Comparison Between William Apes' An Inquiry into the Education, etc. and Statement of the Means of Education, etc.

July 30



                                                      An Inquiry

                                                        into the

                     Education and Religious Instruction

                                                           of the

                                             Marshpee Indians


On the subject of the means taken to educate the

Indians, I will say a few words in addition to what has

already been said, because we wish to show that we

can be grateful when we have favors bestowed on





Of the means of Education and Religious Instruc- 

tion enjoyed by the Marshpee Indians, connected  

with Mr Fish and Harvard College. 


[The following statement of facts is derived  

from authentic documents and the testimony of the  

Indians and others.]


Up to 1835, the State had done nothing for edu- 

cation in Marshpee, except build two school-houses 

in 1831. 


     Last In the winter of 1835, the subject came up in  the Legislature

of distributing the School fund of the State among the

towns    A bill was reported to the House, in which 

Marshpee was made a School District, and entitled to

receive a dividend according to its population by the

United States census. Now, [T]his was meant well , and

we feel obliged to the Committee who thought so much

of us as this; but had the law passed in that shape, it

would have done no good , because we have Marshpee had no

United States census.  The people of Marshpee, nor

the Selectmen knew nothing of this law to distribute 

the School fund, and our pretended their  missionary, or pastor (as he claimed to be), Mr  

Fish, never interested himself in such matters; but



our good friend Mr Hallet, at Boston thought of us,

and (who had acted as their counsel) laid our their claims before the Committee, by two  

petitions which he got from the Selectmen and from

himself, and the Commissioner.  We are told that

[T]he chairman of the School Committee, Hon. A. H.

Everett, took much interest in getting a liberal allow-

ance for education in Marshpee.  He was once before

a warm friend to the Cherokees, and his conduct now

proved that he was sincere.  He presented the peti-

tions and proposed a law which would give us one  

hundred dollars a year forever, for public Schools in  

Marshpee, which was the largest sum that had been

asked for by Mr H.   A number of gen-

tlemen  spoke in favor of this allowance, and all showed  

that a spirit of kindness as well as justice toward  

the long oppressed red men, begins to warm the hearts

of those who make our the laws and rule over us. We

trust we are thankful to God for so turning the hearts

of men toward us. for the Indians as well as the White man.

     The Bill passed the House and also the Senate,  

without any objection, and it is now a law of the State

of Massachusetts, that the Marshpee Indians shall

have one hundred dollars every year, paid out of the

School fund, to help them educate their children. 

Our The proportion as a District, according to what other

towns receive, would have been but  fifteen dollars.  By

the aid of our friends, and particularly of our counsel,

(Mr. H.) who first proposed it, we shall now receive

one hundred dollars a year; and I trust the Indians

will best show their gratitude by the pains they will

take to send their children to good schools, and by

their raising as much more money as they can, to get



good instructers; and give the rising generation all the

advantages which the children of the whites enjoy in


This money was wisely appropria-

ted the last winter, as far as it would go, in em-

ploying competent White male teachers, and has 

doubtless done more for the Indians by improving 

the rising generation and preparing them to re-

ceive moral and religious instruction than all Ha-

rvard College has done for them through Mr. Fish, by 

an unfortunate though unintentional misapplica-

tion of more than eleven thousand dollars arising 

from the Williams Fund, of which the College is 


This will be one of the best means to raise 

them to an equality, and teach them to put away from

their mouths forever, the enemy which the white man,

when he wanted to cheat and subdue the race, first got

them to put therein, to steal away their brains, well

knowing that their lands would follow. 

     The following are the petitions presented to the  

Legislature, which will give some light on the history

of Marshpee. 


To the Honorable General Court. 

     The undersigned are Selectmen and School Committee of

the District of Marshpee.  We understand your Honors are

going to make a distribution of the School Fund.  Now we

pray to leave to say that the State, as the guardians of the 

Marshpee Indians, took our property into their possession, so

that we could not use a dollar of it, and so held it for sixty 

years  We could make no contract with a school-master, and

during that time, till 1831, we had no school house in Marsh-

pee, and scarcely any schools.  We began to have schools

about five years ago, but still want means to employ compe- 

tent white teachers to instruct our children.  Our fathers

often petitioned the Legislature to give them schools, but

none were given till 1831, when the State generously built

us two school houses. 

