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Asth CONGRESS, 1st Session
Rep. No. 546.
Ho. of Reps.
RHODE ISLAND-INTERFERENCE OF THE EXECUTIVE IN
THE AFFAIRS OF.
Mr. BURKE, from the Select Committee appointed for the purpose, sub.
mitted the following
| The Select Committee, to whom were referred the memorial of the democratic
members of the Legislature of Rhode Island, requesting, among other things, the House of Representatives to institute an inquiry into ihe fact of the adoption of a constitution by the people of Rhode Island in December, 1841, and its suppression by the then existing authorilies of that Stale, through the interference and assistance of the President of the United States; also the petition of Samuel Milroy and sundry other citizens of Carroll county, in the State of Indiana, relating to the same subject; also the message of the President of the United States relriting to his alleged interference in the affairs of the people of Rhode Island, by uchich they were prevented from establishing a government under the conslitution adopted by them in December, 1841, with the documents accompanying, report:
That, in order to give a precise view of the grievances complained of by the memorialists first above named, the committee herewith present the memorial entire, which is in the following words, viz:
To the House of Representalives of the Congress of the United States : The undersigned, citizens of the United States, and democratic members of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence
That a large majority of the adult male inhabitants of the State of Rhode Island, being citizens of the United States, after having long waited in vain for an amendment, through the old charter government, of the political institutions of this State, in order to bring them into conformity to the standard of a democratic republic, to define and regulate the unlimited p kers of the General Assembly, and to secure to the people the right of suffrage and other just rights, of which they had long been deprived, in the exercise of their original sovereign capacity, did, in December, 1841, rightfully adopt and duly ratify a constitution of government, republican in its form and character, agreeably to the guaranty of the constitution of Bar & Rives, print.
the United States. The votes given in for this constitution were signed by the voters, and have been carefully preserved as a standing evidence of the will and action of the people.
Previously to the election of a government under the people's constitu. tion, the President of the United States issued a letter to the Governor, then acting under the charter and laws, in which he undertakes to pre. scribe the mode of proceeding to amend the institutions of a Stale, and declares, in effect, that the only valid change must be made by “the au. thorities and people;" placing the authorities” before the people, making their consent and permission requisite to the action of the people, and re. versing the great fundamental doctrine of our democratic republic—that all just government is founded in the consent of the governed; and that the people are, of course, superior to the servants intrusted with temporary power for convenience, and in order to do the will of their superiors.
A majority of the old charter House of Representatives was elected by towns containing less than one-third of the population of the State, and the voters in these towns were a third of the adult male inhabitants; so that the people of this State were ruled, under the old charter system, by one-ninth part of the adult male population, without whose permission, through their “authorities” in the General Assembly, according to the President, they could never come to the enjoyment of their inalienable rights. On the other hand, leaving to each State the question who are the people, we contend that a majority of the whole people are competent, of themselves, without permission, by an authentic act, to change their form of government.
The undersigned would call your attention to another important factthat there was no mode prescribed by charter, law, or usage, in this State, for proceeding to change the government and to form a written constitution. All that the Assembly could do was to request the people to act; and they were at liberty to do so, or not; and could act as well without the request, which gave no power, as with it.
The President, in his letter aforesaid, conveyed the threat of an inter: vention with the forces of the United States, in case the proceedings of the people to set up their government should be persisted in; and by increasing the number of troops at Newport, and by other demonstrations within striking distance, he gave all the advantages of actual military co. operation and invasion to the old charter party and their government, and enabled them, with the union of the State treasury and the military, to suppress the government elected under the people's constitution; to trample upon the rights of our citizens; maintain martial law over the people, in derogation of all law; to impose on the people, while thus under duress, another constitution, unjust, restrictive, and anti-republican, adopted by less than one-third of the adult male citizens; and, generally, to gov. crn the State as a conquered territory, by despotic laws and by the military, and to exercise a political proscription, extending through all the relations of society and business, such as has never before been witnessed in any State in this Union. Many of our citizens have been driven from the State, into exile, by the course of the successful party. Large num. bers have been imprisoned, and about fifteen are now under indictments for pretended treason and misdemeanors. One of their number (Thom. as W. Dorr, who was elected Governor of the State under the people's