Law was used by the Americans to defeat enforcement of English law in Rhode Island.

Americans controlled the courts in Rhode Island and used English law to frustrate the English navy’s attempt to enforce customs tax laws. The attack on the Gaspee was probably done on the legal theory of arresting the Gaspee captain for illegal seizures of private property.

Our research to date indicates that the attack on the Gaspee was really an attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Dudingston and get him into a Rhode Island court for judgment of the legality of his actions. There is an extensive article on this subject on our specialized Gaspee history site. Go there to read legal points that lawyers appreciate, and historians have generally overlooked. Gaspee attack as an attempt to arrest the English ship captain

Lawyers can understand the conditions of pre-revolutionary law that gave the Whigs (those claiming the English had no right to tax Americans) control of the civil jury. Lawyers also can understand the conditions of pre-revolutionary law that rendered the English authorities unable to control civil juries.

In contrast, non-lawyer historians have missed the significance of the conditions of law existing in Colonial Massachusetts and Colonial Rhode Island. Tools legal under English law made it impossible to effectively enforce English customs and tax law. It left the English with no effective way to counter the active American resistance. As long as the New England was not declared in a state of war or rebellion, the English military was subject, ultimately, to the decisions of New England juries!

Read at our specialized Gaspee site about Rhode Island’s pre-Revolution use of law as a weapon.