     We also beg leave to remind your Honors that our fathers

shed their blood for liberty, and we, their children, have had

but little benefit from it.  When a continental regiment of

four hundred men were raised in Barnstable county, in 1777,

twenty-seven Marshpee Indians enlisted for the whole war.  

They fought through the war, and not one survives. After

the war our fathers had sixty widows left on the Plantation,

whose husbands had died or been slain.  We have but one

man living who draws a pension, and not a widow.  We pray



you, therefore, to allow to Marshpee, out of the School Fund,  

a larger amount in proportion than is allowed to other towns

and districts who have had better means of education, and to

allow us a certain sum per year—and as in duty bound, will

ever pray. 


EZRA ATTAQUIN,   Selectmen and School 

ISAAC COOMBS,      Committee of Marsh- 

ISRAEL AMOS,          pee District. 



To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives in Gene-

                                                      ral Court Assembled : 

     The undersigned beg leave to represent in aid of the peti-

tion of the Selectmen and School Committee of the District of 

Marshpee, praying for a specific appropriation from the School

Fund for the support of public schools in said district, that we  

are acquainted with the facts set forth in said petition, and

believe that the cause of education could no where be more

promoted in any District in the Commonwealth than by

making a specific annual allowance to said Marshpee District. 

The Legislature have made a specific annual appropriation of  

fifty dollars to the Indians on Martha’s Vineyard for public

schools, and the undersigned are of opinion, that an annual

appropriation of double that amount, would be no more than a

fair relative proportion for the District of Marshpee.  It is

highly important that the District should be able to employ

competent white teachers, until they can find a sufficient

number of good teachers among themselves, which cannot be

expected until they have enjoyed greater means of education

than heretofore.  The undersigned therefore pray that the

petition of said Selectmen may be granted, by giving a

specific annual allowance to said District.  

BENJ. F. HALLETT,  Counsel for the Marshpee Indians.  

CHARLES MARSTON, Commissioner of Marshpee. 


Here Thus it will be seen that where education was concerned, the missionary for the In-

dians on Martha’s Vineyard, did not go to sleep over

his flock, or run after others and neglect what ought to

be his own fold, as did the missionary, Mr Fish, whom  


Harvard College sent to the Marshpees, and has paid pays twenty-five years for

preaching to white men.  Mr Bayley, the white mis-

sionary on the Vineyard, as I understand, took pains to

send a petition to Boston, and he got fifty dollars a

year for our bretheren  the people there, of which we are glad.

From all we can judge of Mr. Fish, we should have

sooner expected that instead of trying to help our

schools, he would opposed our getting any thing for

schools, as he also opposed our getting our liberty.

He has done nothing for us, about our schools, and

even tried to set the Indians against their counsel, Mr.

Hallett, by pretending he had lost his influence. When

Mr. Fish does as much for our liberty, and for our

schools, as Mr. Hallett has done, we will listen to his

advice  Mr Fish did nothing. 

     Mr Bayley, the missionary on the Vineyard, we understand

has but  about two hundred dollars a year, or one third of the income of the Williams Fund, from

Harvard College, while Mr Fish, at Marshpee, has

two thirds of the interest of $13,000, which is between four and five hundred, and wrongly uses as

his own about , nearly five hundred acres of the best land on

the plantation belonging to the Indians.  The Legisla- 

ture in 1809, took his land from the Indians, without

any right to do so, as we think, and thus compel them,  

against the Constitution, to pay out of their property a

minister they never will hear preach.  Is this religious

liberty for Indians?  Mr Fish is now cutting perh-

aps, 200 cords of wood, justly belonging to the In-

dians, in addition

 to $433 from Harvard College, has cut already, this

 season, 250 cords of wood, amounting, standing, to

 $425.  This sum of $858, belonging to the In-

dians, he has received,

when there is scarce five adult Indians who will go and hear

him preach in the Meeting-house, erected by the British

Society for propogating the gospel among the Indians,

and given to the Indians, but in which Mr Fish now  

preaches to the whites, (having but one colored male



member of his church, and he a negro, and not a proprietor,) and keeps the key of it, for

fear that its lawful owners, the Indians, should go in it,

without his leave.  He will not let them have it for

holding a camp-meeting, or for any religious purpose. 

     Last In August, 1834, we the Selectmen of Marshpee invited Mr Hallett to come and

address us them on Temperance, and to explain to us the

laws.  We They appointed to meet at the Meeting-house,

as the most central place.   Mr Fish first refused to

let the Indians go into their own Meeting-house, and

the people began to assemble under the trees, when it

was proposed for the Selectmen to go and ask for the 

key, that they might see if Mr Fish would refuse it.  

