This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
Rhode Island was originally settled by political and religious exiles from the neighboring colonies. The earliest government was one created by the settlers themselves, each settler being required to sign an agreement to give active or passive obedience to all ordinances that should be adopted by a majority vote of the inhabitants. In 1644, Roger Williams secured a charter from England which united the various scattered settlements into one province under the title of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. This charter was confirmed by Cromwell, and a new charter was granted by Charles II in 1663. Rhode Island shared with Connecticut the honor and privilege of having the most popular form of government among the colonies. The people elected all their officials and were practically a small republic, with hardly more than a nominal allegiance to England. The charter granted by Charles II continued to be used as the State Constitution nearly to the middle of the nineteenth century. The great freedom as to political and religious ideas allowed in Rhode Island attracted the discontented and oppressed from all the neighboring colonies. Rhode Island did much to set a good example of toleration to her sister colonies, but in the seventeenth century such a position as that taken by Rhode Island was so far in advance of the age as to render this colony an object of distrust to her neighbors. For this reason Rhode Island was excluded from the New England Confederacy. (1643-1686.) Although she had no serious grievances, of her own, Rhode Island was one of the first of the colonies in the contest against England, but the prevalent spirit of unrest and agitation abroad in the colony, made her the most unmanageable of all the colonies in the attempt to establish a true national government.