At the break of dawn June 10, the ship was boarded. The crew put up a feeble resistance and Lieutenant Dudingston was shot and wounded, and the vessel burned to the waterline. The man who fired was Joseph Bucklin.
JOSEPH BUCKLIN, was well known in Providence and kept a prominent restaurant, or place of resort, in South Main Street, where gentlemen resorted for their suppers.. Here, too, they assembled, to discuss politics, and where, possibly, the expedition which destroyed the Gaspee, was discussed, as well as at Mr. Sabin's house, which was near it.
Previous attacks by the colonials on British naval vessels had gone unpunished. In one case, a customs yacht was actually destroyed (also by fire) with no administrative response. But in 1772, the Admiralty would not ignore the destruction of one of its military vessels on station. This attack can be considered the first shot of the American Revolution.
The American Department consulted the Solicitor and Attorney Generals, who investigated and advised the Privy Council on the legal and constitutional options available. The Crown turned to a centuries-old institution of investigation, the Royal Commission of Inquiry. This commission would be made up of the chiefs of the supreme courts of Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, the judge of the vice-admiralty of Boston, and the governor of Rhode Island, Joseph Wanton. The Dockyard Act, passed three months earlier in April, allowed those suspected of burning His Majesty's vessels, to be tried in England. But this was not the law that would be used against the Gaspee raiders, they would be charged with treason. The task of the commission was to determine against which colonists there was sufficient evidence for their trial in England. The Commission was unable to obtain sufficient evidence and declared their inability to deal with the case.
Colonial Whigs were alarmed at the prospect of Americans being sent to England for trial. A Committee of Correspondence was formed in Boston to consult on the crisis. In Virginia, the House of Burgesses was so alarmed that they also formed an inter-colonial committee of correspondence to consult in the crisis with other committees.
In Boston, a little-known visiting minister, John Allen at Second Baptist Church preached a sermon that utilized the Gaspée Affair to warn listeners about greedy monarchs, corrupt judges and conspiracies at high levels in the London government. This sermon was printed seven different times in four colonial cities, becoming one of the most popular pamphlets of Colonial British America. This pamphlet, along with the incendiary rhetoric of numerous colonial newspaper editors, awoke colonial Whigs from a lull of inactivity in 1772, thus inaugurating a series of conflicts that would culminate in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
The city of Warwick, Rhode Island commemorates the Gaspée Affair with Gaspée Days. This festival includes arts and crafts and races, but the highlight is the Gaspée Days parade. The parade features burning the Gaspée in effigy, a Revolutionary War battle reenactment, Revolutionary War era fife-and-drum bands, a marching band dressed as period sailors, local marching bands, and others. The accepted abbreviation for Gaspée Plateau is G-Plat.
The History of the Gaspee Episode – viewed by contemporaries
There were 38 newspapers in mainland British America in 1772. At least eleven, mostly in the Northeast, reported the attack on the Gaspee within the first few weeks following the incident. Moreover, the Gaspee Commission of Inquiry was the topic of one of the most important pre-independence pamphlets to circulate within the colonies, John Allen’s An Oration, Upon the Beauties of Liberty, Or the Essential Rights of Americans. Allen, a little-known preacher at the Second Baptist Church in Boston, gave an emotional sermon in December of 1772 that played upon colonial fears and prejudices. Though Allen was not a particularly notable thinker or writer, and his arguments were not always accurate or consistent, his Oration went through seven printings (five editions) published in four different cities. Allen argued that England and America were separate judicial spheres and one could not interfere with the other. He addressed his message to Lord Dartmouth and portrayed the actions of colonials as merely self-defense, not rebellion - an important distinction for his reading audience in early 1773. When Oration was published it ranked among the best-selling pamphlets of the crisis.
