Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister

Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister


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The political and religious leader Roger Williams (c. 1603?-1683) is best known for founding the state of Rhode Island and advocating separation of church and state in Colonial America. He is also the founder of the first Baptist church in America. His views on religious freedom and tolerance, coupled with his disapproval of the practice of confiscating land from Native Americans, earned him the wrath of his church and banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Roger Williams and his followers settled on Narragansett Bay, where they purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and established a new colony governed by the principles of religious liberty and separation of church and state. Rhode Island became a haven for Baptists, Quakers, Jews and other religious minorities. Nearly a century after his death, Williams’ notion of a “wall of separation” between church and state inspired the founders of the United States, who incorporated it into the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Roger Williams' Early Life

Roger Williams was born around 1603 in London, England. He studied with the famous jurist Sir Edward Coke before completing his studies at Pembroke College in Cambridge, where he was known for his skill with languages—a skill that would later help him rapidly learn American Indian languages in the colonies. Though he was ordained in the Church of England, his conversion to Puritanism while at Cambridge lead him to feel disillusioned with the church and it’s power in England. He left the country with his wife, Mary Bernard, and set sail for the colonies in December of 1630.

The couple initially settled in Boston, but his controversial views led him to seek out positions first in Salem and then in the separatist colony of Plymouth. Unable to preach because of his anti-establishment views, he began trading English goods for food and furs from the Wampanoag and Narragansett Tribes, soon becoming a friend of Wampanoag Chief Massasoit.

Roger Williams and Religious Freedom

During his fifty years in New England, Williams was a staunch advocate of religious toleration and separation of church and state. Reflecting these principles, he founded Rhode Island and he and his fellow Rhode Islanders framed a colony government devoted to protecting individual “liberty of conscience.” This “lively experiment” became Williams’s most tangible legacy, though he was best known in his own time as a radical Pietist and the author of polemical treatises defending his religious principles, condemning the orthodoxy of New England Puritanism and attacking the theological underpinnings of Quakerism.

His lifelong search for a closer personal union with God forged his beliefs and ideas. Rejecting the moderate theology of Puritanism, Williams embraced the radical tenets of separatism, turned briefly to Baptist principles, but ultimately declared that Christ’s true church could not be known among men until Christ himself returned to establish it. From his reading of the New Testament, in which Christ had commanded religious truth and error to coexist in every nation until the end of the world, Williams concluded that liberty of conscience–“soul liberty” as he called it–was necessary because no one could know for certain which form of religion was the true one God had intended.

These views, among others (like his criticism of King James I), kept him embroiled in protracted religious and political controversies throughout his life. He was banished from Massachusettsin 1636 for sedition and heresy after refusing to cease preaching what the colony deemed “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions.” Williams fled into the wilderness and founded the town of Providence, though this banishment was only the first of several disputes that consumed his energies. For Williams, the banishment became a kind of personal badge of courage. In his dealings with neighboring Puritans, he never missed an opportunity to remind them of the wrong they had committed against him. In numerous polemical writings, he engaged in a prodigious religious debate with John Cotton, the Boston minister, and referred often to his banishment as proof of the human injustice that resulted from intolerance.

Roger Williams in Rhode Island

In his own colony, Williams could not resolve the political conflicts that divided Rhode Islanders into contending factions. Attempting to protect Indian land from expropriation, he became involved in endless boundary disputes with neighbors and speculators from surrounding colonies. In the 1670s, as the Quakers were gaining political power in Rhode Island, Williams tried to discredit the teachings of George Fox; he succeeded only in raising public doubts about his sincere commitment to the idea of “soul liberty.”

Although his friendship with the Narragansett Indians helped sustain generally peaceful relations between the Indians and English settlers until the outbreak of King Phillip's War (1676), some Puritan leaders suspected his close ties with the Narragansetts had blurred his ability to see them objectively.

Roger Williams Death

His death at age 80 in Providence, RI went mostly unnoticed. It was the American Revolution that transformed Williams into a local hero–Rhode Islanders came to appreciate the legacy of religious freedom he had bequeathed to them. Although he has often been portrayed by biographers as a harbinger of Jeffersonian Democracy, most scholars now conclude that Williams was less a democrat than a “Puritan’s Puritan” who courageously pushed his dissenting ideas to their logical ends. In 1956, Roger Williams University opened its doors in Rhode Island, named after the founder whose ideas impact the state even today.

Sources:

Roger Williams: Rejecting The Middle Way. NPS.gov.


Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister - HISTORY

  • Occupation: Minister and statesman
  • Born: 1603 in London, England
  • Died: 1683 in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Best known for: Founding the colony of Providence Plantation which became Rhode Island

Roger Williams was born in 1603 in London, England. His father, James, was a merchant tailor. Roger received a quality education first at Charter House school and then at Cambridge University. He was an excellent student known for his gift with languages.

After leaving Cambridge, Roger became a minister. He had become a Puritan while attending Cambridge. The Puritans wanted to reform the Church of England. Rogers views on religion made him unpopular in England. He decided to move to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in America in 1631, a year after the colony had first been established.

About the time Roger set sail for America, his views on religion had changed somewhat. He now believed that the Church of England could not be reformed. He wanted to separate from the Church of England. This view was called Separatism.

In addition to Separatism, Roger had some other ideas that were considered radical for his day. He believed that individuals should have total freedom of religion. This was radical in that the Puritans moved to America so that they could practice their own form of religion, but didn't want other forms of religion practiced. Roger also felt that the government should be separate from religion. A very radical idea for the times.

Exile from Massachusetts

Williams' ideas got him into trouble with the church in Massachusetts. He became friends with the local Native Americans and began to speak out against the rights of the English king to own land in the Americas. This talk against the king was the final straw. In 1636, the court of Massachusetts ordered that Williams be exiled from the colony for spreading "new and dangerous opinions."

Williams and several of his followers established the city of Providence in June of 1636. This new settlement was ruled by a majority vote of the citizens. However, the rules and laws only applied to "civil" issues and not to religion. People were allowed freedom of worship and religion. Providence became a popular place for people seeking religious freedom from Massachusetts.

A few years after Williams established Providence, another religious leader from Massachusetts, Anne Hutchinson, established the settlement of Portsmouth not far from Providence. In 1644, Williams travelled to England and secured a charter that united Providence, Portsmouth, and Newport into the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation.

Williams died in Providence, Rhode Island sometime during the winter of 1683.


Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister - HISTORY

Roger Williams was born in London, England, in 1603, the son of a shopkeeper. While in his teens he came to the attention of Sir Edward Coke, a respected lawyer and one-time Chief Justice of England, who secured for him a position at Sutton's Hospital, a part of Charter House, a school in London. From there he went on to study at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, from which he graduated in 1627.

Although he had been trained for the ministry by the Church of England, Williams found it difficult to abide by the church's doctrines. To avoid persecution, he and his wife Mary (whom he had married in 1629) obtained passage aboard a ship bound for America, and arrived in Boston on February 5, 1631. After refusing an invitation to become the minister of a Boston church because that church had not officially severed its ties with the Church of England, he accepted the ministry of the church at Salem. After a brief period in Salem, he went to Plymouth, and then returned to Salem.

Always the nonconformist, Williams frequently found himself at odds with the Puritan authorities who governed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He asserted that the colony's royal charter did not justify taking land from the Indians, and declared that people should not be punished for religious differences. In October 1635, the Massachusetts General Court issued an order banishing him from the colony. In January 1636, after spending a few months "in the wilderness," Williams purchased land on Narragansett Bay from the Narragansett Indians, and established the colony of Providence.

At Providence, Williams established a government based on consent of the settlers. It provided for frequent elections, a flexible constitution, and local home rule. Each household in the colony had a voice in the government, and each received an equal share in the distribution of land. And, most importantly, he guaranteed each settler the absolute right to freedom of religion and a complete separation of state affairs from those of any church. In 1643 he went to England and secured the "Charter for the Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay," which incorporated the settlements of Providence, Newport and Portsmouth into one colony. Williams served as president of the Rhode Island Colony from 1654 to 1657, and served in various other governmental positions for most of the rest of his life.

From the moment Williams set foot in what is now Rhode Island he was known as a good and trusted friend of the Indians. He had purposefully negotiated a fair price for the land on which he established Providence, rather than simply taking it as other colonial founders had done, and as a trader he was known for treating the Indians with respect and fairness, and their trust in him helped preserve the peace for all of New England for many years. An excellent student of languages in college, he was able to learn the languages of some of the area Indian tribes, and in 1643 he published Key into the Languages of America, which can rightfully be called the first dictionary of the Narragansett language. He died in 1683.

Other works by Williams include: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644), Christenings Make Not Christians (1645), and George Foxx Digg's Out of His Burrowes (1676).


Rejects established church

Shortly before leaving England, Williams married Mary Warnard. The couple arrived in Massachusetts in 1631. Williams was invited to be an interim (temporary) pastor at a church in Boston, yet again he refused to serve. He objected that the congregation had not severed ties with the Church of England, which, as a branch of the British government, controlled religious activities in the colonies. Although New England ministers had been ordained in the Anglican Church, they held Puritan beliefs and were pursuing separation from Anglicanism. Nevertheless, Williams felt they were not sufficiently free of the English church. Therefore he and his wife settled in Salem, where he took an assignment as assistant teacher or minister.

One of Williams's first acts was to demand that Salem clergymen stop officiating at meetings (religious services) with the church congregation. He claimed that such a procedure interfered with the right of the individuals to interpret the Bible (the text that is the basis of Christianity). In addition, he forbade members of the church congregation to worship or pray with anyone, even family members, who had not under-gone "regeneration." ("Regeneration" was the term for salvation, or forgiveness of sins directly from God. The Anglican Church required members to seek forgiveness through clergymen.) Soon Williams came into conflict with authorities in Boston because of his policies. He thought it best to leave Salem, so the Williamses went to Plymouth. In 1633, after their arrival at Plymouth, Mary Williams gave birth to their first child, a daughter.


Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister - HISTORY

Roger Williams . A Brief Biography

Drypoint etching, 1936, by Arthur W. Heintzelman, commemorating the Tercentenary of the founding of Rhode Island by Roger Williams. Courtesy of Roger Williams University Archives.
ROGER WILLIAMS was born in London, circa 1603, the son of James and Alice (Pemberton) Williams. James, the son of Mark and Agnes (Audley) Williams was a "merchant Tailor" (an importer and trader) and probably a man of some importance. His will, proved 19 November 1621, left, in addition to bequests to his "loving wife, Alice," to his sons, Sydrach, Roger and Robert, and to his daughter Catherine, money and bread to the poor in various sections of London.

The will of Alice (Pemberton) Williams was admitted to probate 26 January 1634. Among other bequests, she left the sum of Ten Pounds yearly for twenty years to her son, Roger Williams, "now beyond the seas." She further provided that if Roger predeceased her, "what remaineth thereof unpaid . shall be paid to his wife and daughter.. .." Obviously, by the time of her death, Roger's mother was aware of the birth in America in 1633 of her grandchild, Mary Williams.

