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Title: Roger Williams, Prophet and Pioneer of Soul-Liberty

Author: Arthur Strickland

Release Date: July 27, 2022 [eBook #68627]

Language: English

Produced by: Alan, Brian Wilson, Mary Glenn Krause, MFR and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


[Pg i]


[Pg iii]

Statue of Roger Williams in Roger Williams Park,
Providence, R. I.

[Pg v]






[Pg vi]

Copyright, 1919, by

Published June, 1919

[Pg vii]

My Wife

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[Pg ix]


“Even the absence of a definite experiment must not deter him. He would create a society where the principles would be put to the test. He would fashion a State where the Church and the crown would be mutually helpful though independent. He would create a condition of humanity where the sovereignty of the soul before God would be respected, and where every man, believer or disbeliever, Gentile, Jew, or Turk, would have untrammeled opportunity for the display and exercise of the faith within him. Here lies the core of his heroism!”


“This one monument speaks the gratitude of one State. But the whole country has an eloquent voice of appreciation. Even as the tombstone of Sir Christopher Wren, the builder of St. Paul’s Cathedral, intones the larger praise when it says, ‘If you would see his monument, look around you,’ so would we point to the great principles of equal and religious freedom, written into the Constitution of forty-eight States, and engraven on the minds of ninety millions of people in our country and making their moral and civic influence felt all over the civilized globe, as worthy tributes to the genius of Roger Williams.”

Extracts from Thanksgiving Address on “Roger Williams,” delivered by Rabbi Abram Simon, Ph. D., to Reformed Congregation Keneseth Israel, Philadelphia, November 24, 1912.

[Pg xi]


The four years of the great war have witnessed two astounding facts, namely, the recrudescence of an ancient barbarism and the world-wide application of the ideals of Christianity. During these momentous times the frontiers of barbarism and of civilization were clearly marked. The greater part of the world declared its position and took sides with one or other of the contestants. The whole world was either for or against, either friend or foe to, the essential principles of a Christian civilization.

It was no accident that the torch of the Hun and the Cross of the Christ should meet again on the old historic battle-ground between the Somme and the Rhine, and especially at the Marne. We thank God in victory’s hour that the Cross of the Christ is again triumphant, and we trust the torch of the Hun is extinguished forever. Autocracy’s serpent head has been crushed beneath the heel of a militant democracy. That bruised heel is our reminder of the cost of victory. It staggers the imagination to state in terms of manhood, materials, and money the price we have paid to make a world safe for democracy.

The eyes of a world have been opened. Men have thought of Calvary, the price the Son of God paid to redeem the wayward, wicked world. Men through their Calvary have come to understand the message of Christ’s Cross—that all men are of equal value in the sight of humanity’s God, and therefore are entitled to equal privileges in the world he has made for their happiness. Out from the shambles of these war-torn years there has come forth, slowly and certainly, with ever-increasing clearness, the shining form of the ideal supreme, the truth triumphant, the principle of full, free, absolute soul-liberty.

As the thirsty caravan turns to the springs, as the mariner turns to his compass in the darkest night, so the war-weary world—all parts of it, both that of friend and that of foe—looks beseechingly to America and to the ideal of which she is the great exemplar. From her shores there went forth an army which under God turned the tide against barbarism and made[Pg xii] possible the final victory for civilization. That army was composed of men whose fathers represented every nation under heaven. Some who received the highest honor for distinguished service were born under the very flags they sought to overthrow. It was humanity’s army, dominated by ideals distinctly American, which fought, not for military glory, not for hellish hatred, not for selfish gain, but as the crusaders of a new order, of an international fraternity.

The distinctive feature of America’s greatness is not her boundless wealth, not her limitless resources, not her inimitable versatility. It is the ideal which she has inherited from her fathers. That ideal, in the forefront of the world’s thought today, had its yesterday of suffering and of sacrifice.

It is timely in the hour of democracy’s triumph to turn our thoughts toward the genesis of soul-liberty in America. Today millions of men espouse her sacred cause. In the dawn of American history, in the early colonial times, a misunderstood, maligned, and persecuted refugee, Roger Williams, stood almost alone as her defender. Driven from motherland and from adopted home, he found among the savages of the wilderness a place where he could live out his principles of soul-liberty and grant freely to others what he desired for himself. He has been rightly called “The First American,” because he was the first to actualize in a commonwealth the distinctively American principle of freedom for mind and body and soul.

Roger Williams was not the discoverer of the principle of soul-liberty. What Jesus did and said was the torch of truth destined to illumine the whole world. His death on the cross was the voice of God in eloquent terms, telling us that all men were equal sharers in his love and entitled to equal opportunities and privileges in the world which he had made for man’s well-being. Christ taught clearly that men should not force others to belief in him or to Christian conduct, nor destroy those who failed to follow his teachings as they saw them.

For centuries faithful witnesses kept alive in the world these precious truths. In fact, for a millennium the name Anabaptist or Baptist was synonymous with soul-liberty. Baptists on the Continent and in England sowed broadcast these seeds which led to a glorious harvest in the new world. After the death of Roger[Pg xiii] Williams the Baptists in the colonies continued the work so nobly begun by him. In the face of bitterest persecution they labored for a century before the much-desired principle of soul-liberty was interwoven into our National Constitution and protected by the First Amendment.

Our Western Hemisphere represents two types of civilization. The Rio Grande is the dividing line between a civilization which is Baptist in its distinctive and essential character and one which is non-Baptist. To the north we see what the democracy of the soul can do when associated with the democracy of political rights. To the south we see but the twilight of civilization, a place where there is political democracy in name, but where it is rendered powerless because the mind and soul do not enjoy full freedom. It is the difference between religious democracy and religious autocracy. To the north the Bible is loved, it is studied freely, and its principles are followed. It is a land where the Bible is unchained and where the prevailing religions are of a church without a bishop in a land without a king. To the south the Bible is practically suppressed, its study is discouraged, and its truths go unheeded.

Europe, thou art looking across the seas to America. Look to all three Americas. Political democracy is universal in North, Central, and South America. Ask thyself the question, Why is the civilization of the north so attractive? It is because Religious Liberty is married to Political Liberty. Dost thou want our blessedness? Then see to it that thy new-born democracies and thine ancient ones have complete soul-liberty. Give the Bible a chance to bless thy stricken lands. Let the truths from God’s book do their revolutionary work for thee as they have for God’s liberty land on this side of the sea.

Religious liberty has unchained the Bible, scattered the darkness of superstition, flooded our continent with light and blessing. It has toppled selfish autocrats from their thrones, it has unlocked the shackles from the feet of millions who were living in spiritual and physical slavery. Religious liberty opens the doors and lets God’s sunlight of truth enter to warm and bless the world.

To Roger Williams and the historic Baptist denomination we turn for the story of the genesis and growth of this great blessing in America. There is an effort, in evidence in the secular[Pg xiv] and religious press of America, and, in some sections, in many of our public schools, to rob both Williams and the Baptists of their crown of glory. In certain quarters both Protestants and Catholics are attributing the honor of giving birth to religious liberty to communions which centuries ago persecuted our Baptist forefathers unto banishment and death.

The early American Colonies can be divided into three classes. One class included those who sought for uniformity in religion. Exile and death were resorted to to make that religious uniformity possible. Baptists were martyred in Massachusetts and Virginia. Another class included those who granted a toleration to other Christian religions, but who denied political privileges to Jews, infidels, or Unitarians. Maryland and Pennsylvania, although far advanced from the persecuting spirit of some of the colonies, belong to this second class. There was another class, represented at first by the smallest of the colonies, little Baptist Rhode Island, which gave full, absolute, religious liberty. No political privilege was dependent on religious belief. The attitude of the early colonists to the Jews is the acid test of their claim to priority as the advocates of soul-liberty in America.

Hebrew scholars and statesmen do not hesitate to give their tribute of honor to Roger Williams and the Baptists. The Hon. Oscar S. Straus, twice American Ambassador to Turkey, Secretary of Labor and Commerce in the late President Roosevelt’s Cabinet, and President of the League to Enforce Peace, said on January 13, 1919, on the eve of sailing for Europe and the Peace Conference:

If I were asked to select from all the great men who have left their impress upon this continent from the days that the Puritan Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock, until the time when only a few days ago we laid to rest the greatest American in our generation—Theodore Roosevelt; if I were asked whom to hold before the American people and the world to typify the American spirit of fairness, of freedom, of liberty in Church and State, I would without any hesitation select that great prophet who established the first political community on the basis of a free Church in a free State, the great and immortal Roger Williams.... He became a Baptist, or as they were then called, Anabaptist, because to his spirit and ideals the Baptist faith approached nearer than any other—a community and a church which is famous for never having stained its hands with the blood of persecutors.

[Pg xv]


I. The Apostle of Soul-liberty 1
II. The Founding of Providence 27
III. The Historic Custodians of Soul-liberty 57
IV. Soul-liberty at Home in a Commonwealth 79
V. From Soul-liberty to Absolute Civil Liberty 103
VI. The Torch-bearers of the Ideal of Roger Williams
Until Liberty Enlightened the World
VII. The World-wide Influence of Roger Williams’
Study Outline of the Life and Times of Roger
A Selected Bibliography 149
An Itinerary for a Historic Pilgrimage 151

[Pg xvi]

[Pg xvii]


The author desires to express his indebtedness to the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R. I., to the “Providence Magazine,” to the Rhode Island Historical Society, to the Roger Williams Park Museum, and to the New York City Public Library, for valuable assistance rendered in securing illustrations for this book.

[Pg xix]


Statue of Roger Williams Frontispiece
Copy of Shorthand Found in Indian Bible 4
Sir Edward Coke 5
Charterhouse School 9
A Key into the Language of America 12
Boston, 1632 13
The Fort and Chapel on the Hill Where Roger Williams
Pembroke College 17
Fac-simile from Original Records of the Order for the
Banishment of Roger Williams
Original Church at Salem, Mass. 21
Site of Home of Roger Williams in Providence, R. I. 21
Sun-dial and Compass Used by Roger Williams in His
Spring at the Seekonk Settlement 31
Tablet Marking Seekonk Site 31
What Cheer Rock. Landing-place of Roger Williams 31
Original Deed of Providence from the Indians 35
Williams’ Letter of Transference to His Loving Friends 39
The Original Providence “Compact” 41
The First Division of Home Lots in Providence 45
Simplicities Defence 47
The Arrival of Roger Williams with the Charter 49
Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed 52
The Bloudy Tenent, ... discussed 53
Roger Williams’ Reference to “An Humble Supplication”
in His “Bloudy Tenent”
Christenings make not Christians 63
First Baptist Church of Providence 65
Roger Mowry’s “Ordinarie.” Built 1653, Demolished 1900 65[Pg xx]
Interior of First Baptist Church, Providence 69
Bell of First Baptist Church, Providence 73
The Fourth Paper, ... by Maior Butler 82
The Bloudy Tenent, Washed 84
The Bloody Tenent yet More Bloody 85
The Hireling Ministry 87
Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health 88
George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes 90
Models of Indian Village in Roger Williams Park Museum 91
A New-England Fire-Brand Quenched 94
Rhode Island Historical Society Museum 95
Apple Tree Root from the Grave of Roger Williams 95
Grave of Roger Williams 95
New Testament Title-page of Roger Williams’ Indian Bible 98
Indian Bible Used by Roger Williams, the Pioneer Missionary
to the American Indians
Original Home of Brown University, in Providence, R. I. 109
Brown University in Early Nineteenth Century 109
Capitol Building in Providence, Where the Charter is Kept 113
City Hall, Providence, Where the Compact, Indian Deed, and
Letter of Transference Are Kept
Order Banishing the Founders of the First Baptist Church
in Boston
Ill Newes from New-England 125
John Clarke Memorial, First Baptist Church of Newport, R. I. 127
Grave of John Clarke 127
The Law in William Penn’s Colony 129
The Law Concerning Religious Toleration in Maryland
Puritan-Religious-Liberty! 131
William Rogers 133
James Manning 133
Isaac Backus 133

[Pg 1]



[Pg 2]

That body-killing, soul-killing, state-killing doctrine of not permitting but persecuting all other consciences and ways of worship but his own in the civil state.... Whole nations and generations of men have been forced (though unregenerate and unrepentant) to pretend and assume the name of Jesus Christ, which only belongs, according to the institution of the Lord Jesus, to truly regenerate and repentant souls. Secondly, that all others dissenting from them, whether Jews or Gentiles, their countrymen especially (for strangers have a liberty), have not been permitted civil habitation in this world with them, but have been distressed and persecuted by them.—Roger Williams’ Estimate of Religious Persecution.

The principle of religious liberty did not assert itself, save in one instance, at once that American colonization was begun. For the most part, the founders of these colonies came to this country imbued with the ideas concerning the relations between government and religion, which had been universal in Europe.... This makes the attitude of our American exception, Roger Williams, the more striking and significant. More than one hundred years in advance of his time, he denied the entire theory and practice of the past.—Sanford Cobb.

Roger Williams advocated the complete separation of Church and State, at a time when there was no historical example of such separation.—Newman.

[Pg 3]

A GOVERNMENT of the people, formed by the people for the people, with Church and State completely separate, and with political privileges not dependent on religious belief, was organized and maintained successfully for the first time in Christendom in Rhode Island, the smallest of the American Colonies. Its inspiration and founder was Roger Williams, the apostle of soul-liberty. Because he was the first asserter of the principle which has since been recognized as the distinctive character of our national greatness, he has been called “The First American.”

Little is known of the personal appearance of Roger Williams. His contemporaries describe him as a man of “no ordinary parts,” with “a never-failing sweetness of temper and unquestioned piety.” They also said he was a man of “unyielding tenacity of purpose, a man who could grasp a principle in all its bearings and who could incorporate it in a social compact.” “He was no crude, unlearned agitator, but a scholar and thinker.” Governor Bradford speaks of him as “having many precious parts.” Governor Winthrop refers to him as “a godly minister.”

The artist’s conception, based upon these characteristics, is best expressed by a monument in Roger Williams Park, Providence, R. I. It is the work of Franklin Simmons, and was erected by the city of Providence in 1877. In a beautiful park of over four hundred acres with hills and drives and lakes, surrounded by trees and shrubbery, and on land originally purchased from the Indians by Williams, the illustrious pioneer of a new order is seen in heroic form. He seems to be looking out over the very colony he formed. In his hand he holds a volume, entitled “Soul-Liberty, 1636,” a title which has since become synonymous with his name. History is seen writing “1636,” the birth year of soul-liberty in America. She continues to write with increasing appreciation of the far-reaching influence of this illustrious hero of religious and political democracy.

[Pg 4]

Copy of Shorthand Found on Fly-leaf of Roger Williams’ Indian Bible

For many years scholars thought that Roger Williams was born at the close of the sixteenth century at Gwinear, Cornwall, England. Now it is generally believed that he was born in London, England, in the opening years of the seventeenth century. He had two brothers and a sister. His father was a tailor. About this time Timothy Bright and Peter Bales introduced into England a new method of writing which was called “shorthand.” The boy Roger Williams learned it and visited the famous Star Chamber to put it into practice. The judge noticed the lad and inspected his work. To his amazement, the record was complete and accurate. This judge, Sir Edward Coke, the most distinguished lawyer and jurist of his day, immediately took an interest in the lad, and became his patron, securing for Williams admission to the Charterhouse School. This was the school where John Wesley, Thackeray, Addison, and others were educated. He was admitted as a pensioner, in June, 1621. Later, through Coke’s influence, he was admitted to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in June, 1623. He was graduated with the degree of bachelor of arts in 1627, and the year following was admitted to holy orders. About this time he was disappointed in a love affair, the lady of his choice being Jane Whalley. He sought permission of her aunt, Lady Barrington, to marry her. When [Pg 7]refused, he wrote a striking letter in which he predicted for Lady Barrington a very unhappy hereafter unless she repented.

Sir Edward Coke
Courtesy of “Providence Magazine”

In 1629, we find him at High Laves, Essex, not far from Chelmesford, where Thomas Hooker, later the founder of Hartford Colony, was minister. Here he also met John Cotton. Men’s views at that time were changing. The people of the Established Church were divided into three classes. One stood by the Established Order in all things; another class of Puritans sought to stay by the Church, but aimed to purify the movement; the third class was for absolute separation. Williams, with hundreds of others, was disturbed. The anger of Lady Barrington and the suspicions of Archbishop Laud started a persecution which drove him out of England. He said:

I was persecuted in and out of my father’s house. Truly it was as bitter as death to me when Bishop Laud pursued me out of the land, and my conscience was persuaded against the national church, and ceremonies and bishops.... I say, it was as bitter as death to me when I rode Windsor way to take ship at Bristol.

Many years later he wrote:

He (God) knows what gains and preferments I have refused in universities, city, country, and court in old England, and something in New England, to keep my soul undefiled in this point and not to act with a doubting conscience.

Before leaving England, he was married. The only information we have in regard to his wife, up to that time, is that her name was Mary Warned. They sailed on the ship Lyon, from Bristol, England, December 1, 1630. After a tempestuous journey of sixty-six days they arrived off Nantasket, February 5, 1631. Judge Durfee speaks thus of this flight:

He was obliged to fly or dissemble his convictions, and for him, as for all noblest natures, a life of transparent truthfulness was alone an instinct and a necessity. This absolute sincerity is the key to his character, as it was always the mainspring of his conduct. It was this which led him to reject indignantly the compromises with his conscience which from time to time were proposed to him. It was this which impelled him when he discovered a truth to proclaim it, when he detected an error to expose it, when he saw an evil, to try and remedy it, and when he could do a good, even to his enemies, to do it.

[Pg 8]

Upon his arrival in Boston he was invited to become the teacher in the Boston church, succeeding Mr. Wilson who was about to return to England. To his surprise, he discovered that the Boston church was a church unseparated from the Established Church of England, and he felt conscientiously bound to decline their invitation. The Boston people, who believed their church to be the “most glorious on earth,” were astonished at his refusal. Williams would not act as their teacher unless they publicly repented of their relation to the Established Order. It was perfectly natural that a soul with convictions, such as Williams possessed, should desire to be absolutely separated from the Established Order. One incident from many will show the spirit of the Established Church in England toward those within its ranks who had become Puritan, let alone Separatist. Neal, in his “History of the Puritans,” tells, of Doctor Leighton’s persecution in England. He was arrested by Archbishop Laud and the following sentence was passed upon him: That he be

committed to the prison of the Fleet for life, and pay a fine of ten thousand pounds; that the High Commission should degrade him from his ministry, and that he should be brought to the pillory at Westminster, while the court was sitting and be publicly whipped; after whipping be set upon the pillory a convenient time, and have one of his ears cut off, one side of his nose split, and be branded in the face with a double S. S. for a sower of sedition: that then he should be carried back to prison, and after a few days be pilloryed a second time in Cheapside, and have the other side of his nose split, and his other ear cut off and then be shut up in close prison for the rest of his life.

