|Appendices to Staples, Documentary History of the Destruction of the Gaspee|
Notes, October 2001
The following is the text of William R. Staples' Documentary History of the Destruction of the Gaspee, as republished by the RI Publications Society in 1990, re-presented here with permission of the authors and publisher.
The reprinted text was scanned and OCR recognized by PrimaPage98 into Microsoft Word97 with spell-check enabled, then converted into HTML format using Netscape Composer 5.0. As such, there is an inherent risk of OCR misinterpretation of the scanned-in text. The text from the republication of Staples also had its share of typographical errors which, when obvious, were corrected. Antique words and phraseology were maintained as best as possible, but will come up as errors in grammar checks and spell checks or modern word processing programs, so be advised. It is also to be noted that the spellings of some words used in Staples' account are consistently misspelled by year 2000 standards, but which were presumably correctly spelt in 1773, e.g., 'despatched' and 'enquiry.' Please understand that neither myself or the Gaspee Days Committee can take any responsibility for errors of omission or commission in converting the text into HTML format.
To aid in scholarly research citations, we have retained the page numbers of Staples as found in the 1990 republication, but sentences and footnotes were completed into their page of origin. For clarification, the comments by Staples in the Documentary History, and by Professor Deasy in the Appendices are presented in Bold Arial font. Additionally, it was necessary to split the book into separate segments of: Forward & Introduction, Documentary History by Staples, and Appendices.
And further this despondent sayeth not.
Dr. John Concannon
The documents included in this appendix originally appeared in John R. Bartlett, ed., Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, VIII (Providence: A. C. Greene, 1862). The notes are by Bartlett.
William Checkley, to the Commissioners of Customs.
[Providence], 12th June, 1772.Honorable Gentlemen:—Hearing this morning, that the high sheriff was gone to arrest Capt. Dudingston, on the suit of Jacob Greene and others, for goods which Capt. Dudingston lately seized in the river, and carried to Boston, I went down immediately, and found the sheriff had just before arrested him; a copy of the writ I herewith enclose to Your Honors.
I offered to be security for him; but Capt. Dudingston told me he should not ask any person to be security, as he did not expect to live long, and the sheriff might do as he pleased. The surgeons told me he was too ill to be moved; and as I expect the sheriff will use great severity with him, I humbly request Your Honors to give me such direction in the matter as to you shall seem necessary.
I am, &c., &c.,
WILLIAM CHECKLEY.To the Honorable His Majesty's Commissioners of Customs.
Boston, in New England,My Lord: —I was in hopes I should not have had occasion to trouble Your Lordship with any public letters, while I have the honor to command on the continent; but the lawless and piratical people of Rhode Island obliges me to write to you. By the enclosed deposition, Your Lordship will see that this nest of daring smugglers have wounded in a most dangerous manner Lieut. Dudingston, and burnt the King's schooner Gaspee, under his command, for no other cause, except his being dilligent in the discharge of his duty, by giving every proper assistance to the fair trader, and using every endeavor to suppress the illicit trade that is carried on to a great degree, in that province, and which can never be checked unless there are more men-of-war stationed there, to keep the inhabitants in order.
12th June 1772.
I beg leave to refer Your Lordship to the enclosed deposition, for the particulars, and wait Your Lordship's instructions for what is to be done. Permit me to add, that the lieutenant that is wounded, is a sober, dilligent, good officer; and has most strictly done his duty since I have had the honor of commanding here, frequently at the hazard of his life, in assisting the revenue. Should he survive, which I have little hopes of, I beg leave to recommend him to Your Lordship's favor and protection.
I have the honor, &c., &c.,
J. MONTAGU.To the Right Honorable Lord Hillsborough.
P.S. Herewith I transmit to Your Lordship copies of letters which have passed between me, Lieutenant Dudingston and the Governor of Rhode Island, which I did not think necessary to trouble Your Lordship with.until this melancholy affair of the schooner happened.
Charles Dudley, Esq., to__________ __________
Rhode Island, 23d July, 1772.* * The attack upon the Gaspee was not the effect of sudden passion and resentment, but of cool deliberation and fore-thought. * It had long been determined she should be destroyed.
The paragraph in the enclosed newspaper, under the Newport head, was the prelude to the diabolical scene. * *
The next public step, was a memorial or petition from the merchants in Providence; first laid before the superior court of judicature, then sitting in the town, and afterwards before the Governor, praying that the commander of "an armed vessel, then cruising in the bay, should be called upon by the civil authority, to know by what powers he was authorized to search ships and other vessels on the high seas;" though it was notorious that the armed vessel in question, sailed under British colors, and belonged to His Br-t-n-c Majesty.
The piece from the paper, Newport, February 24, speaks of "an
schooner, that had seized ten or twelve hogsheads of rum the first part
of last week; also, last Thursday, three hogsheads of molasses,
to a poor man. Some say, this piratical schooner belongs to King George
the Third; but we should think it a little below His Br-t-n-c Majesty,
to keep men-of-war employed in robbing some of his poorest subjects."
2. The following extract of a letter, relating to the Gaspee affair, is found with the correspondence of Admiral Montagu, in the state paper office. It does not appear to whom it was written.
Admiral Montagu to the Earl of Hillsborough.
Boston, 11th July, 1772.My Lord:—Since I had the honor of writing to Your Lordship last, I have received an express from Capt. Linzee, of His Majesty's sloop Beaver, at Rhode Island, informing me he had discovered and detained an indented black servant, who was in one of the boats that boarded the Gaspee schooner; that one of the men now on board the Beaver (late of the Gaspee), remembered the man the moment he saw him.
Enclosed, I transmit to Your Lordship the said black man's deposition (on being examined), by which Your Lordship will be able to judge of the people concerned, and of the measures necessary to be taken.
