The Founding of Rhode Island



Seal of Rhode Island

Rhode Island was the first of the thirteen colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, on May 4, 1776. It was also the last colony of the thirteen colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790 once assurances that a Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution. Rhode Island had boycotted the Continental Congress which had drawn up the proposed constitution. In 1663 the name "Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" was adopted in the Royal Charter granted by King Charles II of England.


The Spirit of God has been pressing in Doyle's heart and also David's, the significance of the group who founded Rhode Island. In previous postings we have discussed Doyle is a descendant of Samuel Gorton, Stukely Westcott, Ezekiel Holliman, and John Warner. David Kapareit is a descendant of Samuel Gorton, Stukely Westcott, Ezekiel Holliman, John Warner, Chad Brown, John Crandall, William Wickenden and Obadiah Holmes. The official documents in the early founding of the state of Rhode Island list Doyle and David's ancestors.


The following is a copy of the deed written by Roger Williams of the original Providence settlement and lists the names of his twelve original associates:


"Providence, 8th of the 8th month, 1638,


(so called,) Memorandum, that I, Roger Williams, having formerly purchased of Caunannicus and Miantinomu, this our situation, or plantation, of New-Providence, viz. the two fresh rivers, Wanasquatuckett and Mooshausick, and the ground and meadows thereupon; in consideration of thirty pounds received from the inhabitants of said place, do freely and fully pass, grant and make over equal right and power of enjoying and disposing of the same grounds and lands unto my loving friends and neighbors, Stukely Wescott, William Arnold, Thomas James, Robert Cole, John Greene, John Throckmorton, William Harris, William Carpenter, Thomas Olney, Francis Weston, Richard Waterman, Ezekiel Holliman, and such others as the major part of us shall admit into the same fellowship of vote with us :-As also I do freely make and pass over equal right and power of enjoying and disposing of the lands and grounds reaching from the aforesaid rivers unto the great river Pautuxett, with the grass and meadows thereupon, which was so lately given and granted by the aforesaid sachems to me.


Witness my hand,


Below is an excerpt of the "Plantation Agreement at Providence" which was a document for governing the colony. The inhabitants of colony elected the four men listed to serve as arbitrators of the agreement and this document governed the colony until they received their Royal Charter from England. It was signed by the four men listed, plus thirty five others.


"Plantation Agreement at Providence

August 27, 1640

Report of Arbitrators at Providence,

containing proposals for a form of government Providence

the 27th of the 5th mo. in the yeare (so called) 1640


Wee, Robert Coles, Chad Browne, William Harris, and John Warner, being freely chosen by the consent of our louing friends and neighbours the Inhabitants of this Towne of Providence, having many differences amongst us, they being freely willing and also bound themselves to stand to our Arbitration in all differences amongst us to rest contented in our determination, being so betrusted we have seriously and carefully indeavoured to weigh and consider all those differences, being desirous to bringe vnity and peace, although our abilities are farr short in the due examination of such weighty things, yet so farre short in the due examination of such weighty things, yet so farre as we conceive in laying all things together we have gone the fairest and equallest way to produce our peace."


In 1643 Roger Williams traveled to England to obtain a charter which would authorize the towns of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport to form a colony. At this point England was in turmoil; King Charles I had fled London, and Parliament was ruling without a monarch. For this reason Williams obtained this first charter from the Parliamentary Commissioners for Plantations, the highest existing authority aside from the monarchy. The Charter of 1644 legitimized the settlers' claims to land obtained from the Indians, and protected the fledgling colony from boundary disputes with neighboring New England settlements.


Upon restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660, the existence of the colony was once more threatened, because the original charter, or patent, of 1644 was obtained by Roger Williams from the Parliament and lacked the royal seal. John Clarke, as agent of the Colony of Rhode Island, therefore petitioned King Charles II that the settlers be permitted " to hold forth a lively experiment...with a full liberty in religious concernments..."29 and be granted "a more absolute, ample and free charter of civill incorporation, whereby under the wing of your Royall protection, we may not onely be sheltered, but...may be caused to flourish in our civill and religious concernments..." Below is an excerpt of the Royal Charter of 1663:







