|Gaspee Days CommitteeHistory Files|
A Radio Drama
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY OXFORD PRESS, PROVIDENCE. R. I.
I remember very well the broadcast of That Gaspee Affair. I remember that it was Valentine's Day, that it was evening, that there was a howling snowstorm, and that I was at home waiting for the show to start.
Knowing the author of the script, perhaps I was swayed in his favor; but I think not. I had heard his plays, on local stations and over the National Broadcasting Company. I knew that he had successfully run the dramatic scale: history, fantasy, melodrama, and comedy.
However, when he told me, weeks previous, that he was writing a script based around the Gaspee incident, I was a bit apprehensive. From my connection with radio, I knew that any author took a chance when he attempted to re-create an historical happening; and I—although a transplanted Rhode Islander—knew that to reproduce successfully an event so very familiar to Rhode Island people was a challenge ... a false interpretation and —! But accepting a challenge is what "makes" a writer.
And so I—along with tens of thousands of other people in southern New England—listened, as step-by-step the events of that memorable night of June 10, 1772 were unfolded. It was excellent drama; and equally important—and in this I am repeating the thoughts of qualified historians—it was an authentic documentary play. It was, and still is in its printed form, a boldly executed dramatic canvas.
On Wednesday (winter) 14, 1939, through the facilities of Radio Station WJAR, Providence, The Players presented THAT GASPEE AFFAIR, by Walter Hackett, for the first time on radio. It was directed by Gerald Bronstein with the following cast:—
JOHN BROWN...............................Gene Rousseau
ABE WHIPPLE................................Francis Brady
JOSEPH BROWN............................H. Edward Field
LIEUTENANT DUDDINGSTON....Brent Meader
CAPTAIN LINDSEY.......................William Smith
JOSEPH TILLINGHAST..................Brent Meader
MRS. BUFFUM...............................Hope Crossley
TOWN CRIER.................................Harold Hargreaves
DR. MAWNEY................................Theodore Sweet
THE SAILOR...................................Richard Gould
JOSEPH BUCKLIN.........................Henry Hart, Jr.
SOUND: Faint rumble of thunder. Builds to crescendo, then out. Followed by Meg humming half-aloud. Then: Knocking on door . . . repeated, but this time in hasty fashion.
MEG: (Stops humming. She mutters) Dear me. Now who can that be? (She calls out) Coming—a second, please. (Brief steps on wooden floor. Door unbolted and opened.) Yes, who i—? (Excitedly) Job! Job—oh, my dear— come in. (Door closed) Here . . . over here. Sit down. What happened? Your head—bleeding.
JOB: (Breathing heavily) I'm all—all right.
MEG: (Half-sobbing) Oh, Job. Tell me what happened?
JOB: (Slowly and painfully) Started out this mornin' to sail my load to Newport. Just off ... tip of Conanicut Island . . . man-o'-war give me the signal to heave-to. I did and this snip of a naval officer come 'board.
MEG: What right did he have to do that?
JOB: None. But I didn't arguy none—leastways not till he seized m'cargo.
MEG: (Horrified) Oh, Job! Not the cargo?
JOB: (Dully) Yup. He took it all—forty kegs o' prime rum, twenty-five barrels o' wheat, and thirty head o' cheese.
MEG: Didn't you tell him that you had a right to sail goods from Providence to Newport?
JOB: Of course! But he tried t'tell me that I was fixin' to take it outside o' Rhode Island, and, therefore, he had a right to it —said it was contraband.
MEG: (Starts to sob softly)
JOB: (Dully) When I tried to stop his men, he had them beat me up. Guess that be the end of our weddin' plans fer some time, Meg. Have t'start in savin' all over again. Only thing I got left is a wrecked boat and m'two hands. Better stop cryin', Meg. Don't do no good. Can't do nothin' 'cept wait —and hope.
SOUND: Tremor of thunder. It flashes up and then out.
MAN: (Calling out) Lissen, boys, I got some bad news fer ye. There be'n't no work fer ye. So go on home.
2D MAN: (Away) What's wrong?
MAN: Go ask our friend King George. Him and his blasted Navigation Acts has ruined the ship buildin' trade.
