Court of Great Britain

The Occom Circle

Court of Great Britain


The "Court" is the government of King George III of England, which in 1760 heard the plea of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in defense of their sovereignty. From the inception of the English guardianship system of North American Indians, the Mashpee Wampanoags of Cape Cod had resisted, complaining to the Massachusetts General Court and demanding the right to elect their guardians. In 1757, they enlisted the help of Gideon Hawley, an Anglo-American missionary to the Haudenosaunees (Iroquois) who corresponded with Wheelock about the situation, but when the General Court ignored their petition, they took the radical step of sending their schoolmaster, Reuben Cognehew, to London to plead with the King at his court directly. The King's Royal Council, eager for tighter controls over its American colonies, gave Cognehew a favorable reception and ordered the Bay Colony's governor to investigate and insure justice for all Indians in their jurisdiction. The Bay Colony avoided this broad demand, but in 1763 approved an act restoring self-government to the Mashpee Wampanoags. Massachusetts repealed this law and restored the guardian system after the Revolution, but in 1833 the tribe staged a bloodless revolt and won back some measure of self-government.


Calloway, Colin. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, 52-53; Mandell, Daniel R. Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, 156-57.