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Honoring The States: The 13th State - Rhode Island...

Updated: Apr 28

The 13th state to ratify the Constitution is Rhode Island on May 29th, 1790. As the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island is the last of the original 13 colonies to become a state, but it was the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain. Known as "The Ocean State", Rhode Island has 400 miles of coastline with large bays and inlets. Narragansett Bay is Rhode Island's most important natural resource because of the fertile soil, healthy fish, and location by the Atlantic. The capital and the largest city of Rhode Island is Providence. The state bird is the Island Red. The state flower is the Common Blue Violet. The state tree is the Red Maple. Rhode Island's state motto is "Hope". The US needed all 13 states to set the Confederation into gear, and Rhode Island and North Carolina refused to comply due to the fear of a centralized power. Finally on May 29th, 1970, Rhode Island followed North Carolina to be the last state to ratify after they were threatened with export taxes as a foreign nation.

Rhode Island has an indigenous past like the other states. The predominant tribes who lived on Rhode Island in the 1500's were the Pequots, Narragansetts, Nipmucs, Niantics, and Wampanoags. Out of these tribes, the Pequots worked against the settlers the most, killing British merchants, explorers, and colonists coming over and invading. This angered the settlers and caused them to start the great Pequot War of 1637 where 130 European settlers and 70 indigenous allies struck at the early dawn hours and killed most of the tribe. Those who survived were taken as hostages. Even though a friendship treaty was signed in 1637, it would only last a few decades before the King Philip's War that decimated the rest of the indigenous tribes, killing, capturing, selling, or wounding them, and creating the pathway for more English settlements occurred. In 1636, Roger Williams settled on the land he was given by the Narragansett tribe. He was banished from Massachusetts for his religion, and called his new home a place of religious freedom and gave it the name, "Providence Plantations".

Two months before the US Declaration of Independence, Rhode Island was the first colony in America to declare independence on May 4th 1776. As one of the first actions toward war that led to the American Revolution, Rhode Islanders attacked the HMS Gaspee British warship in 1772. The British were able to control Narragansett Bay for most of the Revolutionary War. In 1778, The Battle of Rhode Island was unsuccessful at getting rid of the British. Eventually the French landed in Newport in 1780, and they repealed a law that banned Catholics from the state, allowing the first Catholic mass to take place there. At one point, Rhode Island had the highest amount of enslaved people in New England. In 1780, the Free African Union Society was founded in Newport. It wasn't until 1843 that Rhode Island finally emancipated all slaves. Today, the state is home to several colleges and universities, and attracts visitors to the stunning coastline, amazing food, inspiring art, and rich country history.

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