At this moment, a white man, who had been there some

time, and had tried to pick a quarrel with Mr Hallett

and the Indians, said he was sent by Mr Fish with

the key, and would let the people in, if they would

promise to come out when he told them to.  Mr Hal-

lett declined going in on such terms, and proposed to

hold the meeting under the trees. This shamed the

messenger of Mr Fish, and he opened the door, and

the people went in, where Mr Hallett addressed them. 

While the Indians were thus gratified in meeting their

friends, and in hearing good advice from Mr. Hallett, on temperance and their affairs, Mr Fish’s messenger

interrupted the speaker, in a very abrupt and indecent

manner, and tried to bring on a quarrel and break up

the meeting.  Captain George Lovell, always a friend

to the Indians, tried to keep Mr Crocker still, and 

Mr Hallett declined having any controversy, yet the  

man persisted in his abuse, until he broke up the meet-



ing.  Had it been thought best, this insulting ambas-

sador would have been put out of the house by the Indians, as a com-

mon brawler and disturber; but Mr Hallett forbore

to have any controversy with him, and the Indians behaved with great forbearance and discretion.  He afterwards

met the Indians in their School-houses, and delivered

two addresses without interruption from the emissaries

of Mr Fish.  This is a sample of the way the Indians

have been treated about their own Meeting-house.  In  

some of the old petitions, the Indians speak of this  

Meeting-house as our Meeting-house, and it was built

for them, without a dollar from the white men of this

country, except when the Legislature, at the petition

of the Indians, repaired it in 1816.  And now, no In-

dian can go inside of it, but by the permission of Mr 

Fish, whom they will not hear preach.  

     It seems that the Indians are not to have the benefit

of any thing given to them.  It must all go to the whites. 

The whites have the Meeting-house, and make Marsh-

pee pay nearly half about one-third the support of a minister they

will not hear preach.  The other half two-thirds comes

from a fund.  In 1711,[1] a pious minister,  named Daniel Williams,

died in England, and in his will he said, “I give the

remainder of my estate to be paid yearly to the Col-

lege of Cambridge, in New-England, or to such as are

usually employed to manage the blessed work of con-

verting the poor Indians there, to promote which, I

design this part of my gift.” 

     This was the trust of a dying man, given to Harvard 

College, that great and honorable Literary Institution. 

And how do they fulfil the solemn trust?  They have

been and still are paying about five hundred dollars a

year to a missionary for preaching to the whites.  This



missionary, by his own statement, [see Mr Hallet's argument,]

shows he has added to his church, twenty  

members from the tribe of over three hundred persons, 

in twenty-two twenty-five years, and now has but one colored member!  Is not this more expensive in 

proportion to the good done, than any heathen mission  

on record?  Mr Fish has now been preaching in  

Marshpee twenty-four twenty-five years.  In that time he has re- 

ceived from the Williams fund, given solely to convert

the poor Indians, about nearly five hundred dollars a year, as

nigh as can be ascertained, which is, say about TWELVE THOUS-

AND DOLLARS, for persuading twenty colored persons

to join his church!  This is six hundred dollars for

every member added to his church, and if his other

pay is added, it amounts to about nine hundred dollars for

each member!  

     Besides this, Mr Fish has derived an income, formerly we think not  

much if any, short of two hundred and fifty

dollars a year, and now upwards of four hundred dollars a 

year, from the woodland, pasturage, marshes,

Meeting-house, house lot, &c. which he has wrongly 

held and used of the property of the Indians.  Add  

this to his pay from Harvard College, and he has had


longed to the Indians, and which, if it had been laid

up for a fund, would have supplied missionaries for all

the Indians in New-England, according to the will of the

pious Mr Williams.  We respect the President and

the Trustees of Harvard College.  They are honorable

men, and mean to do right, but I we ask them to look at

this statement, then to read the will of Mr Williams,

and laying their hands upon their hearts, to ask in the

presence of the God of the Indian as well as the

white man, whether they have done unto the Indians



of New-England and their children, as they would

that the Indians  should do unto them and their chil-

dren?  It is said that the Indians We are told that we might bring a suit in  

equity, or in some other way, to compel the Trustees of the

Williams fund, to distribute it as the pious donor meant,

 not for the conversion of the whites, even to the taking

away from the Indians of their Meeting-house and

lands, but for “the blessed work of converting the

poor Indians,” as Mr Williams says in his will.  