Roger's youth was spent in the parish of "St. Sepulchre's, without Newgate, London." While a young man, he must have been aware of the numerous burnings at the stake that had taken place at nearby Smithfield of so-called Puritans or heretics. This probably influenced his later strong beliefs in civic and religious liberty.

During his teens, Roger Williams came to the attention of Sir Edward Coke, a brilliant lawyer and one-time Chief Justice of England, through whose influence he was enrolled at Sutton's Hospital, a part of Charter House, a school in London. He next entered Pembroke College at Cambridge University from which he graduated in 1627. All of the literature currently available at Pembroke to prospective students mentions Roger Williams, his part in the Reformation, and his founding of the Colony of Rhode Island. At Pembroke, he was one of eight granted scholarships based on excellence in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Pembroke College in Providence, once the women's college of Brown University, was named after Pembroke at Cambridge in honor of Roger Williams.

In the years after he left Cambridge, Roger Williams was Chaplain to a wealthy family, and on 15 December 1629, he married MARY BARNARD at the Church of High Laver, Essex, England. Even at this time, he became a controversial figure because of his ideas on freedom of worship. And so, in 1630, ten years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Roger thought it expedient to leave England. He arrived, with Mary, on 5 February 1631 at Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their passage was aboard the ship Lyon (Lion).

He preached first at Salem, then at Plymouth, then back to Salem, always at odds with the structured Puritans. When he was about to be deported back to England, Roger fled southwest out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was befriended by local Indians and eventually settled at the headwaters of what is now Narragansett Bay, after he learned that his first settlement on the east bank of the Seekonk River was within the boundaries of the Plymouth Colony. Roger purchased land from the Narragansett Chiefs, Canonicus and Miantonomi and named his settlement Providence in thanks to God. The original deed remains in the Archives of the City of Providence. READ ABOUT MARGARET'S ROCK

Roger Williams made two trips back to England during his lifetime. The first in June or July 1643 was to obtain a Charter for his colony to forestall the attempt of neighboring colonies to take over Providence. He returned with a Charter for "the Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay" which incorporated Providence, Newport and Portsmouth. During this voyage, he produced his best-known literary work -- Key into the Languages of America , which when published in London in 1643, made him the authority on American Indians.

On his return, Roger Williams started a trading post at Cocumscussoc (now North Kingstown) where he traded with the Indians and was known for his peacemaking between the neighboring colonists and the Indians. But again colony affairs interfered, and in 1651 he sold his trading post and returned to England with John Clarke (a Newport preacher) in order to have the Charter confirmed. Because of family responsibilities, he returned sometime before 1654. John Clarke finally obtained the Royal Charter from Charles II on 8 July 1663, thereby averting further trouble with William Coddington and some colonists at Newport, who had previously obtained a charter for a separate colony.

Roger Williams was Governor of the Colony 1654 through 1658. During the later years of his life, he saw almost all of Providence burned during King Philip's War, 1675-1676. He lived to see Providence rebuilt. He continued to preach, and the Colony grew through its acceptance of settlers of all religious persuasions. The two volumes of the correspondence of Roger Williams recently published by the Rhode Island Historical Society, Glenn W. LaFantasie, Editor, present an excellent picture of his philosophy and personality. Unfortunately, there was no known painting made of him during his lifetime, although many artists and sculptors have portrayed him as they envision him.

Roger and Mary (Barnard) Williams were the parents of six children, all born in America:

1. MARY, born at Plymouth, Plymouth Colony, August 1633, died 1684 married JOHN SAYLES in 1650 six children. John and Mary Sayles lived on Aquidneck Island and are buried near Easton's Beach, Middletown, Rhode Island.

2. FREEBORN, born at Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 4 October 1635, died 10 January 1710 married first THOMAS HART, died 1671 four children. There were no children of Freeborn's second marriage to WALTER CLARKE, a Governor of Newport.

3. PROVIDENCE, born at Providence, September 1638, died March 1686 never married.

4. MERCY, born at Providence, 15 July 1640, died circa 1705 married first in 1659 RESOLVED WATERMAN, born July 1638, died August 1670 five children. Mercy married second SAMUEL WINSOR, born 1644, died 19 September 1705 three children.

5. DANIEL, born at Providence, February 1641 "counting years to begin about ye 25 of March so yt he was borne above a year & half after Mercy (Carpenter, Roger Williams), died 14 May 1712 married 7 December 1676 REBECCA (RHODES) POWER, died 1727, widow of Nicholas Power six children.

6. JOSEPH, born at Providence, 12 December 1643, died 17 August 1724 married LYDIA OLNEY, born 1645, died 9 September 1724 six children.

Roger Williams died at Providence between 16 January and 16 April 1683/84, his wife Mary having predeceased him in 1676. His descendants have contributed in many ways, first to the establishment of an independent Colony, later to the establishment of an independent state in a united nation. The United States of America has maintained the reality of separation of church and state which Roger Williams envisioned, and ordained in his settlement at Providence.

Sources: Carpenter, Edmund J., Litt.D., Roger Williams , New York, 1909 Anthony, Bertha W., Roger Williams of Providence , RI, Vol. II, Cranston, RI, 1966 Haley, John Williams, The Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island , Vol. IV, Providence, 1944 Hall, May Emery, Roger Williams , Boston, 1917.

Master Roger Williams, A Biography (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1957) by Ola Elizabeth Winslow. Purchase this book.

Roger Williams, A Contribution to the American Tradition (The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc, Indianapolis and New York, 1953) by Perry Miller. Purchase this book.

The Irrepressible Democrat, Roger Williams (The Ronald Press Company, New York, 1940) by Samuel Brockunier.

Roger Williams, New England Firebrand (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1932) by James Ernst.

The Correspondence of Roger Williams (Brown University Press, Providence, 1988) by Glenn W. LaFantasie. Purchase this book.


© Copyright 1997-2021 Roger Williams Family Association. All rights reserved.


Later Life and Death

In the 1670s, relations with Native Americans deteriorated rapidly, despite Williams best efforts. In 1675, King Philip’s War broke out in various parts of New England over settlers’ land annexation and the disease that was decimating the Native American population. Though in his 70s, Williams was elected captain of the Providence militia and bitterly witnessed his efforts at reconciliation fail when the town was burned in March 1676.

But Williams lived to see Providence rebuilt, and while he continued to preach he saw the Rhode Island colony grow and prosper. Williams died in the early months of 1683, almost completely unnoticed by the local people. He was buried on his property and his farm turned to decay. Nearly two centuries later, attempts were made to find his grave, but only an old tree root was discovered. It is now housed at the Rhode Island Historical Society. 

However, William&aposs legacy grew strong during the early days of the American Revolution, as people came to appreciate the value of religious freedom and the “wall of separation” embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Rhode Island’s "Lively Experiment"

Under the terms of its founding Charter, Rhode Island stood alone among the colonies in its desire to "hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil State may stand and best be maintained, with a full liberty of religious concernments."

Roger Williams and his followers were convinced that religion was a matter of conscience between an individual and his God, not the government. The founding documents for Providence, Rhode Island indicate a clear division between the public, civil realm and the private world of belief:


Slavery and Native Relations

Roger Williams, like William Penn, developed excellent relations with the natives. He treated them fairly and bought the land from them rather than acquiring it through war or other means that would offend the natives. Unfortunately, much of his work would not survive King Philip&rsquos War.

King Philip&rsquos War pitted the colonists against Indians with whom Williams had good relations in the past. Williams, although in his 70s, was elected captain of Providence&rsquos militia. That war proved to be one of the bitterest events in his life, as his efforts ended with the burning of Providence in March 1676, including his own house.

The same would happen with slavery. Roger Williams was progressive in his ideas against slavery which was popular around much of the old world. When Massachusetts Bay Colony legalized the slave trade their laws were quickly adopted by Connecticut and Plymouth. Rhode Island did not adopt the trade and established laws that would prohibit the slave trade. After his death, Rhode Island became a large port for the African slave trade.


Rev. Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode Island

Roger Williams was the founder of the colony of Rhode Island. Roger Williams was Governor of the Colony 1654 through 1658.

Rhode Island's first permanent settlement (Providence Plantations) was established at Providence in 1636 by English clergyman Roger Williams and a small band of followers who had left the repressive atmosphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to seek freedom of worship. Narragansett Indian Sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi granted Williams a sizable tract of land for his new village. Roger Williams named this land “Providence”, in tribute to “God’s merciful providence unto me in my distresse”. The word “Plantations” is an old English term meaning “new settlement or colony”. Other noncomformists followed Williams to the Narragansett Bay area and founded the towns of Portsmouth (1638), Newport (1639) and Warwick (1642). Because titles to these lands rested only on Indians deeds, neighboring colonies began to covet them. To meet this threat, Roger Williams journeyed to England and secured a parliamentary patent in March 1643-44 uniting the four towns into a single colony and confirming his fellow settlers' land claims. This legislative document served adequately as a basic law until the Stuart Restoration of 1660 made it wise to seek a royal charter.

The Royal Charter granted by King Charles the Second in 1663. Dr. John Clarke was commissioned to secure a document from the new king, Charles II, that would both be consistent with the religious principles upon which the tiny colony was founded and also safeguard Rhode Island lands from encroachment by speculators and greedy neighbors. He succeeded admirably. The royal charter of 1663 guaranteed complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with total autonomy, and strengthened Rhode Island's territorial claims. It was the most liberal charter to be issued by the mother country during the entire colonial era, a fact that enabled it to serve as Rhode Island's basic law until May 1843. The present name of the state, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, was officially adopted in the Royal Charter of 1663.

“Rhode Island” – In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano compares what we now call Block Island to the Island of Rhodes.

“Providence Plantations” – In 1636, Roger Williams receives land at the head of Narragansett Bay from the Indian Sachems (chiefs) Canonicus and Miantonomi. Williams names this land “Providence” in tribute to God’s merciful providence towards him after his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He and his followers then establish the settlement called “Providence Plantations”. The word “Plantations” is and old English term meaning “new settlement or colony”.

Statue of Roger Williams In the National Statuary Hall Of the United States Capitol Roger Williams: English clergyman who, in 1636, left the repressive atmosphere fostered by the puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to found the first permanent European settlement in Rhode Island. This settlement, called “Providence Plantations” was the first organized colony in America to be founded on the principles of freedom of thought and worship.

  1. Name: Roger WILLIAMS
  2. Sex: M
  3. Birth: ABT 1604 in London, England
  4. Death: 1684 in Providence, Providence, R.I.
  5. Note:

Marriage 1 Mary BARNARD b: ABT 1609

Founder - Baptist Church in America

Roger Williams of l"rovldence was a son of James and Alice (1'emberton) Williams and a brother of Sidrach Williams of London.

Roger Williams, founder of the city of Providence, was an early American statesman and leader who championed the great underlying ideas of modern democracy.