In the district in which Roger Williams lived this sentence was carried out in all its hellish cruelty just prior to Williams’ banishment from England. Do we blame the exile Williams for repudiating the movement which at that hour was so wicked in its persecutions? He meant to have a sea between him and a thing so hateful. John Cotton said that Williams looked upon himself as one who “had received a clearer illumination and apprehension of the state of Christ’s kingdom, and of the purity of church communion, than all Christendom besides.” Cotton Mather said that Williams had “a windmill in his head.” Well for America that such a windmill was there and that he was a prophet with clear visions of truth.[Pg 9]

[Pg 10]

Charterhouse School
Courtesy of “Providence Magazine”[Pg 11]

After refusing the Boston church, Roger Williams was invited by the Salem church to be assistant to Mr. Skelton, their aged teacher. He accepted their invitation and became Teacher, April 12, 1631. The General Court in Boston remonstrated with the Salem church. The persecution of this court led doubtless to his retirement from Salem at the close of that summer.

He left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and became assistant to Ralph Smith, the pastor at Plymouth. The Plymouth people, being strict Separatists, were more congenial company, since they had withdrawn from the Established Order to form a church after the pattern of the Primitive Church model. Williams remained in Plymouth for about two years. Governor Bradford soon detected his advanced positions, relative to separation of Church and State, but considered it “questionable judgment.” He praised his qualities as a minister, writing thus of him:

His teaching, well approved, for þe benefit whereof I still bless God, and am thankful to him, even for his sharpest admonitions and reproofs, so far as they agreed with truth.

Governor Winthrop, with Mr. Wilson, teacher of the Boston church, visited Plymouth at this time.

They were very kindly treated and feasted every day at several houses. On the Lord’s Day, there was a sacrament which they did partake in; and, in the afternoon, Mr. Roger Williams (according to their custom) propounded a question, to which the Pastor, Mr. Smith, spoke briefly; then Mr. Williams prophesied; and after the Governor of Plymouth spoke to the question. Then the elder (Mr. William Brewster) desired the Governor of Massachusetts and Mr. Wilson to speak to it, which they did. When this was ended, the deacon, Mr. Fuller, put the congregation in mind of their duty of contribution; whereupon the Governor and all the rest went down to the deacon’s seat, and put into the box and then returned.

Williams came in contact with the Indians who visited Plymouth from time to time, and gained the confidence of Massasoit, the father of the famous Philip. He studied their language and cultivated their friendship. He writes in one of his letters, “My soul’s desire was to do the natives good!” Near the close of his life he referred to this early experience: “God was pleased to give me a painful patient spirit, to lodge with them [Pg 15]in their filthy smoke, to gain their tongue.” Surely the Providence of God was thus preparing the way for the founding of a new colony, to be made possible through these very Indians who had implicit confidence in this man of God.

A Key into the
An help to the Language of the Natives
in that part of America, called

Together, with briefe Observations of the Customes,
Manners and Worships, &c. of the
aforesaid Natives, in Peace and Warre,
in Life and Death.

On all which are added Spirituall Observations,
Generall and Particular by the Authour, of
chiefe and speciall use (upon all occasions,) to
all the English Inhabiting those parts;
yet pleasant and profitable to
the view of all men:

of Providence in New-England.

Printed by Gregory Dexter, 1643.

Boston, 1632
From an old print

The Fort and Chapel on the Hill Where Roger Williams Preached
Used by permission of A. S. Burbank, Plymouth, Mass.

Williams was Pauline in his self-supporting ministry. He wrote: “At Plymouth I spake on the Lord’s Day and week days and worked hard at my hoe for my bread (and so afterward at Salem until I found them to be an unseparated people).” His ministry made friends and foes. His foes feared he would run the same course of Anabaptist behavior as did John Smith, the Se-Baptist, at Amsterdam. Early in August his first child was born, and was named Mary after her mother. Later in the same month, he became for a second time the assistant to Mr. Skelton, at Salem. A number of choice spirits, who had been attracted to his ministry, went with him. He requested a letter of dismission from the Plymouth church to unite with the Salem church. This was granted, but with a caution as to his advanced views. To advocate the separation of Church and State placed a man at that time with the “Anabaptists,” as this was considered their great distinctive doctrine.

He commenced his labors at Salem under this cloud and also with the General Court in Boston very suspicious of his work. Already there was the distant rumbling of a storm which would eventually drive him into exile.

The ministers of the Bay Colony, from the churches of Boston, Newtowne (Cambridge), Watertown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Salem, and elsewhere, were accustomed to meet for discussion and common interest. Roger Williams feared that this might lead to a presbytery or superintendency, to the prejudice of local church liberty. He loathed everything which might make for intolerance.

In December, 1633, he forwarded to the governor and his assistants a document which he had prepared at Plymouth, in which he disputed their right to have the land by the king’s grant. Williams claimed, “they have no title except they compounded with the natives.” He also accused King James of telling a lie in claiming to be “the first Christian prince to discover this new land.” This treatise had never been published or made public. Its appearance now terrified the governor and the assistants,[Pg 16] for at that very time they were holding the possession to their colony on a charter originally given for a different purpose. It had been granted in England to a trading company, and its transfer was questionable. They feared the king might withdraw it. This treatise of Williams would be considered treason by the king. They met on December twenty-seventh and counseled with Williams. Seeing the grave danger to the colony, he agreed to give evidence of loyalty. Today we do not question the ethical correctness of the advanced position held by Williams.

It was not long before this pioneer of soul-liberty raised a new question concerning “the propriety of administering an oath, which is an act of worship, to either the unwilling or the unregenerate.” Williams’ position was peculiarly obnoxious to the magistrates who were then on the point of testing the loyalty of the colonists by administering an oath of allegiance which was to be, in reality, allegiance to the colony instead of to the king. The Court was called to discuss the new objection to its policy. Mr. Cotton informs us that the position was so well defended by Williams that “it threatened the court with serious embarrassment.” The people supported Williams’ position, and the court was compelled to desist. On the death of Skelton, in August, 1634, the Salem church installed Roger Williams as their teacher. This act gave great offense to the General Court in Boston. Williams commenced anew his agitation against the right to own land by the king’s patent. The Salem church and Williams were both cited to appear before the General Court, July 18, 1635, to answer complaints made against them.

The elders gave their opinion:

He who would obstinately maintain such opinions (whereby a church might run into heresy, apostasy, or tyranny, and yet the civil Magistrates may not intermeddle) ought to be removed, and that the other churches ought to request the Magistrates so to do.

The church and the pastor were notified “to consider the matter until the next General Court, and then to recant, or expect the court to take some final action.” At this same court, the Salem people petitioned for a title to some land at Marblehead Neck, which was theirs, as they believed, by a just claim. The court refused even to consider this claim, “until there shall be time [Pg 19]to test more fully the quality of your allegiance to the power which you desire should be interposed on your behalf.” Professor Knowles says:

Here is a candid avowal that justice was refused to Salem, on the question of civil right, as a punishment for the conduct of church and pastor. A volume could not more forcibly illustrate the danger of a connection between the civil and ecclesiastical power.

Pembroke College
Reduced from Loggan’s print, taken about 1688

Teacher and people at Salem were indignant, and a letter was addressed to the churches of the colony in protest against such injustice. The churches were asked to admonish the magistrates and deputies within their membership. These churches refused or neglected to do this. In some cases the letters never came before the church. Williams then called on his own church to withdraw communion with such churches. It declined to do this, and he withdrew from the Salem church, preaching his last sermon, August 19, 1635. Here was a repetition of the first conflict. Straus writes:

Here stood the one church already condemned, with sentence suspended over it. Against it were arrayed the aggregate power of the colony—its nine churches, the priests, and the magistrates. What could the Salem church and community do, threatened with disfranchisement, its deputies excluded from the General Court, and its petition for land to which it was entitled, denied? Dragooned into submission it had to abandon its persecuted minister to struggle alone against the united power of Church and State. To deny Williams the merit of devotion to a principle in this contest, wherein there was no alternative but retraction or banishment, is to belie history in order to justify bigotry, and to convert martyrdom into wrong-headed obstinacy. This is exactly what Cotton sought to do in his version of the controversy given ten years later in order to vindicate himself and his church brethren from the stigma of their acts in the eyes of a more enlightened public opinion in England. Williams pursued no half-hearted or half-way measures. He stood unshaken upon the firm ground of his convictions, and declared to the Salem church that he could no longer commune with them, thereby entirely separating himself from them and them from him.

He went so far as to refuse to commune with his own wife in the new communion which he formed in his own home, until she would completely withdraw from the Salem church.

The time for the next General Court drew near. The Salem church letter and Williams’ withdrawal from his church made[Pg 20] his foes determined to crush him. They had thoughts of putting him to death.

3rd Sept.

Whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of the elders of the church of Salem, hath broached and divulged dyvers newe and dangerous opinions against the aucthorite of magistrates, as also with others of defamcon, both of the magistrates and churches here, and that before any conviccon, and yet maintaineth the same without retraccon, it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depte out of this jurisdiccon within sixe weekes nowe nexte ensueing, wch if hee neglect to pforme, it shall be lawfull for the Gouv’r and two of the magistrates to send him to some place out of this jurisdiccon, not to returne any more without licence from the Court.

Fac-simile from Original Records of the Order for the Banishment
of Roger Williams.

The General Court convened in the rude meeting-house of the church in Newtowne (Cambridge), on the corner of Dunster and Mill Streets. Williams maintained his positions. He was asked if he desired a month to reflect and then come and argue the matter before them. He declined, choosing “to dispute presently.” Thomas Hooker, minister at Newtowne, was appointed to argue with him on the spot, to make him see his errors. Williams’ positions had a “rockie strength” and he was ready, “not only to be bound and banished, but to die also in New England; as for the most holy truths of God in Christ Jesus.” He would not recant. So the Court met the following day, Friday, October 9, 1635, and passed the following sentence:

Whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of the elders of the church of Salem, hath broached and divulged dyvers newe and dangerous opinions against the aucthorite of magistrates, as also with letters of defamcon, both of the magistrates and churches here, and that before any conviccon, and yet maintaineth the same without retraccon, [Pg 23]it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depte out of this jurisdiccon within sixe weekes nowe nexte ensueing, wch if hee neglect to pforme, it shall be lawfull for the Gouv’r and two of the magistrates to send him to some place out of this jurisdiccon, not to returne any more without licence from the Court.

Original Church at Salem, Mass.

Site of Home of Roger Williams in Providence, R. I.

Although Williams had withdrawn from the church at Salem, yet his character was such that the town was indignant at this decree of the court. About this time, his second child was born. Like the prophets of old, he gave the child a significant name, calling her “Freeborn.” Mr. Williams’ health at this time was far from being robust. A stay of sentence was therefore granted, and he was to be allowed to remain until the following spring. He did not refrain from advocating his opinions, and soon the authorities heard of meetings in his house at Salem and of twenty who were prepared to go with him to found a new colony at the head of the Narragansett Bay. At its January meeting, the Court decided to send him to England at once in a ship then about to return. He was cited to appear in Boston, but reported inability due to his impaired health. They then sent a pinnace for him by sea. Being forewarned, he fled to the wilderness in the depths of which, for fourteen weeks, he suffered the hardships of a New England winter.


The original Roger Williams Church is still preserved at Salem. The first church in the first town of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was at the corner of Washington and Essex Streets. There is a brick structure there now and a marble tablet marks it as the site of the first church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On another tablet, is the inscription:

The frame of the first Meeting House in which the civil affairs of the Colony were transacted, is preserved and now stands in the rear of Plummer Hall.

Plummer Hall is on Essex Street not very far from the First Church. In the rear is the Roger Williams Church, a small building, measuring twenty feet long by seventeen wide by twelve high at its posts. Originally it had a gallery over the door at the entrance and a minister’s seat in the opposite corner. On the[Pg 24] wall opposite to the entrance is a list of its succession of pastors and the years of their service:

Francis Higginson     1629-1630
Samuel Skelton 1629-1634
Roger Williams 1631-1635
Hugh Peters 1636-1641 etc., etc.

It could accommodate about one hundred people. There were only forty families in Salem in 1632. There were only six houses, besides that of Governor Endicott, when Higginson arrived in 1629. Here in this ancient meeting-house Roger Williams preached those truths which led to his banishment. From its pulpit came, clearly stated, the ideals that millions have since accepted. The glory of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, or the Royal Sancte Chapella, of Paris, can never equal the glory of this crude edifice, the cradle of religious liberty in the New World.

The Roger Williams Home at Salem is still preserved. It is better known as “the Witch House” because it was occupied by Judge Carwin, one of the judges connected with the tragedy of 1692. It stands at the western corner of Essex and North Streets. It was built by the founder of Rhode Island and was at that time second only to the Governor’s home. Though it has been altered and repaired, the original rooms in this building are as follows: The eastern room on the first floor, 18 × 21½, and the room directly over it, 20 × 21½; the western room on the first floor, 16½ × 18, and the room over it, 16½ × 20. The chimney is 8 × 12. The part of the house which retains its original appearance is the projecting corner of the western part, fronting on Essex Street. Roger Williams mortgaged this house, “for supplies,” to establish the colony at Providence.

Mr. Upham, in his report to the Essex Institution, says of this wonderful house:

Here, within these very walls, lived, two hundred and fifty years ago, that remarkable and truly heroic man, who, in his devotion to the principle of free conscience, and liberty of belief, untrammeled by civil power, penetrated in midwinter in the depths of an unknown wilderness to seek a new home, a home which he could find only among savages, whose[Pg 25] respect for the benevolence and truthfulness of his character made them, then and ever afterward, his constant friends. From this spacious and pleasant mansion, he fled through the deep snows of a New England forest, leaving his wife and young children to the care of Providence, whose silent “voice” through the conscience, was his only support and guide. The State which he founded may ever look back with a just pride upon the history of Roger Williams.

[Pg 27]



[Pg 28]

A community on the unheard-of principles of absolute religious liberty combined with perfect civil democracy.—Professor Mason.

Thus for the first time in history a form of government was adopted which drew a clear and unmistakable line between the temporal and the spiritual power, and a community came into being which was an anomaly among the nations.—Prof. J. L. Diman.

No one principle of political or social or religious policy lies nearer the base of American institutions and has done more to shape our career than this principle inherited from Rhode Island, and it may be asserted that the future of America was in a large measure determined by that General Court which summoned Roger Williams to answer for “divers new and dangerous opinions,” and his banishment became a pivotal act in universal history.—Prof. Alonzo Williams.

In summing up the history of the struggle for religious liberty it may be said that papal bulls and Protestant creeds have favored tyranny. Theologians of the sixteenth century and philosophers of the seventeenth, Descartes, Spinoza, and Hobbes, favored the State churches. It was bitter experience of persecution that led jurists, and statesmen of Holland and France, in face of the opposition of theologians and philosophers, to enforce the toleration of dissent. While there was toleration in Holland and France, there was, for the first time, in the history of the world in any commonwealth, liberty and equality and separation of Church and State in Rhode Island.—W. W. Evarts, in “The Long Road to Freedom of Worship.”

In the code of laws established by them, we read for the first time since Christianity ascended the throne of the Cæsars, the declaration that conscience should be free and men should not be punished for worshiping God in the way they were persuaded he requires.—Judge Story.

[Pg 29]

ROGER WILLIAMS left Salem on or about January 15, 1636, making the journey alone through the forests. With a pocket compass, and a sun-dial to tell the hours, he set out, probably taking the road to Boston for some distance. Nearing Boston, presumably at Saugus, he went west for a while and then straight south until he reached the home of Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem, at Mount Hope, near Bristol. The ground was covered with snow, and he must have suffered sorely on this journey of eighty or ninety miles. Thirty-five years later in a letter to Major Mason, he refers to this experience:

First, when I was unkindly and unchristianly, as I believe, driven from my house and land, and wife and children (in the midst of a New England winter, now about thirty-five years past), at Salem, that ever-honored Governor, Mr. Winthrop, privately wrote me to steer my course to Narragansett Bay and the Indians, for many high and public ends, encouraging me, from the freeness of the place from any English claims or patents. I took his prudent notion as a hint and voice from God, and waving all other thoughts and notions, I steered my course from Salem (though in winter snow, which I feel yet) unto those parts wherein I may say “Peniel”; that is, I have seen the face of God.

He also wrote: “I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weeks, in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bread or bed did mean!” In his old age he exclaimed, “I bear to this day in my body the effects of that winter’s exposure.” In one of his books he refers to “hardships of sea and land in a banished condition.”

The precious relics of this flight are the sun-dial and compass, now in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Williams finally reached Seekonk Cove, about the twenty-third of April. The spot was at Manton’s Neck, near the cove, where there was a good spring of water. Here he was joined by four companions, his wife, and two children. “I gave leave to William Harris, then poor and destitute,” said Williams, “to come along in my company. I consented to John Smith, miller[Pg 30] at Dorchester (banished also), to go with me, and, at John Smith’s desire, to a poor young fellow, Francis Wickes, as also a lad of Richard Waterman’s.” The latter was doubtless Thomas Angell. Joshua Verein came later. Some historians think that others joined them at the Seekonk before they were compelled to leave. Here they remained for two months. After providing rude shelters and sowing seeds, they received a warning to move on. “I received a letter,” said Williams,

from my ancient friend, Mr. Winslow, the Governor of Plymouth, professing his own and others’ love for me, yet lovingly advising me, since I was fallen into the edge of their bounds, and they were loathe to displease the Bay, to remove to the other side of the water, and there, he said, I had the country free before me, and might be free as themselves, and we should be loving neighbors together.

Sun-dial and Compass Used by Roger Williams in His Flight
Courtesy of “Providence Magazine”

His removal cost him the “loss of a harvest that year.” Historians are agreed that about the end of June he left Seekonk. The two hundred and fiftieth anniversary was celebrated, June 23 and 24, 1886. Embarking in a crude Indian canoe, Williams and his companions, six in all, crossed over the river to a little cove on the west side, where they were halted by a party of Indians, with the friendly interrogation, “What cheer?” Here the party landed on a rock which has been known ever since as “What Cheer Rock.” The cove is now filled and the rock covered [Pg 33]from sight. A suitable monument has been erected over the rock. It is in an open park space at the corner of Roger and Williams Streets, Providence. A piece of this rock is preserved at the First Baptist Church of Providence, and another has recently been placed in cross form in the lobby floor of the new Central Baptist Church of the same city. It is hoped that a piece of this rock will be worked into the National Baptist Memorial in our country’s capital.

Spring at the Seekonk Settlement

Tablet Marking Seekonk Site

What Cheer Rock. Landing-place of Roger Williams

After friendly salutations with the Indians, they reembarked and made their way down the river around the headland of Tockwotten and past Indian and Fox points, where they reached the mouth of the Moshassuck River. Rowing up this beautiful stream, then bordered on either side with a dense forest, they landed on the east side of the river, where there was an inviting spring. Here, on the ascending slopes of the hill, they commenced a new settlement, which Williams called “Providence,” in gratitude to God’s merciful Providence to them in their distress. Later, when they spread out in larger numbers and in all directions from this place, it was called “Providence Plantations.” They prepared shelters for their families, probably wigwams made of poles covered with hemlock boughs and forest leaves. We can in imagination see them climb the hill to a point where Prospect Street now runs, to enjoy a wider view of their new territory.

