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Petition for the release of Thomas W. Dorr, 1844

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  • Petition for the release of Thomas W. Dorr, 1844

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Petition for the release of Thomas W. Dorr, 1844


Dorr Rebellion, 1842.


The Dorr release petition submitted to the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1844.


Citizens of Rhode Island


Rhode Island State Archives







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To the Hon. General Assembly of Rhode-Island.

We, your petitioners, Clergymen, and other of the State of Rhode Island, having taken into
consideration the present excited state of public feeling on the subject of the imprisonment of
Thomas W. Dorr, of Providence, recently condemned by the Supreme Court of this State, to
solitary imprisonment for life, upon a charge of High Treason, deem it our duty, as Ministers of
the Gospel, and friends of peace, to do every thing in our power, to allay the ferment, to soft-
en the resentments that now exist among our fellow-citizens, and to reconcile man to his
brother, and in pursuance of this end, to solicit the Legislature of this State, for the speedy
and unconditional liberation of the said Thomas W. Dorr.
In asking this of the Hon. General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island, we would ob-
serve that a pardon which is conditional, is no pardon at all, but a compromise, and we are
fully aware, and it must now be obvious to your honours, that the time for compromise has
gone by. The law has been put in force to its fullest extent, with the sole exception of dura-
tion, and we have reason to think from the habit of said Thomas W. Dorr, and his present ill
state of health, the duration, if for life, would be very short; and that his death, taking place
in prison, would only further exasperate his friends and adherents, and tend to heighten a state of feeling in the community, inimical to our political happiness, if not dangerous to the
We are aware of the objections heretofore made, to the liberation of Thomas W. Dorr,
upon the ground of contumacy; but, we ask if you honours would feel any greater confidence
in a man, who would subscribe to what you would know to be a falsehood, than in one who
adhered to what he fully believes to be right? We know, a man thinking he is right, does not
make it so, but it makes him a liar if he says a thing is wrong, which he believes otherwise; —
and in this view of the case, we would respectfully ask your honorable body, if they could have
more confidence in the subject of this Petition, or believe him more worthy of enlargement,
or better calculated to make a good member of society, if he should disavow opinions which
we know he holds, or hypocritically affect to recant them?
That we regard with much sympathy the sufferings of the honored Parents and friends of
Thomas W. Dorr, and for their sake, as well as for the desirable purpose of restoring quiet
and good feeling to a large portion of the community, we feel bound to solicit his speedy re-
lease from the confinement to which he is subjected, and your Petitioners as in duty bound
will every pray.

[Signed by more than 3,500 Petitioners, both men and women] 1844

Original Format



Citizens of Rhode Island, "Petition for the release of Thomas W. Dorr, 1844," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #69, http://www.sos.ri.gov/virtualarchives/items/show/69 (accessed April 23, 2014).