Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I've spent the past week in Providence, Rhode Island and have learned a bit about this tiny, but fiercely independent little state. The independent spirit began with it's founder Roger Williams (1599-1683), who was banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony just north of here, because of his strange religious beliefs.

One of his strange beliefs was that folks should worship as they chose. From our 21st century revisionist lense, he had along way to go, however Quakers and Sephardic Jews settled here in Rhode Island in the 1600s, thanks to Roger Williams' welcoming hand.

Another of his strange beliefs is that he respected the native people in the area, lived with them for a while and even learned their language. Most radical of all is that, instead of obtaining a charter from the King of England for the land which makes up Rhode Island, he PURCHASED it from his native neighbors.

This is simplifying the story of course, and he ended up dying in obscurity and poverty. Another person ahead of his times.

Rhode Island itself has carried on an independent spirit but also has a spotty history through a modern historian's lense. Here are a few facts:
  • The first state to declare independence from Great Britain
  • The last state to sign the ratify the constitution
  • The primary slave market in the early US, and was the largest slaveholding state in the north, but in 1774 was the first state/colony to prohibit the importation of slaves
  • Newport was one of the four largest and wealthiest cities in the early US, and again around 1900 became a summering place for the very rich (and still is, though less so)

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