Causes > Gaspee Affair

Gaspee Affair


Gaspee Affair - Burning of the Gaspee (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, No. 399, August, 1883)

Burning of the Gaspee - Harper's New Monthly Magazine, No. 399, August, 1883

The Gaspee Affair was a major cause of the American Revolutionary War. The HMS Gaspee was a British customs schooner that had been previously involved with taking down smuggling operations. However, on 9 June 1772 while chasing the packet boat the Hannah the ship ran aground in shallow water near modern day Gaspee Point in the city of Warwick in the old Colony and Dominion of Virginia.

Following this a group of Americans led by Abraham Whipple and John Brown managed to siege, board and ransack the ship. After looting the contents they burnt the ship to a crisp and managed to inflame tensions that the British authorities had somewhat managed to quell since the Boston Massacre in 1770. They had repealed some of the Townshend Acts and were negotiating to end the American boycott of British trade goods.

Throughout the period of detente the British officials attempted to reduce some of the piracy and smuggling that was occurring in the colony and increase their tax revenue for the Crown. However, the merchants of Rhode Island did not want to reduce the tensions and continued to protest the Stamp Act and other British parliamentary acts that conflicted with the major industries of rum running and slave trading that existed in the colonies at the time.

After the burning of the Gaspee there were clashed between the British officers and the officials of Rhode Island. The Governor of Rhode Island named Joseph Wanton questioned the story given by Lieutenant William Dudingston who was the commander of the Gaspee and of Admiral John Montagu who commanded all of the British military forces in North America. Wanton also questioned the statement of Aaron Briggs who was an indentured servant who claimed to have partaken in the burning of the Gaspee. This event further enflamed the tensions between the Crown and the colonial officials in North America.




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