Episode 373: Adrian Weimer, The Gaspee Affair

engraving showing the Gaspee affairThe so-called “March to the American Revolution” comprised many more events than just the Stamp Act Riots, the Boston Massacre, and the Tea Crisis. One event we often overlook played an essential and direct role in the events needed to draw the thirteen rebellious British North American colonies into a union of coordinated response. That event was the Gaspee Affair in 1772.

Adrian Weimer, a professor of history at Providence College, has been researching the Gaspee Affair and what it can tell us about the constitutional balance between the British Empire and its colonies. She leads us on an investigation of the Gaspee Affair.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.‌

Episode Summary

headshot of Adrian WeimerIn this episode, we are joined by historian Adrian Weimer. Adrian is a professor of history at Providence College. A historian of colonial America and early modern religion and politics, she’s written two books, Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England, and A Constitutional Culture: New England and the Struggle Against Arbitrary Rule in the Restoration Empire. One of her research projects is about the Gaspee Affair.

‌During our exploration, Adrian reveals information about the founding of Rhode Island and how the colony governed itself; British Lieutenant William Duddingston and what led the Royal Navy to post Duddingston and his ship, the Gaspee, in Rhode Island waters; And a detailed account of the Gaspee Affair on June 9, 1772.

What You’ll Discover

  • Rhode Island’s founding and government
  • Colonial Rhode Island’s economy
  • Rhode Island’s political stance toward the American Revolution
  • British Lieutenant William Duddingston, the captain of the Gaspee
  • Why the Gaspee was patrolling Rhode Island’s shores
  • Why Rhode Islanders’ disliked Duddingston and the Gaspee
  • What happened on the night of June 9, 1772
  • What happened to the Duddingston and the crew of the Gaspee after the Gaspee Affair
  • Official investigations into the Gaspee Affair
  • How news of the Gaspee Affair spread
  • Other colonies’ reactions to the Gaspee Affair
  • The legacies of the Gaspee Affair

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Complementary Episodes

Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if the Gaspee Affair had never taken place?

How do you think the series of events needed to turn the American Revolution from a movement into a war for independence would have been different? And do you think the colonies would still have declared their independence if the Gaspee Affair had never taken place?

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