VOICES: (All men) Angry ad libs: Boos and cat calls. Out into:
SOUND: Tremor of thunder. Up and out.
MRS. BUFFUM: I'll take five yards of this brocaded silk.
NIGHTINGALE: (Hesitating) Mrs. Buffum, there's a new import tax of six-pence a yard on this silk.
BUFFUM: (Indignantly) Tax—six-pence a yard! Not for me, Mr. Nightingale! I'm not pouring money into England's treasury. I'll go without.
SOUND: Tremor of thunder. Up and out.
INNKEEPER: Hey, you—you there, sailor. Got to leave now. I'm closin' up. Go on home.
SAILOR: (Sullenly) Home! Did you say home?
INNKEEPER: I did. Haven't you any home?
SAILOR: My home's the ocean. And when Parley-ment says we people can't export this and export that, then I ain't got no home. Guess I won't have none, not till them fools stop taxin' us.
SOUND: Tremor of thunder.
hold dramatically, and
WHIPPLE: By Gad! I know what I'm talkin' about. A body'd have to be blind not to see it. It's everywhere—in the street, the taverns, along the waterfront. People are hoppin' mad. It's written all over their faces.
JOS. BROWN: True, affairs are bad, but it's just another flurry.
WHIPPLE: A farmer from down Bristol way stopped me on the street only this mornin'. Said he to me: "Abe Whipple, if you big men in the Colony don't do somethin' real soon, then we will."
JOS. BROWN: People will learn to accept their fate.
WHIPPLE: (Disgusted) Fate! You sound just like your brother Moses . . . always lookin' on the bright and peaceful side. Mark what I say, Joe Brown, the time ain't fur away when the Colonies and England'l1 be at each others throats like two mad curs.
JOS. BROWN: (Cautiously) Perhaps, perhaps. Brother John, you haven't been saying much. What is your opinion?
WHIPPLE: Yes, let's hear from you, John.
JOHN: I agree with Abe. Storm clouds are gathering over the Thirteen Colonies. And when they break, a shower of lead and a sea of blood'll be vomited up in England's face.
JOS. BROWN: (Shocked) Revolution?
WHIPPLE: And we'll win. We must . . . got to.
JOHN: You're right, Abe. We must win! We must not lose. Slowly but surely England is losing her grip upon us. The Stamp Act, the Navigation Acts, this naval patrol along our coast. The Colonies have grown up. England is doing her best to drive us into open rebellion.
JOS. BROWN: (After a slight pause) I cannot believe it—Revolution!
JOHN: We have no other choice.
WHIPPLE: (Grimly) Better to fight than starve. Joe and John, look what England has done to your own business. Are your ships bringing in rich cargoes? They are not! They're lyin' idle along the river front, gatherin' barnacles. Both of you are losin' a fortune.
JOHN: I'm a Friend, and I don't approve of fighting. But a man's home is his castle; and when someone aims to rip down my castle, I'm willing to fight—fight to the very end.
MUSIC: A powerful, sombre theme. Up and out into:
SOUND: Ringing of hand bell. Up and down under speaker's voice.
CRIER: (Spacing words to rhythm of bell, he sings out) Here yez, here yez. People of Providence: By official order of His Britannic Majesty, George the Third, King of England, be it known from this day onward His Majesty's schooner, Gaspee, William Duddingston, commander, is hereby duly authorized to stop and search all vessels frequenting the waters of the Rhode Island Colony. Furthermore, be it known that all individuals, or any individual, seeking to interfere with said vessel, Gaspee, while in performance of duty, are liable to arrest and either sentence of imprisonment or hanging by the neck . . . Signed: Joseph Wanton, Royal Governor of Rhode Island.
SOUND: Bell up strong, then fading out into distance. A pause, then: Heavy door bursts open and slammed shut. Heavy footsteps crossing floor.
DUDDINGSTON: (Bawls out) Ho! Inkeeper. In-keep-errr! Where the devil are you? Answer me! (Steps halt)
INNKEEPER: (Coming in. Slightly awed tone) Er, yes, sir. Here I be.
DUDDINGSTON: 'Bout time. I've been waiting for at least a half-minute.