I beg leave to observe to Your Lordship, that I have inquired of many of the principal people of this place, who all knew Potter, of Bristol, mentioned in the enclosed deposition, and in general agree that he is a man of fortune, but of the most infamous character possible to describe; and has been guilty of almost every vice a pirate can be guilty of. The Browns, of Providence, are principal people of that place.
It appears to me, My Lord, that these people were the ringleaders in this piratical proceeding. I have therefore, written to Governor Wanton, of Rhode Island, and begged his utmost exertions may be used for the apprehension and bringing to justice the people mentioned in the said deposition, as principals in this proceeding; but the disposition of the people of that government in general, is such, that I cannot flatter myself with much success, unless some other method is taken for apprehending them.
I have the honor to be, &c., &c.,
J. MONTAGU.To the Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough.
Warrant to the Sheriff of the County of Newport, for the
[L. S.] GEORGE THE THIRD by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To the sheriff of the county of Newport, or his lawful deputy, greeting: Whereas, I have received information, that Aaron, a mulatto lad, otherwise called Aaron Bowler, alias Briggs, now on board His Majesty's ship, the Beaver, under the command of Captain John Linzee, in the harbor of Newport, aforesaid, with divers other malefactors, to me as yet unknown, did, in the night of the 9th of June last, unlawfully and riotously assemble and gather together to disturb the peace of our said lord the King;
and being so assembled and gathered together, with force and arms, an attack did make upon His Majesty's schooner, the Gaspee, under the command of Lieutenant William Dudingston, as she lay aground on a point of land, called Namquit, within the township of Warwick, in the county of Kent, in the colony aforesaid; and him, the said William Dudingston, then and there, being in the peace of our said lord the King, did dangerously wound, and the said schooner then and there did wickedly, willfully and feloniously burn and destroy, against the peace of our said lord the King, his crown and dignity.
Therefore, in the name of our sovereign lord the King, I command and charge you, that immediately upon the receipt hereof, you repair on board His Majesty's ship Beaver, aforesaid, and make diligent search for the said Aaron; and if he be by you found, to bring him before me, or some other lawful authority within this colony, to be examined concerning the premises, that such other proceedings may be had and done, as to law and justice doth appertain.
Hereof fail you not, as you will answer the contrary at your peril; and make true return of this warrant with your doings thereon.
Given under my hand and seal, this 16th day of July, in the twelfth year of His Majesty's reign. Anno Domini 1772.
METCALF BOWLER,By virtue of the within warrant, I waited upon John Linzee, Esq., within mentioned, who refused to deliver up the within named Aaron, in presence of James Brenton, Esq.
Just. of Assize.
Newport, July 17, 1772.
ROBERT LILLIBRIDGE, JR.,
Governor Hutchinson to Secretary Pownall.
Boston, 29th August, 1772.Dear Sir:—I troubled you with a long letter the 21st July. Give me leave now only to add one or two things, which I then intended, but to avoid being too tedious, omitted. People in this province, both friends and enemies to government, are in great expectations from the late affair at Rhode Island, of the burning the King's schooner; and they consider the manner in which the news of it will be received in England, and the measures to be taken, as derisive.
If it is passed over without a full inquiry and due resentment, our liberty people will think they may with impunity commit any acts of violence, be they ever so atrocious, and the friends to government will despond and give up all hopes of being able to withstand the faction.
The persons who were the immediate actors, are men of estate, and property, in the colony. A prosecution is impossible. If ever the government of that colony is to be reformed, this seems to be the time; and it would have a happy effect in the colonies which adjoin to it. Several persons have been advised by letters from their friends, that as the ministry are united, and opposition at an end, there will certainly be an inquiry into the state of America, the next session of Parliament. The denial of the supremacy of Parliament, and the contempt with which its authority has been treated by the Lilliputian Assemblies of America, can never be justified or excused by any one member of either House of Parliament.
Extract of a Letter from Lord Dartmouth to the Governor of Rhode Island.
[The following may be depended upon, as a genuine extract of the letter from Lord Dartmouth, to the Governor of Rhode Island, dated Whitehall, September 4, 1772:]
The particulars of that atrocious proceeding (referring to the burning the Gaspee schooner), have, by the King's command, been examined and considered with the greatest attention; and although there are some circumstances attending it, in regard to the robbery and plunder of the vessel, which, separately considered, might bring it within the description of an act of piracy, yet, in the obvious view of the whole transaction, and taking all the circumstances together, the offence is, in the opinion of the law servants of the crown, who have been consulted upon that question, of a much deeper dye, and is considered in no other light, than as an act of high treason, viz.: levying war against the King.And, in order that you may have all proper advice and assistance, in a matter of so great importance, His Majesty has thought fit, with the advice of his Privy Council, to issue his royal commission, under the great seal of Great Britain, nominating yourself and the chief justices of New York, New Jersey, and the Massachusetts Bay, together with the judge of the vice admiralty court established at Boston, to be His Majesty's commissioners for inquiring into, and making report to His Majesty, of all the circumstances relative to the attacking, plundering and burning the Gaspee schooner.
The King trusts that all persons in the colony, will pay a due respect to his royal commission, and that the business of it will be carried on without molestation; at the same time, the nature of this offence, and the great number of persons who appear to have been concerned in it, makes every precaution necessary. His Majesty, has, therefore, for their further support in the execution of this duty, thought fit to direct me to signify his pleasure to Lieutenant General Gage, that he do hold himself in readiness to send troops into Rhode Island, whenever he shall be called upon by the commissioners for that purpose, in order to aid and assist the civil magistrate in the suppression of any riot or disturbance, and in the preservation of the public peace. I have only to add, upon that head, that His Majesty depends on the vigilance of the civil magistrates of the colony, to take the proper measures for the arresting and committing to custody, in order to their being brought to justice, such persons, as shall, upon proper information made before them, or before His Majesty's commissioners, appear to have been concerned in the plundering and destroying the Gaspee schooner.
