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WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE

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Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Colony of England (1636–1707)
Colony of Great Britain (1707–1776)
1636–1776
Flag
Capital Providence, Newport
Government Crown Colony
History
 •  Established 1636
 •  Foundation 1637
 •  Chartered as an English colony 1644
 •  Coddington Commission 1651–1653
 •  Royal Charter 1663
 •  Part of the Dominion of New England 1686–1688
 •  Resumption of Royal Charter 1688
 •  Disestablished 1776
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Narragansett Indians
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Today part of  United States

The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of North America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It was a colony of the Kingdom of England from 1636 to 1707, when the Acts of Union were passed, and then a colony of the unified Kingdom of Great Britain until 1776. After the American Revolution, it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as just Rhode Island).

Early America[edit]

Dutch map of America

The land that became the English colony was first home to the Narragansett Indians, which led to the name of the modern town of Narragansett, showing respect to the Narragansett and Nipmuc peoples. European settlement began around 1622 with a trading post at Sowams, now the town of Warren.

The statue of Roger Williams at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island

Roger Williams, a Puritan theologian and linguist, founded Providence Plantations in 1636 on land given to him by Narragansett sachem Canonicus. Williams was exiled under religious persecution from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He and his fellow settlers agreed on an egalitarian constitution providing for majority rule "in civil things," with liberty of conscience on spiritual matters. He named the settlement Providence Plantation, believing that God had brought them there. (The term "plantation" was used in the 17th century as a synonym for "settlement" or "colony.")[1] Williams named the islands in the Narragansett Bay after Christian virtues: Patience, Prudence, and Hope Islands.[2]

In 1637, another group of Massachusetts dissenters purchased land from the Indians on Aquidneck Island, which was called Rhode Island at the time, and they established a settlement called Pocasset. The group included William Coddington, John Clarke, and Anne and William Hutchinson, among others. That settlement, however, quickly split into two separate settlements. Samuel Gorton and others remained to establish the settlement of Portsmouth (which formerly was Pocasset) in 1638, while Coddington and Clarke established nearby Newport in 1639. Both settlements were situated on Rhode Island (Aquidneck).

The second plantation settlement on the mainland was Samuel Gorton’s Shawomet Purchase from the Narragansetts in 1642. As soon as Gorton settled at Shawomet, however, the Massachusetts Bay authorities laid claim to his territory and acted to enforce their claim. After considerable difficulties with the Massachusetts Bay General Court, Gorton traveled to London to enlist the help of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, head of the Commission for Foreign Plantations. Gorton returned in 1648 with a letter from Rich, ordering Massachusetts to cease molesting him and his people. In gratitude, he changed the name of Shawomet Plantation to Warwick.[3]

Cromwell interregnum[edit]

In 1651, William Coddington obtained a separate charter from England setting up the Coddington Commission, which made him life governor of the islands of Rhode Island and Conanicut in a federation with Connecticut Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony. Protest, open rebellion, and a further petition to Oliver Cromwell in London led to the reinstatement of the original charter in 1653.[4]

Sanctuary for religious freedom[edit]

Following the 1660 restoration of royal rule in England, it was necessary to gain a Royal Charter from King Charles II. Charles was a Catholic sympathizer in staunchly Protestant England, and he approved of the colony's promise of religious freedom. He granted the request with the Royal Charter of 1663, uniting the four settlements together into the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In the following years, many persecuted groups settled in the colony, notably Quakers and Jews.[5][6] The Rhode Island colony was very progressive for the time, passing laws abolishing witchcraft trials, imprisonment for debt, most capital punishment and, on May 18, 1652, chattel slavery of both blacks and whites.[7][8]

Rhode Island remained at peace with local Indians, but the relationship was more strained between other New England colonies and certain tribes and sometimes led to bloodshed, despite attempts by the Rhode Island leadership to broker peace.[5][6] During King Philip's War (1675–1676), both sides regularly violated Rhode Island's neutrality. The war's largest battle occurred in Rhode Island, when a force of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth militia under General Josiah Winslow invaded and destroyed the fortified Narragansett village in the Great Swamp in southern Rhode Island, on December 19, 1675.[9] The Narragansetts also invaded and burned down several of the cities of Rhode Island, including Providence. Roger Williams knew both Metacom (English name Philip) and Canonchet as children. He was aware of the tribe's movements and promptly sent letters informing the Governor of Massachusetts of enemy movements. By his prompt action, Providence Plantations made some efforts at fortifying the town, and Williams even started training recruits for protection. In one of the final actions of the war, troops from Connecticut hunted down and killed "King Philip", as they called the Narragansett war leader Metacom, on Rhode Island's territory.[5][6]

