The Sons of Liberty were very active throughout the colonies, and the British officers charged with enforcing the customs laws and the Stamp Act were becoming aggressive.
In June of 1772, a dramatic event was to demonstrate the severity of the crisis. A Lieutenant William Duddington, of Her Majesty's Ship Gaspee, was charged with patrolling the waters of Narragansett Bay, off Rhode Island. Duddington had earned a reputation as an overzealous enforcer; boarding and detaining vessels and confiscating cargoes, often without charge, and without recourse for merchants whose goods were impounded. Losses were mounting and it was widely believed that these harassments were directed specifically at members of the Sons of Liberty.