It is His Majesty's intention, in consequence of the advice of his Privy Council, that the persons concerned in the burning the Gaspee schooner, and in the other violences which attended that daring insult, should be brought to England, to be tried; and I am, therefore, to signify to you His Majesty's pleasure, that such of the said offenders as may have been, or shall be, arrested and committed within the colony of Rhode Island, be delivered to the care and custody of Rear Admiral Montagu, or the commander in chief of His Majesty's ships in North America, for the time being, or to such officers as he shall appoint to receive them; taking care that you do give notice to the persons accused, in order that they may procure such witnesses on their behalf, as they shall judge necessary; which witnesses, together with all such as may be proper, to support the charge against them, will be received and sent hither with the prisoners.
Governor Wanton to the House of Deputies of Rhode Island.
To the House of Deputies:
I thought it my duty, during the recess of the Assembly, to acquaint the secretary of state with this affair, lest, by an entire silence, or from misinformation, any impressions might be made prejudicial to the colony.
I hope my proceedings will meet your approbation; and submit to your determination what is further necessary to be done, recommending the same to your serious and immediate consideration.
I have the honor to be, &c., &c.,Council Chamber, J. WANTON.
Newport, August 18th, 1772.
Proceedings of the General Assembly of Rhode Island,
Whereas, His Honor the Governor, hath laid before this Assembly, a full and particular narrative of the measures he hath pursued, in consequence of the burning of His Majesty's schooner, the Gaspee; and of the steps he hath taken to discover the perpetrators of that atrocious piece of villainy; upon due consideration whereof,—
It is voted and resolved, that the whole of His Honor's proceedings be approved; and that His Honor be, and he is hereby, requested to transmit a copy thereof, to the agent of the colony, in Great Britain; and to pursue such further measures respecting the said affair, during the recess of the General Assembly, as shall appear necessary.
And whereas, His Honor issued a proclamation, promising a reward of £100, sterling, to any person or persons who shall discover the persons guilty of the said crime;—
It is therefore further voted and resolved, that this Assembly will make provision for paying the above mentioned reward, in case any person or persons shall be entitled thereto.
And it is further voted and resolved, that no copies of letters, or other proceedings, relating to the above mentioned affair, be delivered out by the secretary, to any person or persons, whomsoever.It is voted and resolved, that the letter from His Honor the Governor, to the Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough, of the 20th of May last, containing a narrative of the proceedings respecting His Honor's calling Lieut. Dudingston before him, &c., be, and the same is hereby, approved.
Whereas, Joseph Rhodes of Cranston, cooper, hath in his hands the sum of $79, belonging to Lieut. Dudingston, which he refuseth to deliver,—
It is therefore voted and resolved, that His Honor the Deputy Governor and the Hon. Stephen Hopkins, Esq., be, and they are hereby, requested and empowered to make inquiry into that affair, and to settle all differences between the parties; and that, if the said Rhodes will not comply therewith, they advise the said Dudingston to take the proper method for obtaining his right.
Chief Justice Horsmanden to the Earl of Dartmouth.
New York, 20th February, 1773.My Lord:—On the 21st of January last, I had the honor of addressing Your Lordship, in conjunction with the rest of the commissioners, at Rhode Island, giving some account of our proceedings, and the reasons that induced us to adjourn to the 26th of May next.
On my arrival at that place, on the 31st of December, I was surprised to find that the main object of our errand was become public, which, in prudence, was to be kept secret; nevertheless, Your Lordship's letter to Governor Wanton, was published in the Boston weekly paper, and spread industriously over all New England.
However amazing to us, upon inquiry, it came out, that the Governor had communicated it to his Assembly, who had got it printed; upon expostulating with the Governor upon it, he said, he by law was obliged to communicate all dispatches from the ministry to his corporation, and sworn so to do; that such dispatches were usually directed to the Governor and Company.
Upon inquiry how Your Lordship's packet was directed, neither he, nor his secretary could inform us; the superscription, they said, was mislaid, and not to be found; but that this was not so directed, as the Governor said, I inferred from its being addressed to him (sir).
My Lord, as to the Government (if it deserves that name), it is a downright democracy; the Governor is a mere nominal one, and therefore a cipher, without power or authority; entirely controlled by the populace, elected annually, as all other magistrates and officers whatsoever.
The Governor treated the commissioners with great decency and respect; and to do that gentleman justice, behaved with great propriety, as a commissioner, except his communicating Your Lordship's letter to the corporation; which, indeed, he seemed constrained to do, under the above circumstances.To show that the Governor has not the least power or authority, he could not command the sheriff or constable to attend us; he prevailed with them, indeed; but in expectation of being paid their daily wages by the commissioners, so that they were hired for this service, at our expense; and even for expresses sent to summon witnesses, the. commissioners found it necessary to advance their own money; also for the very fire-wood expended for our accommodation in the council chamber, on this occasion.
This, My Lord, we readily disbursed, and all other contingencies, relying upon the honor of government.
We found, My Lord, that the Governor, upon the first notice of this piece of villainy, had issued a proclamation, offering £100 reward, for a discovery, but without effect.
My Lord, it is suggested in the commission, that the people assembled upon this adventure, in the town of Newport, and the places adjacent, by beat of drum, the which was intimated, doubtless, through misinformation; for it comes out, that it was at Providence, on the Narragansett River, about thirty miles from Newport, and seven or eight from the place where the Gaspee was aground. The news of which, was soon communicated to that town; and there it is supposed, the people assembled and soon formed their scheme, to man six or seven boats on purpose to attack her at that disadvantage.
