PROVIDENCE, RI – On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first American colony to pass a law renouncing its allegiance to King George III of England, and Rhode Islanders can mark the 236th anniversary of the occasion by reading the historic "Act of Renunciation" for themselves.
"I hope exposure to history like this will inspire Rhode Islanders and remind them of our state's unique place in American history," said Secetary of State A. Ralph Mollis.
In the handwritten manuscript, colonial lawmakers accused the King of breaking "the compact" with Rhode Island's citizens by "…by sending fleets and armies to America, to confiscate our property, and spread fire, sword and desolation, throughout our country, in order to compel us to submit to the most debasing and detestable tyranny, whereby we are obliged by necessity, and it becomes our highest duty, to use every means, with which God and nature have furnished us, in support of our invaluable rights and privileges; to oppose that power which is exerted only for our destruction."
The original document is preserved by the Secretary of State's office at the State Archives, 337 Westminster St., in downtown Providence.
The General Assembly set aside May 4 as Rhode Island Independence Day in 1908. The law reads, "(t)he fourth day of May in each and every year is established, in this state, as a day for celebration of Rhode Island independence, being a just tribute to the memory of the members of our general assembly, who, on the fourth day of May, 1776, in the State House at Providence, passed an act renouncing allegiance of the colony to the British crown and by the provisions of that act declared Rhode Island sovereign and independent, the first official act of its kind by any of the thirteen (13) American colonies."
The State Archives is home to thousands of other historic documents such as the 1921 Act Extending the Right to Vote to Women Citizens and a copy of the original 1638 deed for Providence in Roger Williams' handwriting. The facility is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free, two-hour validated parking is available at the In-Town Parking lot across Snow Street from the State Archives.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.