Rhode Island Politics and Government

By Maureen Moakley; Elmer Cornwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Constitution

And whereas, in their humble address (the people of Rhode Island) have freely declared, that it is much on their hearts … to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained, and that among our English subjects, with a full liberty in religious concernments; and that true piety rightly grounded … will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty.

Royal Charter granted by King Charles II, 1663

Thus, Rhode Island's [constitutional] history is that of a quintessential system of parliamentary supremacy.

Rhode Island Supreme Court, 1999

The variety of constitutional traditions among the fifty states is considerable. This is true not only of the content and matters dealt with, but also in terms of the number of successive constitutional documents and major revisions written and ratified by the states. In some the production of successive constitutions and revisions almost has been a local cottage industry. Having four or more constitutions has not been unusual in some instances. 1 In tabulated lists Rhode Island is in a small group that displays relative stability. The state's first frame of government was the Royal Charter of 1663, which the colony retained as its constitution until the state adopted its first homegrown document in 1843. 2 The latter, with very substantial modifications (including fifty-nine amendments) has remained in place ever since.


THE ROYAL CHARTER OF 1663

The charter granted by King Charles II in 1663 is actually a quite remarkable document. It was extraordinarily liberal for its day. It is most often noted

-50-

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Rhode Island Politics and Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Series Preface xi
  • Authors' Preface xiii
  • Rhode Island Politics and Government *
  • Chapter One - Rhode Island in Transition 1
  • Chapter Two - Political Culture in the Ocean State 19
  • Chapter Three - Rhode Island and the Federal System 36
  • Chapter Four - The Constitution 50
  • Chapter Five - The General Assembly 65
  • Chapter Six - The Executive and the Administration 84
  • Chapter Seven - The Courts 108
  • Chapter Eight - Political Parties 125
  • Chapter Nine - Interest and Group Representation 144
  • Chapter Ten - Budget Politics and Policy 163
  • Chapter Eleven - The Politics of Education 178
  • Chapter Twelve - Local Government 196
  • Epilogue 213
  • General Resources 219
  • Notes 225
  • Index 241
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