The Dorr Rebellion

The Dorr Rebellion of 1841-43 is considered the most significant constitutional and political event to occur in Rhode Island history. This collection, developed through a collaboration of Providence College's Digital Publishing Services, faculty, and community scholars, provides an introduction to the topic through a short-form documentary, image gallery, local constitutions, correspondence (to and from Thomas Wilson Dorr), and supporting curricular materials.


	Carte de Visite of Sullivan Dorr
Carte de Visite of Sullivan Dorr
Sullivan Dorr (1778-1858) was a prosperous businessman and President of the Washington Insurance Company. Born in Boston, in his early years he went to Canton China as a representative of his family's mercantile business. In 1804 shortly after his return to the United States he married Lydia Allen of Providence. They had seven children, the oldest of whom was Thomas Wilson Dorr. Image source courtesy of Frank Mauran.
	Dorr Liberation Stock
Dorr Liberation Stock
Dorr Liberation Stock was used to raise money for the cost of bringing Dorr's case by writ of error before the United States Supreme Court. Dorr's imprisonment became a rallying cry of northern Democrats in the 1844 presidential campaign. 'I Hereby Certify, that [name] has contribution Ten Cents to the Dorr Liberation Fund, for the purpose of carrying, by Writ of Error, the Case of The state of Rhode Island against Thomas Wilson Dorr, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Signed, J.G. Treadwell, Counsel for sundry Citizens of Rhode Island. Countersigned, _____, President of the Dorr Liberation Society.
	Dorr War Poem
Dorr War Poem
During the period of the rebellion many mass suffrage meetings and suffrage clambakes were held. Usually these events had programs associated with them, with guest speakers, songs to be sung and poetry to be recited. Shown here is an example of a slip ballad to be either sung or recited during a suffrage meeting.
	Friends of the Constitution
Friends of the Constitution
This broadside was issued for the constitutional vote of March 1842. It suggests to suffrage supporters that the People's Constitution will not stand and their only hope for an extension of suffrage was to vote in favor of the Landholders' constitution. This constitution was narrowly defeated by a vote of 8,689 againist adoption to 8,013 in favor. As the broadside warned, the state continued to be governed under the "Old Charter".
	Hurrah for the Old Charter
Hurrah for the Old Charter
This anti-Dorrite broadside celebrates the March 1842 defeat of the General Assembly's proposed constitution, commonly referred to as the Landholder's - or Freeman's - constitution. Many Dorrites voted against this constitution in hopes that its defeat would allow for the adoption of the People's Constitution, previously approved by voters in December 1841, as the new state constitution. Instead, the state continued to be governed under the old Charter. Mockery of the self-defeating Dorrite action is central to this piece.
	Martial Law
Martial Law
Thomas Dorr issued a proclamation on June 25th 1842 calling for the Peoples' Government to reconvene at Chepachet in July. The same day as Dorr's proclamation, the Charter Government enacted a law placing all of Rhode Island under martial law.
	People's Constitutional and State Rights' Ticket
People's Constitutional and State Rights' Ticket
On April 18, 1842 the suffrage party held an extra-legal election to select state officers under the People's government. Two days later the Charter government of Rhode Island elected statewide officers as well. With two rival governments in place the road to rebellion had begun. The ballot shown here was for the election of Thomas Dorr as governor as well as other officers under the People's government. Broadside RB1056 1842, Sidney S. Rider Collection, John Hay Library, Brown University.
	People's Ticket
People's Ticket
Detail of the People's Ticket.
	Portrait of Thomas Wilson Dorr
Portrait of Thomas Wilson Dorr
This print drawn from a daguerreotype of Thomas Dorr was done in Philadelphia in 1842 by William Warner a portrait painter and engraver. Copies were sold in Providence by Abraham Stillwell, a local bookseller. Stillwell began advertising the sale of the likeness of Dorr beginning with the June 20, 1842 issue of the Providence Daily Express, Stillwell's ad read 'GOV. DORR, Just published and for sale at No. 1 Market square, a Portrait of Thomas W. Dorr, elected Governor of the State of Rhode Island under the People's Constitution.'
	Portrait of Thomas Wilson Dorr
Portrait of Thomas Wilson Dorr
This image was engraved from a daguerreotype of Thomas W. Dorr and was executed by Archibald L. Dick of New York City. This engraving first appeared in John O'Sullivan's United States Magazine and Democratic Review for August 1842 and was accompanied with a five page sketch of the life of Thomas Dorr. The image proved popular as it was also used to illustrate Edmund Burke's House of Representatives Report No. 546 investigating the interference of the executive in the affairs of Rhode Island and Might and Right by Frances Harriet Whipple Green both published in 1844 as well as Dan King's Life and Times of Thomas Wilson Dorr published in 1859.
