John Collins stood forth as a staunch advocate of the independence of the British colonies in America. An admirer of George Washington, he was selected by the governor of Rhode Island in 1776 to carry a letter to Washington soliciting counsel. Later in 1782 he was made bearer to the President of Congress of a statement of Rhode Island’s reasons for rejecting the Impost Act. During the American Revolution, Rhode Island was for the most part an agricultural community and as such opposed the restrictions of a national government. Within the state the agriculturists contended vigorously for a paper currency. Collins espoused their cause and in 1786 was elected governor.
Collins represented Rhode Island in the Continental Congress in 1778 where he served until May 1781, when he was superseded by William Ellery. He was, however, reelected in 1782 and held the position until 1783. Rhode Island, up to 1790, vigorously fought against the calling of a convention to decide upon entering the Federal Union, but in that year on January 17 gave its sanction to such a call by a majority of one vote in the Senate. This vote was cast by Collins, who had come to realize the importance of a Federal connection. The vote cost him his popularity and the governorship. Later, however, he was elected to Congress but did not take his seat.
Collins was a staunch advocate of the independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
Collins was married to Mary, daughter of John Avery of Boston.