A gentle, a peaceful, a voluntary and a deliberate transition from one Constitution of govemment to another.
Indignation and fear marked the debates in the General Assembly through the winter and spring of 1842. Yet the majority realized that the massive vote in favor of the People's Constitution demanded respect for the reform sentiment within the state; to ignore it might bring on the violent revolution foreseen by Samuel Atwell. In late January the assembly accepted Atwell's amendment to the legislation calling the Freeholders' Convention. The amendment authorized all persons enfranchised by any constitution proposed by the Freeholders' Convention to vote on the question of ratification.1 The assembly hoped to prove to the people that reform was no longer in doubt and to indicate to the delegates in the Freeholders' Convention that the charter and the landed franchise must go. By accepting the will of the people, the charter government could direct the process of change and insure its legitimacy.
By early 1842 it appeared that the reformers had won the battle to move Rhode Island into the modern age. If controversy erupted now, the stakes would be very different. A reasonable man might well have concluded that the end was in sight. Surely the Suffragists would accept the substance of reform offered belatedly by the established government rather than stand on abstract principles. Having convinced the public and government of the legitimacy of their demands, the Suffragists in all likelihood would submit to the rules of organized