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This is the smallest State in the union. Its resources are greater, in pro portion to its inhabitants, than any other State. The first settlement was at Providence, in 1643, by Roger Williams, and his associates, who were bánished from Massachusetts on account of their views of religious toleration, (See Gammel's Life of Roger Williams, published by Gould, Kendall f. Lincoln, Boston, 1846.) This State embraces what were once the Rhode Island and Providence plantations. In 1643, Mr. Williams went to England, and obtained a patent from the Plymouth Colony, by which the two plantations were united under one government. In 1663, upon the restoration of Charles II. to the throne, a new charter was granted, which formed the basis of government till 1842, when the present Constitution was adopted. Thus, for almost two centuries, was Rhode Island without a written Constitution—showing to the world what a self-governed people may do.
Area, 1,360 sq. m. Population, in 1840, 108,830.
CONSTITUTION Ratified by the Vote of the People, Nov. 21, 22, and 23, 1842. WE, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of Government.
ARTICLE I. Declaration of certain Constitutional Rights and Principles. In order effectually to secure the religious and political freedom established by our venerated ancestors, and to preserve the same for our posterity, we do declare that the essential and unquestionable rights and principles hereinafter mentioned, shall be established, maintained, and preserved, and shall be of paramount obligation in all legislative, judicial and executive proceedings.
SEC. 1. In the words of the Father of his Country, we declare, that "the basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government; but that the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all."
2. All free governments are instituted for the protection, safety, and happiness of the people. All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole; and the burdens of the State ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens.
3. Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerated ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil State may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments: we, therefore, declare, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place or ministry whatever, except in fulfilment of his own voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of his religious belief: and that every man shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain his opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect his civil capacity.
4. Slavery shall not be permitted in this state.
5. Every person within this State ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without purchase, completely and without denial; promptly and without delay; conformably to the laws.
6. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ; and no warrant shall issue, but on complaint in writing, upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and describing, as nearly as may be, the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
7. No person
shall be held to answer for a capital or other infa. mous crime, unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases of impeachment, or of such offences as are cognizable by a justice of the peace; or in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger. No person shall, after an acquittal, be tried for the same offence.
8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted; and all punishments ought to be proportioned to the offence.
9. All persons imprisoned ought to be bailed by sufficient surety, unless for offences punishable by death or by imprisonment for life, when the proof of guilt is evident, or the presumption great. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety shall require it; nor ever without the authority of the General Assembly.
10. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining them in his favor, to have the assistance of counsel in his defence, and shall be at liberty to speak for himself; nor shall he be deprived of life, liberty, or property, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.
11. The person of a debtor, when there is not strong presumption of fraud, ought not to be continued in prison, after he shall have delivered up his property for the benefit of his creditors, in such manner as shall be prescribed by law.
12. No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be passed.
13. No man in a court of common law shall be compelled to give evidence criminating himself.
14. Every man being presumed innocent, until he is pronounced guilty by the law, no act of severity which is not necessary to secure an accused person, shall be permitted.
15. The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.
16. Private property shall not be taken for public uses, without just compensation.
17. The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state. But no new right is intended to be granted, nor any existing right impaired by this declaration. : 18. The military shall be held in strict subordination to the civil authority. And the law martial shall be used and exercised in such cases only as occasion shall necessarily require.
19. No soldier shall be quartered in any house, in time of peace,
tion, or shall be registered in the office of the clerk of such town or city at least seven days before the time he shall offer to vote, and before the last day of December in the present year; and who has paid or shall pay a tax or taxes assessed upon his estate within this State and within a year of the time of voting to the amount of one dollar, or who shall voluntarily pay at least seven days before the time he shall offer to vote, and before said last day of December, to the clerk or treasurer of the town or city where he resides, the sum of one dollar, or such sum as with his other taxes, shall amount to one dollar, for the support of public schools therein, and shall make proof of the same, by the certificate of the clerk, treasurer or collector of any town or city where such payment is made: or, who being so registered, has been enrolled in any military company in this State, and done military service or duty therein, within the present year, pursuant to law, and shall, (until other proof is required by law,) prove by the certificate of the officer legally commanding the regiment, or chartered, or legally authorized volunteer company in which he may have served or done duty, that he has been equipped and done duty according to law, or by the certificate of the commissioners upon military claims, that he has performed military service, shall have a right to vote in the election of all civil officers, and on all questions in all legally organized town or ward meetings, until the end of the first year after the adoption of this Constitution, or until the end of the year eighteen hundred and forty-three.
From and after that time, every such citizen who has had the residence herein required, and whose name shall be registered in the town where he resides, on or before the last day of December, in the year next preceding the time of his voting, and who shall show by legal proof, that he has for and within the year next preceding the time he shall offer to vote, paid a tax or taxes assessed against him in any town or city in this State, to the amount of one dollar, or that he has been enrolled in a military company in this State, been equipped and done duty therein, according to law, and at least, for one day during such year, shall have a right to vote in the election of all civil officers, and on all questions in all legally organized town or ward meetings : Provided, that no person shall at any time be allowed to vote in the election of the city Council of the city of Providence, or upon any proposition to impose a tax, or for the expenditure of money in any town or city, unless he shall within the year next preceding, have paid a tax, assessed upon his property therein, valued at least at one hundred and thirty-four dollars.
3. The assessors of each town or city, shall annually assess upon every person whose name shall be registered, a tax of one dollar, or such sum as with his other taxes, shall amount to one dollar, which registry tax shall be paid into the treasury of such town or city, and be applied to the support of public schools therein : But no compulsory process shall issue for the collection of any registry tax: Provided, that the registry tax of every person who has performed