Saturday, August 4, 2012

AFE Chaper 4: The Warwick Revolution

On September 29, 1788, a large group of Rhode Islanders protested outside of the militia barracks in Warwick. After the amendment, new central government militias had replaced state funded ones across the United States. Some protesters demanded they leave, and the militia refused to do so. Some people were yelling that liberty has died, and that they were being "occupied" by the central government. Then finally, a man at the front said that they would be forced off of their state's land if they did not do so willingly. The militiamen yet again replied with a no. The man ripped a lamp of the side of the barracks and shoved it into the building, lighting it on fire. People were intitilally shocked, but they soon gave a cheer when some men went running. Some militiamen attempted to arrest some protesters, but their attempts were futile. Brawls broke out, and one person even fired on the militia. There would be a number of shots in return, but they did not hurt anybody. 

Within about 90 seconds, there were 10 militiamen and 5 protesters unconscious from the brawls. People were screaming and running as other buildings started to catch the flames. Becuase of the chaos, not enough people were collected enough to get a force to put out the fires. It would take a fire fighting force from Cranston, a city very close to Providence, to stop the flames. Nobody died, but 3 militiamen sustained severe concussions and were deemed no longer fit for service. Messesngers arrived in Providence to take the local militia down to Warwick. When the militia arrived around an hour later, it took around 60 citizens prisoner. Many arrested did participate in the riots and injured militiamen, but some arrested had nothing to do with the riots and were thrown into prison with little evidence. 

That night, hardly anybody in the town slept. People were on the streets without a home, drunks were looting the local shops, and men with families who were able to find the peace to sleep slept with a musket close by. Governor came out by demanding the confederal government release the accused from a confedral prison in  Massachsetts and hand them over to a state prison. The federal government refused to do so, citing concerns that they would spread general anarchy throughout the area. This is the moment when Governor uttered those infamous words: "They have made an unreasonable grab for power. We shall counter." The Governor, in an emergency session of state congress, told them of the horrific situation in Warwick. He issued a proclamation to them that was unanimously agreed to and signed by every member: a declaration of independence. 

This shocked the United States that Rhode Island really wanted to break away. Congress knew that it needed to vote on whether or not to recognize Rhode Island as independent as soon as possible, so they held an emergency session in a Virginian courtroom. Many said that they had no place to break away. Arthur St.Clair, the President of Congress assembled at this time, referenced the idiom "one bad apple ruins the entire basket." He felt that the whole country would be more strongly united if Rhode Island, the epicenter of the firestorm of controversy, were no longer a part of it. The mood was rather somber as about 80% of members agreed to let Rhode Island leave the confederacy. The only members who voted against letting them go were 2 from Connecticut and 1 from Massachusetts, citing concerns about what they considered to be a rather radical state turning independent and threatening their borders. The Republic of Rhode Island was just born. Many hoped that the people of the United States could move on as a stronger country after the breakup, but it was not to be.

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