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Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 January and 15 March 1683) was a
Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of J ...

Puritan
minister, theologian, and author who founded
Providence Plantations Providence Plantations was the first permanent European American settlement in Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England New England is a region comprising six s ...
, which became the
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain ...
and later the U.S.
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as ...
, now the State of
Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as ...
. He was a staunch advocate for
religious freedom Freedom of religion or religious liberty is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in ...
,
separation of church and state The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religi ...
, and fair dealings with Native Americans. Williams was expelled by the Puritan leaders from the
Massachusetts Bay Colony The Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630–1691), more formally The Colony of Massachusetts Bay, was an English settlement on the east coast of America around the Massachusetts Bay Massachusetts Bay is a bay A bay is a recessed, coastal body ...
and established Providence Plantations in 1636 as a refuge offering what he termed "
liberty of conscience Freedom of thought (also called freedom of conscience or ideas) is the freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present s ...
." In 1638, he founded the
First Baptist Church in America The First Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as the First Baptist Meetinghouse. It is the oldest Baptist Baptists form a major branch of Protestantism, Protestant Christianity distingu ...

First Baptist Church in America
, in Providence. Williams studied the indigenous languages of
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
and published the first book-length study of a native North American language in English.


Early life

Roger Williams was born in or near London between 1602 and 1606, with many historians citing 1603 as the probable year of his birth. The exact details of Williams' birth are unknown as his birth records were destroyed when St. Sepulchre's Church burned during the
Great Fire of London Great may refer to: Descriptions or measurements * Great, a relative measurement in physical space, see Size * Greatness, being divine, majestic, superior, majestic, or transcendent People with the name * "The Great", a historical suffix to people ...

Great Fire of London
. His father was James Williams (1562–1620), a
merchant tailor In the Middle Ages or 16th and 17th centuries, a cloth merchant was one who owned or ran a cloth (often wool) manufacturing or wholesale import or export business. A cloth merchant might additionally own a number of draper's shops. Cloth was extre ...
in
SmithfieldSmithfield may refer to: Places Australia *Smithfield, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney *Smithfield, Queensland, a northern suburb of Cairns *Smithfield, South Australia, a northern suburb of Adelaide **Smithfield railway station, Adelaide *El ...
, and his mother was Alice Pemberton (1564–1635). At an early age, Williams had a spiritual conversion, of which his father disapproved. As an adolescent, he apprenticed under Sir
Edward Coke Sir Edward Coke ( "cook", formerly ; 1 February 1552 – 3 September 1634) was an English barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister A ...

Edward Coke
, (1552–1634) the famous jurist, and was educated at
Charterhouse School (God having given, I gave) , established = , closed = , type = Public school Independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independ ...
under Coke's patronage. Williams later attended
Pembroke College, Cambridge Pembroke College (officially "The Master, Fellows and Scholars of the College or Hall of Valence-Mary") is a Colleges of the University of Cambridge, constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college is the third-oldest col ...

Pembroke College, Cambridge
, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1627. Williams demonstrated a facility with languages, acquiring familiarity with Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Dutch, and French at an early age. Years later, he tutored
John Milton John Milton (9 December 16088 November 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the under its Council of State and later under . He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best kno ...

John Milton
in Dutch and Native American languages in exchange for refresher lessons in Hebrew. Williams took
holy orders In certain Christian churches Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Church ...
in the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
in connection with his studies, but he became a Puritan at Cambridge and thus ruined his chance for preferment in the Anglican church. After graduating from Cambridge, he became the chaplain to Sir William Masham. In April 1629, Williams proposed marriage to Jane Whalley, the niece of Lady Joan (Cromwell) Barrington, but she declined. Later that year, he married Mary Bernard (1609–76), the daughter of Rev.
Richard Bernard Richard Bernard (1568–1641) was an English Puritan clergyman and writer. Life Bernard was born in Epworth, England, Epworth and received his education at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1592, obtained his BA in 1595, a ...
, a notable Puritan preacher and author, at the Church of
High Laver High Laver is a village and civil parish in the Epping Forest (district), Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England. The parish is noted for its association with the philosopher John Locke. History High Laver is historically a rural ...
, in
Epping Forest Epping Forest is a area of ancient woodland In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britai ...
, a few miles east of London. Together Mary and Roger had six children, all born in America: Mary, Freeborn, Providence, Mercy, Daniel, and Joseph. Williams knew that Puritan leaders planned to migrate to the
New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas."America." ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'' (). McArthur, Tom, ed., 1992. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 33: " first_wave_of_settlers,_but_later_decided_that_he_could_not_remain_in_England_under_the_administration_of_Archbishop_ first_wave_of_settlers,_but_later_decided_that_he_could_not_remain_in_England_under_the_administration_of_Archbishop_William_Laud">Puritan_migration_to_New_England_(1620–1640)">first_wave_of_settlers,_but_later_decided_that_he_could_not_remain_in_England_under_the_administration_of_Archbishop_William_Laud._Williams_regarded_the_Church_of_England_as_corrupt_and_false,_and_he_had_arrived_at_English_Dissenters.html" ;"title="William_Laud.html" ;"title="Puritan migration to New England (1620–1640)">first wave of settlers, but later decided that he could not remain in England under the administration of Archbishop William Laud">Puritan migration to New England (1620–1640)">first wave of settlers, but later decided that he could not remain in England under the administration of Archbishop William Laud. Williams regarded the Church of England as corrupt and false, and he had arrived at English Dissenters">the Separatist position by 1630; on December 1, Williams and his wife boarded the Boston-bound ''Lyon'' in Bristol.


