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Hyundai Rhode Island, RI. Information Page

Rhode Island, RI.

Ocean State

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as Rhode Island) is geographically the smallest state in the United States, and the state with the longest official name. Rhode (pronounced "Road") Island is part of the New England region, and was one of the thirteen original American colonies that declared independence against British rule to begin the American Revolution. The state's common name, Rhode Island, actually refers to the largest island in Narragansett Bay, also known as Aquidneck Island, on which the city of Newport is located. The origin of the name is unclear. Some historians think that Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, upon discovering Block Island, just southwest in the Atlantic Ocean, named it Rhode Island because of its similarity in shape to the Greek island of Rhodes. Later settlers, mistaking which island Verrazzano was referring to, gave the name to Aquidneck Island instead. Other historians believe that the name is derived from Roodt Eylandt, Dutch for "red island," given to the island by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block due to the red clay on the island's shore. Despite the fact that most of the state is part of the mainland, the name Rhode Island leads some out-of-staters to erroneously believe that the entire state is an island. Nicknamed "The Ocean State," every point in the state is within 30 miles of sea water.

In 1614 the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island that is now called Block Island. Native American inhabitants included the Naragansett tribe, occupying most of the state, and the closley-related Niantic tribe. Some Wampanoags lived near the Massachusetts border, and other tribes, usually associated with Connecticut, such as the Mohegan were found in the west. Near the border with both Connecticut and Massachusetts, some bands of Nipmuc Indians were found. Most of the Native Americans were decimated by introduced diseases, intertribal warfare, and the disastrous King Philip's War, but remnants of the Niantic merged into the Naragansett tribe, where they remain on a federally recognized reservation. In 1636 Roger Williams, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay near the Moshassuck River. He called the site Providence and declared it a place of religious freedom for Baptist settlers. Historically, the land is unique because it was purchased twice, once from the King of England, and once from the Native American tribes who lived on the land. This is the article of agreement Roger Williams and others made, and every person who decided to live in Providence must sign it: “We, whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves, in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good by the body in an orderly way by the major consent of the inhabitance, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others as they shall admit into the same only in civil things.” Rhode Island was a charter colony, Roger Williams received a charter to build the colony. In 1637 Anne Hutchinson was banished from Massachusetts for expressing her beliefs that people could talk to God by themselves, not necessarily through a minister. She and some others, including William Coddington and John Clarke, founded the town of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island. In 1639 Coddington left Portsmouth and founded Newport on Aquidneck Island. In that same year a formal government was established for the island. William Coddington was the first governor and Philip Sherman was the first Secretary. In 1643 Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, which is now called Warwick. In 1644 the name of Aquidneck Island was changed to Rhode Island. On May 18, 1652 Rhode Island passed the first law in North America making slavery illegal. At one point, however, child labor was used greatly. John Clarke was granted a Charter on July 8, 1663 for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which effectively united the two colonies into one. As Britain was under the control of the short-lived republic at that time, no Royal Charter was granted to Rhode Island, instead the House of Commons was the only governing body available to issue a charter. This is unique to Rhode Island and the only colony to be issued a charter without the consent of the crown. Under the terms of the charter, only landowners could vote. Before the Industrial Revolution, when most people were employed as farmers, this was considered democratic. The original charter was used as the state constitution until 1842. In 1664 the seal of the colony was adopted. It pictured an anchor and the word HOPE. The relationship between the New Englanders and the Native Americans was at first strained, but did not result in much bloodshed. The largest tribes that lived near Rhode island were the Wampanoag, Pequots, Narragansett, and Nimpuc. One native named Squanto, from the Wampanoag tribe, stayed with the pilgrims and taught them many valuable skills needed to survive in the area. He also helped greatly with the eventual peace between the colonists and the natives. Roger Williams had won the respect of his colonial neighbors for his skill in keeping the powerful Narragansett on friendly terms with local white settlers. In 1637, the Narragansett were even persuaded to form an alliance with the English in carrying out an attack that nearly extinguished the warlike Pequots. However, this peace did not last long. By 1670 even the friendly tribes who had greeted Williams and the Pilgrims became estranged from the colonists, and smell of war began to cover the New England countryside. The most important and traumatic event in 17th century Rhode Island was King Philip's War,which occurred during 1675–1676. King Philip (his British nickname, his real name was Metacomet) was the chief of the Wampanoag Indians. The settlers of Portsmouth had purchased their land from his father, Massasoit. King Philip rebelled against the English. The first attacks were around Narrangansett Bay but spread throughout New England. Rhode Island was the first of the British colonies in America to declare its independence on May 4, 1776. Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the United States Constitution (May 29, 1790) - doing so after being threatened of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation. As the Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, a permanently landless, and therefore voteless class developed. By 1829, 60% of the state's free white males were ineligible to vote. Several attempts had been made to address this problem, but none passed. In 1842 Thomas Dorr drafted a liberal constitution which was passed by popular referendum. However the conservative sitting governor, Samuel Ward King, opposed the people's wishes, leading to the Dorr Rebellion. Although this collapsed, a modified version of the constitution was passed in November, which allowed any white male to vote that owned land or could pay a $1 poll tax. Since the Great Depression, the Rhode Island Democratic Party has dominated local politics. For years, the Speaker of the House, always a Democrat, was one of the most powerful figures in government. The Democratic Party represented a wide coalition of working class immigrants, intellectuals, and the rising ethnic middle class. The Republican Party has been restricted to more rural parts of the state, and occasional so-called "good government" reform candidates, who criticize the excesses of Democratic domination. Steven Laffey of Cranston, Donald Carcieri of East Greenwich, and Vincent A. Cianci of Providence ran as Republican reform candidates. Cianci ended up being indicted on racketeering charges. Despite a perceived culture of corruption, Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support and re-elect Democrats to positions of authority, where issues involving education, health care, immigrant rights, and liberal causes are promoted.


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