Politically, the state of Rhode Island has two U.S. Senators -- Democrat John "Jack" Reed and Republican Lincoln Chafee; the positions of U.S. Congressmen are held by Democrat Patrick J. Kennedy (of the famous Kennedy family), district one, and Democrat Jim Langevin, district two. Basically, Rhode Island "tends to vote Democratic in presidential elections and has done so consistently from 1984 through 2004." In 2004, the state "gave John Kerry (the Presidential contender of George W. Bush) a greater than 20 percentage point margin of victory. . . with 59.4% of its vote" ("Rhode Island," Internet).
Therefore, it is clear that Rhode Island is a "Blue State," meaning that it overwhelmingly supports Democratic candidates for various political offices as contrasted with the "Red States," especially those in the Deep South, which support to a great degree Republican candidates. Also, the voters of the state, as well as a majority of its legislative branch, tend to hold liberal views related to the state's internal and external affairs.
The judicial branch is led by a constitutionally-mandated state supreme court made up of five members who exercise supervisory control over all lower courts established by the general assembly. The supreme court is the state's highest appellate tribunal and is empowered to issue when requested advisory opinions on the constitutionality of certain acts by the governor or by the members in either legislative house. Below the supreme court exists second judicial levels of the superior courts and family courts. Uniquely, cities and towns in Rhode Island comprise the main units of local government, for the state is only one out a few that does not have a county system of government.
Financially, Rhode Island obtains a good share of its tax revenue from federal grants and other tax measures. Most of the taxes are generated from sales and use taxes and from an income tax based on a percentage of the federal levy. Other taxes come from gasoline, business corporations, public utilities and cigarettes. With the cities and towns, the main source comes from property taxes.
There are several areas which qualify Rhode Island as being unique among the other U.S. states. Historically, Rhode Island has had over one hundred governors, beginning in 1663 with Benedict Arnold (not the same as the infamous American traitor during the American Revolution). The city of Providence, the state's capitol and seat of government, was originally settled by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and when, in 1675, the original settlers managed to clear away the thick forests, Roger Williams, for famous religious reformer and clergyman, named the area Providence "in gratitude for God's providence to those in distress and a place which forever after would be a refuge for the oppressed" (Thompson, 214).
As a result of this early settlement, Benefit Street in old Providence is considered by many architectural historians as having the richest concentration of fine 18th and 19th century homes and buildings in the United States. On this street, and on others on the city's East Side,
mansions of brick and clapboard express the wealth that the shipping trades brought to Providence and the state during the prosperous years. The most famous of the wealthy merchants was one James Brown who established a distillery and whose sons brought additional wealth and prestige to the city.
Benefit Street also served as an inspiration for Providence's most famous writer, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, one of America's best-known Gothic authors. Also, the Providence Athenaeum, an 1850 Doric Greek building, contains one of the nation's oldest libraries and in its ornate alcoves, American poet Edgar Allan Poe socialized with Sarah Helen Whitman, a famous resident of Providence who served as Poe's inspiration for his poem "To Helen" and "Annabel Lee."
The city of Newport, situated at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, holds an impressive number of American "firsts," such as the first U.S. post office and first free public school in 1640; the first Jewish synagogue in the United States in 1789; the first gas-lit street in 1803; the first open golf tournament in 1895; the first official grass-court tennis championships in 1881; the first traffic law in 1687 and the first motorized traffic arrest on record in 1904, issued for traveling 15 miles per hour (Carpenter, 73).
Politically, Rhode Island boasts one of the most important and fundamental state constitutions in America. Known as the "Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," there are twenty-four specific sections that focus on numerous subjects, some being related to individual rights which, upon close examination, bear striking similarities with the U.S. Constitution. This document is truly unique, for it demonstrates the individual freedoms and liberties expressed by the early inhabitants of the colony and mandates that these freedoms be utilized by modern Rhode Islanders.
For example, Section Two provides laws "for the good of the whole," such as "Burdens to be equally distributed; Due process; Equal protection (against) discrimination. . . No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender or handicap, be subject to discrimination. . . " Given that these laws were adopted in 1843, a period in American history when slavery was rampant, it is clear that the "Founding Father's of Rhode Island were far ahead of their contemporaries. Section Four of the constitution is even more astonishing, for it patently declares that slavery is prohibited -- "Slavery shall not be permitted in this state" (RI.gov," Internet). This statement comes almost twenty years before the outbreak of the Civil War and demonstrates that the people of Rhode Island were much "enlightened" concerning the issue of slavery.
In conclusion, the state of Rhode Island, with its great historical, economic and political past and its unique state constitution, is truly one of America's gems. The successes which Rhode Island has experienced within the last ten years or so is truly unique among American states, especially when one considers that its current governor Donald Carcieri, a major player in Rhode Island, rose through the ranks "to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Cookson America" and was "instrumental in the growth of the business into a major manufacturer. . . going from $30 million in sales to over $3 billion in sales at the time he retired" (RI.gov," Internet), facts that say much about Rhode Island and its people.
Carpenter, J.A. Rhode Island: The Enchantment of America. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980.
Kellner, George. Rhode Island: The Independent State. Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publications, 1982.
McLoughlin, William G. Rhode Island: A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.
Rhode Island: A Guide to the Smallest State. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1937.
"Rhode Island." Wikipedia -- the Free Encyclopedia. 2005. Internet. http://en.wikipedia.
"Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation." 2005. Internet. Accessed October 21,…