Life in America


Arrival in Boston

On February 5, 1631, the ''Lyon'' anchored in Nantasket Beach, Nantasket, outside of the Puritan settlement of Boston. Upon his arrival, the church of Boston offered Williams the opportunity to serve during the vacancy of Rev. John Wilson, who had returned to England to accompany his wife to the colony. Williams declined the position on grounds that it was "an unseparated church." In addition, he asserted that civil
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– ...
s must not punish any sort of "breach of the first table" of the
Ten Commandments The Ten Commandments ( he, עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת, ''Aseret ha'Dibrot''), also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. " ...

Ten Commandments
such as
idolatry Idolatry is the worship Worship is an act of religion, religious wikt:devotion, devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a god. An act of worship may be performed i ...
, Sabbath-breaking, false worship, and
blasphemy Blasphemy is an insult that shows contempt, disrespect, or lack of Reverence (emotion), reverence concerning a deity, a sacred object, or something considered inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy to be a religious crime. ...
, and that individuals should be free to follow their own convictions in religious matters. These three principles later became central tenets of Williams' teachings and writings.


Salem and Plymouth

As a
Separatist Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater ...
, Williams considered the Church of England irredeemably corrupt and believed that one must completely separate from it to establish a new church for the true and pure worship of God. The Salem church was also inclined to Separatism, and they invited him to become their teacher. In response, leaders in Boston vigorously protested, leading Salem to withdraw its offer. As the summer of 1631 ended, Williams moved to
Plymouth Colony Plymouth Colony (sometimes Plimouth) was an British America, English colonial venture in America from 1620 to 1691 at a location that had previously been surveyed and named by Captain John Smith (explorer), John Smith. The settlement served as t ...
where he was welcomed, and informally assisted the minister. At Plymouth, he regularly preached; according to the colony's governor, William Bradford, "his teachings were well approved." After a time, Williams decided that the Plymouth church was not sufficiently separated from the Church of England. Furthermore, his contact with the
Narragansett Indians The Narragansett people are an Algonquian American Indian tribe from Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the List of U.S. states ...
had caused him to question the validity of colonial charters that did not include legitimate purchase of Indian land. Governor Bradford later wrote that Williams fell "into some strange opinions which caused some controversy between the church and him." In December 1632, Williams wrote a lengthy tract that openly condemned the King's charters and questioned the right of Plymouth to the land without first buying it from the Native Americans. He even charged that King James had uttered a "solemn lie" in claiming that he was the first Christian monarch to have discovered the land. Williams moved back to Salem by the fall of 1633 and was welcomed by Rev. Samuel Skelton as an unofficial assistant.


Litigation and exile

The Massachusetts Bay authorities were not pleased at Williams' return. In December 1633, they summoned him to appear before the General Court in Boston to defend his tract attacking the King and the charter. The issue was smoothed out, and the tract disappeared forever, probably burned. In August 1634, Williams became acting pastor of the Salem church, the Rev. Skelton having died. In March 1635, he was again ordered to appear before the General Court, and he was summoned yet again for the Court's July term to answer for "erroneous" and "dangerous opinions." The Court finally ordered that he be removed from his church position. This latest controversy welled up as the town of Salem petitioned the General Court to annex some land on Marblehead Neck. The Court refused to consider the request unless the church in Salem removed Williams. The church felt that this order violated their independence, and sent a letter of protest to the other churches. However, the letter was not read publicly in those churches, and the General Court refused to seat the delegates from Salem at the next session. Support for Williams began to wane under this pressure, and he withdrew from the church and began meeting with a few of his most devoted followers in his home. Finally, in October 1635, the General Court tried Williams and convicted him of sedition and heresy. They declared that he was spreading "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions" and ordered that he be banished. The execution of the order was delayed because Williams was ill and winter was approaching, so he was allowed to stay temporarily, provided that he ceased publicly teaching his opinions. He failed to do so, and the sheriff came in January 1636, only to discover that he had slipped away three days earlier during a blizzard. He traveled 55 miles through the deep snow, from Salem to
Raynham, Massachusetts Raynham () is a New England town, town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States, located approximately south of Boston, Massachusetts, Boston and northeast of Providence, Rhode Island. The population was 1 ...
where the local Wampanoags offered him shelter at their winter camp.
Sachem Sachems and sagamores are paramount chiefs A paramount chief is the English-language designation for the highest-level political leader in a regional or local polity or country administered politically with a Chiefdom, chief-based system. Th ...
Massasoit Massasoit Sachem () or Ousamequin (c. 15811661)"Native People" (page), "Massasoit (Ousamequin) Sachem" (section),''MayflowerFamilies.com'', web pag was the sachem Sachems and sagamores are paramount chiefs A paramount chief is the Englis ...

Massasoit
hosted Williams there for the three months until spring.


Settlement at Providence

In the spring of 1636, Williams and a number of others from Salem began a new settlement on land which he had bought from Massasoit in
Rumford, Rhode Island Rumford is the northern section of the city of East Providence, Rhode Island. The Rumford section of East Providence borders Seekonk, Massachusetts, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and the Ten Mile River (Seekonk River). Rumford has been part of three to ...
. After settling however, authorities of Plymouth Colony asserted that Williams and his followers were within their land grant and expressed concern that his presence there might anger the leaders of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Accordingly, Williams, accompanied by Thomas Angell crossed the
Seekonk River The Seekonk River is a tidal extension of the Providence River in the U.S. state of Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the Lis ...
, in search of a new location suitable for settlement. Upon reaching the shore, Williams and Angell were met by indigenous
Narragansett people The Narragansett people are an Algonquian Algonquin or Algonquian—and the variation Algonki(a)n—may refer to: Indigenous peoples *Algonquian languages, a large subfamily of Native American languages in a wide swath of eastern North Ameri ...
who greeted them with the words "What cheer, Netop" (). The settlers then continued eastward along the
Providence River The Providence River is a tidal river A tidal river is a river whose flow and level are influenced by tides. A section of a larger river affected by the tides is a tidal reach, but it may sometimes be considered a tidal river if it has been gi ...

Providence River
, where they encountered a cove and freshwater spring. Finding the area suitable for settlement, Williams acquired the tract from sachems
Canonicus Canonicus (c. 1565 – June 4, 1647) was a chief of the Narragansett Indian tribe. He was wary of the colonial settlers, but he ultimately proved to be a firm friend of Roger Williams Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 Janu ...
and
Miantonomi Miantonomoh (1600? – August 1643), also spelled Miantonomo, Miantonomah or Miantonomi, was a chief of the Narragansett people of New England Indians. Biography He was a nephew of the Narragansett grand sachem, Canonicus (died 1647), with whom he ...
. Here, Williams and his followers established a new, permanent settlement. Under the belief that
divine providence In theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encom ...
had brought them there, the settlers named the settlement "
Providence Providence often refers to: * Providentia, the divine personification of foresight in ancient Roman religion * Divine providence, divinely ordained events and outcomes in Christianity * Providence, Rhode Island, the capital of Rhode Island in the ...
." Williams wanted his settlement to be a haven for those "distressed of conscience," and it soon attracted a collection of dissenters and otherwise-minded individuals. From the beginning, a majority vote of the heads of households governed the new settlement, but only in civil things. Newcomers could also be admitted to full citizenship by a majority vote. In August 1637, a new town agreement again restricted the government to civil things. In 1640, 39 freemen (men who had full citizenship and voting rights) signed another agreement that declared their determination "still to hold forth liberty of conscience." Thus, Williams founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separate, providing religious liberty and separation of church and state. This was combined with the principle of majoritarian democracy. In November 1637, the General Court of Massachusetts disarmed, disenfranchised, and forced into exile some of the Antinomians, including the followers of
Anne Hutchinson Anne Hutchinson (née Marbury; July 1591 – August 1643) was a Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic re ...
. John Clarke was among them, and he learned from Williams that Aquidneck (Rhode) Island might be purchased from the Narragansetts; Williams helped him to make the purchase, along with
William Coddington William Coddington (c. 1601 – 1 November 1678) was an early magistrate of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and later of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He served as the judge of Portsmouth and Newport, governor of Portsmouth ...
and others, and they established the settlement of
Portsmouth Portsmouth ( ) is a port and island city status in the United Kingdom, city with Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority status in the ceremonial county of Hampshire, southern England. It is the most densely populated city in the Unit ...
. In spring 1638, some of those settlers split away and founded the nearby settlement of
Newport Newport most commonly refers to: *Newport, Wales, UK *Newport, Rhode Island, US Newport or New Port may also refer to: Places Asia *Newport City, Metro Manila, a Philippine district in Pasay Europe Ireland *Newport, County Mayo, a town on ...
, also situated on Aquidneck Island. In 1638, Williams and about twelve others were baptized and formed a congregation. Today, Williams' congregation is recognized as the
First Baptist Church in America The First Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as the First Baptist Meetinghouse. It is the oldest Baptist Baptists form a major branch of Protestantism, Protestant Christianity distingu ...

