rebellion of 1842 was directed against the government of Rhode Island
which was still operating under the charter of 1663. Under the 1663
charter, only freeholders, (land owners of at least $134 value in
land) and their eldest sons had the right to vote.
Thomas Wilson Door, the son of an aristocratic Rhode Island
family was born in Providence, Rhode Island on November 5, 1805. As a
member of the Rhode Island State Legislature from 1834 to 1841, Dorr
had attempted unsuccessfully to change the state's charter to
universal suffrage. In 1841 Dorr organized the People's Party,
which then adopted a constitution favoring universal suffrage.
popular election held under this constitution, Dorr was elected
governor in 1842, however the election was not accepted as legal by
the legislature or the State Supreme Court.
Samuel King was returned to office in a separate election under the
old constitution at which point, Dorr and his followers marched on
Providence and attempted unsuccessfully to seize the state arsenal in
Providence on May 18, 1842. Most of Dorr's followers then deserted and
he was forced to flee the state.
returned to Chepachet, RI in June and attempted to reconvene his
People's Legislature, but in the meantime Governor King had
declared martial law, indicted Dorr for High Treason
and sent a Law and Order army of 2500 to quash the
rebellion and arrest the Dorrites. Dorr was forced to flee once again.
arising from the conflict reached the United States Supreme Court,
however the Court evaded the issue as to which of Rhode Island's
governors was legitimate. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's
(author of the infamous
Decision), opinion said that the
President and Congress must make that decision. He also stated that
the existing state authority, (the conservative government) was
legally empowered to use martial law in the face of a violent
The conservatives under Governor
King finally convinced of the strength of Dorr's cause, called for
another convention in 1843. The convention adopted a new constitution,
which greatly liberalized the voting requirements and which was
accepted by both parties. Door returned to the state, was found guilty
of High Treason and sentenced to solitary confinement at
hard labor for life in 1844.
Dorr served one year and was
released in 1845, however by this time he was broken in both health
and spirit and was not involved in any further political activity. In
1854 the court judgment against him was reversed.
It was however, the
mid-twentieth century before full rights to vote in all elections was
extended to all Rhode Island citizens.
Stagecoach Tavern - Chepachet, RI
The Providence Plantations for 250 years
1636-1886 - JA & RA Reid 1886