From that height of almost two hundred feet they saw to the westward, through openings in the forest, the cove at the head of the great salt river with broad sandy beaches on the eastern and northern shores and salt marshes bordering the western and southern. From the north the sparkling waters of the Moshassuck River came leaping over the falls as it emptied itself into the estuary at its mouth. Bordering this stream was a valley of beauty and fertility. The clear waters of the Woonasquatucket threaded their way from the west through another fertile valley. Between these rivers and also southward (of the Woonasquatucket) was a sandy plateau, covered with pine forests stretching to the Indian town of Mashapaug on the southwest and Pawtuxet Valley to the south. Between the edge of the tidal flow and the open waters of the great salt river there was a salt marsh dotted with islands, beyond which rose the bold peak[Pg 34] of Weybosset Hill. Down the river to the south they saw the steep hills of Sassafras and Field’s Point, beyond which could be seen the lower bay and its forest-covered shores and islands. The eastern slope of the hill stretched a mile toward the shore of the Seekonk. To the northeast the view was cut off by a higher eminence covered with oak and pine. In all directions, save that of the bay itself, the farther distances were lost in an indistinguishable maze of forest-crowned heights. At the feet of the spectators was the place of their immediate settlement, where the western slope of the hill gradually diminished in height toward the south. At its lowest extremity, Fox Point projected into the bay. This slope was covered with a growth of oak and hickory.

A Purchased Possession

Roger Williams differed from the ordinary colonists of his age, who held that the Indian, being heathen, had no real ownership of the land. It belonged to the Christians who might first claim it by right of discovery. Williams, who “always aimed to do the Indians only good,” recognized Indian ownership and secured his colony from them by purchase. Here among them he first sought to apply his doctrine of soul-liberty. To him they were humans with equal rights and privileges. He bitterly fought the Puritan position that the pagan heathen had no property rights which the Christian, with his superior culture, was bound to respect. Roger Williams insisted that the land should be purchased from the Indians, the original owners. He gained the lasting respect of the Indian and the undying animosity of the Puritan for holding to ideals which have since come to be recognized as American. He thus laid the foundation for the belief in America that the weaker and smaller powers have rights which the greater powers must respect, a belief which led us into the recent great war. While this principle is receiving world-wide application, let us not forget that Roger Williams was the pioneer of international justice in America, if not in the world. The land viewed from the top of the hill was owned by five distinct Indian tribes. The Narragansetts dominated over all the lands now occupied by Rhode Island, and ruled over all other lesser tribes in this territory. In the northern part of this State, [Pg 37]the Nipmucs lived in the place now occupied by Smithfield, Glocester, and Burrilville. On the southern seacoast border dwelt the Niantics. Part of the Wampanoag tribe dwelt in Cumberland and extended to the western side of the river which we now call the Blackstone. The Pequots lived in Connecticut Colony. Indian government was monarchial, and became extinct with the slaughter of the last of the line of rulers or sachems in the massacre of July 2, 1676. Canonicus was the ruling sachem when the English first came. As he grew old he needed an assistant and his nephew, Miantonomo, was appointed. Miantonomo worked well with the elder chief. He never succeeded to the position of ruling chief, being murdered in 1643. Roger Williams secured his land from these sachems. Williams wrote in 1661 as follows:

I was the procurer of the purchase, not by monies, nor payments, the natives being so shy and jealous, that monies could not do it, but by that language, acquaintance, and favor with the natives and other advantages which it pleased God to give me, and also bore the charges and venture of all the gratuities which I gave to the great Sachems and natives round about us, and lay engaged for a loving and peaceable neighborhood with, to my great charge and travel.

Original Deed of Providence from the Indians

He found Indian gifts very costly. Presents were made frequently. He allowed the Indians to use his pinnace and shallop at command, transporting and lodging fifty at his home at a time. He never denied them any lawful thing. Canonicus had freely what he desired from Roger Williams’ trading-post at Narragansett. William Harris stated in 1677 that Roger Williams had paid thus one hundred and sixty pounds ($800) for Providence and Pawtucket.

Mr. Williams generously admitted the first twelve proprietors of the Providence Purchase to an equal share with himself, without exacting any remuneration. The thirty pounds which he received were paid by succeeding settlers, at the rate of thirty shillings each. This was not a payment for the land but what he called “a loving gratuity.” Straus says:

He might have been like William Penn, the proprietor of his colony, after having secured it by patent from the rulers in England, and thus have exercised a control over its government and enriched himself and[Pg 38] family. But this was not his purpose, nor was it directly or remotely the cause for which he suffered banishment and misery. Principle—not profit; liberty—not power; conviction—not ambition, were his impelling motives which he consistently maintained, theoretically and practically then, and at all times.

Williams’ own words were:

I desired it might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience. I then considering the conditions of divers of my distressed countrymen, I communicated my said purchase unto my loving friends (whom he names) who desired to take shelter with me.

He afterward purchased, jointly with Governor Winthrop, the Island of Prudence from Canonicus. He also purchased, a little later, the small islands of Patience and Hope, afterward selling his interest in them to help pay his expenses to England on business for the colony.

Following is a true copy of the Original Deed of Land for Providence from Canonicus and Miantonomo:

At Nanhiggansick, the 24th of the first month, commonly called March, in the second year of the Plantations of Plantings at Mooshausick or Providence. Memorandum that we Caunaunicus and Meauntunomo, the two chief sachems of Nanhiggansick, having two years since sold unto Roger Williams, the lands and meadows upon the two fresh rivers, called Mooshausick and Wanasquatucket, do now by these presents, establish and confirm the bounds of those lands, from the river and fields at Pawtucket, the great hill of Neotackonkonutt, on the northwest, and the town of Mashapauge on the west. As also in consideration of the many kindnesses and services he hath continually done for us, both with our friends of Massachusetts, as also at Quinickicutt and Apaum, or Plymouth, we do now freely give unto him all the land from those rivers reaching to Pawtuxet River, as also the grass and meadows upon the said Pawtuxet River. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands.

In the presence of

The Mark * of Setash,
The Mark * of Assotenewit,
The Mark * of Caunaunicus,
The Mark * of Meauntunomo.

This original deed is preserved, as a precious relic, in the City Hall at Providence.

[Pg 39]

Williams’ Letter of Transference to His Loving Friends

[Pg 40]

Early Experiences in Providence

The Providence planters soon built their crude homes. The Indian name of the plantation was Notaquonchanet. In their early records of Providence this name is spelt in at least forty-two different forms. Other settlers came and swelled their numbers. The original six were bound together by a compact. It was verbal, or if written, the copy has been lost. When new settlers came and Wickes and Angell had reached majority, a copy of the original agreement was drawn up and signed by those not included in the first compact. Williams was familiar with the great compact signed in the Mayflower by the Pilgrims and probably it suggested to his mind the need of one in Providence. This Providence Compact is as follows:

We, whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for the public good of the body, in an orderly way, by the major consent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others whom they shall admit unto the same, ONLY IN CIVIL THINGS.

Edmund J. Carpenter says of this Compact:

A compact of government, which in its terms, must be regarded as the most remarkable political document theretofore executed, not even excepting the Magna Charta. It was a document which placed a government, formed by the people, solely in the control of the civil arm. It gave the first example of a pure democracy, from which all ecclesiastical power was eliminated. It was the first enunciation of a great principle, which years later, formed the corner-stone of the great republic. It was the act of a statesman fully a century in advance of his time.

At the west entrance to the street railroad tunnel in Providence a bronze tablet commemorates the fact that there in the open air the first town meetings were held.

Roger Williams’ house was opposite the spring, forty-eight feet to the east of the present Main Street and four feet north of Howland Street. Next, to the north of his residence, was the house and lot of Joshua Verein. North of this was Richard Scott’s. The first house south of Williams’ was that of John [Pg 43]Throckmorton and, beyond, that of William Harris. At first the struggle for existence was hard, more so because of the loss of the crops planted at Seekonk. Governor Winslow, of Plymouth, conscious of the wrong Plymouth Colony had done to Williams, visited the little settlement that first summer and left a gift of gold with Mrs. Williams. In the spring and summer of the following year, new houses were built along the street. The new settlers brought money with them, and Williams enlisted outside capital to help develop the colony.

The Original Providence “Compact”

Drawn up by the men of Providence, August 20, 1638, and now contained in the City Hall. One of the most valuable documents in existence, under which Williams and his companions promised to subject themselves in active and passive obedience, but “Only in Civil Things.”

“You must look to the Magna Charta, for another such epoch-making decree, for these, with the Declaration and the Emancipation Proclamation, are the four great dynamic forces of American Freedom.”—R. B. Burchard.

Courtesy of “Providence Magazine,” October, 1915

The number of town lots increased. The land lay between the present Main Street and Hope Street. Each lot was of equal width and ran eastward. Eventually there were one hundred and two of these lots extending from Mile End Brook, which enters the river a little north of Fox Point, to Harrington’s Lane, now the dividing line between Providence and North Providence. Meeting and Power Streets were the dividing streets in those early days. In addition to the home lot, each proprietor had an “out six-acre lot” assigned to him. Williams’ “out lot” was at “What Cheer Rock.”

The Threatened Indian Trouble

Williams, although suffering from Puritan persecution, had an opportunity that first year of doing good to his persecutors. He became the savior of all the New England Colonies. The Pequot Indians planned the annihilation of the English. Williams, hearing of this, did his utmost to break up an Indian league, and kept the Narragansetts from joining the Pequots and Mohicans. He describes this experience in the following statement:

The Lord helped me immediately to put my life into my hands, and scarce acquainting my wife, to ship alone, in a poor canoe, and to cut through a stormy wind, with great seas, every minute in hazard of life, to the sachem’s house. Three days and nights my business forced me to lodge and mix with the bloody Pequod ambassadors, whose hands and arms, methought, reeked with the blood of my countrymen, murdered and massacred by them on the Connecticut River, and from whom I could not but nightly look for their bloody knives at my own throat also. God wondrously preserved me, and helped me to break the Pequod’s negotiation and design; and to make and finish, by many travels and charges, the English league with the Narragansetts and Mohegans against the Pequods.

[Pg 44]

As a result of this, the tribe of Pequots was obliterated completely and a danger hanging over all the colonies was removed.

The Indian villages of southern New England were composed at times of as many as fifty houses or wigwams. Most of these wigwams were shaped like the half of an orange, with the flat or cut surface down. They were ten to twelve feet in diameter and could accommodate two families. Other houses were like the half of a stovepipe cut lengthwise, twenty to thirty feet long, and accommodated from two families in the summertime to fifty in the winter, when the people crowded together for the sake of warmth. The council-chamber was often as long as one hundred feet with a width of thirty feet. It was used only for councils. A fortified stockade in the center of the village was made of logs set into the ground. Such was the shelter afforded Williams when he fled from Salem, and such was the place when he met the Indian sachems in council seeking to avert the massacre of the whites. In these villages he preached the everlasting gospel of the Son of God. He had the constant confidence of Indian sachems because he applied to them the principle of soul-liberty which he sought to practise among the whites.

In the autumn of 1638, Roger Williams’ third child and first son was born and named “Providence.” He was the first white male child born in this colony. In the year 1639-1640 the town grew and felt the need of a system of town government. On July 23, 1640, an organization was decided upon in which they vested the care of the general interests of the town in five “disposers” or arbitrators. The people retained the right to appeal from the “disposers” to the general town meeting. They were careful to provide that as “formerly hath been the liberties of the town, so still to hold for the liberty of conscience.”

In 1638 a settlement had been made at Portsmouth on Rhode Island. John Clarke and Mrs. Ann Hutchinson were the leaders of this new band who were looking for a place where they might have religious freedom, which was denied them at Boston. They went first to New Hampshire, but, finding it too cold there, turned to the south. By the friendly assistance of Mr. Williams, they secured from Canonicus and Miantonomo, for a consideration of forty fathoms of white beads, Aquidneck and other islands in Narragansett Bay. The natives residing on the island itself [Pg 46]were induced to remove for a consideration of ten coats and twenty hoes. The new settlers chose Mr. Coddington to be their judge and united in a covenant with each other and with their God. They made Mr. Coddington their governor in 1640.

Plan Showing
Providence, R.I.

About this same time a number of Providence people settled in Pawtuxet, four miles south of Providence in territory ceded to Williams. Warwick and Shawomet were settled by Samuel Gorton and his friends. Gorton was a strange character who did not find things congenial for him at Boston, Plymouth, and Newport in turn. Roger Williams, however, gave him shelter in Providence. Finally he went to Pawtuxet and later to Shawomet, for which he paid four fathoms of wampum to the Indians. At once Boston Colony claimed that Shawomet was under their jurisdiction. Gorton and his associates refused to come to Boston at the bidding of the authorities. Forty soldiers came to Shawomet and seized Gorton and ten of his friends and imprisoned them in Boston. They were tried for their lives, escaping only by two votes. They were then imprisoned in the various towns. Each one was compelled to wear a chain fast bolted around his legs. If they spoke to any person, other than an officer of the Church or of the State, they were to be put to death. They were kept at labor that winter and then banished in the spring. Gorton escaped to England and secured an order from the Earl of Warwick and the Commissioners of the Colonies requiring Massachusetts not to molest the settlers at Shawomet. Thereafter Gorton and his friends occupied their lands in peace.

Gorton wrote his side of the question in “Simplicities Defence,” in which he referred to his persecutors as “That Servant so Imperious in his Master’s Absence Revived.” This is another indictment against the persecuting Puritans by one who found shelter in the Baptist colony of Rhode Island.


Innocency Vindicated, being unjustly Accused,
and sorely Censured, by that
Seven-headed Church-Government
United in

That Servant so Imperious in his Masters Absence
Revived, and now thus re-acting in New-England.

The combate of the United Colonies, not onely against
some of the Natives and Subjects, but against the Authority also
of the Kingdme of England, with their execution of Laws, in the name and
Authority of the servant, (or of themselves) and not in the Name and
Authority of the Lord, or fountain of the Government.

Wherein is declared an Act of a great people and Country
of the Indians in those parts, both Princes and People (unanimously)
in their voluntary Submission and Subjection unto the Protection
and Government of Old England (from the Fame they hear thereof) together
with the true manner and forme of it, as it appears under their own
hands and seals, being stirred up, and provoked thereto, by
the Combate and courses above-said.

Throughout which Treatise is secretly intermingled, that
great Opposition, which is in the goings forth of those two grand
Spirits, that are and ever have been, extant in the World
(through the sons of men) from the beginning and
foundation thereof.

Imprimatur, Aug. 3ᵈ. 1646. Diligently perused, approved, and
Licensed to the Presse, according to Order by publike Authority.

Printed by John Macock, and are to be sold by Luke Favvne,
at his shop in Pauls Church-yard, at the sign of the Parrot. 1646.

The Story of the First Charter

As the colony grew, it was found necessary that there should be some vested authority which would command respect from the neighbors. Notwithstanding what Williams had done for the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies in connection with the Pequot War, and the personal friendships he had with the governors, they would not consider that he or his had any separate[Pg 48] colony rights whatever. He had been their Joseph driven from home and country by hostile brethren. In exile, he became the savior of his brethren from a dreadful massacre by the Indians. Nevertheless, Plymouth claimed jurisdiction over all the plantations in Narragansett Bay, and Massachusetts claimed it over Providence, Pawtuxet, and Shawomet. The Dutch had formed a trading-post at Dutch Island and elsewhere and could strike a blow at the colony at any time. Out of these conditions grew the demand for a charter. Roger Williams, at a great personal sacrifice, went to England from Manhattan, now New York City, because the two colonies to the north forbade his departure from their ports.

Arriving in England, he found the country in the midst of the great Civil War. King Charles was powerless because Parliament controlled the realm. Parliament had placed colonial interest in charge of a committee of which the Earl of Warwick was chairman or “Governor in Chief, and Lord High Admiral of the Colonies.” From this council a charter was granted, March 17, 1644. The colony was incorporated as “Providence Plantations” and embraced the territory now covered by the State of Rhode Island. There was granted to the inhabitants of Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport, a

free and absolute charter of incorporation ... together with full power and authority to govern themselves and such others as shall hereafter inhabit within any part of said tract of land by such form of civil government as by the voluntary consent of all or the greatest part of them shall be found most serviceable to their estate and condition, etc.

Upon the return of Williams, the inhabitants of Providence, learning of his approach, came out in fourteen canoes to meet him at the Seekonk. They traveled over the historic course which he had traveled six years before when he was an exile. Now in triumph they escorted their beloved leader to home and native town. A picture of his return with the charter, by Grant, is on the walls of the Court House at Providence.

The Arrival of Roger Williams with the Charter

The earliest published work of Mr. Williams is entitled,

A Key into the Language of America: or, an help to the Language of the Natives in that part of America, called New-England. Together,[Pg 51] with briefe Observations of the Customes, Manners and Worships, etc. of the aforesaid Natives, in Peace and Warre, in Life and Death. On all which are added Spirituall Observations, Generall and Particular by the Authour, of chiefe and speciall use (upon all occasions) to all the English Inhabiting those parts; yet pleasant and profitable to the view of all men: By Roger Williams of Providence in New-England. London, Printed by Gregory Dexter, 1643.

It was written at sea, en route to England, in the summer of 1643. Copies of the original edition are in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford, the British Museum, also in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Harvard College, Brown University, and the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. It comprises two hundred and sixteen small duodecimo pages, including preface and table.

The second published work of Roger Williams is entitled, “Mr. Cottons Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered. By Roger Williams of Providence, in New-England. London, Imprinted in the Yeere 1644.” Mr. Cotton had sought to “take off the edge of Censure from himself”—that he was no procurer of the sorrow which came to Williams in his flight and exile. It is a small quarto of forty-seven pages, preceded by an address of two pages. The letter referred to was written by John Cotton, and was published in London, 1643. The author vindicated the act of the magistrates in banishing Roger Williams from Massachusetts. He denies that he himself had any agency in it. It consists of thirteen small quarto pages. Good copies of both the Letter and the reply are in the Library of Brown University. Two copies of the reply are in England, one in the British Museum, the other in Bodleian Library. A mutilated copy of the reply is also in the Library of Yale College.

Roger Williams wrote also, when in England, securing the Charter for Rhode Island, a work entitled, “The Bloudy Tenent, of Persecution for cause of Conscience, discussed.” It is considered the best written of all his works. These discussions were prepared in London,

for publike view, in charge of roomes and corners, yea, sometimes in variety of strange houses, sometimes in the fields, in the midst of travel, where he hath been forced to gather and scatter his loose thoughts and papers.

[Pg 54]

It is written in an animated style and has the adornment of beautiful imagery. Original copies are rare, eight only are known to exist, one in the British Museum, one in Bodleian Library, one in Brown University Library, one in Harvard College Library.

Mʳ Cottons
Lately Printed,


By Roger Williams of Providence

Imprinted in the yeere 1644.



of Persecution, for cause of
Conscience, discussed, in

A Conference betweene


In all tender Affection, present to the High
Court of Parliament, (as the Result of
their Discourse) these, (amongst other
Passages) of highest consideration.

Printed in the Year 1644.