First Baptist Church in America
.


Pequot War and relations with Native Americans

In the meantime, the
Pequot War The Pequot War was an armed conflict that took place between 1636 and 1638 in New England between the Pequot The Pequot () are a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Co ...
had broken out. Massachusetts Bay asked for Williams' help, which he gave despite his exile, and he became the Bay colony's eyes and ears, and also dissuaded the Narragansetts from joining with the
Pequots The Pequot () are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American people of Connecticut. The modern Pequot are members of the federally recognized Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, four other state-recognized groups in Connecticut including t ...
. Instead, the Narragansetts allied themselves with the colonists and helped to defeat the Pequots in 1637–38. The Narragansetts thus became the most powerful Native American tribe in southern New England. Williams formed firm friendships and developed deep trust among the Native American tribes, especially the Narragansetts. He was able to keep the peace between the Native Americans and the
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain ...
for nearly 40 years by his constant mediation and negotiation. He twice surrendered himself as a hostage to the Native Americans to guarantee the safe return of a great
sachem Sachems and sagamores are paramount chiefs A paramount chief is the English-language designation for the highest-level political leader in a regional or local polity or country administered politically with a Chiefdom, chief-based system. Th ...
from a summons to a court: Pessicus in 1645 and
Metacom Metacomet (1638 – August 12, 1676), also known as Pometacom, Metacom, and by his adopted English name King Philip, However, the other New England colonies began to fear and mistrust the Narragansetts and soon came to regard the Rhode Island colony as a common enemy. In the next three decades, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth exerted pressure to destroy both Rhode Island and the Narragansetts. In 1643, the neighboring colonies formed a military alliance called the United Colonies which pointedly excluded the towns around Narragansett Bay. In response, Williams traveled to England to secure a charter for the colony.


Return to England and charter matters


A Key into the Language of America

Williams arrived in London in the midst of the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
. Puritans held power in London, and he was able to obtain a charter through the offices of Sir Henry Vane the Younger, despite strenuous opposition from Massachusetts' agents. His first published book ''
A Key into the Language of America ''A Key into the Language of America'' or ''An help to the Language of the Natives in that part of America called New England'') is a book written by Roger Williams Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 January and 15 March 1683) w ...

A Key into the Language of America
'' proved crucial to the success of his charter, albeit indirectly. Published in 1643 in London, the book combined a phrase-book with observations about life and culture as an aid to communicate with the Native Americans of
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
. In its scope, the book covered everything from salutations to death and burial. Williams also sought to correct the attitudes of superiority displayed by the colonists towards Native Americans: Printed by
Gregory Dexter Gregory Dexter (1610–1700) was a printer, Baptist minister, and early List of colonial governors of Rhode Island, President of the combined towns of Providence, Rhode Island, Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island, Warwick in the Colony of Rh ...
'','' the book was the first book-length study of a native North American language in the English language. In England, the book was well received by readers who were curious about the indigenous people of the New World.


The Bloudy Tenent

Williams secured his charter from Parliament for Providence Plantations in July 1644, after which he published his most famous book ''
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience ''The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace'' is a 1644 book about government force written by Roger Williams Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 January and 15 ...
''. The publication produced a great uproar; between 1644 and 1649, at least 60 pamphlets were published addressing the work's arguments. Parliament responded to Williams on August 9, 1644, by ordering the public hangman to burn all copies. By this time, however, Williams was already en route to New England, where he arrived with his charter in September. It took Williams several years to unify the settlements of Narragansett Bay under a single government given the opposition of William Coddington. The four villages finally united in 1647 into the
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain ...
.
Freedom of conscience Freedom of thought (also called freedom of conscience or ideas) is the freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its presen ...
was again proclaimed, and the colony became a safe haven for people who were persecuted for their beliefs, including Baptists, Quakers, and
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...
. Still, the divisions between the towns their powerful personalities did not bode well for the colony. Coddington disliked Williams, and did not enjoy his position of subordination under the new charter government. Accordingly, Coddington sailed to England and returned to Rhode Island in 1651 with his own patent making him "Governor for Life" over Aquidneck and
Conanicut Island Conanicut Island is the second-largest island in Narragansett Bay Narragansett Bay is a bay and estuary on the north side of Rhode Island Sound covering , of which is in Rhode Island. The bay forms New England's largest estuary, which functio ...
s. As a result, Providence,
Warwick Warwick ( ) is a market town and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use ...
, and Coddington's opponents on Aquidneck dispatched Roger Williams and John Clarke to England, seeking to cancel Coddington's commission. Williams sold his trading post at Cocumscussec (near
Wickford, Rhode Island Wickford is a small village in the town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. ...

Wickford, Rhode Island
) to pay for his journey even though it provided his primary source of income. Williams and Clarke succeeded in rescinding Coddington's patent, with Clarke remaining in England for the following decade to protect the colonists' interests and secure a new charter. Williams returned to America in 1654 and was immediately elected the colony's president. He subsequently served in many offices in town and colonial governments.


