Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union

By Frank Greene Bates | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE PAPER MONEY ERA

GREAT popular upheavals in any community do not arise upon the impulse of the moment, nor are they the result of an inherent tendency to anarchy. Behind every such expression of the popular will, examination will reveal a train of events and antecedent conditions silently at work, culminating in a sudden and violent outbreak. Such was the case on the occasion of the political revolution which took place in Rhode Island in 1786. It has been seen how a steadily increasing sentiment among the mercantile interests had by successive grants, bestowed on Congress the additional powers sought by that body. This was done in opposition to a large class in the rural towns, who were to lead in the approaching convulsion. It needed only the aggravation of the economic conditions which had for a decade prevailed in America, to precipitate a crisis.

The antecedent conditions in America, so far as they concern Rhode Island, must be reviewed. The exertions of the infant nation were enormous. The country emerged from the war with industries paralyzed and a debt with which she was incompetent to grapple. Rhode Island had early felt the rigors of war, for during the first week of December, 1776, a British fleet had appeared off Newport, and proceeded to garrison the town with eight thousand troops. From these unwelcome visitors she was not free until October, 1779. The approach of the British caused a general emigration of the inhabitants, not only of Newport, but of many of the

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