Bernard Bailyn included Allen among only three colonial pamphleteers were who able to demonstrate the “concentrated fury” comparable to that found in tracts and treaties by Europe’s more imaginative and capable writers. While Allen’s Oration was among the more incendiary, there is no evidence that it was every serialized or extracted in newspapers. Perhaps this was partly due to his death in 1774. Moreover, subsequent events like the Boston Tea Party quickly overshadowed the Gaspee incident. The reactions (and overreactions) of the Imperial government in 1774 preoccupied patriot presses and later historical narratives. Forever afterwards the Gaspee episode has remained of minor concern to those who recounted the events leading up to April of 1775. When in 1796 Richard Snowden published his history of the American Revolution in Baltimore, he started with the Boston Tea Party and made no mention of the Gaspee, or, for that matter, any event prior to 1773. Mercy Otis Warren skipped from 1770 to 1773 in her massive two volume history of the American Revolution in 1805. Even a book focused on the British Navy’s difficulties in the colonies from 1763-1782 failed to mention the Gaspee. To this day, no scholar has dedicated a monograph to the Gaspee episode, such as Benjamin Woods Labaree’s The Boston Tea Party or Hiller B. Zobel’s The Boston Massacre.
As the founding generation was disappearing into history
After 1800 chroniclers and biographers started to write histories about the events and well-known personalities of the American Revolution. Many romanticized it as a “Golden Age” and de-emphasized its revolutionary character, especially in light of disturbing revolutionary events in France, Haiti, and Latin America. Others sought to interview aging survivors of the Revolution, even tracking down those who had fled to Canada or London. Three colonial participants from the attack on the Gaspee documented their memories of that night: Dr. John Mawney, the doctor who tended to the Lieutenant’s wounds; Ephraim Bowen, who provided Joseph Bucklin with the firearm used to shoot the British Lieutenant; and Aaron Biggs, an indentured servant who gave contemporary testimony that he was an eyewitness to the events of 9-10 June 1772. The colonial government and patriot press worked hard to discredit his deposition. Biggs was retained on a British vessel for his own safety. Bowen was only 19 in 1772, but later achieved the rank of Colonel and went on to run a successful rum distillery in Pawtuxet Village. In 1839 at age 86, two years before his death, Bowen attempted to recall the events of that night 67 years earlier. Confident that everyone else who was involved was dead, he named as many individuals as he could remember. While Mawney’s and Bowen’s accounts contain a few errors in detail, they are the only detailed eyewitness narratives from the colonial side. They tell us that the men convened at Sabin’s Tavern, that John Brown organized a flotilla of eight boats, and that Abraham Whipple identified himself to the Gaspee lookouts as the Sheriff of Kent County. From the Gaspee’s crew and officers there is ample testimony, but Rhode Island’s patriots left only scanty information.
The Period of Sectional Conflict – living up to the founders’ dream
For four decades leading up to the American Civil War, American historians and Revolutionary Era popularizers agonized over whether their generation was worthy of the founders’ sacrifices. While their sectional divisiveness tore the fragile nation apart, Northerners and Southerners competed to assert possession of the founders’ dream. Massachusetts’s conservative leaders carefully crafted and published American histories that prominently featured New Englanders as the “true” founders of the entire North American republic. Theirs was an attempt to define the national identity of the young republic through sectional concerns and anxieties.
It was in this era of sectionalism that the Gaspee found its great chronicler. In 1845, Rhode Island Judge William R. Staples published what remains the most accessible (reprinted in 1990), detailed, and best-known work on the Gaspee, the Documentary History of the Destruction of the Gaspee. First appearing in the Providence Daily Journal, his account later appeared as a substantial pamphlet. Staples’s work contained 56 pages of contemporary correspondence surrounding the events of 1772-73. He graduated from Brown University in Providence, studied law, and was admitted to the bar. Later he served on Rhode Island’s Supreme Court and ultimately became Chief Justice. He helped found the Rhode Island Historical Society, where he served in the roles of secretary, librarian, and vice-president. Staples’s work is peppered with brief notes of commentary, allowing his own Whiggish interpretation of the events to shine through. But he supplies little narrative or analysis in Documentary History. Staples let the historical actors speak for themselves. When he did speak, Staples did not hide his sympathies ascribing just motives to the colonials and sinister ones to royal representatives. When Staples’s work was republished in 1990, Richard M. Deasy wrote an introduction reflecting on the Gaspee and the lasting contribution of Judge Staples’s compilation of documents. Deasy mentioned other maritime attacks on British government property as well as the Dockyards Act of 1772, but he explained the reaction of the Crown to the Gaspee as “simply the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.”
