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6 Weird Political Facts from RI History

Today is inauguration day for President-elect Trump, shown by polls to be one of the most unpopular presidents in decades. Some say the country is entering a new period with untold potential; others feel that America has taken a sharp right turn onto Crazy Street. Differing opinions aside, everyone can agree that politics probably won’t be the same. But, the political game has always been a bit chaotic, and Little Rhody’s history is ripe with examples. Here are six facts that prove politics (in RI at least) have always been a little nuts:

Courtesy of Visit Rhode Islands’ Facebook

We once had five state capitals simultaneously, one for each county.

Before 1854, our little state had a whopping five state capitals. The acting government rotated between each county (it had to be fair after all). The number of capitals slowly dwindled down to two in 1854, but it wasn’t until 1901 that Providence was elected the one and only seat of government.

Courtesy of Prospect Terrace Park’s Facebook

Roger Williams was the ultimate political rebel (and a huge inspiration to our founding fathers).

The rights and liberties we now take for granted, like freedom of religion and separation of church and state, were popularized and put into action by none other than Roger Williams. Rhode Island became a “lively experiment” for unorthodox systems of government that would later be adopted into the mainstream. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who famously penned the Constitution and Bill of Rights, drew inspiration from his work.

Declaration signer Stephen Hopkins. Courtesy of the RI Historical Society

We were the first state to declare independence from Britain and the last to sign the Constitution.

Apparently Rhode Island has a stubborn streak. A bit miffed at the British ships prowling our waters and searching our boats, we declared independence on May 4th, 1776, two months before the rest of the colonies. Then, when the rest of the freed colonies drafted up a new Constitution for the country, we refused to send a representative. It took two years and  the threat of exorbitant export taxes from neighboring states to make RI agree to the document.

Thomas Dorr: Courtesy of RI Historical Society’s Facebook

The state once had two constitutions, two elections, and two governors at the same time — and a mini civil war to boot.

RI hasn’t always been the democratic utopia it is today. Back in 1841, the only people allowed to vote were the Mr. Monopolys, and they had a stranglehold on the state government. A lot of the non-Mr. Monopolys didn’t like that very much. They wrote up a new constitution that opened up the vote to a larger chunk of the population, and they unofficially elected a new state government with Thomas Dorr as governor. In response, the wealthy elite wrote their own constitution and declared martial law in an effort to crack down on the political dissidents. So began the Dorr Rebellion. Shots were fired, rebel and government troops assembled, and Governor Dorr was arrested, but major violence was avoided. In the end, the impromptu government and constitution were dissolved. Unnerved by the whole ordeal, the rich politicians granted the vote to American-born men of all races–ladies and Native Americans would have to wait.

Courtesy of the Audrain Automobile Museum’s Facebook

We were the only state to skip Prohibition.

While the rest of the country decided it was best to put the booze away, RI refused to sign the 18th Amendment. Rumrunners and distillers rejoiced at the state’s decision, and Rhode Island became a hotbed of alcohol production, distribution and exportation.

Courtesy of the Audrain Automobile Museum’s Facebook

Although more akin to legal history than political, we had the first automobile speeding violation.

In 1904, Judge Darius Baker arrested a Newport resident for going a whopping fifteen miles an hour, earning the miscreant a five day sentence. Proud of our heritage, we Rhode Islanders maintain the long tradition of speeding to this day.

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Escaping the Election: 4 Places to Visit

via GIPHY

Whether you've already cast your ballot or you're abstaining from voting entirely (we don't blame you), most people are pretty tired of this election cycle. As the country selects our glorious leader for the next four years, hide out from the political frenzy at one of these prime locations.

snake-den

Courtesy of Snake Den's Facebok

Snake Den

If you'd like to follow in Thoreau's footsteps and escape to nature, Snake Den is the perfect place. With over a thousand acres of undeveloped forest to explore, you could probably spend the next four years wandering the woods. There's a range of terrain from relatively flat to hilly. If you feel like working off election anxiety, make the climb up to the high trail and bask in the glory of nature from the many scenic overlooks.

2321 Hartford Ave., Johnston, riparks.com

eddy-bar

Courtesy of Eddy Bar's Facebook

The Eddy

It may not be terribly original, but a bit of imbibing can help you forget just about anything, and the Eddy has some of the best drinks around. With warm and fuzzy cocktail names like Bees on Bees on Knees (it tastes great too!), politics should be the last thing on your mind. If mixed drinks aren't your thing, they've got a good selection of craft brews that should do the trick. The best part about the Eddy? There's no TV, so you can drink with your disaffected comrades in peace.

95 Eddy St., Providence, 831-3339, eddybar.com

east-greenwich-lib

Courtesy of East Greenwich Library's Facebook

East Greenwich Public Library

There's no better way to forget about the current political imbroglio than by settling down with a good book. Whether it's a cheap thriller or a classic (Machiavelli's The Prince maybe?) there are plenty of books to choose from. The cozy interior of the library, with its rough-hewn stone and dark wood paneling, will make you think you're nestled away in an Old World manor, far removed from American politics.

82 Pierce St., East Greenwich, 884-9510 eastgreenwichlibrary.org

rw-botanical

Courtesy of Roger Williams Botanical Garden's Facebook

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

If it's too cold for an outdoor adventure, you can still get your nature fix by heading to the Roger Williams Botanical Center. It has more than 12,000 square feet of indoor gardens in its toasty-warm greenhouses. With over 150 varieties of flowers, trees, cacti, and tropical plants, there should be plenty to see. The only heated arguments you'll hear will be over which is the most beautiful plant (Only Trumpet flowers will make the garden great again!).

1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, providenceri.com/botanical-center, 785-9450

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