! Happy Independence Day Rhode Island!
Two full months before the Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared independence from Great Britain, the General Assembly of Rhode Island passed and printed an act renouncing our allegiance to the King of England.
“An Act Repealing an Act Intituled [sic], ‘An Act for the More Effectual Securing to His Majesty the Allegiance of His Subjects in this His Colony and Dominion of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations;’ and Altering the Form of Commissions, of All Writs and Processes in the Courts, and of the Oaths Prescribed by Law.”
(Providence: John Carter, 1776)
Printed in Providence by John Carter, the town’s 3rd printer who operated from1767-1814, the Rhode Island Historical Society holds one of the two known copies of this broadside (the other is at Princeton University). But to make ours unique, a contemporary, un-named hand wrote the word “State” over each occurrence of “Colony” in the “General Officers” and “Town Officers” paragraphs of the newly revised oaths. The original manuscript of the act is held by the Rhode Island State Archives.
On July 18th the Rhode Island General Assembly officially voted to abandon the word “colony”, but this early scribe show us the zealous excitement of the day, and heralds the political winds of change that would blow down the Bay and set the rest of the British Colonies in North America on fire.
This year our copy of the Act of Renunciation will be on full display for public viewing at the John Brown House Museum on May 5 in conjunction with the display of a rare “Dunlap Broadside” of the Declaration of Independence printed on the night of July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia by John Dunlap. Of the estimated 200 copies printed, there are 24 known copies of the Dunlap imprint still in existence. These were also distributed to each colony in order to be reprinted by the local printers. The RIHS holds two distinct imprints of the R.I. version — both printed at Newport by Solomon Southwick.
Also on display will be some fascinating relics from the Battle of Rhode Island, the medical case of the Burning of the Gaspee participant who bandaged the British captains’ leg and the warrant for any information leading to the capture of any of the Gaspee participants–One hundred pounds which in good Rhode Island tradition was never claimed.
-P. Bean, RIHS Printed Collection Librarian