Samuel Greene Arnold (1821-1880) is one of the two foremost historians of colonial Rhode Island. He was born into a prominent merchant family and was descended from Thomas Arnold, one of Providence’s earliest settlers. Arnold was educated by private tutors, attended private schools, graduated from Brown University in 1841, and earned a law degree from Harvard in 1845.
After extensive travels, available to a man of wealth and leisure, Arnold embarked upon the writing of a detailed and scholarly History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations covering the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This two-volume work was published in 1859-60.
Arnold’s public service included three terms as lieutenant governor, the last of which was interrupted by brief service in the United States Senate to complete the unexpired term of James F. Simmons who was removed for war profiteering.
Arnold was a Rhode Island delegate to the Peace Conference of 1861. When compromise failed, Arnold helped to organize a company of light artillery and served, with the rank of colonel, as aide-de-camp to Governor William Sprague.
In later life Arnold performed volunteer work for several public charities and devoted his time to historical research and writing at his home “Lazy Lawn” in Middletown. He composed many historical addresses which he read upon commemorative occasions and at meetings of the Rhode Island Historical Society, an organization he headed from 1868 until his death in 1880.
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