This work is based on a Baptist publication, entitled “An Humble Supplication to the King’s Majesty, as it was presented 1620.” This latter was a clear and concise argument against persecution and for liberty of conscience. It was written by Murton, or some other London Baptist, who was imprisoned in Newgate for conscience sake. His confinement was so rigid that he was denied pen, paper, and ink. A friend in London sent him sheets of paper, as stoppers for the bottles containing his daily allowance of milk. He wrote his thoughts on these sheets with milk, returning them to his friends as stoppers for the empty bottles. They were held to the fire and thus became legible. Roger Williams based his book on the argument of this “Humble Supplication.”

In such Paper written with Milk nothing will appeare, but the way of reading it by fire being knowne to this friend who received the Papers, he transcribed and kept together the Papers, although the Author himselfe could not correct, nor view what himselfe had written.

It was in milke, tending to soule nourishment, even for Babes and Sucklings in Christ.

It was in milke, spiritually white, pure and innocent, like those white horses of the Word of truth and meeknesse, and the white Linnen or Armour of rightousnesse, in the Army of Jesus. Rev. 6. & 19.

It was in milke, soft, meeke, peaceable and gentle, tending both to the peace of soules, and the peace of States and Kingdomes.

The Answer writ in Bloud.

Peace. The Answer (though I hope out of milkie pure intentions) is returned in bloud: bloudy & slaughterous conclusions; bloudy to the souls of all men, forc’d to the Religion and Worship which every civil State or Common-weale agrees on, and compells all subjects to in a dissembled uniformitie.

Bloudy to the bodies, first of the holy witnesses of Christ Jesus, who testifie against such invented worships.

Secondly, of the Nations and Peoples slaughtering each other for their severall respective Religions and Consciences.

Roger Williams’ Reference to “An Humble Supplication” in His “Bloudy Tenent”


The little band which settled Providence on that June day, 1636, had grown into a large town. With other towns they[Pg 55] suffered the same injustice from neighboring colonies. The assembly in Newport, September 19, 1642, which intrusted the work of securing a charter to Williams, was in reality fusing together these separate groups, which had a common enemy and common principles, into a State. The Town of Providence, a great monument to Roger Williams, must now give way to the State of Rhode Island, which was destined to become a still larger monument to the ideals of this great exponent of civil and religious liberty, “a liberty which does not permit license in civil [Pg 56]matters in contempt of law and order.”

[Pg 57]



[Pg 58]

Roger Williams must forever rank as one of the great epoch-makers of the world, and to him impartial historians accord the honor of being the first democrat. It was not until his expulsion from Salem Colony that he became a Baptist, but the evidence is indisputable that he had long been a Baptist at heart. He had spent much time among the Baptists in England and was familiar with their doctrines and writings. No sooner had Williams set foot in America than he found himself in conflict with the authorities, both civil and religious.—S. Z. Batten, in “The Christian State.”

There is not a confession of faith, nor a creed, framed by any of the Reformers, which does not give the magistrate a coercive power in religion, and almost every one at the same time curses the resisting Baptists.—E. B. Underhill, in “Struggles and Triumphs.”

Godly princes may lawfully issue edicts for compelling obstinate and rebellious persons to worship the true God and to maintain the unity of the faith.—Calvin.

Democracy, I do not conceyve that ever God did ordeyne as a fit government eyther for Church or Commonwealth.... As for monarchy and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved, and directed in Scripture.—John Cotton.

It is said that Men ought to have Liberty of their Conscience, and that it is Persecution to debar them of it; I can stand amazed than reply to this: It is an astonishment to think that the brains of men should be parboiled in such impious ignorance.—Rev. Nathaniel Ward, Lawyer Divine, of Ipswich, who drew up the first legal code for Massachusetts Bay Colony.

[Pg 59]

ROGER WILLIAMS, both minister and citizen, probably led the Providence planters in their religious activities. He was neither identified with the Established Church of England, nor in sympathy with the intolerance of the new established order at Boston and Salem, or even the one at Plymouth. He was a Separatist of the most pronounced type, and that was exactly the accredited Baptist position. He was one with the Baptists in his ideas concerning a complete separation from the State Church of England, one with them in the absolute separation of Church and State, one with them in insisting upon a regenerate church-membership. So according to the logic of the situation he turned to the Baptist movement. He may have been instructed as to their position by Mrs. Scott (the sister of the Antinomian, Mrs. Ann Hutchinson), who came to Providence shortly before the baptism of Williams. Roger Williams had been accused of tendencies toward the Anabaptists while in Plymouth, Salem, and Boston. Before he met Mrs. Scott, however, he held the Baptist positions of the time. It is not unlikely that she, being an intelligent Baptist, showed Williams the remarkable similarity between his position and that of the Baptists. Some time before March, 1639, Williams was baptized. In the absence of a Baptist minister, Ezekiel Holliman, an exile from Salem, baptized Roger Williams, who in turn baptized Mr. Holliman and some ten others. Like the disciple band of old the Baptist movement in Providence and America commenced with a band of twelve disciples. Their names are as follows: Roger Williams, Ezekiel Holliman, William Arnold (?),[1] William Harris, Stukely Westcott, John Green, Richard Waterman, Thomas James, Robert Cole, William Carpenter (?), Francis Weston, and Thomas Olney. Thus was organized the First Baptist Church in America.

[1] The “?” is after Arnold’s name in First Baptist Church Register.

[Pg 60]

Great was the consternation in Salem when news reached there of the baptism of Williams and others who had been members of their church. The Puritan church took action at once. The letter announcing to the church at Dorchester the exclusion of the offenders is interesting:

Reverend and dearly beloved in the Lord:

We thought it our bounden duty to acquaint you with the names of such persons, as have had the great censure passed upon them, in this our church, with the reasons thereof, beseeching you in the Lord, not only to read their names in public to yours, but also to give us the like notice of any dealt with in like manner by you, so that we may walk toward them accordingly, for some of us here have had communion ignorantly with some of other churches. 2 Thess. 3:14. We can do no less than have such noted as disobey the truth.

Roger Williams and his wife, John Throckmorton and his wife, Thomas Olney and his wife, Stukely Westcott and his wife, Mary Holliman, Widow Reeves.

These wholly refused to hear the church, denying it, and all the churches in the Bay, to be true churches, and (except two) are all rebaptized.

After some time Roger Williams left the Baptist church he had organized in Providence. Because of this fact many have asked the question, “Was Roger Williams after all a Baptist?” His life-story reveals the fact that he held the Baptist views before he left Plymouth. Elder Brewster detected the Baptist heresy in his teaching to the people of the Pilgrim colony and warned the leaders of the Bay Colony of this tendency to “Anabaptistery.” Williams’ ministry in the Bay Colony reveals the fact that he was against everything which was related to the Episcopacy or that might even lead to a “presbytery.” He refused to minister to the Boston church because it was related to the Episcopal State Church of England. He also questioned the propriety of the ministers’ conference in New England, for fear they might establish a presbytery which would rob the local church of its congregational privileges. His whole life in America was universally true to the accepted Baptist position relative to church polity.

At the time of Williams’ baptism, English Baptists were agitated in regard to the proper administrators of Christian baptism. Many crossed to the Continent and were baptized by ministers[Pg 61] in Holland. Williams was soon troubled also in regard to the same question. Was he properly baptized? That was the question which confronted him. He would not juggle with his conscience. He knew of no Baptist minister or baptized believer ordained to the ministry in America when he was baptized. His own baptism was by an unbaptized person. He made diligent study of the question and could not satisfy his mind that there was a real succession of proper administrators. In the awful decline of the church he was convinced that the sacred succession had been broken. He believed that either that succession must be in existence, or God must raise up a new “apostolate,” to commence again the sacred succession. True to principle, he felt he must withdraw from the church at Providence. In the years which followed nothing which he said or did ever changed the facts that he was the first recognized pastor of the first Baptist church that was organized in America, that he was the first known case in America of a believer being immersed upon profession of faith into the fellowship of a local Baptist church, and that he was the organizer of the first Baptist church in America.

In the years which followed his separation from the church at Providence, he left no uncertainty as to his Baptist views on every question save that of the proper administrator of baptism and its kindred subject of ordination. In all other views he was a loyal Baptist until his death. In his day, the Baptists were divided into two recognized divisions, namely, Particular and General Baptists. Dr. Henry M. King, of Providence, one of the successors of Roger Williams in the pastorate of the Providence church, describes Roger Williams as a “High-church Baptist.”

The late Reuben A. Guild, for many years librarian of Brown University Library, and a thorough student of the original sources of information, writes thus of Roger Williams in his history of Brown University:

In regard to the other great doctrines held by the Baptists, liberty of conscience, or soul-liberty, the entire separation of Church and State, the supreme headship of Christ in all spiritual matters, regeneration through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and a hearty belief in the Bible as God’s divinely inspired and miraculously preserved word and the all-sufficient [Pg 62]rule for faith and practice, he was throughout life a sincere believer in them all and an earnest advocate of them, as his letters and published works abundantly show.

In Williams’ book, “Christenings make not Christians,” we have the most radical Baptist teaching in regard to the errors of infant sprinkling. He attacked the very foundation of the pedobaptists. He insisted that only the regeneration of the heart, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, could make any person a Christian.

He believed that believers’ immersion is the New Testament baptism. In a letter to Governor Winthrop, dated December 10, 1649, he writes:

Mr. John Clarke hath been here lately and hath dipped them. I believe their practice comes nearer the practice of our great Founder, Jesus Christ, than any other practices of religion do.

In his debate with Fox, he writes thus, eleven years prior to his death:

That gallant and heavenly and fundamental principle of the true matter of a Christian congregation, flock or society, namely, actual believers, true disciples and converts, such as can give an account of how the grace of God hath appeared unto them.

We should think of Roger Williams as a man chosen of God to be champion of a great distinctive Baptist doctrine held by the Baptists centuries prior to his day and taught by the Baptists after his time until it was made an essential part of our national Constitution. Released from pastoral duties, Roger Williams gave himself completely to the task of establishing and guarding the sacred fires of soul-liberty which he had kindled in Rhode Island. For this sacred cause he sacrificed his comfortable home at Salem and devoted the earnings of a lifetime in trips to England to secure parliamentary protection for the colony when envious neighbors on all sides were coveting his purchased possessions. He sacrificed his opportunity to become wealthy and died a poor man. All honor to John Clarke, physician and pastor at Newport, for the splendid cooperation which he gave to Williams. They were comrades, not rivals for fame in those days. They were happy in life and should not be made[Pg 64] enemies in death. Their names should be linked together as the pioneers and perfecters of soul-liberty in Rhode Island.


make not



A Briefe Discourse concerning that
name Heathen, commonly given to
the Indians.

As also concerning that great point of their

Published according to Order.

London, Printed by Iane Coe, for I. H. 1645.

The History of the First Baptist Church

The early Providence Baptists met at first in a grove under the trees. In inclement weather they would meet in private homes. They adopted no articles of faith, and to this day the First Church of Providence has been without a formal creed or covenant. For sixty years the church founded by Roger Williams had no house of worship. Pardon Tillinghast, its sixth pastor, built them a house of worship in 1700 and deeded it to the Society in 1711. It stood on the corner of North Main and Smith Streets. A larger church, forty feet square, built in 1726, succeeded this first edifice. The present edifice was built in 1775, and was dedicated “for the worship of Almighty God and to hold commencements in.” It cost $35,000, a part of which was raised by a lottery, authorized by the State. The building was designed by Joseph Brown and James Sumner, who used as a model Gibb’s church in London, St. Martin-in-the-Fields. It is recognized as one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in America.

It has a beautiful interior. The upper gallery at the west end was originally set apart for slaves and colored people. It was removed to give place for the pipe-organ in 1832. The same year the old-fashioned square pews were exchanged for the present ones; the lofty pulpit and sounding-board were taken down. The beautiful crystal chandelier, imported from England in 1792 was lighted for the first time when Hope Brown, daughter of Nicholas Brown, was married to Thomas Poynton Ives. It was the bride’s gift to the church.

The bell in the tower weighs two thousand five hundred pounds, and bore originally this inscription:

For freedom of conscience the town was first planted;
Persuasion, not force, was used by the people;
This church is the eldest, and has not recanted,
Enjoying and granting bell, temple, and steeple.

It has been cracked three times and recast in this country. It now bears the date of the origin of the church, and the name [Pg 67]of Roger Williams, “its first pastor and the first asserter of liberty of conscience.” The bell is rung at sunrise, at midday, and at nine o’clock as in the days of old.

First Baptist Church of Providence

Roger Mowry’s “Ordinarie.” Built 1653,
Demolished 1900

In the vestries are pictures of many of the former leaders of this historic church. In the hallway, in a glass case, is a piece of the original “What Cheer Rock,” the landing-place of Williams. At the entrance to the church a bronze tablet commemorates the fact that the First Baptist Church of Providence was the first Baptist church established in America and that Roger Williams was its first pastor.

The present organization, known as the First Baptist Church of Providence, has every valid reason for claiming to be the true successor of the original church, organized before 1639, by Roger Williams. In the Rhode Island Baptist State Annual the date of the church’s organization is given as 1638. A committee appointed by the church, when reporting, on March 16, 1899, the reasons for claiming that the present organization is the true successor of the first Baptist church organized in America, quoted in defense of this position the following writers: Arnold, “History of Rhode Island”; Caldwell, “History of the First Baptist Church”; Guild, “History of Brown University and Manning”; Prof. Geo. P. Fisher, of Yale, “In Colonial Era”; Cramp, “Baptist History”; Dexter, “As to Roger Williams”; Morgan Edwards, “Materials for a History of Baptists in Rhode Island.” In the following fall this report was also presented to the Warren Association and was ordered printed in the Minutes of the Association.

In the “Historical Catalogue” of this church, a book prepared by a committee consisting of Rev. H. M. King, D. D., Pres. W. H. P. Faunce, Prof. Wm. C. Poland, and others, a committee familiar with the original sources of information, we find Roger Williams listed as the first member in its list of members and as the first pastor in its list of pastors. The bronze tablet in front of the present meeting-house and the inscription on the bell both state that Roger Williams was the first pastor.

Roger Williams’ Ideal, a Distinctive Baptist Principle

We have already noted the fact that Roger Williams was accused of Anabaptist tendencies. The Baptists, or Anabaptists,[Pg 68] throughout the ages have stood for the most advanced principles of Protestantism. They existed long before Luther. Many historians claim for them a historic continuity from the days of the early Christians. Their principles—democracy of the local church, sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the authority of the Scriptures—have been perpetuated by local distinct bodies rather than by the historic continuity of a general denomination with a common name and a common governing body.

The Master, in the parable of the Tares, taught the principle advocated by the Baptists and by Roger Williams. The field is the world; the good seed, the children of the kingdom; the tares are the evil-doers. Wheat and tares should be allowed to grow together in the world (not in the church) until the end of the age, when the angels, the reapers of God, will gather them together for reward or punishment. Force must never be used to make disciples for Christ.

In the early Christian centuries, the church longed for liberty to live for Christ and preach his gospel. Ten great general persecutions were launched by the Roman emperors to crush the church. The promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against it was realized. The Edict of Milan, issued in 313, by Constantine and Licinius, joint emperors, gave the church an opportunity to grow and prosper and it was soon in the lead throughout the Roman Empire. Then the church turned persecutor and put to death those who differed from the ruling order, which now had lost its democratic ideals. When the Montanists, the Donatists, the Paulicians, the Albigenses, and the Waldenses in turn resisted the evil tendencies and assumptions of a corrupt church, they were persecuted with a fierceness greater than that formerly waged by the pagans against the church. The principle of religious liberty was almost lost. It became the far-off dream of idealists. These dreamers were usually called Anabaptists. At first they were dissenters from Roman Catholicism, but afterward they were also dissenters from the dominant forms of Protestantism.

Interior of First Baptist Church, Providence

The Protestant Reformation was a case of arrested development. It was like the exodus from the Egyptian bondage. There was a long lingering in the wilderness before the day dawned with full religious liberty. Henry Melville King says:

[Pg 71]

The absolute supremacy of the word of God, the spiritual nature of the Christian church, the Christian ordinances for believing souls, the divorce of Church and State, full, unrestricted religious freedom for every man, these essential truths of the gospel of Christ found no room at the inn of the sixteenth century, and were thrust aside into the manger ... the inn was not open for it, but the manger was. The principle of religious liberty did not fail to get born.

The Anabaptists of Europe kept alive the ideals of religious liberty. They sought to carry out the principles of the Protestant Reformation to its scriptural and logical conclusion. Many, called by this name, had little in common with the movement which now bears the Baptist name. The actions of the fanatics under Münzer have been cited since Williams’ day as an argument against his principles. Münzer, who “never submitted to, nor administered rebaptism, who persisted in baptizing infants, and who sought to set up the kingdom of Christ by carnal warfare, was not correctly classed.” Cornelius, Roman Catholic historian of the Münzer uprising, shows that the Anabaptists repudiated the actions of this fanatic.

The only crime of which they (the Baptists) were accused as a body by their contemporaries, and which is substantiated by evidence, the crime for which they were inhumanly persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike, and for which they went cheerfully and in large numbers to death by drowning or the stake, was the crime of advocating soul-liberty. They claimed the right to interpret the Scriptures for themselves. They demanded freedom of faith and worship for all men. They apprehended the sublime doctrine of civil and religious liberty, and they were the only men who did apprehend it.

Most of the creeds and confessions of the Reformation gave to the magistrate a coercive power in religion, and included a curse for the despised Baptists. Luther, in the early years of his Reformation work, said:

No one can command or ought to command the soul except God, who alone can show it the way to heaven. It is futile and impossible to command, or by force to compel any man’s belief. Heresy is a spiritual thing, which no iron can hew down, no fire burn, no water drown... Whenever the temporal power presumes to legislate for the soul, it encroaches.

Luther, when he was successful, turned his back upon this noble utterance and compromised with error. He stopped short of[Pg 72] full victory and failed to secure the “full splendor of a complete triumph.” He wrote differently in after days:

Since it is not good that in one parish the people should be exposed to contradictory preaching, he (the magistrate) should order to be silent whatever does not consist with the Scriptures.

Thus the civil ruler was made the final judge of truth and given power to suppress what he would condemn. This was a case of tyranny changing hands. Luther wrote to Menius and Myconius in 1530:

I am pleased that you intend to publish a book against the Anabaptists as soon as possible. Since they are not only blasphemous but also seditious men, let the sword exercise its rights over them, for it is the will of God, that he shall have judgment who resisteth the power.

Melanchthon, in a letter to the Diet at Hamburg, in 1537, advised death by the sword to all who professed Anabaptist views. Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, whose statue in Zurich pictures him with a Bible in his right hand and a sword in his left, also persecuted the Baptists. On January 5, 1527, Felix Mantz became the first Swiss Anabaptist martyr by drowning at Zurich. This was a hideous parody of his belief in believers’ baptism by immersion. Heinrich Bullinger, in his book against the Anabaptists, specifies thirteen distinct sects among the Anabaptists. He mentions twenty-five points of agreement among them, including the following:

That secular authority has no concern with religious belief; that the Christian resists no evil and therefore needs no law-courts; nor should ever make use of the tribunals; that Christians do not kill or punish with imprisonment or the sword, but only with exclusion from the body of believers; that no man should be compelled by force to believe, nor should any be slain on account of his faith; that Christians do not resist, and hence do not go to war; that Christians may not swear; that all oaths are sinful; that infant baptism is of the pope and devil; that rebaptism, or better, adult baptism, is the only true Christian baptism.

