Skip to main content

Adjutant General Orders Issued, Dorr Rebellion, 1842

Identifier: 1636-1384
Adjutant General Orders Issued, Dorr Rebellion, 1842
Adjutant General Orders Issued, Dorr Rebellion, 1842

Scope and Contents

Orders issued by the Adjutant General (# 1 - 57) concerning responsive measures taken to suppress the Dorr insurrection & apprehend supporters encamped at the Village of Chepachet in Glocester. Orders dated Headquarters, Division of Rhode Island Forces, Tockwotton House, Providence, June 24 - 29, 1842,


  • Creation: 1842

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special restriction unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.

Biographical / Historical

Nearly seventy years after the Declaration of Independence, Rhode Island was still governed by the English Royal Charter. Suffrage rights guaranteed under the charter had remained unchanged from the time the document was received in 1663. By 1841, only white males aged 21 years and older possessing $134.00 in real estate, were allowed the opportunity to cast a vote in Rhode Island. As the population became more diverse and expanded during the Industrial Revolution, thousands of factory workers and immigrants were without a voice in government. Thomas Wilson Dorr, a prominent lawyer, politician and reformer led a popular movement to expand the elective franchise regardless of property qualifications. Suffrage meetings held throughout the state in the spring & summer of 1841, led Dorr and his supporters to convene a convention and draft a new “People’s Constitution.” The newly ratified document guaranteed suffrage rights to all white male citizens of the United States who had resided in the State at least one year. The word “white” had been purposely included in the article on suffrage by the insistence of the majority of convention delegates to Dorr’s objection. Adjourning in January 1842 elections were subsequently held under the authority of the ratified constitution and a new slate of general officers were chosen including Dorr as governor. The ensuing confrontation between the sitting charter government led by Governor Samuel Ward King which viewed the Dorr government as illegal brought Rhode Island to a state of insurrection by the summer of 1842. With two competing powers structures vying for control of the state Governor King and his “Law and Order” supporters went so far as to appeal to President Tyler to intervene and resolve the issue. Although the president supported the King government he declined to offer federal troops. Determined to uphold he people's government Dorr and a small army of supporters sought to seize control by force. On May 17, 1842, an attack was led on the state arsenal in Providence. Armed with two outdated Revolutionary War cannons Dorr arrived to discover the building fortified by several hundred men loyal to the charter government including members of his own family. When demands for surrender were refused the cannons were ordered fired in the name of the new People's government. The attempted volley, however, ended in a misfire and in the ensuing confusion Dorr & some supporters fled to Glocester, Rhode Island to regroup. Soon afterward Governor King declared martial law throughout the state and issued orders for the State Militia to pursue Dorr and arrest those who remained loyal to him. On June 28, the militia stormed the fortification established by the Dorrites on Acote's Hill in Chepachet and took over 100 prisoners. Several hundred more men were subsequently rounded up in the ensuing days. Although Dorr managed to escape to Connecticut a grand jury indicted him for treason. When he eventually returned to Rhode Island in October 1843, he was immediately arrested and imprisoned as State Prisoner #56 and sentenced to life. Under an act of general amnesty Dorr was released from prison on June 27, 1845 after having served only twenty-four months. Although the Dorr movement failed in its attempt to expand suffrage it did manage to bring the issue to forefront and resulted in the General Assembly finally replacing the Royal Charter with a written constitution for Rhode Island (in effect in May 2, 1843). Although mirroring the document it replaced and essentially maintaining the status quo with respect to suffrage the enacted constitution did remove race as a qualifier by removing the world “white” from the language.


.02 Cubic Feet (1 volume) ; Volume 7" x 8" x 1/2"


Dorr Rebellion - Orders Issued, June 25 - 29, 1842


Numerical / Date


No accruals are anticipated at this time.

Related Materials

Dorr Rebellion - Payment Vouchers (1842 - 1843)

Dorr Rebellion - Insurrectionary Claims (1842 - 1843)

Dorr Rebellion - Committee on Accounts, 1841-1847

Dorr Rebellion - Map of Road Leading to Chepachet (1842)

Dorr Rebellion - Orders, Military Returns (April 1842)

Dorr Rebellion - Militia Field Reports (June 25 - July 1, 1842)

Dorr Rebellion - Correspondence, 1820-1846

Adjutant General - Correspondence Received (1790 - 1862)

Thomas Wilson Dorr daguerreotype

Burke’s Report, Rhode Island – Interference of the Executive in the Affairs of, 1844, 28th Congress, 1st Session, United States House of Representatives, Report # 546, 1075 pp.

Mowry, Arthur May, Ph.D., The Dorr War or the Constitutional Struggle in Rhode Island, Preston & Rounds, Providence, 1901, 420 pp.

King, Dan, The Life and Times of Thomas Wilson Dorr with Outlines of the Political History of Rhode Island, Boston, 1859, 368 pp.

Frieze, Jacob, A Concise History of the Efforts to Obtain an Extension of Suffrage in Rhode Island From the Year 1811 – 1842, Benjamin F. Moore, 1842, 179 pp.

A Rhode Islander, Might & Right, A. H. Stillwell, Providence, 1844, 324 pp.

Botelho, Joyce M., Right and Might, The Dorr Rebellion and the Struggle for Equal Rights (4 parts), Rhode Island Historical Society, 1982

DeSimone, Russell J. & Daniel C. Schofield, The Broadsides of the Dorr Rebellion, RI Supreme Court Historical Society, Providence, 1992, 116 pp.

Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA