King" Richard Greene and Governor Joseph Wanton - Part II
By that time many of his friends had severed relations with him because of his Tory principles. Greene's last months were very painful, not only from the cancer, but also from the fact that his estate was lost. Because of his flamboyant and expensive life-style he had borrowed heavily and his property was eventually seized by his creditors, among whom were the Browns of Providence. The farms owned by Richard Greene were rented for a time and then divided. The homestead was taken by the Browns. Nicholas Brown had intended to give the estate to his daughter as a wedding present when she married Thomas Poynton lves.
Nicholas Brown died before the wedding took place, but his brothers John, Joseph and Moses granted his wishes and Hope Brown lves became the owner of the estate in September, 1792. The lves lived in Providence but spent much of their time in Potowomut and added considerable acreage to the original purchase. Eventually the estate became known as "Hopelands."
While "King Richard" Greene died a very unhappy man, homeless and despised by many for aiding the British, Governor Joseph Wanton found himself rejected by the General Assembly and deprived of office because of his Tory convictions. Joseph Wanton, from an illustrious Newport family, had long been considered one of the staunchest defenders of the rights of Rhode Islanders. He had been elected governor for seven continuous sessions. He had defended Rhode Islanders against British officials on a number of occasions, and along with Captain James Wallace of the Rose, attempted to avoid British reprisals for overt Rhode Island acts of violence, such as the burning of the Gaspee.
Joseph Wanton, a wealthy Newport merchant had met with little opposition since his first term in 1769. In 1774, however, signs of unrest and rebellion began to appear against the Wanton family's attempts to mollify the British in their hope of avoiding open conflict. Joseph Wanton, Jr. lost his seat in the General Assembly because of charges that he was a Tory and a strong slate, headed by William Greene of Warwick, was drawn against his re-election as governor in 1775. Wanton won by a narrow margin and, after the hostilities at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, he adopted the position that the Bostonians had brought their troubles upon themselves and that Rhode Island should not interfere. The General Assembly, on the other hand, wanted to aid the rebels and called for an "Army of Observation" to march to Boston to aid the revolutionaries.
Wanton was very much against this action and made it clear that he was not in favor of the Army. He knew that the Assembly would want him to sign commissions and support the Revolution and, knowing of this. Wanton declined to be present at the time of a special session of the General Assembly called on the twenty-second of April. This meeting called for an Army of Observation to march to Boston to help the rebels. Wanton knew the Assembly would demand that he sign commissions for the officers of that army. To avoid this, he feigned an illness when it was time for him to be inaugurated. He had hoped his absence would cause the General Assembly to reconsider, but it did not.
Those who defend Wanton's stand point out that many Newporters stayed away from the General Assembly meeting at that time out of fear of reprisals from Capt. James Wallace, the British commander in Narragansett Bay. The General Assembly, which was scheduled to meet in Newport on May 3, 1775, met in Providence instead. The feeling is that they did so to avoid a confrontation with Wanton's Tory friends. The speaker of the lower house of the General
Assembly, Metcalf Bowler, asked Wanton if he would sign the commissions. Henry Ward, the secretary of the colony, was instructed to sign the commissions and the Army of Observation became active.
In the May session of the General Assembly, Darius Sessions, the elected Deputy Governor, had refused that office and Nicholas Cooke of Providence was elected to fill the vacancy. By November of 1775, the Assembly formally deposed Governor Joseph Wanton. In much the same type of political maneuvering that has characterized Rhode Island over the centuries, the General Assembly levied charges against Wanton.