Rhode Island DescriptionThe original inhabitants of the Rhode Island area (the Narragansett, Niantic and Wampanoag Indians) would perish from diseases brought to this land by European explorers in the 17th century, and from the brutalities of colonial expansion across their ancestral homelands.
In that regard, the Dutch explorer, Adriaen Block, visited an island (now called Block Island) in 1614, and by 1625, the Dutch West India Company had established a trading post on an island in Narragansett Bay, and was actively trading with the Indians.
In 1635, William Blaxton (or Blackstone) from Boston became the first permanent European settler here. In 1636, Roger Williams, banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views, settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay. He called the site Providence and declared it a place of religious freedom.
Anne Hutchinson (a religious dissident) was also exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. She and other religious exiles subsequently brought additional settlers into this harsh new land.
For decades the colonists struggled onward, and in 1663, King Charles II issued a long-desired charter for all of Rhode Island and Providence. United as one, a certain-degree of self-government was reached, and religious freedoms continued on.
In the 1700's, farming and sea trading were profitable businesses in Rhode Island. From Newport and Providence large shipping fleets traded rum distilled from molasses for African slaves. They then traded their cargo in the West Indies for additional molasses and sugar, thus perpetuating the slave trade.
However, in 1774, Rhode Island political leader, Stephen Hopkins, introduced a bill that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony, and it became the first anti-slavery laws passed in the colonies.
The British saw an opportunity to tax the new-found wealth of their America's colonies, and Rhode Island was no exception. Eventually the tariffs and restrictive rules levied by England reached a boiling point, and Rhode Island was the first to declare its independence.
America's Revolutionary War was fought on many fronts, and the Battle of Rhode Island - an effort to expel the British ships from Narragansett Bay - though mostly unsuccessful for the colonial army, was, according to some historical writers, the motivation for the eventual abandonment of Newport by the British.
At war's end, and as the 13th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Rhode Island moved quickly into the future. Samuel Slater, the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution" built the country's first textile mill in Pawtucket, and during the 19th century the state became a vital manufacturing powerhouse.
As the plight of black slaves in the southern states grew into a controversial issue, that moral dispute between the northern and southern states peaked, and in 1861, America's Civil War began.
Rhode Island joined the Union cause and over 25,000 of its men joined the battle. In addition, Rhode Island, as well as other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army.
That bloody Civil War finally ended in 1865, and in the years that followed Rhode Island's economy was the country's manufacturing hub for files, machine tools, jewelry and precious-metal industries, rubber goods, steam engines, and much, much more.
During World War I (1917-1918) the state continued to prosper right up to the Great Depression of the 1930's, and in the end, it was World War II that sparked the state's 20th century economic engine.
Rhode island is the smallest U.S. State (in land size), but played a gigantic role in the building of a America, especially in its colonial history and industrial revolution.
Closely associated with the sea, it's a favorite summer vacation spots for boaters, fisherman and history buffs. In fact, there's so much history here that Rhode Island has one of the nation's largest concentrations of historic landmarks.
Rhode Island, the Ocean State is also renowned for Newport's magnificent mansions, and as an international yachting venue.
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