Rhode Island


One of the United States, so called from its island of the same name, which was supposed to bear a resemblance to the isle of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean.  It is the smallest state, as regards its territory, in the Union, and lies between 4122' and 423' north latitude, and 716' and 7138' west longitude from Greenwich, and is bounded on the north and east by Massachusetts; south by the Atlantic; and west by Connecticut.  Its superficial area is 1,340 square miles.

Physical Aspect-- The surface of this state is generally level, except in the northwest part, where it is rocky and hilly.  There are many hills, however, as Mount Hope, in Bristol, Hopkins' hill in West Greenwich, and Woonsocket hill in Smithfield.  The soil on the continental part if tolerably fertile, though thin and lean, and requires much labor to be tilled.  Bt the lands near Narraganset bay, as well as those on the islands, have great fertilely, and are in a high state of cultivation.  The soil of this state is generally regarded as better adapted to grazing than tillage.

Rivers and Bays-- The principal rivers are the Pawtucket or Blackstone, Providence, Pawtuxet, Wood and Pawcatuck.  Narraganset is the only bay worthy of not, and nearly divides the state in two.

Islands-- Besides the isle from which this state takes its name, Block, Canonicut, Pridence, Patience, Hope, Dyer's and Hog Islands, are included with in its territory.

Climate-- The climate is proverbially healthy; and on the islands, where the sea breezes have the effect, not only to mitigate the heat in summer, but to moderate the winter's cold, it is more temperate than in any of the other New England states.  Newport has long been celebrated as a delightful summer residence, and is much resorted to by people from the south.

Productive Resources-- The principal products are horses, mules, neat cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, wool, hemp, flax, hay, lumber, wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes and Indian corn.  Anthracite coal is found and wrought to a small extent in this state.

Manufactures-- A greater proportion of the people of Rhode Island are employed in manufacturing than in any other state of the Union.  The state abounds in excellent water power, affording sites for manufactories, which are extensively improved.  The principal manufactures are woolen and cotton; but it has several furnaces, tanneries, paper mills, and other establishments.

Railroads and Canals-- The railroads are principally connecting links in the great line of travel from New England to the south.  The three principal roads extend from Providence to Boston, Worcester, MA and Stonington, CT, respectively, and have an aggregate length of about 150 miles.  The Blackstone canal, from Providence to Worcester, lies partly in this state.

Commerce-- The direct foreign commerce of Rhode Island (owing to the greater eligibility of the ports of neighboring states) is small, compared with its population and industry.  Its exports and imports in 1850 amounted to $474,568.  Shipping owned in the state amounts to about 28,000 tons.

Education-- Brown university, at Providence, is the only college in the state.  There is an athenaeum also at Providence, and academics and common schools are numerous.  Provision is also made for the insane and blind.

Government-- The legislative power is vested in a senate, and house of representatives; and the executive power in a governor, and lieutenant governor; all chosen annually by the people, on the first Wednesday of April.  The judicial powers are vested in a supreme court, consisting of a chief justice and three associates, who hold their offices at the discretion of the legislature; and in a court of common pleas for each county, consisting of a justice of the supreme court and two associates.  The right of suffrage is vested in all male native citizens, who have resided in the state two years, and in the town where they propose to vote, six months; who have registered seven days in the town clerk's office; have paid a tax, or done military duty, within the preceding year; and in all other male citizens (naturalized foreigners) who, in addition to the preceding qualifications, possess real estate in the town or city where offering to vote worth $134 over all encumbrances, or which rents for $7 per annum.

Population-- in 1790 was 69,110; in 1800 was 69,122; in 1810 was 77,031; in 1820 was 83,059; in 1830 was 97,133; in 1840 was 108,830 and in 1850 was 147,544.  Number of Slaves in 1720 was 952; in 1800 was 381; in 1810 was 103; in 1820 was 48; in 1830 was 17 and in 1840 was 5.

History-- The first permanent settlement by Europeans, within the present limits of Rhode Island, was made at Providence, in 1636, by Rev Roger Williams, who had been banished from the Massachusetts colony for his peculiar religious opinions.  This settlement was called the "Providence Plantation."  The next settlement was made at Portsmouth, in the northern part of Rhode Island, in 1638, which, the year following, received the name of the "Rhode Island Plantation."  In 1643, when the four colonies of Massachusetts entered into articles of confederation, under the title of the "United Colonies of New England," under the pretence that the Providence and Rhoda Island plantations had no charter, and that their territory was claimed by Plymouth, and Massachusetts, they were excluded from the confederacy.  The year following, Roger Williams obtained a free charter from the British parliament, and incorporated the two plantation under one government, which continued in force till 1663, when a new charter was granted by Charles II.  The latter is the venerable charter under which the people lived and prospered, until its constitution was amended in 1842.  The first general assembly was held at Portsmouth, in 1647, when the executive power was confided to a president and four assistants.  The constitution of the United States was not adopted in Rhode Island until 1790, after it received the assent of all the other states.