Hutchinson re: the Gaspee Affair
We present here excerpts of three letters written by Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson to various British officials. Hutchinson, unlike the Governor of Rhode Island who was popularly elected, was appointed by the King to his position. He was a strong loyalist, and had a particular dislike for the chicanery of the citizens of the neighboring colony of Rhode Island, which he felt were a bad influence on the citizens of his own colony. He felt that Rhode Island's charter was much too liberal, and advocated rescinding it on several occasions.
Source of all three letters: Warren, Mercy Otis. The Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution Interspersed with Biographical, Political, and Moral Observations. 1805. Mercy Otis Warren was a noted playwright, sculptor, and historian who wrote one of our first compilations of the history of the Revolutionary War. She particularly despised the guts of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson.
To Commodore Gambier1
... Our last ships carried you the news of the burning of the Gaspee schooner at Providence. I hope if there should be another like attempt, some concerned in it may be taken prisoners and carried directly to England. A few punished at Execution Dock would be the only effectual preventive of any further attempts...
To Secretary Pownal.2
To Samuel Hood, Esq.3
1. Commodore John Gambier was Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval Station at Halifax, NS. Gambier would be in the position of holding prisoners pending their transmittal across the Atlantic to London for trial.
2. Secretary Pownal, we are unsure as to which of two brothers Hutchinson addressed his letter.Their last name was incorrectly spelled with only one "l" at the end, and the error was carried over into the town's name (Pownal, Vermont). Thomas Pownall (1772-1805) enjoyed a long and successful career as an administrator in the Colonies for England, serving as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, governor of South Carolina, secretary to the governor of New York and lieutenant governor of New Jersey. Thomas advocated making concessions to the colonists in hopes of avoiding bloodshed, but eventually turned and joined with Lord North's ministry, which was largely responsible for precipitating the Revolution by snubbing conciliation.
The other Pownall, John, was Thomas' elder brother who held
of secretary of the board of trade and plantations, and later served as
undersecretary of state for the American colonies and as commissioner
excise and customs. Like Thomas, he also eventually sided with the
ministry in 1775 when Edmund Burke's bill to conciliate the colonials
defeated by the English Parliament.
Hood (1724–1816) was a British admiral. Entering the navy in 1741,
he served with distinction in the Seven Years War. In 1781 he was sent
to the West Indies as second in command to Lord Rodney. He fought in
engagements in the American Revolution, including the victory (1782)
the French fleet under the comte de Grasse (who had earlier defeated
off Dominica. As commander in chief in the Mediterranean he captured
(1793) and Corsica (1794). He was created viscount in 1796.
4. Captain John Linzee was commander of the HMS Beaver, like the Gaspee, stationed in Newport to enforce trade laws imposed by the British on American colonies. Admiral John Montagu(e) was Commander of the British fleet in the Northeast sector of the American colonies at the time. Lord Sandwich, also named John Montague, (and yes, the sandwich was named after Lord Sandwich) was his cousin, First Lord of the Admiralty, one of the chief strategists of British colonial policy, and from whom Admiral John Montagu presumably received accurate information that he then relayed to Hutchinson. See <http://www.montaguemillennium.com/research/h_1792_john.htm> Stale link 2006.
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