[A Monumental Run of Ninety-Nine Revolutionary War Period Rhode Island Session Laws]
Providence, Newport, Attleboro, and Rehoboth: 1770-1790. Fourteen volumes. Ninety-nine separate imprints, publication details and pagination provided upon request.
Uniform 20th-century buckram, gilt leather labels. Some leaves detached, clipped, or chipped, some repairs, occasional toning or tanning, some small ink library stamps, scattered contemporary ink marginalia, some dampstaining, an occasional closed tear, some leaves closely trimmed, a handful of leaves in early manuscript facsimile.
The Revolutionary War Laws of Rhode Island
An unprecedented assemblage of Rhode Island colonial and early state laws, most printed during the Revolutionary War. The great majority of the imprints are signed at the end by the Secretary of the colony and then State of Rhode Island, Henry Ward, who served in that position from Dec. 1760 to Nov. 1797. Almost all retain the official seal affixed to the front page of each imprint. The first thirty-two imprints represent Rhode Island colonial law, but beginning in July 1776, the word "Colony" becomes the word "State" and remains so, of course, from then on.
In the August 1772 session, the assembly addresses the Gaspee Affair: "Whereas his Honor the Governor hath laid before this Assembly a full and particular Narrative of the Measures he hath pursued in Consequence of the burning of His Majesty's Schooner, the Gaspee; and of the Steps he hath taken to discover the Perpetrators of that atrocious Piece of Villany." The assembly then proceeds to offer a reward of one hundred pounds sterling to anyone who discovers the guilty parties of the "said Crime." The Gaspee Affair was a significant incident in Rhode Island in the lead-up to the American Revolution. On June 9, 1772, near the city of Warwick, Rhode Island, a British customs ship called the Gaspee ran aground in shallow water while chasing a packet boat. Shortly after the wreck, a group of American colonists (Providence members of the Sons of Liberty, in fact) attacked, boarded, looted, and torched the ship, putting a bullet in the ship's lieutenant in the process. The British government investigated the affair, intending to find enough evidence to try the culprits for treason. The inquiry failed to obtain sufficient evidence, and the matter was closed. News of the incident spread throughout the colonies. Committees of correspondence in Boston, Virginia and other parts of Colonial British America were especially concerned with the prospect of Americans being sent to England for trial. A popular pamphlet utilized the Gaspee incident, and it became an early rallying cry from those colonists focused on ending British rule in America. The affair was one of the most significant events in Rhode Island on the road to revolution.
There is a voluminous amount in these imprints regarding the American Revolution. For instance, in the July 1776 imprint, a rather important month for American independence, the Rhode Island legislature passed an act that punished anyone who acknowledged "the King of Great-Britain to be their Sovereign" with a fine of one hundred pounds sterling. This act is also the first here to refer to the Declaration of Independence when it mentions "the General Congress of the United States of America, by their Resolution of the Fourth Instant.." Subsequent months and years see the assembly form military units, provide supplies, provisions, regulations, and pay to the troops, institute a draft, and much more.
The laws for February 1778 include a resolution to appoint three delegates empowered to sign the Articles of Confederation for Rhode Island. In fact, 1778 was a particularly busy year for the state. France had formally allied itself with the American forces early in the year, and together the two allies fought against the British at the Battle of Rhode Island (also known as the Battle of Quaker Hill or the Seige of Newport) in August. Several resolutions in these session laws address supplies, the wounded, prisoner exchanges, and more related to the war effort against "the Enemy at Rhode-Island," which the American and French forces were fighting in Newport and Aquidneck Island. Later, in the summer of 1780, Rhode Island again played a crucial role in the alliance between the United States and France, assisting the French forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Rochambeau in landing at Newport. The French forces were on their way to join Gen. Washington's army as part of the "Expédition Particulière" or "Special Expedition," an effort to send French infantry reinforcements to America. They would wait in Newport for an entire year before joining Washington's army for a planned but aborted attack on New York City, before marching south to Virginia, eventually assisting to defeat the British at Yorktown. Numerous resolutions starting in July 1780 address the French in Newport, including providing housing to the French Commissary-General Lewis Ethis de Corny, making way for the French army to use the ferries between Providence and Newport, drafting a "congratulatory Address to the Commanders of the French Army and Fleet, on their arrival in this State," drafting an address to Rochambeau, and preparing a "Dinner and Entertainment" for the arriving French forces on August 10. Later, in May 1781, the assembly passed a resolution to provide teams for moving the French army from Newport to Providence, the first step in Rochambeau's march from Newport to join Washington's forces.