A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Happy Rhody Independence Day!

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.

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 atPrincetonUniversity). 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.

“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.”  [G1157 Broadsides 1776 No.6; Alden 661]

On July 18th the Rhode Island General Assembly officially voted to abandon the word “colony”, but this early scribe demonstrates 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 inNorth Americaon fire.

Last year our copy of the Act of Renunciation was  on full display for public viewing at the John Brown House Museum in conjunction with a lauded display of a rare “Dunlap copy” of the Declaration of Independence  printed on the eve of July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia by John Dunlap. There are 25 known copies of the Dunlap imprint still in existence. These were distributed to each colony in order to be reprinted by the local printers. The RIHS hold two distinct imprints of the R.I. version — both printed at Newport by Solomon Southwick.

This year, we will open an exhibition on Thursday, June 28 at the John Brown House  Museum that will feature relics and artifacts from the Revolutionary War including a replica of 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, Printed Collection Librarian


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