Abbildungen der Seite


The first settlement of Rhode Island was commenced by Roger Williams, at Providence, in 1636. Mr. Williams was one of the ear

liest Puritan ministers who came over to New England. He was charged with a variety of errors,

one of which was avowing the HOPE

doctrine that the civil magistrate was bound to grant all denominations equal rights and protection. This doctrine at that period being deemed destructive to true religion, and to the safety of the state, he was banished from Massachusetts as “a disturber of the peace of the church and commonwealth." repaired to Seekonk, where he pro

cured a grant of land from the InARMS OF RHODE ISLAND.

dians, but being informed that he

was within the limits of Plymouth colony, he removed to a place called by the Indians Mooshausic.

Mr. Williams purchased the lands of the Indians, and, in grateful remembrance of the kindness of heaven, he called the place Providence. Acting in conformity with the wise and liberal principle, for avowing and maintaining which he had suffered banishment, he allowed entire freedom of conscience to all who came within his borders, and to him belongs the honor of having set a practical example of toleration of all religious sects in the same political community. His care and attention were not confined to his civilized brethren. He labored to enlighten and improve the Indians. He learned their language, traveled among them and gained the entire confidence of their chiefs, and by his influence over them probably saved those colonies, which had driven him into the wilderness, from many sore evils.

In 1638, John Clark, William Coddington and sixteen others, being persecuted for their religious tenets, went to Providence in order to enjoy liberty of conscience. By the advice and aid of Roger Williams, they purchased the Island of Aquetnec, now called Rhode Island, and removed thither. Here they incorporated themselves into a body politic, and chose William Coddington to be their judge or chief magistrate. The fertility of the soil, the fine climate, and the toleration of


all Christian sects, attracted many people to their settlement, and the island in a few years became so populous as to send out colonists to the adjacent shores. The island received its name on account of its fancied resemblance to the beautiful “Isle of Rhodes” in the Mediter


In 1642, Samuel Gorton and eleven other persons purchased of Miantonimoh, the Narraganset sachem, a tract of land at Mishawomet, where he built a town, which was afterward called Warwick, in honor of the Earl of Warwick, who gave them a friendly patronage. When the New England colonies in 1643, formed their memorable confederacy, Rhode Island applied to be admitted a member. Plymouth objected; asserting that her settlements were within her boundaries. The commissioners decided that Rhode Island might enjoy all the advantages of the confederacy, if she would submit to the jurisdiction of Plymouth. This she declined, proudly preferring independence to all the benefits of dependent union.

The Rhode Island settlements were commenced as voluntary associations without any charter from the English government. They purchased their lands from the Narraganset Indians. Neither of them had any patent from the companies which claimed them by grant from the crown of England. They were separate and distinct colonies, independent of each other, and having no bond of union except their common origin, design, and dangers. In 1644, Mr. Williams went to England as agent for the settlements at Providence and Rhode Island, and obtained of the Plymouth Company a patent for the territory, and permission for the inhabitants to institute a government for themselves. In 1647, delegates, chosen by the freemen, held a general assembly at Portsmouth, organized a government, and established a code of laws. The executive power was confided to a president and four assistants.

In 1663, upon the petition of the inhabitants, Charles II granted them another charter, under the name of the governor and company of the English colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England in America.” This conferred on the colonists the right to elect all their officers, and to pass laws for their government without the intervention of the king or parliament. The supreme or legislative power, was to be exercised by an assembly, which was to consist of the governor, ten assistants, and representatives from the towns, all to be chosen by the freemen. This assembly granted to all Christian sects, excepting Roman Catholics, the right of voting. In 1665, they authorized by law the seizure of the estates of the Friends or Quakers who refused to bear arms; but this law, being generally condemned by the people, was not executed.

The Narraganset Indians, one of the most powerful tribes in New England, had their seat in Rhode Island. In the “King Philip War," this tribe was totally ruined by the destruction of their strong hold. Dec. 19, 1675, Gov. Winslow with a force of 1000 men from the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut, passing through

deep snows attacked their fort, and after a desperate resistance it was fired and consumed. In this celebrated action, known as the "Swamp Fight,about one thousand Indians perished. The final blow was given to the Indian power by the death of King Philip, who was killed near Mount Hope, by a friendly Indian in Aug. 1676.

“Probably none of the northern colonies, certainly none in proportion to its size, was so deeply engaged in the slave trade as Rhode Island. Many of the great fortunes of her merchants were amassed by that traffic. So late as the year 1804–8, when the ports of South Carolina were opened for the importation of slaves, there were, of 202 vessels employed in the traffic, 70 British, 61 from Charleston, and 59 from Rhode Island. From Boston there was one, and from Connecticut one, and no others from the present Northern States. Of the whole number of slaves imported, which was 38,775, there were 7238 brought in Rhode Island vessels, and 450 in all other New England craft. Between 1730 and 1750 the slave trade of Rhode Island increased with the West India trade, negroes being brought back as part of the return cargoes.

Yet it seems not to have been countenanced by the legislature, for so early as 1652, the practice of slavery is denounced, and to hold a slave more than ten years is made penal. In 1774 the importation into the colony was prohibited; and ten years afterward, it is provided that all children of slaves born after March 1, 1784, shall be free.'

