John Robinson and The Polly


Ships such as the Polly, The Gaspee, and The Liberty were burned as a result of acts issued by the British Parliament. Read a primary source description of the burning of The Polly in from a primary source: The Providence Gazette

The Gaspee, The Polly, and the Liberty were ships burned by angered colonists


The Polly was not the only ship burned by colonists angered by the imposition of taxes and regulations upon them by the British Parliament.  In July, 1769, the British customs ship, Liberty, was burned in Newport Harbor. In 1772, the Gaspee Incident took place on Warwick’s Namquit Point. Rhode Islanders seemed to take pride in smuggling to defy the Navigation Acts, and they even held their own version of a “tea party” in March, 1775. The above illustration entitled “Burning of the Gaspee Schooner by W.W. May was published in History of England from the Earliest Times to 1883 (1883).

The following description of the incident involving The Polly appeared in the Providence Gazette on April 27, 1765:

Tn the 13th

Inst. His Excellency Governor Bernard, of Boston, issued a Proclamation for apprehending the Persons concerned in the riotous Proceedings at Taunton, occasioned by the Seizure of a Vessel there by John Robinson, Esq., Collector of His Majesty’s Customs for the Port of Newport, the Substance of which is as follows, viz.

Whereas a Representation has been made to me by the Honorable John Temple, Esq., the Surveyor-General of His Majesty’s Customs for the Northern District of America, That the Collector of the Customs for the Port of Newport, suspecting that Dogget, Master of the Sloop Polly, owned by Mr. Job Smith, of Taunton, lately entered from Surinam, had reported only a Part of her Cargo, did thereupon, accompanied by Capt. Charles Antrobus, of His Majesty’s Ship Maidstone, proceed to Taunton River in the County of Bristol within the province of Massachusetts-Bay, where the said Sloop then lay, and together went on board the said Sloop and found that she was loaded with double the Quantity of
Molasses reported as aforesaid; and that thereupon the said Collector seized the Overplus, and also seized the Vessel, both as forfeited; and then left on board the said Sloop Mr. Lechmere, the Searcher of the Customs for the Port of Newport, and the said Collector’s own Servant, in order to see the Delivery of the said Cargo; but that the said Searcher and the Servant aforesaid, having Occasion to go ashore to refresh themselves, the Boat they went ashore in was, after their Landing, taken away, and they could get no other Boat to go aboard of the said Sloop, she then lying within one Hundred Yards of the Shore, and as soon as it became dark the Vessel was surrounded with Boats, into which the whole Cargo was delivered by at least Forty Persons in Disguise, with their Faces blacked, and the said Searcher and the Servant aforementioned threatened with ill usage if they made any Attempts to prevent what was doing; and that the said Sloop, being thus unloaded, was after-wards stripped, and she was at a full Tide ran high up on the Shore and scuttled: And that a Boat and Crew sent up the River by the Officers of the Customs to assist in navigating the Vessel was obliged to put back because that about One Hundred People were there ready to oppose them: And

Whereas it is of great Importance to the Peace and Order of this Government, and to the carrying into Execution within the same the several Acts of Parliament for regulating the Plantation Trade, that such high-handed offenders should be brought to speedy and condign Punishment:

I HAVE thought fit, with the Advice of His Majesty’s Council, to issue this Proclamation, hereby requiring all Justices of the Peace, and Sheriffs and their Deputies, and all Civil Officers within the said Province, to use their utmost Endeavors for discovering, seizing, and bringing to Justice the several offenders aforementioned, or any of them; . . .

In Consequence of this Proclamation, a Number of the Offenders have been apprehended and secured, some of whom have disclosed the whole Affair; and the Vessel, with great Part of her Cargo, is recovered by the officers of the Customs.