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Frances H. (Frances Harriet) Green.

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MIGHT AND RIGHT



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BY



A RHODE ISLANDEE.



" None can love Freedom iieariily, but good men ; the rest love not
Freedom, but license, which never hath more scope, or more indulgence,
than under TYRANTS." Milton.



PROVIDENCE :
A. H. STILLWELL.

1844.






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1844,

BY W. L. LEGG.

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Rhode Island.



B. F. MOORE, Printer, Providence.






TO

THOMAS WILSON DORR,

The TRUE and tried Patriot, the fearless De-
fender OF Human Rights, this work is respect-
fully inscribed by the

The Author.



3026245



CONTENTS







PAGE.


Introductory Chapter,


-


13


CHAPTER II.






The Charter, _ _ - .


-


27


CHAPTER tn.






Grounds of Complaint,


-


39


CHAPTER IV.






The Rise and Progress of the Suffrage




Movement, . - - _ _


-


56


CHAPTER V.






Mass Conventions, - _ -


-


73


CHAPTER VI.






'The People's Constitution,


-


92


CHAPTER VII.






The Right of Change,


-


115


CHAPTER VIII.






The Landholders' Constitution,


-


155


CHAPTER IX.






The Algerine Laws, - - -


.


172



VI CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XI.
The Judges, - - - 191

CHAPTER XH.
The Two Elections, - - - - 214

CHAPTER Xm.
Resignations. - _-■' 236

CHAPTER XIV.
Martial Law, - - - 257

CHAPTER XV.
The Prisoners, _ - - - - 267

CHAPTER XVI. •

Outlines of History, . - - - 288



PREFACE.



Not as an advocate of the Free Suffrage Party,
as such, do I present myself before the public; for
between them and me, there are some radical points
of difference in opinion and in principle, which
would not permit me to do so. But I stand forth,
as an Expositor of truth, and, in that character, as
the vindicator of men, who, acting under a strong
sense of duty and of right, have yet suffered
wrongs, which, if we rightly consider their char-
acter, and the circumstances in which they were
placed, put to shame the tyranny of the most des-
potic government, and the oppression of the dark-
est times. I know that a prejudice, wide as the
dominion of wealth, strong and deep as his iron
coffers, and cold as the coin that clanks within
them, exists against this people ; and, also, that,
in disapprobation of certain points of their course,
some of the higher and purer spirits have turned
aside ; and, moreover, that many who avow them-



Vm PREFACE.

selves the Friends of Liberty, have even joined
hands with the Oppressor ; yet, nevertheless, I will
always sustain their right to be heard, before they
are condemned ; and if there is one spark of hon-
esty in the land, one single ray of real freedom, I
fear not the result.

There are those, I am well aware, who will
meet me, even here, on the very threshold of my
Enterprise, with the assertion that the Free Suf-
frage Party acted wrong — some making one ob-
jection to their course, others, another. To such
I will say, must we wait till down-trodden and
crushed Humanity is perfect, before we go forth to
labor in its behalf? Must the violated and prostrate
slave become a model of all that is lovely and great
in man, before we extend to him a helping hand,
or breathe into his wounded bosom a word of pity,
or of hope ? Then there would be no friends of
liberty — no advocates of Human Rights, any-
where. The hand that is stretched forth to help
the persecuted, would be paralyzed in the very
act — the generous bosom of Sympathy would
learn to throb according to the dictates of artificial
rules, and the great heart of Philanthropy, itself,
would become calloused in complete selfishness.
It is not incumbent upon me, then, before I labor
in behalf of tlie men, to prove — what was never



