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The People Speak: The Right of Petition to the General Assembly, 1738-1971


Petitioning the Rhode Island General Assembly has been a right of the people for hundreds of years. This exhibit features an array of original manuscripts that provide insight into the many important social, racial and political issues voiced by the people through the centuries.

Among the documents on display are petitions dealing with slavery, women’s suffrage, divorce, the adoption of children, child labor and capital punishment, including appeals from condemned prisoner John Gordon in 1845, the last man executed for murder in Rhode Island, as well as racial injustices related to intermarriage and schooling.

See the full exhibit for yourself at the State Archives, 337 Westminster St., Providence, through July 31, 2012. We are open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free, two-hour validated parking is available at the In-Town Parking lot across Snow Street from the State Archives.

To the Honorable the General Assembly
of the State of Rhode Island
We, the undersigned, women of
Rhode Island, would respectfully represent,
That, being law abiding citizens of
said State, we are denied the elective

An Act to abolish capital punishment,
and to provide for the more effectual Punishment
of crime. -
It is enacted by the General Assembly as

Section 1. The punishment of Death is hereby

Section 2. Any person…

Photograph from the Factory Inspector Report, 1906

Contains four images from the Factory Inspector Report, 1912 showing child laborers of various ages.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the
State of Rhode-Island, in session in Provi-
dence, January, 1845

John Gordon, a convict sen-
tenced to be executed on the 14th day of Feb-
ruary next - averring, as he has ever done,
his innocence…