In August 1777, William Tweedy, owner of an apothecary shop in Newport, dunked a ten-year-old boy in the water at the end of the Long Wharf. The child, an African- American slave belonging to a lodger in Tweedy’s house, ran home and complained to his master, who took umbrage. The owner, John Cambel, confronted Tweedy, and asked him, “what he meant by wetting his boy,” and struck him repeatedly in front of witnesses. Eventually, Tweedy and Cambel wound up in court. The Tweedy-Cambel controversy, however, did not take place under ordinary circumstances. By the time of the incident, Newport had been occupied by the British army for nine months. Cambel, rather than being a newcomer on the basis of commerce or migration, was a captain in the royal artillery, and, rather than lodging with him for convenience or to save money, Cambel was forcibly quartered in Tweedy’s home. The two pleaded their cases not before a civil magistrate, but before a panel of British officers comprising a court-martial.
Johnson, Donald F.
"Occupied Newport: A Revolutionary City under British Rule,"
Newport History: Vol. 84
, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol84/iss272/3