GaspeeVirtual Archives

Suggestions for Student Questions re: The Gaspee Incident

by John Ryder
Library Science
Classical High School
Providence, RI

A Few questions

  • Was Lt. Dudingston justified in using such heavy-handed tactics?  Do you think he may have gotten better results with a lighter touch?
  • Were the Colonists justified in attacking the Gaspee?
  • Did John Brown have an economic motive in burning the Gaspee?
  • Do you think Captain Lindsey was actually in on the plot?  Do you think he deliberately provoked Lt. Dudingston?
  • Why did the crew of the Gaspee surrender so quickly?  Could they have offered further resistance, perhaps with Gaspee’s cannon?
  • Why is it that when one bunch of colonists tosses some tea into Boston Harbor, it’s remembered throughout the nation, yet when a similar group of colonists enacts a complex plan to trap, pillage, and burn a ship of the Royal Navy, it’s only known by a few Rhode Islanders??

Social Studies

  • How does the Gaspee Incident fit into the larger history of the Colony/State of Rhode Island?
  • How does the Gaspee Incident fit into the larger history of the American War of Independence?
  • Is the use of violence in protest ever justified?  Compare the Gaspee Incident with nonviolent protests such as the March on Washington.
  • How does smuggling affect the local economy?  Was the Gaspee attacked so that smuggling could continued unabated?


  • Write your own play/story about the Gaspee Incident.  Who would you cast as the hero?  Who would you cast as the villain?
  • Should the Gaspee Incident be mentioned in the same breath as the Boston Tea Party?  Write a persuasive essay defending your opinion.
  • When we say that Dudingston was “court-martialed” for the loss of the Gaspee, we tell a half-truth when we fail to mention that this was standard procedure in the British Navy of the day for any incident when a captain lost his ship.  Give another example of how telling a half-truth can lead the listener to believe something quite different from the actual circumstances.


  • Figure out how much wood, metal, and other materials were onboard.  What was the approximate weight of the fully laden Gaspee?


  • Do an environmental impact study on the effects of the burning of the Gaspee.


  • Describe the emissions that would have resulted from the burning of the Gaspee.


  • Using a period tune (ex: “Yankee Doodle”) write a song about the Incident from the perspective of  the Hannah.
    • of the Raiders, or
    • of Gaspee’s crew.


  • As a crime scene, what challenges are present in water environment that are absent on land?
  • If the Crown investigators had access to a 21st century crime lab, what tools would they have been able to use that were not available in 1772?
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 05/2009    Last Revised 05/2009    RyderStudentQuestions.html