Fifteen years after Staples, in 1860, Samuel Greene Arnold produced a brief treatment of the Gaspee in his History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He dedicated ten pages to the arrival of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay, to early troubles with Lieutenant Dudingston, and to the destruction of the vessel, the Commission of Inquiry, and Ephraim Bowen’s account of that night. Arnold wrote up the Gaspee incident as a chronological narrative with the year, month, and day displayed in the margins (as he did for all of Rhode Island’s history). Arnold celebrated the triumph of liberty over tyranny throughout the section on the American Revolution and described Lieutenant Dudingston’s wounds as “the first British blood shed in the war of independence.”
At about this same time, from 1856 to 1865, John Russell Bartlett, the Rhode Island Secretary of State, published Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, a ten-volume set. In 1862, volume 7, which covered the years 1770-1776 was released. Here 136 pages covered the Gaspee affair; which included a few additional pages of correspondence (not found in Staples) surrounding the destruction of the Gaspee. George Bancroft assisted Bartlett by securing copies of documents in London. A year earlier, Bartlett had published those exact same pages under the title A History of the Destruction of His Britannic Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee, in Narragansett Bay, on the 10th June, 1772. Almost identical to Staples’s work in content and layout, Bartlett provided more analysis and commentary than had the judge. He offered more comments in the footnotes, and laid out the text in one column instead of two, making it a 141-page book. In the introduction Bartlett justified the release of a book similar to Staples’s work, not because the latter was found wanting, but because it was scarce and out of print. Given the Whig view of the American Revolution shared by these two prestigious Rhode Islanders and most of their readers, they had sufficiently covered the topic for their era and no full-length treatment for an adult readership of the Gaspee was published thereafter. Their work reflected the more celebratory and confident attitude of the earlier part of nineteenth century, they did not seem to struggle with living in the shadows of the accomplishments of their parents and grandparents, as so many others of their generation did.
The period from 1865-1900 was a dry spell for historians writing about Rhode Island events (although there was a significant body of work written on Massachusetts at this time)leading up to the American War for Independence. A great deal of creative energy went into writing about the perceived causes of the Civil War and narratives recalling minute details of every battle. Many of these histories were disconnected from longer developments and large secular changes of the nineteenth century, giving them an antiquarian flavor. Academic historians, on the other hand, were busy professionalizing their discipline. It was during the decades following the Civil War that historical associations (like the American Historical Association in 1884) were founded and many prestigious American universities implemented Ph.D. programs, largely modeled after German institutions. The publication of scholarly journals rose in quantity and quality.
At this same time, more professional and academic American historians were following in the footsteps of Jared Sparks (1789-1866) and George Bancroft (1800-1891) by visiting European archives to uncover the information that British officials in London had at their disposal and how they made decisions that affected the North American colonies. Their work, later known as the “Imperial School” of historical interpretation, was more sympathetic to the British and their American loyalists allies. These scholars had more intellectual, political, and chronological distance from the events on the late eighteenth century; but writing during a time of massive immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, Anglo-Saxonism tainted their writings. George Louis Beer (1872-1920) and Herbert L. Osgood (1855-1918) examined the changes in mercantilism among British theorists that influenced the Privy Council. Following the Seven Years War, Britain returned some sugar islands to the French but retained Canada. This marked a shift in colonial administration, where new and emerging markets were valued more highly than mere resource extraction. Controlling, regulating, and collecting the revenues of colonial markets, these scholars explained, would become divisive points of contention in the 1760s and 70s.
Early Twentieth Century and “Progressive” Interpretations
Consequently, it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that educational leaders expressed an interest in teaching Rhode Island school children about the Gaspee. In printed curricula, teachers were instructed about how to portray civil disobedience to younger children. According to historian Michael Kammen, the years between 1886-1906 marked a time of national “obsession with revolutionary America in juvenile fiction.” And in 1908 Horatio B. Knox, an instructor in history and civics at Rhode Island Normal School published a 98-page book on the Gaspee “written expressly for the school children of Rhode Island.” Many educators believed that immigrant children needed to be taught American democratic values in public school. The first decade of the twentieth century was marked by a patriotism that sometimes lapsed into jingoism. Lesser heroes, like John Paul Jones had their remains exhumed and returned to the United States and the US Navy was expanded and put on display to project the force of a confident nation abroad.
