                 

2.   Another thing intended by me was to state more clearly the condition of the people at present and the state of parties among them. I have good ground for supposing that there was a special reason for identifying me with the Government of the Plantation. It was the policy of Apes, the stranger Indian, as appears with sufficient evidence from some of his earlier attempts of misrule.  His first efforts were directed against the meeting house and the parsonage woodlot. The paper to which I allude was (as I believe) drawn up by him.  1 Some of the conception and the mode of expression are wholly foreign from the habits of thought and expression common among the nations of this place. Everything serves to show that this adventurer turned a longing eye from the very first, to my situation and, if possible, he meant to take it by a “coup de main.”2  If he could fortify himself by creating prejudice against me abroad, he thought his object would be none the less secure. He has done the same at home.  He has defamed my name in the neighbouring towns and even to my personal friends.  He has circulated false reports among the Indians, which at first incited their anger against me and led them to favour his views. The sentiments of a good member of the most respectable of those who at first adhered to him are essentially changed. What was once his party are now divided and separated from each other. His followers are now reduced (comparatively speaking) to a handful. Many now openly express their conviction of his dishonesty. They still perhaps have a vague hope that he will aid them in procuring a change in their civil regulations­, but they are suspicious of him, and, if the legislature do not pacify their wishes, he will have neither influence nor character, and things will revert to their former state.  Indeed the prospect for my usefulness will be better than for a long time!                

3. Even now, if it were necessary, I could obtain without the smallest importunity the signature of as many as thirty heads of families for my continuance. Some of them, clear blooded Indians, are urgent on the subject. Since I wrote last, I have gained important evidence of their returning favour.  The people will, by this time, have learnt much, and the way, I trust, will be prepared to do good among them to a greater extent that at any period of my mission­.  This is my sober judgment and that of many judicious persons who have the means of knowing the state of affairs. I should be glad to hear from you, Sir, if you please, as soon as convenient.                                  

With great respect, I am your much-obliged servant,                                                                                        

Mashpee, December 7, 1833


P. S. Speaking of Apes, a clergyman told me that he declared to him that he was going to Cambridge to upset me, and obtain my place, and he had no doubt of doing so because he was no sectarian, and that he was in great favour with a certain class of influential persons, and he should make large promises to the Corporation if they would favour his views. This is the sentiment as stated to me. Though I do not vouch for the exactness of the expression.  Phineas Fisk / I wrote last, and have gained important evidence


Honorable Josiah Quincy, L.L.D., President of Harvard College, Cambridge


Cotuit, Massachusetts. December 7, 1833.  Paid 10


Received Phineas Fish’s Letter.  December 7, 1833

  • 1. Deleted Text: The
  • 2. Translated from French, coup de main means "stroke of hand," which is defined as "a sudden and vigorous attack, for the purpose of instantaneously capturing a position." OED