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Rhode Island History

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  2. Rhode Island
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It has adopted the nickname "The Ocean State. The origin of the state's name is not agreed upon.

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Rhode Island is believed by many to come from the description of Block Island by Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, which compared it to the Greek island of Rhodes. Some sources state that it comes from the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who came to the area in , and re-named Aquidneck Island, owing to its red soil, Roodt Eyland. The second half of the name is for Providence Plantations, the first settlement on the mainland, on Narragansett Bay, named by Roger Williams.

Rhode Island is mostly flat. The state has two distinct natural regions. Narragansett Bay is a major feature of the state's topography. Within the Bay, there are over 30 islands. The largest is Aquidneck Island, shared by the municipalities of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. Rhode Island has more than miles km of coastline, with Narragansett Bay forming a deep mile wedge into the state.

The New England Upland region, a part of the Appalachian Highlands, covers the western two-thirds of the state. It is a rough, hilly, mainly forested plateau dotted with lakes. The eastern third of the state is also part of the Appalachian Highlands, but is itself a lowland region that is comprised of sandy beaches and salt marshes and forms the drainage basin for most of the state's principal rivers.

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  8. The state's forests include white pine , oak , hickory , maple , ash, birch , black walnut, and hemlock. Cedar , juniper , and poplar grow in fields and pastures, while swamp maple grows in wet areas. Since Narragansett Bay and its long coastline dominate Rhode Island, fish , shellfish , marine animals, and birds that flock to the state's many salt marshes are common. Such woodland mammals as rabbits , squirrels , foxes , raccoons , and white-tailed deer are found in the forests, while beavers , muskrats , minks , and river otters live in the ponds.

    Rhode Island is an example of a warm summer humid continental climate with hot, rainy summers and chilly winters. In March of that year, he left what is now New York Harbor and headed east until he discovered what was later called Block Island. Native Americans guided him into what is now Newport Harbor.

    Mr. Nussbaum - 13 Colonies Interactive Profile Map

    He remained for two weeks while his crew surveyed the bay and the surrounding mainland. In early May, Verrazzano departed to renew his search for a Northwest Passage. In , the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island that was eventually named for him; Block Island. Native American inhabitants included the Narragansett tribe, occupying most of the area, and the closely related Niantic tribe. Most of the Native Americans were decimated by introduced diseases such as smallpox, intertribal warfare , and the disastrous King Philip's War, but remnants of the Niantic merged into the Narragansett tribe, where they remain on a federally recognized reservation.

    In , Roger Williams , after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay. He called the site Providence. The following year, Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts for criticizing the clergy there. That same year, a formal government was established for the island, with Coddington as the first governor. In , the name of Aquidneck Island was changed to Rhode Island. John Clarke was granted a charter in for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies.

    The original charter was used as the state constitution until The relationship between the New Englanders and the Native Americans was strained, and caused some bloodshed. Roger Williams had kept the powerful Narragansetts on friendly terms with local white settlers. This peace did not last long, however, and by , even the friendly tribes that had greeted Williams and the Pilgrims became estranged from the colonists, and conflicts erupted.

    The most important and traumatic event in seventeenth-century Rhode Island was King Philip's War, which occurred during — King Philip also known as Metacomet was the chief of the Wampanoag tribe. The first attacks against the English were around Narrangansett Bay, but they soon spread throughout New England. The war culminated in the Great Swamp Fight, during which the colonial militia destroyed the Narragansett village in the Great Swamp in southern Rhode Island. Metacomet himself was eventually captured and slain, and members of his tribe were sold as slaves. Rhode Island's tradition of independence and dissent gave it a prominent role in the American Revolution.

    In , the first bloodshed of the Revolution took place in Rhode Island when a band of Providence residents attacked a grounded British ship for enforcing unpopular British trade regulations; an incident which became known as the Gaspee Affair.

    Rhode Island

    During the Revolution, the British occupied Newport. A combined Franco-American force fought to drive them off Aquidneck Island. The Industrial Revolution began in America in , when Moses Brown invested in a water-powered textile mill designed and run by Samuel Slater. During the eighteenth century, Rhode Island had developed into a center of trade and shipping.

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    8. Consequently, its merchants became heavily involved in the slave trade. Slavery was extant in the state as early as , and by , the slave population of Rhode Island was 6. In the late eighteenth century, Rhode Island merchants began actively engaging in what is known as the triangle trade. Molasses from the West Indies was brought to Newport and other ports and made into rum, which was then shipped to Africa and traded for slaves, who were transported to the West Indies. In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves.

      During the Civil War , Rhode Island was the first Union state to send troops in response to President Abraham Lincoln 's request for help from the states. On the home front, Rhode Island, along with the other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war. Rhode Island's continued growth and modernization led to the creation of an urban mass transit system and improved health and sanitation programs.

      In , Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state. Post-war immigration increased the population. Toward the end of the century, however, most immigrants were from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region. In the s and s, rural Rhode Island saw a surge in Ku Klux Klan membership, largely in reaction to the large waves of immigrants moving to the state.

      Colonies in Rhode Island

      In the twentieth century, the state continued to grow, though the decline in industry devastated many urban areas. These areas were impacted further, as with the rest of the country's urban areas, by construction of Interstate highways through city cores and suburbanization. While known for old school politics and corruption, Rhode Island, at the beginning of the twenty-first century also had comprehensive health insurance for low-income children, and a large social safety net. Despite this, many urban areas continued to have a high rate of children in poverty.

      Due to an influx of residents from Boston , increased housing costs resulted in more homeless in Rhode Island. The capital and largest city of Rhode Island is Providence. To settle disputes over land titles and to dispose of town lands, Providence established in a court of arbitration consisting of five disposers, who served as a sort of executive board for the town.

      In all outward relations she remained isolated from her neighbors, pursuing a course of strictly local independence. But it was only a was halfhearted effort—each town reserved complete control over its own affairs.


      A Parliamentary Charter Rhode Island was harassed for years by claims upon its territory by Massachusetts and Connecticut. Plymouth Colony, seeking a better harbor than that of Plymouth Bay, claimed the eastern mainland and the Hog, Conanicut, and Aquidneck Islands. Connecticut Colony wanted to push her eastern boundary beyond the Pawcatuck River. If each of these colonies made good its claim, there would be little left of the Rhode Island Colony.

      But the Rhode Islanders were plucky, and they successfully defended their rights. In spite of external encroachments and internal dissensions, the colony grew in strength and importance, and its trade extended in every direction. Roger Williams secured a patent from the English Parliament in March , which united the four towns into a single colony and confirmed their land claims. It gave the people the power to govern themselves, but was simply a charter of incorporation—still no land grant.

      A general meeting was held at Portsmouth consisting of the freemen from Warwick, Portsmouth, and Newport, and Providence. They refused to have a governor, created only a presiding officer with four assistants, constituted a court of trials for the hearing of important criminal and civil causes. No general court was created by law, but a legislative body soon came into existence consisting of six deputies from each town.

      Before the Portsmouth meeting adjourned, it adopted a code of laws in which witchcraft trials and imprisonment for debt were forbidden, capital punishment was largely abolished, and divorce was granted for adultery only. In , the assembly passed a noteworthy law against the holding of Negroes in slavery.

      These laws served adequately until the end of the English Civil War. Our poor colony is in civil dissension.