Rhode Island Statehood Day in the United States Date in the current year: May 29, 2024

Rhode Island Statehood Day in the United States Although Rhode Island was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from Great Britain, it was the last to ratify the United States Constitution. This happened on May 29, 1790; the anniversary of this event is known as Rhode Island Statehood Day. It should not be confused with Rhode Island Independence Day (May 4), which commemorates the day when Rhode Island declared its independence from Britain.

The first colonial settlement in what is now Rhode Island was founded by Puritan minister and theologian Roger Williams. Williams originally settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but he was expelled by the leaders of the colony in 1635 for his “seditious views” (Williams supported the separation of church and state, religious freedom, and fair treatment of indigenous people).

In the spring of 1636, Williams and his followers came to Narragansett Bay and asked for a permission to settle in the area from the local tribe. Williams named the settlement Providence Plantations because he believed it was divine providence that had brought him there, and declared it a haven of religious freedom.

The colony soon began to attract religious dissidents and “other-minded individuals”. In 1638, a group of such dissidents that included Ann Hutchinson, John Clarke, William Coddington and Philip Sherman conferred with Williams and founded the settlement of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island, also known as Rhode Island. A year later, Coddington had a falling out with Hutchinson and founded the new settlement of Newport in the southern part of the island.

In 1644, Providence, Portsmouth and Newport formed the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Following the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in England, King Charles II approved the Rhode Island Royal Charter in 1663, providing royal recognition to the colony. Charles was a Catholic sympathizer in a protestant country, so he approved of Rhode Island’s religious freedom.

Since the very first days of its existence, Rhode Island was adamant to remain as autonomous as possible, so it is not surprising that it was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from Great Britain. It occurred on May 4, 1776, two months before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress.

In 1787, four years after the end of the American Revolutionary War, delegates from twelve states came to Pennsylvania to revise the Articles of Confederation. Rhode Island was the only state that refused to send delegates to the Philadelphia Convention.

Instead of revising the existing Articles of Confederation, the delegates created a new constitution. In 1787, the Constitution was submitted to the Congress; the Congress approved it and forwarded the Constitution to the states for ratification. Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ratified the Constitution by the end of the year, eight more states followed suit in 1788, and North Carolina joined the rest of the states in 1789.

Rhode Island, however, consistently failed to ratify the Constitution because its General Assembly was controlled by the anti-federalist Country Party. When the federal government threatened a trade embargo, the Rhode Island General Assembly finally capitulated and ratified the Constitution on May 29, 1790, and Rhode Island officially joined the United Sates as the 13th state.

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