In 1527, the Swiss Anabaptists issued a confession of faith at Schaffhausen. Its writer was Michael Sattler, an ex-monk who was martyred that same year. It was the first confession “in which Christian men claimed absolute religious freedom for [Pg 75]themselves, and guaranteed absolute religious freedom to others.” This Baptist movement was the target of Protestant and Catholic persecution alike and its brave, spiritual men and women were driven to the martyr’s crown or to exile. Many fled to Holland. The torch of truth, the advanced ideas which they had received from the Waldensians and other pre-Reformation movements, were handed over to the Anabaptists of Holland. These increased in number rapidly under the toleration afforded them in that country. Menno Simons, a Roman priest, set to thinking by the martyrdoms about him, espoused their cause and doctrines. Baptized at the age of forty-four, he fled to Holland, where he became the leader of a host, which afterward bore his name, being called Mennonites. Charles V persecuted these Baptists, and fully fifty thousand were martyred. They were not exterminated, however, for God, as in other days, preserved a remnant to pass the torch of religious liberty on to others.

Bell of First Baptist Church, Providence

Baptist refugees from Holland crossed over to England. Henry VIII, when he made himself head of the Church, ordered their arrest and banishment from the kingdom, “on pain to suffer death, if they abide, and be apprehended and taken.” The fires of Smithfield and the inquisition of the Protestants could not crush this movement destined of God, at a later date, to change the world. Considered an obnoxious sect in the reigns of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth, they carried on their meetings secretly. They were an industrious class of skilled mechanics and introduced into England that which afterward gave that nation its commercial and manufacturing supremacy. The English passed a law that each foreign workman should take and train one English apprentice. As a result, fifty thousand English lads were trained, not only mechanically, but also in the principles of these Dutch Anabaptists. This spiritual training led to the Puritan revolution in England and to the greater movement across the seas. Each of these Dutch Baptist churches was a republic in itself, independent with its popularly elected officers, deacons, and elders. They held, as a cardinal doctrine, the separation of Church and State. From the sections in which these Dutch Anabaptists lived came fully fifty per cent of the early colonists to the New World. Fourteen English towns, in which they formed a large proportion of the population, are[Pg 76] duplicated by New England towns of the same name. From the same district Cromwell recruited his invincible Ironsides. Back of all that was good and noble in the settlements at Plymouth and Boston and in Connecticut was the leaven of the Dutch Baptists in that part of England from which these early colonists came.

Robert Browne, who is the reputed founder of English Congregationalism, advocated his peculiar views after dwelling for some time in a Dutch Anabaptist community. Here he promulgated his ideas. A part of his congregation fled to Middleburg, a Baptist stronghold. After two years he quarreled with these folks and returned to England, where he became reconciled to the Established Church and for forty years afterward administered to an Established Church parish. The Baptist principle, however, had been stamped upon the few years of his ministry when he started a new order.

At the close of the sixteenth century most of the Anabaptists in England were Dutch. Slowly, however, English Baptists were coming into existence, and they soon formed themselves into small groups. Browne did not go so far as the Baptists, but in church government he took their New Testament position. As far as is known, the first definite English Baptist church was organized in London in 1611, with Thomas Helwys as pastor. The members had been exiles in Holland and were baptized there by Rev. John Smith, the famous Se-Baptist, formerly a Church of England clergyman.

This English Baptist church formulated a confession which contains the first declaration of faith to include, as the teaching of Christ, the absolute separation of Church and State.

The magistrate by virtue of his office, is not to meddle with religion or matters of conscience, nor to compel men to this or that form of religion or doctrine; but to leave the Christian religion free to every man’s conscience.

Prof. Mason says:

It was, in short, from their little dingy meeting-house, somewhere in old London, that there flashed out, first in England, the absolute doctrine of religious liberty.

[Pg 77]

These of whom mention has just been made, were called General Baptists.

In 1644, the Particular Baptists issued a confession, equally explicit and clear. Religious liberty to them was the right, and good citizenship the duty, of every Christian man. Their historic confession, a confession of seven associated churches, was the first declaration, in England or in Christendom, by a body of associated churches on the question of absolute religious liberty. Many of these Baptists were imprisoned.

Many denominations which today favor religious liberty, were opposed to it in those days of Baptist persecution. For example, the Presbyterian ministers of Lancashire declared, “A toleration would be putting a sword in a madman’s hands, a cup of poison into the hand of a child, a letting loose of madmen with firebrands in their hands, etc.” The Presbyterians, then, would gladly have been a national church. The Puritans of the Bay Colony had no higher thought than a theocracy for themselves. To insure uniformity of worship in their colony they resorted to whippings, banishments, fines, and hangings. The Pilgrim Fathers were farther advanced, but historians fail to find that they had a higher ideal than to secure a freedom to worship God for themselves. They certainly never dreamed of extending an equal freedom to all who differed from them in religious opinions. John Robinson, the renowned pastor of the Pilgrims, defended earnestly the use of the magistrate’s power “to punish religious actions, he (the magistrate) being the preserver of both tables, and so to punish all breaches of both.”

By Protestants, with the exception of the Baptists, full religious toleration and liberty was feared and hated. The most advanced were far from the Baptist position. This explains the bitterness of the persecution against Roger Williams and the Baptists. In fact, Roger Williams was so far in advance of his age, and that in common with the noble host of martyred Baptists, that he seemed dwarfed in the distance. The future even more than the present time will enable us to value his and their worth.

[Pg 79]



[Pg 80]

It is his unique title to preeminence and fame that he was the first to found an absolutely free church in an absolutely free State, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations remain a monument of his sagacity and daring and penetration, a center from which the light of soul-liberty has radiated far and wide till it has flooded a whole continent, and shines with concentrated splendor in the constellation of States which now form the great Western Republic.—J. Gregory, a British writer on Puritanism.

Against the somber background of early New England, two figures stand above the rest—John Winthrop and Roger Williams. The first—astute, reactionary, stern—represented Moses and the law. The second—spontaneous, adaptable, forgiving—represented Christ and the individual. It is needless to say with which lay the promise and the dawn.—I. B. Richman.

He was the first man in modern Christendom to establish civil government on the doctrine of the liberty of conscience, the equality of opinions before the law, and in its defence he was the harbinger of Milton, the precursor and the superior of Jeremy Taylor.... Let then the name of Roger Williams be preserved in universal history as one who advanced moral and political science, and made himself a benefactor of his race.—George Bancroft, in “History of the United States.”

In the seventeenth century there was no place but the wilderness for such a John the Baptist of the distant future as Roger Williams. He did not belong among the diplomatic builders of churches, like Cotton, or the political founders of States, like Winthrop. He was but a babbler to his own time, but the prophetic voice rings clear and far, and ever clearer as the ages go on.—Edward Eggleston, in “The Beginners of a Nation.”

[Pg 81]

PORTSMOUTH, Newport, and Rhode Island, with common interests and ideals, were protected and throve under the original charter granted in 1644. Charles I was surrendered to the Parliamentary forces in January, 1647. The colony, therefore, felt strong to act under the Parliamentary charter granted them. A general assembly of the people was called, and the charter was adopted. Shawomet, settled by the Gortonists, had also received a charter from the same source and, in honor of Warwick, their protector, they changed the name of their town to Warwick. They were admitted also to the General Assembly. The first meeting of the Assembly declared that the form of government in Providence Plantations was “democratical,” that is to say, “government held by the free and voluntary consent of all or of the greater part of the free inhabitants.” The seal of the colony was an anchor. The executive branch of the government was vested in a president of the colony and four assistants, one from each town. These officers, elected by the General Assembly, had no part in legislation. The Assembly at that time was not composed of delegates, but included all the freemen of the colony. Each town had a court of commissioners composed of six members. These four town courts combined became a General Court of Trials, having to do with the weightier offenses, and also acted as a Court of Appeals from the town courts. There was also a general treasurer, a general recorder, a general sergeant, and later a general solicitor.

A code of laws was drawn up. One, the Statute of Archery, shows the isolation of this colony. It required that every man between seventeen and seventy should keep a bow and four arrows. Fathers should furnish each of their sons, between the ages of seven and seventeen, with “a bow, two arrows, and a [Pg 82]shaft, and to bring them up to shooting.” This was done because[Pg 83] the colony could not get gunpowder for firearms, since the other colonies refused to sell them any, or allow it to be exported through their posts to them.

The Fourth Paper,

Presented by

Maior Butler,

To the Honourable Committee of
Parliament, for the Propagating the
Gospel of Christ JESUS.

VVhich Paper was humbly owned, and
was, and is attended to be made good

{ Major Butler. } { Mr. Jackson.
By { Mr. Charles Vane. } { Mr. VVall. And
{ Col. Danvers. } { Mr. Turner.


A Letter from Mr. Goad, to Major
Butler, upon occasion of the said
Paper and Proposals.

Together with

A Testimony to the said fourth Paper,
By way or Explanation upon the four

BY R. W.

Unto which is subjoyned the Fifteen Proposals

London, Printed for Giles Calvert, at the Black-spred-Eagle at the
West-end of Pauls. M DC LII.

Roger Williams’ Second Visit to England

The ambitious designs of Coddington in seeking to divide the colony were such that Williams and Clarke were obliged to go to England in 1651. Coddington had secured a charter making him governor for life of Rhode Island, then the richest portion of the State. Williams and Clarke in 1652 secured an order-in-council nullifying Coddington’s commission. Williams remained in England until the summer of 1654 and labored there for the interests of the colony and also for the general benefit of all oppressed people, including the Jews. In his appeal to the Parliament, found as a comment in the tract entitled “Butler’s Fourth Paper,” an original copy of which is in the John Carter Brown Library, at Providence, he says:

Oh, that it would please the Father of Spirits to affect the heart of Parliament with such a merciful sense of the Soul-Bars and Yokes which our fathers have laid upon the neck of this nation, and at last to proclaim a true and absolute Soul-Freedom to all the people of the land impartially, so that no person be forced to pray nor pay, otherwise than as his Soul believeth and consenteth.

He plead especially that permission be granted the Jews “to live freely and peaceably amongst them.”

He was on intimate terms with Milton, to whom he read and from whom he received instruction in certain languages. He also was associated with Sir Henry Vane. Returning to his colony in 1654, he at once exercised his influence in smoothing out its many and varied difficulties.

During this second visit to England he issued three publications. John Cotton had written a reply to the “Bloody Tenent,” publishing it in London, in 1647. It had the following title:

The Bloudy Tenent, washed, and made white in the bloud of the Lambe: being discussed and discharged of bloud-guiltinesse by just Defence.

Roger Williams in 1652 printed his rejoinder to Cotton’s book. Its title is descriptive of its contents:

[Pg 86]

The Bloody Tenent yet More Bloody: by Mr Cottons endevour to wash it white in the Blood of the Lambe; of whose precious Blood, spilt in the Blood 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 now more apparently and more notoriously guilty, etc., etc. By R. Williams of Providence in New-England. London, Printed for Giles Calvert, and are to be sold at the black-spread-Eagle, at the West-end of Pauls, 1652.

It is a small quarto of three hundred and seventy-three pages. Two copies are in the Library of Brown University, one, a presentation copy from Williams to his friend, Dr. John Clarke, of Newport.



And made white in the bloud of the
Lambe: being discussed and discharged of
bloud-guiltinesse by just Defence.


The great Questions of this present time are
handled, viz. How farre Liberty of Conscience
ought to be given to those that truly feare God? And how farre
restrained to turbulent and pestilent persons, that not onely
raze the foundation of Godlinesse, but disturb the Civill
Peace where they live? Also how farre the Magistrate may proceed
in the duties of the first Table? And that all Magistrates
ought to study the word and will of God, that they may frame
their Government according to it.


As they are alledged from divers Scriptures, out of
the Old and New Testament. Wherein also the practise of
Princes is debated, together with the Judgement of Ancient
and late Writers of most precious esteeme.

Whereunto is added a Reply to Mr. Williams
Answer, to Mr. Cottons Letter.

BY John Cotton Batchelor in Divinity, and
Teacher of the Church of Christ at Boston in New-England.

Printed by Matthew Symmons for Hannah Allen, at the Crowne in
Popes-Head-Alley. 1647.

More Bloody:


Mr Cottons endevour to wash it white in the
Blood of the LAMBE;

Of whose precious Blood, spilt in the
Blood of his Servants; and

Of the blood of Millions spilt in former and
later Wars for Conscience sake,


Most Bloody Tenent of Persecution for cause of
Conscience, upon a second Tryal, is found now more
apparently and more notoriously guilty.

In this Rejoynder to Mr Cotton, are principally

I. The Nature of Persecution, }Examined;

II. The Power of the Civill Sword }
in Spirituals

III. The Parliaments permission of } Justified.
Dissenting Consciences }

Also (as a Testimony to Mʳ Clarks Narrative) is added
a Letter to Mr Endicot Governor of the Massachusets in N. E.

By R. Williams of Providence in New-England.

London, Printed for Giles Calvert, and are to be sold at
the black-spread-Eagle at the West-end of Pauls, 1652.

Roger Williams published his fifth work in 1652. It was a pamphlet of forty-four small quarto pages, entitled:

The Hireling Ministry None of Christs, or A Discourse touching the Propagating the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Humbly Presented to such Pious and Honourable Hands, whom the present Debate thereof concerns. By Roger Williams, of Providence, in New England. London Printed in the second Moneth, 1652.

The purpose of this work was to oppose a legal establishment of religion, and the compulsory support of the clergy. An original copy is in the Library of Brown University, two copies are in the American Antiquarian Society Library at Worcester, and one in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R. I.

The same year he issued a pamphlet entitled:

Experiments of Spiritual Life & Health, And their Preservatives, In which the weakest Child of God may get Assurance of his Spirituall Life and Blessednesse, and the Strongest may finde proportionable Discoveries of his Christian Growth, and the means of it. By Roger Williams of Providence in New-England. London, Printed, in the Second Month, 1652.

This book is in the form of a letter addressed to his wife, upon her recovery from a dangerous sickness. A limited edition was published, comprising sixty small quarto pages. For years no original copy has been found. There is an original copy now in the John Carter Brown Library at Providence, R. I.


Hireling Ministry

None of



A Discourse touching the Propagating
the Gospel of Christ

Humbly Presented to such Pious
and Honourable Hands, whom
the present Debate thereof concerns.

By ROGER WILLIAMS, of Providence
in New England.

London Printed in the second
Moneth, 1652.



Spiritual Life & Health,

And their


In which the Weakest Child of God may
get Assurance of his Spirituall Life
and Blessednesse

And the Strongest may finde proportionable Discoveries
of his Christian Growth, and the means of it.

By Roger Williams of Providence in

London, Printed, in the Second Month,

From time to time local difficulties arose in the various towns. Ambitious men, seeking their personal welfare, rather than the[Pg 89] public weal, disturbed the serenity of the colony. Certain settlers at Pawtuxet sought to be part of the Bay Colony; Coddington, at Newport, desired to be governor for life of the Islands of Rhode Island and Conanicut. Two rival assemblies were organized at Newport and Providence. Roger Williams used his influence and greatly helped to solve the vexing problems. A new colony, with a new and revolutionary ideal, was being born, and the birth-throes were great, owing to the fact that they were pioneers in this work of building a democracy. They had no illustrious precedent to follow. It is a marvel that their difficulties were not more and greater.

In 1656, the United Colonies urged the Providence Colony to banish all Quakers from their realm. They replied that “FREEDOM of Conscience is the ground of our charter, and it shall be maintained.” In 1658, the United Colonies threatened the Providence Colony with exclusion from all intercourse or trade with all the rest of the colonies, if they did not banish the Quakers. Meanwhile the Bay Colony was unrelenting in its persecution of the Quakers. Some were banished, and a few were put to death.

In September, 1658, Cromwell died. His son Richard succeeded him, and after a short time retired. Charles II ascended the English throne in June, 1660. Immediately all acts of the Parliament under Cromwell were repealed, and Providence Plantations lost its charter. The Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies immediately asserted anew their claims for the territory about the Narragansett Bay. Dr. John Clarke, of Newport, was in England representing the claims of the Providence Colony, and, in 1663, secured for it a new royal charter. The old Colony of Providence Plantations ceased to exist. The new colony was called “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” The charter defined the bounds of the colony, gave it freedom in all religious matters, a system of government, a power to organize courts and to enforce their decisions, power to raise a standing army of defense, and other essential things. The new seal of the colony was “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” with an anchor and the word, “Hope,” above it.

George Fox

Digg’d out of his


Or an Offer of


On fourteen Proposalls made this last Summer 1672 (so call’d)
unto G. Fox then present on Rode-Island
in New-England, by R.W.

As also how (G. Fox slily departing) the Disputation went on
being managed three dayes at Newport on Rode-Island, and
one day at Providence, between John Stubs, John Burnet, and
William Edmundson
on the one part, and R.W. on the other.

In which many Quotations out of G. Fox & Ed. Barrowes Book
in Folio are alleadged.


Of some scores of G. F. his simple lame Answers to his Opposites
in that Book, quoted and replyed to
By R. W. of Providence in N.E.
Roger Williams

Printed by John Foster, 1676.

The Model of a Southern New England Indian Village

Oval House of Birch Bark and Mats Corn-field
Women Smoking Fish

Round House of Grass Long Council Chamber Making a Long House
Indian Men Feeding Dogs

Models of Indian Village in Roger Williams Park Museum
Courtesy of “Providence Magazine”

Roger Williams protected the Quakers by granting them in his colony a shelter from persecutions. However, he was never [Pg 93]friendly to their peculiar tenets and assailed them in debates and pamphlets. When George Fox, their founder, was in America in 1672, Williams challenged him to a debate. A delay in getting the challenge to Fox, who had sailed for England, did not leave the debate unaccepted. Three Rhode Island Quakers undertook the task. Roger Williams rowed the thirty miles to Newport and for three days debated with all the characteristic bitterness of debates of that period. They adjourned to complete the debate at Providence. Williams is seen in the worst light here and has been greatly criticized for the strong language he used in opposing these Quakers. We should never forget that the Puritans went far beyond strong language, in persecuting some to death and in exiling others. Both sides claimed a victory in the debate, which was perpetuated in pamphlets, issued at its completion. Williams wrote one, entitled, “George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes.” Fox replied with one, entitled, “A New-England Fire-Brand Quenched.” Fox’s book is a quarto of 489 pages. Williams’ book, a small quarto of 327 pages, was printed in Boston, 1676. The only original copy known to exist is the one in the Library of Harvard College.

Roger Williams wrote many letters, the originals of which were widely scattered. Many of these have been collected and printed in a volume by the Rhode Island Historical Society. In one of these letters, to Governor Bradford, of Boston, he refers to a collection of discourses which he had reduced to writing. These sermons, with treatises written prior to his banishment, are probably lost forever.

