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The present, or fifth volume of the Colonial Records of Rhode Island, includes but sixteen years of its history. It commences in 1741, closes with 1756, and is chiefly devoted to that portion of its annals which includes the wars between Great Britain and France. These wars were the beginning of the great struggle for empire in North America. At the commencement of this struggle, the British colonies were confined to a narrow belt of territory, scarcely reaching, at its broadest point, three hundred miles from the Atlantic coast. Part of New England, the greater portions of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as all the vast region to the west of these colonies, were then included in Louisiana, or New France; while the Spanish possessions crowded close upon Georgia and the Carolinas, under the general name of Florida, and extended nearly to the Mississippi. The New England colonies and New York were the most prominent in these wars, but none of them more so than Rhode Island. The ships fitted out by her and sent against the enemy, were more nu. merous than those of either of the other colonies; while her soldiers were prominent in all the expeditions for the reduction of Canada, and other portions of the French empire, in America. In the expeditions sent against Louisburg, Cape Breton, Crown Point, Ticonderoga, Oswego, Quebec and other places, her troops or ships took part; and the correspondence, in this volume, of her Governors with the home government, the British admirals and generals, as well as with the Governors of the other English colonies, show the position which she held, and the aid she offered in the struggle for supremacy on the continent.
In the war between Great Britain and Spain, Rhode Island also furnished her contingent, by sending troops to Cuba, as the proceedings of the General Assembly, and the correspondence accompanying will show.
The issuing of bills of credit, or paper money, to a vast amount, by the English colonies, which was absolutely necessary, to enable them to meet the heavy expenditures required of them to carry on their several campaigns, is another prolific subject for discussion in this volume. The numerous acts for the emission and calling in of this paper money, the several objects for which the emissions were made, the correspondence with the other colonies in relation to the same, and with the British government, in its efforts to curtail and check the enormous emissions, are given at length. Among these documents, the official report of Governor Ward to the lords commissioners of trade and plantations, written in 1740, giving a full history of the paper money emissions from 1710 to 1740, the causes of these issues, the exertions and sacrifices made by the colony to assist the mother country in her foreign wars, will be found of great interest.
The originals received by the colony, of all the orders of the King and council ; the letters, commissions, instructions and other documents, printed or referred to in this volume, are among the archives of the secretary of state's office, in Providence, chronologically arranged and bound in volumes, where they may be conveniently referred to. Besides these, there are among the archives, many military returns, and other papers connected with the French wars, showing the names of the officers and men of the Rhode Island regiments, with a variety of original letters and documents of a private nature, belonging to the period embraced in this volume, which are not printed. PROVIDENCE, January, 1860.
J. R. B.