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British monarchy and Rhode Island


Roger William
Roger William

In 1660 the British monarchy was restored after a long civil war, and Charles II took the throne. With a new regime in power, Rhode Islanders were eager to have their independence reaffirmed and petitioned the king for a royal charter. Issued in 1663 through Clarke, the colony’s agent in England, the charter incorporated the mainland and island of Rhode Island as Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. A liberal document, the charter permitted the colonists a large measure of self-government; the governor and many other officials were to be elected by the colonists, not appointed by the king. The charter also guaranteed “full liberty in religious concernments” in the colony, continuing the policy of religious liberty that had prevailed from the outset in the Rhode Island settlements. Throughout the colonial period, members of religious sects, such as Jews and Quakers, who were persecuted in other colonies enjoyed complete freedom of worship in Rhode Island.

The charter of 1663 remained in effect almost continuously until 1843. It was suspended only from 1686 to 1689, when Rhode Island was absorbed into the short-lived Dominion of New England, a colony that incorporated most of New England under the control of royal governor Edmund Andros.

Rhode Islanders’ peaceful relationship with the Native American inhabitants was shattered in 1675, when land disputes between the Wampanoag and the Massachusetts colonies led to King Philip’s War. The uprising was led by the Wampanoag chief Metacomet, known as King Philip, and joined by members of some other tribes.

The colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut retaliated against not only those involved but also the neutral Narragansett, whose lands they wanted to take over. When the Narragansett gave refuge to some fleeing Wampanoag, colonists launched a surprise attack on the tribe’s stronghold in the Great Swamp, near West Kingston, Rhode Island. The fortified village was burned, and about 600 Narragansett were killed, including many women and children. The remaining Narragansett then joined Philip’s forces, devastating Rhode Island’s mainland settlements and other New England towns. While the Rhode Island colony did not officially join the war against the natives, it allowed the other colonies free rein in the territory. When the war ended in 1676 with Philip’s defeat and death, many Narragansett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc were executed or sold into slavery, and their lands were taken over by the colonies.

Surviving Narragansett merged with the Niantic, who had remained neutral. The war ruined the native tribes of southern New England and ended resistance to further settlements in the area. "Rhode Island" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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