By 1643, settlements existed in Providence, Newport, Portsmouth and Warwick. Faced with encroachments from Massachusetts and Connecticut, Williams sailed to England to obtain a charter for the new Rhode Island colony. The charter he received granted independence "comfortable to the laws of England and liberty of the conscience". When efforts were made to revoke this charter, Williams returned to England to have it confirmed. King Charles II granted Rhode Island a favorable new charter "to hold forth a lively experiment that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty of religious concernments".

Because of his policy of complete religious toleration, Rhode Island became a haven for refugees from bigotry. Most notable among these were the Quakers from Boston. When the Narragansett Tribe joined the King Philip War in 1675, Williams served as captain of the forces defending Providence. Thereafter, he participated in the politics of the colony until his death in 1683. He is remembered as one of the notable champions of democracy and religious freedom in the colonies.

Little is known of the early history of Roger Williams except that he attracted the attention of Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, by his skill in taking down shorthand sermons and long speeches. Years later Mrs. Sadler (daughter of Sir Edward Coke) appended the following note to one of Roger Williams' letters to herself. "This Roger Williams, when he was a youth, would in a short hand take sermons and speeches in the Star Chamber, and presented them to my dear father. He, seeing so hopeful a youth, took such liking to him that he sent him into Sutton's Hospital," etc. He was sent by the great lawyer to Sutton Hospital in 1621, now known as the Charterhouse School. According to the school's custom with capable students, he received a modest allowance which enabled him to further his education at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge University, where he received the degree of A.B. in 1627. He mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Dutch languages.

He took orders in the Church of England and in 1629 accepted the post of chaplain to Sir William Masham at his manor house at Otes in Essex. His courtship of Jane Whalley was brought to an abrupt termination by the disapproval of her aunt, Lady Barrington. Stung by the rejection, the young clergyman became ill of fever and was nursed back to health by Mary Barnard, a member of Lady Masham's household. She is believed to have been the daughter of the Rev. Richard Barnard in Nottinghamshire. Rogers Williams and Mary Barnard were married at High Laver Church in Essex on December 15 1629.

On December 1, 1630, he and his wife boarded the ship Lyon sailing for New England. After fifty-seven days of a storm-wracked voyage, they anchored off Nantasket on February 3, 1631 and arrived in Boston on the 5th. His arrival in America was duly noted by the MA Bay Colony Governor, John Winthrop, in his carefully kept diary. Winthrop described Williams as a "godly minister" and it is certain the young clergyman was welcome in the new colony in Boston. The young minister's intellect and position were perfectly combined to attract attention in the Puritan community. Even his most bitter critics in later years openly acknowledged their affection and respect for him as an individual. Two months later he was called as minister to Salem, having refused to join with the congregation at Boston. The startled Boston elders were told he would not serve a congregation that recognized the Church of England. Roger Williams had become a separatist. This enraged the Boston magistrates and pressure by them on the Salem authorities caused him to leave there in late summer and go to Plymouth. Here he was made welcome by the Separatist Pilgrims and was admitted as a member of the church. He remained with them for two years. During his stay, Williams made the most of his contact with the natives of the region. His bold respect for the Indians' dignity as men and his willingness to deal with them on a basis of equality won their lasting friendship.

Although the Pilgrims were more tolerant than the Boston Puritans, they found some of Roger Williams' thinking too advanced for them. Williams returned to Salem in 1633. He was soon in difficulties with the MA Bay authorities for publicly proclaiming that their charter was invalid, since the king had no right to give away lands belonging to the Indians. He also denounced them for forcing religious uniformity upon the colonists. He believed in what he called "soul-liberty", which meant that every man had the complete right to enjoy freedom of opinion on the subject of religion. In 1635 he was ordered by the General Court to be banished from Massachusetts and threatened with deportation to England if he did not renounce his convictions. "Whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of the Elders of the church of Salem, hath broached and divulged new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates, as also written letters of defamation, both of the magistrates and churches here, and that before any conviction, and yet maintaineth the same without any retraction it is, therefore, ordered that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now next ensuing," etc. He received permission to remain till spring, but the Court hearing that he would not refrain from uttering his opinions and that many people went to his house, "taken with an apprehension of his Godliness," and that he was preparing to form a plantation about Narragansett Bay: resolved to send him to England. Warned by John Winthrop, he hastily bade his wife and baby daughters goodbye and sought santuary with his Indian friends in the Narragansett country. A messenger was sent to Salem to apprehend him, but when the officers "came to his house, they found he had gone three days before, but whither they could not learn." He wrote, thirty-five years after his banishment, "I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weeks in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bed or bread did mean."

Roger Williams was warmly received by Massasoit and Canonicus, chiefs of Indian tribes, the former of whom gave him a tract of land on the Seekonk river. He commenced to plant, when he was advised by Governor Winslow that he was within the limits of Plymouth Colony. He accordingly embarked in the spring or early summer, with five companions, landed at Slate Rock (as since called) to exchange greetings with the Indians, and then pursued his way again by boat to the site of his new settlement on the Moshassuck River, which for the many "Providences of the Most Holy and Only Wise, I called Providence." No one was refused admittance because of his religious convictions or practice. He says of this purchase, "I spared no cost towards them in tokens and presents to Canonicus and all his, many years before I came in person to the Narragansett and when I came I was welcome to the old prince Canonicus, who was most shy of all English to his last breath." He founded Rhode Island in the form of a pure democracy, where the will of the majority should govern the state. It became a haven for Quakers, Jews and others fleeing from persecution. In 1639 Roger Williams joined the Baptist faith and founded the first Baptist church in America. However, within a few months he withdrew from this group and became a "Seeker".

This same year his mediation at the request of MA prevented a coalition of the Pequots with the Narragansetts and Mohegans. He wrote of this service in later years: "Three days and nights my business forced me to lodge and mix with the bloody Pequot ambassadors, whose hands and arms methought reeked with the blood of my countrymen murdered and massacred by them on Connecticut River."

In 1643 he went to England to obtain a charter to unite Providence with the settlements of Warwick, Newport and Portsmouth, which were coveted by MA Bay, Plymouth and CT. On the voyage wrote his Key to the Indian Languages. In his dedication he says, "A little key may open a box where lies a bunch of keys." The charter he obtained proved to be very important as it was indisputable for the next 20 years. Indian troubles continued to increase in the colonies and Roger Williams was called upon to mediate these difficulties. He had established a trading post near Wickford, which he operated very successfully, living there for long periods at a time, while still maintaining his homestead in Providence.

In 1651 it was necessary for him to return to England to confirm the charter of 1644. He sold the trading post to finance the voyage. While in London, he published Experiments of Spiritual Life, and Health and their Preservation, which he dedicated : "To the truly honorable the Lady Vane." He says of this work that he wrote it "in the thickest of the naked Indians of America, in their very wild houses and by their barbarous fires."

He wrote to his wife while abroad. "My dearest love and companion in this vale of tears," congratulating himself and her upon her recovery from recent illness: "I send thee, though in winter, a handful of flowers made up in a little posy, for thy dear selft and our dear children to look and smell on, when I, as grass of the field, shall be gone and withered." 1 Apr 1653 - He wrote a letter to his friends and neighbors in Providence and Warwick, from Sir Henry Vane's at Belleau in Lincolnshire, relative to the confirmation of the charter accured by Vane's mediation, charging them to dwell in peace, etc., and in a postscript adds: "My love to all my Indian friends."

At home in Providence after an absence of nearly 3 years, he became President of the colony, which office he held from 1654 to 1658. Roger Williams was made Freeman in1655 served as Commissioner in 1658, 1659 and 1661 Deputy in 1670, 1678, 1679 and 1680 and on the Town Council. 1675-76.

Despite all his efforts to avert it, war with the Indians broke out in 1676. Known as King Philip's War, it was a tragedy alike for white men and red. Providence had for years been spared the arrow and the firebrand because of his presence there, but finally, the city was threatened with destruction. Bravely, Roger Williams went out, alone and unarmed, to met the invaders, but for once his arguments failed. He was told that because he was an honest man not a hair of his head would be harmed, but that the city should be burned. Providence was burned on Mar 26 1676.

On May 6, 1682, he wrote Governor Bradstreet, calling himself "old and weak and bruised (with rupture and colic) and lameness on both my feet." He proceeds: "By my fireside I have recollected the discourses, which (by many tedious journeys) I have had with the scattered English at Narragansett before the war and since. I have reduced them unto these twenty-two heads (enclosed) which is near thirty sheets of my writing. I would send them to the Narragansetts and others ther is no controversy in them, only an endeavour of a particular match of each poor sinner to his maker." He asks advice as to printing it, and alludes to news of Shaftsbury and Howard's beheading and contrary news of their reprieve, etc. "But these are but sublunaries, temporaries and trivials. Eternity, O Eternity, is our business."

The precise date of his death is unknown, but it occurred sometime between January 16 and March 16 1683. He was buried in the orchard in the rear of his homestead lot. Many years later, his remains were disinterred and placed in the tomb of a descendant in the North Burial Ground. In 1936 they were sealed within a bronze container and set into the base of the monument erected to his memory on Prospect Terrace.

Roger Williams was born circa 1604 at England he married Mary Barnard 15 Dec 1629 in England he died 1683 at Providence, RI.

Roger Williams was the founder of the colony of Rhode Island.

The children of Roger Williams and Mary Barnard were:

Rhode Island's first permanent settlement (Providence Plantations) was established at Providence in 1636 by English clergyman Roger Williams and a small band of followers who had left the repressive atmosphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to seek freedom of worship. Narragansett Indian Sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi granted Williams a sizable tract of land for his new village. Roger Williams named this land “Providence”, in tribute to “God’s merciful providence unto me in my distresse”. The word “Plantations” is an old English term meaning “new settlement or colony”. Other noncomformists followed Williams to the Narragansett Bay area and founded the towns of Portsmouth (1638), Newport (1639) and Warwick (1642). Because titles to these lands rested only on Indians deeds, neighboring colonies began to covet them. To meet this threat, Roger Williams journeyed to England and secured a parliamentary patent in March 1643-44 uniting the four towns into a single colony and confirming his fellow settlers' land claims. This legislative document served adequately as a basic law until the Stuart Restoration of 1660 made it wise to seek a royal charter.

The Royal Charter granted by King Charles the Second in 1663. Dr. John Clarke was commissioned to secure a document from the new king, Charles II, that would both be consistent with the religious principles upon which the tiny colony was founded and also safeguard Rhode Island lands from encroachment by speculators and greedy neighbors. He succeeded admirably. The royal charter of 1663 guaranteed complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with total autonomy, and strengthened Rhode Island's territorial claims. It was the most liberal charter to be issued by the mother country during the entire colonial era, a fact that enabled it to serve as Rhode Island's basic law until May 1843. The present name of the state, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, was officially adopted in the Royal Charter of 1663.

“Rhode Island” – In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano compares what we now call Block Island to the Island of Rhodes.

“Providence Plantations” – In 1636, Roger Williams receives land at the head of Narragansett Bay from the Indian Sachems (chiefs) Canonicus and Miantonomi. Williams names this land “Providence” in tribute to God’s merciful providence towards him after his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He and his followers then establish the settlement called “Providence Plantations”. The word “Plantations” is and old English term meaning “new settlement or colony”.

Statue of Roger Williams In the National Statuary Hall Of the United States Capitol Roger Williams: English clergyman who, in 1636, left the repressive atmosphere fostered by the puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to found the first permanent European settlement in Rhode Island. This settlement, called “Providence Plantations” was the first organized colony in America to be founded on the principles of freedom of thought and worship.

  1. Name: Roger WILLIAMS
  2. Sex: M
  3. Birth: ABT 1604 in London, England
  4. Death: 1684 in Providence, Providence, R.I.
  5. Note:

My Ancestors: In Memory of John Paine and Mary Ann May of East Woodstock, Connecticut

This book contains the history and genealogy of the Paine family of Connecticut.

ROGER WILLIAMS was son of James Williams and Alice Pemberton of London. He was born in Wales about 1600 and received a good education, taking a bachelor's degree at Pembroke College, Cambridge, Jany. 1627. He embarked at Bristol Dec. 1, 1630 in the "Lion" and arrived in Boston Feby. 5, 1631. In noting the event Winthrop calls him "a godly minister." He settled at Salem Apl. 12, 1631, went to Plymouth soon after as assistant pastor, but returned in 1633 and became pastor on the death of the Rev. Skelton 1634. He declined a unanimous call to the church in Boston because they would not make public declaration of repentance for having communed with the churches of England. He was excommunicated in 1635 from the church in Salem for not bringing his children to baptism.

In Apl. 1635 he was summoned to court in Boston for teaching publicly that a magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man. Oct. 9, 1635 he was sentenced to banishment and ordered "out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now next ensuing." He received permission to remain until spring, but would not refrain from uttering his opinions. A messenger was sent to Salem to arrest him in Jany. 1636, but he had gone three days before. Thirty-five years after he wrote: "I was sorely tossed for over fourteen weeks in a bitter winter season not knowing what bed or bread did mean."

He bought land for a new settlement from Canonicus and Miantonomoh, which he named "Providence." In 1639 he was baptized by Ezekiel Holliman, and then baptized him and others, and for a few years acted as pastor of the First Baptist Church. In 1643 he proceeded to England to secure a charter, which he obtained, returning Sept. 17, 1644. He was Assistant in 1647-48-64-65-70-71-72. In 1651 he went to England again and the next year published "Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health, and their Preservation

He returned in 1654 and was chosen President of the Colony, and for three years after. He was a Commissioner in 1658-59-61, Deputy in 1667 and Town Clerk in 1675-76 and of the Town Council 1670-78-79-80.

In 1682, May 6 he wrote Gov. Bradstreet asking advice as to printing his discourses, etc. "But these are but sublunaries, temporaries and trivials. Eternity, O Eternity, is our business." The sentence of banishment was revoked March 31, 1676.

He married, about the time of his coming to America, Mary Barnard. She died in 1676, and he survived until 1683.

Mary b. Aug. 1633 d. 1681 m. John Sayl

Freeborn b. Oct. 1635 d. 1710, Jany. 10 m. Thomas Hart,

Providence b. 1638, Sept. d. Mar. 1686 unm.

Mercy b. July, 1640 d. 1705 m. Resolved Waterman,

Daniel b. Feby. 1642 d. May 14, 1712 m. Rebecca Powers

Joseph b. Dec. 12, 1643 d. Aug. 17, 1724 m. Lydia Oln

Roger Williams was a radical Puritan thinker and founder of the colony of Rhode Island. Intellectually brilliant, he graduated (1627) from Cambridge and was ordained in the Church of England. His developing Puritanism, however, alienated him from the church and in the first year of the Puritan migration to New England, he left England with family, arriving at Boston in 1631. He refused the ministry of the Boston congregation because it had not formally separated from the English church. Hemoved to Salem, to Plymouth, and back to Salem, arousing controversy withhis strange opinions. He insisted that the lands given to Massachusetts and Plymouth belonged to the Indians and denied that government could enforce religious laws. The rulers of Puritan Mass expelled Williams from the colony and he fled to the Indians on Narragansett Bay. He bought land and named the tiny settlement Providence.

Williams made Rhode Island a haven for heterodoxy. He secured a patent for the colony from Parliament, helped establish a representative government with complete religious freedom, was governor of the colony from 1654-1657. He helped to found the first Baptist congregation in America, and his work among the Indians earned their friendship and loyalty. He wrote several published papers.

BRYANT, Thomas, Descendants of: SOME DESCENDANTS OF THOMAS BRYANT OF CHESTER COUNTY, PA. From Research by MIRIAM L. LUKE and FRANCES L. FERGUSON

Compiled by MIRIAM L. LUKE, G.R.S. Published by UNIGRAPHIC, INC. 1977

ROGER WILLIAMS, founder of the Province of Rhode Island, was born c. 1603, Cow Lane (Snowhill) Parish of St. Sepulchres, without Newgate in London. His father, James Williams, a merchant tailor of London, died late in 1621, leaving his wife Alice (Pemberton) Williams (Bapt. 18 Feb. 1564, daughter of Robert Pemberton) and 4 children: Catherine, Sydrach, Roger and Robert. (For ancestry of Alice (Pemberton) Williams, see New England Register, Vols. 43, 47, 78 & 97).

Roger Williams was placed by the great English lawyer and justice, Sir Edward Coke, in Charterhouse School in 1621, and later in Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took a degree. He was admitted to Orders in the Church of England, but adopting Puritan doctrines he sailed from Bristol 1 Dec. 1630 on the "Lion", and arrived at Boston 5 Feb 1631. For the next four years he lived at Salem and in Plymouth colony but, although an eloquent preacher, he became such a disturbing element through his different theological and political beliefs that in Oct. 1635 he was ordered to quit the Colony.

He and his followers settled at Providence, R.I. in June 1636. In 1643 he went to England and obtained a charter for R.I. dated 14 Mar. 1644. Upon his return from his second trip to England he was chosen president of the colony 12 Sept. 1654, which office he held until 1658. In 1663 a new charter was granted R.I. under which Benedict Arnold (not the traitor of the American Revolution) was first Governor, and Williams an assistant, and for the next fourteen years he was either a representative or assistant. He was buried in Providence sometime between 16 Jan. 1682 and 25 Apr. 1683. Under his influence R.l. strictly upheld religious tolerance, including the Quakers he made treaties with Indians saving New England from Indian wars, although he had no influence over the King Philips War of 1675/6. It is

said in private life he was as gentle and kind as he was undaunted and pugnacious in controversy. He married 15 Dec. 1629 at High Laver, Essex Co., Eng., Mary Barnard, baptized 24 Sept. 1609 at Worksop, who was a "gentle waiting woman" to Joan Altham at Otes, High Laver. She was the daughter of Rev. Richard Barnard. (See New England Register, Vol. 63) Roger and Mary (Barnard) Williams were parents of Mary, Freeborn, Providence, Mercy, Daniel & Joseph. Their eldest daughter, Mary, born in Aug. 1633 at Plymouth, Mass. died at Middleton, R.I. in 1681 about 1650 she married John Sayles.

References: "Williams & Allied Families" in Americana, Vol. 29 J. N. Arnold, Vital Records of R.I.

Colonial Families, Vol. l J. O. Austin, Genealogical Dictionary of R. I.

In a note from Maureen Bianchi, dated 16 May 2001:

Just found a new book in the public library here that might be of

interest. Title: I, Roger Williams - a Fragment of Autobiography by

Mary Lee Settle copyright: 2001 ISBN 0-393-04905-1

It is as titled. Suppose to be historical fiction. Reads as in his own

writing. Not easy reading, but fascinating. At least for those of us

"God gave me my birth in Cow Lane over against Smithfield in St.

Sepulchre parish of Farrenden Without beyond the old walls of the city.

Though it was but a ten-minute walk even with dawldling to Paul's Cross

before the cathedral right in the middle of London. It was the year of

the old queen's (Elizabeth) death. There was a plague in the city. The

new king, James, who they said was as poor as a church mouse, came down

from Edinburg and was so impatient to see his new wealth that he slipped

into London with a kerchief around his face and a posy of medicine

flowers at his nose to keep the plague away so he could play with the

I grew to boyhood in Long Lane, where my parents had gone up in the

world. it was a tall narrow gabled house that I still see. It was

four stories high, counting its attic, the tallest the law allowed, and

the ceilings lowered and lowered as I climbed up the steeep stairs. On

the ground floor was my father's tailor's shop, only he pointed out

always that he was a Merchant tailor, not a simple cutter or sewer, and

as he said so often in his cups, a member of the Merchant Tailor Company

and I must never forget it. Across the street my mother owned the

Harrow, the finest tavern, she said, in all of Farrenden."

"My father let me stay to school until I was fourteen and thought to

apprentice me to a scrivener to harness. " "Sir Edward Coke, that

great man, called me to him. . needing one who could use secret

shorthand and who knew Latin, French, and Dutch. "

I find the following document at this site:

When, in the spring of 1636, Roger Williams and his twelve companions, sad, weary, and hungry, succeeded in passing beyond the boundary of the Plymouth colony, they found themselves in the country of the Narragansett Indians. Here the simple story of their unhappy condition excited the pity of Canonicus, chief of the tribe, who granted them "all that neck of land lying between the mouths of Pawtucket and Moshasuck rivers, that they might sit down in peace upon it and enjoy it forever." Here, as

Williams observed to his companions, "The Providence of God had found out a place for them among savages, where they might peaceably worship God according to their consciences a privilege which had been denied them in all the Christian countries they had ever been in."

As Williams denied the right of the King to the lands, but believed it to be in the Indian occupants, and that the proper course to obtain it was by just and honorable purchase from them, the policy adopted was one of justice and equity.