Early twentieth-century progressive historians were interested in the veiled, and sometimes not so veiled, economic motives of historical actors. They highlighted the ways in which large, corporate business interests were not always compatible with the interest of common people in a democracy. Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. and Charles and Mary Beard used their belief in the economic motivations of historical actors to understand the larger demographic, geographic, and social changes in the colonies. Although no one has portrayed the Gaspee incident as a “class conflict,” it was widely assumed by contemporaries that there were economic motives at the heart of the attack on the Gaspee. Those merchants who were pressing charges against Lieutenant Dudingston were not seeking the overthrow of an economic system; they merely wanted England to return to its lax pre-1763 enforcement of customs. The attack on the ship was no oppressed class uprising. Rather, it was the well-heeled merchants of Providence and Newport and their shipmasters challenging the revenue enforcement of the London government. These merchants had numerous family and commercial ties to the colonial legislature and to the Governor’s office. America’s revolutionary heroes, at the turn of the century, were more likely to be portrayed as statesmen and capable politicians, not as revolutionaries or radicals.
In the years following World War I, many Americans expressed cynicism and dismay over the behavior of American and European “statesmen” and “politicians” in their conduct of that war, its human toll, and the profit of military suppliers. America’s revolutionary leaders fared better as “political outsiders,” men who challenged a corrupt government and separated from it. In the years leading up to the Great Depression, Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard published and re-published their massive, 800-page Rise of American Civilization college textbook. They made only a one-sentence reference to the Gaspee, but they allotted five pages to the Boston Tea Party, even making analogies between trade privileges granted to the East India Company in the eighteenth century with those given to the Standard Oil Company in the nineteenth. While many Americans may have been cynical about having to return to Europe to fight another war only two decades later in 1941, they quickly rallied to defend their belief in democracy and representative government. Not wanting to repeat the painful experiences following World War I, many Americans wanted to return to a post-war America that would be homogeneous and unified. Portrayals of the revolutionary period by historians reflected this cultural shift, inasmuch as post-1945 historical writing emphasized the constructive nation-building done by thoughtful elites in the late 1780s, and downplayed the fiery rhetoric of patriotic hotheads in 1770s. All of this made the revolution seem not very “revolutionary” at all. Oliver M. Dickerson placed the blame for friction in the colonies not on the Navigation Acts, which he argued were, by every assessment, functioning well; rather he accused the new Board of Customs Commissioners of acting like pirates. Dickerson portrayed the English colonies of the new world as prosperous, highly desirable places to live. The founders must have been reluctant revolutionaries.
Gordon Wood, in his more recent highly-acclaimed work on the radical transformation of colonial society, argued that the British navigation laws were working well. He believed that “compliance was remarkably high.” Colonials reinforced their “Britishness” and the monarchical, hierarchical society in which they lived when they mobilized to assist their King during the Anglo-French warfare of the 1750s. Royal authority was deeply rooted in the mid-eighteenth century in the English colonies of North America. While compliance may have been high in many areas, some Rhode Island merchants were not prepared for the type of rigid enforcement of revenue collection that followed the Seven Years’ War.
While Lieutenant Dudingston’s zealous enforcement of custom laws in 1772 may not have been politically popular in Narragansett Bay, Lawrence Henry Gipson researched the technical legal grounds for it. He found that Dudingston was well within his jurisdiction to send property seized in Rhode Island to the Vice-Admiralty court in Boston. Gipson, part of the “Imperial School,” covered the Gaspee incident in more detail in his massive 15-volume history than any other professional historian, devoting fourteen pages to it. He found that Rhode Island’s colonists erred in their assertions of legal impropriety. James B. Hedges, in his history of the Brown family, claimed the opposite. He indicated that an act of Parliament required that seizures stand trial in the colony where they were apprehended. While these two scholars disagreed on technical points, they were in agreement that law was king; each side, they argued, was trying to promote a more accurate understanding of the relevant legislation. Carl Ubbelohde maintained that the few cases where Rhode Island business was adjudicated in Judge Robert Auchumuty’s Boston courtroom were the exception, not the rule in colonial Vice-Admiralty courts.
