Online Encyclopedia

RHODE ISLAND

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 253 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
RHODE ISLAND, a North Atlantic state of the American Union, belonging to the New England group, and lying between 41° 18' and 42° 3' N. lat. and 71° 8' and 71° 53' W. long.' It is bounded, N. and E., by the state of Massachusetts; S., by the Atlantic Ocean; and W., by the state of Connecticut, from which it is separated in part by the Pawcatuck river. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the Union, having an extreme length, N. and S., of 48 m., an extreme width, E. and W., of 37 m., and a total area of 1248 sq. m., of which 181 sq. m. are water-surface. Topography.—The region of which' Rhode Island is a part was at one time worn down to a gently rolling plain near sea-level, but has since been uplifted and somewhat dissected by stream action. As a result the topography is characterized by low, rounded hills, but is nowhere mountainous. Since the uplift and stream dissection a slight depression has allowed the sea to invade the lower portions of the river valleys, forming the bays known as Narragansett Bay, Providence "river," Sakonnet river," &c. Glaciation has disturbed the river 1 Block Island, over which the jurisdiction of the state eyitends, lies to m. off the coast, and is not included within these limits. factories. The Providence river is really an arm of Narragansett Bay, into which flow the waters of the Pawtuxet and the Black-stone rivers. The latter stream at Pawtucket has a fall of about 50 ft., and the Pawtuxet river also has a number of falls along its,course. Mount Hope Bay is a north-eastern arm of Narragansett Bay, and is also the estuary of the Taunton river. The Sakonnet river is a long bay separating Aquidneck or Rhode Island from the mainland on the E. The Pawcatuck river is the largest stream in the western half of the state, and along the lower part of its course it forms the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut. Fauna and Flora.—The fauna of the state does not differ from that of southern Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts. The marine fauna is of economic importance. The woodland area of the state has been estimated (census of 1900) at 400 sq. in., or about 37% of the land area, but the trees are generally too small for timber. The most common varieties of trees are the oak, walnut and chestnut. There are a few stretches of pine forest, and in the S. the swamps are sometimes overgrown with cedar. Climate.—Rhode Island has a more moderate climate than that of the northern sections of New England. There are no great extremes of either heat or cold, and a number of the towns and cities, especially Newport and Narragansett Pier, have become noted summer resorts. Narragansett Pier has a mean annual temperature of 49°, a mean summer temperature (for June, July and August) of 68°, and a mean winter temperature (for December, January and February) of 29°. The mean annual temperature at Providence is 50°; the mean for the summer, 720; and for the winter, 30°; while the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded are respectively 102° and -9°. The mean annual rainfall is about 50 in., ranging from 47.4 in. at Narragansett Pier to 53.2 in. at Kingston. Soils.—The boulder clay or " hard pan " of which most of the surface lands are composed, forms a very indifferent support for vegetation, and consequently the state is not well adapted for the ggrowing of crops. Agriculture.—1 he acreage of improved farm land in Rhode Island decreased from 356,487 in 1850 to 137654 in 1900, but the value of farm property (including land with improvements, implements, machinery and live stock) increased in the, same period from $19,100,640 to $26,989,189. The number of farms remained about the same—5385 in 1850 and 5498 in 1900; but the average area decreased from 102.9 acres to 82.9 acres. The value of farm products increased from $3,670,135 in 1879 to $6,333,864 in 1899. The average value of farms increased from 3547 in 185o to $4909 in 1900. The number of persons engaged in agricultural pursuits in 188o was io,986, and in 1900, 10,957. The total acreage of cereals (barley, buck-wheat, Indian corn, oats, rye and wheat) de-creased from 19,575 acres in 1874 to 10,552 acres in 1899, and the total product of these crops decreased from 8oi,iti bu. in 1849 tO 350,110 bu. in 1899, The total number of neat cattle on farms decreased from 36,262 in 185o to 30,696 in 1900, but the number of dairy cows increased from 18,698 to 23,66o. Fisheries.