It appears from certain statements in the "Confirmatory deed ofRoger Williams and his wife" to his associates, December 20, 1638, that he had arranged for purchase of lands from the Indians

one or two years in advance of his arrival in the territory. As an examination of this deed is necessary to a clear understanding of

Williams' first steps in this direction, it is given here:

Be it known unto all men by these presents, that I, Roger Williams, of the Towne of Providence, in the Narragansett Bay, in

New England, having in the yeare one thousand six hundred and thirty-foure, and in the yeare one thousand six hundred and

thirty-five, had severall treaties with Conanicusse and Miantonome, the chief sachems of the Narragansetts, and in the end

purchased of them the lands and meadows upon the two ffresh rivers called Mooshassick and Wanasquatucket the two said

sachems having by a deed under their hands two yeares after the sale thereof established and conffirmed the boundes of these

landes from the river and ffields of Pawtuckqut and the great hill of Neotaconconitt on the northwest, and the towne of

Mashapauge on the west, notwithstanding I had the frequent promise of Miantenomy my kind friend, that it should not be land

that I should want about these bounds mentioned, provided that I satisfied the Indians there inhabiting, I having made covenantes of peaceable neighborhood with all the sachems and natives round about us. And having in a sense of God's mercifull providence unto me in my distresse, called the place Providence, I desired it might be for a shelter for persons distressed of conscience I then, considering the condition of divers of my distressed countrymen, I communicated my said purchase unto my loving ffriends John Throckmorton, William Arnold, William Harris, Stukely Westcott, John Greene, senior,

Thomas Olney, senior, Richard Waterman and others who then desired to take shelter here with me, and in succession unto so many others as we should receive into the fellowship and societye enjoying and disposing of the said purchase and besides the ffirst that were admitted, our towne records declare that afterwards wee received Chad Brown, William ffeild, Thomas Harris, sen'r, William Wickenden, Robert Williams, Gregory Dexter and others, as our towne booke declares. And whereas, by God's mercifull assistance, I was the procurer of the purchase, not by monies nor payment, the natives being so shy and jealous, that monies could not doe it but by that language, acquaintance, and favour with the natives and other advantages which it pleased God to give me, and also bore the charges and venture of all the gratuetyes which I gave to the great sachems, and other sachems and natives round and about us, and lay ingaged for a loving and peaceable neighbourhood with them all to my great charge and travell. It was, therefore, thought by some loveing ffriends, that I should receive some loving consideration and

gratuitye and it was agreed between us, that every person that should be admitted into the ffellowship of injoying landes and disposing of the purchase, should pay thirtye shillinges into the public stock and ffirst about thirtye poundes should be paid unto myselfe by thirty shillings a person, as they were admitted. This sum I received in love to my ffriends and with respect to a towne and place of succor for the distressed as aforesaid, I doe acknowledge the said sum and payment as ffull satisffaction.

And whereas in the year one thousand six hundred and thirtye seaven, so called, I delivered the deed subscribed by the two aforesaid chiefe sachems, so much thereof as concerneth the aforementioned landes ffrom myselfe and my heirs unto the whole number of the purchasers, with all my poweres right and title therein, reserving only unto myselfe one single share equall unto any of the rest of that number, I now againe in a more fformal way, under my hand and seal, conffirm my fformer resignation of that deed of the landes aforesaid, and bind myselfe, my heirs, my executors, my administrators and assignes never to molest any of the said persons already received or hereafter to be received into the societye of purchasers as aforesaid, but they, theire heires, executors, administrators and assignes, shall at all times quietly and peaceably injoy the premises and every part thereof.1

(Note: This document is quite long only a portion is included here.)

Marriage 1 Mary BARNARD b: ABT 1609

1. Has Children Mary WILLIAMS b: AUG 1633

2. Has No Children Freeborn WILLIAMS b: 4 OCT 1635 in Salem, MA

3. Has No Children Providence WILLIAMS b: SEP 1638 in Providence, Providence, R.I.

4. Has Children Mercy WILLIAMS b: 15 JUL 1640 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island

5. Has Children Daniel WILLIAMS b: 15 FEB 1642 in Providence, Providence, R.I.

6. Has Children Joseph WILLIAMS b: 12 DEC 1643 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island

Founder - Baptist Church in America

Roger Williams of l"rovldence was a son of James and Alice (1'emberton) Williams and a brother of Sidrach Williams of London.

Roger Williams, founder of the city of Providence, was an early American statesman and leader who championed the great underlying ideas of modern democracy.

Born in London around 1603 into a merchant tailor's family, Roger Williams studied law and theology at Cambridge University. As a young minister, his opposition to the established church led him to leave England 1631. He settled in Boston where he continued to challenge the religious order. In the winter of 1635, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his dissident beliefs. He founded Providence at the tip of Narragansett Bay in the spring of 1632.

By 1643, settlements existed in Providence, Newport, Portsmouth and Warwick. Faced with encroachments from Massachusetts and Connecticut, Williams sailed to England to obtain a charter for the new Rhode Island colony. The charter he received granted independence "comfortable to the laws of England and liberty of the conscience". When efforts were made to revoke this charter, Williams returned to England to have it confirmed. King Charles II granted Rhode Island a favorable new charter "to hold forth a lively experiment that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty of religious concernments".

Because of his policy of complete religious toleration, Rhode Island became a haven for refugees from bigotry. Most notable among these were the Quakers from Boston. When the Narragansett Tribe joined the King Philip War in 1675, Williams served as captain of the forces defending Providence. Thereafter, he participated in the politics of the colony until his death in 1683. He is remembered as one of the notable champions of democracy and religious freedom in the colonies.

Roger Williams, founder of Providence, Rhode Island was born in London, England about 1603. This is an estimated date as the parish records of St. Sepulchre's Church where he was christened were destroyed in the Great London Fire in 1666. He was one of the four children of James Williams, merchant tailor, and his wife Alice, the daughter of Robert and Catherine (Stokes) Pemberton of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. Roger grew up in the old Holborn section of London, near the great Smithfield plain, where fairs were held and religious dissenters were burned at the stake.

Little is known of the early history of Roger Williams except that he attracted the attention of Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, by his skill in taking down shorthand sermons and long speeches. Years later Mrs. Sadler (daughter of Sir Edward Coke) appended the following note to one of Roger Williams' letters to herself. "This Roger Williams, when he was a youth, would in a short hand take sermons and speeches in the Star Chamber, and presented them to my dear father. He, seeing so hopeful a youth, took such liking to him that he sent him into Sutton's Hospital," etc. He was sent by the great lawyer to Sutton Hospital in 1621, now known as the Charterhouse School. According to the school's custom with capable students, he received a modest allowance which enabled him to further his education at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge University, where he received the degree of A.B. in 1627. He mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Dutch languages.

He took orders in the Church of England and in 1629 accepted the post of chaplain to Sir William Masham at his manor house at Otes in Essex. His courtship of Jane Whalley was brought to an abrupt termination by the disapproval of her aunt, Lady Barrington. Stung by the rejection, the young clergyman became ill of fever and was nursed back to health by Mary Barnard, a member of Lady Masham's household. She is believed to have been the daughter of the Rev. Richard Barnard in Nottinghamshire. Rogers Williams and Mary Barnard were married at High Laver Church in Essex on December 15 1629.

On December 1, 1630, he and his wife boarded the ship Lyon sailing for New England. After fifty-seven days of a storm-wracked voyage, they anchored off Nantasket on February 3, 1631 and arrived in Boston on the 5th. His arrival in America was duly noted by the MA Bay Colony Governor, John Winthrop, in his carefully kept diary. Winthrop described Williams as a "godly minister" and it is certain the young clergyman was welcome in the new colony in Boston. The young minister's intellect and position were perfectly combined to attract attention in the Puritan community. Even his most bitter critics in later years openly acknowledged their affection and respect for him as an individual. Two months later he was called as minister to Salem, having refused to join with the congregation at Boston. The startled Boston elders were told he would not serve a congregation that recognized the Church of England. Roger Williams had become a separatist. This enraged the Boston magistrates and pressure by them on the Salem authorities caused him to leave there in late summer and go to Plymouth. Here he was made welcome by the Separatist Pilgrims and was admitted as a member of the church. He remained with them for two years. During his stay, Williams made the most of his contact with the natives of the region. His bold respect for the Indians' dignity as men and his willingness to deal with them on a basis of equality won their lasting friendship.

Although the Pilgrims were more tolerant than the Boston Puritans, they found some of Roger Williams' thinking too advanced for them. Williams returned to Salem in 1633. He was soon in difficulties with the MA Bay authorities for publicly proclaiming that their charter was invalid, since the king had no right to give away lands belonging to the Indians. He also denounced them for forcing religious uniformity upon the colonists. He believed in what he called "soul-liberty", which meant that every man had the complete right to enjoy freedom of opinion on the subject of religion. In 1635 he was ordered by the General Court to be banished from Massachusetts and threatened with deportation to England if he did not renounce his convictions. "Whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of the Elders of the church of Salem, hath broached and divulged new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates, as also written letters of defamation, both of the magistrates and churches here, and that before any conviction, and yet maintaineth the same without any retraction it is, therefore, ordered that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now next ensuing," etc. He received permission to remain till spring, but the Court hearing that he would not refrain from uttering his opinions and that many people went to his house, "taken with an apprehension of his Godliness," and that he was preparing to form a plantation about Narragansett Bay: resolved to send him to England. Warned by John Winthrop, he hastily bade his wife and baby daughters goodbye and sought santuary with his Indian friends in the Narragansett country. A messenger was sent to Salem to apprehend him, but when the officers "came to his house, they found he had gone three days before, but whither they could not learn." He wrote, thirty-five years after his banishment, "I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weeks in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bed or bread did mean."

Roger Williams was warmly received by Massasoit and Canonicus, chiefs of Indian tribes, the former of whom gave him a tract of land on the Seekonk river. He commenced to plant, when he was advised by Governor Winslow that he was within the limits of Plymouth Colony. He accordingly embarked in the spring or early summer, with five companions, landed at Slate Rock (as since called) to exchange greetings with the Indians, and then pursued his way again by boat to the site of his new settlement on the Moshassuck River, which for the many "Providences of the Most Holy and Only Wise, I called Providence." No one was refused admittance because of his religious convictions or practice. He says of this purchase, "I spared no cost towards them in tokens and presents to Canonicus and all his, many years before I came in person to the Narragansett and when I came I was welcome to the old prince Canonicus, who was most shy of all English to his last breath." He founded Rhode Island in the form of a pure democracy, where the will of the majority should govern the state. It became a haven for Quakers, Jews and others fleeing from persecution. In 1639 Roger Williams joined the Baptist faith and founded the first Baptist church in America. However, within a few months he withdrew from this group and became a "Seeker".

This same year his mediation at the request of MA prevented a coalition of the Pequots with the Narragansetts and Mohegans. He wrote of this service in later years: "Three days and nights my business forced me to lodge and mix with the bloody Pequot ambassadors, whose hands and arms methought reeked with the blood of my countrymen murdered and massacred by them on Connecticut River."

In 1643 he went to England to obtain a charter to unite Providence with the settlements of Warwick, Newport and Portsmouth, which were coveted by MA Bay, Plymouth and CT. On the voyage wrote his Key to the Indian Languages. In his dedication he says, "A little key may open a box where lies a bunch of keys." The charter he obtained proved to be very important as it was indisputable for the next 20 years. Indian troubles continued to increase in the colonies and Roger Williams was called upon to mediate these difficulties. He had established a trading post near Wickford, which he operated very successfully, living there for long periods at a time, while still maintaining his homestead in Providence.

In 1651 it was necessary for him to return to England to confirm the charter of 1644. He sold the trading post to finance the voyage. While in London, he published Experiments of Spiritual Life, and Health and their Preservation, which he dedicated : "To the truly honorable the Lady Vane." He says of this work that he wrote it "in the thickest of the naked Indians of America, in their very wild houses and by their barbarous fires."

He wrote to his wife while abroad. "My dearest love and companion in this vale of tears," congratulating himself and her upon her recovery from recent illness: "I send thee, though in winter, a handful of flowers made up in a little posy, for thy dear selft and our dear children to look and smell on, when I, as grass of the field, shall be gone and withered." 1 Apr 1653 - He wrote a letter to his friends and neighbors in Providence and Warwick, from Sir Henry Vane's at Belleau in Lincolnshire, relative to the confirmation of the charter accured by Vane's mediation, charging them to dwell in peace, etc., and in a postscript adds: "My love to all my Indian friends."

At home in Providence after an absence of nearly 3 years, he became President of the colony, which office he held from 1654 to 1658. Roger Williams was made Freeman in1655 served as Commissioner in 1658, 1659 and 1661 Deputy in 1670, 1678, 1679 and 1680 and on the Town Council. 1675-76.

Despite all his efforts to avert it, war with the Indians broke out in 1676. Known as King Philip's War, it was a tragedy alike for white men and red. Providence had for years been spared the arrow and the firebrand because of his presence there, but finally, the city was threatened with destruction. Bravely, Roger Williams went out, alone and unarmed, to met the invaders, but for once his arguments failed. He was told that because he was an honest man not a hair of his head would be harmed, but that the city should be burned. Providence was burned on Mar 26 1676.

On May 6, 1682, he wrote Governor Bradstreet, calling himself "old and weak and bruised (with rupture and colic) and lameness on both my feet." He proceeds: "By my fireside I have recollected the discourses, which (by many tedious journeys) I have had with the scattered English at Narragansett before the war and since. I have reduced them unto these twenty-two heads (enclosed) which is near thirty sheets of my writing. I would send them to the Narragansetts and others ther is no controversy in them, only an endeavour of a particular match of each poor sinner to his maker." He asks advice as to printing it, and alludes to news of Shaftsbury and Howard's beheading and contrary news of their reprieve, etc. "But these are but sublunaries, temporaries and trivials. Eternity, O Eternity, is our business."

The precise date of his death is unknown, but it occurred sometime between January 16 and March 16 1683. He was buried in the orchard in the rear of his homestead lot. Many years later, his remains were disinterred and placed in the tomb of a descendant in the North Burial Ground. In 1936 they were sealed within a bronze container and set into the base of the monument erected to his memory on Prospect Terrace.

The founder of Rhode Island

Roger Williams (circa 1603 – between January and March 1683) was an American Protestant theologian, and the first American proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the First Baptist Church in America Providence before leaving to become a Seeker. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans.

Roger Williams was born into the Church of England in London, England, around 1603. At age 12 he had a conversion experience of which his father disapproved. His father, James Williams (1562�), was a merchant tailor in Smithfield, England. His mother was Alice Pemberton (1564�).

As a teenager Williams apprenticed with Sir Edward Coke (1552�), the famous jurist, and under Coke's patronage, Williams was educated at Charterhouse and also at Pembroke College, Cambridge (B.A., 1627).[1] He seemed to have had a gift for languages, and early acquired familiarity with Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Dutch, and French. Years later he gave John Milton lessons in Dutch in exchange for refresher lessons in Hebrew.[2]

Although he took Holy Orders in the Church of England, he had become a Puritan at Cambridge, forfeiting any chance at a place of preferment in the Anglican church. After graduating from Cambridge, Williams became the chaplain to a Puritan lord, Sir William Macham. He married Mary Barnard (1609�) on December 15, 1629 at the Church of High Laver, Essex, England. They had six children, all born in America. Their children were Mary, Freeborn, Providence, Mercy, Daniel and Joseph.

Williams was privy to the plans of the Puritan leaders to migrate to the New World, and while he did not join the first wave in the summer of 1630, before the end of the year, he decided he could not remain in England under Archbishop William Laud's rigorous (and High church) administration. He regarded the Church of England to be corrupt and false, and by the time he and his wife boarded the Lyon in early December, he had arrived at the Separatist position.

When Roger and Mary Williams arrived at Boston on February 5, 1631, he was welcomed and almost immediately invited to become the Teacher (assistant minister) in the Boston church to officiate while Rev. John Wilson returned to England to fetch his wife. He shocked them by declining the position, saying that he found that it was "an unseparated church." In addition he asserted that the civil magistrates may not punish any sort of "breach of the first table [of the Ten Commandments]," such as idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, false worship, and blasphemy, and that every individual should be free to follow his own convictions in religious matters. Right from the beginning, he sounded three principles which were central to his subsequent career: Separatism, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

As a Separatist he had concluded that the Church of England was irredeemably corrupt and that one must completely separate from it to establish a new church for the true and pure worship of God. His search for the true church eventually carried him out of Congregationalism, the Baptists, and any visible church. From 1639 forward, he waited for Christ to send a new apostle to reestablish the church, and he saw himself as a "witness" to Christianity until that time came. He believed that soul liberty freedom of conscience, was a gift from God, and that everyone had the natural right to freedom of religion. Religious freedom demanded that church and state be separated. Williams was the first to use the phrase "wall of separation" to describe the relationship of the church and state. He called for a high wall of separation between the "Garden of Christ" and the "Wilderness of the World." This idea is one of the foundations of the religion clauses in the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In 1802 Thomas Jefferson, writing of the "wall of separation" echoed Roger Williams in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.[3]

The Salem church was much more inclined to Separatism, so they invited Williams to become their Teacher. When the leaders in Boston learned of this, they vigorously protested, and the offer was withdrawn. By the end of the summer of 1631, Williams had moved to Plymouth colony where he was welcomed, and informally assisted the minister there. He regularly preached and according to Governor Bradford, "his teachings were well approved." [4]

After a time, Williams felt disappointed that the Plymouth church was not sufficiently separated from the Church of England, and his study of the Native Americans had caused him to doubt the validity of the colonial charters. Governor Bradford later wrote that Williams fell "into some strange opinions which caused some controversy between the church and him."[5] In December 1632 he wrote a lengthy tract which openly condemned the King's charters and questioned the right of Plymouth (or Massachusetts) to the land without first buying it from the Indians. He charged that King James had uttered a "solemn lie" when he asserted that he was the first Christian monarch to have discovered the land. Subsequently, he moved back to Salem by the fall of 1633 and was welcomed by Rev. Samuel Skelton as an unofficial assistant in the church.

The Massachusetts authorities were not pleased to see Williams return, and when they learned of his tract attacking the King and the charters, he was summoned in December 1633 to appear before the General Court in Boston. The issue was smoothed out, and the tract disappeared forever, probably burned. In August, 1634 (Rev. Skelton having died), Williams became acting pastor of the Salem church and continued to be embroiled in controversies. He had promised earlier not to raise the issue of the charter again, but he did. Again, in March 1635 was ordered to appear before the General Court to explain himself. In April he so vigorously opposed the new oath of allegiance to the colonial government that it became impossible to enforce it. He was summoned again before the Court in July to answer for "erroneous" and "dangerous opinions," and the Court declared that he should be removed from his church position. This latest controversy welled up at just the moment that the Town of Salem had petitioned the General Court to annex some land on Marblehead Neck. The Court would not consider the request until the Salem church removed Williams. The Salem church felt that this order violated the independence of the church, and a letter of protest was sent to the other churches. However, the letter was not read, and the General Court refused to seat the delegates from Salem at the next session. Support for Williams began to wane under this pressure, and when Williams demanded that the Salem church separate itself from other other churches, his support crumbled entirely. He withdrew and met in his home with a few of his most devoted followers.

Finally, in October 1635 he was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy. The Court declared that he was spreading "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions."[6] He was ordered to be banished. (This order was not repealed until 1936 when Bill 488 was passed by the Massachusetts House.) The execution of the order was delayed because Williams was ill and winter was approaching, and he was allowed to stay temporarily provided he ceased his agitation. He did not cease, so in January 1636 the sheriff came to pick him up only to discover that Williams had slipped away three days before. He walked through the deep snow of a hard winter the 105 miles from Salem to the head of Narragansett Bay. There is was rescued by his friends, the Wampanoags, and taken to the winter camp of their chief sachem, Massasoit.

In the spring of 1636 Williams and a number of his followers from Salem began a settlement on land that Williams had bought from Massasoit, only to be told by Plymouth that he was still within their land grant. They warned that they might be forced to extradite him to Massachusetts and invited him to cross the Seekonk River to territory beyond any charter. The outcasts rowed over to Narragansett territory, and having secured land from Canonicus and Miantonomi, chief sachems of the Narragansetts, Williams established a settlement with twelve "loving friends." He called it "Providence" because he felt that God's Providence had brought him there. (He would later name his third child, the first born in his new settlement, "Providence" as well.) He said that his settlement was to be a haven for those "distressed of conscience," and it soon attracted quite a collection of dissenters and otherwise-minded individuals.

From the beginning, the settlement was governed by a majority vote of the heads of households, but "only in civil things," and newcomers could be admitted to full citizenship by a majority vote. In August of 1637 they drew up a town agreement, which again restricted the government to "civil things." In 1640, another agreement was signed by thirty-nine "freemen," (men who had full citizenship and voting rights) which declared their determination "still to hold forth liberty of conscience." Thus, Williams had founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separated, a place where there was religious liberty and separation of church and state.

In November 1637, the General Court of Massachusetts disarmed, disenfranchised, and forced into exile the Antinomians, the followers of Anne Hutchinson. One of them, John Clarke, learned from Williams that Aquidneck Island might be purchased from the Narragansetts. Williams facilitated the purchase by William Coddington and others, and in the spring of 1638 the Antinomians began settling at a place called Pocasset, which is now the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Some of the Antinomians, especially those described by Governor John Winthrop as "Anabaptists," settled in Providence.

In the meantime, the Pequot War had broken out, and it was a great irony that Massachusetts Bay was forced to ask for Roger Williams' help. He not only became the Bay colony's eyes and ears, he used his relationship with the Narragansetts to dissuade them from joining with the Pequots. Instead, the Narragansetts allied themselves with the English and helped to crush the Pequots in 1637-1638. When the war was over, the Narragansetts were clearly the most powerful Indian nation in southern New England, and quite soon the other New England colonies began to fear and mistrust the Narragansetts. They came to regard Roger Williams' colony and the Narragansetts as a common enemy. In the next three decades Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth exerted pressure to destroy both Rhode Island and the Narragansetts.

In 1643, the neighboring colonies formed a military alliance called the United Colonies and pointedly excluded the towns around Narragansett Bay. The object was to extend their power over the heretic settlements and put an end to the infection. In response Williams was sent to England by his fellow citizens to secure a charter for the colony. The English Civil War was in full swing in England when Williams arrived. The Puritans were then in power in London, and through the offices of Sir Henry Vane a charter was obtained despite strenuous opposition from agents from Massachusetts. Historians agree that the key that unlocked the door for Williams was his first published book, A Key Into the Language of America (1643).[7] [8]. Printed by John Milton's publisher the book was an instant "best-seller," and gave Williams a large and favorable reputation. This little book was the first dictionary of any Indian tongue in the English language and fed the great hunger of the English about the Native Americans. Having secured his precious charter for "Providence Plantations" from Parliament, in July 1644 Williams then published his most famous book, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience. This produced a great uproar, and Parliament responded in August by ordering the book to be burned by the public hangman. By then, Williams was already on his way home to Providence Plantations. Also, by then, the settlers on Aquidneck Island had renamed their island "Rhode Island."

