The original deed to Providence, signed by Chief Canonicus. He named the site Providence , "having a sense of God's merciful providence unto me in my distress. In after conferring with Williams , Anne Hutchinson , William Coddington , John Clarke , Philip Sherman , and other religious dissenters settled on Aquidneck Island then known as Rhode Island , which was purchased from the local tribes who called it Pocasset.
This settlement was called Portsmouth and was governed by the Portsmouth Compact. The southern part of the island became the separate settlement of Newport after disagreements among the founders. Samuel Gorton purchased lands at Shawomet in from the Narragansetts, precipitating a dispute with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In , Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport united for their common independence as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations , governed by an elected council and "president".
Gorton received a separate charter for his settlement in , which he named Warwick after his patron. It was one of nine Colonial colleges granted charters before the American Revolution, but was the first college in America to accept students regardless of religious affiliation.
After the Glorious Revolution of , the colony regained its independence under the Royal Charter. Slaves were introduced at this time, although there is no record of any law legalizing slave-holding. The colony later prospered under the slave trade, distilling rum to sell in Africa as part of a profitable triangular trade in slaves and sugar with the Caribbean.
Revolutionary to Civil War period: A combined Franco-American force fought to drive them off Aquidneck Island. Portsmouth was the site of the first African-American military unit, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment , to fight for the U. An expedition of 5, French troops under Count Rochambeau arrived in Newport by sea on July 10, Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-revolution era. In , the slave population of Rhode Island was 6.
Providence in the midth century Rhode Island was also heavily involved in the Industrial Revolution , which began in America in when Thomas Somers reproduced textile machine plans which he imported from England.
Moses Brown teamed up with Samuel Slater and helped to create the second cotton mill in America, a water-powered textile mill. The Industrial Revolution moved large numbers of workers into the cities, creating a permanently landless class who were therefore also voteless. Abandoned stables, Brenton Point State Park , Newport For the first several decades of statehood, Rhode Island was governed in accordance with the colonial charter.
The charter apportioned legislative seats equally among the state's towns, over-representing rural areas and under-representing the growing industrial centers. Additionally, the charter disallowed landless citizens from filing civil suits without endorsement from a landowner.
In , activists led by Thomas W. Dorr organized an extralegal convention to draft a state constitution,  arguing that the charter government violated the Guarantee Clause in Article Four, Section Four of the United States Constitution.
In , the charter government and Dorr's supporters held separate elections, and two rival governments claimed sovereignty over the state. Dorr's supporters led an armed rebellion against the charter government, and Dorr was arrested and imprisoned for treason against the state.
Rhode Island furnished 25, fighting men, of whom 1, died. In , Rhode Island abolished racial segregation in the public schools throughout the state. McLoughlin calls "Rhode Island's halcyon era. This was a time of growth in textile mills and manufacturing and brought an influx of immigrants to fill those jobs, bringing population growth and urbanization. In Newport , New York's wealthiest industrialists created a summer haven to socialize and build grand mansions.
Thousands of French-Canadian, Italian, Irish, and Portuguese immigrants arrived to fill jobs in the textile and manufacturing mills in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket. After the war, the state was hit hard by the Spanish Influenza. The Klan is believed to be responsible for burning the Watchman Industrial School in Scituate , which was a school for African-American children.
Rhode Island has comprehensive health insurance for low-income children and a large social safety net.