A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era
This work tells a story about the sea, an American colonial town, and the British. It relates how Newport's dependence on the Atlantic Ocean ... Show synopsis This work tells a story about the sea, an American colonial town, and the British. It relates how Newport's dependence on the Atlantic Ocean dominated nearly every aspect of its existence. Newport learned early from its watery surroundings that its survival and prosperity were inextricably linked to commerce. Dependent on a thriving trade, Newporters were willing to explore and combination of routes which suggested a successful return in voyage and investment. Newport's single-minded commitment to commerce produced a society in which people were also dependent on each other. Merchant and dockworker, sailmaker and rope-walk owner developed symbiotic relationships as a result of their common efforts to ensure the success of each voyage. Dependency also extended to social networks where the affluent took responsibility for other members of the community. Because of their dependence on unobstructed trade, Newporters had evaded British customs for generations, using methods which cast some doubt on their commitment to the law. Thus, when it became clear in 1764 that Britain would go to great lengths to enforce new duties, the stage was set for confrontation. In the end, events outstripped the ability of Newport to chart its own course as the violence escalated. The Revolution prematurely ended Newport's golden age and destroyed the town both physically and spiritually. A dependent people had gained independence but at a cost only a few could foresee.