Slavery

Williams did not write extensively about slavery. He consistently expressed disapproval of perpetual
chattel slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that gives ...
, though generally did not object to the enslavement of captured enemy combatants for a fixed duration, a practice from which he occasionally profited. During his life, Williams struggled with the morality of slavery and raised his concerns in letters to Massachusetts Bay Governor
John Winthrop John Winthrop (January 12, 1587/88 – March 26, 1649) was an English Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheist ...

John Winthrop
concerning the treatment of the
Pequots The Pequot () are a Native Americans in the United States, Native American people of Connecticut. The modern Pequot are members of the federally recognized Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, four other state-recognized groups in Connecticut including t ...
during the
Pequot War The Pequot War was an armed conflict that took place between 1636 and 1638 in New England between the Pequot The Pequot () are a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Co ...
(1636–1638). In these letters, he requested Winthrop to prevent the enslavement of Pequot women and children as well as direct the colonial militia to spare them during the fighting. In another letter to Winthrop written on July 31, 1637, Williams stated that he approved of the capture and indenture of remaining Pequot women and children in order to "lawfully" ensure that remaining enemy combatants were "weakned and despoild", but pleaded that their indenture not be permanent. Despite his reservations, Williams formed part of the colonial delegation sent to conduct negotiations at the end of the Pequot War, where the fates of the captured Pequot were decided upon between the colonists of New England and their indigenous allies: the Narragansett,
Mohegan The Mohegan are an Algonquian peoples, Algonquian Native American tribe historically based in present-day Connecticut. Today the majority of the people are associated with the Mohegan Indian Tribe, a federally recognized tribe living on a reser ...
, and
NianticNiantic may refer to: * Niantic people Image:Tribal Territories Southern New England.png, 400px, Niantic tribe The Niantic (Nehântick or Nehantucket in their own language) were a tribe of Algonquian peoples, Algonquian-speaking Native Americans of ...
. Williams reported to Winthrop that he and the Narragansett sachem Miantonomoh discussed what to do with a group of captured Pequot; initially they discussed the possibility of distributing them as slaves amongst the four victorious parties, which Miantonomoh "liked well", though at Williams' suggestion, the non-combatants were relocated to an island in Niantic territory "because most of them were families". Miantonomoh later requested an enslaved female Pequot from Winthrop, to which Williams objected, stating that "he had his share sent to him". Instead, Williams suggested he "buy one or two of some English man". While some indigenous allies of the colonists aided in the export of enslaved Pequot to the
West Indies The West Indies are a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, in ...
, others disagreed with the practice, instead believing that they should have been given land and provisions to contribute to the wellbeing of colonial settlements, as was their customary tradition concerning slavery. Many enslaved Pequot frequently ran away, where they were taken in by surrounding indigenous settlements; Williams, as part of his constant mediation between colonists and indigenous peoples, negotiated for the return of runaway Pequots and facilitated the trade of indigenous slaves. In 1641, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed laws sanctioning
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that give ...
. In response, under Williams' leadership, the Providence Plantations passed a law in 1652 restricting the amount of time for which an individual could be held in slavery and tried to prevent the importation of enslaved Africans. The law established terms for slavery that mirrored that of indentured servitude; enslavement was to be limited in duration and not passed down to children. Upon the unification of Providence Plantations with Aquidneck Island, residents of the latter refused to accept this law, ensuring it became
dead letter The term dead letter has several usages, each deriving from the notion of mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rect ...
. Later in life, at the time of
King Phillips War King Philip's War (sometimes called the First Indian War, Metacom's War, Metacomet's War, Pometacomet's Rebellion, or Metacom's Rebellion) was an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England New England is ...
, tensions with the Narragansetts were irreparable and, despite Williams' efforts to maintain peace, a destructive war ensued, during which his home was burned to the ground. During the war, Williams, with group of Providence citizens, facilitated and profited from the sale of a number of captured Narragansetts and Wamponoag.


Relations with the Baptists

Ezekiel HollimanEzekial Holliman was a founder of the First Baptist Church in America. Boston Holliman ran into trouble while living in Boston when he ran afoul of the prevailing religious sensibilities of the time. He was accused of heresy, but left town before le ...
baptized Williams in late 1638. A few years later, Dr. John Clarke established the First Baptist Church in Newport, Rhode Island, and both Roger Williams and John Clarke became the founders of the Baptist faith in America. Williams did not affiliate himself with any church, but he remained interested in the Baptists, agreeing with their rejection of
infant baptism Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants 222x222px, Eight-month-old sororal twin sisters An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or specialised synonym for t ...
and most other matters. Both enemies and admirers sometimes called him a "Seeker," associating him with a heretical movement that accepted
Socinianism Socinianism () is a Nontrinitarianism, Non-trinitarian Christian belief system named after the Italians, Italian Christian theology, theologians Lelio Sozzini (Latin: Laelius Socinus) and Fausto Sozzini (Latin: Faustus Socinus), uncle and nephew, ...
and
Universal Reconciliation In Christian theology, universal reconciliation (also called universal salvation, Christian universalism, or in context simply universalism) is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of love of God, divine love and mercy ...
, but Williams rejected both of these ideas.