My Lord, the colony of Rhode Island is branched out into three divisions: Newport, on Rhode Island; Providence and Warwick, more inland, adjoining to the Massachusetts colony. At these three places, the Assembly is held, alternately; but Newport is reputed the seat of government; between the two former, there is an emulation, with respect to their trade, and a kind of enmity, likewise; so that they do not generally correspond cordially. Providence is thirty miles distant from it, so that it seems most unlikely that the people of Newport could be concerned in so sudden and precipitate an enterprise; nor was the fact known at Rhode Island, till the day after the treason was committed.
My Lord, as to the negro evidence, which seems to be the foundation of this inquiry, it is much to be suspected, though his story is told with much plausibility, and he pertinaciously repeated it upon examination before the commissioners; and a sailor of the crew of the Gaspee, swore he was one of the negroes after the attack, that rowed the boat which landed part of the Gaspee's crew, near Providence.
But to countervail this information, it was asserted, that the master of this negro, from whom he had escaped on board the man-of-war, with intent to run away, who is a person of undoubted credit, would swear that about 9 o'clock that night the Gaspee was destroyed, he ordered this negro to bed, and that he saw him go, accordingly, with his two other negroes, with whom he usually slept; and it was said that these negroes would also depose, that he lay with them all night, till his master called him up in the morning, on business.My Lord, the commissioners did not enter upon counter evidence, though I, myself, was inclined to do it, as we proceeded; and bring the witnesses face to face, considering the commission required we should report all the circumstances attending the affair.
Captain Dudingston had been plying upon his business in the Narragansett River, for some time; he had not communicated his commission to the Governor, on his arrival, as Mr. Wanton informed us; Mr. Dudingston had made several seizures of prohibited goods on that station; and on seizing their traffic, might probably have treated the boatmen with severity, roughness and scurrillous language, by which, the people of that place might be provoked to this daring insult and resentment; and not knowing Dudingston bore the King's commission of what he had done, they, as they gave out, looked upon him as pirate, and treated his as such. For, as the Governor informed us, upon complaint of his abuses, as they pretended, he expostulated with Mr. Dudingston, and demanded he would satisfy him as to the commission upon which he acted, which at length he did.
From these three different branches of government, My Lord, there arise three different factions; their election of the chief officers being annual, sometimes one party prevails, perhaps the next year, a different.
I was told by a gentleman of the law there, he had known a land cause of considerable value that had judgment reversed different ways seven or eight times; property being thus rendered wholly insecure, no wonder that persons of property and best sense and most sincerity, among them, have long wished for a change of government, and to be under His Majesty's more immediate protection.
Though by their charter, they are inhibited from passing laws contrary to those of England, but to be near as may be, agreeable to them, yet they seem to have paid little regard to that injunction, as may sufficiently appear upon inspection of the printed book of them; they have never transmitted them for the royal approbation nor indeed, by their charter were they obliged to do so.
Under these circumstances, Your Lordship will not wonder that they are in a state of anarchy; and I assure Your Lordship, that their sister colony Connecticut, is in the same condition in all respects; justice has long since fled that country. I have had an opportunity of being more intimately acquainted with the people of that colony for about thirty years past; having had the honor of attending there twice, upon two royal commissions for determining a controversy between the corporation and a tribe of Indians and the family of the Masons.Major Mason, a gallant officer of the army, a principal person among the first of the English, who first landed in these parts, fought their battles with the savages, conquered several tribes, became the foster father to the colony; acted with so much generosity, humanity and prudence towards the natives, and so conciliated their friendship and esteem, that, after they had, through his persuasion, granted away great tracts of their lands, to form the newly proposed colony, and to make a sufficient plantation or settlement, the natives prudently thought of falling upon a method of reserving and securing for the future, a sufficiency for the subsistence of their tribe; and putting entire confidence in Major Mason, as their patron and friend (who had treated them with great generosity and humanity), requested that corporation or government, that they might, with their approbation, invest the remainder of their lands in Major Mason and his heirs, as the guardians and trustees of the Mohegan tribe; and that in future, they should be restrained from selling more of their lands without the advice and consent of that family.
Some were afterwards, from time to time, sold, with the consent of the Masons; and to preserve the fidelity of the Masons, the family was to have an interest in the lands so to be conveyed, coupled with the trust.
For this purpose, My Lord, a deed was executed with solemnity, and by the declared approbation of the corporation, entered upon their records.
Notwithstanding this solemn engagement, so recorded, the heads of this corporation, did, from time to time afterwards, unknown to the Masons, inveigle the Indians to convey to them several tracts of very valuable reserved lands, without the consent of the Masons, and divided them among themselves; and this was the ground of their complaint, upon which those special commissions issued.
Upon the whole, My Lord, I was, and am still of opinion, that the devices in consequence of them, in favor of the corporation, were unjust; for it appeared to me, that the corporation had most shamefully prostituted the good faith and honor of government, by ungratefully and fraudulently wresting many large and valuable tracts from that tribe, and the Masons; and becoming the instruments of impoverishing that honest and worthy family (whose ancestors first founded the colony), in prosecuting and maintaining their rights, at their own expense, for thirty years past, and hitherto in vain; for the matter still lies before His Majesty and Council, waiting a determination.
Those two colonies, My Lord, commenced their settlements nearly at the same time; their charters bear date one year after the other; and they adjoin each other; the charters are similar; each has a grant of "all royal mines, minerals and precious stones," which may be thought a privilege of too much importance for a subject to enjoy.My Lord, these colonies united, which at times are so alike in features, temper and disposition, that it were a pity they should remain separate. For, from my knowledge of the people, and credible information from many in each, I am fully persuaded, that the better sort of them have long groaned under their motley administrations, and wish for a deliverance; to be taken more immediately under the protection of the crown. These two, consolidated, might become as respectable a royal government, as any on the continent.
