establishment of the permanent Committees of
Correspondence led to the founding of the
Continental Congress and eventually the
Declaration of Independence.
40 Facts about the Gaspee Affair
The following facts about the Gaspee Affair
provides interesting facts in the quick,
comprehensive format of the Gaspee fact file.
1: The Gaspee Affair took place on June 9, 1772
at Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island
Fact 2: Background Info: The Revenue Act, one of
the laws in the Townshend Acts, set new import
duties (taxes) on British goods. The revenues
raised were to clear the massive war debt
incurred by the French Indian Wars (including
the Seven Years War 1754-1763) and maintain
British troops in America and pay the salaries
of Royal Officials.
Fact 3: The British Royal Navy's Sea Officers
were enlisted to help enforce customs laws in
American colonial ports.
Fact 4: HMS Gaspee was one of the British Navy
ships sent to enforce maritime trade laws and
the collection taxes on goods shipped from
Britain to America.
Fact 5: Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, was
suspected by the British of being a haven for
what they regarded as pirates who were involved
in smuggling activities in goods such as rum and
Fact 6: The Gaspee was a two-masted schooner
with eight cannon and a crew of approximately 26
Fact 7: The HMS Gaspee was commanded by
Lieutenant William Dudingston who came from
Fact 8: Lieutenant William Dudingston took
command of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee in
Fact 9: The Gaspee entered Narragansett Bay in
February of 1772.
Fact 10: Lieutenant Dudingston and his fellow
officers had strict orders and generous
financial incentives to stamp out illegal
smuggling along the American coast.
Fact 11: British legislation deputized these
officers as customs officials, and they were
awarded a share of the value of any illicit
cargo seized by them
Fact 12: Lieutenant Dudingston was an extremely
arrogant man and his calculated, and
heavy-handed, approach in carrying his duties of
trade law enforcement by stopping and
interfering with ships in Narragansett Bay soon
resulted in bitter resentment from the
Fact 13: Lieutenant Dudingston seized a ship
called the Fortune owned by the powerful Greene
family and he and his crew beat Rufus Greene who
commanded her. Lieutenant Dudingston condemned
the sloop and her cargo, which included rum, as
a prize of customs enforcement, and sent the
boat to Boston for sale by the Admiralty who
were based there.
Fact 14: A wealthy Providence merchant called
John Brown and other prominent citizens of the
Rhode Island colony petitioned Deputy Governor
Darius Sessions and Governor Joseph Wanton to
investigate claims of piracy and theft on the
part of the Gaspee and whether the Gaspee had
the authority to act in this way.
Fact 15: On June 9, 1772 a ship called the
Hannah, captained by Benjamin Lindsay, arrived
in Narragansett Bay. The Hannah had already
cleared customs in Newport
Fact 16: Captain Benjamin Lindsay deliberately
refused to lower his flag in deference to the
patrolling Gaspee, and a chase began up
Fact 17: Captain Lindsay deliberately led the
Gaspee across a submerged sandbar sticking out
from Namquid Point (now called Gaspee Point),
and the Gaspee ran aground.
Fact 18: The Hannah then proceeded up the
Providence River to report the British Gaspee's
plight to the merchant, John Brown
Fact 19: John Brown called a meeting of local
sea captains and merchants in Providence. They
made the decision to attack and destroy the
Fact 20: They called for volunteers to take part
in the attack which would be planned by was
Fact 21: At 10 pm on June 9, 1772 seven or eight
large long boats, each carrying eight men, set
out from Fenner's Wharf and proceeded down the
Providence River to where the Gaspee had run
Fact 22: The long boats travelled in silence,
with their oars muffled. The faces of the men on
the long boats were blackened with camouflage to
ensure they could make a surprise attack on the
Fact 23: They were joined by another couple of
long boats at Pawtuxet Village and reached the
Gaspee at 1am on June 10th, 1772.
Fact 24: The Gaspee spotted the approaching
boats and sounded the alarm. Abraham Whipple
announced he had come to arrest Lieutenant
Dudingston. Shots were fired Lieutenant
Dudingston received a bullet in his arm and
Fact 25: The patriots in the long boats boarded
the Gaspee which, after a brief struggle,
surrendered. The Gaspee crew were imprisoned
overnight and released the following morning to
join the British fleet at Newport. Lieutenant
Dudingston was taken ashore, tended by a doctor
and eventually went to Newport.
Fact 26: The patriots then set fire to the
Gaspee returned to Providence. The identities of
the men involved in Gaspee affair were protected
by a veil of secrecy.
Fact 27: Deputy Governor Sessions investigated
the affair interviewing the crew of the Gaspee
and Lieutenant Dudingston. Deputy Governor
Sessions reported his findings to Great Britain.
Fact 28: Lieutenant Dudingston was shipped back
to Europe. Whenever a ship had been lost it was
obligatory to undergo Court Marshal proceedings.
Lieutenant Dudingston was therefore Court
Marshalled in Portsmouth, England in October,
1772. He was acquitted of any responsibility for
Fact 29: William Duddingston continued his naval
career and was made an Admiral in 1806. He died
27October 1817 in Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland at
the age of 76.
Fact 30: The burning of the Gaspee was viewed by
the British as an extremely serious and
rebellious act, requiring firm action. Rewards
were offered to anyone disclosing the identity
of the participants and an investigatory Royal
Commission was established to find the rebels.
Fact 31: The Royal Commission into the Gaspee
affair was authorized by the British government
to send any culprits directly to England on
charges of treason. to trial by a jury of their
own peers in the county of the alleged offence.
Fact 32: The intention to send colonial
political protestors to England for trial
deprived American colonists of their right to
trial by a jury of their own peers in the county
of the alleged offence, was therefore
unconstitutional and threatened the independence
of the colonies.
Fact 33: Deputy Governor Sessions asked Samuel
Adams for advice. The response from Samuel Adams
was that he saw the threat as being part of an
attempt to rescind the Rhode Island charter
which had been granted to the colonists in 1663.
Fact 34: The Rhode Island Charter of 1663
established colonial self government and
guaranteed Rhode Island colonists the same
rights as if they had been born in England.
Fact 35: Whilst considering these issues Samuel
Adams used the Committees of Correspondence to
discuss the threats from Great Britain.
Fact 36: Samuel Adams agitated for the union of
all the colonies stating,
"... an attack on the liberties of one Colony
was an attack on the liberties of all.''
Fact 37: The Virginia legislature followed Sam
Adam's lead and established permanent Committees
of Correspondence in March 1773 led by Thomas
Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Fact 38: No drastic actions were taken by Great
Britain. The Royal Commission investigating the
Gaspee affair failed to get any cooperation from
the colonies and were unable to make any charges
against the colonists.
Fact 39: On the 23 June, 1773, the commission
closed its investigation. Their final report to
the King stated that the Gaspee was destroyed by
Fact 40: The Burning of the Gaspee sparked the
idea for the Committees of Correspondence which
led to the founding of the First Continental
Congress and eventually the Declaration of