May 282013

What IS Right With America? Our Spirit of Independence!

Remember the story of the little engine that could…..The colony of Rhode Island may have been the smallest, but it was the first to declare its independence from the King on May 4, 1776. 

By 1776, Rhode Island had already earned itself the reputation of going its own way. The colony was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 after he had been banished from Massachusetts. Why was he banished? He dared to advocate religious tolerance and felt that a state should not favor one religion. He went so far as to secure a Royal Charter from King Charles II that allowed for a healthy dose of local autonomy and guaranteed religious freedom. The attached image is a map of Rhode Island in 1778. 

Due to the high level of autonomy that Williams negotiated, Newport, Rhode Island became a trade center during the Colonial period. Molasses was imported, and then exported as rum. Rum was used to buy slaves who, if they survived the journey, were sold into servitude when they reached the Colonies. 

Rhode Islanders demonstrated a fiercely independent spirit before 1776. In July, 1769, the British customs ship, Liberty, was burned in Newport Harbor. In 1772, the Gaspee Incident took place on Warwick’s Namquit Point. Rhode Islanders seemed to take pride in smuggling to defy the Navigation Acts, and they even held their own version of a “tea party” in March, 1775. 
On May 17, 1774, the Providence Town Meeting responded to the Intolerable Acts by being the first to call for a Continental Congress. They supported a united effort that would respond to and plan resistance toward the coercive measures which had been inflicted upon the Colonies by Britain. The Colony’s General Assembly was the first to appoint delegates to the Continental Congress. It did so on June 15. 

Is it any coincidence that Rhode Island quickly ratified the Articles of Confederation, but was the last to ratify the Constitution which contained a well detailed federal structure? I think not!

Please take a moment to remember What IS Right With America!


Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.


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