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Last updated: 10/03/05

What’s New:
Thomas Wilson Dorr  1805-1854
Library Exhibit

This month in the University Library Lobby is an exhibit commemorating Thomas Wilson Dorr.

2005 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Rhode Islands great 19th century political reformer Thomas W. Dorr. Born into a wealthy Providence family, he was blessed with all the privileges that his familys wealth could provide, yet he would spend most of his adult life in the cause of the common man.

In the 1830s, as a member of the R.I. House of Representatives, his voice was heard in the anti-slavery cause; during this time he was also a champion of education reform and the advancement of the public school system. 

By the 1840s he would lead a movement for free manhood suffrage, establish a written constitution and go on to be elected Governor under this constitution. As leader of the Peoples government he would clash with the existing Charter government. While the suffrage movement culminated in open rebellion that ultimately failed; several months after the close of the rebellion Rhode Islands Charter government adopted a written constitution incorporating most of the provisions that Dorr sought to establish. 

Dorr was tried in 1844 for treason against the state, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.  After serving twenty months in state prison he was finally released in 1845, when Liberation Democrats won control of the General Assembly in Rhode Island.

Dorr Hall on campus is named in his honor.

The exhibit is curated by Russell DeSimone, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Library’s Technical Services Department.

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