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Records of the Island of Rhode Island

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00206

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Island of Rhode Island consists of one bound volume of records of the colony of Rhode Island dating from 1638 to 1644. It includes the proceedings of the General Assembly, the General Court of Election, and the General Court. The records specifically document the establishment of the Pocasett settlement on the island of Aquidneck (called Rhode Island) and its division into the settlements of Portsmouth and Newport. Specific documents in the volume include the Aquidneck Compact (1638) of the founders of Portsmouth, R.I. (1638); the Pocasset agreement (1639) which established Newport as a separate settlement; agreements between William Coddington and other colonists and Indian Sachem Miantonomo; and receipts from Miantonomo and Weshagansett (sp?). The minutes of the General Assembly include legislation, court proceedings, land allotments, and lists of freemen present at the assembly.


  • 1638-1644, 1663

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Access to the original manuscripts is restricted due to preservation concerns (fragile manuscript).

Per orders of the State Archivist, the original manuscripts should not be produced or photocopied. Access is to be provided via microfilm, abstracts (John Russell Bartlett’s Rhode Island Colony Records, Rhode Island Colony Records Gyles Transcription (1824-1835), the published volume of the Portsmouth Town Records) or a preservation photocopy.

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

Rhode Island's first permanent settlement was established at Providence in 1636 by English clergyman Roger Williams and a small band of followers who had left the repressive atmosphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to seek freedom of worship. Canenicus and Miantonomi granted Williams a sizable tract of land for his new village. Other nonconformists followed Williams to the bay region, including Anne and William Hutchinson and William Coddington, all of whom founded Portsmouth in 1638 as a haven for Antinomians, a religious sect whose beliefs resembled those of Quakerism. A short-lived dispute sent Coddington to the southern tip of Aquidneck Island (also purchased from the Narragansetts), where he established Newport in 1639. The fourth original town, Warwick, was settled in 1642 by Samuel Gorton, another dissident from Portsmouth. During this initial decade two other outposts were established: Wickford (1637), by Richard Smith, and Pawtuxet (1638), by William Harris and the Arnold family. Because titles to these lands rested only on Indian deeds, neighboring colonies began to covet them. To meet this threat, Roger Williams journeyed to England and secured a parliamentary patent in March 1643-44 uniting the four towns into a single colony and confirming his fellow settlers' land claims. This legislative document served adequately as the basic law until the Stuart Restoration of 1660 made it wise to seek a royal charter.
Dr. John Clarke was commissioned to secure a document from the new king, Charles II, that would both be consistent with the religious principles upon which the tiny colony was founded and also safeguard Rhode Island lands from encroachment by speculators and greedy neighbors. He succeeded admirably. The royal charter of 1663 guaranteed complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with local autonomy, and strengthened Rhode Island's territorial claims. It was the most liberal charter to be issued by the mother country during the entire colonial era, a fact that enabled it to serve as Rhode Island's basic law until May 1843.
The religious freedom, which prevailed in early Rhode Island, made it a refuge for several persecuted sects. America's first Baptist church was formed in Providence in 1639; Quakers, who arrived in Aquidneck in 1657 and soon became a powerful force in the colony's political and economic life; a Jewish congregation came to Newport in 1658; and French Huguenots (Calvinists) settled in East Greenwich in 1686.


1.40 Cubic Feet (70 folders) ; Manuscript 13 1/2" x 9 1/2", 70 pp


The Records of the Island of Rhode Island consists of one bound volume of records of the colony of Rhode Island dating from 1638 to 1644. It includes the proceedings of the General Assembly, the General Court of Election, and the General Court.


Fairly chronological arrangement with one stray meeting of April 30th, 1663, relative to boundary distinctions between Newport & Portsmouth.

Rhode Island Digital Archives


No accruals are anticipated at this time.

Existence and Location of Copies

Microfilmed (C#00149); GSU reel #954960

Related Materials

Bartlett, John Russell, Rhode Colony Records, 1636 – 1663, Vol. 1, Providence, 1856
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA