Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It was an English colony from 1636 until 1707, and then a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution in 1776, when it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known simply as Rhode Island).

Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

Flag of Rhode Island
Flag (1707–1776)
StatusColony of England (1636–1707)
Colony of Great Britain (1707–1776)
CapitalProvidence, Newport
GovernmentCrown Colony
• Established
• Foundation
• Chartered as an English colony
• Coddington Commission
• Part of the Dominion of New England
• Resumption of Royal Charter
• Disestablished
CurrencyRhode Island pound
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Narragansett Indians
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Today part of United States

Early America

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, Rhode Island. European settlement began around 1622 with a trading post at Sowams, now the town of Warren, Rhode Island.

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

Roger Williams was a Puritan theologian and linguist who founded Providence Plantations in 1636 on land given to him by Narragansett sachem Canonicus. He 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).[3]

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.[4]

Cromwell interregnum

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.[5]

Sanctuary for religious freedom

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.[6][7] 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.[8][9]

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.[6][7] 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.[10] 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.[6][7]

Dominion of New England

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.[11] 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. With this event, the dominion collapsed and Rhode Island resumed its previous government.[12]

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.[13]

In 1707, England and Scotland were merged into a new Kingdom of Great Britain, making Rhode Island a British colony, with Scottish traders having access to its markets.[14]

American Revolutionary period

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.

On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first of the 13 colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown,[15] and was the fourth to ratify the Articles of Confederation between the newly sovereign states on February 9, 1778.[16] It boycotted the 1787 convention that drew up the United States Constitution,[17] and initially refused to ratify it.[18] 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.[19]

See also


  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. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Bicknell, Thomas Williams (1920). The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. 3. New York: The American Historical Society. pp. 975–976.
  4. ^ Paul Edward Parker (October 31, 2010). "How 'Providence Plantations' and Rhode Island were joined". The Providence Journal. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b c Straus, Oscar Solomon (1936). Roger Williams: The Pioneer of Religious Liberty. Ayer Co Pub. ISBN 9780836955866.
  8. ^ "Rhode Island and Roger Williams" in Chronicles of America
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Michael Tougias (1997). "King Philip's War in New England". King Philip's War : The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  11. ^ Labaree, pp. 94, 111–113
  12. ^ Lovejoy, pp. 247, 249
  13. ^ "The Unrighteous Traffick", in The Providence Journal Sunday, March 12, 2006. Archived September 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ David Allan, Scotland in the Eighteenth Century: Union and Enlightenment (2002) pp. 17–21
  15. ^ "The May 4, 1776, Act of Renunciation". State of Rhode Island. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ "Letter from Certain Citizens of Rhode Island to the Federal Convention". Ashland, Ohio: Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  18. ^ Flexner, James Thomas (1984). Washington, The Indispensable Man. New York: Signet. p. 208. ISBN 0-451-12890-7.
  19. ^ 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.


George Hazard

George Hazard (9 October 1700 - 1738) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Henry Tew

Henry Tew (1654 - 26 Apr 1718) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was the son of Richard and Mary (Clarke) Tew who arrived in New England in 1640, and the grandson of Henry Tew of Maidford, Northamptonshire, England. From 1680 to 1698 he served continuously as Deputy from Newport, and during most of the years from 1703 to 1712 he served as Assistant. He was on many committees during his life, one of the later ones being to advise Governor Cranston on matters concerning the expedition against Canada. In 1714 he succeeded the late Walter Clarke as Deputy Governor, serving for a single year. Tew wrote his will on 20 April 1718, dying six days later. He was married twice, having nine children by his first wife, and nine by his second. He and both wives are buried in a family burial ground half a mile north of Sachuest Beach, in Middletown, Rhode Island. There is some evidence that Tew was the brother of the privateer and pirate, Thomas Tew.

