Land of the Brave

The Gaspee

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

The Gaspee Affair
The Gaspee Affair Definition and Summary: The Gaspee Affair occurred on June 9, 1772. The HMS Gaspee, a British customs ship, ran aground in Rhode Island and a Sons of Liberty group attacked and set fire to the ship. The British Government threatened to send the American perpetrators for trial in England, but no arrests were made.

However their threat to send Americans to trial in England sparked alarmed protests in the colonies who were informed of the affair via the Committees of Correspondence.

The establishment of the permanent Committees of Correspondence led to the founding of the First 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.

Fact 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 molasses.

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 Scotland

Fact 8: Lieutenant William Dudingston took command of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee in September 1768

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 colonists.

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 Narragansett Bay

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 Gaspee.

Fact 20: They called for volunteers to take part in the attack which would be planned by was Abraham Whipple.

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 aground.

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 Gaspee.

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 groin.

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 the loss.

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 persons unknown.

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 Independence.

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