King Philip's War and death

King Philip's War King Philip's War (sometimes called the First Indian War, Metacom's War, Metacomet's War, Pometacomet's Rebellion, or Metacom's Rebellion) was an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England coloni ...
(1675–1676) pitted the colonists against indigenous peoples—including the Narragansett with which Williams had previously maintained good relations. Williams, although in his 70s, was elected captain of Providence's militia. On March 29, 1676, Narragansett warriors led by
Canonchet Canonchet (or Cononchet, died 1676) was a Narragansett people, Narragansett Sachem and leader of Native American troops during the Great Swamp Fight and King Philip's War. He was a son of Miantonomo. In 1676, having been surprised and captured, his ...
burned Providence; among the structures destroyed were Williams' home.


Burial

Williams died sometime between January 16 and March 16, 1683 and was buried on his own property. Fifty years later, his house collapsed into the cellar and the location of his grave was forgotten. According to the National Park Service, in 1860, Providence residents determined to raise a monument in his honor "dug up the spot where they believed the remains to be, they found only nails, teeth, and bone fragments. They also found an apple tree root," which they thought followed the shape of a human body; the root followed the shape of a spine, split at the hips, bent at the knees, and turned up at the feet. The Rhode Island Historical Society has cared for this tree root since 1860 as representative of Rhode Island's founder. Since 2007, the root has been displayed at the John Brown House (Providence, Rhode Island), John Brown House. The few remains discovered alongside the root were reinterred in Prospect Terrace Park in 1939 at the base of a large stone monument.


Separation of church and state

Williams was a staunch advocate of
separation of church and state The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religi ...
. He was convinced that Civil authority, civil government had no basis for meddling in matters of religious belief. He declared that the state should concern itself only with matters of civil order, not with religious belief, and he rejected any attempt by civil authorities to enforce the "first Table" of the
Ten Commandments The Ten Commandments ( he, עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת, ''Aseret ha'Dibrot''), also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. " ...

Ten Commandments
, those commandments that deal with an individual's relationship with and belief in God. Williams believed that the state must confine itself to the commandments dealing with the relations between people: murder, theft, adultery, lying, and honoring parents. Williams wrote of a "hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world." Thomas Jefferson later used the metaphor in his 1801 ''Baptists in the history of separation of church and state#American Baptists, Letter to Danbury Baptists''. Williams considered the state's sponsor of religious beliefs or practice "forced worship", declaring "Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils." He also believed Constantine the Great to be a worse enemy to Christianity than Nero because the subsequent state involvement in religious matters corrupted Christianity and led to the death of the Christian church. He described the attempt of the state to pass laws concerning an individual's religious beliefs as "rape of the soul" and spoke of the "oceans of blood" shed as a result of trying to command conformity. The moral principles in the Biblical canon, Scriptures ought to inform the civil magistrates, he believed, but he observed that well-ordered, just, and civil governments existed even where Christianity was not present. Thus, all governments had to maintain civil order and justice, but Williams decided that none had a warrant to promote or repress any religious views. Most of his contemporaries criticized his ideas as a prescription for chaos and anarchy, and the vast majority believed that each nation must have its national church and could require that dissenters conform.


Writings

Williams's career as an author began with ''
A Key into the Language of America ''A Key into the Language of America'' or ''An help to the Language of the Natives in that part of America called New England'') is a book written by Roger Williams Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 January and 15 March 1683) w ...

