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Kaminski, John P.; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Reid, Jonathan M.; Flamingo, Margaret R.; Lannér-Cusin, Johanna E.; Fields, David P.; Conley, Patrick T.; Moore, Timothy D. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Rhode Island (3)
(2013)

VI. The debate over the Constitution in Rhode Island, 20 January-29 May 1790,   pp. 711-897


Page 714

VI. DEBATE OVER CONSTITUTION
Island newspapers also printed addresses to state voters by Daniel Owen,
Arthur Fenner, and David Howell in the weeks before the 21 April state
elections.
The Legislature and Town Meetings
The Rhode Island legislature met only once during this four-month
period. The Newport Herald, 13 May, printed a brief report of the pro-
ceedings of this session, which indicated that the General Assembly
largely ignored the Constitution. Two letters from William Ellery (11,
13 May) described the legislative proceedings relating to the Consti-
tution in more detail.
On 21 April the towns met to elect state officers, assistants, and dep-
uties and to consider the bill of rights and amendments sent to the
towns by the state Convention on 6 March. Records of action on the
bill of rights and amendments have been found for twelve towns. Three
documents relating to the Providence town meeting of 24 May, which
drafted instructions for the town's delegates to the state Convention,
are also printed below.
Rhode Island and the Union
Numerous private letters and newspaper items commented on Rhode
Island's relationship to the United States. Federalists painted a grim
future for their state if it continued to remain outside the Union and
asked for help from the federal government to convince the Antifed-
eralist majority to ratify the Constitution. Federalists in the seaport towns
even contemplated seceding from their state and joining the Union.
Congress had granted Rhode Island an exemption from foreign import
and tonnage duties until 15 January but in early February it extended
the exemption until 1 April to give the Rhode Island Convention an
opportunity to ratify the Constitution. However, within four weeks be-
fore the second session of the Rhode Island Convention was scheduled
to meet on 24 May, Congress began to consider legislation to punish
Rhode Island if it did not ratify the Constitution.
Newport Mercury, 20 January 17901
A Correspondent is happy to learn, that there was a Majority in the
General Assembly, at their last Session holden at Providence, for calling
a Convention.
This pleasing Circumstance opens the Way for this State's adopting
the FEDERAL CONSTITUTION; a Constitution which is fully adequate to rem-
edy the Evils under which we labour and the Adoption of which will procure to
us every national Blessing.
714


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