Rhode Island and the Federal System
Hail, realm of rogues, renowned for fraud and guile, All hail, the knaveries of yon little isle … The wiser race, the snare of law to shun, Like Lot from Sodom, from Rhode Island run.
Connecticut newspaper, 1787
Treaties were broken and that, in a modern frame … is what is happening here.
Lawyer for the Narragansett Indians, 1997
A significant feature of the landscape of Rhode Island is miles and miles of beautiful stone walls that line the roads and mark property lines throughout the state. Most of these walls were built by hand from stones dug from the relatively flat, rocky, and unfriendly land on which early Rhode Islanders settled, endured, and prospered. This small state, with limited natural resources, found itself in a hostile civil environment as well. The original colonies and then states in the region long regarded Rhode Island as a “rogue state.” To some extent that stereotype endures.
Given this legacy, there are several aspects to consider in attempting to assess Rhode Island's place in the federal system. First, we will explore the roots of the outsider legacy up to the present day. We then look at the contemporary relations of the state to the federal government and neighboring states. Finally, we consider the state's relationship with the Narragansett Indians who, given their federal status, are from but not of Rhode Island. Although early relations with the Indians were remarkably cooperative, the inevitable and tragic clash of cultures marginalized the status of the Native