PEEFACE. IX

proved of any great body — that they were, col-
lectively and individually, all good men and true ;
or that they, even, always acted from right princi-
ples, or with right feelings. It merely rests upon
me to show that, while they occupied the same po-
sition with the Heroes of '76, they have been
branded by every degrading epithet, and persecut-
ed, and slandered, to that degree which Human
Nature, when it knows itself — nay, when it be-
gins to have the faintest suspicion of its power —
cannot, and will not, and should not, long endure.
It is true the dominant Party have spoken by the
mouth of all their oracles, and called the Rhode
Island Patriots, rebels ; while the people in the
neighboring States, being in many, if not in most
cases, content to act the part of echoes, have, for
months, risen in the morning, quaffed their coffee,
read the papers, dined, supped, and gone to bed
again, to dream, very probably, how/ree they are ;
they have done all this, in altogether comfortable
ignorance of what their neighbors in this ancient
colony of " The Plantations," were doing and
suffering. In simplest phrase, then, I have but to
show that the men I represent are injured men ;
and the sympathy of their fellow-countrymen will,
I doubt not, be enlisted in their favor ; for the



X PRFFACE.

People have hearts, though Politicians, and Legis-
lators, may not have.

Believing in the unity of Human Rights — the
unity of f^reedom — we can see that the injury of
any member, is the injury of the whole body, and
wrong towards any part is wrong towards the
whole. It becomes, then, the bounden duty of
liim who labors in the cause of man," to neglect no
sufferers about him who wear the human form,
even though their creeds, both political and moral,
may differ from his own. And to all others, who
have no conscience to bear upon the question, it
should become a matter of policy — of downright
selfishness. Let them look to it, when Human
Rights are trodden under foot, that their own are
not injured, or even crushed amid the common
wreck.

I will, then, place the Free Suffrage Party of
Rhode Island, on the same platform with the ca-
nonised Fathers of the Revolution ; for there, only,
can they occupy their true position • — there, only,
can they be seen in their true light — there, only,
can they hope to receive justice. Nor will they
all stand like dwarfs in the presence of those great
Shades ; but as true sons, and rightful heirs of the
noblest legacy that man ever bequeathed to man.
I set before you their history ; and, in the name of



PREFACE. XI

insulted Truth, and violated Justice, demand a
CANDID HEARING. They ask for nothing more.
And shall this demand be in vain ? Speak, good
men and true, if there be any in Rhode Island who
dare to do so ! In Rhode Island, where Honesty
is starved, and only the miserable panders of Place
and Power — the.poor excrescences of a time-worn
Aristocracy — can show a well-fed front. Speak,
old Massachusetts, our elfler-brother-land ! Send us
a God-speed, that shall echo from your northern
battlements to the hallowed Rock of Plymouth !
Give us one word of good cheer, Connecticut, our
comely and right-minded sister ! Show us that a
Heart is throbbing beneath that sober girdle — ay,
and a Soul, too, ready to kindle at the tale of
wrong ! The granite cliffs of New Hampshire
never refused an echo when the oppressed cried for
help ! They will speak for us. And even Green-
mantled Vermont will blush in shame, that she
beheld our sufferings unmoved. Her mountain-
heart will beat again, true to herself, and the Free
Thought that surrounds her like a native element ;
and she will more than make amends for her former
coldness. Maine will send us a cheer on the free
billows that chafe her coasts ; and the eloquence of
her orators, and the song of her noblest poet, will
be an — nealed in our behalf. New York will



Xll PREFACE.

send our call abroad, with the high authority of the
Empire State, and whisper it to the gentle sister
she embraces ; and even the Land of Penn will be
"Rioved in the spirit," to hear, and to help us.
Ohio will catch our Appeal from the banks of her
own beautiful River, and bear it westward, until,
from the children of the distant prairies, shall come
a widely-echoing response ; and no free Wind shall
return to us with our call unanswered.



IGHT AND RIGHT.



■w



MIGHT AND EIGHT.



INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

It will at once be seen by the style of the fol-
lowing Narrative of events, during the momentous
season, v/hen the friends of Liberty were struggling
for their own, and the people's rights in Rhode
Island — that the Work has been penned by another
hand than was expected. Ill health and domestic
engagements have combined to prevent that person
from performing the task ; but, in her opinion, the
public will not lose by ths exchange. The person"
who writes this Work, brings a warm heart, and
powerful intellect into the field, and will, doubtless,
do justice to the subject. She has, however, with
much courtesy, delegated to another the office of de-"
lincating the character of Society in Rhode Island,
prior to, and at the time of, the great political con-
test she is commemorating.

The writer of this Introduction has been long
aware that people abroad, labor under the grossest
mistake with respect to those who are the characters
that compose the principal part and make the princi-
pal figure among the Aristocracy of Rhode Island ;
who, it is known, are the sworn foes to Free Suf-
frage ; and, indeed, to liberty in every form, and every
where. People of other States, even while they de-
spise the pride of descent, which they suppose has
impelled them to grasp all power, and trample upon
the rights of unendowed fellow-citizens, have yet



16 MIGHT AND RIGHT.

felt a degree of commisseration, from the supposed
hardship of depriving the families of the first settlers
of honors and emoluments they and their families
had been always accustomed to, and admitting a set
of interlopers (denominated " the rabble, the lower
orderSj the tag rar, &c. of Society,) to come in and
share their inheritance — who had not, like their
ancestors, borne the burden and heat of the day.
Now persons who understand the matter in this light,
may hoard their sympathies for another occasion.
There is not a jot or tittle of truth in the supposi-
tion : the families of the first settlers, the original
owners of the soil, (honored be their names) are, for
the most part, a diflerent set of people 5 and, with a
few disgraceful exceptions, are uniformly favorable
to the freedom of the Elective Franchise. They
are Democrats of the old school, intelligent, liberal-
minded men, who, estimating the blessings of Lib-
erty and Independence, are willing all should enjoy
them. With them originated the first objections to
the laws of primogeniture ; and, as will be shown
here, were among the number of those, who have at
various times made efforts to obtain an enlargement
of the rights of voters — efforts that were uniformly
scouted by the General Assembly of the State of
Rhode Island.

But who, then, it will be asked, are the great men
who rule that great State ? Who are the Aristocracy
that lord it over the people ? Who affect to despise
the laboring part of the population (except when
they are soliciting their votes ?) Who are they that
talk " of the danger of putting power in the hands of
the common people.^'' Why, for the most part, per-
sons who a few short years since, ranked far below
that order themselves : and now to their History.

In the changes to which all things are subject in
this changing world, there has been a great change
in the Society of Rhode Island. Party spirit has



MIGHT AND RIGHT. 17

effected much ; for let a man be ever so despicable in
himself, if he would only lend himself to the views
of those, who were determined by every means,
either honest or dislioncst, to acqnire and maintain
supreme power in the State, his fortune was at once
made. And again the facilities for obtaining the
benefit of the Insolvent Act, have been the cause of
an inundation of artful and dislionest men from other
States, whose example has had a most deleterious
effect upon the Society of Rhode Island — for
although many came without any apparent means
of support, yet by some craft unknown to the former
staid and sober inhabitants, they contrived to live in
a style and fashion quite new, and seduce others into
habits of extravagance and profusion, that soon made
a wreck of many a fair estate ; and often transferred
those very estates into the hands of him, who though
he had run the same excess of riot, yet having
nothing, could lose nothing. Sometimes this has
been done in later days, through the witchcraft of
Banks, which readily transforms rags into gold, for
in their palmy days, these were next to the General
Assembly — Omnipotent in Rhode Island.

An early contest in Rhode Island, whose effects
have been felt to the present hour, seemed at once to
define the position of parties. We allude to that be-
tween the old school Federalists and Jeffersonian
Democrats, which was carried on with a zeal and
fierceness, never perhaps equalled, certainly not ex-
celled in any of the States. There was. as in the
Suffrage contest, a proscription and persecution from
the Federal side of the question, utterly at war with
all republican notions, as well as christian feeling.

To give a history of this warfare, in the City of
Providence alone, would more than fill this volume,
and exhibit such examples of " man's mhumanity to
man," as can only be surpassed by the crusade against
the Suffrage Party in 1842 and 43. Who that has
2*



18 MIGHT AND RIGHT.

read the " Annals of the town of Providence,"' lately
pnblislied by one of the Judges of the present justly
styled Sicpreme Court of Rhode Island, would imag-
ine such violence of persecution could have been ex-
hibited, such party spite, snch malign feeling, such
riots, such quarrels, such backbitings and contentions,
in a City for the lost forty years at least, which he
describes — going on as quiet as a Q-uaker meeting.
To begin with the Crusade against Gov. Arthur
. Fenner, who was, tell it not in Gath, father of the
present Algerine Governor of this State. He was
the Democratic Governor and a knid of head of the
Democratic party throughout the State ; at least they
adopted him as such, although their party could boast
of many men of superior pretensions in some respects,
yet his age, his station, his known patriotism, which
was never doubted, his shrewdness, and above all,
the deep insight with which he penetrated the views
and plots of the opposite party, made him a universal
favorite with his own.

