Mashpee Temperance Society

November 10, 1833 | Mashpee
First resolution of the Mashpee Temperance Society, stating that all members will abstain from alcholol unless medically necessary.

Fueled by the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening, the temperance movement’s call for abstinence from alcohol was in full swing across the Northern states in the 1830s. Temperance activists founded societies, published pamphlets, and offered public addresses railing against the harms of alcohol. Religious leaders brought the messaging into their sermons, spotlighting alcohol’s negative impact on families and society as a whole. (1)

William Apes knew first hand the impact alcohol abuse had on Native communities, having been initially raised by abusive alcoholic grandparents and later developing an alcohol addiction he could never quite overcome. Perhaps in an attempt to bolster his own resolve, he founded the Mashpee Temperance Society in October 1833. Forty-two members of the tribe joined immediately, with the number growing to sixty-one by the first meeting just over a month later.

Mashpee Tribal members took it upon themselves to start this temperance society, indicating the intentionality they brought to caring for their community. Tribal religious leaders were enlisted as group’s officers:

Rev. William Apes, President
Rev. Joseph Amo, Vice President
Deacon I. Coombs and Thomas Hush, Recording Secretaries
Deacon C. Hinson, Corresponding Secretary
Oakes Coombs, Joseph Tobey, Frank Hicks, Executive Committee

During their first meeting on November 14, the group voted in favor of the following resolution:

Resolved, That we will not countenance the use of ardent spirits among us, in any way whatever; and that we will do all in our power to suppress it. That we will not buy it ourselves, nor suffer it to be in our houses, unless ordered by a physician. (2,3)


1. Young, Michael P. (2007). Bearing Witness against Sin: The Evangelical Birth of the American Social Movement. University of Chicago Press

2. Apess, WIlliam; Snelling, William Joseph. "The Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts, Relative to the Marshpee Tribe: or, The Pretended Riot Explained "(1835). The Internet Archive. ( https://archive.org/details/indiannullificat00apesuoft)

3. Fish to Josiah Quincy, 5 December 1833, 7 December 1833, and 29 January 1834

Image: First resolution of the Mashpee Temperance Society (“Indian nullification of the unconstitutional laws of Massachusetts, relative to the Marshpee Tribe” by William Apes, pg. 67. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t8nc69884?urlappend=%3Bseq=73)


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An Aquinnah Petition for Temperance Laws

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"Blind" Joe Amos

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