Rhode Island

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Thomas Jefferson visited Rhode Island[1] on two occasions.


June 1784 Visit

Jefferson had visited both Newport and Providence when he and his daughter, Martha, traveled through the state heading to Boston to sail for France. Evidently, Jefferson visited Ezra Stiles, President of Yale. This visit was part of a larger visit to Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts to gather information before his trip to Europe.

1784 June 8. "His Excelly. Govr. Jefferson of Virginia visited me with a Letter from Mr. Sherman at Congress...He is on his way with Col. Humprys, Secretary to the Commissioners to Rh. Islad., Bo. And Piscataqua to survey these Eastern States, and take passage at Bo. for France."[2]

1784 June 14. "Pd. ferrge. to Newport 6/- gave boat man 1/4."[3]

1784 June 16. "Pd. entertt. at Almy's, Newport L4-4-ferrg. from the island 8/."[4]

1784 June 17. "Pd. entertt. Chace's Providence L2-14-6."[5]

1784 July 1. (Jefferson to James Madison). "After visiting the principal towns through Connecticut, Rhode Island, this state and N. Hampshire in order to acquire what knowlege [sic] I could of their commerce and other circumstances I am returned to this place [Boston] and shall sail the day after tomorrow."[6]

August 1790 Visit

Jefferson, as Secretary of State, was a member of George Washington's party to Newport and Providence to celebrate the state's recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The party included David Humphreys, New York Governor George Clinton, William Loughton Smith, Supreme Court Justice John Blair, and others. They left New York City aboard the packet Hancock on August 15, sailed through Long Island sound and arrived in Newport on the morning of the 17th. The day was filled with tours, ceremonies, and an evening banquet at Town Hall. While in Newport they lodged at Mrs. Almay's boarding house. Following addresses by religious and fraternal groups, they left Newport early on the morning of the 18th and arrived in Providence that afternoon after a seven hour trip. They were met at the wharf by Governor Arthur Fenner and were escorted to their lodgings at the Golden Ball Inn with troops and music. As in Newport, there were tours, toasts, and cermonies before the group left Providence the next afternoon, to arrive back in New York City on the 21st.[7]

1790 August 14. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I am setting out on a trip to Rhode-Island with the President tomorrow, by water."[8]

1790 August 15. "Set out for Rhode island with the President."[9]

1790 August 21. "Ret'd. fr. do. to New York."[10]

1790 August 22. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "The last letter I received from you was of the 2d. July. In mine of the 14th inst. to Mr. Randolph I informed him I should set out the next day to Rhode island with the President. I did so, and returned yesterday, after a very pleasant sail of two days going and two days returning thro' the Sound. We visited Newport and Providence, where the President was received with great cordiality."[11]


  1. This article is based on Gaye Wilson, Monticello Research Report, January 1999.
  2. PTJ, 7:302.
  3. MB, 1:552.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid, 1:553.
  6. PTJ, 7:356.
  7. See Edward Dumbauld, Thomas Jefferson American Tourist (Norman OK: University of Oklahoma, 1946), 156-158.
  8. '"PTJ, 17:390.
  9. MB, 1:763.
  10. Ibid, 1:764.
  11. '"PTJ, 17:402.

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