He was besides of a very jocose, social and con-
vix^ial turn, and exceedingly hospitable, entertaining
friends and foes, without distniction, at his well
spread board. This last virtue was made the instru-
ment to injure him, by many of his unscrupulous
guests ; and careless expressions, uttered durnig the
hours of social hilarity, were artfully seized on to
effect, if possible, his downfall. One of these rela-
ting to an unknown stranger, who liad recently com-
mitted suicide in one of the pnblic highways, was
reported in such an aggravated manner as to occasion
a lawsuit, and such a commotion as shook the whole
State to its centre. It is inconceivable what a tumult
the Federal Party contrived to make out of it ; and
as Gov. Fenner was then a candidate for re-election,
they availed themselves of that privilege to abuse
him beyond any thing we have ever known of any
one individual. The almost expiring hopes of a



MIGHT AND RIGHT. 19

famishing party, hungry for office, received such an
impulse that they rushed from town to town, and
village to village, from ohop to shop, and house to
house, and daily collected in little groups in the
streets and public places, to report progress, and tell
the latest news. The Federal newspapers were filled
every week, with fresh scandals, and further enormi-
ties, until one must have believed, if he credited
them, that all the sins committed since the first set-
tlement of the country, rested on this one man.
Meanwhile the prosecution went on. It was an
action of slander against the Chief Magistrate, for
saying that John Dorrance, (formerly Judge) had
sold the dead body of the suicide to a Surgeon, for a
beaver hat ; and although they could make nothing
out of the case, and the defendant was acquitted, yet
did not the fire of the assailing party slacken in the
least. From Gov. F. they went to his friends ; and
his intimates and political associates were attacked
with a degree of violence next in degree, to that
with which they attacked the Governor. Fortune
here seemed to favor them. It is seldom a man's
friends are all honest ; and some curious develop-
ments with regard to the afiairs of the Gloucester
Bank, where several of these were Directors, enabled
them to open a new battery ; and oh, what, a God-
send the failure of that Bank was to the Algerines of
that day ! Most of the Directors of that Bank were
Democrats, in like manner as all those of the Agri-
cultural Bank are Algerines now. How it was that
the General Assembly publicly sifted them, and sent
them to Jail, and now bear the downfall of thisAvith
such christian forbearance, we cannot tell ; since, we
opine, that the block-heads who managed the for-
mer concern were as much .inferior in villainy to
soiae in the late affair, as possible, their crime seemed
to be in permitting themselves to be overreached by
an artful financier, who had the adroitness to persuade



20 MIGHT AND RIGHT.

them — that he would by one bold stroke, make the
fortune of the Bank. However, they had no right
to embark the property of others, in such a gambling
speculation, and were justly punished, their own
party giving them up without a murmur. Still the
friends of Gov. Arthur Fenner stuck close, and fought
manfully in his behalf, and he was again and again
re-elected. Nor did the fire of the Adversary slacken
in the least ; every meeting of the Democratic Party
was sure to be insulted in some way or other ; and
to such a pitch of exasperation did the Federal lead-
ers succeed in raising their party, that private insults
on account of difference in politics, succeeded pub-
lic ones. The military companies in the town of
Providence, were at that time commanded by leaders
of different sides, and to array them in a hostile atti-
tude towards each other seemed quite a desideratum
to the Federal Party. In this they succeeded, and on
several occasions of public turn-out, a crowd was col-
lected on the Great Bridge, and in other public places,
where they were expected to meet, to see the fun ;
for, as they could not harmonize to go in ons proces-
sion, it was expected, whenever they met, there
would be a contest. A very handsome and spirited
party of Light-horse was commanded by Col. Henry
Smith, a staunch Democrat, and a man who feared
nobody, and it was supposed that rather than turn
out for a foot company he would force his way pell
mell through them, as he easily might have done,
having the advantage of being mounted : however
they reckoned without their host. Col. Smith had
no idea of sacrificing the blood of liis fellow-citizens
from false notions of honor ; and upon meeting the
foot company who had made their boast of compelling
him to turn out, he very quietly wheeled and gave
them the middle of the Bridge. Great cheering
from the Federal mob succeeded this exploit ; but a
few days after. Col. Smith was riding over, and