CHARLES the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting : Whereas, we have been informed, by tile humble petition of our trusty and well-beloved subject, John Clarke, on the behalf of Benjamin Arnold, William Brenton, William Codington, Nicholas Easton, Wilham Bonlston, John Porter, John Smith, Samuel Gorton, John Weeks, Roger Williams, Thomas Olney, Gregory Dexter, John Coggeshall, Joseph Clarke, Randall Holden, John Greene, John Roome, Samuel Wildbore, William Field, James Barker, Richard Tew, Thomas Harris, and William Dyre, and the rest of the purchasers and free inhabitants of our island, called Rhode Island, and the rest of the colony of Providence Plantations, in the Narragansett Bay, in New England, in America, that they, pursuing, with peaceable and loya1 minds, their sober, serious, and religious intentions, of godly edifying themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship, as they were persuaded; together with the gaining over and conversion of the poor ignorant Indian natives, in those parts of America, to the sincere profession and obedience of the same faith and worship, did, not only by the consent and good encouragement of our royal progenitors, transport themselves out of this kingdom of England into America, but also, since their arrival there, after their first settlement ainongst otlier our subjects in those parts, for the avoiding of discord, and those many evils which were likely to ensue upon some of those our subjects not being able to bear, in these remote parts, their different apprehensions in religious concemments, and in pursuance of the aforesaid ends, did once again leave their desirable stations ami habitations, and with excessive labor and tnwel, hazard and charge did transplant themselves into the inidst of the Indian natives, who as we are informed, are the most potent princes and people of all that country where, by the good Providence of God, from whom the Plantations have taken their name, upon their labor and industry, they have not only been preserved to admiration, but have increased and prospered, and are seized and possessed, by purchase and consent of the said natives, to their full content, of such lands, islands, rivers, harbors and roads, as are very convenient, both for plantations, and also for building of ships, supply of pipe-staves, and other merchandize and which lie very commodious, in many respects, for commerce, and to accommodate our southern plantations, and may much advance the trade of this our realm, and greatly enlarge the territories thereof they having by near neighborhood to and friendly society with the great body of the Narragansett Indians, given them encouragement of their own accord, to subject themselves, their people and lands, unto us whereby, as is hoped, there may, in time, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors be laid a sure foundation of happiness to all America: And whereas, in their huinble address, they have freely declared, that it is much on their hearts (if they may be permitted) to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintaind, and that among our English subjects, with a full liberty in religious conceraments and that true piety rightly grounded upon gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyalty Now, know ye, that we, being willing to encourage the hopeful undertaking of our said loyal and loving subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjoyment of all their civil and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loving subjects and to preserve into them that liberty, in the true Christian faith and worship of God, which they have sought with so much travail, and with peaceable minds, and loyal subjection to our royal progenitors and ourselves, to enjoy; and because some of the people and inhabitants of the same colony cannot, in their private opinions, conform to the public exercise of religion, according to the liturgy, forms and ceremonies of the Church of England, or take or subscribe the oaths and articles made and established in that behalf; and for that the same, by reason of the remote distances of those places, will (as we hope) be no breach of the unity and uniformity established in this nation: Have therefore thought fit, and do hereby publish, grant, ordain and declare, That our royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested, punished, disquicted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughont the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceably and quietly, and not using this liberty to licentiousness and profaneness, nor to the civil injury or outward disturbance of others, any law, statute, or clause therein contained, or to be contained, usage or custom of this realm, to the contrary hereof, in any wise notwithstanding. And that they may be in the better capacity to defend themselves, in their just rights and liberties, against all the enemies of the Christian faith, and others, in all respects, we have further thought fit, and at the humble petition of the persons aforesaid are graciously pleased to declare, That they shall have and enjoy the benefit of our late act of indemnity and free pardon, as the rest of our subjects in other our dominions and tenitories have; and to create and make them a body politic or corporate, with the powers and privileges hereinafter mentioned..


Samuel Gorton received a separate charter for Shawomet in 1644 (which he named Warwick) and Warwick was added to the Royal Charter in 1663.



Sources: Wikipedia; Rhode Island Historical Society; Researching the Law of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, by Gail I. Wilson


Contributed by Kathryn Currier
posted May 15, 2010



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