INNKEEPER: It's . . . it's . . . Lieutenant Duddingston, is it not?
DUDDINGSTON: To satisfy your loutish curiosity, it is. Now fetch me some brandy. (Slight pause) Well, don't stand there gaping. Haven't you ever seen a British officer's uniform before? Hurry!
INNKEEPER: (Going away) Yes, sir of course, sir. (Ad libs)
DUDDINGSTON: (To himself) Foul smelling chamber. Gad! Reeks of their stinking New England rum. (As though shuddering) Uggg!
INNKEEPER: (Coming in again) Here you are, sir. Right here.
SOUND: Liquid poured into glass.
DUDDINGSTON: (Clears throat as though in anticipation. Then he gags, with effect of spitting out brandy. He roars:) What the devil do you call this swill? Answer me.
INNKEEPER: (Faltering) B-brandy, sir. Rhode Island homemade brandy.
DUDDINGSTON: Rhode Island slop, that's what it is. Wouldn't serve it to a dog. Let me show you what I think of your domestic belly wash. (Sound of glass breaking on floor) There, innkeeper, that's what I think of your brandy. Good day to you.
INNKEEPER: B-but don't you intend to pay for it?
DUDDINGSTON: Pay for it! You insult my good taste.
INNKEEPER: But you've wasted a whole bottle, sir.
DUDDINGSTON: (Going away) My privilege, my privilege. Next time I condescend to enter your pigsty you'll know better.
SOUND: Door,off: Opened—Slammed.
MEN'S VOICES: (Sotto voce, in alternate fashion) "How much longer?" "Persecution . . . can't stand it." "Ours is a righteous cause." "A true one." "The Gaspee." "Duddingston." "Both must go." "Freedom or else." (Then, together, in single chorus'.) "The time is close at hand."— (Repeat speech five times, fading out, as:)
2ND CHORUS: (Coming in) (This group starts in softly and gradually builds to crescendo) Men of Rhode Island, strike out. The Gaspee must go. We ask only to live . . . live, live.
MUSIC: (A theme of excitement) cuts in over, drowning out chorus, then out.
SOUND: Creaking of ship's wheel. Slight wind in background.
LINDSEY: Hold her steady, Peters . . . steady.
PETERS: Steady she is, Cap'n Lindsey.
LINDSEY: At the clip we're going, we'll be tying up in Providence in another hour.
SOUND: Ship's bell sounds, away.
PETERS: Aye, you've a derned good tub in the Hannah.
LINDSEY: (With pride) There's nothing in these waters that can match her.
PETERS: The Gaspee, accordin' to that long-nosed Duddingston, can outsail any boat 'round'bouts.
LINDSEY: (Scornfully) The Gaspee! I'll sail circles around her.
PETERS: Wonder we ain't sighted her. Down in Newport, they told me to keep m'eye peeled.
LINDSEY: Duddingston better keep his beak out of trouble. Rhode Island is sick of being brow-beaten by that legalized pirate . . . danged sick of it.
VOICE: (Calling out—Hardly audible) Saail-hoooo!
PETERS: (Moans) I knowed it. Felt it in my bones.
LINDSEY: (Calls out) Where away?
VOICE: Directly off the starboard bow.
LINDSEY: Take a squint through the glass. (Pause) Yup, it's him all right.
PETERS: (Anxiously) You're sure?
LINDSEY: (Snaps) Here give me the wheel. You go and clap on every bit of canvas we got.
PETERS: But he's almost atop of us.
LINDSEY: We haven't time to outsail him, but we can out-maneuver him. We'll cut across Namquit Point.
PETERS: But we're liable to go aground on the bar.
LINDSEY: Not with the load we're
We'll clear Namquit with inches to spare ... I hope.
PETERS: (After some preliminary thought) Yo—you mean—?
LINDSEY: Mr. Peters, sometimes your unusual powers of deduction amaze even me.
MUSIC: Cuts in, washing out sound, up briefly and out.
JOHN: And you say the Gaspee's aground off Namquit Point?
LINDSEY: (Eagerly) Yes, Mr. Brown.
JOHN: You had your nerve, Lindsey. Suppose you'd been caught?
