Rhode Island’s Royal Charter on display


This year marks the 350th anniversary of the document that gave Rhode Island religious liberty and coined the phrase “lively experiment.” The Colonial Charter of Rhode Island is on display in a free exhibit at the State Archives in July.

“A Lively Experiment: Rhode Island’s Colonial Charter, 1661 – 1843” features an array of original items related to Rhode Island’s Royal Charter of 1663, according to a recent press release from the Secretary of State’s office.

On display are the 1721 recorded copy of the 1643 Parliamentary Patent that preceded the Charter, remnant sections of the wax and resin Great Seal of King Charles II that was originally appended to the Charter and the legislative proceedings around the Charter’s arrival in Rhode Island and its first reading to the General Assembly.

“The Charter is the source of the popular phrase ‘lively experiment,’” said Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis. “The groundbreaking document gave Rhode Island a degree of self-governance and religious liberty then unmatched in the English empire.”

Several additional items are on display, including a published transcription of the Charter printed in England in 1719, contemporary documents written in the hands of Roger Williams and John Clarke, as well as records relating to 19th century preservation measures taken for the Charter and its eventual encasement for display in 1915.

The Rhode Island Charter will be displayed on the first floor at the State House in the new Charter Room, created for the celebration.

Rhode Island’s founder is also being honored with Roger Williams’ compass and timepiece being displayed. Additionally, a fragment of the document that transferred land rights to Williams from the Narragansett Indian tribe will be shown.

Per the release, the exhibit and new Charter Room are part of a yearlong 350th anniversary celebration that also includes a panel discussion with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagen Aug. 20 and “No Person Shall Bee Anywise Molested,” a conference on the role of religious tolerance Oct. 3.

“A Lively Experiment” is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the State Archives, 337 Westminster St., in downtown Providence.


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