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Rhode Island. Governor (1647-)



  • Existence: 1647-

Historical Note

Upon the founding of the colony the original settlements formed political compacts and establish rules of governance and conduct. While such agreements were suitable early on a more organized, centralized form of government became necessary as the colony expanded. In 1644, the first colonial charter uniting the several communities of Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, & Warwick was acquired from England. In 1647, colonial government was established and a General Assembly met to produce a code of laws and adopt a colonial seal. Within the acts and orders established was the appointment of a President of the colony, the predecessor to the office of the Governor along with assistants representing each of the towns. There continued to be a President of the colony until receipt of the second Royal Charter from King Charles II in 1663. The charter called for the leadership of the state to consist of a Governor, Deputy-Governor, and ten (10) assistants. Although this charter created the position of Governor the duties and powers of the office granted under the charter were limited. During the early years of the colony, the towns had much more power than the centralized government, and therefore the position of Governor was largely symbolic. The Governor held certain powers because of his position as commander in chief, but did not have the ability to control the direction of the colony as did the General Assembly. The General Assembly’s current website explains that under the charter there existed “a nearly powerless, elected governor”. The first iteration of the Rhode Island Constitution, ratified in 1842, continued to limit the power of the Governor and give to the General Assembly many of the powers designated to the executive branch in the federal government. The Governor, although the symbolic figurehead of the state, did not exercise any legislative powers under the concept of separation of powers until 2004. In 2004, voters approved a referendum calling for an amendment of the state Constitution, finally establishing a separation of powers within the state government. This amendment took some of the immense power of the General Assembly by giving the Governor the power to appoint the heads and members of many commissions and boards, and to appoint members of the judiciary. Other major change in the Office of the Governor occurred in 1994, when the term of General Officers went from two (2) years to four (4) years.

Found in 10 Collections and/or Records:

Governor Approval of Bond Issues

 Series — Folder: Governor Approval of Bond Issues, 1946-1976
Identifier: C#00892
Abstract Letters to the Secretary of State from the Governor approving the issuance of bonds. Letters include names of the two general officers, purpose of the bond issue, date approved, and usually the amount of the bond issue.
Dates: 1946-1976

Governor J. Joseph Garrahy correspondence, 1970-1985

Scope and Contents From the Series: Administration files spanning terms both as lieutenant governor & governor. Includes memorabilia, photographs, correspondence, press releases, speeches & appointments made, certificates of engagement, newspaper clippings, account of trips taken while in office, material relating to state budgets, elections, the blizzard of 1978 or other newsworthy issues or highlights encountered during administration.
Dates: 1970-1985

Governor letter register

 Series — Volume: Governor letter register, 1756-1765
Identifier: C#00480
Abstract Function: To record the text of correspondence related to RI's participation in the war of Great Britain against France. Contents: Handwritten copies of correspondence and other documents related to the RI's efforts in concert with Great Britain in the war with France. The majority of the documents are addressed to the Governor. Bulk consists of correspondence to and from Great Britain concerning the raising of troops and settling of accounts between the colony and the crown. Most of the volume...
Dates: January 30, 1756-June 30, 1765

Governor's correspondence

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00257-C#01183-C#01305
Scope and Contents Official communications received and copies of outgoing correspondence to/from various foreign governments, colonial, state, federal or military officials and departments, municipalities, individual citizens, religious groups or organizations.
Dates: 1731-1891

Governor's Messages and Legislative Addresses

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#01732-C#01187
Dates: 1732, 1739, 1744, 1755, 1812-1818, 1820-1821, 1841-1842, 1844, 1857, 1859, 1861-1862, 1864-1866, 1878-79, 1902, 1914, 1921, 1922, 1925-1930, 1931, 1933, 1941-1943, 1970-1980

Letter from John Hancock to Governor Greene

 Digital Record
Identifier: DO 216
Dates: December 16, 1782

Letters from the Governor, 1731-1807

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00255; C#00499
Abstract For the outgoing correspondence contained in single volume (C#00499) includes handwritten copies of letters written by the Governor to officials of the United States and other state governments. Subjects vary. In the same volume with minutes of the Supreme Court of Probate (C#00497).
Dates: 1731-1807

Letters to the Governor/Secretary of State, 1731-1880

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00257; C#00500
Scope and Contents From the Series: Official communications received and copies of outgoing correspondence to/from various foreign governments, colonial, state, federal or military officials and departments, municipalities, individual citizens, religious groups or organizations.
Dates: 1731-1880

Papers relative to 1864 Immigration

 Collection — Folder: Papers relative to 1864 Immigration, c. 1862-1866
Identifier: C#01295
Abstract The Papers relative to 1864 Immigration are a collection of documents of unknown provenance consisting of a copy of the Laws to Encourage Immigration and to Regulate the Carrying of Passengers publication; correspondence between the United States Department of State Bureau of Immigration and Rhode Island Governor James Y. Smith; two copies of "European Emigration: A New Scheme for its Encouragement" from the New York Times, January 15, 1866; and the Rhode Island Executive Department copy of An...
Dates: c. 1862-1865

Proposed Newport Military Installation records

 Series — Box: Proposed Newport Military Installation (Rochefontaine) drawings and correspondence, 1794
Identifier: 2000-20
Scope and Contents The Military Installation records consist of eight (8) color ganache drawings by engraver Rochefontaine of proposed military installations or fortifications for Newport, Rhode Island. This series also includes a letter from Rochefontaine to Governor Fenner regarding the plans for the proposed fortifications dated August 16, 1794 (Boston).
Dates: 1794