LINDSEY: (Promptly) Then I wouldn't be here to tell the story. Duddingston'd have me in irons.
JOHN: How long before she'll be able to float clear?
LINDSEY: Not till midnight. Flood tide's then.
JOHN: Flood tide—midnight, eh? (To himself) Could be done.
LINDSEY: Mr. Brown, are you thinking the same thing I am?
JOHN: Perhaps, Lindsey, perhaps.
LINDSEY: Remember, you're a Quaker.
JOHN: Also an American.
LINDSEY: It's a bold plan . . . mighty bold.
JOHN: (Half-aloud) I wonder if I dare?
LINDSEY: Maybe you don't understand what's going to happen to us if we're caught?
JOHN: Lindsey, I've mulled this plan over in my mind for the past three months. I've thought over every chance, and now that the moment is at hand—. (A pause)
LINDSEY: (Eagerly) Yes, what were you going to say, Mr. Brown?
JOHN: Now that the chance has come, we're going to act. Come along. We haven't a moment to spare.
SOUND: Ruffle of drum. Up briefly, then out.
CRIER: (Bellows) Hear yez, hear yez, citizens of Providence: the Gaspee has run aground on Namquit Point, and cannot be floated off until past midnight. Any persons who feel so disposed are hereby invited to immediately repair to Mr. James Sabin's Tavern.
SOUND: Drum into long ruffle, and going away in distance. Then: a steady hum of ad lib voices in the background.
SOUND: Door, away, opened and closed.
JOHN: (Quietly) What time have you, Abe?
WHIPPLE: Mmmm! Ten o'clock.
SOUND: Door opened—closed.
JOS. BROWN: And still they come, a steady stream.
JOHN: (Reflectively) Yes—still they come, rich man, poor man; merchant and sailor; shopkeeper and farmer; silks and homespun.
WHIPPLE: The most solid names in the Colony. Mowry, Bowler, Tillinghast.
JOS. BROWN: And all wearing a look of grim determination.
WHIPPLE: Well they might.
JOS. BROWN: John, I'm glad brother Moses is in New York. If he knew what we had in mind—.
JOHN: (Quickly) Moses will never know.
SOUND: Door opened—closed.
WHIPPLE: Looks as if everyone was here. Want to start, John?
JOHN: May as well. (Sound of gavel on table, struck three times) Gentlemen: your attention. Attention, please. (The voices gradually fade out) Gentlemen: It is not going to be necessary for me to orate to you this evening at any great length. We all know why we're here.
ROUGH VOICE: (Away) Danged right we do.
JOHN: Nor is it necessary for me to enumerate all that we have gone through for the past few years. Needless to say, we have all suffered in one form or another. And we have chaffed at our helplessness, at our inability to alter our predicament. And some of us, naturally, have yelled louder than others. (Ripple of laughter in background) Yes, we laugh, but it is grim humor; laughter tinged with bitterness. Our individual complaints against this newest menace on our horizon, the Gaspee plus her commander, would fill many pages.
NIGHTINGALE: (Off in distance) Between him and import taxes, I've had to close down my shop. It ain't fair.
JOHN: Your case is but one of many, Mr. Nightingale.
ROUGH VOICE: Look't me—a ship's carpenter, and I can't earn 'nough to feed my wife and young ones.
SAILOR: (Away) Mr. Brown.....Mr. Brown, can I say somethin'?
JOHN: You may, sir. Speak up.
SAILOR: (Coming in closer) Now, I ain't much of a hand at speechifyin', but I knows what I want to say. I'm a sailor, and a good one if I do say so. In fact, it be the only trade I do know. And look at my per-dicament. Because of all them adle-headed laws, I ain't as much as set foot 'board a boat'n nigh on to seven months. I'm sick o' sittin' back and keepin' m'yap shut. I'm goin' to do somethin' 'bout it.
VOICES: (One after the other) "He's right." "High-handed methods." "What are we waitin' fer?" "Time to act." "That Gaspee."
JOHN: Yes, the Gaspee has ruined our commerce. Its presence has thrown hundreds out of work.
JOB: (Excitedly off in distance) Yes, and that includes us coastwise traders. That blamed Duddingston has ruined us. I've already lost two cargoes to him, and took a good beatin' to boot.
JOHN: We can all sympathize with you. Job.
JOB: Things is so bad, we men can't do nothing I been callin' on my Meg for three years; and this Duddingston, he's made me a poor man. He's made it so's I can't get married. And I want to get married.
CAST: Ripple of laughter.
SOUND: Gavel rapped on table.
JOHN: (Impressively) Gentlemen, tonight we are not going to allow a glorious chance to slip through our fingers. After tonight there will be no Gaspee.
CAST: Hand clapping, a few scattered cheers and whistles, stamping of feet. Cries of: "Hear, hear!" "Bravo." "The way to talk."
JOHN: (Against the confusion) I admire your spirit. But, gentlemen, don't be too eager. First, let me remind you that ours is a bold attempt—the first real blow toward freedom to be struck in any of the Thirteen Colonies, the first real attempt to shake off the hand of a despotic tyrant. If there be any among you, any who wish to reconsider their original decision, they are at liberty to withdraw, and no one will consider them cowardly.
CAST: Yells of: "No, no!" "With you every inch of the way." "No backin' down." Ad libs continue.
TILLINGHAST: (Cutting in over confusion) John . . . John Brown. John Brown.
JOHN: Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. (Sound of gavel bringing on table) Please , , quiet. (Ad libs out) You wish to say something, Joseph Tillinghast?
TILLINGHAST: If I made the claim that I came here tonight without full knowledge of the primary purpose of this meeting, I'd be lying. As a member of the legal profession, I could sense this mass movement coming on for months. (Impressive pause) Now, I agree that something should be done; but something legal mind you, and not the desperate act you men are about to commit. We still have a legal leg to stand on, and we should take full advantage of that fact. But according to every law on the matter, yours is an out and out act of piracy.
JOB: (Away) That's Tory talk.
CAST: Heavy boos. Sound of gavel on table.
TILLINGHAST: I repeat, an act of piracy against the Crown. (He quickly adds) Not that England doesn't deserve to be dealt with in punitive fashion, because she does. (He pauses, then spaces his words in dramatic fashion) But none of us—and I'm certain of this—none of us are anxious to be strung up as pirates. (He lowers his voice) And that undoubtedly will be our fate—hanging. I'm not trying to dissuade you men from fulfilling your duties, because I challenge any one present to say that I am not a tried and true Patriot. You all know the work I have done in behalf of the Sons of Liberty. Instead, I am pointing out the pitfalls that confront you. (Quietly) Think over what I have said.
CAST: A few low mutters.
SOUND: Away, a man applauds.
JOHN: What Mr. Tillinghast has said is true. So think it over carefully before answering. Captain Abraham Whipple, the leader of tonight's expedition, will call off the roll. As he reads you will signify your intention in the usual fashion. And remember, we will think none the less of you if you change your mind. (Sotto voce to Whipple) Here you are, Abe. Start in.
very fast) (The responses come in from distance)
WHIPPLE: Dr. John Mawney,
WHIPPLE: Joseph Bucklin,
WHIPPLE: Samuel Olney,
WHIPPLE: Joseph Brown,
JOS. BROWN: (In close) Aye.
WHIPPLE: Ezra Clarke,
WHIPPLE: Samuel Dunn,
SAMUEL DUNN: Aye.
WHIPPLE: Benjamin Dunn,
BENJAMIN DUNN: Aye.
WHIPPLE: Joseph Tillinghast, (A pause, then he repeats) Joseph Tillinghast,
CAST: Cheers, stamping of feet. Yells of encouragement.
WHIPPLE: Ephraim Bowen,
WHIPPLE: Metcalf Bowler,
WHIPPLE: Benjamin Page,
WHIPPLE: Simeon Potter,
WHIPPLE: William Nightingale,
WHIPPLE: Joseph Jenks,
WHIPPLE: Simeon Oiney,
WHIPPLE: John Shepard,
(NOTE: The voices gradually begin to fade off in the distance, with the effect that the last two names and responses are barely audible. A pause, then:)
SOUND: Soft, creaking oarlocks, swishing of water. Sustain in the background.
WHIPPLE: Should be sighting her any minute now.
JOHN: Passed Pawtuxet almost a half-hour ago. Hard pulling against this flood-tide. (Calls out softly) Getting tired, Job?
JOB: (Grunting) Not me, Mr. Brown. Used to—tugging at an oar.
WHIPPLE: (Raising voice slightly) John. John, look. Ahead.
JOHN: The lights of the Gaspee. We'd better ease up. The Watch may spot us.
WHIPPLE: Can't—too dark. Not even a spot of moon to give us away.
JOB: (Muttering) The Watch is probably asleep anyhow.
SAILOR: If I could git my paws on him, he'd sleep forever.
WHIPPLE: (Sotto wee) Sshhh! You men back there, quiet. Voices carry over the water. (Pause) Can you make out the other dories, John?
JOHN: (As if straining his eyes) Mmmm! Yes—vaguely. They seem to be keeping well abreast of us.
WHIPPLE: (To the crew) All right, men, stop rowing. We'll float in atop of her.
SOUND: A woody, clattering noise as oars are shipped. Swishing of water stops.
JOHN: Good suggestion, Abe, this coming on them bow-first. Won't give them a chance to bring their guns to bear.
WHIPPLE: (Chuckles) I had that figured out.
JOHN: You're certain the others know their orders?
WHIPPLE: Plumb sure. Unless something unforeseen happens, there shouldn't be any trouble. (Slight pause) But if there is—.
JOHN: No bloodshed, I hope.
WHIPPLE: (Belligerently) Like to see them start something.
JOHN: Lower your voice, Abe. Don't want them to hear us.
WATCH: (Away off in the distance) Who comes there? (Pause) Who comes there?
WHIPPLE: (Sotto) They heard me all right.
JOHN: (Tensely) May as well let them make the next move.
WATCH: Answer! Who are you? Who goes there?
WHIPPLE: (Bawling out in angry fashion) We do! Got dang you!
JOHN: (Nervously) Abe, drop down.
WATCH: (His voice comes in stronger) Stand off. Keep away.
JOHN: Be careful, Abe. He may shoot.
WATCH: (Still slightly off in distance) Reporting a fleet of small boats directly off our bow.
WHIPPLE: (Yelling to others) All right, you men in the other dories. Stand by ready to board, but wait for the signal.
VOICES: (Off in distance, in scattered fashion, each in turn taking up the signal) Stand by. Ready to board.
JOHN: Look! There's Duddingston now. See—directly under that lantern.
DUDDINGSTON: (Off in the distance) Ho! You out there, whoever you may be, what the devil do you want? Speak up.
WHIPPLE: (Getting mad) Dang your rotten hide, Duddingston, we want you. We've come down here to settle an old score, gol blame you! You're nothing but a lousy pirate and a ha'penny thief. You're nothing but a sneaking pole cat. You've got nothing in your veins but bilge water.
BUCKLIN: You tell him.
WHIPPLE: (Warming up) We've come to take your hide. And if you're smart, which I doubt, you won't show any resistance.
DUDDINGSTON: (Alarmed) Keep off. Veer away.
WHIPPLE: The boot's on the other foot now. We're giving the orders, and by gum we know how to carry them out, too.
DUDDINGSTON: Make any such move, and I'll clap the lot of you in irons. I have the royal power to do so, you know.
WHIPPLE: Who you trying to convince, us or yourself?
DUDDINGSTON: (Continues to ad lib in angry fashion)
BUCKLIN: (Grimly) Job, hand me that gun, and I'll fetch him down.
JOHN: Joe—Joe Bucklin, put that gun down. Don't shoot!
BUCKLIN: I got a bead right on his worthless carcass.
SAILOR: That's it. Let him have it plumb-center.
SOUND: A single shot.
SAILOR: (Excitedly) You fetched him down.
WHIPPLE: (Bawling out) Board her, boys. Close in. Let'em have it.
SOUND: Three piping blasts on Bo'sun's whistle. Excited voices yelling out. Scattered firing.
MUSIC: (A theme of motion and excitement with overtone of rolling drums to it) washes in over all sound. It swells dramatically and goes out into:
SOUND: Clinking of metal instrument on tray.