—Whaling was an established industry in Rhode Island as early as 1723, and in 1731 the colonial assembly provided more rugged upland which slopes gradually southward. Over the a bounty of five shillings a barrel for whale oil, and a penny a pound whole state there is a layer of drift deposited by the glaciers which for whalebone. About 1750 sperm candles were first manufactured. once covered this region. This glacial material is in the form of In 1846 about 50 whaling vessels sailed from Rhode Island ports; a till or boulder clay, but in the lowlands, and especially along but by the close of the century the industry had become practically Narragansett Bay, it is generally overlaid by stratified drift de- posited by glacial streams. Within Narragansett Bay are the numerous islands characteristic of an area which has suffered comparatively recent depression, the largest being Rhode Island (or Aquidneck), Conanicut Island and Prudence Island. Of these the most important is Rhode Island, 15 in. long and 3 M. wide, which has given the state its name. Lying about to in. off the coast and S. of the central part of the state is Block Island, a sandy tract 6 m. long and from i to 4 in. wide, with a rolling surface. The rivers of the state are short and of no great volume, but they flow swiftly and are useful in supplying power for manu- systems, causing the formation of numerous lakes and of the waterfalls which determined the situation of many of the manufacturing cities of the state. In the N.W. is Durfee Hill, which attains an elevation of 805 ft., and is the highest point within Rhode Island. The mean elevation for the entire state is 200 ft. The coast-line, including the shores of the bays and islands, is extensive; its western portion is only slightly indented, but its eastern portion is deeply indented by Narragansett Bay, a body of water varying in width from 3 to 12 m., and extending inland for about 28 m. The land surface E. of this bay is very gently rolling, but to the W. it consists of a somewhat A 7r°gs' B Longitude West 7t 3o'of Greenwich C English Miles o a 4 6 8 io t2 r4 ii County Seats -o 'ountyBoundaries ••••• Railways _ e----s 7=°rs. D Emery Walter s. extinct. In 1905 the number of persons employed in the general fisheries industry was 2212; and the value of the catch was $1,546,658, the largest items being: lobsters, $64,358; squeteague (weakfish), $86,478; scup, $138,030; and oysters (for market), $874,232. Minerals.—Rhode Island's mineral wealth is relatively slight. The total value i of all the mineral producta of the state in 1907 was ',.•37,384, and in 1908, $708,694, and of these totals granite i United States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources of the United States. 250 was valued in 1908 at $556,774. The value of the clay products, lime and talc, decreased from $245,378 in 1907 to $112,815 in 1908. The mining of iron ore was begun about 1767 in the vicinity of the present Cranston, and much of the metal was used in the making of cannon during the War of Independence, but the supply was soon exhausted. Near Tiverton and Cranston graphite has been quarried. Manufactures.—Rhode Island is essentially a manufacturing state; of the 191,923 persons in the state engaged in gainful occupations in 1900, 101,162 (or 52.7%) were employed in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits. By the middle of the 17th century boat-building had become an established industry, and large vessels were built at Newport. In 1777 the state offered a large premium for every pound of steel, similar to German steel, made within its boundaries; and in 1789 a rolling and slitting mill was built near Providence. Cotton was first imported to Providence from Spain in 1785; a company to carry on cotton-spinning, formed at Providence in 1786, established there in the following year a factory containing a spinning jenny of 28 spindles (the first machine of the kind to be used in the United States), and also a carding machine and a spinning frame with which was manufactured a kind of jean having a linen warp and a cotton filling. The fly shuttle was also apparently first introduced at Providence in 1788. The first calico printed in the United States was made at East Greenwich about 1794. The Providence Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers, incorporated in 1789, organized industrial development. The prohibition of the exportation from England of machinery, models or drawings retarded mechanical improvement, but in 1790 an industrial company was formed at Providence to carry on cotton spinning, and in December of that year there was established at Pawtucket a factory equipped with Arkwright machines constructed by Samuel Slater. This machinery was operated by water-power, then first used in the United States for the spinning of cotton thread; and from this may be dated the beginning of the factory system in Rhode Island. These machines were soon adapted to the spinning of wool, and in 1804 a woollen factory was built at Peacedale, South Kingston._ The first power-loom used in the United States was invented about 1812, and was set up at Peacedale, in 1814, for the manufacture of woollen saddlegirths and other webbing. The first power-loom for cotton manufacture was set up in North Providence in 1817. Textile manufacturing by improved methods was hardly well established in Rhode Island before 1825. The manufacture of jewelry, which was established in Providence in 1784, was greatly promoted ten years later by Nehemiah Dodge's invention of the process of " gold-filling," still further improved in 1846 by Thomas H. Lowe. The