Because of opposition from William Coddington on "Rhode Island," it took Williams until 1647 to get the four towns around Narragansett Bay to unite under a single government, and liberty of conscience was again proclaimed. The colony became a safe haven for people who were persecuted for their beliefs including Baptists, Quakers, and Jews. Still, the divisions between the towns and powerful personalities did not bode well for the colony. Coddington, who never liked Williams nor liked being subordinated to the new charter government, sailed to England and returned in 1651 with his own patent making him "Governor for Life" over "Rhode Island" [Aquidneck] and Conanicut. As a result, Providence and Warwick dispatched Roger Williams and Coddington's opponents on "Rhode Island" sent John Clarke to England to get Coddington's commission canceled. To pay for the trip, Williams sold his trading post at Cocumscussec, near present-day Wickford, Rhode Island. This trading post was his main source of income. Williams and Clarke were successful in getting Coddington's patent rescinded, but Clarke remained in England until 1664 to secure a new charter for the colony. Williams returned to America in 1654 and was immediately elected the President of the colony. He would subsequently serve in many offices in the town and colonial governments, and in his 70s he was elected captain of the militia in Providence during King Philip's War in 1676.

One notable effort by "Providence Plantations" (Providence and Warwick) during the time when Coddington had separated "Rhode Island" (Newport and Portsmouth) from the mainland came on May 18, 1652, when they passed a law which attempted to prevent slavery from taking root in the colony. In 1641 Massachusetts Bay had passed the first laws to make slavery legal in the British colonies, and these laws spread to Plymouth and Connecticut with the creation of the United Colonies in 1643. Roger Williams and Samuel Gorton both opposed slavery, and the law passed in 1652 was the attempt to stop slavery from coming to Rhode Island. Unfortunately, when the parts of the colony were reunited, the Aquidneck towns refused to accept the law and it became a dead letter.[9] The economic and political center of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was Newport for the next 100 years, and they disregarded the anti-slavery law. Indeed, Newport entered the African slave trade in 1700 and became the leading American slave traders from then until the American Revolution.[10]

By 1638, Williams' ideas had ripened to the point that he accepted the idea of believer's baptism credobaptist. Williams had been holding services in his home for some time for his neighbors, many of whom had followed him from Salem. To that point they had been like the Separatists of Plymouth, still believing in infant baptism. Williams came to accept the ideas of English antipedobaptists.

John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and John Murton were co-founders of the Baptist movement in Britain, and produced a rich literature advocating liberty of conscience. Williams certainly had read some of their writings because he commented on them in his Bloudy Tenent. While Smyth, Helwys and Murton were General Baptists, a Calvinistic Baptist variety grew out of some Separatists around 1630. Williams became a Calvinist or Particular Baptist (Reformed Baptist).

However, Williams had not adopted antipedobaptist views before his banishment from Massachusetts, for antipedobaptism was not a charge levelled at him by his opponents. Winthrop attributed Williams's "Anabaptist" views to the influence of Katherine Scott, a sister of Anne Hutchinson, the Antinomian who may have impressed upon Williams the importance of believers' baptism. Historians tend to think that Williams arrived there from his own study.

Williams he had himself baptized by Ezekiel Holliman in late 1638.[11] Thus was constituted a church which still survives as the First Baptist Church in America. A few years later, John Clarke, Williams’ compatriot in the cause of religious freedom in the New World, established a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1847 the Newport church suddenly maintained that it was the first Baptist church in America, but virtually all historians have dismissed this claim. If nothing else, Roger Williams had gathered and resigned from the Providence church before the town of Newport was even founded. Still, both Roger Williams and John Clarke are variously credited as being the founder of the Baptist faith in America.[12]

It should be noted that Roger Williams was a Baptist only briefly. He remained with the little church in Providence only a few months. He became convinced that the ordinances, having been lost in the Apostasy [when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire], they could not be validly restored without a special divine commission. He declared: "There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking."[13]

He never again affiliated himself with any church, but remained deeply religious and active in preaching and praying. He looked forward to the time when Christ would send a new apostle to restore the church, but in the meantime, he would be a "witness" to Christianity. He always remained interested in the Baptists, being in agreement with them in their rejection of infant baptism as in most other matters. He has been mistakenly called a "Seeker," both in his own time by his enemies and by his admirers in the last century. Some of his enemies in England called him a “Seeker” in an attempt to smear him by associating him with a heretical movement that accepted Socianism and universal salvation. Both of these ideas were anathema to Williams. He was like a Seeker only in his rejection of any visible church as being a true church. A twentieth century biographer revived the Seeker label, but regarded it as a positive thing, and it caught on.

Roger Williams was by no means the first to advocate separation of church and state, but he was the first to establish a place where it could be practiced. The General Baptists in England had advocated separation as early as 1611, and the first two pastors of the first Baptist church in England died in prison for these beliefs. Williams had read their writings, and his own experience of persecution by Archbishop Laud and the Anglican establishment and the bloody wars of religion that raged in Europe at that very time convinced him that a state church had no basis in Scripture. Clearly he had arrived at this conclusion before he landed in Boston in 1631 because he criticized the Massachusetts Bay system immediately for mixing church and state. He declared that the state could legitimately concern itself only with matters of civil order, but not religious belief. The state had no business in trying to enforce the 𠇏irst Table” of the Ten Commandments, those first commandments that dealt with the relationship between God and persons. The state must confine itself to the commandments that dealt with the relations between people: murder, theft, adultery, lying, honoring parents, and so forth. He regarded any effort by the state to dictate religion or promote any particular religious idea or practice to be 𠇏orced worship.” And he colorfully declared that 𠇏orced worship stinks in the nostrils of God.” He would write that he saw no warrant in the New Testament to use the sword to promote religious belief. Indeed, he said that Constantine had been a worse enemy to true Christianity than Nero because Constantine’s support had corrupted Christianity and led to the death of the Christian church. In the strongest language he described the attempt to compel belief to be rape of the soul, and he spoke of the “oceans of blood” shed as a result of trying to command conformity. He believed that the moral principles found in the Scriptures ought to inform the civil magistrates, but he observed that well ordered, just, and civil governments existed where Christianity was not present. All governments were required to maintain civil order and justice, but none had a warrant to promote any religion.

Most of William’s contemporaries and critics regarded his ideas as a prescription for chaos and anarchy. The vast majority believed that each nation must have its national church and that dissenters had to be compelled to conform. The establishment of Rhode Island was so threatening to its neighbors that they tried for the next hundred years to extinguish the “lively experiment” in religious freedom that had begun in 1636.

Williams's career as an author began with A Key into the Language of America (London, 1643), written during his first voyage to England. His next publication was Mr. Cotton's Letter lately Printed, Examined and Answered (London, 1644 reprinted, with Cotton's letter, which it answered, in Publications of the Narragansett Club, vol. ii.).

The Bloody Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience soon followed (London, 1644). This is his most famous work, and was the ablest statement and defense of the principle of absolute liberty of conscience that had appeared in any language. It is in the form of a dialogue between Truth and Peace, and well illustrates the vigor of his style.[15]

During the same year an anonymous pamphlet appeared in London which now is ascribed to Williams, entitled: Queries of Highest Consideration Proposed to Mr. Tho. Goodwin, Mr. Phillip Nye, Mr. Wil. Bridges, Mr. Jer. Burroughs, Mr. Sidr. Simpson, all Independents, etc. These Independents were members of the Westminster Assembly and their Apologetical Narration, sought to find a way between extreme Separatism and Presbyterianism, and their prescription was the acceptance of the model of Massachusetts Bay. Williams attacked their arguments for the very same reasons that he found that Massachusetts Bay violated liberty of conscience.

In 1652, during his second visit to England, Williams published The Bloody Tenent yet more Bloody: by Mr. Cotton's Endeavor to wash it white in the Blood of the Lamb of whose precious Blood, spilt in the Bloud of his Servants and of the Blood of Millions spilt in former and later Wars for Conscience sake, that most Bloody Tenent of Persecution for cause of Conscience, upon, a second Tryal is found more apparently and more notoriously guilty, etc. (London, 1652). This work reiterated and amplified the arguments in Bloody Tenent but it has the advantage of being written in answer to Cotton's elaborate defense of New England persecution, A Reply to Mr. Williams his Examination (Publications of the Narragansett Club, vol. ii.).

Other works by Williams are:

The Hireling Ministry None of Christ's’’ (London, 1652)

Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health, and their Preservatives (London, 1652 reprinted Providence, 1863)

George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes (Boston, 1676).

A volume of his letters is included in the Narragansett Club edition of Williams's Works (7 vols., Providence, 1866�), and a volume was edited by J. R. Bartlett (1882).

The Correspondence of Roger Williams, 2 vols., Rhode Island Historical Society, 1988, edited by Glenn W. LaFantasie.

Williams intended to become a missionary to the Native Americans and set out to learn their language. He studied their language, customs, religion, family life and other aspects of their world. As a result he came to see their point of view about colonization and developed a deep appreciation of them as people. He wrote his A Key into the Language of America (1643) as a kind of phrase book coupled with observations about life and culture as an aid in communication with the Indians. In it he talked about everything from salutations in the first chapter to death and burial in chapter 32. The book also sought to instruct the English, who thought of themselves as vastly superior to the Native Americans, that they were mistaken. He repeatedly made the point that the Indians were just as good as the English, even superior in some respects.

"Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good. Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All, As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal."

Having learned their language and customs, Williams gave up the idea of being a missionary and never baptized a single Indian. He was severely criticized by the Puritans for failing to Christianize them, but Williams had arrived at the place in his own thinking that no valid church existed. He said he could have baptized the whole country, but it would have been hypocritical and false. He formed firm friendships and developed deep trust among the Native Americans, especially the Narragansetts. He was able to keep the peace between the Indians and English in Rhode Island for nearly forty years because of his constant mediation and negotiation. He twice surrendered himself as a hostage to the Indians to guarantee the safe return of a great sachem from a summons to a court: Pessicus in 1645 and Metacomet (King Philip) in 1671. He more than any other Englishman was trusted by the Native Americans and proved to be trustworthy. In the end King Philip’s War (1675�) was one of the bitterest events in his life as his efforts ended with the burning of Providence in March 1676, including his own house. (Courtesy of womenhistory.blogspot)

"Roger Williams was born December 21, 1603 near London, England. He was a student of theology and languages, and was educated at Cambridge University. After suffering a painful rejection by the woman he had chosen to marry, the young clergyman became ill of fever and was nursed back to health by Mary Barnard, who is believed to have been the daughter of the Reverend Richard Barnard of Nottinghamshire.

Mary Barnard married Roger Williams on December 15, 1629 in Essex, England. The couple set sail on board the Lyon in December 1630, arriving in Boston February 5, 1631.

Two months later, Roger was called as minister to Salem, having refused to join with the congregation at Boston—where he told the startled Puritan elders that he would not serve a congregation that recognized the Church of England.

