While on my road trip last week, I stopped in the Hopkinton, RI Town Clerks office and noticed this framed piece hanging on the wall. On closer inspection I spotted my fourth great-grandfather, Randall Wells, on it.
Here is a transcription of the document:
At a Town Meeting in March xx 1788. A List of Voters with their Yeas & Nays Respecting the late proposed Constitution.
At a Town Meeting held in Hopkinton, in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, on the XX Day of March AD 1788 – By Order of the Hon. – the Gen. Assembly of the State at their Sepion (?) held at Providence in February last. ———– (viz)——
The following are the names of the Freeman + Freeholders and inhabitants of Hopkinton aforesaid who voted that the late proposed Constitution for the United States be Adopted.——
Joshua Clarke Elder
Thomas Wells Jr.
Joshua Coon Jr.
The following are the names of the Freemen + Freeholders and inhabitants of Hopkinton aforesaid who voted that the late proposed Constitution for the United States be Negatived —-
Lawton Palmer Jr.
Thomas Wells 2nd
Edward S. Wells
Samuel Maxson Jr.
Here are my best guesses as to who the Wells’ above are:
Thomas Wells Jr. (Probably Thomas Wells 4th (1723-1795) son of Thomas Wells 3rd/Phebe Greene)
Thompson Wells (1746-1811: Son of Thomas Wells 4th/Sarah Thompson)
Amos Wells (1760-1819: Son of Thomas Wells 4th/Sarah Thompson)
Henry Wells (1753-1825: Son of Thomas Wells 4th/Sarah Thompson)
Elnathan Wells (1737-1804: Son of Jonathan Sr/Elizabeth Maxson)
Jonathan Wells (1735-1807: Son of Jonathan Sr/Elizabeth Maxson)
Samuel Wells (1758-1809: Son of Ensign Joseph Wells/Thankful Theft)
Edward Wells (Probably Captain Edward Wells Jr. 1726/7-1798: Son of Edward Wells/Elizabeth Randall)
Randall Wells (1747-1821: Son of Edward Wells/Elizabeth Randall)
Matthew Wells (Either Matthew Sr 1735/6-1818 son of Edward Wells/Elizabeth Randall or his son Matthew Jr 1765-1852 son of Matthew Sr/Bridget Burdick)
Clarke Wells (1762-1796: Son of Thomas Wells/Sarah Clarke… Also Randall aboves brother-in-law as they both married daughters of John Maxson/Sarah Burdick)
Edward S. Wells (Edward Sheffield Wells 1765-1806: Son of Edward Wells Jr/Elizabeth Sheffield)
Thomas Wells 2nd (Probably Thomas Wells 5th 1755-1829 son of Thomas Wells 4th/Sarah Thompson)
For the most part, the branches of the family seem to stick together on their opinions. All except Thomas Wells 5th who votes Nay where his father and brothers vote Yeah.
You can see by the tally that the town of Hopkinton voted not to approve the Constitution. Don’t hold it against them, when I did a little research I found that the entire state voted it down, so Hopkinton seems representative of the State at large. According to Wikipedia, by 1789, Rhode Island still hadn’t approved the Constitution. On April 6, 1788 George Washington was unanimously elected to be the nation’s first President and John Adams is elected its first Vice President, receiving 34 of 69 votes cast. Only ten of the thirteen states cast electoral votes in this election. Rhode Island was one of them as they were ineligible to participate as they had not yet ratified the Constitution May 29, 1790, when they became the thirteenth and final state to ratify the Constitution (34–32). In addition to ratifying the constitution, Rhode Island requests that twenty-one alterations be made to it.
So why would they oppose the Constitution? Here are some reasons my research came up with:
The Country Party, Rhode Island’s anti-federalist political party, controlled the Rhode Island General Assembly from 1786 to 1790 and opposed the Federalist Party, which supported the U.S. Constitution. The Federalists were largely from the “town,” Providence, Rhode Island, while the Country Party members were from the surrounding rural areas. The rural Country Party which opposed the Constitution was suspicious of the power and the cost of a government too far removed from the grass-roots level. Among those in Rhode Island who opposed the Constitution were Quakers, who were opposed to the Constitution largely because of its sanctioning of slavery, and Baptists, one of the largest denominations in Rhode Island, who had historically been persecuted by various governments. Many were also concerned about the government created by the Constitution would violate natural rights and wanted a Bill of Rights to protect individual liberties. In the rural areas of Rhode Island, citizens wanted to ensure that their paper currency was redeemable as legal tender in the future.