manufacture of silverware was begun in Providence soon after the close of the War of Independence. Rhode Island's water powers have been its only natural resources which have aided in the development of its manufactures, and its transportation facilities have always been inadequate, because of shallow water at Providence and scanty railway communication; but the state's manufacturing enter-prises are of great importance. In 1900 Rhode Island ranked 17th among the states in the value of its manufactured products, but led all of the states in the value per capita ($430). The total number of establishments in 185o was 864; in 189o, 3377, and in 1900, 4189. In 1900 there were 1678 factories, and in 1905, 1617 factories.' The total capital in-vested in manufacturing in 185o was $12,935,676; in 189o, $126,483„401, and in 1900, $183,784,587, of which $176,901,606 was in factories; in 1905 the capital invested in factories was $215,901,375. The value of all manufactured products in 1850 was $22,117,688; in 1890, $142,500,625, and in 1900, $184,074,378, of which $165,550,382 was the value of factory products; in 1905 the value of factory products was $202,209,583. The average number of employes in 185o was 20,967; in 189o, 81,111; and in ' The 1905 census of manufactures gives statistics only for establishments under the factory system, excluding the hand trades, and gives factory statistics for 1905 and for 1900. The statistics given above for 1900 in comparison with 1905 are for factory pro-ducts.1900, 98,813, of whom 88,197 were factory employes; in 1905 there were 97,318 factory employes. Rhode Island ranked first in 1900 ($13,229,313) and in 1905 ($14:431756) among the states of the United States in the value of jewelry, which was fourth in the value of the state's manufactures; second in worsted goods (1900, $33,341,329; 1905, $44,477,596), which were first in value in the state's manufactures; and third in dyeing and finishing textiles (1900, $8,484,878; 1905, $9,981,457), which ranked fifth among the state's manufactures; in the value of cotton goods (second in rank in the state) it fell from the fourth rank in 1900 ($24,056,175) to fifth rank in 1905 ($30,628,843), when the value of Rhode Island's product was less than that of Georgia. Other important manufactures were: combined textiles (not including flax, hemp and jute products) in 1900, $77,998,396; in 1905, $103,096,311; foundry and machine shop products in 1900, $13,269,086; in 1905, $16,338,512; woollen goods in 1900, $5,330,550; in 1905, $8,163,167; rubber boots and shoes in 1900, $8,034,417; electrical machinery, apparatus and supplies in 1900, $5,113,292; in 1905, $5,435,474; silversmithing and silverware in 1900, $4,249,190; in 1905, $5,323,264; gold and silver, reducing and refining (not from ore) in 1900, $3,484,454; in 1905, $4,260,698; cotton small wares in 1900, $2,379,500; in 1905, $3,944,607; hosiery and knit goods in 1900, $2,713,850; in 1905, $3,344,655; silk and silk goods in 1900, $1311,333; in 1905, $2,555,986. In .4905, 1146 establishments reported power, as against 136o in 1900—a decrease of 15.7 %, but the total horsepower increased from 155,545 to 190,777, or 22.7 %. Transportation.—Steam railway mileage in Rhode Island in-creased from 68 m. in 185o to 209 m. in 1900, and to 211 m. on the 1st of January 1909 (the New York, New Haven & Hartford being the only railway system of any importance in the state). In 1910 a charter was granted to the Grand Trunk system. In 1902 the mileage of street and electric railways (most of them interurban) operated in the state was 336.33 m. The state has a natural water outlet in the Providence river and Narragansett Bay, but there is lack of adequate dockage in Providence harbour, and insufficient depth of water for ocean traffic. The ports of entry are Providence (by far the largest, with imports valued at $I,893,5'51, and exports valued at $12,517 in 1909), Newport and Bristol. Population.—The total population of Rhode Island in 188o was 276,531; in 1890, 345,506; in 1900, 428,556; and in 1910, 542,6102 The increase from 188o to 1890 was 24.9%, from 1890 to 1900 24%, and from 1900 to 1910, 26'6%. Of the total population in 1900, 285,278 were native whites, 134,519 were foreign-born, 9092 were negroes, 366 were Chinese, 35 were Indians and 13 were Japanese. Of the foreign-born, 35,501 were Irish, 31,533 were French-Canadians and 22,832 were English. Of the total population, 275,143 were of foreign parentage, i.e. either one or both parents were foreign-bornand 81,232 were of Irish parentage, both on the father's and mother's side, and, in the same sense, 49,427 were of French-Canadian and 32,007 of English parentage. Rhode Island in 1900 had the highest percentage of urban. population of any state in the Union, 91.6% of the total population living in cities of 4000 or more inhabitants. From 1890 to 1900 the urban population increased from 310,335 to 392,509 or 26.5%; while the rural population (i.e. population outside of incorporated places), increased from 35,171 to 36,047-1•1% of the total increase in population. The cities of the state, with population in 19oo,3 are Providence, 175,597; Pawtucket, 39,231; Woonsocket, 28,204; Newport, 22,034; and Central Falls, 18,167. In 1906 there were in the state 264,712 communicants of various religious denominations, and of these 199,951 were Roman Catholics. Second in strength were the,. Baptists, who founded the colony; in 1906 they numbered 19,878, of whom 14,304 were of the Northern Convention. There were 15,443 Protestant Episcopalians, 9858 Congregationalists, 7892 Methodists. The Friends, whose influence was so strong in the early history of Providence, numbered in 1906 only 648 in the whole state. Administration.