Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Colony of England (1636–1707)
Colony of Great Britain (1707–1776)
CapitalProvidence, Newport
GovernmentCrown Colony
 • Established1636
 • Foundation1637
 • Chartered as an English colony1644
 • Coddington Commission1651–1653
 • Royal Charter1663
 • Part of the Dominion of New England1686–1688
 • Resumption of Royal Charter1688
 • Disestablished1776
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Narragansett Indians
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Today part of United States

The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of North America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It was a colony of the Kingdom of England from 1636 to 1707, when the Acts of Union were passed, and then a colony of the unified Kingdom of Great Britain until 1776. After the American Revolution, it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as just Rhode Island).

Early America

Dutch map of America

The land that became the English colony was first home to the Narragansett Indians, which led to the name of the modern town of Narragansett, Rhode Island. European settlement began around 1622 with a trading post at Sowams, now the town of Warren, Rhode Island.

The statue of Roger Williams at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island

Roger Williams was a Puritan theologian and linguist who founded Providence Plantations in 1636 on land given to him by Narragansett sachem Canonicus. He was exiled under religious persecution from the Massachusetts Bay Colony; he and his fellow settlers agreed on an egalitarian constitution providing for majority rule "in civil things," with liberty of conscience on spiritual matters. He named the settlement Providence Plantation, believing that God had brought them there. (The term "plantation" was used in the 17th century as a synonym for "settlement" or "colony.")[1] Williams named the islands in the Narragansett Bay after Christian virtues: Patience, Prudence, and Hope Islands.[2]

In 1637, another group of Massachusetts dissenters purchased land from the Indians on Aquidneck Island, which was called Rhode Island at the time, and they established a settlement called Pocasset. The group included William Coddington, John Clarke, and Anne and William Hutchinson, among others. That settlement, however, quickly split into two separate settlements. Samuel Gorton and others remained to establish the settlement of Portsmouth (which formerly was Pocasset) in 1638, while Coddington and Clarke established nearby Newport in 1639. Both settlements were situated on Rhode Island (Aquidneck).[3]

The second plantation settlement on the mainland was Samuel Gorton’s Shawomet Purchase from the Narragansetts in 1642. As soon as Gorton settled at Shawomet, however, the Massachusetts Bay authorities laid claim to his territory and acted to enforce their claim. After considerable difficulties with the Massachusetts Bay General Court, Gorton traveled to London to enlist the help of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, head of the Commission for Foreign Plantations. Gorton returned in 1648 with a letter from Rich, ordering Massachusetts to cease molesting him and his people. In gratitude, he changed the name of Shawomet Plantation to Warwick.[4]