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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 7 Collections and/or Records:

Governor's photographs

Identifier: C#01311

Merci America Boxcar photograph album, 1949

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#01311
Scope and Contents The Merci America Boxcar photograph album consists of fifty-two (52) black-and-white 8" x 10" photographs of the “Merci America” boxcar (aka the Gratitude Train) which came to Rhode Island on February 8, 1949. The train was a gift from France to the United States for aiding in famine relief in that country after World War II. France sent forty-nine (49) boxcars filled with gifts to the forty-eight (48) states, Washington D.C. and Hawaii. The photographs show Governor John O. Pastore at the...
Dates: 1949

State Photographer Alex Tavares photographs, 1957-1994

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1995-427
Abstract The Tavares Collection is comprised of approximately 9.6 cubic feet of photographic which document the various activities of Rhode Island's Governors and their administrations during the years 1961-1994.
Dates: Majority of material found within 1957-1994

State Photographer Chet Browning's records, 1989-2009

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2011-32
Scope and Contents This sub-series includes VHS videocassettes, cassette tapes, CD/DVD, color photographs, color negatives and publications related to the work of the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation & Hospitals (now Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals) during the years 1989-2009. Includes Master copies of training materials and portraits and candid shots of MHRH staff and volunteers taken by State Photographer Chet Browning. Complete box list available.
Dates: 1989-2009

Works Progress Administration (WPA) 1938 Hurricane photographs, 1938

 Sub-Series — Box: Works Progress Administration (WPA) 1938 Hurricane photographs, 1938
Identifier: 2020-04

Works Progress Administration (WPA) 1938 Hurricane photographs, 1938

 Digital Work
Identifier: 9f94495d-bcb3-4807-a642-5e6a81404b37
Dates: 1938