Thomas Wilson DORR   |   Samuel Ward KING

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Item#: 84584 price:$850.00



KING, Samuel Ward. A Proclamation. Whereas I have this day received from his Excellency John Tyler, President of the United States, a communication touching the political affairs of this State. [Providence: Providence Journal?], 1842. Tabloid sheet of wove stock (13 by 20 inches). $850.

Original broadside containing President Tyler’s assurance that the United States would continue to recognize “the existing Government of the State” as the lawful government, despite the claims of Thomas Dorr and his “People’s Constitution.”

Following the Revolution, most states rewrote their constitutions to allow for wider voting constituencies, but Rhode Island continued to function under its outdated colonial charter of 1663, which contained untenable land-owner requirements. In 1833, self-educated carpenter Seth Luther denounced the monopoly of political power by "the mushroom lordlings, sprigs of nobility… small potato aristocrats" of Rhode Island. Why, he asked, should 12,000 working people in Rhode Island without the vote submit to five thousand who had land and could vote? Frustrated by the situation, political reformer Thomas Wilson Dorr attempted to bypass legal process by convening a "People's Convention," charged with writing a radically egalitarian constitution. The resulting "People's Constitution" called for the extension of suffrage to "every white male citizen," including naturalized immigrants— and even considered the possibility that "the word 'white… shall be stricken out." In defiance of existing state authorities, the People's Constitution was approved by referendum in December 1841. At the same time, the state's General Assembly formed a rival Convention and drafted the Freemen's Constitution, which made strategic concessions to democratic demands. Early in 1842, both groups organized elections of their own, leading in April to the elections of both Thomas Dorr and Samuel Ward King as Governor of Rhode Island. The state was therefore confronted with two separate governments and constitutions, each vying for legality and legitimacy. In mid-April King published this scarce broadside containing President Tyler's letter of April 11, 1842, in which the president assures that the United States would continue to recognize "the existing Government of the State" as the lawful government, "until I shall be advised in regular manner, that it has been altered and abolished, and another substituted in its place, by legal and peaceable proceedings." After an attempt by the Dorrites to seize the state arsenal was put down, Dorr fled the state, only to be imprisoned upon his return and prosecuted for treason. "His work, however, bore fruit, for the old oligarchy had yielded at last" (DAB): a new constitution for Rhode Island, adopted in 1843, replaced the antiquated 1663 charter and addressed many of the concerns regarding suffrage and apportionment that had fueled the Dorr Rebellion.

Professionally cleaned with a few marginal paper repairs.

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