The country in both, has a rich soil, abounds in timber fit for ship-building; the country, upon the whole, in my esteem, is superior to any I have seen in my travels, from Boston to Virginia.
But it must be confessed, as to the people, it would require a gentleman of very extraordinary qualifications and abilities, to adventure upon the first arduous task, for modeling them into due subordination and decorum.
I humbly entreat Your Lordship's pardon for trespassing thus much upon Your Lordship's time and patience. I flattered myself that some account of the present as well as former temper and circumstances of these two colonies, might not be unacceptable to you, in Your Lordship's high department; and conclude with the assurance that I am, with the most profound respect, My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obedient and obliged humble servant,
DAN. HORSMANDEN.To the Earl of Dartmouth.
The Earl of Dartmouth to the Governor of Rhode Island.
Sir:—I have received your letters to me, of the 19th of October, and 30th of January last.
Whitehall, April 10, 1773.
I am very much obliged to you for the favorable sentiments you are pleased to express for me, in the first of those letters; but I must not omit to observe to you, that the publication in the common newspapers, of parts of my secret and confidential dispatch, of the 4th of September last, addressed personally to yourself, cannot, I fear, be considered as entirely corresponding with those assurances you give me, of paying the strictest attention and defference to such orders as you shall receive from me.
I am sensible, that you could not do otherwise than communicate the substance of that dispatch to the other parts of your corporation; but I refer it to your candor, whether it was proper to give copies of it.
I sincerely hope that it will appear by the report of the commissioners for inquiring into the affair of the Gaspee schooner, that no part of the corporation of the colony of Rhode Island has failed in obedience due to the laws and authority of this kingdom; in the meantime, the King is graciously pleased to approve of the respect shown to his royal commission, and the decency and order with which it was proclaimed.
I am, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
DARTMOUTH.To the Governor of Rhode Island.
New York, 23d July, 1773.My Lord:—Your Lordship's favor of the 10th of April last, I was honored with, on my return hither, on the 13th inst.; after the close of our commission, at Rhode Island, concerning the affair of the Gaspee.
It gives me great pleasure, that my representation of the 20th of February, has the honor of Your Lordship's approbation; and now beg leave to observe to Your Lordship, what has occurred to me, after finishing our report. For waiting some days at Newport, for a passage, wind and weather, I was accidentally informed of a piece of evidence, which, had it come to light sooner, would most probably have cut our business shorter.
An officer of a man-of-war, stationed at Newport, to whom the negro Aaron was turned over, informed me that upon his examining the fellow one day, before his master, and his two negroes who came on board, and interrogating face to face, the fellow prevaricated much; but still persisted in the main of his story, notwithstanding confronted by the master, and his two negroes, who declare that he slept with them all that night, on which the Gaspee was destroyed.
The master and his negroes being dismissed, the officer, upon what he had heard, from the master and his negroes, and had observed from the conduct of Aaron, upon the occasion, concluded he was an imposter, and charged him home, as such, and told him he was convinced he was no more concerned in that affair than he himself was; and conjured him to tell the truth; and at length, he confessed it was all a fiction, which he was constrained to, for saving himself from the punishment threatened him on board the other man-of-war, as they had charged him so positively with being one concerned; and therefore thought he must confess himself guilty, and name some principal people as accessories.
My Lord, a few days after the Gaspee was burnt, one of the ships stationed at Newport, went and anchored close by the island called Prudence, where the master of Aaron lived, about seven miles from where the Gaspee lay, and Aaron purposing to run away from his master, went on board in a small canoe; and they rightly guessed of his intention, and threatened to whip him; but on second thoughts, charged him as a confederate in destroying the Gaspee; and if he did not confess and make discovery, they would whip him, and hang him up at the yard arm.And thus, My Lord, this forced confession of the negro Aaron has been held up by the marine, as a hopeful and sure clue to unravel this mystery of iniquity. The fellow might probably have heard the names of the most noted and principal traders at Providence, and other trading towns in that neighborhood, though he might not know their persons; and one Dr. Weeks, inserted in his list, he might know personally, as an attendant upon his master's family.
But my sentiments upon the whole are, that this daring insult was committed by a number of bold, daring, rash enterprising sailors, collected suddenly from the neighborhood, who banded themselves together, upon this bold enterprise; by whom stimulated for the purpose, I cannot conjecture. They cunningly calculated the attack at a time of night, under the Gaspee's disadvantage, aground, when it was probable the crew would be below deck, and asleep; as was the case, only one sentry on deck; and thus, by surprise, easily boarded and plundered her.
My Lord, I have been two voyages of four hundred miles each, upon this occasion, at great expense; and no small fatigue, for a person of my age, viz.; seventy-six; and I assure Your Lordship, I am already upwards of £200, out of pocket; and am still liable for my proportion with the other commissioners, for the pay of the clerks we found necessary to attend us upon the service; and though we have not had the wished for success, we hope His Majesty will graciously accept our sincere endeavors.
My Lord, I have lately received advice that His Majesty has been graciously pleased to sign a warrant for my salary, as chief justice, which further adds to the obligations Your Lordship has conferred upon me, which I cannot but esteem with the utmost gratitude.
I am, with profound respect, My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obliged and dutiful, humble servant,
DAN. HORSMANDEN.To the Earl of Dartmouth.
Chief Justice Horsmanden to Governor Tryon.
New York, 19th April, 1777.Honored Sir:—Your Excellency well remembers what circumstances you found me in, on your arrival in this government; that I was then chief justice of the province, and had been so for eight or ten years (as my memory serves me), and had no other allowance on the Assembly for the support of the dignity of that office, than a miserable pittance of £300 a year, this currency, and the fees of the office, trifling and insignificant; but upon Your Excellency's recommendation home, His Majesty was pleased to allow me £500, sterling, a year, which I was to receive half yearly, on the commissioners of trade at Boston; which I did, to the time of their removal to Halifax; since which, has incurred one year and a half, the beginning of this month; but I am much at a loss how to apply for it; but as the commissioners are now in London, I have written to them for information.
