Lawyers only constant in ever-evolving General Assembly

SHIFTING INFLUENCE The dominant occupations of Rhode Island’s legislators have evolved with the changing economic and social landscape of the state. In 1886 – the earliest year for which the state has complete data available – farmers, attorneys, manufacturers and merchants/small-business owners were the top four occupations. By 2021, attorneys, merchants/small-business owners, retirees and educators were the top four groups. / SOURCE: R.I. STATE LIBRARY; R.I. GENERAL ASSEMBLY OFFICIALS / ILLUSTRATION: PBN/ANNE EWING

Farmers were a powerful voting bloc in Rhode Island in the early days of statehood and ruled the General Assembly. That’s because the structure of state government through the 19th century gave rural communities outsized representation in Rhode Island’s citizen legislature, meaning that the seats of the General Assembly were largely filled with those who

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