Providence, RI - Joined by Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, Lt. Governor Elizabeth H. Roberts, Matthew C. Campion, Vice Consul for the British Consulate-General, and State Historic Preservation Officer Edward F. Sanderson, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today signed an executive order establishing the Rhode Island 1663 Colonial Charter 350th Anniversary Commission to plan and organize a celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Charter in 2013.
"Rhode Island's Charter is a unique document of international significance," Governor Chafee said. "Before any other Colony, in fact, more than a century before the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, its issuance marked the first time in modern history that individuals within a society were free to practice the religion of their choice without the interference of government."
"Original colonists Roger Williams and John Clarke helped create what is still today respected throughout the world as a sanctuary of freedom," Governor Chafee continued. "This is a most appropriate time to revisit our roots."
The Commission was created as a cooperative venture between Governor Chafee and Secretary of State Mollis, who is responsible for the preservation of the Charter and many of the state's most important historical documents.
"Preserving our heritage is one of the things that makes Rhode Island so special. Where else can you walk into the State House and see the document that inspired the Bill of Rights," said Secretary Mollis. "I am grateful for the commissioners' commitment to this important initiative. Their work will pay dividends for decades to come as new generations of Rhode Islanders enjoy this remarkable piece of history."
In creating the 34-member Commission, Governor Chafee is tapping some of Rhode Island's top professionals in the fields of history, cultural and historic preservation, education, and heritage tourism. The Commission is charged with organizing a state-wide celebration of the Charter's 350th anniversary, which takes place on July 8, 2013. Because Rhode Island's Charter has such historical significance, it is expected that the celebration has the potential to attract national and international attention.
The Commission will also recommend improvements to make the Charter's appearance and interpretation more interesting and attractive, and create educational programs to raise awareness of its historical importance. The Commission is empowered to raise funds for these projects through grants and foundation sources.
Two thousand people attended the State House Centennial Ball in May, 2000. More than $230,000 in private funds were raised for the restoration of the portrait paintings in the State House.
As part of the announcement Governor Chafee and Secretary Mollis also introduced the Commission's official seal, the artwork of which was donated by Portsmouth graphic artist Thomas Roskelly, and the launching of a new Charter 350th Anniversary website at http://www.sos.ri.gov/library/history/charter/, which also includes a downloadable image of the Royal Charter and as well as the full text of the Charter in modern American English.
To view Governor Chafee's latest web video, which features Charter Commission members Pieter Roos and Ted Widmer discussing the historical significance of the document, please click the link below.