King Philip’s War

Canonicus died, June 4, 1647. Massasoit died in 1660, leaving two sons, Wamsutta and Metacon, or as they were nicknamed by the English, Alexander and Philip. The former succeeded his father. On a return from Plymouth Alexander died suddenly, and Philip suspected that he was poisoned. This, however, was not the fact. The Narragansetts had not forgotten the death or murder of Miantonomo, and the Indians generally felt that the English were gradually crowding them out of their own domains. Philip took advantage of this feeling and organized a war which had for its object the complete extermination of all[Pg 97] the English settlements. This war, opening in Plymouth, 1675, lasted more than a year. Twelve out of the ninety New England towns were completely destroyed and forty others were the scene of fire and slaughter. A thousand strong men lost their lives in addition to a large number of helpless women and children who were tomahawked. Rhode Island, for the first time, was exposed to the hostile attacks of the Indians. Many of the inhabitants, fearing the impending disaster, had joined the army of attack against the Indians. In retaliation for this, Providence was attacked, and twenty-nine houses were burned. One of them contained the town records, part of which were saved by being thrown into a pond, from which they were afterward recovered. When the Indians appeared on the heights above Providence, Roger Williams, unarmed, went out to counsel with them. He urged them to stop the warfare, telling them that the English king would come to the assistance of the colonists and, with greater numbers, overpower the Indians. They replied:

Let them come, we are ready for them. But as for you, Brother Williams, you are a good man, you have been kind to us many years, not a hair of your head shall be touched.

He returned to a house which had been converted into a fort. It was not touched, but the town otherwise was destroyed. Most of the citizens of the mainland fled to Rhode Island and Newport. The doom of the Indians was sounded, the war was put down, and the leaders were captured or slain. Immediately after the war the work of rebuilding commenced. Houses were built larger and more substantially.


Fire-Brand Quenched,

Being an



Slanderous Book, Entituled; GEORGE FOX

Digged out of his Burrows
, &c. Printed at Boston in the Year
1676, by Roger Williams of Providence in New-England.

Which he Dedicateth to the KING, with Desires, That, if
the Most-High please, Old and New-England may Flourish, when
Pope & Mahomet, Rome & Constantinople are in their Ashes.

Of a DISPUTE upon XIV. of his Proposals held and debated
betwixt him, the said Roger Williams, on the one part, and
John Stubs, William Edmundson and John Burnyeat on the other.
At Providence and Newport in Rode-Island, in the Year 1672.

IN which his Cavils are Refuted, & his Reflections Reproved.

In Two Parts.

As also,


With a

POST-SCRIPT Confuting his Blasphemous Assertions,
viz. Of the Blood of Christ, that was Shed, its being Corruptible
and Corrupted; and that Salvation was by a Man, that was Corruptible,
&c. Where-unto is added a

CATALOGUE of his Railery, Lies, Scorn & Blasphemies: And
His TEMPORIZING SPIRIT made manifest. Also, The

LETTERS of W. Coddington of Rode-Island, and R. Scot of
Providence in New-England concerning R.W. And Lastly, Some

TESTIMONIES of Antient & Modern Authors concerning


Printed in the Year MDC. LXXIX.

Rhode Island Historical Society Museum

Apple Tree Root from the Grave of Roger Williams

Grave of Roger Williams

Roger Williams for many years had a trading-place, where he did business with the Indians. This store was near the present village of Wickford. His profits, he tells us, were five hundred dollars a year. The foundations of this old building are still intact, with a new superstructure over them. Late in life he made monthly preaching visits to this place. When too old to do this, he planned the publication of his sermons for the natives. Roger Williams was the original missionary to the North American Indians, antedating the illustrious Eliot by thirteen years. Williams’ Indian Bible is in the John Hay Library, Providence, R. I.

[Pg 98]

New Testament Title-page of Roger Williams’ Indian Bible







Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson,


[Pg 99]

Indian Bible Used by Roger Williams, the Pioneer Missionary to the
American Indians






Translated into the



Ordered to be Printed by Commissioners of the United Colonies

At the Charge, and with the Consent of the


For the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians
in New-England.


Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson.


[Pg 101]

In 1683, Roger Williams died. All the inhabitants of Providence turned out to honor his memory. The coffin was carried on the shoulders of his friends, and his earthly remains were laid to rest on his own property, on the slope of the hill east of his residence and the spring. An apple tree grew above the grave. The roots drew from the remains their nourishment and followed the shape of the skeleton and the legs. Today these same roots are preserved in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s collection. Reuben A. Guild describes this in the following manner:

Still further up the hill among the trees of his orchard, was the family burial ground. Crossing Benefit Street and passing into the rear of the house of the late Sullivan Dorr, a few feet from the stable door, is the original grave of Roger Williams. It is covered by a finished cap of a heavy stone pillar. Here for nearly two hundred years slept the remains of the Apostle of Religious Liberty. In March, 1860, the grave was opened, and the dust, for that was all that remained of the mortal body, was carefully placed in an urn and deposited in Mr. Randall’s family tomb in the North Burial Ground. Mrs. Williams’ grave was also visited, and a lock of braided hair was all that was discovered. At the bottom of Roger Williams’ grave the root of an apple tree had turned out of its way to enter in at the head. Following the position of the body to the thighs, it had turned, now divided, to follow each leg to the feet, tender fibers shooting out in various directions.

Roger Williams died a poor man. His interest in the needy and distressed had kept him constantly poor. Ambition formed no part of his personal life. His ambitions were for the larger group of distressed souls. A prophet is rarely appreciated in his own age by his contemporaries. Posterity, in later days, usually discovers the greatness and genius of the man and the ideal he realized. Today that ideal is the secret of America’s greatness and one that has given her distinction among the nations. Shortly before Williams’ death there was a discussion relative to dividing up the common lands. Williams wrote to the Town of Providence a plea, which is characteristic of the spirit of the man:

For all experience tells us that public peace and love is better than abundance of corn and cattle. I have only one motion and petition which I earnestly pray the town to lay to heart, as ever they look for a blessing[Pg 102] from God upon the town, on your families, your corn and cattle, and your children after you; it is this, that after you have got over the black brook of some soul bondage yourself, you tear not down the bridge after you, by leaving no small pittance for distressed souls that may come after you.

[Pg 103]



[Pg 104]

Rhode Island’s Gift

Last of the thirteen, smallest of them all,
What canst thou bring to this world’s festival,
Where all thy sisters come with pride and power,
And bring each one a princess’ generous dower
Of gold and gems, and fruits and precious woods,
And joyous tribute of their costly goods?
What can we bring? No outward show of gain,
No pomp of state; we bring the sons of men!
Bring gold, fair sisters, yellow gold,
And gems, and all that’s fair and fine,
And heap them all, the new, the old,
Before our country’s stately shrine.
Bring hardihood from north and east,
Bring beauty from the south and west,
Bring valor to adorn the feast,
Bring all that has withstood time’s test.
We grudge you not the riches rare,
We grudge you not your acres broad,
We bring you for our noble share
The liberty to worship God.

Caroline Hazard, Poem read on “Rhode Island Day” at World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, October 5, 1893.

[Pg 105]

THE ideal of democracy grew in all the New England colonies and led eventually to the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States of America. Rhode Island, however, in the century prior to the Revolution, had never given up her advocacy of soul-liberty, and thus the Revolution was to her a greater struggle than to the other colonies. This distinct feature will be seen in a study of the real successors of Roger Williams, in the struggle for religious liberty. Therefore it is interesting to note some of the outstanding events in the history of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, previous to the Revolutionary War.

In June, 1700, a lot was set aside for a training-ground, a burial-ground, and other public uses. Thus originated the North Burial Ground, the first public burial-ground in the colony. Before this each family had buried on its own land. Not until 1760, when Benefit Street was laid through the burial-grounds of many of the citizens, including the land where Roger Williams first settled, did they come to use in a general way this North Burial Ground. Then many bodies were removed to the new place for burial.

The second house of worship to be erected in the colony, in 1704, was the Friends’ Meeting House, in what is now Lincoln. It is still standing, although with an extensive addition. The Friends’ Meeting House in Providence was erected about the same time. The First Congregational Church was organized in 1720, a meeting-house being erected in 1723. It was on the site of the present county court-house. In 1722, the Episcopalians erected their first church building. It was called King’s Church, and was on the site of the present St. John’s Church on North Main Street. In 1798, the Methodists organized their first church, building their first meeting-house in 1816 at the corner of Aborn and Washington Streets. The Roman Catholics commenced [Pg 106]their work in 1827, meeting in Mechanics’ Hall, afterward in the old Town House. From the very start no discouragement was given to any church to organize in Rhode Island. During this same period of time Baptists were hindered in other colonies.

In 1660, the proprietors of the colony ordered the setting aside of one hundred acres of upland and six of meadows to be reserved for the maintenance of a school. In 1696, a piece of land on Dexter Lane, or Stamper’s Hill, was set apart for a school. This schoolhouse was built about the year 1697, about fifty feet north of Olney Street, on the east side of Stamper’s Street. It was used for about fifty years. The schoolmaster probably received all of his compensation from the scholars. A lot on the end of the Court House Parade was left for a school building. The first reference to a school house on this lot is found in the town records for 1752. The town leased this schoolhouse to a schoolmaster. In 1769, the first free school was established on King’s Street, now Meeting Street. This building is used now as a fresh-air school.

Brown University

As early as 1762 a movement was instituted by James Manning of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, to establish in Rhode Island a university on the broad basis of religious freedom, but under the special care of the Baptists. A charter, to be presented to the General Assembly in 1763, was prepared by Rev. Ezra Stiles, a Congregational minister at Newport. When the document was ready for presentation, it was noticed that the governing power was to be given to a presbyterian body. That occasioned postponement. A charter was granted, however, in February, 1764, under the name of “The Trustees and Fellows of the College or University in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England in America.” The corporation was given power to change its name. It organized with James Manning as president. Active teaching work was commenced at Warren in 1766. The founding of this university was an event touching not only the life of Rhode Island, but of the whole country. As a Baptist movement, it was first proposed by Morgan Edwards in 1762, at the Philadelphia Baptist Association. James[Pg 107] Manning came from the little church at Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and from a Baptist Association to the only place in America, at that time, where a Baptist university could be established. The Baptists desired the controlling power, but not the whole power of administration, in order to preserve their great principle of religious freedom. According to the original charter, twenty-two of the thirty-six trustees were to be Baptists, five Quakers, four Congregationalists, and five Episcopalians. Of the twelve fellows, eight were to be Baptist, the rest indefinitely of any or all denominations. The following extract shows the Baptist ideal:

into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests, but, on the contrary, all the members hereof, shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience; and that the places of professors, tutors, and all other officers, the President alone excepted, shall be free and open for all denominations of Protestants, and the youths of all religious denominations shall and may be admitted to the equal advantages, emoluments, and honors of the university; and that the sectarian differences shall not make any part of the public and classical instructions.

Its early history is interesting. There was but one student during its first year, the Rev. William Rogers, of Newport, then fourteen years old. In 1767, four new students enrolled. The first years of the college were spent at Warren, where Dr. James Manning, the president, was the acting pastor of a Baptist church recently organized. In 1769, the first class of seven was ready for graduation and the first commencement was held on September 7, 1769.

The various towns of the colony contended earnestly to have the college permanently located with them. Newport considered that her large gifts to the college were sufficient to give her the preference. Providence, being a stronger center for the Baptists, won, and, in 1770, the college was moved to that city. The old brick schoolhouse, near the foot of Meeting Street, was the first building used by the college. The students boarded in private families at a dollar and a quarter a week. The building committee soon selected a better location for the school and a better place for housing the student body. Morgan Edwards said of the site finally selected:

[Pg 108]

Commanding a prospect of the Town of Providence below, of the Narragansett Bay and Island and of an extensive country, variegated with hills and dales, woods and plains.... Surely this spot was made for a seat of the Muses.

The first building, one sufficient for the needs of the college for the following fifty years, was University Hall, modeled after Nassau Hall of Princeton. The upper two stories were added after the Revolutionary war. For six years, during that great struggle, the hall was used as barracks and hospital for the combined American and French troops. In 1775, the present First Baptist Church Meeting House was erected, “for the public worship of Almighty God and to hold commencements in.” Since 1775 until the present time, with the exceptions of the years 1804 and 1832, this church has been used for the commencement exercises. On its platform illustrious students have received their degrees and have gone forth to bless the world. The presidents of Brown University, seated in the James Manning chair, have presided at the commencements in the historic Baptist Meeting House, and have given public honor to men who in turn have honored the university and city. George Washington received the honorary degree of LL. D. in 1790. Among her illustrious graduates none is greater than Adoniram Judson, our pioneer American and Baptist foreign missionary.

Doctor Manning died in 1791, and was buried in the North Burial Ground. The corporation voted that same year,

That the children of the Jews may be admitted into this institution and entirely enjoy the freedom of their own religion, without any constraint or imposition whatever.

The name of the college was changed from Rhode Island to Brown University, in 1804, in honor of Nicholas Brown, whose liberal gifts to the college were much appreciated. He was a trustee and in his lifetime gave about $100,000 to the college. In 1821 the increasing number of students made another building imperative, and Nicholas Brown gave this needed structure, Hope College, as a gift to the institution.

Original Home of Brown University, in Providence, R. I.

Brown University in Early Nineteenth Century

The second president of Brown University was Jonathan Maxcy, who served from 1792 until 1802. In these ten years two hundred and twenty-seven were graduated, sixty-six claiming [Pg 111]law as their profession, and fifty-six entering the ministry. Asa Messer was the third president, serving from 1802 until his resignation in 1826. His membership was in the First Baptist Church, but his views, after 1815, were Unitarian. Acts of vandalism, such as breaking into the library, beating down the pulpit, and breaking windows, were such that he took it as a protest against his position and finally resigned.

The next president was Francis Wayland. He completely reorganized the University. He introduced the elective system, and offered several practical courses. The college grounds were laid out. Two new buildings were erected. Manning Hall, a gift of Nicholas Brown, and named in honor of the first president, was built in 1840. In this Doric structure the library found a home on the first floor and the chapel on the second. Rhode Island Hall was erected shortly afterward, $10,000 being raised by Rhode Island men and women, and the balance of $12,500 being largely the gift of Nicholas Brown. Doctor Wayland’s presidency came to an end by his death in 1855. He was buried in North Burial Ground. Following him came Barnes Sears, Alexis Gaswell, Ezekiel Gilman Robinson, Elisha Benjamin Andrews, and the present president, W. H. P. Faunce, since June, 1899. Today the college has more than a thousand students, about thirty buildings, and an endowment of more than four million dollars. Brown University was the pioneer of the hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities which the Baptists were destined to have in the years that followed. These are not limited to one State, but are scattered all over our country.

Pilgrims to Providence, the birthplace of religious liberty in America, should not fail to visit those buildings which contain sacred relics of the long and hard struggle for soul-liberty and political freedom in America.

The present million-dollar City Hall, at the west end of Exchange Place, in Providence, was erected in the period 1874 to 1878. In the office of the Recorder of Deeds can be seen “the original deeds” from the Indian chiefs to Roger Williams in 1636, also his letter transferring to his loving friends, “a share of the new territory.” The original Compact of Government is here also, and there is a bust of Roger Williams over the entrance.

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The Old State House, situated on Benefit Street, is a building which can well vie with Faneuil Hall in Boston and Independence Hall in Philadelphia as a “Cradle of Liberty.” Built in 1763, it was originally occupied by the Rhode Island Colonial Assembly, who here on May 4, 1776, two months previous to the Declaration of Independence, in Philadelphia, adopted the famous act renouncing allegiance to Great Britain. This fact is commemorated by a bronze tablet and also by an annual commemoration in all the public schools of Providence.

The New State House, or “Marble Palace,” on the crest of Capitol Hill, completed in 1902 at a cost of $3,200,000, is built of white Georgia marble, and has for a distinguishing feature one of the few marble domes existing in the world. This inscription is on the south front of the Capitol:

To hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained, with full Liberty in Religious Concernments.

On the north side, we read,

Providence Plantations, Founded by Roger Williams, 1636, Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, incorporated by Parliament, 1643, Rhode Island, Providence Plantations, obtained Royal Charter 1663. In General Assembly declared a Sovereign State, May 4th, 1776.

The inscription around the interior of the dome is a Latin quotation from Tacitus. Translated it is:

Rare felicity of the times when it is permitted to think as you like, and say what you think.

In the State Chamber is Gilbert Stuart’s rare full-length portrait of General Washington. In the Secretary of State’s office is the original charter, granted in 1663, under which the colony and State were governed until 1843. In a subbasement there is a collection of State historical exhibits, originally collected for the Jamestown Exposition. On the dome of the State House there is a colossal bronze statue of “Independent Man, or the Genius of Religious Liberty,” designed by Brewster.

The Court House is on the corner of Benefit and College Streets. In its corridor there is a historical painting by C. F. [Pg 115]Grant, picturing “The return of Roger Williams with the first charter for the Colony in 1644.”

Capitol Building in Providence, Where the Charter is Kept

City Hall, Providence, Where the Compact, Indian Deed, and
Letter of Transference are Kept

Rhode Island in the Revolutionary War

Rhode Island was the first to strike a blow for civil liberty as she was the first in the struggle for religious liberty. She was last, however, to adopt the Constitution of the United States. She hesitated to surrender to the federal government the liberties enjoyed under her charter, the most liberal ever granted to a colony. She has a right to be proud of her record, before, during, and after the Revolutionary war. E. Benjamin Andrews opened his case for Rhode Island’s recognition with these words:

States are great or small according to their miles, and as the little birth town of the Christ, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, was not least among the princes of Judah, so Rhode Island, diminutive as she is physically, is far from least among the princely Constituents of this republic.

The history of Rhode Island proves that the best compatriot political liberty ever had was absolute religious liberty.

Rhode Island was the first to strike the name of king from the charter of her liberties, thus becoming the first sovereign independent State in all the New World.

Rhode Island was the first to recommend the permanent establishment of a Continental Congress, in town meeting assembled, May 17, 1774, and in General Assembly, June 15, 1774, she appointed Samuel Ward and Ezek Hopkins her first delegates thereto.

Rhode Island was also the first, by overt act, to renounce allegiance to George III of England. She was first to instruct her officers to disregard the Stamp Act and to ensure them indemnity for so doing. In 1765, she explicitly declared that in herself alone was vested the right of local taxation.

Rhode Island was first to fire a gun against the dominion of England. The first blood of the Revolutionary war was spilt in Narragansett Bay. Lexington was fought April 19, 1775; the Boston Tea Party was on December 16, 1773; Providence men, after perfecting their plans at the Sabin Tavern, Planet and South Main Streets, rowed down the river, and on June 10, 1772, sent up the Gaspee in flames.

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On July 19, 1769, the men of Newport sunk His Majesty’s sloop, Liberty. Rhode Island was the first to establish an American navy. She gave the command to Abraham Whipple, who forthwith captured the first war prize (the tender of the frigate Rose, then off Newport). After the war of independence was under way, Rhode Island was the first to recommend and urge upon Congress the establishment of a Continental navy. Congress chose a Rhode Islander to work out the plans. Ezek Hopkins, a Providence man, was appointed commander-in-chief. Three-fourths of all the officers were from Rhode Island. These men were the vikings of the American Revolution. Ezek Hopkins’ home is still preserved on Admiral Street. There is a monument to him at his grave in Hopkins Square, corner Branch Avenue and Charles Street.