A Key into the Language of America
'' (London, 1643), written during his first voyage to England. His next publication was ''Mr. Cotton's Letter lately Printed, Examined and Answered'' (London, 1644; reprinted in ''Publications of the Narragansett Club'', vol. ii, along with John Cotton (minister), John Cotton's letter which it answered). His most famous work is ''
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience ''The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace'' is a 1644 book about government force written by Roger Williams Roger Williams (c. 21 December 1603 – between 27 January and 15 ...
'' (published in 1644), considered by some to be one of the best defenses of liberty of conscience. An anonymous pamphlet was published in London in 1644 entitled ''Queries of Highest Consideration Proposed to Mr. Tho. Goodwin, Mr. Phillip Nye, Mr. Wil. Bridges, Mr. Jer. Burroughs, Mr. Sidr. Simpson, all Independents, etc.'' which is now ascribed to Williams. These "Independents" were members of the Westminster Assembly; their ''Apologetical Narration'' sought a way between extreme Separatism and Presbyterianism, and their prescription was to accept the state church model of Massachusetts Bay. Williams published ''The Bloody Tenent yet more Bloudy: by Mr. Cotton's Endeavor to wash it white in the Blood of the Lamb; of whose precious Blood, spilt in the Bloud of his Servants; and of the Blood of Millions spilt in former and later Wars for Conscience sake, that most Bloody Tenent of Persecution for cause of Conscience, upon, a second Tryal is found more apparently and more notoriously guilty, etc.'' (London, 1652) during his second visit to England. This work reiterated and amplified the arguments in ''Bloudy Tenent'', but it has the advantage of being written in answer to Cotton's ''A Reply to Mr. Williams his Examination'' (''Publications of the Narragansett Club'', vol. ii.). Other works by Williams include: * ''The Hireling Ministry None of Christ's'' (London, 1652) * ''Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health, and their Preservatives'' (London, 1652; reprinted Providence, 1863) * ''George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes'' (Boston, 1676) (discusses Quakerism with its different belief in the "inner light," which Williams considered heretical) A volume of his letters is included in the Narragansett Club edition of Williams' ''Works'' (7 vols., Providence, 1866–74), and a volume was edited by John Russell Bartlett, J. R. Bartlett (1882). * ''The Correspondence of Roger Williams,'' 2 vols., Rhode Island Historical Society, 1988, edited by Glenn W. LaFantasie. Brown University's John Carter Brown Library has long housed a 234-page volume referred to as the "Roger Williams Mystery Book". The margins of this book are filled with notations in handwritten code, believed to be the work of Roger Williams. In 2012, Brown University undergraduate Lucas Mason-Brown cracked the code and uncovered conclusive historical evidence attributing its authorship to Williams. Translations are revealing transcriptions of a geographical text, a medical text, and 20 pages of original notes addressing the issue of
infant baptism Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants 222x222px, Eight-month-old sororal twin sisters An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or specialised synonym for t ...
. Mason-Brown has since discovered more writings by Williams employing a separate code in the margins of a rare edition of the ''Eliot Indian Bible''.


Legacy

Williams' defense of the Native Americans, his accusations that Puritans had reproduced the "evils" of the Anglican Church, and his insistence that England pay the Native Americans for their land all put him at the center of many political debates during his life. He was considered an important historical figure of religious liberty at the time of United States Declaration of Independence, American independence, and he was a key influence on the thinking of the Founding Fathers.


Tributes

Tributes to Williams include: * The 1936 commemorative Rhode Island Tercentenary half dollar * Roger Williams National Memorial, a park in downtown Providence established in 1965 * Roger Williams Park, Providence, Rhode Island, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo * Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island * Roger Williams Dining Hall at the University of Rhode Island * Roger Williams Inn, the main dining hall at the American Baptists' Green Lake Conference Center, founded in 1943 in Green Lake (town), Wisconsin, Green Lake, Wisconsin * Roger Williams (Simmons), Rhode Island's representative statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol, added in 1872 * A depiction of him on the Reformation Wall, International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva, along with other prominent reformers * A Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Lesser Feast (with
Anne Hutchinson Anne Hutchinson (née Marbury; July 1591 – August 1643) was a Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic re ...
) on the Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church), liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (United States), Episcopal Church on February 5, 5 February * Roger Williams Middle School, a Providence Public School District, public school in Providence *Pembroke College in Brown University was named for Williams' alma mater


Slate Rock

Slate Rock, a prominent boulder on the west shore of the Seekonk River (near the current Gano Park) was once one of Providence's most important historic landmarks. The rock was believed to be the spot where the Narragansetts greeted Williams with the famous phrase "What cheer, netop?" The historic rock was accidentally blown up by city workers in 1877. They were attempting to expose a buried portion of the stone, but used too much dynamite and the stone was "blasted to pieces."A monument in nearby Slate Rock Park commemorates the location.


See also

*
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain ...
*
Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road''), officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as ...
* List of early settlers of Rhode Island * John Cotton (puritan) *
John Winthrop John Winthrop (January 12, 1587/88 – March 26, 1649) was an English Puritan The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheist ...