Rhode Island went into the revolutionary contest with great zeal and unanimity, abolished allegiance to the king, struck his name from all legal processes, and directed all proceedings to be in the name of the colony or state. The stamp act was resisted with great firmness, and when the importation of military stores was prohibited by the British government, the inhabitants seized the cannon in the public batteries, and the general assembly passed resolutions for arming the people. Liberty was given to several hundred of slaves, on condition that they would serve in the revolutionary army. In 1776, Rhode Island was invaded by the British under Gen. Clinton, who occupied it until near the close of the war. Gen. Sullivan, aided by the French fleet, made several unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the enemy, and in 1778 laid seige to Newport, but was obliged to abandon the attempt. In 1779, the British troops were withdrawn. In 1780, Gen. Rochambeau, with a French force of six thousand men, arrived in a squadron at Newport. Rhode Island was among the first to direct her delegates to sign the Articles of Confederation, to which she adhered with great pertinacity. But at length, after all her associates had adopted the constitution of the United States, she yielded, and was admitted as the thirteenth state, May 29, 1790.

The original charter of Rhode Island confined the right of suffrage, or voting, principally to the landholders. When she became a manufacturing state, this was considered a grievance. A party was formed in 1840, to extend the right of suffrage, called the suffrage party. In January, 1841, the legislature, upon being petitioned, consented to have a convention called to form a new constitution. This did not satisfy the suffrage party, who issued a call for a convention a month previous to that authorized by the state. This convention met, formed

a constitution, and after submitting it to the people, declared it adopted by a majority, and established as the supreme law of the state. Both parties chose their state officers, Governor King at the head of the charter party, and T. W. Dorr at the head of the other. After a considerable display of military force on each side, most of the officers chosen by the suffrage party resigned their situations, and this threatening storm happily passed over without the effusion of blood. Dorr was tried for treason, and condemned to hard labor for life, but was liberated in 1844, by the legislature, after he had remained in prison for about one year.

Rhode Island, in territorial extent, is the smallest in the Union, having an area of 1,306 miles, about half of which is improved. It is bounded N. and E. by Massachusetts, W. by Connecticut, and S. by the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 47 miles long from N. to S., and 37 broad from E. to W. About one-tenth of the state is water, and a very large portion of the residue is made up of islands. The interior, with the exception of the intervales along the streams, is generally rough and hilly.

Most of the islands, together with that part of the state adjoining the salt-water, are quite fertile. The lands in the interior are better adapted for grazing than tillage-the soil in many places being difficult to cultivate. The face of the country is uneven, but no part can be considered mountainous. The most considerable hills are Mount Hope in the E., Woonsocket in the N., and Hopkins in the middle of the state. On the banks of its many streams, are numerous manufacturing establishments of various kinds. Narragansett Bay extends from the sea more than 30 miles into the state, affording safe and commodious harbors along its whole length. The harbor of Newport, at its mouth, is not excelled by any in the United States.

From its abundant supply of water-power, Rhode Island has for a long period been extensively engaged in manufactures, and the first cotton mill in the United States was erected in her limits. The banking capital exceeds $12,000,000. This great amount, so disproportioned to the population of the state, is divided among nearly seventy banking institutions, and has generally been managed with safety to the public and to the advantage of the stockholders. Her coasting business and foreign commerce are considerable. Anthracite coal has been found to considerable extent on the island of Rhode Island and also in Cumberland. The nearness of Rhode Island to the sea, miti. gates the severity of winter and tempers the heats of summer, making it a place of resort during the warm season. The state is divided into five counties, viz: Newport, Providence, Washington, Kent and Bristol. Population in 1790, 69,110; in 1850, 147,514; and in 1860, 174,633.

PROVIDENCE, the semi-capitol of the state, and the second city in New England, is situated at the head of Narraganset Bay, on the Seekonk or Providence River, 35 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, 43 from Boston, 50 from Stonington, Conn., and 168 from New York. Population in 1810, 10,071; in 1840, 23,172; in 1850, 41,513; now about 53,000. The compact part of the city lies on both sides of the river, wide and substantial bridges connecting these different sections: its surface is irregular, rising abruptly on the east side more than 200 feet above the harbor. Owing to the uneven surface, but little

[graphic][ocr errors]

View of Market-Square, Providence. The engraving shows the central part of Providence as seen from the western side of Providence River, over which is a very wide bridge, having the appearance of a regular street. The “What Cheer" building, occupied by mercantile stores, banks, and offices, fronts the east side of the square. The post-office stands immediately back, the entrance to which is through this building. The City Hall, the lower story of which is tho market, is seen on the right. Merchant ships come into the city at the south side of the bridge. regard has been given to regularity in laying out the streets. Near the center of the business portion, is a beautiful basin of water, walled in by stone masonry, of an elliptic form, about a mile in circumference, the borders of which are adorned with shade-trees and graveled walks.

Providence contains a large number of handsome churches and other public buildings. The Arcade is a beautiful granite building, 222 feet long, 72 wide, and fronting on two streets. It is divided into three stories, occupied for stores and offices, and lighted by a glass roof. This structure was completed in 1828, at an expense of $130,000. The “What Cheer" building at the corner of north and south Main-streets, is a fine free-stone edifice, mostly occupied by public

« ZurückWeiter »