In proportion to her size none of the other States can compare with Rhode Island in the amount given to the Continental loan. Her citizens, unlocking their purses, freely furnished the sinews of war. She contributed seven times as much as South Carolina, whose population was three times as large; one and a half times as much as Maryland, whose population was four times as great; twice as much as Virginia, with a population eight times larger.

Rhode Island contributed proportionately her share of men to the great struggle. Rhode Island men were in every great battle under Washington. Rhode Island has been greatly criticized for not quickly adopting the Constitution. She was the last to adopt it. Her conception of religious and civic liberty in combination was such that she was not willing to lose easily the liberty which she had obtained for herself and which she freely advocated for others. Her part in the great struggle was so great that her motive for delay in adopting the Constitution should never be questioned. Her ideal of liberty, unique to Rhode Island then, is the generally accepted one now throughout America and back of every great politicial reform in lands beyond our borders.

Ex-Governor Russell Brown, on Rhode Island Day at the World’s Columbian Exposition, said:

The history of our State is a birthright which neither lands nor gold can buy, for full as it is of stirring and passionate events, there is not an[Pg 117] incident in our annals that can bring the scarlet of shame to the cheek of civilized man. Roger Williams the first settler, the thrice-exiled friend of the weak and oppressed, by his revolt against Puritan intolerance and his sacrifice for soul liberty, baptized Rhode Island’s early days with glory sufficient for any State.

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I believe all our Baptist ministers in town, except two, and most of our brethren in the country were on the side of the Americans in the late dispute.... To this hour we believe that the independence of America will, for a while, secure the liberty of this country, but if that continent had been reduced, Britain would not have long been free.—Doctor Rippon, of London, England, to President Manning, of Rhode Island College, written in 1784.

Nor need any one dream that Jefferson and Madison could have carried this measure by their genius and influence. They were opposed by many men whose transcendent services, or unequalled oratory, or wealth, position, financial interests, or intense prejudices would have enabled them easily to resist their unsupported assaults. Like a couple of first-class engineers on a tender with a train attached, but no locomotive, would Jefferson and Madison have appeared without the Baptists. They furnished the locomotive for these skilled engineers which drew the train of religious liberty through every persecuting enactment in the penal code of Virginia.—Wm. Cathcart, D. D., in “The Baptists and the American Revolution.”

The Baptists were the first and only religious denomination that struck for independence from Great Britain, and the first and only one that made a move for religious liberty before independence was declared.... Of those who took part in the struggle for religious liberty, the Baptists were the only denomination that maintained a consistent record and held out without wavering until the end—until every vestige of the old establishment had been obliterated by the sale of the glebes.—Dr. Charles James, in “Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia.”

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WE have seen the early struggles of Roger Williams. We have seen the halo of glory which clusters about the State he founded. We have seen his place in the plans of a Divine providence. We have also seen his place in the procession of heroes who held aloft the torch of religious and soul-liberty throughout the ages. When by death, he was compelled to drop that torch, others took it up and continued the procession until the first amendment to our National Constitution became a fact of history. The Baptists led the historic movement in all the colonies which stood for this principle of “Religious Liberty.” Oscar S. Straus says:

The Baptists ... had a much more enlightened and advanced view: they held that Christianity should propagate itself by its own spiritual force; that the civil government was entirely apart and distinct and should have no control over conscience, or power to inflict punishment for spiritual censures.

Professor Gervinus, professor at Heidelberg, Germany, about the year 1850, published a work, in which he referred to Williams and his ideal:

Roger Williams urged an entire liberty of conscience in Massachusetts. He was obliged to fly from the country, and in 1636 he founded a small new society in Rhode Island upon the principles of entire liberty of conscience. It was prophesied that the democratic attempts to obtain a general elective franchise and entire religious liberty would be of short duration. But these institutions have spread from that petty state over the whole union. They superseded the aristocratic commencements of Carolina and New York, the High-church part of Virginia, the theocracy in Massachusetts, and the monarchy throughout America; they have given laws to one quarter of the globe; and, dreaded for their moral influence, they stand in the background of every democratic struggle in Europe.

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For the publication of such sentiments, Professor Gervinus was tried at Mannheim and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and to have his books publicly burned.

Back of political progress there must be spiritual strength. Back of the final victory of religious liberty in America there was not only the glorious example of Rhode Island as a political demonstration but the persistent propagation of the ideals in all the States. This was chiefly the task of the Baptists, many of whose churches could trace their origin to settlers from Rhode Island.

During the Colonial period, the laws of Massachusetts and Virginia relating to soul-liberty were most severe; those in Maryland and Pennsylvania, the most lenient, outside of Rhode Island.

Order banishing the Founders of the First Baptist Church in Boston.

1644. Nov. 13.

Whereas Thomas Gold (and others) obstinate and turbulent Annabaptists, have some time since combined themselves wh others in a pretended church estate xxxxx to the great griefe and offence of the godly orthodox xxxxxxxx and about two years since were enjoyned by this Court to desist from said practise and to returne to our allowed Church Assemblies, xxxxxx this Court doe judge it necessary that they be removed to some other part of this country or elsewhere: and accordingly doeth order that (they) doe before the twentieth of July next remove themselves out of this jurisdiccon.

In Massachusetts the Baptist sentiment did not die out with the banishment of Roger Williams. In 1640, Rev. Mr. Chauncey advocated the immersion of believers and also of infants. Later President Dunster, of Cambridge College, went further and denounced the whole system of infant baptism. About the same time, Lady Moody, of Lynn, denied infant baptism. In 1644, a poor man by the name of Painter, reaching the same conclusion, refused to have his child baptized. The court interfered and the man was tied up and whipped. On November 13, 1644, two months after Williams arrived in Boston, en route to Providence, with the charter, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law against the Baptists, in which they were described as “The incendiaries of commonwealths, the troublers of churches.” They ordered that all who “openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants shall be sentenced to banishment.” The General Court issued an order in 1644 banishing the founders of the Boston Baptist Church. In 1651, Obadiah Holmes, John Clarke, and John Crandall came to Lynn, Massachusetts, from Newport, Rhode Island. They were holding a service in Mr. Witter’s house, about two miles out from Lynn. Mr. Clarke was preaching from Revelation 3:10. The service was broken up by the arrival of two constables, who, with clamorous tongues, interrupted the discourse and arrested the preachers. The prisoners were held in Lynn until the morning, when they were taken to the Boston prison. Two weeks later, they were sentenced to [Pg 124]pay heavy fines. The fines of Clarke and Crandall were paid by friends. Holmes refused any assistance in paying his fine of thirty pounds and was publicly whipped with thirty lashes from a three-corded whip. Thirteen others, who sympathized with these brethren, were arrested and were ordered to pay a fine of forty shillings each or take ten lashes. John Hazel, an old man from Rehoboth, was whipped and died a few days afterward. Clarke published the story of this incident in “Ill Newes from New-England”—an original copy is in the John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R. I. Cotton was the religious leader in Boston, back of this persecution. In 1680 the doors of the Baptist meeting-house in Boston were nailed up by the authorities. Finally the Baptists in Boston won some freedom, which, however, was denied to other Baptist churches throughout the State. Isaac Backus was the leader among the Massachusetts Baptists for soul-liberty. With President Manning, he appealed to the Massachusetts delegates at the Continental Congress to provide in the Constitution for separation of Church and State. John Adams replied to them: “They might as well turn the heavenly bodies out of their annual and diurnal courses as to expect they would give up their establishment.” This spirit of opposition was continued until 1833, in which year the last vestige of oppressive religious intolerance was removed from the statute-books of Massachusetts.






A Narative of New-Englands


Wherein is declared

That while old England is becoming new,
New-England is become Old.

Also four Proposals to the Honoured Parliament and Councel of State,
touching the way to Propagate the Gospel of Christ (with small
charge and great safety) both in Old England and New.

Also four conclusions touching the faith and order of the Gospel of
Christ out of his last Will and Testament, confirmed and justified

By John Clark Physician of Rode Island in America.

Revel. 2. 25. Hold fast till I come.
3. 11. Behold I come quickly.
22. 20. Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.


Printed by Henry Hills living in Fleet-Yard next door to the Rose
and Crown, in the year 1652.

In Virginia, the opposition to the Baptist movement was bitter and unrelenting. The early settlers of Virginia left England, when their church, the Established Church of England, had won a complete victory over all other persuasions. The Virginians sought to duplicate in the new land the spirit of the victors across the sea and make religion uniform in their colony. Laws were passed against popish recusants as early as 1643. Other laws were passed by their assembly between the years 1659 and 1663 against those who failed to have their children baptized. The Quakers especially found these laws most severe. The early Baptists of Virginia were of the common people; their ministers were illiterate; and for a while they escaped notice. The first imprisonment of Baptists was in the county of Spottsylvania, Va., June 4, 1768. Three Baptists, John Waller, Lewis Craig, and James Childs, with others, were arrested for disturbing the[Pg 126] peace. (There was no law against preaching.) The opposing lawyer in the court-room made this charge:

May it please your worships, these men are great disturbers of the peace; they cannot meet a man on the road, but they ram a text of Scripture down his throat.

Mr. Waller so defended himself and his brethren that their enemies were somewhat puzzled to know how to proceed against them. They offered to release them on promise to refrain from preaching in the county for a year and a day. The defendants refused the offer and were sent to prison. Other Baptist ministers were arrested, and soon thirty were under arrest. The prisons became Baptist pulpits, and multitudes gathered around them to hear the preachers. Their opponents engaged drummers to drown the preaching; high enclosures were in some cases erected before prison windows, and suffocating materials were burned near the prisons. Baptists from the beginning were unremitting in their struggle to secure religious liberty. They secured the support of Patrick Henry, a member of the Established Church, but a firm friend of all who stood for liberty, civil and religious. He helped the Baptists to win the complete victory.

The Baptist cause was destined to have a more congenial atmosphere in Pennsylvania when we remember that William Penn, its illustrious founder, had an English Baptist father and a Dutch mother, undoubtedly of Anabaptist descent. He received his charter in 1681, forty-five years after Roger Williams’ banishment from Massachusetts. Penn possessed broad and liberal ideas and was opposed to any church establishment. He provided

that all persons who confess and acknowledge the Almighty and Eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the world, ... should in no ways be molested, nor compelled to frequent or maintain any religious worship.

Yet only those confessing faith in Jesus Christ could become freemen in Penn’s domain. The separate Quakers in the colony of Pennsylvania were arrested, fined, and imprisoned for dissent.

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John Clarke Memorial
First Baptist Church of Newport, R. I.

Grave of John Clarke

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The first company of Baptists in this colony came from Rhode Island. William Dugan came there in 1684, three years after Penn received his charter. He settled at Cold Spring, in Bucks County. The first church in Philadelphia was founded by John Holmes in 1686. The first meeting-place was at the corner of Second and Chestnut Streets.

Two Thirds of the Members have the Power of a full House. No Member to vote &c. in the House till qualified. The Qualification of every Member of Assembly. Altered by an Act pass’d in the II Geo. I, entitled An Act—prescribing the Forms of Declaration of Fidelity. &c.

AND if any County or Part of this Province shall refuse or neglect to choose their respective Representatives as aforesaid, or if chosen, do not meet to serve in Assembly, those who are so chosen and met shall have the full Power of an Assembly in as ample Manner as if all the Representatives had been chosen and met; Provided, they are not less than two Thirds of the Whole that ought to meet.

AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the Authority aforesaid, That no Person who shall be hereafter a Member of the Assembly, or House of Representatives of this Province, shall be capable to vote in the said House, or sit there during any Debate, after their Speaker is chosen, until he shall make and subscribe the following Declarations and Profession his Belief, viz.,

I A. B. do sincerely promise, and solemnly declare before GOD and the World, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Queen Anne. And I do solemnly profess and declare. That I do, from my Heart, abbor, detest and renounce as impious and heretical, that damnable Doctrine and Position, That Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope, or any Authority of the See of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their Subjects, or any other whatsoever.

AND I do declare, That no foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate hath, or ought to have, any Power, Jurisdiction, Superiority, Preeminence or Authority ecclesiastical or spiritual, within the Realm of England, or the Dominions thereunto belonging.

AND I A. B. do solemnly and sincerely, in the Presence of GOD, profess, testify and declare, That I do believe that in the Sacrament of the LORD’s Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the Elements of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of CHRIST, at or after the Consecration thereof, by any Person whatsoever; and that the Invocation or Adoration of the Virgin Mary, or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitions and Idolatrous.

AND I do solemnly, in the Presence of GOD, profess, testify and declare. That I do make this Declaration and every Part thereof, in the plain and ordinary Sense of the Words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any Evasion, Equivocation or mental Reservation whatsoever and without any Dispensation already granted me for this Purpose by the Pope, or any other Authority or Person whatsoever, or without any Hope of any such Dispensation from any Person or Authority whatsoever, or without thinking I am or may be acquitted before GOD, or Man, or absolved of this Declaration, or any Part thereof, although the Pope, or any other Person or Persons, or Power whatsoever, should dispense with or annull the same, or declare that it was null or void from the Beginning.

AND I A. B. profess Faith in GOD the Father, and in JESUS CHRIST, his eternal Son, the true GOD, and in the HOLY SPIRIT, one GOD, blessed for evermore; and do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New-Testament, to be given by divine Inspiration.

The Law in William Penn’s Colony.
No Absolute Soul-liberty in Pennsylvania in Those Days.

Lord Baltimore, the Roman Catholic proprietor of Maryland, was far in advance of his Church. He came to the New World to secure religious liberty for himself and his friends. The Maryland Act of Toleration, issued in 1649, provided that

Blasphemy against God, and a denial of the Trinity should be punished with death and confiscation of lands and goods, and blasphemy against the Virgin Mary should first be punished by a fine of five pounds, and if persisted in, by a forfeiture of all possessions and banishment from the colony.

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Acts and Orders of ASSEMBLY, assented to, enacted and made, at a General Session of the said Assembly, begun and held at St. Mary’s on the 2d Day of April 1649, and ended the 21st Day of the same Month.

William Stone, Esq; Governor.


Passed 21st of April 1649.

An Act concerning Religion. Lib. C and WH. fol. 106. Lib. WH. fol. 111. and Lib. WH and L. fol. 1.

Confirmed among the perpetual Laws 1676, ch. 2.

N. B. By this Law, (1.) Blasphemy against GOD, denying our Saviour JESUS CHRIST to be the Son of GOD, or denying the Holy TRINITY, or the Godhead of any of the Three Persons, &c. was to be Punished with Death, and Confiscation of Lands and Goods to the Lord Proprietary. (2.) Persons using any reproachful Words or Speeches concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Saviour, or the Holy Apostles or Evangelists, or any of them, for the 1st Offence to forfeit 5l. Sterling to the Lord Proprietary; or, in default of Payment, to be publicly Whipped, and Imprisoned at the Pleasure of his Lordship, or his Lieut. General. For the 2d Offence to forfeit 10l. Sterling, or in default of Payment to be publicly and severely Whipped, and Imprisoned as before directed. And for the 3d Offence to forfeit Lands and Goods, and be for ever Banished out of the Province. (3.) Persons reproaching any other within the Province by the Name or Denomination of Heretic, Schismatic, Idolater, Puritan, Independent, Presbyterian, Popish Priest, Jesuit, Jesuited Papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Round-Head, Separatist, or any other Name or Term in a reproach-

The Law Concerning Religious Toleration in Maryland Colony.
It is not Religious Liberty.

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The Baptist church at Chestnut Ridge was formed in 1742 by Henry Sator, a layman of the General Baptist order, who had recently come from England. He invited Baptist ministers to preach in his house. They soon gathered a congregation; proselytes were gained, and a church organized. This church appealed to the governor and was taken under the protection of the toleration laws.

94. Capitall Laws.


Dut. 13. 6, 10.
Dut. 17. 2, 6
Ex. 22. 20.
P. 14.
S. 1.

If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.


Ex. 22. 18.
Lev. 20. 27.
Dut. 18. 10.
S. 2.

If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.


Lev. 24. 15, 16.
S. 3.

If any man shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

Facsimile of original laws. From “Body of Liberties.” First legal code for the government of the Bay Colony. Drawn up by Rev. Nathaniel Ward, Lawyer-divine of Ipswich.

The Final Victory in the Long Struggle

Two Baptist organizations in close sympathy with each other contributed much toward the final victory. They made appeals to their immediate constituency and also to the larger following of all Baptists and other lovers of religious liberty. These were the Warren Association in New England, and the General Committee[Pg 132] in Virginia. Each had a committee of grievances. The Baptists were nobly assisted by Presbyterians and Quakers in the final stages of the great conflict. Isaac Backus wrote his immortal work on “A History of New England, with Especial Reference to the Baptists.” He drafted appeals for the Association and for the committee on grievances to the General Assembly, published addresses on religious liberty, and inserted advertisements in leading papers. He believed that partial history and false statements regarding Baptist history and doctrines should be removed by scattering impartial and true knowledge. He was a Baptist giant and had his share in forming sentiment, which eventually made religious intoleration impossible in America.

Isaac Backus, with President Manning, of Brown University, then Rhode Island College, went to Philadelphia and with Quakers and others appealed to John Adams and other Massachusetts delegates in Carpenter Hall, Philadelphia. These advocates of soul-liberty took the position that to pay taxes to support a church clergy in which they did not believe was as much a wrong as to pay taxes for a government in which they had no representation. It was not the paltry tax of fourpence a man that the colonists in Massachusetts rebelled against. It was the principle that was back of paying the pence which they opposed. They were greatly amazed when John Adams told them that their own colony, Massachusetts, had “the most mild and equitable establishment of religion that was known in the world.”

William Rogers James Manning Isaac Backus

These men were all connected with the opening of the first Baptist college in America. James Manning was the first president; Isaac Backus, a member of the original board of trustees; William Rogers, the first student.

The Virginia Baptists, through their General Convention, organized in 1784, united the efforts of the Baptists there and in New England for the final phases of the war against religious tyranny. For four years they had worked for liberty in their State laws and had won a complete victory. Then, in 1788, they turned to the national issue. The Federal Constitution had provided in Article VI, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” This did not satisfy the Baptists, because religious tests might be imposed for other purposes than those specified. In a noble letter, drafted by John Leland, a Baptist minister, they appealed to Washington. They paid a high compliment to[Pg 135] his achievements and then stated their grievance, closing with these words:

If religious liberty is rather insecure in the Constitution the administration will certainly prevent all oppression, for a Washington will preside. Should the horrid evils that have been so pestiferous in Asia and Europe, faction, ambition, war, perfidy, fraud, and persecution for conscience sake, ever approach the borders of our happy nation, may the name and administration of our beloved President, like the radiant source of day, scatter all the dark clouds from the American hemisphere.

Washington replied that his ideals were the same, assuring them of this, in the following words:

No one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution.

He complimented the Baptists and said that they

have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost unanimously, the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution.

His assurance was not empty words. In a short time James Madison, with the President’s approval, submitted certain amendments. Article VI was superseded by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which specified:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Thus the long fight was won in America, and now people generally appreciate the importance of the victory gained. Rhode Island may have hesitated to accept the imperfect Constitution, with its lack of assurance for complete religious liberty. In this connection we should not forget that Massachusetts and Connecticut were the last to ratify the First Amendment.

