The New England Colonies

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Why is Rhode Island a state?

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Rhode Island was initially established as a haven for those fleeing religious persecution. Over time, it developed into a thriving, prosperous colony, renowned for farming and sea fishing. This prosperity encouraged the development of a fiercely independent mindset among Rhode Islanders, so it's no surprise to learn that The Ocean State was the first place in America to witness direct action against British rule, when a group of colonists attacked and burned the British revenue vessel, Liberty, in 1769.

Rhode Island's reputation for independence was further enhanced when it became the first state to renounce allegiance to King George III. Within weeks of this momentous event, the Rhode Island General Assembly ratified the Declaration of Independence. In the ensuing Revolutionary War, no major battles took place on state soil, but Rhode Island nonetheless made a significant contribution to the American victory in terms of men and materiel.

Rhode Island's reputation for punching above its weight carried over into postwar political life when it spearheaded the resistance against the centralizing tendencies of the new Constitution, forcing supporters of Federalism to concede ground by incorporating a Bill of Rights into the document in order to assuage the concerns of the smaller states. Rhode Island was the last state to ratify the Constitution, and even then it was only agreed upon after an assurance had been given that the Bill of Rights would be incorporated.

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