—The state is governed under the constitution of 1842, with amendments adopted in 1854, 1864, 1886, 1888, 1889, 1892, 1893, 1900, 1903, 1909. All native or naturalized citizens of the United States residing in Rhode 2 The populations in other census years were: (1790) 68,825; (1800) 69,122; (181o) 76,931; (1820) 83,059; (1830) 97,199; (184o) 208,830; (185o) 147,545; (186o) 174,620; (187o) 217,353. 3 In 1910 the populations of the cities were: Providence, 224,326; Pawtucket, 51,622; Woonsocket, 38,125; Newport, 27,149; and Central Falls, 22,754. Island are citizens of the state. Under an act of 1724 the suffrage was restricted to adult males who possessed a freehold of the value of $134 (see History). So far as state and national elections are concerned, the privilege was extended to native non-freeholders by the constitution of 1842, to naturalized foreigners who had served in the Civil War by an amendment of the 7th of April 1886, and to all adult male citizens by the amendment of the 4th of April 1888. A curious survival of the old system exists in the provision that only those who pay taxes on $134 worth of property may vote for members of city councils or on propositions to levy taxes or to expend public money. The working men are thus almost entirely excluded from participating in the government of the large factory towns. Amendments to the constitution must be passed by both houses of the General Assembly at two consecutive sessions, and must then be ratified by three-fifths of the electors of the state present and voting thereon in town and ward meetings. Fifteen amendments have thus been added to the constitution of 1842. An amendment of the 7th of April 1886 forbade the manufacture and sale of intoxicating beverages, but it was badly enforced and was repealed by a subsequent amendment of the loth of June 1889. The powers of the governor are unusually small. Until 1909, when a constitutional amendment was adopted, he had no power of veto, and his very limited nominal powers of appointment and removal are controlled by a rotten-borough Senate. The other administrative officers are a secretary of state, an attorney-general, an auditor, a treasurer, a commissioner of public schools, a railroad commissioner, and a factory inspector, and various boards and commissions, such as the board of education, the board of agriculture, the board of health, and the commissioners of inland fisheries, commissioners of harbours and commissioners of pilots. The legislative power is vested in the General Assembly,' which consists of a Senate made up of the lieutenant-governor and of one senator from each of the thirty-eight cities and townships in the state, and a House of Representatives of one hundred members, apportioned according to population, but with the proviso that each town or city shall have at least one member and none shall have more than one-fourth of the total (see History). Members of the legislature and all state officials are elected annually in November. A majority vote was formerly required, but since the adoption of the tenth amendment (Nov. 28, 1893) a plurality vote has elected. At the head of the judicial system is the supreme court (1i47), with final revisory and appellate jurisdiction. Below this are the superior court (1905), the twelve district courts, the town councils, probate courts in the larger towns, and justices of the peace. The five judges of the supreme court, the six judges of the superior court and the district judges are elected by the General Assembly; the supreme and the superior court justices hold office until dismissed by the General Assembly or found guilty of official misdemeanour, and the district judges have three-year terms. The town (or township) is the unit of local government, the county being recognized only for judicial purposes and to a certain extent in the appointment by central administrative boards. There are five counties and thirty-eight towns. The municipal governments of Newport and Providence present interesting features, for which see the separate articles on these cities. Education.