When the duties arisen by trade, fell, the commissioners had directions from the lords of the treasury, to give drafts upon them for the salaries of the offices of government, of which I have had two, the salaries being payable half yearly.
Your Excellency well remembers that three or four years ago (I think), the King's special commission was sent over by Lord Dartmouth, then secretary of state, empowering the persons therein named (of which I was one), to inquire into the affair of the destruction of His Majesty's schooner, the Gaspee, at Rhode Island.
Your Excellency knew the state of health I was in, at the time I embarked for Newport, much enfeebled by the rheumatism, the time of year in December, when it is generally expected the river is full of ice. Myself unable to walk without help, and at a time of life drawing near to four-score; but as Lord Dartmouth's directions were to proceed immediately to that place, in order to execute that commission, I did not hesitate to undertake it; but was obliged to take with me my wife, carriage and two horses, without which, I could have been of no use.
After passing several weeks there, and doing little to the purpose, the commissioners found it necessary to adjourn over to the next year, which occasioned a second voyage, under the like circumstances; and at length the commissioners were obliged to close the commission, having not been able to make any discovery, to answer the intent of the commission; upon which occasion, I expended upwards of £200, of my own money, which remains out of pocket to this day; and hitherto, my trouble for nothing.
Upon the proceedings of the commissioners being sent home, Lord Dartmouth directed the commissioners to send home their accounts of the expenses they had been at. It was imagined with a view to compel Rhode Island government to discharge them; but if that was the intent, the alterations of the circumstances of that government in this time of confusion, that expectation is at an end; and in the anarchy and distraction which now surrounds us, and the great difficulty in getting money amongst us, which is our due, Your Excellency knows how needful it is to be solicitous for it, where it is due in other quarters.
I must humbly entreat Your Excellency to represent my case to Lord George Germain, hoping, from his clemency and goodness, to have a method pointed out, by which I may have satisfaction made in the foregoing particulars.
I am, with the greatest respect, sir,
Your Excellency's most devoted, obedient, humble servant,
DAN. HORSMANDEN.(Referred to the Right Honorable Lord George Germain,
by William Tryon).
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The documents included in this appendix are drawn from Proceedings of the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1890-91, pp. 80-92.
Lieutenant Dudingston to Admiral Montagu.
GASPEE, RHODE ISLAND.SIR:
24th March, 1772.
I came in here the 22nd, the same day received your letter of the 24th ult. relative to the Sloop, expected from Esequibo, and shall not fail to keep a good look out for her.
Enclosed is Copys of letters received from the Governor. I have given him all the satisfaction as to the establishment of the Schooner such as showing him my orders from the Admiralty and your first order to put myself under your command and a deputation from the Commissioners of the Customs, but would not any instructions or orders I have from you; This I did that they might not plead they were ignorant she belonged to the King, as they talked of fitting and arming a Vessel to prevent my carrying any seizure to Boston, two or three writs are now ready to be served on me on that account. Nor dare I send a boat on shore with safety, every invention of infamous lies calculated to inflaim the Country is put in the News Papers. As I have done my duty strictly and in the most tender manner, I fear not but I shall meet with your approbation. I shall return here in a fortnight to call for any orders as I have but 5 weeks provision on board, enclosed is the state and condition of His Majesty's Schooner
I am,Sir,Yours &c.
W. DUDINGSTON.Admiral Montagu.
Admiral Montagu to Philip Stephens, Secretary to the Admiralty.
SIR: By Captain Squire of the Bonetta, I send these dispatches to inform their lordships of the melancholy accident which has befallen the Gaspee Schooner under the command of Lieut. Dudingston who was laying at single anchor in Providence River in Rhode Island Government for the protection of the Trade, and to prevent smuggling;
BOSTON. 12th June, 1772.
and was attacked by a number of Boats full of armed men in the night (or morning) of the 10th June (as you will see by the enclosed deposition) and by force of arms took possession of her, having wounded her Commander with musquet ball in the Groin, and left Arm, of which wounds he now lays so dangerously ill, that his recovery is exceedingly doubtful, they were not content with this vile piratical step, but also used the People ill by pinioning of them, and the tumbling them into the Boats and sent them ashore in two divisions, after which they burnt the Schooner. The inclosed deposition will inform their Ld'ps more particularly, to which I beg leave to refer them, and I shall wait their directions for my proceedings. I desire you will inform their Ld'ps that I have sent a Copy of the enclosed deposition to Governor Wanton of Rhode Island by Express and have prayed his assistance in apprehending and bringing the offenders to Justice, but as the Inhabitants of Rhode Island in general, are a set of lawless, piratical people, and whose whole business is that of smuggling and defrauding the King of his duties, I cannot expect any satisfaction from that letter. I must beg leave to assure their Lordships that Lieutenant Dudingston has always during my Command discharged his duty with the strongest marks which distinguishes the brave, diligent and good Officer, and if he recovers these wounds (which at present I am very doubtful of) I think myself in justice to his merit obliged to recommend him to their Lordships' future favours.
Admiral Montagu to the Secretary to the Admiralty.
BOSTON, 30th June, 1772.
By the Lydia Hall a Merchant ship bound to London, I transmit you duplicates of my dispatches by Captain Squire of the Bonetta, who sailed the 12th inst. I also herewith send you a copy of a letter which I have received from Lieut. Dudingston, likewise an extract of a letter to the Commissioner of the Customs by which the Ld'ps will see with what severity these piratical people have used him.In my hurry to dispatch the Bonetta, I had forgot to desire you would be pleased to move their Lordships to know if it is their pleasure that the Gaspee should be replaced by purchasing another Schooner.