Dominion of New England[edit]

In the 1680s, Charles II sought to streamline administration of the English colonies and to more closely control their trade. The Navigation Acts passed in the 1660s were widely disliked, since merchants often found themselves trapped and at odds with the rules. However, many colonial governments, Massachusetts principally among them, refused to enforce the acts, and took matters one step further by obstructing the activities of the Crown agents.[10] Charles' successor James II introduced the Dominion of New England in 1686 as a means to accomplish these goals. Under its provisional president Joseph Dudley, the disputed "King's Country" (present-day Washington County) was brought into the dominion, and the rest of the colony was brought under dominion control by Governor Sir Edmund Andros. The rule of Andros was extremely unpopular, especially in Massachusetts. The 1688 Glorious Revolution deposed James II and brought William III and Mary II to the English throne; Massachusetts authorities conspired in April 1689 to have Andros arrested and sent back to England.[citation needed] With this event, the dominion collapsed and Rhode Island resumed its previous government.[11]

The bedrock of the economy continued to be agriculture – especially dairy farming – and fishing; lumber and shipbuilding also became major industries. Slaves were introduced at this time, although there is no record of any law re-legalizing slave holding. Ironically, the colony later prospered under the slave trade, by distilling rum to sell in Africa as part of a profitable triangular trade in slaves and sugar between Africa, America, and the Caribbean.[12]

American Revolutionary period[edit]

Leading figures in the colony were involved in the 1776 launch of the American Revolutionary War which delivered American independence from the British Empire, such as former royal governors Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward, as well as John Brown, Nicholas Brown, William Ellery, the Reverend James Manning, and the Reverend Ezra Stiles, each of whom had played an influential role in founding Brown University in Providence in 1764 as a sanctuary for religious and intellectual freedom.[citation needed]

On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first of the 13 colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown,[13] and was the fourth to ratify the Articles of Confederation between the newly sovereign states on February 9, 1778.[14] It boycotted the 1787 convention that drew up the United States Constitution,[15] and initially refused to ratify it.[16] It relented after Congress sent a series of constitutional amendments to the states for ratification, the Bill of Rights guaranteeing specific personal freedoms and rights; clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings; and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th state and the last of the former colonies to ratify the Constitution.[17]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Franklin, Wayne (2012). New York, The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W W Norton & Company. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-393-93476-2
  2. ^ "Prudence Island Light". History. lighthouse.cc. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ Paul Edward Parker (October 31, 2010). "How 'Providence Plantations' and Rhode Island were joined". The Providence Journal. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ "A Chronological History of Remarkable Events, in the Settlement and Growth of Providence". Rhode Island USGenWeb Project (scan by Susan Pieroth; transcription by Kathleen Beilstein). 2002. Archived from the original on January 14, 2005. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Mudge, Zachariah Atwell (1871). Foot-Prints of Roger Williams: A Biography, with Sketches of Important Events in Early New England History, with Which He Was Connected. Hitchocok & Waldon. Sunday-School Department. ISBN 1270833367. 
  6. ^ a b c Straus, Oscar Solomon (1936). Roger Williams: The Pioneer of Religious Liberty. Ayer Co Pub. ISBN 9780836955866. 
  7. ^ "Rhode Island and Roger Williams" in Chronicles of America
  8. ^ Lauber, Almon Wheeler, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times Within the Present Limits of the United States. New York: Columbia University, 1913. Chapter 5. See also the Rhode Island Historical Society FAQ Archived September 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine..
  9. ^ Michael Tougias (1997). "King Philip's War in New England". King Philip's War : The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict. historyplace.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved November 7, 2010. 
  10. ^ Labaree, pp. 94, 111–113
  11. ^ Lovejoy, pp. 247, 249
  12. ^ "The Unrighteous Traffick", in The Providence Journal Sunday, March 12, 2006. Archived September 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "The May 4, 1776, Act of Renunciation". State of Rhode Island. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  14. ^ Jensen, Merrill (1959). The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774–1781. University of Wisconsin Press. pp. xi, 184. ISBN 978-0-299-00204-6. 
  15. ^ "Letter from Certain Citizens of Rhode Island to the Federal Convention". Ashland, Ohio: TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  16. ^ Flexner, James Thomas (1984). Washington, The Indispensable Man. New York: Signet. p. 208. ISBN 0-451-12890-7. 
  17. ^ Vile, John R. (2005). The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding (Volume 1: A-M). ABC-CLIO. p. 658. ISBN 1-85109-669-8. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 

References[edit]

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