To mark Rhode Island's Independence Day, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued the following statement:
On May 4, 1776, the General Assembly of the Colony of Rhode Island declared independence from Great Britain. This declaration was in the same rebellious spirit in which Roger Williams founded Providence 140 years earlier.
The news of the audacious act by our forefathers created quite a stir with the British Empire and among our neighboring colonies. Yet, what was looked upon with suspicion by others was a source of pride by the people here, and rightfully so. It was a brash decision that altered the history of the world and led to the birth of this great nation.
In 1908, the General Assembly declared May 4th as Rhode Island Independence Day. At a celebration a year later, Mrs. Sarah Chandler read a poem she wrote entitled, "Rhode Island's Independent Hall." There is a passage in the poem that stands out to me given the politically divided world in which we find ourselves today.
"A hundred and thirty-three years ago
We were held in the grasp of a hand
That destroyed instead of protected
The God-given rights of our land
Whose acts of despotic oppression
In patriot hearts left a sting
That rankled, because of injustice
Meted out by a pitiless king."
Our great nation is divided, and while we are not ruled by a king, there are many living in our community that feel oppressed and who fear their rights and freedoms slipping away through discriminatory executive actions and policies that run counter to our sense of right and wrong. Thankfully, we live under state and federal constitutions that provide freedoms and liberties to all, regardless of politics.
Despite our political divisions, we remain blessed to live in the greatest country on earth; a country in which can freely express our differences, disagreements, and frustrations with our government without fear of oppression or tyranny.
Today, as we celebrate Rhode Island's place in history as a pioneer in independent thought and action, let's remember the reasons for which we declared our freedom from monarchial rule; as they were written and adopted on July 4, 1776, two months after Rhode Island declared its independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.