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commercial." And that is to say that the English, even in their dealings with their own colonies, were animated solely by greed. The
stamp act; the levying of taxes on intercolonial commerce; the imposition of duties on glass, pasteboard, painters' colors, and tea, "to be collected on the arrival of the articles in the colonies"; worse yet, the "empowering of naval officers to enforce the acts of trade and navigation," grew out of "the spirit of trade which always aims to get the best of the bargain," regardless of right.
It was through this empowering of naval officers to enforce the acts of trade and navigation that the first sea-fight of the Revolution occurred. A vessel of war-presumably a ship had been stationed in the waters of Rhode Island, with a schooner of 102 tons burden, called the Gaspé, armed with six threepounders, to serve as a tender. The Gaspé was under the command of Lieut. William Duddingstone. Duddingstone was particularly offensive in his treatment of the coasting vessels, every one of which was, in his
view, a smuggler.
On June 17, 1772, a Providence packet, named the Hannah and commanded by Captain Linzee, came in sight of these two warvessels while she was on her regular passage from New York to Providence. As the Hannah ranged up near the war-vessels she was ordered to heave to in order that her papers might be examined, but Captain Linzee being favored by a smart southerly wind that was rapidly carrying him out of range of the manof-war guns, held fast on his course.
At this the schooner Gaspé was ordered to follow and bring back the offending sloop, and with all sail drawing, she obeyed the order. For a matter of twenty-five miles that was as eager and as even a race as any sailorman would care to see, but when that length of course had been sailed over, the racers found themselves close up at the Providence bar. The Yankee knew his ground as well as he knew the deck of his sloop, but the captain of the Gaspé was unfamiliar with it. A few minutes later the shoal-draft Hannah was crossing the bar at a point where she could barely scrape over, and the deeper-draft Gaspé, in trying to follow at full speed, was grounded hard and fast.
To make matters still worse for the Gaspé,
He had a crew of twenty
the tide had just begun to run ebb; not for many hours could her crew hope to float her.
Leaving the stranded schooner to heel with the falling tide, Captain Linzee drove on with the wind to Providence, where he landed at the wharf and spread the story of his trouble with the coast guard. Had it happened in the days before the French war, or before the persistent efforts of the British ministry to levy unjust taxes on the colonies had roused such intense opposition in New England, this affair would have been considered as a good joke on a revenue cutter, and that would have been the end of it so far as the people of Providence were concerned.
Now, however, the matter was taken in a most serious light. As the sun went down, the town drummer appeared on the streets, and with the long roll and tattoo by which public meetings were called he gathered the men of the town under a horse-shed that stood near one of the larger stores overlooking the water. While yet the people were coming to the rendezvous, a man disguised as an Indian appeared on the roof and invited all "stout hearts" to meet him on the wharf at nine o'clock, disguised as he was.
As one may readily believe, nearly every man of Providence came to the pier at the