DUDDINGSTON: (Moans in pain)
JOHN: (Anxiously) How does it look doctor?
MAWNEY: Shot broke his arm—penetrated the stomach wall. See if I can dislodge it. (Grunting) E-asy now.
DUDDINGSTON: (Moans) Don't.
MAWNEY: Hold it. H-ere she comes. (Bullet dropping on metal tray) There she is. All over, lieutenant. Now for a bandage.
WHIPPLE: Lucky it didn't kill him.
MAWNEY: Very lucky.
DUDDINGTON: (Painfully) Turn up that light, you pirates—rebels.
WHIPPLE: And give ourselves away. Afraid not, Duddingston.
DUDDINGSTON: (Breathing heavily) Don't know who you are, but I'll make it my business to find out. You'll hang for this —every last one of you. Run the lot of you to earth if it's the last thing I do.
MAWNEY: You'd better lie quiet. Any exertion may start internal bleeding.
DUDDINGSTON: I'm an official representative of His Majesty, serving the interests of England.
JOHN: And we're unofficial representatives of the people of Rhode Island.
DUDDINGSTON: A lot of discontented, provincial malcontents.
JOHN: You're wrong. We're honest. God-fearing men; simple men who ask to be but left alone to pursue ordinary existences. God knows! We didn't wish for this, but we had no other choice. Once the hand was on the plow there could be no turning back.
DUDDINGSTON: And what can you hope to accomplish by this act of piracy?
JOHN: If we say liberty, we speak the truth, for that is a forgone conclusion. Tonight England took her other hand off Rhode Island. She now hangs on by her teeth.
DUDDINGSTON: Why not complete your dastardly work and shoot me.
WHIPPLE: We're not murderers. You and your men will be put overside, and then you will row to Pawtuxet and land at the wharf by Joseph Rhodes' home.
DUDDINGSTON: (Angrily) I'll not leave the Gaspee.
JOHN: It will be much safer.
DUDDINGSTON: Explain yourself.
WHIPPLE: You'll find out soon enough. Give me a hand, you two. (Grunting) Easy—easy—up you—come.
MAWNEY: I have him.
DUDDINGSTON: (Snarling) Put me down. (Fading out) I'll not leave. Put me down. You'll hang for this. Pirates— rebels.
SOUND: Excited ad libs of many voices. Axes smashing and chopping wood. A crash as a heavy spar falls.
JOHN: All right, boys. Break them up. Scatter them.
WHIPPLE: (Breathing heavily) We've certainly made a shambles out of His Majesty's Gaspee.
JOHN: I guess we're all ready. (Calling out) That's enough, men. Give them a blast, Abe.
SOUND: Shrill piping of Bo'sun's whistle.
WHIPPLE: Get overside, men. Overside, everyone of you. Hurry!
JOHN: Here, hold this torch. I'll knock the head off this keg of sperm oil.
SOUND: Axe crashing against wood.
JOHN: (Grunting) Tip it over—flood the deck with it . . . there.
SOUND: Keg tipping over.
WHIPPLE: That ought to do the job.
JOHN: Either that or blow us sky-high. Give me the torch. Stand back, Abe. H-ere she goes'
SOUND: A slight crackling as wood catches fire. It rapidly builds in force until it is a raging fire.
JOHN: (Over roaring) Come on, Abe. Hurry—over we go.
SOUND: Running steps. A pause, during which the flames mount higher and higher. Then: A heavy, rumbling explosion as from a powder magazine blowing up.
MUSIC: A rolling, swirling theme. It swells dramatically, then segues into a peaceful theme, and finally dies out.
SOUND: Very leisurely footsteps on gravel road.
WHIPPLE: A particularly beautiful day, John?
JOHN: Yes—quiet, peaceful . . . nothing to mar its serenity.
WHIPPLE: No plots, no intrigue.
JOHN: Quite so.
SOUND: The ruffle of a drum, at first far away, but gradually fading in. Steps stop.
WHIPPLE: The Crier must have a message.