Consensus “Republican” Interpretations
Edmund Morgan found that a “Puritan Ethic” was still guiding many of New England’s colonists in the 1760s and 1770s. In their nonimportation and nonconsumption rhetoric, and in their attacks on luxury and idleness, colonists coalesced around a shared set of American values. Morgan tied the Boston Massacre and the Gaspee to the corrupt American Board of Customs Commissioners. Despite all the varieties and differences among the Patriot leadership, Morgan argued that they had a consensus at a more basic, world-view level. A frugal, hard-working, and virtuous people were not going to stand by while Britain imposed a non-productive class of idle placeholders over them. Dickerson found this “corrupt class” among some of the “King’s Friends” who were personally profiting from American ships, merchants, and seafarers through the American Board of Customs, causing irreparable harm to a century of successful navigation laws. Republican virtue, it seemed, would be the guiding principle for America’s founders.
Neo-Whig – “Ideological” Interpretations
Not content to “flatten out” the complexity and nuances of the Revolutionary period, historians writing during the 1960s and 70s rehabilitated, in one form or another, all of the previous “schools of thought.” Whiggish, economic, imperial, and conflict views came back with a new vitality, new evidence, and a new perspective, perhaps colored by the protest movements and crowd action of 1960s America.
Eighteenth-century colonial elites knew that mobs frequently served the public welfare and understood that they played an integral role in protecting a free society. Local uprisings were better defined as extra-institutional, rather than anti-institutional. They were focused and “disciplined” – or at least proportional in the scale of their protests. Historian Pauline Maier built upon the earlier findings of George Rudé and E. P. Thompson in their research on eighteenth-century mob and crowd behavior in Britain. Rudé found that London mobs were not mere tools of elites, outside agents, or conspirators. They frequently acted with strong social and economic grievances and attacked the property of people they knew personally. They broke windows, “pulled-down” houses, and sometimes burned their victims in effigy. Mobs usually acted and reacted close to their homes. Thompson indicated that as more and more of the English economy came under the control of “unseen” market forces, the traditional “paternalistic” protectors of the economy were coming under scrutiny for not “protecting” people from these forces.
In the colonies, Maier noted that three kinds of uprisings pointing toward the revolution that have attracted attention from historians because they directly challenged British authority: restrictions on the use of white pine trees, naval impressments, and customs-related conflicts. These conflicts did not merely engage those on the periphery of colonial society--seafarers, Blacks, and servants—rather, colonial elites participated in these protests. Charles Dudley, the customs collector in Newport, was attacked in 1771 not by the “lowest class of Men,” but by the merchants and shipmasters of the port. In 1772 members of the leading merchant family of Providence planned the attack on Lieutenant Dudingston and the Gaspee. In keeping with colonial patterns for local uprisings, the local sheriff immediately identified himself and claimed that he was carrying out his duties by seeking to arrest Dudingston. Some of the attackers may have blackened their faces, another trait of some colonial mobs. Maier noted that the Brown's actions were carried out only as a last resort and after all legal means had failed. Rhode Island merchants and shipmasters had pressed their grievances during the spring of 1772 through civil and military channels to no avail. Uprisings were meant to show weaknesses in the government, “areas for improvement,” places where laws needed enforcement. In the case of the Gaspee, the uprising was meant to show where enforcement had been excessive. The desired response from the Crown would have been to relax the enforcement of customs in a colony that depended so much upon navigation. Dudingston was tried and convicted of illegal seizure in a Rhode Island court and the customs board in Boston paid his fine. Maier’s work revealed the function the colonial mob served in a society where the government and police presence was small. She turned the idea of a “lawless” mob on its head, and showed that a mob could take limited action in order to maintain law and order.
Several history professors and graduate students tried to understand, analyze, and interpret a British and American Loyalist perspective on the Gaspee. Franklin Wickwire wrote an article in 1963 that examined the British perspective on the Gaspee more thoroughly than anyone before or since. Here he examined the transition from Lord Hillsborough to Lord Dartmouth as head of the American Department in 1772. Dartmouth was not as experienced in colonial affairs as Hillsborough. He relied heavily on one of his undersecretaries, John Pownall, the younger brother of the one-time governor of Massachusetts. By 1772 Pownall had thirty years of experience with American colonial affairs. Dartmouth, and later Lord North, relied on Pownall to the point that this subminister was not merely carrying out administrative duties, he was writing policy for the American Department. From humble beginnings, Pownall had risen to the high councils of the British government that ultimately brought about the undoing of the first British Empire.