	Postcard of Chepachet
Postcard of Chepachet
Postcard of Chepachet - Main Street, looking South.
	Postcard of Chepachet
Postcard of Chepachet
Postcard of Chepachet - Main Street, showing Bridge.
	Postcard of Chepachet Inn
Postcard of Chepachet Inn
This inn, owned by Dorrite supporter Jedediah Sprague, was used as Dorr's Headquarters during his stay at Chepachet in late June 1842.
	Postcard of Fort Adams
Postcard of Fort Adams
In June 1842, President John Tyler sent additional Federal troops to Rhode Island in case their services were need to maintain peace. Fort Adams, located in Newport, served as a post for these troops.
	Proclamation by Samuel Ward King
Proclamation by Samuel Ward King
Governor King on April 4, 1842, in response to a resolution passed by the General Assembly the previous month, issued this proclamation "warning and admonishing all faithful citizens who have been led into ... unlawful enterprise ... to withdraw from ... and ... give no counternance to said unlawful enterprise." The purpose of this proclamation was to dissuade citizens from voting in the upcoming people's election or from holding office in the People's government.
	Proclamation of Reward
Proclamation of Reward
Law & Order Governor Samuel Ward King issued a reward of $1,000 for the return of Thomas Dorr in May, 1842, following the events at Chepachet. Gov. King raised the reward an additional $4,000 on June 29, 1842.
	Rhode Island Suffrage Association Ribbons
Rhode Island Suffrage Association Ribbons
The Rhode Island Suffrage Association held mass meetings to promote its cause, first in Providence on April 17, 1841, then in Newport on May 5th and finally in Providence on July 5th. The ribbons shown here were worn at these mass suffrage meetings.
	Scenes in Rhode Island
Scenes in Rhode Island
A multi-panel illustrated account of Dorr's return to Rhode Island and subsequent attempt to raid the Cranston Street Arsenal. Illustrations by E. W. Bouve Lithography, Boston, 'Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1842 by H.H. Brown in the clerks' office of the district court of Rhode Island.'
	Scenes in Rhode Island (Restored)
Scenes in Rhode Island (Restored)
A restored version of the E.W. Bouve lithograph 'Scenes in Rhode Island.'
	Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 1
Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 1
The first panel of the restored version in 'Scenes in Rhode Island.' This panel depicts Dorr, roughly 35 years of age, with a sword like that he brandished on his return to Rhode Island.
	Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 2
Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 2
The second panel of the restored version in 'Scenes in Rhode Island.' This panel depicts Dorr delivering a speech outside of the Burrington Anthony house on Federal Hill, Providence. No records of the 45-minute long speech survived.
	Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 3
Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 3
The third panel of the restored version in 'Scenes in Rhode Island.' This panel depicts the attempt on the Cranston Street Arsenal on May 17th, 1842. Dorr led the charge, but was opposed, and ultimately defeated, by the state militia of Governor Samuel Ward King.
	Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 4
Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 4
The fourth panel of the restored version in 'Scenes in Rhode Island.' This panel depicts the militia gathered inside the Arsenal during the raid. Among those defending the arsenal and its weapons were Dorr's father, brother, and uncle.
	Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 5
Scenes in Rhode Island - Panel 5
The final panel of the restored version in 'Scenes in Rhode Island.' This panel depicts a group of militia cadets pursuing Dorr after his attempt on the Arsenal.
	Second Ward. For Delegates to the Peoples' Convention of October 4th
Second Ward. For Delegates to the Peoples' Convention of October 4th
In July of 1841 the Rhode Island Suffrage Association called for a people's constitutional convention to frame a constitution to replace the Royal Charter of 1663. Throughout the state delegates were elected to convene in convention in October. This ballot was used for the election of delegates from Providence's second ward. All candidates on this ballot were elected including the rebellion's namesake Thomas Wilson Dorr. Broadside RB1076 1841, Sidney S. Rider Collection, John Hay Library, Brown University.
	Sheet of People's Tickets
Sheet of People's Tickets
In the fall of 1841 the Rhode Island Suffrage Association held a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution to supersede the Royal Charter of 1663. The constitution drafted was called the People's Constitution. This ticket is the ballot used in the statewide election on December 27, 28, 29,1841. The new constitution was approved by a vote of 13,895 'for' and 52 'against'.
	Statue of Thomas Wilson Dorr
Statue of Thomas Wilson Dorr
The People’s Governor—1842 Constitutional Reformer. Statue created by sculptor, Joseph Avarista, and donated by Gail Cahalan Conley, Dr. Patrick T. Conley (Rhode Island Historian Laureate). Placed by the Heritage Harbor Foundation in the Rhode Island State House January 2014. Photograph by Russell DeSimone, 2016.
