4The Rhode Island Charter Granted by King Charles II of England
5The Rhode Island Charter Granted by King Charles II of EnglandTo Roger Williams in 1663
6The Charter gave the Colony many freedoms: freedom to elect their own Governorfreedom for their own court systemfreedom for their own religions
7Over the years, people of Rhode Island became used to doing things their own way. But, this gave the British problems later when they tried to tax the American Colonies.King George III needed tax money to pay for the French & Indian War that ended in 1763.
8British troops had protected the American Colonies during the French & Indian Wars. Rhode Island depended on sea-trade of items that now were being taxed.
9People of Rhode Island often smuggled to avoid paying these taxes. The HMS Gaspee was a British Royal Navy ship sent to the American coast to stop smuggling.
10The Gaspee was captained by Lieutenant William Dudingston.
11Dudingston and the Gaspee began patrolling waters in Rhode Island in February of 1772. Dudingston wasted no time in stopping, searching, and seizing all types of boats and ships in the bay.
12The crew of the Gaspee would threaten and beat-up the men on the ships they seized. They also stole livestock, firewood, and food from local farmers.
13This alarmed the Providence merchants, who asked Governor Joseph Wanton and Governor and Deputy Governor Darius Sessions for help.
14Heated insults and threats were exchanged between Gov Heated insults and threats were exchanged between Gov. Wanton and the Royal Navy’s Admiral Montagu.Lawsuits were filed against Dudingston.Wealthy Providence merchant and sea-trader John Brown and other ‘Sons of Liberty’ made a plan to get rid of the Gaspee.
15Brown had previously run aground at Warwick’s Namquid Point, and knew about its dangerous hidden sandbar. (It’s now called Gaspee Point.)
16On the afternoon of June 9th, 1772, one of Brown’s ship captains, Benjamin Lindsay of the cargo sloop Hannah, left Newport and headed for Providence.
17Dudingston and the Gaspee demanded that the ship stop to be searched. The Hannah refused, and a chase up Narragansett Bay began.
18At 3 pm the ships reached Namquid Point where its sandbar was covered by a high tide.
19The Hannah was lightweight, empty-of-cargo and sat high in the water. The Hannah easily sailed over the point, inviting the Gaspee to pursue.The deeper-hulled Gaspee followed, ran hard aground, and became stuck.
20After suitable insults were exchanged, the Hannah quickly proceeded up the river to Providence and reported the plight of the British schooner to John Brown.
21Brown had his ship captains round up several large longboats, and sent out a drummer to recruit people of Providence to join in a raid on the much-hated ship.
22That night a large crowd of merchants, sea captains, and younger men met at the Sabin Tavern to plan the attack.
23By 10 pm, seven or eight boats rowed silently down the river on their mission of destruction. Each boat carried eight men with their faces blackened with camouflage.At Pawtuxet Village, the boats were joined by another boat of men from Bristol, Rhode Island
24In the darkness the boats set off for Namquid Point, where the Gaspee sat helplessly aground. By 1 am, the sentry aboard the Gaspee spotted the approaching boats and called out the alarm.
25Capt. Abraham Whipple, leader of the attack, hailed the ship and declared that he was there to arrest Lt. Dudingston.
26A few shots were fired from the Gaspee in response. Young Joseph Bucklin, 19, took aim with his musket and wounded Lt. Dudingston with a single shot.
27Then men in the boats scrambled on board the Gaspee and soon captured her crew with no loss of life.
28The crew of the Gaspee were tied up, set in the boats, and kept as prisoners overnight in Pawtuxet Village.They were all released in the morning.
29Lt. Dudingston was carried below deck, where his wounds were treated by a young medical student, John Mawney.Dudingston was then set ashore into a house in Pawtuxet Village to recover.Meanwhile, John Brown, Abe Whipple, and others plundered through the papers and the few valuables aboard the Gaspee.
31Flames soon reached the gunpowder storage, and a loud explosion ripped the Gaspee apart.
32The boats returned to Providence at dawn, and the men were warned to keep silent about what happened.To their great credit, Rhode Island citizens kept mum about the events, even though many participants were well-known.As many raiders were related, there were extra good reasons for all to keep quiet.
33Of the approximately 64 patriots that took part in the burning of the Gaspee, we know the names of only 26.Perhaps you are related to one of them…..Captain Shepard Turpin Smith Robert Sutton Thomas Swan Joseph Tillinghastand Abraham WhippleCaptain Harris John B. Hopkins Justin Jacobs Joseph Jenckes John J. KiltonPaul Allen Ephraim Bowen Aaron Briggs Abial Brown John BrownJoseph Brown Joseph Bucklin Samuel Dunn Rufus Greene Benj. HammondJohn Mawney Simeon H. Olney Benjamin Page Simeon Potter Nathan Salisbury
34Rhode Island leaders quickly realized that the British would be furious at them for the burning of one of His Majesty’s schooners.Dep. Gov. Sessions and others quickly made plans for damage control, so that Rhode Island’s charter would not be taken away by an angry King George III.
35By offering a reward for the attackers, Rhode Islanders pretended to be outraged about the attack.
36Officials also claimed they did not know who the attackers were, even though the names were widely known.Even so, the British still did not trust Rhode Island to bring the raiders to justice.The King offered an even larger reward.
37The British also created a commission of inquiry to find out who the attackers were. This commission of inquiry bypassed the local Rhode Island courts that the British didn’t trust.
38They were able to charge suspects…. and send them to England to stand trial for charges of treason.
39This bypass of local courts, and of sending suspects out of the local area for trial, would make defense impossible.Local courts tended to side with the defendant; British courts would not.If sent away for trial, persons charged would find it hard to have witnesses to help prove their innocence.
40A trial by a local jury of peers was a long-established right for all Englishmen. The bypassing of American courts, and the threat of removal of these rights of local trial created alarm in all the other American Colonies as well.Samuel Adams, the famous Boston revolutionary, was also much alarmed.
41Samuel Adams suggested that Committees of Correspondence be established between the Colonies to discuss such threats to their liberties.Shortly afterwards, Virginia created the first of the permanent Committees of Correspondence.
42United States of America. This was the first step towards uniting the separate Colonies that would later join together as the …...United States of America.
43‘Those That Burned the Gaspee’ And it was the eventual result of the actions of Rhode Island patriots…...‘Those That Burned the Gaspee’
44Meanwhile, Rhode Island officials scrambled to protect both their Colonial Charter and the identities of citizen raiders.The officials interfered with the British commission of inquiry.RI Gov. Joseph Wanton tried to weaken the power of the commission.
45Dep. Gov. Sessions gave excuses to witnesses so that they did not appear before the commission. He arranged for witnesses to testify against what other people said before the commission.Other witnesses were threatened so that they did not appear at all.
46RI Judge Stephen Hopkins would not allow any suspects identified by the commission to be arrested and delivered to the British.
47The commission of inquiry never could get enough evidence to identify any of the attackers of the Gaspee.The commission gave up and went home by June of 1773.
48‘First Blow for Freedom’® No one ever stood trial for the destruction of the Gaspee.This was the result of uncooperative Rhode Island citizens, judges, and officials.It was America’s….‘First Blow for Freedom’®
49For further information on the Gaspee Affair visit the Gaspee Virtual Archives at:
50“Royal American Medley” The Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps written and directed byDr. John Concannon“Royal American Medley”background music courtesy ofThe Old Guard Fife & Drum CorpsFort Myer, Virginia