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Address of the Assembly of Rhode-Island to the Continental Congress dated January 15


We, the General Assembly of the English Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, beg leave to represent to you the state and condition of said Colony, and to request such assistance as our situation and the welfare of the United Colonies shall appear to require.

Soon after the conclusion of the late glorious war, in the successes of which the Colonies had so considerable a share, we were alarmed with divers acts of the British Parliament, strongly indicating a design to divest the Colonies of those rights which are essential to the freedom of a People, and which they had enjoyed, with but few innovations, from their first settlement. The Act passed in 1765 for levying stamp duties in America, and many subsequent Acts, manifested that design so clearly as to leave no room for a doubt. This Colony, ever tenacious of its liberties, zealously took a part in all the common measures entered into for the common safety.

When at length the Ministerial troops, by the attacks at Lexington and Concord, had reduced us to the necessity of immediately taking up arms, or submitting to a slavery which, at the distance we are placed from the seat of the power to be exercised over us, must be the most absolute and terrible that we can form an idea of, this Colony, notwithstanding its exposed situation, did not hesitate; it did not wait for the example of more powerful Colonies; but, conforming itself to the spirit of the resolutions of the honourable the Continental Congress for 1774, ordered a body of men to be raised and marched to the encampment near Boston.

Unfortunately for the inhabitants, this Colony is scarcely anything but a line of sea-coast. From Providence to Point Judith, and from thence to Pawcatuck River, is near eighty miles. On the east side of the bay, from Providence to Second Point, and including the cast side of Seconet until it meets the Massachusetts line, is about fifty miles; besides which are the navigable rivers of Pawcatuck and Warren. On the west side of the bay the Colony doth not extend twenty miles, and on the east side not more than eight miles from the sea-coast above described. In the Colony are also included the following Islands: Rhode-Island, about sixteen miles in length; Conanicut, nine; Block-Island, nine; Prudence, seven; and the smaller Islands Patience, Hope, Gold-Island, and several others; all which are cultivated and fertile, and contributed largely to the publick expenses. The greater part of the above-mentioned shores are accessible to ships-of-war.

By an exact estimate, taken in the year 1774, the whole number of inhabitants in the Colony amounted to fifty-nine thousand six hundred and seventy-eight. The town of New-port contained nine thousand two hundred and nine, was the principal place of trade, and paid above one-sixth part of the


publick taxes. A very considerable commerce was also carried on from Providence; and several small towns in the Colony were also concerned in trade and navigation. Ship building was a great branch of business; in short, the inhabitants of the Colony derived their subsistence almost wholly from commerce.

The convenient situation of this Colony for receiving supplies from the other Colonies for the Continental Army near Boston, we suppose, was the principal reason why so great a number of the King' s ships have been stationed in our bay; we having had for above seven months past, two ships of twenty guns, one of sixteen, a bomb ketch, and about eight tenders, who have made prizes of more vessels belonging to this Colony than have been lost by any other; have put almost a total end to commerce; have committed repeated depredations in different parts of the Colony; have kept our coasts constantly alarmed, and obliged the inhabitants to keep almost continually under arms.

The once flourishing town of Newport, by the loss of trade, and consequent cessation of all business, instead of being able to contribute to the expenses of the war, hath been reduced to so deplorable a state, that we have been obliged to grant money out of the general Treasury for the support of their poor; and many of the wealthy inhabitants have not only left the town, but the Colony. Conanicut and Prudence, lately the scenes of the most wanton and savage desolation and barbarity, are deserted. New-Shoreham, from its situation, is rendered worse than useless to the Colony; and the other Islands will no longer be of service to any but the enemy.

The troops sent by this Colony to the Army near Boston, amounted to about one thousand seven hundred, inclusive of officers, of which two hundred and fifty are in Colonel Arnold' s detachment in Quebeck. Many have entered on board the armed vessels fitted out by General Washington, particularly almost every officer and seaman in the brig commanded by Captain Martindale, unfortunately taken and carried into Boston, belonged to this Colony; and of the others, the greater part by far have reinlisted in the Continental service, so that very few of them have returned, or can return. We fitted out two armed vessels for the protection of our commerce and coasts, which carried upwards of one hundred men, one of which is now at Philadelphia, in the Continental service, with the greater part of her crew.

Above a hundred men have also been inlisted for the Continental Navy. We have also built and equipped two row-galleys, to carry fifty men each. Besides these extraordinary exertions, we were alarmed in October last with the arrival of a number of transports from Boston, destined to procure fresh provisions for the Ministerial Army. To prevent their obtaining supplies was an object of such great importance as obliged us to send a number of Minute-men upon the several Islands to defend the stock, which created a most enormous expense.

When the Assembly met in November, a regiment of five hundred men was ordered to be raised for the defence of Rhode-Island and the other Islands; notwithstanding which we have been obliged repeatedly to call forth our Minute-men. To prevent the great charge of which, we have augmented the regiment, ordered to be raised in November, to seven hundred and fifty men, exclusive of a company of artillery consisting of one hundred and five men, with their officers; and have also voted another regiment of seven hundred and fifty men to be immediately raised and equipped; besides two hundred and thirty-eight artillery-men for the management of thirty-four field-pieces ordered to be procured and placed in the several towns upon the sea-coast. We have ordered sixty cannon (eighteen and twelve-pounders) to be cast, and have already sent a vessel with a very valuable cargo, to purchase powder and other warlike stores, and are fitting out another, which will soon sail.

From the above representation of our situation, exertions, and losses, and the depredations of the enemy, which are not exaggerated, the exhausted state of the Colony, and its utter inability to maintain the present force established and voted, as well as to take any further measures to defend itself, will clearly appear. We need not observe to you the great importance of Rhode-Island, or the damages that would be sustained by the enemy' s possessing themselves thereof — its harbours and the adjoining Narraganset Bay being greatly


superior to any other in America; and its convenient situation with respect to the sea and the other Colonies, making it still more important.

We therefore request that you will give the earliest attention to this address; and have no doubt that you will take the most proper measures for defending the Colony; otherwise Rhode-Island, and the other Islands in the Bay, with the surrounding sea-coast upon the Continent, must be depopulated, and the Colony entirely ruined.

We submit the foregoing to your judicious determination; and are, with great respect and confidence, your Honours' most obedient and most humble servants.

Signed at the request and in behalf of the General Assembly,


To the Honourable the Delegates of the United Colonies now convened in General Congress in Philadelphia.