     But This, however, would be a painful resort, and

it is hard for Indians to contend in the courts of

white men, against white men.  We They can have none of

our their people to decide such questions, and what could

we they do against all the power and influence of the Cor-

poration of Harvard College?  If the President and

Fellows of Harvard College prefer to deal unjustly by

the Indians, and violate the trust of Mr Williams,

by giving the funds to the whites instead of the poor

Indians, they must submit to the wrong, we suppose,  

for there are none strong enough to help them. They The College

can take the money from the Indians, but but cannot com-

pel them to hear a preacher they dislike.    

     Some people may say that William Apes wants to get what Mr. Fish has, but

[A]ll they ask he asks is, that Harvard

College and the State will not support an established

religion in Marshpee, but leave the Indians free to

choose for themselves.  Mr Williams did not give his

property to the Marshpee Indians, more than to any 


     It was designed for all the Indians in New England,

The will of Mr Williams is not specific as to  

what Indians he meant.  The phrase is “there,”  

referring to Cambridge or New-England.  The le- 

gal construction is perhaps doubtful, as to the right  

of the Marshpee Indians to claim it as cestuy que  


and but we cannot see what right Harvard College

has to give it all for the whites near Marshpee and the

Indians on Martha's Vineyard. If they are afraid that

blind Joseph or William Apes, the Indian preachers,



should have any of this money, if it is withdrawn from 

Mr  Fish, let them take it, and send a missionary among  

the Marshpee Indians they can like.  A missionary  

schoolmaster, or such as the ministers at large in  

Boston, is what the Indians want to instruct and  

improve them.  Or let them employ

a man, some Elliot, if they can find one, to visit all

the Indians in New-England, to find out their condi-

tion and spiritual wants, and try to relieve them.  This

would be doing some good with money that is now only  

used to disturb the Indians, to take from them their  

Meeting-house, to create divisions among them, and  

turn what the pious Williams meant for a blessing into

a curse to the Indians.  What would the pious Williams donor of the $13,000 to convert poor Indians,

say to Harvard College, could he visit Marshpee on a

Sabbath?  He might go to the Meeting-house built

for the Indians, by the society in England, of which I believe

he was a principal member.  He would find a

white man in the pulpit, white singers leading the wor- 

ship, and the body of the church occupied by seventy

or a hundred white persons, of the neighboring villa-

ges, scarcely one of whom lives on the plantation. 

Among these he would see four, five, six, ten, or possibly ten

twenty persons with colored skins ; not but one male among

them belonging to the church, and not six adults.  He would probably

think he had made a mistake, and that he was in a

white town, and not among the Indians.  He might

then go to the house of blind Joseph, (the colored

Baptist preacher,) or to the School-house in Marshpee,

and he would there find twenty, thirty, or forty or fifty Indians,  

all engaged in the solemn worship of God, united  

and happy, with a little church, growing in grace.  He

might then visit the other School-house, at the neck,

where he would find William Apes another an Indian, preach- 

ing to fifty, sixty, or seventy, and sometimes an hundred



Indians, all uniting in fervent devotion. After

the sermon, he would hear a word of exhortation from

several of the colored brethren and sisters, in their

broken way, but which often touches the heart of the

Indian, more than all the learning that Harvard Col-

lege can bestow.  He would hear the Indians singing

praises to God, and making melody in their hearts if

not in their voices.  What would he say then, when  

told that Harvard College had paid twelve thousand

dollars of his funds for converting the poor Indians, to

the white minister, who had made  twenty members in twenty-four

twenty-five years, while the two Indian preachers,

with forty-seven members to their churches, added in

three years, were like St. Paul, laboring with their own

hands for a subsistence? 

     All the Indians ask of Harvard is, take away your

pretended gift. Do not force upon us a minister we

do not like, and who creates divisions among us.  Let

us have our meeting-house and our land, and we will

be content to worship God without the help of the

white man. 

     This Meeting-house might as well be in India as in 

Marshpee, for all the benefit the Indians have of it. 

It is kept locked all the time, with the key in Mr 

Fish’s possession.  It is seen that [H]e would not let

the Baptist church of Indians have it to ordain their  

beloved pastor, blind Joseph in, and we see how it  

was granted to the Indians, when they wanted it for 

Mr Hallett to address them in 1834.  Not only  

were we they forbidden the use of the Meeting house, but

even the land which the Legislature unconstitutionally as we think

took from the Indians to give to Mr  Fish,



is considered by him too holy to be defiled by the In-

dians, who are its true owners.

