Rep. Joseph McNamara used fighting words – as did Mayor Allan Fung and Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. – while helping to kick off the 54th annual Gaspee Days celebration Saturday at the gazebo in Pawtuxet Park.
All three characterized the Boston Tea Party of Dec. 16, 1773, as nothing more than vandalism, with the first act of defiance to the British crown being the burning of the schooner Gaspee on June 10, 1772.
They played to a friendly crowd, which cheered McNamara’s account of how in pursuit of the colonial vessel Hannah – whose captain knew the local waters and of the shoal at Namquid Point – the Gaspee was lured on an ebb tide into the shallows where it ran aground. When word reached colonists, they set out in long boats and set the Gaspee ablaze.
“They did all of this without killing anyone,” McNamara told the band that looked to be more colonial than citizens of the 21st century. Before him were the Pawtuxet Rangers in their bright red jackets and dozens of children wearing bonnets, skirts, ruffled shirts, hats and shirts that by today’s measure would be considered drab, even scruffy. Students of Wyman and St. Peter Schools, they would be playing the roles of teachers, a judge, grave diggers, shop owners, a thief and homeowners during the village walking tour that followed the ceremony.
Looking at the students and Gaspee Days Committee president Ryan Giviens, McNamara said, “this is the future of the Gaspee Days Committee … go spread the truth across the country.”
Fung and Solomon joined in heaping ridicule on Bostonians for laying claim for igniting the American Revolution when the first blow for freedom was really the burning of the Gaspee. They extolled how the Rangers have kept the residents of Pawtuxet safe and free from attack – on both sides of the river – all these years.
How could history have been so misconstrued?
“Look where those books were written – Boston,” McNamara said to a round of laughs and at least one angry shout. Then he offered some practical advice before the students took their posts at homes throughout the village and tours assembled.
“Use sun screen and stay hydrated,” he said.
The Gaspee celebration continues this Memorial Day weekend with the Arts & Crafts Festival. The Symphony in the Park concert followed by fireworks is Saturday, June 1. The Gaspee Days 5K Foot Race is the morning of Saturday, June 8, with the parade stepping off at 10 a.m. The celebration comes to a close the following day, June 9, with Sunday in the Park and the burning of a Gaspee replica.