This month’s election is as good a time as any to take a moment to reflect on some of the rights that we so often take for granted. It’s also the perfect time to look at Rhode Island’s role in protecting and advocating for some of those freedoms.
In the State House’s Charter Museum, secured behind state of the art display cases, is the Royal Charter of 1663. This ornately designed document, granted by King Charles II, gave Rhode Island’s colonists unparalleled rights, such as the ability to govern themselves and freedom of religion.
“It also talks about the natives having rights,” explains Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. “With it, the king was basically telling the other colonies to stop invading and harassing the people of this particular colony and that included the natives.”
The museum, which was renovated and reopened in January, maps out the story of Rhode Island’s early settlers and their commitment to establishing a colony where people were free to govern and worship as they saw fit. Guests can sign up for a free tour and see artifacts that map out the history from Roger Williams’ arrival in Providence to King Charles II’s unprecedented allowance of the colonists to freely worship.
The vacuum-sealed display case, built by Sandberg Machines in Burrillville, utilizes inert gasses and special lights – similar to the way the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are both preserved – to maintain the integrity of the document. Other pieces in the Charter Museum collection include a deed Roger Williams drew up for the Narragansetts in order to acquire land for his colony and the royal seal of King Charles II. The goal is for guests to leave the museum with a story of Rhode Island’s earliest citizens and their willingness to live harmoniously with others.
“We have some really fantastic pieces of our history that we should be very proud of,” says Secretary Gorbea. “When you look at our role as a state in the making of this country it was absolutely fundamental. Given this day and age, these ideas are more important than ever.”
Room 143 of the Rhode Island State House. 82 Smith Street. SOS.RI.gov