May 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Today is a holiday.

§ 25-2-1 Rhode Island Independence Day.– The fourth day of May in each and every year is established, in this state, as a day for celebration of Rhode Island independence, being a just tribute to the memory of the members of our general assembly, who, on the fourth day of May, 1776, in the State House at Providence, passed an act renouncing allegiance of the colony to the British crown and by the provisions of that act declared Rhode Island sovereign and independent, the first official act of its kind by any of the thirteen (13) American colonies.
That is correct. Rhode Island unilaterally declared its own independence a full two months before the other 12 colonies copied our idea. So for all of that bluster about the Texan Republic*, RI actually had the guts to renounce foreign control in the face of the the whole British Empire.

It goes without saying that RI is one of the finest states, but here are a list of further reasons why we're great. A recurring theme is foresight when it comes to matters of governance.

  • Enacted first law abolishing slavery, 1652.

  • First armed rebellion against the British, the burning of the merchant ship Gaspee, 1772

  • State bird is a chicken, the Rhode Island Red. Without a doubt the tastiest of the official U.S. state birds.

  • After leaving the repressive Puritan environment of Massachusetts, Roger Williams founded the state based on the concepts of freedom of religion and thought, and is widely considered the forefather of the First Amendment.

  • Immediately ratified 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery). Only state to reject Prohibition, and one of only seven not to approve of the lame 22nd Amendment (Presidential term-limits).

  • Have consistently voted the right way in Presidential elections. Historically, RI has gone for the best Presidents and against practically all of the worst, with very few lapses in judgement. I would say, far fewer than any other state. There is a tendency when thinking of history to forget about the controversy at the time, as though elections weren't contentious, but of course they were. Or to rarely bother checking the scorecard on who turned out right or wrong. Well, as far as states go, we were almost always right. Often about people who had not yet revealed themselves to be horrible yet, like Hoover and Nixon, and often by large margins in elections that were otherwise close. And not just because the state is liberal, we went to Eisenhower and Reagan at least once.

    • For: Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, F. Roosevelt (4 times), Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy.
    • Against: Jackson (all 3 times), Buchanan, Hoover (both times), Nixon, both Bushes both times (by the largest margins twice).

    The only significant mistakes were Harding, Nixon's 2nd term (but only by 3%), and some of those lesser-known people like Pierce and Garfield/Arthur.
    So to anyone still thinking that history will vindicate our current President, I say, look to Rhode Island, my friend. He lost here both times, with RI being his worst and second-worst state. Right now his approval rating is 16%. There really isn't anyone who didn't win RI, but turned out to do a good job (with the possible exception of Cleveland or James K. Polk). And Bush Jr. is no James K. Polk.

So respect Rhode Island. We gave you religious freedom and Forth of July Parades and we can take them away.