The ratification of the United States Constitution by Rhode Island was the 1790 decision by the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (“Rhode Island”) to accede to the United States Constitution. It was a controversial process which occurred only after the United States threatened a trade embargo against Rhode Island for non-compliance.
The signing of the United States Constitution in 1787; no representatives from Rhode Island are shown in this painting, as the state refused to send a delegation.
Rhode Island acquired a reputation for opposing a closer union with the other former British colonies that had formed the United States of America. It vetoed an act of the Congress of the Confederation which earned it a number of deprecatory nicknames, including “Rogue Island” and “the Perverse Sister”.
One provision of the Articles of Confederation stated that an amendment to the Articles could only be made with the approval of all the states, and this gave any state a functional veto power over amendments. Other states opposed amendments that might harm their own interests, but Rhode Island was particularly ready to use its veto power. The Confederation Congress called a convention to discuss amendments that would address this and other perceived shortcomings in the Articles, to be convened in Philadelphia in May 1787. But Rhode Island refused to send a delegation, and the convention instead set about drafting a new Constitution. Rhode Island was the only state that did not participate in its proceedings.