The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861

By George M. Dennison | Go to book overview

4.
SUPPRESSION

The first instance of military sovereignty asserted in the Union.

Hundreds of sympathizers watched on 16 May 1842 as Dorr raised the sword presented to him by his New York admirers. They heard their choice as governor pledge to stain the weapon with the blood of usurpers if the People's Government was attacked. Governor Dorr proclaimed his obligation to put the new government in possession of the sovereignty delegated by the "People" in January. He called the citizens of Rhode Island to rally to the standard of right, justice, and popular soveeignty. "It has become my duty to say," he warned, that if federal troops "shall be set in motion by whatever direction ... against the People of this State, in aid of the Charter Government, I shall call for aid ... from the city of New York and ... other places." Assistance "will be immediately and most cheerfully tendered to ... the People" of Rhode Island. "The contest will then become national and our State the battleground of American freedom."1 At the risk of civil war Dorr invoked the right and power of the American people to control their governments.

On 17 May he ordered militia companies from Woonsocket, Gloucester, and Pawtucket to march to Providence prepared for battle. As his forces assembled, he laid plans to capture the state arsenal in Providence and distribute the weapons among loyal Suffragists.2 He expected that this would precipitate war, but he felt that any conflict would be short. The charter government dared not try to suppress the people, even with the help

-84-

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The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Prologue - THE BARRICADES 1
  • Part I - THE TRIAL 9
  • 2 - REFORM 32
  • 3 - PEACEABLE REVOLUTION 60
  • 4 - SUPPRESSION 84
  • Part II- THE TESTING 112
  • 6 - THE CONGRESS 126
  • 7 - THE JUDICIARY 141
  • 8 - THE SUPREME COURT 169
  • Epilogue - THE "PRECEDENT OF 1842" 193
  • Notes 207
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY 235
  • Index 245
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