Home » Rhode Island

Rhode Island

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as Rhode Island) is geographically the smallest state in the United States, while also the state with the longest official name. Rhode (pronounced "Road") Island is part of the New England region, and was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. It originally consisted of the mainland Providence Plantations, which was originally all part of the town of Providence, and Rhode Island (also known as Aquidneck Island), on which the city of Newport, and the towns of Middletown and Portsmouth are located. Despite the fact that most of the state is part of the mainland, the shortened name for the state of Rhode Island leads some out-of-staters to erroneously believe that the entire state is an island, while it is just a source of confusion for others. Rhode Island is known as "The Ocean State", due to its naval history and the fact that every point in the state is within 30 miles of sea water.

Brief History of Rhode Island

In 1614 the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island that is now called Block Island.

In 1636 Roger Williams, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay near the Moshassuck River. He called the site Providence and declared it a place of religious freedom for Baptist settlers. Historically, the land is unique because it was purchased twice, once from the King of England, and once from the Native American tribes which lived on the land.

In 1637 Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts for expressing her beliefs that people could talk to God by themselves, not necessarily through a minister. She and some others, including William Coddington and John Clarke, founded the town of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island. In 1639 Coddington left Portsmouth and founded Newport on Aquidneck Island.

In that same year a formal government was established for the island. William Coddington was the first governor and Philip Sherman was the first Secretary. In 1643 Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, which is now called Warwick.

In 1644 the name of Aquidneck Island was changed to Rhode Island.

On May 18, 1652 Rhode Island passed the first law in North America making slavery illegal.

Charles II of England granted John Clarke a Royal Charter on July 8, 1663 to Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies into one. Rhode Island was the only one of the thirteen colonies that had complete religious freedom. Under the terms of the charter, only landowners could vote. Before the Industrial Revolution, when most people were employed as farmers, this was considered democratic. The royal charter was used as the state constitution until 1842.

In 1664 the seal of the colony was adopted. It pictured an anchor and the word ′HOPE.′

King Philip′s War occurred during 1675-1676. King Philip (Metacomet) was the chief of the Wampanoag Indians. The settlers of Portsmouth had purchased their land from his father, Massasoit. King Philip rebelled against the English. The first attacks were around Narrangansett Bay but spread throughout New England.

Rhode Island was the first of the British colonies in America to declare its independence on May 4, 1776. Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the United States Constitution (May 29, 1790) doing so after being threatened of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation.

As the Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, a permanently landless, and therefore voteless class developed. By 1829, 60% of the state′s free white males were ineligible to vote.

Several attempts had been made to address this problem, but none passed. In 1842 Thomas Dorr drafted a liberal constitution which was passed by popular referendum. However the conservative sitting governor, Samuel Ward King, opposed the people′s wishes, leading to the Dorr Rebellion. Although this collapsed, a modified version of the constitution was passed in November, which allowed any white male to vote that owned land or could pay a $1 poll tax.

Miscellaneous information

Area: 1,545 mile² (4,002 km²)
Population: ~ 1,048,319
Capital: Providence
Counties: 5 (see: List of Rhode Island counties)
State motto: Hope
State bird: Rhode Island Red (A hen)
State flower: Violet
State tree: Red Maple
State nicknames: The Ocean State, Little Rhody, The Littlest State
State rock: Cumberlandite
State mineral: Bowenite
State shellfish: Quahog
State drink: Coffee Milk