“You’re Too Short for That Gesture”: Some dissenting historiography behind Rhode Island’s supposedly declaring independence on May 4, 1776

The other day  — May 4, to be exact — the Smithsonian American History Museum posted this on Twitter: “Today in history: Rhode Island declares independence.”  I like and promote the Smithsonian’s posts. But I have a problem with this one, which draws on a longstanding tradition, promoted especially in Rhode Island, that Rhode Island declared independence from England two months before the Continental Congress did.

In the most literal sense the tradition is probably not wrong. But especially at its Twitter length, which allows for no context or nuance, it feeds widespread misconceptions about how the American colonies became independent.

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