COLONIAL RHODE ISLAND: A History by Sydney V. James


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Freedom of worship began in America not as philosophic principle but as pragmatic reality--for the exiled Quakers, Antinomians, Gortonists, Baptists and Calvinists who first settled Rhode Island were the most religiously contentious folk since the scholars who argued about how many angels could fit on the head of a pin. In later years, when increasing prosperity hit the Newport merchants and the Providence farmers, an assortment of Anglicans and Congregationalists moved in. The disputes turned to such ungodly matters as the state's boundaries with Connecticut and Massachusetts, securing of the charter, taxes (always a source of controversy in the New World), and the Ward-Hopkins political wars. These were rancorous and included ballot stuffing, bribery, patronage jobs and violence--the stuff of political history in the small state which was the last (and most reluctant) of the original thirteen colonies to join the Union. A competent if not exactly compelling history, written with perhaps more detail than the average reader might wish, but filled with the fascinating social and political debris of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners