The colony suffered greatly in the war with King Philip. Providence was burned, and the outer settlements were laid waste and settlers murdered. The Great Swamp Fight, on Rhode Island soil, broke the power of the hostile Indian confederacy, and when King Philip was slain by treachery in the fastnesses of Mount Hope, the red men ceased to be a menace to the security of the settlements.
When Sir Edmund Andros was made gov ernor of New England by James II he sought to take away the colonial charters, and in 1687 attempted to seize that of Rhode Island, but in some mysterious manner it disappeared and was not found until the accession of William and Mary in 1689. Roger Williams had died in 1683. Notwithstanding the harsh treatment he had received from the authorities of Massa chusetts he was ever ready to use his influence with the Indians in behalf of the colonies, and he was instrumental in disarming Indian hos tility at times when the colonists were ill-pre pared for defense. Although a strong con troversialist and bold and unsparing in his denunciation of those with whom he did not agree he had a remarkable faculty of com manding the affection and esteem of men, as was signally shown in his ability to obtain for his colony the protection alike of Cromwell and of Charles II. He was exemplary in his pri vate life and altogether worthy of the rever ence which posterity, without regard to creed, attaches to the memory of him whom Whit tier has truly called (soul-freedom's brave con He imprinted on Rhode Island a character which it has never lost, and which has been handed down through all the varying changes of population, of liberality and toler ance, of the Sermon on the Mount interpreted in the ordinary every-day actions of men.
The colony grew with a steady and whole some growth and religion flourished, although unsupported by the compulsory contributions of worshippers. The people were engaged in agri culture and commerce, and, in times of war, in privateering. During the struggle between Great Britain and France for empire in North America, Rhode Island took an active share in troops and seamen, and the colony had 50 privateer vessels, manned by 1,500 sailors, at sea in 1756. The passion for privateering, with its excitement, its tests of courage and endurance and prospects of rich reward, be came so strong that when Esek Hopkins was commander-in-chief of the Continental navy, with his vessels at Providence, he found it impossible to man them, owing to the fact that privateering offered better inducements. The
coast of the colony was infested with pirates in the early part of the 18th century, and some 30 of these ocean highwaymen were hanged at one time at Newport.
It was difficult in earlier years to obtain men to fill the minor public places, and laws were passed which remained on the statute-books for many years, providing penalties for refusal to accept office. This modesty on the part of the forefathers is easier to understand in view of the fact that the expenses of the town of Providence at the outbreak of the Revolution did not exceed $1,000 a year.
The people of Rhode Island were among the foremost in defending American rights against the aggressions of George III and his ministers. In June 1772 a band of volunteers commanded by Abraham Whipple, who had distinguished himself as captain of a privateer in the wars against the French, burned the British revenue schooner Gasper in Narragansett Bay. During the greater part of the War of Independence Newport was occupied by the British, and on 29 Aug. 1778 a severe engagement was fought between the Americans, under Sullivan, and the British at Butt's Hill, R. I., in which the British suffered the greater loss. During the war the State furnished nearly 12,000 enlisted men.
Rhode Island was the last of the States to ratify the Federal Constitution, its assent not having been given until 29 May 1790, more than a year after the national government had gone into operation. As a small State, Rhode Island was peculiarly jealous of its rights, and was slow to assent to its adoption. As the Con 'stitution was first formulated and adopted by some of the original States there was room for a well-grounded fear that the smaller States might be destroyed and absorbed through com binations of their more powerful neighbors. It was this fear mainly that caused Rhode Island to stand aloof from the combination, and it was not until that fear had been allayed by amendment to the original instrument that its adoption by the State was effected.