Wax Imprints of the Rhode Island Colony Seals

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Wax Imprints of the Rhode Island Colony Seals


Image of the wax imprints of the Rhode Island Colony Seals, 1667 (red) and 1672 (green).

The first governments established in Rhode Island began as written agreements between the original settlers of Providence (1636), Portsmouth (1638) & Newport (1639).  While such agreements were suitable early on a more organized, centralized form of government became necessary as the colony expanded. The origins of current General Assembly date from 1643, when the first Parliamentary Charter or Patent confirming & uniting the three original towns under the title “the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in the Narragansett Bay in New England” was obtained from England.  On or about that year a fourth settlement at Warwick was established.  Convening for the first time as a single body at Portsmouth in May 1647, representatives of the several towns formulated a set rules & orders for the colony including an annual meeting of a “Courte of Election”, the establishment of the office of President of the Province and the adoption of a code of laws.  However this early iteration of a centralized colonial government functioned more like a town meeting than a cohesive legislative body as most of the power was still vested with the towns.  Soon other factors including territorial disputes by internal & external forces as well as the restoration of the Stuart dynasty in England in 1660 brought into doubt the validity of the 1643 Patent.  By 1663, a second Royal Charter was obtained from King Charles II, which firmly established the "English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England, in America."  Under the Charter the title of “General Assembly” came into being which initially was organized as a unicameral body.  The document provided for the election of Deputies and Assistants (former titles of current Representatives and Senators) who were chosen from among the Freeman of the colony with each having one vote to act as direct representatives of their towns.  The Charter also provided for a more central governmental hierarchy with the establishment of offices of Governor, Deputy Governor and ten Assistants to manage and lead the colony.  Elections were held of the first Wednesday in May and last Wednesday in October annually.  In 1696 the legislature became a bicameral body with the creation of the House of Deputies or Lower House & House of Magistrates or Upper House.  The position of Speaker of the House of Deputies was also established at that time.

See also:
C#0204 - Rhode Island Colony Records

C#0206 - Records of the Isle of Rhode Island

C#0260 - Proceedings of the General Assembly

C#0481 - Land & Public Notary Records

C#0209 - Fones Record

C#588 & C#1185 - Governor & Council

C#208 - Body of Laws of the Colony

C#0653 - Deputy & Freeman Records

C#0207 - Gyles transcription record

C#0210 - Acts & Resolutions of the General Assembly

C#203 - Private Acts of the General Assembly

C#244 & C#245 - Journals of the House & Senate

C#0165, C#1184 & C#1179  - Petitions to the General Assembly

C#0261 - Committee Reports


Rhode Island State Archives


1667, 1672


Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.





Still Image Item Type Metadata

Physical Dimensions

wax imprint


Rhode Island. General Assembly, "Wax Imprints of the Rhode Island Colony Seals ," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #712, http://sos.ri.gov/virtualarchives/items/show/712 (accessed August 22, 2019).