GaspeeVirtual Archives

First Blow for Freedom!

by Marjorie (Goff) Clegg
January 1, 1976
From: Gaspee Days Parade Program 1979

Our forefathers came here a long time ago
To "plant" us a country where freedom might grow.
When their ship came to rest off the shores of Cape Cod,
All the Pilgrims knelt down to pay tribute to God.
The "Mayflower Compact" was the first document
To lay the foundation for our self-government.
The torch that they carried was at first just a flicker
But events that came later made its flame burn much quicker.
Descendants that followed, still ruled by Great Britain,
Kept faith in "The Compact" the Pilgrims had written.
At the turn of the century the British passed laws
To make us help pay for the cost of their wars.
With blood and with money, we'd paid our full share
And to make us keep paying was grossly unfair.
When the "Stamp Act" was passed in the year 'Sixty-Three,
It imposed a great threat to our commerce at sea.
To outwit the laws that increased our great struggle,
Our merchants decided that they'd have to smuggle!
The "Gaspee" was sent to our Bay'-Narragansett,
To search all our vessels and hinder their transit.
When our fast packet "Hannah" was ordered to halt,
She chose to sail on and to dodge the assault.
When its brave Captain Lindsey lured the Gaspee towards shore,
Pretending surrender and obedience to law,
The armed customs schooner sailed in much too far
And came to a halt when it struck a sandbar.
The "Hannah" kept sailing and when it reached Providence,
Its captain went quickly to the Brown residence.
The Browns were ship-owners and good civic leaders
Who knew the King's schooners were great trouble-breeders.
Informed of the skirmish that took place that day,
A plan for quick action was made right away.
The night came alive with the sound of drum-beats
As Town Criers cried out the news on our streets!
A volunteer navy was quickly recruited
To man the eight long-boats with oars that were muted.
With Abraham Whipple in charge of the crew,
These brave men resolved that they'd see the plan through.
So they paddled at nightfall to a Point in our Bay
That then was called "Namquit" but it's "Gaspee" today.
Now a king may rule people but he can't rule the tide
And his schooner was grounded--it had no waves to ride!
And to add to its troubles, it was quite unaware
That the "first blow for freedom" would soon be struck there.
The action began with impassioned remarks
That passed back and forth with the heat of live sparks.
The arrogant tone of the British Commander
Increased our resentment and "upped" Yandee dander!
To prove we meant business, a man of great skill
Was ordered to "fire", taking care not to kill.
The wounded commander and his whole British crew
Were captured thereafter--and without further ado,
Were taken as prisoners to a town in our Bay
Whose name was "Pawtuxet" and it still is today.
 The "Gaspee" was stripped then of all documents
That later were brought to the Brown residence.
The torch lit by Pilgrims burned brighter and higher
As our men from Rhode Island set the schooner on fire!
On a dark night in June in the year 'Seventy-Two,
The "Gaspee" exploded--but we had saved all its crew!
The sparks that flew wide from this great conflagration
Ignited more conflicts as we sought liberation.
In the year 'Seventy-Six our "Declaration" was written,
To announce we'd won freedom from the Crown of Great Britain!
The spirit embodied in this great document
Is "consent of the governed" must control government.
Now a job's not worth doing if it isn't done right
And our forefathers knew that so they sealed things up tight!
When they built us a nation, they checked to make sure
Its foundation was solid and was built to endure.
For two hundred years now we've worked hand in hand
To ward off all dangers that have threatened our land.
For Freedom, so precious, must be guarded with care
As history points our with the "Gaspee Affair"!