Jeremy Clarke

Jeremy Clarke may refer to:

Jeremy Clarke (poet) (born 1962), British poet

Jeremy Clarke (governor) (1605–1652), colonial settler and President of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

John Coggeshall

John Coggeshall Sr. (December 2, 1599 – November 27, 1647) was one of the founders of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and the first President of all four towns in the Colony. He was a successful silk merchant in Essex, England, but he emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632 and quickly assumed a number of roles in the colonial government. In the mid-1630s, he became a supporter of dissident minister John Wheelwright and of Anne Hutchinson. Hutchinson was tried as a heretic in 1637, and Coggeshall was one of three deputies who voted for her acquittal. She was banished from the colony in 1638, and the three deputies who voted for her acquittal were also compelled to leave. Before leaving Boston, Coggeshall and many other Hutchinson supporters signed the Portsmouth Compact in March 1638 agreeing to form a government based on the individual consent of the inhabitants. They then established the settlement of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island (called Rhode Island at the time), one of the four towns comprising the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Coggeshall was very active in civil affairs, but a rift in the leadership of the colony caused him and several other leaders to leave in 1639, moving to the south end of the island and establishing the town of Newport. The towns of Portsmouth and Newport reunited in 1640 under the leadership of William Coddington, and Coggeshall was his assistant until 1647 when the two towns on Rhode Island united to form a common government with the towns of Providence and Warwick, and Coggeshall was elected President of the entire Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. His tenure was very short due to his death later the same year, but during his administration many laws were established which became the basis for the colony and the future State of Rhode Island.

John Gardner (Rhode Island)

John Gardner (September 17, 1697 - January 1764) served for more than eight years as the deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and was also a Chief Justice of the colony's Superior Court.

John Wanton

John Wanton (December 24, 1672 – July 5, 1740) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving for six consecutive terms from 1734 to 1740. He was the son of Edward Wanton who was a ship builder, and who became a Quaker after witnessing the persecution of these people, also becoming a preacher of that religion. Edward Wanton had lived in York, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; and Scituate, Massachusetts before coming to Rhode Island.John Wanton was a merchant, and like his father was a Quaker, and the Friends' records state that "for many years he was a valuable public friend." He first entered public service in 1706 as a deputy from Newport serving for several years in that capacity, and also as the Speaker of the House of Deputies. He was called Colonel John Wanton in 1706 when he went after French privateers with John Dublin, who was wounded in the action. Between 1721 and 1734 Wanton was the Deputy Governor for the colony, and following the death of his brother, William Wanton, he became governor in 1734, serving continuously until his own death in 1740. He was buried in the Coddington Cemetery in Newport.

Wanton was married to Mary Stover, the daughter of Sylvester and Elizabeth (Norton) Stover of Cape Neddick, York County, Maine, and had five children. Wanton's brother, William Wanton, preceded him as governor, and his nephews Gideon Wanton and Joseph Wanton were later governors of the colony.

Jonathan Nichols (Rhode Island)

Capt. Jonathan Nichols Sr. (10 June 1681 – 2 August 1727) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was the son of Thomas and Hannah Nichols of Newport. Nichols became a freeman of Newport in 1707, then served many years as either Deputy or Assistant from 1713 to 1727. In 1718 he was called Captain, and in 1721 he was appointed to a committee to rebuild or repair Fort Ann on Goat Island. In May 1727 Nichols was selected as the Deputy Governor of the Rhode Island colony, but he died in office less than three months later in August, and Thomas Frye completed his term.While his father was an original legatee of the town of East Greenwich, he and his family remained in Newport. With his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Robert and Mary (Wodell) Lawton, he had eight children born from 1708 to 1723. Nichols is buried in the Nichols-Hassard Burial Ground in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Jonathan Nichols Jr.

Jonathan Nichols Jr. (October 24, 1712 – September 8, 1756) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was the son of former Deputy Governor Jonathan Nichols Sr. and Elizabeth Lawton. Nichols became Deputy Governor in November 1753 when his predecessor, Joseph Whipple III, resigned amid the collapse of his personal fortune, and Nichols completed his term. In 1755 Nichols was again selected as Deputy Governor, completing his first one-year term, then dying during his second year in office.

