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Thomas Wilson Dorr Trial: 1844

Dorr Gains Sympathy

Sympathy for Dorr grew and his imprisonment became the key issue in the gubernatorial election of 1845. The "liberationists" won both the governorship and a majority in the state legislature that year and, on June 27, 1845, a law was passed unconditionally discharging Dorr from prison. This was not a pardon, however, and Dorr's civil and political rights were not restored until his uncle, Philip Allen, became governor in 1851.

During his imprisonment, Dorr worked on his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he was released before the case reached the court's docket. The matter was continually postponed until Dorr withdrew the appeal in 1849.

After his release, Dorr continued his interest in politics and served as an advisor to his uncle. However, Dorr's health further declined and, by 1854, his imminent death was obvious to everyone. That year, the state legislature passed a bill that annulled Dorr's conviction, but his opponents promptly went to the state supreme court and obtained a ruling that the legislation was unconstitutional. Dorr died a few months later on December 27, 1854, unrepentant to the end.

Mark Thorburn

Suggestions for Further Reading

Dennison, George M. The Dorr War: Republicanism on Trial, 1831-1861. Lexington, Ky.: The University Press of Kentucky, 1976.

Gettleman, Marvin E. The Dorn Rebellion: A Study in American Radicalism, 1833-1849. New York, N.Y.: Random House, 1973.

Mowry, Arthur May. The Dorr War. Providence, R.I.: Preston and Rounds Company, 1901. Reprint:New York, N.Y.: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968.

U.S. Congress. House. Interference of the Executive in Affairs of Rhode Island" (commonly referred to as "Burke's Report"). Report No. 546, 28 Cong., I sess., 1844.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Thomas Wilson Dorr Trial: 1844 - Reformers Draft A "people's Constitution", Reformers Attempt To Seize State Arsenal, Dorr's Treason Trial