The Royal Charter

History of Rhode Island

  • Roger Williams, the founder of our state, came here in 1636 after he was kicked out of Massachusetts because of his religious and political views.
  • Roger Williams thought that everyone should be able to believe what they want and not be punished for it. The people in Massachusetts didn't believe that.
  • Roger Williams named the spot where he landed "Providence", after a phrase that said "God's merciful providence." The Narragansett Indians, who had already lived here, made friends with Roger Williams. He later bought the land from them, he never stole it.
  • After Roger Williams came to Rhode Island, he spread the word about how great it was. Later, other people started coming to live here. The first was Anne Hutchinson, who founded the town called Portsmouth. She brought a few friends with her too, and they started a "settlement".
  • Next came William Coddington, who founded Newport in 1639. Later, in 1643, Samuel Gorton founded Warwick.
  • After all these people came to Rhode Island, Roger Williams decided he did not want it to become a place where people would not believe in his idea of freedom of speech. So, he and his friend John Clarke went to England and asked the King for a "charter", which would give the new colony rights, freedoms, and protection from other outside colonies.
  • King Charles II gave them the "Royal Charter" which is on display at the Rhode Island State House!
  • 1664: We got our first "seal" which said, "Mottoe, Rhode Island and Providence, with the word 'HOPE' over the head of the anker." Today, our seal is a little different. Around the circle it says: "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1636." It still has an anchor with the word "hope" over the anchor!
  • 1708: Our first census, or count of people who live in one area, was taken. We had a population of 7,181 people!
  • 1755: Another census was taken, and we grew to 40,414 people!
  • 1772: Our colonists were mad at the British because they gave us tax restrictions. So, they burned two British ships that were in our harbor: The Gaspee and The Liberty.
  • 1774: Connecticut and Rhode Island ended slavery in their colonies.
  • May 4, 1776: We declared our Independence from Britain! Make sure to celebrate "Rhode Island Independence Day" every May 4!
  • May 29, 1790: We were the last of the 13 original colonies of America to sign the US Constitution. We thought our Royal Charter gave us more rights and freedoms, so we waited until the Bill of Rights was added.
  • 1843: We got a state constitution
  • 1877: Our State Flag was adopted
  • 1910: We had a population over 540,000!