Let me begin by saying, living in Rhode Island is wonderful.
Having left the state when I was eighteen years old and going abroad for the next twenty-five years, so to speak, Rhode Island was always in my heart. Coming home was always a great thing to do. I recently moved back to Rhode Island, and I could not be more thrilled. I have been away, but I feel home again. With that, I have been undertaking a number of very interesting historical adventures here this summer. I found myself in a 1740s plantation mansion in East Matunuck recently, complete with Underground Railroad tunnels and a rich background of stories from all those years the house has been there, that really got me thinking about the amazing history of our state.
Todayâ€™s book is entitled Burning the Gaspee by Rory Raven, a local Rhode Island author from Providence. The History Press in South Carolina published the book this year.
The book is a wonderful ride through the history of Rhode Island. The central topic of the book is an event that occurred in Narragansett Bay in 1772 when a hated British police boat ran aground on a sandbar, and while it sat there listing away, a group of rebellious Rhode Islanders set out in a few rowboats and gained control of the ship, killed the commander, and then burned the boat to the waterline. This was one event in a string of events that eventually lead to the American Revolution and the formation of the United States of America. Rhode Islanders leading the way!
Burning the Gaspee rolls back time to the colonial days of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, our proper state name, and also the longest state name in the country. It gives a very nice background on Roger Williams and the colony he founded after being ousted from Massachusetts Bay Colony. He settled the colony based on the idea of â€śsoul liberty.â€ť and allowed the people who lived here a far greater degree of freedom, religious and secular, than could be found anywhere else in the colonies. Roger wanted people to be more self-sufficient, have more open minds, keep their religion and politics separate, and enjoy a life that was not dictated by religious leaders as strictly. The people in Massachusetts did not appreciate this rebel thinker.
Following Roger Williams came a long string of very interesting people with very exciting and sometimes outrageous ideas about how they would get along. There were pirates and privateers, revolutionary thinkers, and rebels. John Brown was a key player in the burning of the Gaspee event. He was not much for the way the British were treating the colonists in Rhode Island, and he was constantly concocting ideas on how to get them off the backs of the people here. Now granted that many of those people were smugglers, and other neâ€™er-do-wellers who chose the waters of Narragansett Bay to ply their trade, but John Brown was still looking out for their interests. The British sought to stop the illegal activities, and the police boats were one of the ways they did that. Burning the Gaspee was a wonderful idea as far as most of the people in the colony felt. John Brown set the drummer drumming through the streets and gathered together a group of men that would do just that.
It was a rebellious moment in history that eventually lead to the formation of a great country, and all of that right here in little Rhody. Wonderful!
So if you feel the urge to get a little rebellious yourself, head on out the door to the wonderful world that is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and learn about the history here. Burning the Gaspee will get you on the right track to begin your adventure. Go to your local bookstore or get online and find this gem of a book about our rebelious little state.
Enjoy and read on!
Kerry Wholey is a freelance writer living in Narragansett.