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“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon trusted foundations of political liberty.”—President Wilson’s War Message to Congress, 1917.

Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
Alfred Tennyson.

A day will come when bullets and bombs shall be replaced by ballots, by the universal suffrages of the people, by the sacred arbitrament of a great Sovereign Senate.... A day will come when we shall face those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe, in face of each other, extending hand to hand over the ocean, exchanging their products, their commerce, their industry, their art, their genius clearing the earth, colonizing deserts, and ameliorating creation under the eye of the Creator. To you, I appeal, French, English, Germans, Russians, Slavs, Europeans, Americans, what have we to do to hasten the coming of the great day? Love one another.Victor Hugo.

I asked him (Premier Lloyd George) what message he would send to American Baptists. Quick as a flash, he turned and said: “Tell them that it is Baptist principles that we are fighting for in this great struggle. All that Baptists count dear is at stake in this issue.”—Lloyd George to George Coleman, President, Northern Baptist Convention. From the latter’s speech at Atlantic City, N. J., May, 1918.

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ROGER Williams, as a man of vision, was experimenting with a new idealism. His ideas, now generally accepted, have made absolute religious liberty, with its complete separation of Church and State, an idea almost synonymous with the name of the United States of America. That lonely man, in the smallest of the colonies, set the pace for the other twelve original commonwealths and established a national pattern for the forty-eight States in the present Union. Our cup of blessing has overflowed, and today the whole world is awaking to the blessings in store for them if they partake of the same privileges.

“Mankind has pursued liberty over mountain and across valley,” writes Pres. E. Y. Mullins,

by land and by sea, through fire and through flood, since the first man caught a glimpse of liberty’s white robes leading on to victory. The love of victory is now a volcanic fire which breaks out into revolution and consumes and destroys the ancient fabrics of government, and now it is a tide of life which rolls across the face of nations, causing them to burst into the beauty and fragrance of a new springtime. The spirit of liberty in its quest for the goal of its desire has sounded all the notes in the gamut of human experience, from the minor notes of abject despair to the ringing pæan of victory over every foe.

The Baptist churches of America, the torch-bearers of religious or soul-liberty, have grown from the one church which Williams founded in Providence into a mighty host. From twelve members in one church organization in 1639 that denomination has grown in America until today, according to the latest government statistics, it has the largest membership of any Protestant denomination in America, 7,236,650. Its one preacher has become a great host of 39,734, serving 53,133 churches. Instead of one college with one student in 1764, it now has 463 schools in America, with 68,513 students. Instead of one lone missionary[Pg 140] to the Indians, it now has a large army of missionaries in the home and foreign fields.

Doctor Masters, Secretary of Publicity of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, in tabulating the figures from the preliminary statistics furnished by the United States Census Department, calls our attention to the fact that the approximate Baptist population of America, including members and other adherents, is twenty-two millions. The Baptists are thus in the lead of every denomination, Catholic or Protestant, in America; our net gain for ten years is the greatest of all denominations, 28 per cent, compared with 10.8 per cent of the Roman Catholics. He gives the comparative strength of Romanists and evangelicals in America as eighty million evangelicals to 15,700,000 Roman Catholics.

Before the days of the great war, Pres. E. Y. Mullins, with prophetic vision wrote:

We are approaching the Baptist age of the world, because we are approaching the age of the triumph of democracy. Like a vine growing in the darkness of some deep cavern, and slowly stretching itself toward the dim light shining in through the distant mouth of the cavern, so has humanity slowly crept on toward freedom. The mighty hordes of the Asiatic and European world, weary and sad yet courageous and resolute, are hastening forward with unresting feet toward the gates of destiny. Toward those gates these hundreds of years the Baptists have been pointing, and today in the foremost files of time they lead the way. As humanity enters they will shout with the full knowledge that God in Christ has led all the way.... And the goal of human progress shall be realized in an eternal society wherein absolute democracy is joined to absolute monarchy, God the Father being the monarch, and his people a vast family of free children.

True political liberty is the child of religious liberty. It must look to freedom of the soul as a child does to its mother for birth, protection, and provision. Political anarchy is the usual result of a people seeking full liberty by ignoring or neglecting the support which religion brings to man’s moral nature. It is a long road to political liberty, but it is a road which has run parallel with religious liberty. It is interesting to note the Americanization of the world. There were few democracies when our Republic was born. Our victory over tyranny was an inspiration to oppressed peoples. The French followed shortly afterward.[Pg 141] Wherever Napoleon went, he held aloft the banner of equality and liberty. He granted the latter under a form of government by which he became emperor. After almost a century, France gained both. Napoleon’s exile to St. Helena did not usher in a restoration of the older European order. National sovereignty and constitutional government were the constituent parts of a liberty the people would not be denied in almost all the countries of Europe. In Italy, Charles Albert, King of Savoy, Sardinia, and Piedmont, gave his people a constitutional form of government. Though opposed by the papal States and Austria, this movement grew until, under King Emmanuel, Cavour, and Garibaldi, all Italy was united and free. Denmark followed in 1849, Greece in 1866, and Spain the following year. The Christians of the Balkan Peninsula revolted from the Turks in 1875, and were recognized a power by the greater powers and were given a constitutional government. In 1910 Portugal banished royalty and welcomed democracy. Russia, in 1917, threw off the shackles of autocracy for those of anarchy. When she awakes from her delirium she will doubtless see the true light and follow it.

The Americanization of Asia is moving rapidly forward. In 1852 Commodore Perry—by a strange providence from Rhode Island—forced open the door into Japan. The shoguns, masters for centuries, lost their power. Then the Mikado for twenty years took their autocratic powers to himself but was compelled after that to give his people a liberal constitutional form of government. The Chinese nation, hoary with age, entered the list of democracies in 1911, becoming the United States of China. The Shah of Persia, after a broken promise which brought on a revolution, gave his people, in 1906, a constitutional form of government. The Young Turks in 1909, after compelling Abdul Hamid II to abdicate, placed Mohammed V on the throne as his successor. Prior to the Great War they had what is at least an approach to the newer constitutional ideals of the modern world.

The lands to the south of us have their struggle toward the same desired goal. The Republic of Mexico needs a religious and educational preparation which will largely solve, among that unassimilated conglomeration of Indians, negroes, and mestizos, the problem of stable government. Let the religious leaders of[Pg 142] Mexico, who have tried for centuries with their religious autocratic systems, give way for a single generation to the evangelical churches with their democratic idealisms and the unchained Bible, and then revolutions and immorality will fade away, and the land, so desolated in recent years, will blossom like the rose.

When Napoleon defeated the monarchs of Europe and their system, he shook the confidence of the people of Central and South America in their absent monarchs across the seas. South American nations followed one by one into the class of democracies. Central American States also broke away from their European masters. These lands need the open Bible of the evangelical Christian churches more than our battleships and marines. When superstition is banished by the light which radiates from the Bible, then the republics to the south of us will vie with us in advancement and prosperity.

Absolute monarchy is doomed in Europe and throughout the world. The sword unsheathed by America must not rest in its scabbard until democracy is safe in the world and the world is made safe for democracy. Belgium outraged, France desecrated, Great Britain drained, Russia bleeding slowly to death, and all Europe a shambles, may find in the ideals of Roger Williams healing for their wounds and health for the coming years.

Due honor should be given to every colony builder of the New World. Great were their suffering and sacrifices.

All praise to others of the vanguard then,
To Spain, to France, to Baltimore and Penn.
To Jesuit, Quaker, Puritan, and Priest,
Their toils be crowned, their honors be increased.
Give praise to others early come or late,
For love and labor on our ship of state.

By faith the Pilgrims left old England, and sojourned in Holland as in a strange country. By faith they trusted their all to God and the Mayflower. By faith they endured the hardships of that first winter and founded their colony in which they sought to honor God according to the truth as they saw it. All honor to the faith of our Pilgrim Fathers.

In hope the Puritans left their native land, seeking not a separation from the mother Church but rather purification of the[Pg 143] Established Order. In hope they founded Salem and Boston and other towns about the Massachusetts Bay. In hope they laid strong the foundations which afterward led to the victories of Lexington and Bunker Hill. All honor to the Puritan builders of a great commonwealth, the New America.

Through charity Roger Williams fled into the depths of snowy forests and crossed frozen streams, to form among savage tribes a new colony where no man would be denied political privileges because of religious belief. Through charity he forgave those who exiled him and at the risk of his own life saved Puritan and Pilgrim from an impending Indian massacre. Through charity he shared his purchased possessions gratuitously with others. Through charity he formed the immortal compact binding men together “only in civil things.” Through charity he sacrificed his humble patrimony, his home at Salem, and the earnings of his lifetime to safeguard and protect the colony he had founded for the joys of others. Through charity he extended for the first time in our national history a loving welcome to men of all beliefs into the new fraternity of human hearts founded for human helpfulness.

Roger Williams possessed the faith of the Pilgrim and the hope of the Puritan. Faith and hope getteth, but charity giveth. Roger Williams possessed the charity of Christ. He followed in the footsteps of his Master along a pathway of pain. Like the Man of Galilee, in the olive orchard and vine-clad garden, and on the bleak skull-shaped hill without the walls of Jerusalem, his humble servant, the man of Providence, had his Gethsemane and Golgotha in the frozen forests and on the snow-clad hills under the wintry skies of New England.

Aye, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod,
They left unstained what there they found,
Freedom to worship God.

And now in these United States of America, there abideth the faith of the Pilgrim, the hope of the Puritan, and the charity of Roger Williams; but the greatest of these is charity.

[Pg 145]



Roger Williams and His Times

1. Rise and Development of English Puritanism: Reformation in England, from Wyclif to Henry VIII. Reformation under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth. Influence of the Marian exiles. Rise of English Puritanism. Influence and mission of Thomas Cartwright and Robert Browne. Growth of Presbyterianism and independency. Origin of British Baptists (in Wales and England).

2. Contemporaneous Colonial Settlements: The Plymouth Pilgrims. The Dorchester Adventurers. Naumkeag settlers. Endicott Company at Salem. Winthrop Company at Boston. Connecticut settlers. Early Dutch and Virginia settlements. (Study idealism, origin, vitality of each.)

3. Indian Predecessors of Roger Williams and Puritans: Tribal settlements, their ideas, customs, and moral status. Ideas of soul-liberty among the Indians. Priority of Williams’ Indian missionary work. Labors of Eliot and others.


Roger Williams, His Life and Achievements

1. Life Prior to Exile from England, 1602-1629: His birth and education. Religious ferment in England. His love affairs, marriage, and exile.

2. In New England Prior to Settlement in Providence, 1629-1636: Experiences in Boston, Salem, Plymouth, the wilderness, and Seekonk.

3. Providence Plantations Prior to First Charter, 1636-1644: Arrival. Reception by Indians. First deeds to property. Baptism.[Pg 146] Early government. Indian troubles. Neighbors at Pawtuxet, Warwick, Portsmouth, and Blackstone. Williams’ first visit to England. First charter. Indian trading-post near Wickford. His first writings.

4. Providence under the First Charter, 1644-1663: Growth of colony. Indian difficulties. Coddington’s claims. Opposition from the United Colonies. Williams’ second visit to England. His writings. Work of his colaborer, John Clarke, of Newport, in securing second charter.

5. Growth, Destruction, and Rebuilding of Providence, 1663-1676: General pre-Indian War prosperity. The Quakers. The debate and Williams’ writings. Indian War with King Philip. Reconstruction.

6. Closing Days and Death of Roger Williams: Official position. Retirement and death. Burial. Later removal of dust.

7. Providence after the Death of its Founder: Commercially, religiously, educationally, and politically. Its glorious share in the Revolutionary War. Its glory among the brotherhood of States. Growth of its ideal throughout the world.


The Evolution of the Roger Williams Ideal of Soul-liberty

1. Prior to Days of Williams: The pioneers, the predecessors of Williams, and the continuity of the struggle for soul-liberty among the early Christians. The work of the Anabaptists or Baptists in the Dark Ages in northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, and England and Wales. Study their published confessions on the subject of soul-liberty.

2. Contemporaries of Roger Williams: The General and Particular Baptists of England. A consideration of the ideals of toleration, liberty of conscience, and absolute soul-liberty in the settlements of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Connecticut; and the Indian’s position also. Compare all these with the peculiar position of Roger Williams.

3. Successors of Roger Williams: The American Baptists. Study especially the Warren Baptist Association with its committee on grievances. Study the work of the Philadelphia Baptist[Pg 147] Convention. Study also the work of the Baptists in other States. Cooperation of Quakers, Presbyterians, and others.


The World-wide Influence of Roger Williams’ Ideal

Political democracy, a fruit of religious liberty. The onward march of democracy in America, Europe, Asia, and South America. The world war and the world-wide struggle for democracy. Present status of the world as to religious liberty and as to political democracy. (Take a map and indicate the same.)

[Pg 149]



Backus, “History of New England.” (First history in which Williams’ life-story is told at length.)

Knowles, “Memoir of Roger Williams.”

Gammell, “Life of Roger Williams.”

Elton, “Life of Roger Williams.”

Straus, “Roger Williams, Pioneer of Religious Liberty.”

Carpenter, “Roger Williams, A Political Pioneer.”

Hall, “Roger Williams.”

Original Documents:

“Complete Writings of Roger Williams,” Narragansett Club Publications.

Bradford, “The Bradford History.”

Winthrop, “History of the Puritans.”

Chapin, “Documentary History of Rhode Island.”

Early Colonial Records.

Early Records of the Town of Providence. Vols. III, IV, V, VIII.

Cotton, “Magnalia.”

General Histories:

Arnold, “History of Rhode Island.”

Staples, “Annals of Providence.”

Greene, “Providence Plantations for 250 Years.”

Richman, “Rhode Island, Its Making and its Meaning.”

Evolution of Soul-liberty:

King, “Religious Liberty.”

Ivimey, “History of English Baptists.”

General Baptist Church Histories, by Benedict, Armitage, Newman, Cathcart, Vedder, etc.

Mullins, “Axioms of Religion.”

[Pg 150]

Historic Spots:

Guild, “Footprints of Roger Williams.”

Hopkins, “The Home Lots of the Early Settlers.”

State of Rhode Island, “Report of Committee on Marking of Historic Sites in Rhode Island.”

Rider, “Lands of Rhode Island as They Were Known to Canonicus.”


Butterworth, “In the Days of Massasoit.”

Hall, “The Golden Arrow.”

Durfee, the epic poem, “What Cheer.”

Other Books and Pamphlets:

H. M. King, “Baptism of Roger Williams,” “Summer Visit of Three Rhode Islanders,” “The Mother Church,” “The True Roger Williams,” “Life of John Miles,” “Historical Catalog of First Baptist Church.”

Kimball, “Providence in Colonial Times.”

Dexter, “As to Roger Williams’ Banishment.”

Burrage, “Why Was Roger Williams Banished?”

Merriman, “Pilgrim, Puritan, and Roger Williams.”

Dorr, “The Planting and Growth of Providence.”

Burgess, “Reconciliation of Government with Liberty.”

Eaton, “Roger Williams, the Founder of Providence.”

Durfee, “Complete Works of Job Durfee.”

Backus Historical Society, “Elements in Baptist Development.”

Notable Addresses:

Z. Allan, “Memorial of Roger Williams.”

W. H. P. Faunce, “Roger Williams and His Doctrine of Soul Liberty.”

Mowry, “Concerning Roger Williams.”

Durfee, “Oration on 250th Anniversary.”

Rabbi A. Simon, “Thanksgiving Address on Roger Williams.”

Diman, “Address at Unveiling of Statue of Roger Williams at Roger Williams Park.”

Proceedings in Congress on Receiving the Roger Williams Statue.

[Pg 151]



Places of Interest Outside of Rhode Island

In England: Charterhouse School. Pembroke College, Cambridge.

In America: Salem: Site of First Meeting House. The original old First Church. The Original Roger Williams House (The Witch House).

Plymouth: Coles Hill. The Burial Hill. Harbor. The Meresteads.

Boston and Vicinity: Original Bradford History in State House. Site of Meeting House where trial took place (Dunster and Meeting Streets, Cambridge). Site of old First Church.

New York City: Roger Williams’ Watch, in Fraunce’s Tavern.


Places of Interest in Rhode Island

In Providence: Study a map of the original Home Lots in relation to the present streets of Providence. (Hopkins, “Home Lots,” is good.)

Capitol Building: The Original Charter from Charles II. The Original Portsmouth Compact in Secretary of State’s Office.

Court House: Grant’s picture of Landing of Williams.

City Hall: Original Deeds from the Indians. Williams’ Letter of transference. Original Compact of Providence Settlers.

Civic Center: Symbolical Statuary on Post Office Building. Civic Center is probably the site of Williams’ baptism.

The Rhode Island Historical Society’s Building: The Apple Tree Roots from Grave of Williams, his Compass, etc.

John Hay Library: Copy of Roger Williams’ Indian Bible.

John Carter Brown Library: Original Copies of Williams’ books and letters.

Brown University.

Site of Town Meetings at Entrance to Tunnel.

First Baptist Church: The Bell. Specimen from What Cheer Rock in Lobby. Pictures of Pastors, etc.

Pardon Tillinghast’s Grave, Benefit Street near Transit.

[Pg 152]

What Cheer Rock, Roger and Williams Streets.

Sabin Tavern, South Main Street and Transit, Where Gaspee Plot was hatched.

Old School House on Meeting Street Opposite to this, Site of First Post Office.

Old State House, where First Declaration of Independence was signed.

Site of Spring, 244 North Main Street.

Site of Roger Williams House, North Main and Alamo Streets.

Grave of Roger Williams, rear of Stable, 108 Benefit Street.

North Burial Ground: Canonicus Rock. Randall Tomb. (Removal Place for Dust of Williams.) Graves of Manning and Wayland. Memorial to Chad Brown.

Hopkins Square: Grave and Monument to Admiral Hopkins, Charles Street and Branch Avenue. The Home of Admiral Hopkins on Admiral Street.

Roger Williams Park: Statue of Williams. Museum with Indian Relics and Model of Indian Village.

Out from Providence: Fort Independence Site at Field’s Point. Gaspee Point beyond. Drum Rock, Apponaug. Grave of Ezekiel Holliman, Shawomet. Site of Williams’ Trading-post, Wickford. Indian Soapstone Quarry, Johnston. Barrington, R. I. Pierce’s Fight, Central Falls.

Sites at Newport: Town of Portsmouth on Island. Site of Governor Bull’s House. First Baptist Church. Graves of Clarke and of Coddington.

Old Houses: Gilbert Stuart’s House, North Kingston. Nathanael Greene’s House, Cumberland. Reynolds’ House (Headquarters of Lafayette), Bristol. Prescott’s Headquarters, Portsmouth. Stephen Hopkins’ House, Hopkins Street, Providence.

Transcriber’s Notes:

Variations in spelling and hyphenation are retained.

Perceived typographical errors have been changed.

Repetative chapter headings have been removed.

Updated editions will replace the previous one—the old editions will be renamed.
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