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DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – HAWLEY, Gideon (1727-1807). Autograph letter signed (“Gideon Hawley” & “GH” in postscript) to William Phillips in Boston, Mashpee, [Mass.], 24 September 1776.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – HAWLEY, Gideon (1727-1807). Autograph letter signed (“Gideon Hawley” & “GH” in postscript) to William Phillips in Boston, Mashpee, [Mass.], 24 September 1776.

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DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – HAWLEY, Gideon (1727-1807). Autograph letter signed (“Gideon Hawley” & “GH” in postscript) to William Phillips in Boston, Mashpee, [Mass.], 24 September 1776.

3 pages, 233 x 185 mm, bifolium (minor chips and tears reinforced along right margin, other minor losses not affecting text).

Important Missionary Gideon Hawley reads the Declaration of Independence to the Mashpee Wampanoag in September 1776—additionally observing that many members of the tribe had enlisted in an expedition to Canada, while others had gone to sea, where some were captured and subsequently pressured “to enter into the service of their captors.” An exceedingly rare (and perhaps unique) contemporary reference to a public reading of the Declaration of Independence before a Native American audience. Hawley writes, “I have the satisfaction to advise you that since I wrote last my people have attended the publick worship... On the 8th instant I read the Declaration of Independence to above an hundred of my people who were at meeting— Many of them are in the service Towards Canada, near N. York & in the sea service sundry have enlisted. Of late several have returned from sea having been captivated and greatly [illeg.] to enter into the service of their captors....” Hawley additionally reports that he was “going next week to visit the Indians below and expect to administer the Sacrament of the supper at Yarmouth...” but adds that he has so little income, he has been “reduced to beggary,” finding himself having to additionally labor at the expense of his mission, and hoping that “provision [be] made for Indian missionaries, in America.”

[With:] The Pennsylvania Gazette. Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin, Post-Master, and D. Hall at the New Printing-Office, near the Market, 15 August 1754, No. 1338. 6 pages (380 x 240mm). Chipping and minor tears along vertical spine fold. The issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette mentions Hawley on page two: “Boston, August 5... Wednesday last the reverend Mr. Gideon Hawley was ordain’d in the Old South Meeting-house, to the Work of the Ministry, more especially as a Missionary among the Mohawk Indians, whose Language he has learned...” Two years later, the French and Indian War forced Hawley to abandon his mission and he returned to Boston. In 1758, the commissioners for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts appointed Hawley pastor the Mashpee Wampanoags on Cape Cod — where he remained until his death.

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