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The Gaspee Memorial

If you had been standing here on this waterfront on
the night of June 9, 1772 you would have witnessed a
large group of colonists climbing into longboats getting
ready to row almost 7 miles down the bay in total
darkness. Their mission was to attack a stranded British
ship. The Gaspee had been harassing colonists out on
Narragansett Bay in the name of the King of England.
Having had enough over 60 Providence colonists
surrounded the Gaspee. They called the captain William
Dudingston on deck and shot him. The raiders took
the sailors captive and then destroyed the Gaspee by
burning it to the waterline. And of course this being
Rhode Island Dudingston had been shot in the groinhe survived but may have wished that he had not.
The first shot in the fight for independence had been
fired, the first blood drawn. It would take Bostonians
18 months to throw tea not belonging to the King into
the harbor.

Just a Minute, Man!

Boston and Providence have long had something
of a “big brother – little brother” relationship and
the claim to First Shot- First Blood in the Revolution
is contested – not that you would ever know that
listening to Boston’s boasts. We would never say that
the first four letters of Bunker Hill are “bunk” but let’s
just say if the history books had been written at Brown
instead of Harvard we all might think quite differently
about the Attack of the Gaspee which happened
about 18 months ahead of the Boston Tea Party.
The three things the Rhode Island colonists
did that night would be considered acts of war
“causus belli” – the shooting of a Naval officer,
capturing sailors and burning a naval vessel.
Take the case to any court or tribunal in any age – from
ancient Athens to the world Court and the answer
is these were acts of war. And now consider Boston
where about 150 colonists disguised as Indians threw
tea, not belonging to the King in the harbor. Imagine
being there when the King was told one of his officers
was shot, his sailors captured and his ship destroyed –
imagine his fury. Now tell him that tea that he did not
own had been thrown into Boston harbor by Indians –
or maybe not Indians – perhaps colonists dressed up as
Indians. If you were sitting on the throne at Buckingham
Palace it would be pretty clear which ones were acts of
war. No doubt the Bostonians heard about the brave
acts in Providence and how the people of Providence
bonded in silence defying the Inquisition the King sent
to punish the perpetrators. No doubt that gave them
courage 18 months later when they were brewing the