CRIER: (Slightly away) Hear yez, hear yez, people of Providence. Be it publically known that Joseph Wanton, Royal Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island, is hereby duly authorized by His Majesty, George the Third of England, to offer a reward of one thousand pounds for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the ringleader, or ringleaders, of the band of rebels who so ruthlessly stormed and destroyed His Majesty's schooner, Gaspee, on the night of June 10th, just past. A reward offive hundred poundsis likewise offered for the arrest of any of the common offenders. Any person having such information is hereby requested to transmit the same to the Governor's office.
SOUND: Drum swells to a ruffle, and gradually fades out into the distance.
JOHN: (A bit blankly) Could you understand him, Abe?
WHIPPLE: Something to do with the burning of the Gaspee.
JOHN: (Blandly) Oh, yes—the Gaspee. A most unfortunate incident, was it not?
WHIPPLE: Yes, very, very unfortunate—for Mr. Duddingston.
JOHN: (A bit puzzled) Duddingston, Duddingston? (Suddenly) Yes, of course. He was that naval chap who met with that unfortunate accident. True?
WHIPPLE: Yes—quite true. He has quite recovered, I understand.
JOHN: So awfully glad to hear it. Splendid chap, Duddingston. Er, do you suppose they will ever catch the pirates who burned the Gaspee?
WHIPPLE: I doubt it. But if so, we shall be the very first to know.
JOHN: Er, yes—to be sure. (Brightly) Shall we resume our stroll, Mr. Whipple?
WHIPPLE: Love to, sir. May I offer you a pinch of snuff?
JOHN: Your servant, sir.
SOUND: Steps on gravel. They fade out into the distance as:
MUSIC: Swells dramatically.
|Webmasters Note of Historical
Commentary: This play written by Walter Hacket is overall
The following notes are added to clear up any historical inaccuracies,
The historical role of Job would probably have been that of Rufus Greene, who had indeed been assaulted by the crew of the Gaspee, and had his cargo of rum seized. Interestingly, he did indeed marry a Margaret Buckout, who could've been called Meg, in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1768, four years before the attack on the Gaspee.
Joseph and John Brown, brothers of the famous Quaker Moses Brown, were not necessarily Quakers (or Friends, as they were called) themselves. The Brown brothers were born into a Baptist family, but Moses converted to the Quaker faith after the death of his first wife.
Hackett's misspelling of Lieutenant William Dudingston's name with two middle d's tells us that he developed his play largely from the story by Ephraim Bowen, one of the Gaspee raiders, who recounted his role to the Providence Journal in an 1839 interview. This is also the source of the inaccurate name of Benjamin Dunn, who was actually Samuel Dunn. Walters conveniently has both names as players. But it was also Ephraim Bowen, not Job, who fetched Joseph Bucklin his gun. According to Bowen's account, Whipple claimed to be the sheriff of Kent County when hailing the Gaspee.
The role of the Innkeeper, could have been historically that of James Sabin, proprietor of the tavern where the plans to attack the Gaspee were made. If it were, however, we doubt he would have been so meek to Lt. Dudingston.
The Town Crier's first announcement about the presence of the Gaspee is all artistic licence, and no such announcement was ever made. Furthermore, Governor Joseph Wanton (who was popularly elected and not Royally-appointed under the unique Rhode Island charter granted by King Charles II), was not amused by the actions of the Gaspee, and did not support its presence. In fact many angry letters passed between Governor Wanton and Lieutenant Dudingston and his superior, Admiral John Montagu, prior to the attack on the Gaspee. The last announcement by the Town Crier, of the reward offered by Governor Wanton for the capture of the people who burnt the Gaspee, was for only 100 pounds, later raised to 500 pounds by King George III.
The name of Metcalf Bowler, while known to Rhode Island history of the time, has not previously been named as a participant in the attack on the Gaspee.....and most probably wasn't. The names of Ezra Clarke, and William Nightingale, are potential seuspects, unsubstantiated by any evidence (see Potential Suspects). Joseph Tillinghast was a sea captain, not a lawyer. We do know that a Captain Shepard was involved, but we have not been able to ascertain his first name was John.
Simeon Potter, although definitely part of the attack, joined up in a boatload of men from Bristol and would not have had time to have been present at the attack planning session at Sabin's Tavern.
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