Political Culture in the Ocean State
A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.
James Madison, 1778
We want to play the game the way everybody else plays it. We think we are coming of age and are ready.
Pablo Rodgriguez, President, Latino
Political Action Committee, August 1998
Atop the Rhode Island statehouse, one of the largest and most elaborate edifices in the state, is a curious statue of a lone, nameless individual. The statue, entitled “The Independent Man, ” speaks volumes about the political culture of the state and suggests why it holds a unique place in New England insofar as, since its inception, Rhode Island has developed and sustained a highly individualistic political culture. The particular patterns of early settlement, the founding ideals of church-state relations, and the course of economic development created a colony, and then a state, that differed considerably from other states in the region in terms of its values and orientations toward public life.
Political culture is generally defined as the orientations and expectations of the general public and politicians about the purpose and conduct of government. In a pathbreaking analysis of political culture in the American states, Daniel J. Elazar notes that insofar as the United States shares a