Texas Liberal

All People Matter

The Burning Of British Ship Gaspee in 1772 Was A Good Thing—You Might See It A Different Way

June 9 will mark the 239th anniversary of the 1772 burning of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay off the coast of Rhode Island.

(Above–An 1883 engraving depicting the burning of the Gaspee.)

The Gaspee was a British revenue schooner that helped make sure Rhode Islanders paid colonial taxes.

From the Rhode Island Historical Society-

“The first open act of aggression toward Great Britain leading up to the American Revolution took place in Warwick on June 10, 1772.  The British revenue schooner, the Gaspee, ran aground in Narragansett Bay.  Before the ship could be set afloat, it was boarded by a battalion of men, led by Samuel Whipple and John Brown, and burned.”

As a school kid in Rhode Island at the time of the American Bicentennial, I was told that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing. I recall we even once had a school play that recreated the burning.

While I’m doubtful about many things that I learned from my teachers, I still very much hold to the idea that the burning of the Gaspee was a good thing.

Here is an excellent collection of links to learn more about the Gaspee incident. 

Here is the link for the Gaspee Days that are held each year in Rhode Island to mark the great event.

It is up to each individual to learn our shared history.

American history is complicated. Events that took place in the 1770’s are not clear guideposts for what we should think and do today.

If somebody broke the law to impede the collection of taxes today, I would demand that they go to jail.

What is the difference between the burning of the Gaspee in 1772 and such an act today?

I can’t imagine there is much difference except my own view of British rule of the American colonies 230 years after the fact, in comparison to my support today of a federal government able to help everyday citizens and administer the day-to-day functions of the nation.

Figure stuff out for yourself.

Don’t let other people define your past, and then seek to shape your future while you stand idly by.

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June 6, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I think the biggest difference was the political status of Rhode Island then and now. Those taxes (and the officers and laws enforcing them) were instituted without the consent of the governed, unlike most current U.S. taxes in most jurisdictions.

    Now if you want to talk about somewhere like Puerto Rico, that’s an interesting case. Puerto Ricans pay taxes (not income taxes, but many others) to a government in which they have little say. Fortunately, free trade has lessened the impact, but it’s still a similar situation.

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | June 6, 2011


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