Some facts concerning Newport at the start of the Revolutionary War

At the start of the American Revolution, Newport was the largest of the cities in Rhode Island. The legislature met there during many of the events regarding the Gaspee incident. However, Newport was not the state capitol. Unlike other American states, Rhode Island did not administer government through the counties. Counties in Rhode Island were used only for the organization of militia and the administration of the judicial system. However democracy prompted the residents of each county, in their turns, to host the General Assembly. This system of rotating the legislature meant that at various times, Newport, Providence, Warwick, Portsmouth, East Greenwich, Kingston, and Bristol all were the seat of the central government. (However, the newly elected legislature each May convened at first in Newport, and organized there, both because Newport was the largest city, and also it had the largest and oldest of the county courthouses used as state capitols.) By the time of the American Revolution, Newport was the most frequent site of the Assembly meetings, with only Providence and South Kingston being occasionally used. Bristol was not included in the rotation scheme until 1797.

Newport was destroyed by the Revolution. The British occupied Newport during most of the war. The last few years of the war it was occupied by the French to keep the British out. By the end of the war, the once primary port of overseas shipping of the colonies had become a minor harbor of the United States.

Over half the townspeople fled the British occupation. In 1774, Newport had sent to sea 140 vessels. In 1782, she sent out 6. In 1774, Newport had 21 distilleries and 9 spermaceti works; in 1782 she had none.