When the Privy Council ordered the attorney and solicitor generals to draft the commission and the King’s proclamation for the Gaspee, Dartmouth left for his country home, assigning these duties to Pownall, who wrote much of the copy, forwarding important documents to Dartmouth merely for his signature. Wickwire’s view of the Gaspee incident showed a British ministry where important directives and orders were delegated to subministers. While dedicated and competent administrators, they had little knowledge about what was actually happening “on the ground” in the American colonies. Most had never visited the eastern seaboard of North America and were not in a good position to judge how their directives were going to be received on the other side of the Atlantic. While John Pownall certainly understood the political culture of the colonies better than many of his superiors, repeatedly London’s officials failed to anticipate policy implications and outcome.
Neo-Progressives and “Radical” Interpretations
This same time period saw a re-surgence of scholarship that was loosely defined as “neo-progressive” or “radical” history. Alfred F. Young, in an introduction to a collection of essays by self-styled radical historians, distinguished between “internal radicals” and “external radicals.” Those who were the most anti-British in the years leading up to 1776 were radical because of their unwillingness to work within the Imperial system. Apart from independence, they were not seeking drastic changes to the social order. Internal radicals, sometimes known to contemporaries as “levellers,” may or may not have been interested in patriot grievances against the ministry. They sought a re-ordering of colonial hierarchies that would allow the “outsiders” in. Jesse Lemisch portrayed sailors as the quintessential “outsiders.” While they were not interested in the re-ordering of society, like blacks and slaves, they were treated like children by the civil codes of British America. Lemisch argued that impressment of sailors (and especially capture of those colonials who were not mariners) was a key grievance understated by previous authors. This abuse of power by naval authorities made a mockery of Britons as “free people.”
But the men who attacked the Gaspee were not Lemisch’s disenfranchised sailors. Clearly there were a sufficient number of men with boat-handling skills among the crowd that gathered outside Sabin’s tavern. But this was not a crowd of rough sailors resisting a press; those who boarded the Gaspee in the darkness on 9 June 1772 were described by Midshipman William Dickenson “as persons well dressed, many of them with ruffled shirts, and appeared as storekeepers, merchants or masters of vessels; the person who was called the head sheriff was a tall, genteel man, dressed in blue clothes, his hair tied behind, and had on a ruffled shirt.” While we do not know the identity of everyone who attacked the Gaspee, certainly their grievances focused on revenue collection and enforcement, not re-ordering society.
One of only two book-length scholarly treatments of the Gaspee was a Ph.D. thesis by Lawrence J. DeVaro. Writing most of his chapters in the early 1970s, he was heavily influenced by Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. DeVaro argued that the Gaspee had a greater impact in Britain than in America. Where patriots saw Crown actions as a conspiracy to subvert their court system and trial in the vicinage, ministry officials saw the attack on the Gaspee as a conspiracy to weaken royal authority in New England. Previous attacks, even ones in Rhode Island, were not considered treason. While some rewards had been posted in the past for information leading to an arrest, none was followed by a Royal commission like the Gaspee. Exaggerated and erroneous reports were taken to London that overestimated the number of participants, the seriousness of Dudingston’s wounds, and misidentified the location of the attack. These reports made it difficult for the commission to properly execute its duties. Even as they did go about their inquiry, local residents overestimated the power delegated to the commissioners. The historian David Lovejoy, using the Newport Mercury, showed how many residents in Providence and Newport were expecting the worst possible outcome from the commission. The Newport pastor Ezra Stiles, indicated to Reverend Elihu Spencer that, “no one justifies the burning of the Gaspee. But none ever thought of such a Thing as being Treason.” If Pauline Maier was correct about the function of the colonial mob, the Gaspee certainly did reflect a drastic increase in the level of mistrust between Rhode Islanders and Crown officials. Deasy’s argument that this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” cannot explain the events in Rhode Island or the reaction that followed in Great Britain and the colonies. Thus far, even Wickwire has not explained the ministry’s reaction, or analyzed the domestic political, economic, and social concerns in the British Isles. It is my argument that the ministry’s actions set a new, harsher tone, one that accelerated the end of the first British Empire.