Wednesday, January 16, 2013

John Adams' Note on the Gaspee Affair

I've mentioned this before but John Adams is in my top five favorite Presidents so anytime I see him in the news it peaks my interest. Thanks to Boston 1775 I found John Adams is making the news with a recently discovered letter of his dated December 26, 1772 which is being auctioned today. The note reads:

“Boston Dec 26 1772 We are all in a fury here about the Dependency of the governor and the Dependency of the Judges, the Commission for trying the Rhode Islanders for Burning the Gaspee. I wonder how your Colony happens to sleep so securely in a whole skin, when her sisters are so worried and tormented!I am with much respect your old Friend& humble servant
JOHN ADAMSWM ELLIOT+ The Fools call it the Independency of the Gov[erno]r, Judges etc”
Adams is referring to a significant event in our path to revolution and independence that often gets overlooked. The HMS Gaspee had been patroling off the coast of Rhode Island for some time boarding vessels and confiscating cargo without recourse or reason. Anger throughout the Rhode Island area was growing so when the ship ran aground on June 9, 1772, as a result of a local vessel baiting the ship into shallow water, the people had their chance for revenge. As news spread quickly to Providence a plot was hatched to loot and burn the ship. Fifty-five men led by John Brown arrived at the HMS Gaspee, came aboard and captured the crew and captain; leaving them on shore to watch as the ship was looted and burned. In the article by John Howell from the Warwick Beacon local historian Henry Brown explained the nature of the letter. "“I believe this note from John Adams to William Elliot was in response and in part to the announcement to appoint a commission... to inquire into the destruction of the Gaspee.” Adams was obviously not a big fan of this commission being formed to possibly try the men who burned the Gaspee. In reality the local courts showed no favor toward the Royal Navy and especially the captain for his previous actions and no member of the attack was ever convicted.

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