The History of Colonial Rhode Island
Rhode Island was first discovered in 1524 by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (1485 - 1528), who was acting on behalf of the French. He was followed by the British explorer Henry Hudson (1565-1611) who explored the area on behalf of the Dutch. The land was originally given the Native Indian name of Aquidneck which is derived from the Narragansett word literally meaning the "Isle of Peace." One of the Dutch explorers, Adrian Block (c.1567 – 1627), named the area "Roodt Eylandt" meaning "red island" referring to the red clay that lined the shore. The region was controlled by the Wampanoag tribe, whose leader was Chief Massasoit, the father of Metacomet who would become known as King Philip of Pokanoket. In 1635 the colonist Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his religious teachings and in 1636 he settled in the area of Colonial Rhode Island naming the area Providence Plantations. Chief Massasoit eventually gifted Roger Williams with Aquidneck Island, Providence and Prudence Island for his friendship. English colonists from Massachusetts including Anne Hutchinson, William Hutchinson, William Dyer, John Coggeshall, William Coddington, Nicholas Easton, William Brenton, John Clarke, and Richard Maxson first settled in Aquidneck in 1638. They were led by Anne Hutchinson who had been found guilty of heresy and condemned to banishment by the Civil Court. In 1644, the colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations combined to form Colonial Rhode Island which would eventually become the State, of "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". On July 15, 1663 King Charles II granted the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Picture of Anne Hutchinson
Native American Indians and Conflicts in Colonial Rhode Island
The Native American Indians of Rhode Island included the Nipmuc, Pequot, Wampanoag and Narraganset. The settlers in Colonial Rhode Island were involved in the following conflicts:
- The Pequot War of 1637
- King Philip's War (1675 - 1677 ) named after Metacomet of the Wampanoag tribe. During King Philip's War, up to one third of America's white population was wiped out
- The French and Indian Wars (1688 - 1763) consisting of King William's War (1688-1699), Queen Anne's War (1702-1713), King George's War (1744 - 1748)
- The French Indian War (1756 - 1763)
- The American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783). The United States of America is created and Colonial Rhode Island becomes a state
Religion in Colonial Rhode Island
The Puritans dominated New England and were a Reform movement in the Anglican church that aimed at purifying the church of corruption. The religion of the Puritans who had settled in Massachusetts was strict and austere leading to dissent with many church members. The situation was so serious that Anne Hutchinson was found guilty of heresy and condemned to banishment by the Civil Court which led to the establishment of Colonial Rhode Island. The group of Nonconformists and Dissenters believed in religious freedom, and the separation of church and state whereas the Puritans in Massachusetts believed in a government and society tied to the church. The Rhode Island Charter of 1663 proclaimed that a "flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty in religious concernments." Other colonists including Catholics and Jews settled in Rhode Island which allowed them religious freedom.
Government in Colonial Rhode Island
Anne Hutchinson and her followers established a home in Portsmouth and adopted a new government which provided for trial by jury and separation of church and state. In 1651 England claimed the right to appoint a governor for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, with a provincial council, to be elected by the freeholders and accepted by the King. On July 15, 1663 King Charles II granted the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Colonial Rhode Island became a Charter Colony which was largely self-governed. The charter established the rules of government, but allowed the Rhode Island colonists a great amount of freedom within those rules. The organization of Government in Colonial Rhode Island was structured as follows:
- The Governor of Colonial Rhode Island held the executive power in the colony representing the Crown (England)
- The Governor’s Council of Colonial Rhode Island was composed of influential and powerful men who advised and supported the Governor and had judicial and administrative powers
- An Assembly was elected by and represented, the citizens of the towns and counties of Colonial Rhode Island
- Town Meetings
1663 Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Natural Materials and Raw Resources in Colonial Rhode Island
The Natural materials and raw resources available to the colonists in Colonial Rhode Island were fish, whales and timber from the dense forests. Farming was difficult for crops like wheat because of the poor soil but corn, pumpkins, rye, squash and beans were raised.
Life in Colonial Rhode Island - Economy, Trade, Industries and Jobs
The way of life in Colonial Rhode Island was determined by religion, wealth, status and how colonists could make a living. The majority of the workforce in Colonial Rhode Island consisted of manual workers, servants, apprentices, sailors, hired hands and semi-skilled tradesmen. These were colonists of the lower class could not vote nor hold public office. few owned property and most were illiterate. The lower classes were bolstered by Indentured Servants and some slaves. The Middle class citizens of Colonial Rhode Island could vote but few held public office. They ran stores or small businesses, were skilled tradesmen or belonged to professions. The Upper class consisted of wealthy and well educated minor aristocrats who could vote and held high public office. The economy of Colonial Rhode Island was based on manufacture and industries such as ship building and the manufacture and export of rum. The way of life focussed on town life. The way of life focussed on town life. The names of the major towns in Colonial Rhode Island were Providence, Portsmouth and Newport. In towns along the coast, the colonists made their living fishing, whaling, shipbuilding and shipping. The economy of other parts of Colonial Rhode Island was based on timber products, the fur trade, maple syrup, copper, livestock products, horses, rum, whiskey and beer.
Facts about the Rhode Island Colony
New England Ship Yard