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Providence Plantations, Rhode Island and


PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS, RHODE ISLAND AND. The Providence Plantations were the first white settlements in Rhode Island. The clergyman Roger Williams, banished by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay for propagating "new and dangerous opinions," founded the Providence Plantations in June 1636. Williams bought a large tract of land from the Narragansett Indians, and in 1638 joined with twelve other settlers in forming a land company. Their covenant provided for majority rule and allowed religious liberty. Other religious dissidents fleeing the Bay Colony's orthodox Congregationalism founded towns at Narragansett, Newport, Pawtuxet, Pocasset, and Warwick by 1643. To protect local land titles, Williams petitioned Parliament to recognize Providence, Newport, and Portsmouth as a charter colony, and the charter was issued on 24 March 1644 as the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in the Narragansett Bay in New England (adding Warwick in 1647). After the Restoration, Williams received a royal charter from Charles II in 1663 confirming the parliamentary charter.

The charter of 1663 declared religious liberty and became in the seventeenth century a haven for adherents of despised and persecuted religions, especially Antinomians, Baptists, Quakers, French Huguenots, and Jews, the latter gathering in a small community in Newport. The aim of Providence Plantations was to sever church-state connections to protect the church from the state's corrupting influence. Initially developed as individual farmsteads dispersed across the countryside, over time residents gathered into tight nuclear towns. Of all the colonies, Rhode Island experienced the greatest increase in land use during the first half of the eighteenth century, up from 9 percent in 1700 to 50 percent in 1750. The term "Providence Plantations" still remains part of the official title of the state of Rhode Island.


Bridenbaugh, Carl. Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience: Society in Rhode Island, 1636–1690. Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1974.

James, Sydney V. The Colonial Metamorphoses in Rhode Island: A Study of Institutions in Change. Edited by Sheila L. Skemp and Bruce C. Daniels. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2000.

McLoughlin, William G. Rhode Island: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1978.

Michelle M.Mormul

Jarvis M.Morse

See alsoRhode Island .

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