History Bytes: Rhode Island the Trend Setter

April 30, 2019

Two hundred and forty three years ago, Rhode Island became the first colony to formally break ties with Great Britain. On May 4th, 1776 the Rhode Island General Assembly voted to repeal an act of allegiance to King George III of Great Britain. The General Assembly declared it would continue to govern itself, and all court proceedings would be performed in the name of the state not the King. Two months later Rhode Island sent delegates William Ellery and Stephen Hopkins to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia where the group ultimately severed all ties to Great Britain when they formally declared independence, thus birthing the United States of America (which actually happened on July 2 not the 4th). You can learn more about Rhode Island’s William Ellery in the NHS’ recently published book, Ardent Advocate: Selected Letters of William Ellery from the Newport Historical Society Collection.

1933 facsimile edition of the May 4, 1776 act of the Rhode Island General Assembly.