Admiral Montagu to the Secretary to the Admiralty.
BOSTON, 11th July, 1772.
You will be pleased to inform their Ld'ps that the 7th inst: in the evening I received an Express from Captain Linzee from Rhode Island, informing me he had discovered, and detained an indentured Black servant who was in one of the Boats that boarded the Gaspee Schooner, that one of the men now on board the Beaver (late of the Gaspee) remembered the man the moment he saw him. By return of the Express I wrote Governor Wanton, and inclosed him an account of what Captain Linzee had related, and a copy of the Negro man's deposition, and beg'd that he would exert himself as a principal Officer of the Crown, and use his utmost endeavour to cause the men mentioned in the Deposition inclosed to him to be apprehended that the King may have justice done for the insult shown to his Flag by the piratical people of his Government. I have ordered the Negro to be kept prisoner and flatter myself I shall be able in a little time to inform their Lordships of some of the Ringleaders being taken if the Governor will assist me as he ought. I find by Governor Hutchinson that Potter is one of the principal persons of that Province, and that the other two are substantial people at Providence. Inclosed I transmit you a copy of the Deposition of the Negro man now in Custody on board the Swan.
Admiral Montagu to the Secretary to the Admiralty
BOSTON, 2nd Septr. 1772.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I have sent Lieutenant Dudingston home to be tried, not having ships sufficient to assemble a Court Martial. I must beg leave to recommend him to their Lordships, and doubt not but they will take his unhappy state into consideration. He is deprived of the use of one arm, and has now a ball in his thigh, besides which he lost everything he was worth in the world except the shirt he had on his back together with his books and papers relative to the Schooner, and from the time of the Schooner's being burnt to his being removed on board the Beaver the expense to his Doctors &c are more than he is able to support and which I hope their Lordships will be pleased to allow him. . . .You willl be pleased to acquaint their Ld'ps I have used every method in my power to apprehend the people concerned in burning the Gaspee, but to no effect, or do I see any probability of ever doing it from any assistance I may receive from Governor Wanton.
Inclosed I send you a letter from Mr. Dudley, Collector at Rhode Island, and leave their Lordships to make what use of it they please.
Charles Dudley to Admiral Montagu.
I shall first of all premise that the attack upon the Gaspee was not the effect of sudden passion and resentment, but of cool deliberation and forethought; her local circumstances at the time she was burnt did not raise the first motive to that enormous Act; it had been long determin'd she should be destroyed.
RHODE ISLAND, 23rd July 1772.
The paragraph in the inclosed News Paper under the Newport head, was the prelude to the diabolical scene which follow'd. I dare appeal to every candid man in this country if he did not see it in that light. The next public step was a Memorial or Petition from the Merchants in Providence first laid before the Superior Court of Judicature then sitting in that Town, and afterwards before the Governor, praying that the Commander of an armed Vessell then cruizing in the Bay should be called upon by the Civil Authority to know by what power he was authorized to search ships and other Vessells on the high seas, tho' it was notorious that the arm'd Vessell in question sailed under British Colours and belonged to His Britannic Majesty; what followed in consequence of this Memorial I shall forbear to mention, as I have understood that whole transaction has been already canvassed between you and the Chief Magistrate.
These in my humble opinion are the two grand points on which a discovery must turn; corroborating evidence of respectable men will not be wanting, to prove that this insult on His Majesty's Crown and Dignity was begun in the most public and open manner, nor will you want good testimony to show, that the intention, was spoke of many days before the Event.
If Admiral Montagu will interest himself in promoting an enquiry into these things, not under the influence of a Governor and Company of Rhode Island, but under the high authority of a British Senate: I will be bold to say that the destroyers of the Gaspee and the barbarous assassins of Lieut. Dudingston will be brought to light. Let the Printer of the Newport Mercury be called to account for the paragraph I have herein pointed at; let the Governor be required to lay before His Majesty's Secretary of State all Papers, Memorials or Petitions relating to the Schooner Gaspee, and you will no longer have doubts of what I have said before in this letter, that the Government of Rhode Island bears no resemblance to any other Government under the Crown of England.
I am with very great respect,
At a Court Martial Assembled on board His Majesty's Ship Centaur, in Portsmouth Harbour on the fourteenth day of October 1772.
JOHN WHEELOCK GEORGE BALFOUR
JOHN BENTINCK RICHARD KING
CHARLES DOUGLAS HENRY DAVIS.
The Court, pursuant to an Order from the Right hon'ble Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty dated the seventh day of October instant directed to Captain Edward Jekyll, Commander of His Majesty's ship Egmont and now senior Captain of His Majesty's ships and Vessels at Portsmouth, proceeded to enquire into the loss of his Majesty's Schooner Gaspee in Providence River Rhode Island on the 10th day of June last and to try Lieut. Dudingston together with such of the Officers and People as belonged to her at the time and are returned to England in His Majesty's Sloop Beaver for their conduct upon that occasion, and having heard the witnesses examined and finished the enquiry and maturely and deliberately weighed and considered the whole, the Court is of opinion that the Schooner was seized in the night time by a number of armed men in Boats who burnt her, that Lieut. Dudingston and the Officers and People belonging to her did their duty in opposing the seizure to the utmost of their power on so short a notice. The Court doth therefore adjudge them to be honourably acquitted and they are hereby so acquitted accordingly.
EDWD. JEKYLLTHOS. BINSTEED
R. HUGHES JUNR.
Deputy Judge Advocate.
Minutes of a Court Martial assembled on Board His Majesty's Ship Centaur in Portsmouth Harbour on the fourteenth day of October 1772.
