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Gaspee HistoryPage Up


Go to
Gaspee Raiders
for biographical information on the Americans in the boats attacking the Royal Navy ship Gaspee.


Books: American Colonial and Revolutionary War history or the people involved. We have suggestions for you.




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Gaspee Treason or Revolution and WarAnswers to Questions about
Events in the Gaspee Attack

Did the Rhode Island colonists or the English shoot first?  What did John Brown expect to do in the attack? If we cannot be absolutely sure of a particular event, what can we say based on a forensic evidence based evaluation? Give your brain a workout by deciding what  makes the event more likely than not that it did occur, what is "reasonably likely").

Preponderance of the evidence: The standard of forensic evidence historians is the asserted event fact supported by the greater weight of evidence, that is,  by evidence that is more credible and convincing than the evidence that the event did not occur.  It is the standard used in important decisions mayde every day by the judge or jury in an American civil case.

What was the order of the events in the capture of the Gaspee.  What were the causes of the American Revolution in Rhode Island and Massachusetts?  This section of the site is devoted to those sorts of questions.  The answers must pass of the test of being supported by evidence that is more credible and convincing than the evidence that the event did not occur.

Who was in the raiding party?

Who was the Joseph Bucklin who shot the English Captain?

Who shot first, English or American?

What was the order of the events

The Legal Warrant Theory of the Attack: What was the reasoning the Americans were using to justify the attack?

"How many longboats and how many men were in the attacking party?

How big were the Longboats?

What were the moon and tide conditions?

How big was the Gaspee?

Why did Rhode Island have the reputation among the English navy officers that the colony was a haven for pirates?

Let's start thinking about the importance of the Gaspee event, with the following observations.

The Gaspee story is one of the great stories of the American Revolution. It is of importance beyond and above that of a story of an initial armed conflict between the American colonial residents and the English armed forces. Understanding the Gaspee events involves historians in the social, economic, and legal thought of colonial Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The people of Providence, Rhode Island, were typical of the colonists of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

The residents of Providence and Newport were heavily engaged in sea trade, not only with other countries, but also within and among the colonies of England. Rhode Island merchants financed, and reaped the benefits of, the triangular trade of rum to Africa, slaves to the West Indies, and then molasses to New England. Indeed, Newport had proportionately more slaves than any other county in the colonies. Rhode Island was initially planted with persons who had come to New England to escape the attempts of crown and church to impose limits on what they regarded as unconstitutional limits on their freedom. As those persons went on from their initial port of landing and thence to Rhode Island they kept communications with those in the initial colonies in which they had first landed.

The reaction of the people of Providence to the English rules imposed as part of the peace plan between France and England at the end of the French and Indian war was not unlike that of people in Massachusetts, Virginia, and the other English colonies. The committees of correspondence that were energized and made official committees of the various legislatures by the English reaction to the Gaspee attack were composed of men more alike than dissimilar in their social culture. Thus, when North Carolina suffered dreadfully and perhaps most of all the colonies, during the Revolution, they did it for reasons similar to those which inspired the Rhode Island people during the same period of time.

The men who attacked the Gaspee were a people whose life was connected to the sea, even those who were farmers living inland. That connection to the sea, vital as it was to improvement of their lives and colony, was what made the attack on the Gaspee a symbol to which all the colonies could relate. The common traditions of the English speaking colonies represented by Rhode Island was the bond that underlay the resistance to the way the English went about trying to punish the persons who had attacked the Gaspee.

The Providence people's silence, and the Rhode Island people's resistance, to the English attempts to find and punish the Gaspee raiders was a test of American resolve and cohesiveness.

Once that test had been successfully passed, and English punishment attempts ineffective, several English leaders recognized the inevitable result would be dissolution of the bond of the crown between Britain and the American colonies.

Once the test had been successfully passed, the American colonial militia and English armed forces were no longer both effectively controlled by the same ultimate military structure.