Dorr's Rebellion, 1841-43, a movement by Rhode Island liberals to abolish property qualifications for voting. Rhode Island's antiquated charter of 1663 prevented about half of the adult males from voting. Leader of the reform agitation was Thomas Wilson Dorr (1805-1854), a lawyer who formed the People's party.
In 1841 both the Dorrites and the ruling conservatives drew up new constitutions. The Dorrite constitution, which granted universal manhood suffrage, secured approval in a referendum, but the referendum was illegal because it had not been called by the government. The government's constitution, which was more restrictive in nature, was defeated in a separate referendum. In 1842 both factions held elections, and for a time Rhode Island had rival governments—a conservative government at Newport and a People's party administration, led by Dorr, at Providence.
There were some minor clashes between Dorrite forces and the state militia. Dorr went to Washington to plead his case before President Tyler. In Dorr's absence the Rhode Island government declared martial law and offered a reward for his capture. He gave himself up and in 1844 was convicted of treason. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1845. Meanwhile the conservatives, influenced by the strength of Dorrite sentiment, had written a new constitution (1843). It extended suffrage to all native-born male citizens.