Skip to Main Content

Dorr Rebellion: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1842, Thomas Dorr and his followers attempted a democratic uprising in Rhode Island. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Dorr Rebellion” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Rhode Island rebellion at an end." May 21, 1842. The New York Herald (New York, NY), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

In 1842, a group of agitated Rhode Island reformers under the leadership of Thomas Dorr forcibly seek to free their state from the shackles of the antiquated Royal Charter of 1663. Growing frustrated with repeated attempts at reform by peaceful means, Dorr’s followers, known as Dorrites, make a call to arms, plunging the tiny state into a democratic uprising. The Dorr Rebellion was a watershed in the history of states’ rights and a paradigm of early American radicalism. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


November 18, 1841 Elected delegates to the People’s Convention propose new state constitution for Rhode Island.
April 18, 1842 Dorr is elected to the office of governor under the People’s Constitution.
May 14, 1842 Dorr is met by an enthusiastic reception by leadership of Tammany Hall in New York City.
May 17, 1842 Dorr leads a small army with cannons to storm the arsenal.
July 4, 1842 Dorr comes out of exile to renew legislature in Chepachet, where he is met by 3,000 Charterites.
May 9, 1843 A new Rhode Island state constitution is enacted.
July 1842 - October 1843 Dorr remains in exile in New Hampshire under the protection of governor Henry Hubbard.
October 21, 1843 Dorr returns to Providence to face the charge of treason.
June 25, 1844 Rhode Island Supreme Court issues Dorr a severe sentence.
June 27, 1845 Dorr is freed after twenty months in prison.
December 27, 1854 Thomas W. Dorr dies.