Gail Heriot gives Rhode Island history some national attention today:
On this day in 1776, Rhode Island (officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) renounced its allegiance to George III—a full two months before the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. For such a little squirt, Rhode Island was fiercely independent. It refused to send a delegation to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and for a long time refused to ratify the Constitution the Convention produced. Finally, after the Constitution was up and running, President Washington was inaugurated, and the 1st Congress was assembled, Rhode Island was reminded that if it isn’t part of the United States and America, then it’s a foreign country. If it’s a foreign country, then tariffs can (and likely will) be imposed. Meanwhile, Congress passed the Bill of Rights, which reduced some of the concerns of Rhode Island citizens. Rhode Island decided to be “in.”
As a naturalized Rhode Islander (so to speak), I find myself wondering… what happened to our state? How did that independent spirit become a willingness to follow and to give other centralized power of us?
Or maybe there’s more consistency than that read would suggest. What if underlying that old cantankerousness was really just an attempt of the insiders of the day to make sure that folks in other states couldn’t meddle with their “I got mine” arrangements.