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Although Massachusetts had been founded by people seeking freedom to practice their religion, its citizens created a colony that was as intolerant of other faiths as England had been of theirs. In 1636, Roger Williams was driven out of Massachusetts because of his views on religious freedom. He founded the first European settlement on Rhode Island and based its government on the principles of political and religious freedom. It was named Providence.
Soon other refugees from Massachusetts moved to the same area. Anne Hutchinson and her followers founded Portsmouth in 1638, while others of the same group established Newport. In 1643, several dissidents from Providence founded Warwick. The four settlements were given a charter by England in 1644, and they merged in 1647. Another charter, known as the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, was granted by Charles II in 1663.
Rhode Island provided early and active support for independence. Rhode Islanders burned the British ship Liberty in 1769, one of the first acts of open defiance by colonists. Following the war, the strong feelings about individual freedoms made Rhode Island reluctant to ratify the Constitution. Not until the Bill of Rights was added to it did Rhode Island ratify the constitution in 1790, the last of the original 13 colonies to do so.
The charter granted by Charles II continued to govern activity in Rhode Island into the 19th century. It was heavily weighted in favor of the well-to-do and rural populations. As Rhode Island became more urbanized, resentment over the underrepresentation of city dwellers increased. Finally in 1842, Thomas Dorr and a number of followers began an uprising known as Dorr's Rebellion, in an attempt to replace the outdated charter. The rebellion failed, but it provided the impetus for a new constitution in 1843, which extended the voting franchise.
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Burning the Gaspee, Revolution in Rhode Island by Rory Raven.
When the Gaspee entered the waters of Narragansett Bay outside Newport in 1772, revolutionary Rhode Island was a hotbed of traders, smugglers and anti...
Historic Taverns of Rhode Island by Robert A. Geake.
Rhode Island, like many other New England colonies, decided that a central meetinghouse was necessary to conduct public business in the self-governing...
The Dorr War: Treason, Rebellion and the Fight for Reform in Rhode Island by Rory Raven.
The short and portly Rhode Island aristocrat was hardly the image of the people’s champion, but in 1841, Thomas Dorr became just that. At a time when ...
Rhode Island Disasters Tales of Tragedy by Air, Sea and Rail by Jim Ignasher.
How could a perfectly sound U.S. military fighter plane simply vanish from formation on a training flight? Why did the crew of a speeding train choose...
Davisville and the Seabees by Walter K. Schroder, Gloria A. Emma.
The U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center at Davisville, Rhode Island, is first remembered as the original “Home of the Atlantic Seabees.” During W...
1938 Hurricane Along New England's Coast by Joseph Soares.
The Hurricane of 1938 was one of the most devastating storms to strike New England’s Atlantic coast. It forever changed the landscapes of cities and t...
Railroads of Rhode Island Shaping the Ocean State’s Railways by Frank Heppner.
Dominated by Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island’s scenic coast is paralleled by the tracks of some of the oldest and now fastest railroads in the United S...
A History of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island Keepers of the Bay by Robert A. Geake.
Before Roger Williams set foot in the New World, the Narragansett farmed corn and squash, hunted beaver and deer and harvested clams and oysters throu...