Newport emerged from King Philip's War unscathed and rapidly developed into the leading town. As Providence rebuilt, commercial rivalry between the two continued into the 18th century. The economy was mixed. Favorable soil conditions supported prosperous grazing lands and farms, some of the latter reaching plantation size and employing African and Native American slaves. (Rhode Island in 1774 became the first colony to outlaw the slave trade.) A number of harbors allowed shipping to become a vital part of the economy.
Rhode Island, with its active shipping industry, was adversely impacted by the British regulatory efforts following the French and Indian War. Like other New Englanders, the Rhode Islanders resorted to smuggling, which they conducted with much ingenuity. In 1772, the British customs ship Gaspee ran aground while chasing a smuggler in Narragansett Bay. The stranded ship was boarded and burned by the colonists, clearly one of the most provocative acts of the period.
Following the initial exchange of shots, Rhode Island moved quickly to sever its relationship with George III; this was done a full two months before the Declaration of Independence. Little fighting occurred on Rhode Island soil, but the British captured and held Newport from December 1776 until October 1779.
See timeline of the American Revolution .
See also Indian Wars Time Table .