	Suffrage Association Clambake Ribbon
Suffrage Association Clambake Ribbon
Suffrage Association Clambake Ribbon - September 28, 1842.
	T.W. Dorr Inaugurated Governor of Rhode Island, May 3d, 1842
T.W. Dorr Inaugurated Governor of Rhode Island, May 3d, 1842
Hand colored lithograph, probably copied from an image of Thomas Dorr published in the August, 1842 issue of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, which in turn was taken from a daguerreotype. In Dorr's right he holds a copy of the People's Constitution. Creator: James Baillie, who had just set up in business in New York City after having worked as a colorist for Nathaniel Currier. Publisher: J. Baillie, 118 Nassau St., New York City
	The Capture of Acote Hill
The Capture of Acote Hill
In the face of an opposing force of nearly 3,500 militiamen then converging on Dorr's encampment at Chepachet, Dorr wisely decided to release his rag tag army of less than 300 men. On June 27, 1842 Gov. Thomas Dorr issued a proclamation releasing his supporters urging them to return to their homes, many did not and were arrested. This image shown here was drawn by Henry Lord a skilled carriage painter and artisan, it is the only first hand depiction of the events at Chepachet.
	The Convention Quickstep
The Convention Quickstep
The cover of sheet music for the 'Convention Quick Step'. Arranged for the piano and flute, the piece was composed by R.B. Taylor for the Rhode Island Suffrage Association.
	The Doctrine of Sovereignty
The Doctrine of Sovereignty
Thomas W. Dorr penned this credo on the doctrine of sovereignty in 1853 the year before his death. In it he states the people's sovereignty is a God given right and it is the responsibly of just governments to protect this right. This credo was somewhat radical in the 1840s and putting it into practice in 1841-1842 lead to the Dorr Rebellion.
	The Dorr Mansion
The Dorr Mansion
Built by Sullivan Dorr in 1809, the Dorr Mansion was designed by John Holden Greene and erected on the house lot and original burial site of Providence's founder, Roger Williams. The building still remains on the East Side of Providence on Benefit Street.
	The Four Traitors
The Four Traitors
Dating from 1845, this broadside depicts Charles Jackson, Samuel Man, James Simmons and Lemuel Arnold. In that year, moderates within the Law & Order Party felt that it was time for Thomas Dorr to be released from prison. The four subjects of this broadside were of this belief. Instead of supporting the Law & Order candidate James Fenner for governor they supported Charles Jackson. Jackson was elected and shortly thereafter Dorr was released from prison.
	The Great Political Car
The Great Political Car
In 1844 Thomas W. Dorr was tried for treason, found guilty and sentence to life in prison. Dorr's liberation became a major issue in the 1845 state elections, with 'liberation' Whigs and Dorr Democrats uniting to oppose the Law and Order party and its incumbent governor, James Fenner. Breaking ranks with the Law and Order party were state representatives Charles Jackson, and Samuel Mann, United States Senator James Simmons and former governor Lemuel Arnold. These men formed a temporary coalition with Dorr Democrats to elect Jackson as governor; Dorr was subsequently released from prison in June of 1845.
	Trouble in the Spartan Ranks
Trouble in the Spartan Ranks
This anti-Dorrite satirical political print with cartoonish depictions of a number of Dorrites situated before the Providence arsenal was issued in 1843 the year following the rebellion. The newly elected governor James Fenner (Old Durham) is shown on the right as a stout man with horns on his head; atop the horns with a cloven hoof is Thomas Dorr. The print stated to be drawn by C. Maolsehber is a partial anagram for Caleb Moshen a Providence stonemason.
	Women's Hand Fan - 2C Recto
Women's Hand Fan - 2C Recto
During Dorr's time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan (recto), created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a floral motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
	Women's Hand Fan - 2C Verso
Women's Hand Fan - 2C Verso
In 1844, Dorr was found guilty of treason and was sentenced to solitary confinement and hard labor for life. During his time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan (verso), created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a floral motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
	Women's Hand Fan - 5B
Women's Hand Fan - 5B
During Dorr's time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan (verso), created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a seashell motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
	Women's Hand Fan - 5H
Women's Hand Fan - 5H
During Dorr's time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan pattern, created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a hummingbird motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
	Women's Hand Fan - 5I Recto
Women's Hand Fan - 5I Recto
During Dorr's time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan (recto), created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a nature motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.
	Women's Hand Fan - 5I Verso
Women's Hand Fan - 5I Verso
During Dorr's time in prison, he was purportedly given the task of painting women's hand-fans for the La Moselle Eventail Elastique brand. This fan (verso), created sometime around 1845 and adorned with a nature motif, is attributed to Dorr. Photography by Erik Gould, courtesy of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

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