—The public school system of Rhode Island was established in 1800, abolished in 1803, and re-established in 1828. At the head of it is a commissioner of education, appointed by the governor and the Senate, and a board of education, composed of the governor and the lieutenant-governor ex officio and six other members elected by the General Assembly. Under an act of the 12th of April 1883, as amended on the 4th of April 1902, education is compulsory for children between the ages of seven and fifteen, but the maximum limit is reduced to thirteen for children who are employed at lawful labour. The total enrolment in the public schools in 1905 was 71,425 and the total expenditure for public school purposes was $1,987,751. A considerable proportion of the Irish and the French Canadians send their children to the Roman Catholic parochial schools. The chief institutions for higher educa- I Under the constitution of 1842 it was provided that there should be two sessions of the General Assembly annually: one at Newport in May, and the other in October to be held at South Kingstown once in two years, and the intermediate years alternately at Bristol and East Greenwich, an adjournment from the October session being held annually at Providence. In 1854 this was amended: one session was provided for to be held in Newport in May, an adjournment being held annually at Providence. And in 1900 by another amendment Providence became the only meeting-place of the General Assembly.251 tion are Brown University (1764), the State School of Design (1877), the State Normal School (reorganized 1898), and the Moses Brown School (1819), all at Providence (q.v.), and the State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (1888) at Kingston, a land grant college under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 189o, the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Adams Act of 1906. This institution was founded as an agricultural school in 1888 and became a college in 1892. It has departments of agriculture, engineering and science, a library of 15,000 volumes and an experiment station. There are state training-schools for teachers at Providence, Cranston, Bristol, Barrington, Central Falls, Warwick and Pawtucket. Charitable and Penal Institutions.—A board of state charities and corrections, established in 1869, supervises and controls all of the penal, charitable and correctional Institutions of the state at large and also the local almshouses. There were in 1910 nine members of the board, three from Providence county, one from each of the other counties, and one from the state at large; five were appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate, and four were elected by the Senate. A group of institutions (under the control of the board) at Howard, in Cranston town-ship, about 7 M. from Providence, including the Workhouse and House of Correction, the Hospital for the Insane (1869), the Alms-house, the State Prison and Providence County Jail, the Sockanosset School for Boys, and the Oaklawn School for Girls, are supported entirely or in part by the state. In addition to the institutions under the board of charities and corrections there are two under the board of education, and supported wholly or in part by the state, the School for the Deaf (1877) and the Home and School for Dependent and Neglected Children (1885) at Providence. The Soldiers' Home (1891) at Bristol, the Butler Hospital for the Insane (1847) at Providence, and a Sanitarium (1905) at Wallum Lake, in the township of Burrillville, also receive state aid. Finance.—The chief sources of revenue in the order named are the general property tax, the tax on savings banks, the tax on insurance companies, and liquor licences. There is no corporation tax. The total receipts from all sources for the year 1909 were $2,317,512, the expenditures $2,345,359. The public debt, which originated in 1752, amounted to £70,000 sterling in 1764, to £4000 in 1775 and to $698,000 in 1783. Part of the Revolutionary debt was paid in depreciated paper, part was assumed by the United States government, part was paid at various rates of depreciation between 1803 and 1820, and the remainder, $43,971, was repudiated in 1847. Other obligations had accumulated in the meantime, however, so that the debt in 1848 amounted to $187,000. This was gradually reduced until the Civil War, when it was increased to $3,889,000 by 1865. A sinking fund commission was established in 1875, and the entire sum was extinguished by the 1st of August 1894. The issue of bonds fpr the construction of the new capitol building and other purposes has led, however, to a new debt, which at the beginning of 1910 amounted to $4,800,000. There was at the same time a sinking fund of $654,999. Before the adoption of the Federal constitution Rhode Island was badly afflicted with the paper money heresy. £5000 were printed in 1710, and from that time until 1751 there were nine separate issues. These were gradually retired, however, through the efforts of the mercantile classes, aided by the parliamentary statutes of 1751 and 1763, and by about 1763 the finances were again placed on a sound money basis. The influx of Continental currency gave some trouble during the War of Independence, but there were no further local issues until 1786, when £1oo,000 were issued. The first banks organized in the state were the Providence Bank in 1791, the Bank of Rhode Island at Newport in 1795, and the Washington Bank at Westerly in 1800. Forty-four charters had been issued in 1826 and sixty in 1837. Partly through restrictive local legislation and partly as a result of the operation of the Suffolk system of redemption in Boston, these institutions were always conservative. During practically the entire period before the Civil War their note issues constituted a smaller proportion of the capital stock than those of any other state. By an act of 1858 which is still in force, annual reports must be presented to the state auditor. Qn the establishment of the national banking • system, 1863-65, nearly all of the banks took out national charters. Since 1865 the most notable features have been the rise and de-cadence of the national banks and the rise of the trust companies. During the decade from 1890 to 1900 the deposits in the national banks increased only 5%, from $16,700,000 to $17,500,000; those of the trust companies increased 330%, from $12,000,000 to more than $40,000,000. During the period from 1890 to 1901 twenty national banks retired from business, and the total capital stock was reduced from about twenty millions to about thirteen millions of dollars. History.—Rhode Island was founded by refugees from Massachusetts, who went there in search of religious and political freedom. The first settlements were made at Providence by Roger Williams (q.v.) in June 1636, and at Portsmouth on the island of Aquidneck by the Antinomians, William Coddington (1601–1678), John Clarke (1609–1676), and Anne Hutchinson (1591–1643), in March–April 1638. Becoming dissatisfied with conditions at Portsmouth, Coddington and Clarke removed a few miles farther south on the 29th of April 1639, and established a settlement at New-port. In a similar manner Warwick was founded in January 1643 by seceders from Providence under the lead of Samuel Gorton. The union of Portsmouth and Newport, March 12, 164o, was followed by the consolidation of all four settlements, May 19, 1647, under a patent of March 14, 1644, issued by the parliamentary board of commissioners for plantations. The particularistic sentiment was still very strong, however, and in 1651 the union split into two confederations, one including the mainland towns, Providence and Warwick; the other, the island towns, Portsmouth and Newport. A re-union was effected in 1654 through the influence of Roger Williams, and a charter was secured from Charles II. on the 8th of July 1663. In the patent of 1644 the entire colony was called Providence Plantations. On the 13th of March 1644 the Portsmouth-Newport General Court changed the name of the island from Aquidneck to the Isle of Rhodes or Rhode Island. The official designation for the province as a whole in the charter of 1663, therefore, was Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The charter was suspended at the beginning of the Andros regime in 1686, but was re-stored again after the Revolution of 1689. The closing years of the 17th century were characterized by a gradual transition from the agricultural to the commercial stage of civilization. Newport became the centre of an extensive business in piracy, privateering, smuggling, and legitimate trade. Cargoes of rum, manufactured from West Indian sugar and molasses, were exported to Africa and exchanged for slaves to be sold in the southern colonies and the West Indies. The passage of the Sugar Act of April 5, 1764, and the steps taken by the British government to enforce the Navigation Acts seriously affected this trade. The people of Rhode Island played a prominent part in the struggle for independence. On the 9th of June 1772 the " Gaspee," a British vessel which had been sent over to enforce the acts of trade and navigation, ran aground in Narragansett Bay and was burned to the water's edge by a party of men from Providence. Nathanael Greene, a native of Rhode Island, was made commander of the Rhode Island militia in May 1775, and a major-general in the Continental army in August 1776, and in the latter capacity he served with ability until the close of the war. In the year 1776, General Howe sent a detachment of his army under General Henry Clinton to seize Newport as a base of operations for reducing New England, and the city was occupied by the British on the 8th of December 1776. To capture this British garrison, later increased to 6000 men, the co-operation of about ro,000 men (mostly New England militia) under Major-General John Sullivan, and a French fleet carrying 4000 French regulars under Count D'Estaing, was planned in the summer of 1778. On the 9th of August Sullivan crossed to the north end of the island of Rhode Island, but as the Frenchmen were disembarking on Conanicut Island, Lord Howe arrived with the British fleet. Count D'Estaing hastily re-embarked his troops and sailed out to meet Howe. For two days the hostile fleets manceuvred for, positions, and then they were dispersed by a severe storm. On the loth, D'Estaing returned to the port with his fleet badly crippled, and only to announce that he should sail to Boston to refit. The American officers protested but in vain, and on the 28th they decided to retreat to the north end of the island. The British pursued, and the next day there was a severe engagement in which the Americans were driven from Turkey and Quaker Hills. On the 30th the Americans, learning of the approach of Lord Howe's fleet with 5000 troops under Clinton, decided to abandon the island. The British evacuated Newport the 25th of October r7%9, and the French fleet was stationed here from July 178o to 1781. The influence of Roger Williams's ideas and the peculiar conditions under which the first settlements were established have tended to differentiate the history of Rhode Island fromthat of the other New England states. In 164o the General Court of Massachusetts declared that the representatives of Aquidneck were " not to be capitulated withal either for them-selves or the people of the isle where they inhabit," and in 1644 and again in 1648 the application of the Narragansett settlers for admission to the New England Confederacy was refused except on condition that. they should pass under the jurisdiction of either Massachusetts or Plymouth. Rhode Island was one of the first communities in the world to advocate religious freedom and political individualism. The individualistic principle was shown in the jealousy of the towns toward the central government, and in the establishment of legislative supremacy over the executive and the judiciary. The legislature migrated from county to county up to 1854, and there continued to be two centres of government until 1900. The dependence of the judiciary upon the legislature was maintained until 186o, and the governor is still shorn of certain powers which are customary in other states (see Administration). In the main the rural towns have adhered most strongly to the old individualistic sentiment, whereas- the cities have kept more in touch with the modern nationalistic trend of thought. This was shown, for example, in the struggle for the ratification of the Federal constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation it was principally Rhode Island that defeated the proposal to authorize Congress to levy an impost duty of 510 mainly as a means of meeting the debts of the Central government. When the constitutional convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 to frame a constitution for a stronger Federal government, the agriculturists of Rhode Island were afraid that the movement would result in an interference with their local privileges, and especially with their favourite device of issuing paper money, and the state refused to send delegates, and not until the Senate had passed a bill for severing commercial relations between the United States and Rhode Island, did the latter, in May 1790, ratify the Federal constitution, and then only by a majority of two votes. Rhode Island, like the rest of New England, was opposed to the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. During the Civil War it sent 23,457 men into the service of the Union. The economic transition of the later 17th century from the agricultural to the commercial regime was followed by a further transition to the manufacturing regime during the closing years of the 18th and the early years of the 19th centuries. - Commercial interests have been almost entirely destroyed, partly because of the abolition of the slave trade and partly because of the embargo and the war of 1812, but mainly because the cities of the state are unfavourably situated to be the termini of interstate railway systems. Providence, owing to its superior water-power facilities, has therefore become one of the leading manufacturing centres of New England, whereas Newport is now known only as a fashionable summer resort. The movement as a whole was of exactly the same character as the industrial revolution in England, and it led to the same result, a struggle for electoral reform. The system of apportionment and the franchise qualifications were worked out to meet the needs of a group of agricultural communities. The charter of 1663 and the franchise law of 1724 established substantial equality of representation among the towns, and restricted the suffrage to freeholders. In the course of time, therefore; the small towns came to be better represented proportionally than the large cities, and the growing class of artisans was entirely disfranchised. The city of Providence issued a call for a constitutional convention in 1796, and similar efforts were made in 1799, 1817, 1821, 1822 and 1824, but nothing -was accomplished. About 1840 Thomas W. Dorr (1805-1854), a young lawyer of Providence, began a systematic campaign for an extension of the suffrage, a reapportionment of representation and the establishment of an independent judiciary. The struggle, which lasted for several years, and in fact is not yet entirely over, was one between the cities and the country, between the manufacturers and the agriculturists. It was also complicated by racial and religious prejudioes, a large proportion of the factory operatives being foreigners and Roman Catholics, and most of the country people native Protestants. The former were in general associated