The attack on British customs schooner Gaspee by the citizens of Providence on June 9th, 1772 was the first act of war against the British Crown. The raid’s success and the colony’s complicit resistance to civil sanction marked the start of the American fight for independence a year and a half before the Boston Tea Party. The attack on the Gaspee motivated further communication between the colonies in the form of the Committees of Correspondence and inspired the colonies to join together to seek their independence, ultimately leading to the founding of the United States of America.
“History books across the country often cite the Boston Tea Party as the start of the American Revolution. But the people of Rhode Island know that the first blood was really drawn over a year earlier, when Rhode Islanders seized the British vessel the Gaspee. Actually, we didn’t just seize it, we blew it up, and its captain was shot in the struggle — a bit more than just throwing tea bales over the side!”
—Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
“The [Gaspee] affair … was the first contest in which British blood was shed in an expedition openly organized against the forces of the mother country, and it differed from all the other preliminary encounters because of the character of those engaged in it. Other outbreaks were the work of an irresponsible mob. … Some of the leading men of Rhode Island sat on the thwarts of the nine boats, and their boldness seems almost incredible to us of the present day. It shows that while public sentiment at Newport and New York and the other great seats of commerce along the coast may have favored the King, the people of Providence … were already prepared to sever their relations with England.”
—from Tales of an Old Sea Port