Abstract: Rhode Island voters recently voted to change the name of the state, dropping the phrase “Providence Plantations” from its official name. Supporters objected to the term “Plantations” because of its association with slavery. Opponents argued that in this case, plantation was a synonym for colony and had no connection with slavery. The change implied that Rhode Island engaged in the trade in and employment of African slaves from its beginning, but this is not accurate. In the Rhode Island charter, “plantation” referred to the of planting of free English and Scots Protestant families in colonies, a policy first used in Ireland, in the plantation of Ulster (1609), for example. The planted settlers would take root, grow, and eventually expand to cover a large field, like an invasive horticultural species, displacing the indigenous species, just as European plants and animals did.
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