with the Democratic party, the latter with the Whigs. A convention summoned without any authority from the legislature, and elected on the principle of universal manhood suffrage, met at Providence, October 4-November 18; 1841, and drafted a frame of government which came to be known as the People's Constitution. A second convention met on the call of the legislature in February 1842 and adopted the so-called Freeman's Constitution. On being submitted to popular vote the former was ratified by a large majority (December 27, 28, 291 1841), while the latter was rejected by a majority of 676 (March 21, 22, 23, 1842). At an election held on the 18th of April 1842 Dorr was chosen governor. The supreme court of the state and the president of the United States (Tyler) both refused to recognize the validity of the People's Constitution, whereupon Dorr and a few of his more zealous adherents decided to organize a rebellion. They were easily repulsed in an attack upon the Providence town arsenal, and Dorr, after a brief period of exile in Connecticut, was convicted of high treason on the 26th of April 1844, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. He was released by act of the Assembly in June 1845, and was restored to the full rights of citizenship in May 1851. The Freeman's Constitution, modified by another convention, which held its session at New-port and East Greenwich, September 12-November 5, 1842, was finally adopted by popular vote on November 21-23, 1842. Only a partial concession was made to the demand for reform. The suffrage was extended to non-freeholders, but only to those of American birth. Representation in the lower house of the legislature was apportioned according to population, but only on condition that no city or town should ever elect more than one-sixth of the total number of members. Each city and town without regard to population was to elect one senator. In order to perpetuate this system the method of amending the constitution was made extremely difficult (see Administration). Since the adoption of the constitution the conditions have become worse owing to the extensive immigration of foreigners into the large cities and the gradual decay of the rural towns. From about 1845 to 188o most of the immigrants were Irish, but since 188o the French-Canadians have constituted the chief element. In 1900 over 30% of the population of the state was foreign-born. A constitutional amendment of 1888 extended to them the right of suffrage in state and national elections, and an amendment of 1909 partially remedied the evils in the system of apportionment. When the last Federal census was taken in to to, Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Newport, with a combined population of 341,222, had four senators, whereas the remainder of the state, with a population of 201,452, had thirty-four. Providence, with a population of 224,326 out of a total of 542,674, had one member in a Senate of thirty-eight and twenty-five members in a House of Representatives of one hundred. The Republican machine finds it easy with the support of the millionaire summer colony at Newport and the street railway corporations to corrupt the French-Canadians and a portion of the native element in the rural towns and maintain absolute control of the state government. The majority has occasionally protested by electing a Democratic governor, but he has not been able to accomplish a great deal, because until 1909 he did not have veto power nor effectual means to induce the Senate to ratify his appointments. Bonds were issued on the 8th of November 1892 for the construction of a new state house at Providence, the corner stone was laid in October 1896, and the building was thrown open to use on the 1st of January 1901. A constitutional amendment of 'goo dispensed with the session of the legislature at Newport. In presidential campaigns the state has been Federalist, 1792—1800; Democratic Republican, -1804; Federalist, 18o8-1812; Democratic Republican, 1816-1820; Adams (Republican), 1824-1828; National 'Republican, 1832; Democratic, 1836; Whig, 1840-1848; Democratic, 1852; and Republican since 1856. . 1663-1666 1666-1669 1669-1672 1672-1674 1674-1676 • 1676-167/ 1677-1678 1678 1678-1680 1680-1683 1683-1685 1685-1686 • 16862 1689-1690 1690 ..:1690-1695 1695 x696-1698 1698-1727 1727-1732 1732-1733 1734-1740 174071743 .1743-1745 1745-1746 174671747 1747-1748 1748-1755 1755-1757 1757-1758. .1758-1762 1762-1763 .1763-1765 1765-1767 1767—1768 1768-1769 1769-1775 1775-1778 1778-1786 1 A separation occurred in 1651 between the towns of Providence and Warwick on one side and Portsmouth and Newport on the other. They were reunited in 1654. 2 The charter was suspended from 1686 to 1689, during which time the province was under the supervision of Sir Edmund Andros. ' Arthur Fenner became a Democratic Republican about 1800. 4 James Fenner was a Democratic Republican to 1826, a National Republican (Adams) to 1829 and a Democrat (Jackson) to 1831.
End of Article: RHODE ISLAND
[back]
RHIZOPODA
[next]
RHODES

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.