Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution, 1760- 1776

By David S. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
OTHER MOTIVES THAN LOVE OF GOD AND COUNTRY

I

ON NOVEMBER 4, 1764, in Providence, Governor Stephen Hopkins called the members of the upper and lower houses of the General Assembly into joint session in order to speak to them. Such an occurrence was not frequent, and Hopkins apologized for imposing upon the members in this way. The dangers which threatened the people's liberty, he said, obliged him to lay before them some "alarming circumstances" with the hope that the Assembly would do all in its power to "avert the impending mischiefs." Hopkins laid before the members a reminder of the burdens of the Sugar Act, passed by Parliament earlier that year, which, he said, were already severely felt. He reported also that a new threat, a stamp tax, then pending before Parliament, would be a still heavier burden. Neither of these "alarming circumstances" were the members hearing for the first time. Both had been topics of earnest conversation among Rhode Islanders for several months; what they had not heard discussed among their friends they doubtless had read in the newspapers.

To this Hopkins added a piece of information that apparently he had lately received. A number of men in the colony, he reported, had petitioned the King to revoke the colony's charter and introduce an entirely new form of government. Upon hearing this there was a great stirring among the members of the Assembly. They directed the Governor to write immediately to the colony's agent in London instructing him to "use his utmost endeavors to prevent the evil intended." Moreover, the Assembly requested the agent to secure, if possible, a copy of the petition with the names of the subscribers.1

It is understandable that ominous news about the Sugar Act and stamp duties would provoke the Assembly to action--the legislature dispatched an address to the King complaining about them during

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