Gaspee (găsˈpēˌ) [key], British revenue cutter, burned (June 10, 1772) at Namquit (now Gaspee) Point in the present-day city of Warwick on the western shore of Narragansett Bay, R.I. The vessel arrived in Mar., 1772, to enforce the revenue laws in an area where virtually the whole citizenry was engaged in smuggling, and her presence was decidedly unwelcome. Her commander, Lieutenant Dudingston, provoked the navigators of the bay further by the manner in which he carried out his duties. On June 9, 1772, the Gaspee was lured aground c.7 mi (11 km) S of Providence while giving chase to a suspect. A group of prominent Providence men, including John Brown and Joseph Bucklin, decided to burn the ship, and Capt. Abraham Whipple led the raiders. They boarded the Gaspee, wounded the commander, captured the crew, and then burned the vessel at the water's edge. Gov. Joseph Wanton, in the difficult position of having to enforce British regulations without offending his constituents (Rhode Island elected its own governor), admirably solved the problem by issuing proclamations for the arrest of the officially unknown offenders and then doing virtually nothing about them. Despite a large reward offered by the British, the names of the men involved, though well known in Providence, were not revealed until after the outbreak of the American Revolution. The incident was one of the most famous colonial acts of defiance in the troubled years before independence.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.