JOHN WHEELOCK GEORGE BALFOUR
JOHN BENTINCK RICHARD KING
CHARLES DOUGLAS HENRY DAVIS.
WM. DUDINGSTON Lieut; and Commander of His Majesty's late Schooner Gaspee.
JOHN JOHNSON—Boatswain's Mate.
THOMAS PARR, EDW. PULLIBECK and BARTW. CHEEVER Seamen.
The Order of the Right hon'ble Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty dated the seventh day of October instant directed to Captain Edward Jekyll, Commander of His Majesty's ship Egmont and now senior Captain of His Majesty's ships and Vessells at Portsmouth, for assembling a Court Martial to enquire into the loss of His Majesty's ship Gaspee in Providence River Rhode Island on the tenth day of June last, and to try Lieutenant Dudingston together with such of the Officers and People who belonged to her at the time and are returned to England in His Majesty's Sloop Beaver, for their conduct upon that occasion, was read.
The members of the Court and Deputy Judge Advocate, then in open Court and before they proceeded to trial, respectively took the several oaths enjoined and directed by an Act of Parliament made and passed in the twenty second year of the reign of our late Sovereign Lord George the second entitled "An Act for amending, explaining and reducing into one Act of Parliament the Laws relating to the Government of his Majesty's Ships, Vessells and Forces by Sea." Lieut. Dudingston was then acquainted by the Court that it was incumbent on him to answer to the Court for the loss of His Majesty's Schooner the Gaspee under his command. On which he delivered in a narrative marked with the letter A which was read, and is hereto annexed.He then desired that Bartholomew Cheever and Mr. Dickinson might be sworn to support the narrative.
BARTHOLOMEW CHEEVER, SEAMAN, SWORN.
Q. Was you Centinel on the Quarter Deck when the Gaspee
WILLIAM DICKINSON, MIDSHIPMAN, SWORN
A. About half past twelve on the eleventh of June the Centinal came down and made an alarm that there were a number of boats coming down the river. Mr. Dudingston was going in his shirt on Deck, I was close to him, he told me to go back and get the Keys of the Arm Chest which were in the Cabin, I went on Deck, opened the Chest, and threw some Arms on Deck, I took up one and fired it, the boats were then about forty or fifty yards from the Quarter Deck, I went forward and saw Mr. Dudingston striking a person coming into the Chains with his Hanger, there were pistols fired from us, I don't know how many, the fire was not returned from the Boats, and Mr. Dickinson [Dudingston] was shot, they then came on board us, and I saw them beating two of our People down the Skuttle, Mr. Dickinson [Dudingston] went aft, and I stood by him, our other People were driven down.
Then the witness referred for what passed on the Deck to the
taken before Governor Hutchinson accompanying the Order.
Mr. Dudingston acquainted the Court that he was informed that one of the People in the Boats was privately buried ashore. Court asked.
Q. Do you apprehend every measure was pursued that
so short a notice for the preservation of His Majesty's Schooner?
CAPT.JOHN LINZEE, LATE OF HIS MAJESTY'S SLOOP BEAVER, SWORN.
Mr. Dudingston asked.
Q. You know the spot where the Gaspee was destroyed and
had only left you a few hours could you suppose I could possibly have
least reason to apprehend an attack from the shore in the manner I did
being so far from the shore?
Mr. Dudingston have you any objection to the conduct of the
The same question was put to the People as to the Captain's conduct.
A. He did his utmost.
The Court was cleared.
The Court agreed that the Schooner was seized in the night by a number of armed men in boats, that Mr. Dudingston and the rest of the Officers and People belonging to her did their duty in opposing the seizure to the utmost of their power on so short a notice and that they should be honourably acquitted.
The Court was opened and Sentence passed accordingly.
Deputy Judge Advocate.
Narrative Marked With the Letter A.
[This Paper is Bound Up With Admiral Montagu's Letter of June 30, 1772.]
I then look'd forward and saw a Boat laying the Vessel on board on the Starboard Bow. I step'd forward and saw a man endeavouring to get up by the fore Shrouds. I made a cut at him with my sword, and he fell back into the boat. At that instant I received a shot through my left arm, which broke it, and another in my Groin. I then with difficulty, returned to the Quarter deck, which I found full of men, they having boarded the Vessel on the Quarter— immediately on my getting there I was surrounded, knocked down, and told to beg my life, and to order the people to surrender. As I saw no possibility of defending the Vessel against such numbers, judging them to be about one hundred and fifty armed and commanded with regularity by one who personated the Sheriff—I thought it prudent to propose to them that the people should surrender if they would use them like men, who had only been doing their duty—On their promising that they would, I called out to the Midshipman and people, to make no further resistance—They then forced all the Schooner's Crew into the Hold, and ordered them on Deck again singly, unarmed, tied their hands behind their backs, and put them into boats, this took up some time, during which, I repeatedly desired they would allow my wounds to be dressed, as I found I had lost much blood—They damned me for a scoundrel and said I was not wounded, but after consulting with one another for sometime and observing much blood on the Deck, they consented to it and allowed my servant to be untied and to assist me down to my Cabbin—they call'd for the Surgeon of the Schooner, I answered I had no Surgeon on board, and requested they would allow me to go on shore—to which they would not consent but told me they could find a Surgeon for me and immediately two men came down and got everything necessary for stopping the blood and dressing my wound. When that was completed, they carried me on Deck almost naked, put me into a Boat which was already mann'd and armed, and ordered the person who commanded the Boat to land me on the Beach, where they left me with four of the Schooner's men; before I got halfway from the Vessel to the Shore, I heard several guns go off, and on turning round saw the Schooner afire, and was soon after informed by the Midshipman who was landed in another boat, that she was entirely destroyed. I then directed the Midshipman to collect the people and keep them together if possible till an opportunity offered to send them on board the Beaver.
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