Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution, 1760- 1776

By David S. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
A FIRM AND INVIOLABLE UNION

I

T HE THREE years between the repeal of the Townshend duties and the Tea Act of 1773 have been labeled by historians a period of conservative reaction. During this time a majority of the merchants in America supposedly adapted their businesses to the regulations of Parliament and were happy to make a little money. Many colonists looked back with disgust upon the riotous mobs of the Stamp Act crisis and decided that the business of living was better when the colonies made it a point to get along with the home government. But despite Moses Brown's assurances to agent Sherwood that "Since the Non Importation is Disolvd the Colonys Seem very Easy,"1 Rhode Island did not fit very well into the peaceful pattern set by the other governments. Several violent outbreaks in this period forcefully demonstrated that Rhode Islanders were determined to keep up a lively struggle against the British Parliament and ministry when either trespassed upon their habitual right to handle their internal affairs. While Americans in general were content to soft-pedal the dispute with Great Britain, the people of Rhode Island continued to rehearse their own effective methods for eliminating or silencing the King's officers who got in their way. One of these outbreaks, the burning of the Gaspee, had serious repercussions throughout the continent, and Rhode Islanders were responsible for ending the period of imperial peace and plenty.

Charles Dudley replaced John Robinson as Collector of Customs in Rhode Island. According to Ezra Stiles, Dudley was the son of an Anglican clergyman from the west of England whose command of a handful of votes procured the Collectorship for Dudley, Jr.2 The new Collector arrived in Newport in the spring of 1768 and soon became well acquainted with the practices of Rhode Island merchants who

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