MIGHT AND RIGHT. 21

chanced to meet the officer whose discourteous man-
ners had occasioned such uproar, when he suddenly
leaped from his horse, and with herculean arm seized
the little Bragadocio by the waistband, and shook
him over the side of the Bridge, threatening to let him
drop, unless he solemnly promised never to insult
him again. This was final, and from that period,
the rival companies passed each other with courtesy.
But the persecution and vituperation of the Federal
Party still continued. One sample after they became
elated by temporary success, may suffice. There
was a naturalized citizen, who had resided several
years in the town, ordered to quit it Avith his family,
in tlu-ee days, for the sole offence of talking his sen-
timents publicly in the streets ; his manner, like that
of most of his nation, being somewhat loud and bois-
terous ; (he was an Englishman by birth) but the
law required that a man should be a pauper, or liable
to become such, before such a command could be
enforced ; and tliis in his case, was far from being
so. He was then driving a profitable business, and
cleared at least five dollars per day, above ail expen-
ses. The attorneys consulted, advised him not to
go, and clearly demonstrated that they had no law
for such a proceeding. He remained, and three days
after, in attempting to pass the Bridge, was seized by
order of the (Federal) Council, stripped, and publicly
whipped on the Bridge. This outrage, was one of
the boldest, and most daring experiments of that
party, and justly drew down public indignation, not
only in Rhode Island, but in the neighboring States,
and nothing could have restrained the friends of this
man from avenging his cause, but that regard to
quiet and order which has ever distinguished the
Democratic Party of Rhode Island. In allusion to
the constant assertion that they were the rabble, it
will be proper here to remark, that though the ma-
jority, then, as now, were mechanics and laboring



25^ MIGHT AND RIGHT.

people, they were in general not only better bred,
but better born, than their adversaries, who, many of
them came into the State, a few years before, not
only needy adventurers, but of doubtful character.
They were, mostly, the sons of persons, who, like
themsclveS; had lived upon the credulity of mankind,
persons, who, even now, were over head and ears in
debt, completely bankrupt, though living in a style
that the poor mechanics to whom they were indebt-
ed, never attempted. One family that almost gov-
erned the State at that time, origmally came into the

town as paupers, supported by the town of N ,

on whose books may still be seen the appropriations
made for their support, and the schooling of their
children — cluldren doomed in a few short years to
dictate to the people of the tov>^n, and to sneer at
" the poverty and ignorance of the lower order s.^^
Several of these Aristocrats had made their advent as
Stable boys, not a few originally as Pedlars ,• and we
hold in our hand the Indentures of one of their
great guns, who was bound out " to serve in a gen-
tleman's kitchen," and who was afterwards the op-
pressor of that gentleman's descendants, for demand-
ing the 7'ights of the common people. Reader, we
would be the last to dispute the clamis to respect, of
the poor man, who has by honest industry raised
himself into notice ; but when a man has arisen from
the very lowest dregs in society, and by unholy
stratagems has become possessed of a little wealth,
and begins to swagger and look big, and talk about
the " lower orders," and " the rabble," and his " ope-
ratives,'''' many of whom are gifted with a genius and
capacity which none of his stupid progeny could ever
boast of — when they begin to tell of the danger of
putting power into the hands of the common people,
it is time they should be exposed. They deserve
unqualified contempt. No wonder they view with
apprehensions which they cannot disguise, the da.wn-



Online LibraryFrances H. (Frances Harriet) GreenMight and right; → online text (page 1 of 29)