Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union

By Frank Greene Bates | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V
RHODE ISLAND AND THE CONSTITUTION

THE Confederation had, in the first five years of its existence, proved its inadequacy. Even before it went into effect, the far-reaching political sense of Hamilton saw its weakness, and suggested a remedy.1 Half a decade and a succession of fortuitous events were necessary to bring public opinion to the point of action. The remoter cause of the convention of 1787 was the fact and growing conviction of the inefficiency of the Articles of Confederation. The immediate antecedents were the Alexandria and Annapolis conventions. The development of the remoter cause was, in each state, the resultant of the forces of local politics working therein.

In Rhode Island those forces received their impetus far back before the Revolution, when the rivalry of Providence and Newport had created two parties. Newport, the historic, commercial, and social metropolis of the colony, watched the rise of Providence with a jealous eye. The natural consequence of growth was a demand on the part of Providence, for recognition in politics. Consideration she won for herself when, in 1755, Stephen Hopkins was elected governor over a candidate put forward by Newport. This was the signal for the opening of hostilities between the two towns under the leadership of Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward. These northern and southern parties, the one dominant in Providence county and the adjoining towns in Kent and Bristol, the other strong in Newport and Kings counties,

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1
Letter to Duane, Sept. 30, 1780. Lodge, Works of Hamilton, i, 203.

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