John Winthrop
* Roger Williams National Memorial * Roger Williams Park


References


Further reading

* Barry, John, ''Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul'' (New York: Viking Press, 2012). * Teresa Bejan, Bejan, Teresa, ''Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration'' (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017). Addresses Roger Williams' ideas in dialogue with Hobbes and Locke, and suggests lessons from Williams for how to disagree well in the modern public sphere. * Brockunier, Samuel. ''The Irrepressible Democrat, Roger Williams'', (1940), popular biography * Burrage, Henry S. "Why Was Roger Williams Banished?" ''American Journal of Theology'' 5 (January 1901): 1–17. * Byrd, James P., Jr. ''The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible'' (2002). 286 pp. * Davis. Jack L. "Roger Williams among the Narragansett Indians", ''New England Quarterly'', Vol. 43, No. 4 (Dec. 1970), pp. 593–60
in JSTOR
* Field, Jonathan Beecher. "A Key for the Gate: Roger Williams, Parliament, and Providence", ''New England Quarterly'' 2007 80(3): 353–382 * Goodman, Nan. "Banishment, Jurisdiction, and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New England: The Case of Roger Williams", ''Early American Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal'' Spring 2009, Vol. 7 Issue 1, pp 109–39. *Edwin Gaustad, Gaustad, Edwin, S. ''Roger Williams'' (Oxford University Press, 2005). 140 pp. short scholarly biography stressing religion *Gaustad, Edwin, S. ''Roger Williams: Prophet of Liberty'' (Oxford University Press, 2001). * Gaustad, Edwin, S., ''Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America''. (Judson Press, Valley Forge, 1999). * Hall, Timothy L. ''Separating Church and State: Roger Williams and Religious Liberty'' (1998). 206 pp. * Johnson, Alan E. ''The First American Founder: Roger Williams and Freedom of Conscience'' (Pittsburgh, PA: Philosophia Publications, 2015). In-depth discussion of Roger Williams's life and work and his influence on the US Founders and later American history. * Miller, Perry, ''Roger Williams, A Contribution to the American Tradition'', (1953). much debated study; Miller argues that Williams thought was primarily religious, not political as so many of the historians of the 1930s and 1940s had argued. * Morgan, Edmund S. ''Roger Williams: the church and the state'' (1967) 170 pages; short biography by leading scholar * Neff, Jimmy D. "Roger Williams: Pious Puritan and Strict Separationist", ''Journal of Church and State'' 1996 38(3): 529–546 in EBSCO * Phillips, Stephen. "Roger Williams and the Two Tables of the Law", ''Journal of Church and State'' 1996 38(3): 547–568 in EBSCO * Skaggs, Donald. ''Roger Williams' Dream for America'' (1993). 240 pp. * Stanley, Alison. "'To Speak With Other Tongues': Linguistics, Colonialism and Identity in 17th Century New England", ''Comparative American Studies'' March 2009, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p1, 17p * Winslow, Ola Elizabeth, ''Master Roger Williams, A Biography''. (1957) standard biography * Wood, Timothy L. "Kingdom Expectations: The Native American in the Puritan Missiology of John Winthrop and Roger Williams", ''Fides et Historia'' 2000 32(1): 39–49


Historiography

* Carlino, Anthony O. "Roger Williams and his Place in History: The Background and the Last Quarter Century", ''Rhode Island History'' 2000 58(2): 34–71, historiography * Irwin, Raymond D. "A Man for all Eras: The Changing Historical Image of Roger Williams, 1630–1993", ''Fides Et Historia'' 1994 26(3): 6–23, historiography *Edmund Morgan (historian), Morgan, Edmund S. " Miller's Williams", ''New England Quarterly'', Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec. 1965), pp. 513–52
in JSTOR
* Moore, Leroy, Jr. "Roger Williams and the Historians", ''Church History'' 1963 32(4): 432–45
in JSTOR
* Peace, Nancy E. "Roger Williams: A Historiographical Essay", ''Rhode Island History'' 1976 35(4): 103–113,


Primary sources

* Williams, Roger. ''The Complete Writings of Roger Williams'', 7 vols. 1963 * Williams, Roger. ''The Correspondence of Roger Williams'', 2 vols. ed. by Glenn W. LaFantasie, 1988


Fiction

* Settle, Mary Lee, ''I, Roger Williams: A Novel'', W. W. Norton & Company, Reprint edition (2002). * George, James W., ''The Prophet and the Witch: A Novel of Puritan New England'', Amazon Digital Services (2017).


External links

* * * *
Side of the US-American Roger Williams circle of friends

Documentary about Roger Williams life: Roger Williams – Freedom's Forgotten Hero (Part 1 to 7)

Lecture by Martha Nussbaum: Equal Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams and the Roots of a Constitutional Tradition
*
Roger Williams Hireling Ministry None of Christ's

Chronological list of Rhode Island leaders
*''iarchive:keyintolanguageo02will/page/n5, A Key into the Language of America'' – digitization of a first edition copy held at the John Carter Brown Library {{DEFAULTSORT:Williams, Roger 1603 births 1683 deaths 17th-century American writers 17th-century Baptist ministers 17th-century Calvinist and Reformed theologians 17th-century English writers 17th-century English male writers 17th-century New England Puritan ministers Alumni of Pembroke College, Cambridge American abolitionists American Calvinist and Reformed theologians American evangelicals American sermon writers Christian abolitionists Christians from Rhode Island Clergy from London Colonial governors of Rhode Island Hall of Fame for Great Americans inductees Immigrants to Plymouth Colony Kingdom of England emigrants to the Thirteen Colonies Linguists of Algic languages Massachusetts colonial-era clergy People educated at Charterhouse School People of colonial Rhode Island Politicians from Providence, Rhode Island Anglican saints