     Last In the summer of 1834, sometime in July, one of  the churches desired

to have a Camp-meeting, of which we they had had one be-

fore as we believe, with a great blessing. We They

selected a spot some distance from the Meeting-house,

in a grove, beside the river; but though not in sight of

the Meeting-house, it was on the ground which Mr  

Fish thinks has been set apart for his sole use.  After

the notice was given of the Camp-meeting, I received from Mr. Fish  Mr Fish sent

the following note, which is here re-

corded, as an evidence of the Christian spirit with  

which a church in Marshpee, consisting of thirty-five

members, who were Indians, was treated and molested

in their worship, by the missionary Harvard College

has paid so liberally to “convert the poor Indians,”

and who had but five Indians in his church, not one

being a male member. 


MARSHPEE, July 19, 1834. 



Sir,—Perceiving by a notice in the “Barn-

stable Journal,” of last week, that you have appointed a  

Camp-meeting, to commence on the 30th inst. and to be hol-

den on the Parsonage, and in the vicinity of the Meeting-


             This is to forbid the proceeding altogether! 

     You have no pretence for such a measure; and if you per-

sist in your purpose to hold such Meeting, either near the 

Meeting-house, or on any part of the Parsonage allotment, you

must consider yourself responsible for the consequences

                                                                         I am &c. 


Rev. William Apes



     Soon after this, the Selectmen, one of whom was a

member of my the church, applied to Mr Fish respecting

holding the Camp-meeting on the parsonage.  The

place selected could not have disturbed Mr Fish, any

more than people passing in carriages in the main road. 

We The Indians had no Meeting-house, our their School-house would

not hold the people, and they had no other means but

to erect their tents and worship God in the open air.  

A pious family of whites from Nantucket, came on  

the ground, and began erecting their tent.  Mr  Fish

came there in person and ordered them off.  The man

told him that he had his family there, and had no other

shelter for the night but his tent, which he should not

remove, but would do so the next day, if he found

that he was trespassing on any man’s rights.  But he

added, if Mr Fish turned him off, he would publish

his conduct to the world.  Mr Fish’s interference to

break up our this religious meeting, created much talk, and

finally he wrote the following letter to the Selectmen;

after which the Indians went on and had their meeting in a  

quiet, and peaceful manner. 


To the Selectmen of Marshpee. 


     On mature thought, and in compliance with your particular

request, I consent to your holding the Camp-meeting, which

is this day commenced, on the spot near the river, where the

first tent was erected.  I consent, (I say,) on the following

conditions, viz; That you undertake that no damage come

upon the parsonage property, either wood land, or Meeting-

house; that no attempt be made to occupy the Meeting-

house; that there be no attempt on the Sabbath, or any other

day, to interrupt the customary worship at the meeting-house,  



and, that peace, order, and quietude be maintained during the

time of the Camp-meeting.  It is also distinctly understood,

that this license is of special favor, and not conceded as your

right, and no way to be taken as a ground for similar requests

in future, or for encouraging any future acts of annoyance,

vexation, or infringement of the quiet possession of the priv- 

ileges, secured to me by the Laws.  And that should any

damage be done in any way as aforesaid, you will consider

yourself responsible to the  proper authorities. 

With my best wishes for your welfare, your friend, 


Marshpee, July 30, 1834. 


The reader may now ask, how came Mr. Fish in

possession of this property, which he claims to hold by

the Laws? I am at liberty to publish here, the follow-

ing views of the law and the facts in the case, drawn up

by legal counsel whom the Selectmen have consulted.

And here I take my leave.


We invite to the above facts, the particular at- 

tention of the christian community, and of the Cor- 

poration of Harvard College.  If there ever was a  

case calling for correction of error, it exists here.  

No one can doubt the honorable intentions of the  

Trustees of the Williams Fund.  They have been  

ignorant of the facts but are now no longer so.— 

The Indians have petitioned for redress and their  

friends cannot doubt that they will find it, in the  

love of justice and sense of honor, which govern  

the corporation of the first university in America.  




This was Mr. Alvin Crocker, who had formerly enjoyed more benefits from the Plantation, than he does under the new law.

[1] The Harvard copy has the date 1716.  The proper year, as reflected in the published version, is 1711.