Nichols is credited with building a house in Newport in 1748, later known as the Hunter House. Following his death, the house was owned by Deputy Governor Joseph Wanton Jr., a loyalist, and following the American Revolutionary War was owned by William Hunter, a United States Senator, and ambassador to Brazil.

Joseph Jenckes (governor)

Joseph Jenckes (1656 – 15 June 1740) was a deputy governor and governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Josias Lyndon

Josias Lyndon (March 10, 1704 – March 30, 1778) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving for a single one-year term.

List of colonial governors of Rhode Island

This is a list of the "judges," presidents, and governors of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from 1638 to 1776.

List of lieutenant governors of Rhode Island

The Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island is Daniel McKee. He assumed office January 6, 2015.

In Rhode Island, the lieutenant governor and governor of Rhode Island are elected on separate tickets.

Nicholas Cooke

Nicholas Cooke (February 3, 1717 – September 14, 1782) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations during the American Revolutionary War, and after Rhode Island became a state, he continued in this position to become the first Governor of the State of Rhode Island. Born in the maritime town of Providence, he early in life followed the sea, eventually becoming a Captain of ships. This occupation led him to become a merchant, becoming highly successful in this endeavor, and he ran a distillery and rope-making business as well. He is depicted as one of the affluent merchants in John Greenwood's satirical painting from the 1750s entitled Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam.

Cooke first became politically active in 1752 when elected as an assistant from Providence, which position he held for a total of four years. He devoted most of his energy to mercantile pursuits and local government in the 1760s, and in 1766 represented his Congregational Church in becoming a trustee of the new college in Rhode Island, later named Brown University. In 1768 he was elected as Deputy Governor of the Rhode Island colony under Josias Lyndon as governor. He stepped down from this position after a year, but in 1775, after the war with Great Britain had begun, he was once again elected as deputy governor, this time under Governor Joseph Wanton. Maintaining Loyalist sympathies, Wanton was officially deposed as governor in November 1775, and Cooke was then named to succeed him. When Cooke was re-elected to the governorship in May 1776, the most important act of his tenure took place: by decree of the General Assembly, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations officially broke ties with Great Britain, this occurring two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the 13 American colonies.

During the nearly three years of Cooke's tenure as governor, he had to constantly deal with issues stemming from the war with Britain. One of the most difficult situations was the British capture and occupation of Newport, which required evacuation before the British troops arrived. The war took a heavy toll on Cooke, and in 1778 he refused re-election, being replaced by William Greene. Cooke lived for four more years after his retirement, dying in Providence in November 1782. He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence.

Peleg Sanford

Peleg Sanford (10 May 1639 - 1701) was an early governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving three consecutive terms from 1680 to 1683.

Richard Ward (governor)

Richard Ward (April 15, 1689 – August 21, 1763) was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving for one complete term from 1741 to 1742.

Robert Hazard (Rhode Island)

Robert Hazard (12 September 1702 - 1751) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

William Brenton

William Brenton (c. 1610–1674) was a colonial President, Deputy Governor, and Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and an early settler of Portsmouth and Newport in the Rhode Island colony. Austin and other historians give his place of origin as Hammersmith in Middlesex, England (now a part of London), but in reviewing the evidence, Anderson concludes that his place of origin is unknown. Brenton named one of his Newport properties "Hammersmith," and this has led some writers to assume that the like-named town in London was his place of origin.

William Coddington Jr.

William Coddington Jr. (18 January 1651 – 5 February 1689) was an early governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving two consecutive terms from 1683 to 1685.

William Ellery Sr.

William Ellery Sr. (31 October 1701 – 15 March 1764) was a merchant and politician in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations during the mid-18th century.

Judges of Portsmouth
Judge of Newport
Governor of Newport and Portsmouth
Chief Officer (Providence
and Warwick) (1644–47)
Presidents of Rhode Island
(Patent of 1644) (1647–63)
Governors of Newport and Portsmouth
(Coddington Commission) (1651–54)
Governors of Rhode Island
(Royal Charter of 1663) (1663–86)
Governors under Dominion
of New England
Governors of Rhode Island
(Royal Charter of 1663) (1690–1776)

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