Roger Williams had become a Separatist. This enraged the Boston magistrates and pressure by them on the Salem authorities caused him to leave there in late summer and go to Plymouth. Here he was made welcome by the Separatist Pilgrims, and was admitted as a member of their church.

During the following years, Mary gave birth to six children. Roger held positions at various churches, but his religious beliefs were always considered radical. His belief that religion should not be imposed on citizens, and that Church and State should be separate entities was fine with the Pilgrims, but his views about the Native Americans and their land rights were not.

The Williams family returned to Salem in 1633. When Roger expressed the opinion that Massachusetts Bay Colony's charter was a breach of the rights of the native population, the Massachusetts magistrates found him guilty of spreading 'new and dangerous opinions.'

Roger Williams was given a decree of banishment October 9, 1635, because of his hostility toward the Church of England. He was ordered by the General Court to be banished from Massachusetts and was threatened with deportation back to England if he did not renounce his convictions. But he continued to express his controversial opinions.

Officials were sent to Salem to apprehend him, but he was gone. Warned by John Winthrop, he had hastily said goodbye to his wife and baby daughters and sought sanctuary with his friends in the Narragansett Tribe. There he purchased a large tract of land from the Native Americans on the Pantuxet River, and founded the settlement of Providence.

In Providence all peoples and religions were welcome. It soon became a safe haven for groups ranging from Quakers to Baptists to Jews. Williams guaranteed the separation of church and state and made sure that all land purchases were handled properly, and that the native tribes were treated humanely. The first law in America making slavery illegal was passed in Rhode Island on May 18, 1652.

In 1643, when the rights of his colony were coming under threat from its larger neighbors, Williams returned to England and secured a charter for the colony of Providence Plantation of Narragansett Bay, which also included Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick. During subsequent trips to England, the colony was renamed Rhode Island.

He wrote to his wife while abroad. "My dearest love and companion in this vale of tears, I send thee, though in winter, a handful of flowers made up in a little posy, for thy dear self and our dear children to look and smell on, when I, as grass of the field, shall be gone and withered."

At home in Providence after an absence of nearly 3 years, Roger Williams became President of the colony, which office he held from 1654 to 1658. He also served as Commissioner, Deputy, and on the Town Council for many years.

The royal charter of 1663 guaranteed complete religious liberty, established a self-governing colony with total autonomy, and strengthened Rhode Island's territorial claims. It was the most liberal charter to be issued by the mother country during the entire colonial era, and it served as Rhode Island's basic law until 1843.

Despite his efforts to avert it, war with the Native Americans broke out in 1676. Known as King Philip's War, it was a tragedy for white men and red. Providence, which for years had been spared, was threatened with destruction. Roger Williams went out to meet the invaders, but his arguments failed. He was told that because he was an honest man not a hair of his head would be harmed, but that the city should be burned.

Providence was burned on March 26, 1676. Mary Barnard Williams died that same year.

Roger Williams lived to see Providence rebuilt. He continued to preach, and the Colony grew through its acceptance of settlers of all religious persuasions. He died sometime between January 16 and March 16, 1683. His funeral was attended with such honors as the town could provide, and a salute of guns was fired over his grave.

He was buried in the orchard in the rear of his homestead lot. Many years later, his remains were disinterred and placed in the tomb of a descendant in the North Burial Ground. In 1936, they were sealed within a bronze container and set into the base of the monument erected to his memory on Prospect Terrace.

His statue gazes out over the city where his principles of freedom of thought and worship, separation of Church and State, and equality for all men, regardless of race or creed were first put into practice. He left no great estate of worldly goods, but this was his immortal legacy to the freedom of loving peoples of all the world."

Williams died in early 1683 and was buried on his own property. Some time later in the nineteenth century, his remains were moved to the tomb of a descendant in the North Burial Ground. Finally, in 1936, they were placed within a bronze container and put into the base of a monument on Prospect Terrace Park in Providence. When his remains were discovered for reburial, they were under an apple tree. The roots of the tree had grown into the spot where Williams's skull rested and followed the path of his decomposing bones and grew roughly in the shape of his skeleton. Only a small amount of bone was found to be reburied. The "Williams Root" is now part of the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society, where it is mounted on a board in the basement of the John Brown House Museum. [3][4]

Roger Williams National Memorial, established in 1965, is a park in downtown Providence. Roger Williams Park is a city park on the southern edge of Providence. Williams was selected in 1872 to represent Rhode Island in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol."

Birth: Dec 21 1602, London, Eng

Death: Apr 1 1683, Providence, Providence Co, RI, USA

Roger Williams b in London, son of merchant tailor, & educated Cambridge, immigrated to Boston in 1631. His tchg of religious tolerance considered unorthodox, & he was banished in 1635 by MA Genl Crt. He, w/some followers, founded town of Providence in 1636. Williams taught religious tolerance, freedom of worship & sep of church & state. All religious grps, incl Jews & Quakers, were welcomed to RI colony, enabling them to escape persecution in other colonies. Thru-out life, he remained involved in public svc, incl serving young colony as pres. There is monument w/in cemetery: his actual remains interred in base of Roger Williams Mem.

Son of James Williams & Alice Pemberton

Husband of Mary Barnard: m 15 Dec 1629

Father of: 1) Mary Williams [1633-1681]+ sp: John Sayles [1631-1681] 2) Freeborn Williams [1635-1710]+ sp: Thomas Hart [1630-1670]+ sp: Gov. Walter Clarke [1640-1714] 3) Providence Williams [1638-1686] 4) Mercy Williams [b.1640]+ sp: Resolved Waterman [1638-1670]+ sp: Samuel Winsor [1644-1705] 5) Daniel Williams [1641-1672]+ sp: Rebecca Arnold Rhodes [m.1676] 6) Joseph Williams [1643-1724]+ sp: Lydia Olney [1645-1724]

Inscription: "Erected in accordance of the will of MISS BETSEY WILLIAMS who bequeathed to the City of Providence the adjoining park, part of the original of Miantonnomi to ROGER WILLIAMS"

Burial: Williams Family Cem, Providence, Providence Co, RI, USA

Religious Reformer & Founder of RI. Educated at Cambridge, Roger Williams was Calvinist minister who left Eng because of disagreement w/Eng principle of established state church. He emigrated to New Eng in 1631, but rejected invitation to pastor Boston church because of its continuing ties w/Church of Eng. He served in both Salem & Plymouth Colony before being banished from MA over disagreement w/policies of taking Indian land w/o compensation & legally punishing impiety. He settled in Narragansett Bay & studied language of Narragansett Indians. He & companions purchased land from Narragansett & founded both settlement of Providence & colony of RI. Govy of territory featured more open democracy than MA, incl absolute freedom of religion & no established church. Williams would go on to found 1st Baptist church in Am bef declaring himself unaffiliated Christian "seeker," & would serve as pres of RI colony 1654-57. (bio by: Stuthehistoryguy)


Roger Williams - Founder of Rhode Island and Salem Minister - HISTORY

Roger Mowry was born in Drimpton, Dorset, England about 1610.

He sailed from Weymouth, Dorset, England on June 20, 1628 aboard the ship Abigail, a small sailing vessel with only 13 other passengers, and arrived at Salem, Massachusetts (then called Naumkeage) on September 6, 1628.

He settled at ‘London Plantation’ under the governorship of John Endicott. On May 18, 1631 he was made a freeman.

For many years he served as the “neat herd” of Salem, who daily herded all of the cattle from town to feed outside the town. He had to be ready at the gate to the commons one hour after sunrise. He was paid 7 shillings per head per season for his service.

By 1638, he had more than fifty acres of land granted to him at Salem.

In 1649 he moved with Roger Williams (his neighbor and his friend) to found Providence, Rhode Island.

In Providence the Court of Providence appointed him to keep a “house of entertainment”, an inn and tavern from which he sold spirits. Town meetings were held in the tavern, and Roger Williams held his prayer meetings there.

In 1653 he built the stone Olney House, the first hotel and inn in Rhode Island. The inn was one of only 5 building not burned by the Narragansett Indians during King Phillip’s War.

His house on the corner of Abbot Street and North Main Street in Providence was still standing in 1900, the last house of the original settlers to survive.

In 1655 he served as a constable for Providence, and the tavern did double duty as a jail.


ROGER WILLIAMS

At the unveiling of the statue of Roger Williams at the US Capitol in 1872, Rhode Island Senator William Sprague observed that Roger Williams "successfully vindicated the right of private judgement in matters of conscience, and effected a moral and political revolution in all governments of the civilized world." [1] In his crusade for freedom of conscience Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1636 as a stronghold of religious liberty after the land was deeded to him by the Narragansett Indians.

A refuge from rampant religious persecution, Rhode Island became home to the first Jewish synagogue in America and a sanctuary for Quakers who were being killed and persecuted in Massachusetts and other colonies. Rhode Island was an open door to all people a safe harbor in a vast sea of tyranny and oppression a safe harbor with a bright beacon shining forth the light of liberty, a bright beacon that was Roger Williams.

Before founding Rhode Island, Roger Williams was exiled by law from Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony after being repeatedly hauled before the Salem Court of witch-trial fame for spreading "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions" that questioned the Church. The law exiling Williams was not repealed until 1936 when the Massachusetts House passed Bill 488, ending 300 years of exile.

Perhaps most heretical among Roger's many "dangerous opinions" was challenging the King of England's claim to the American colonies with the counter-claim that the rightful owners of the land were the native Americans, not the King of England.


In Defense of Native Americans

Roger Williams tried to persuade his fellow European settlers to respect the land claims of Native Americans and live and trade with them as neighbors, not kill them like vermin. Roger's first book was entitled A Key to The Language of America, which featured a language-translation guide teaching Europeans how to communicate with the Natives &mdash a primary precondition for peaceful association. Unfortunately the majority of Europeans preferred extermination over translation.

Roger's contemporaries argued that Native Americans did not believe in property, and therefore the claims of European settlers violated no preexisting property claims. Roger argued that Native Americans did make property claims and that those claims must be respected. Edwin Gaustad, a professor of history at the University of California, describes the case Williams made for Native land-rights:

Roger Williams, a Christian minister by training, argued most vigorously against the forced conversion of the Natives to Christianity. Williams believed that forced conversion violated Christian principles and was one of the most "monstrous and most inhumane" acts forced upon the Native peoples of North and South America. Roger called forced conversion "Antichristian conversion" that was like compelling "an unwilling spouse. to enter into a forced bed." Ignoring Roger's appeal to the sanctity of property and individual conscience, European settlers rushed forward to rape not only the Indian's lands but their minds as well.

While most European settlers rejected his vision of peace and harmony between European settlers and Natives, Roger Williams helped to establish an American tradition of religious freedom and individual liberty that has endured to some extent to this very day, encoded in that most sacred document: The Bill of Rights. I could not be more proud of my eighth-great-grandfather, Roger Williams of Rhode Island, an enemy of tyranny and Champion of Liberty!

In closing I offer a quote from Cyclone Covey's book, The Gentle Radical: Roger Williams:

He settled in Providence with thirteen other householders and in one year formed the first genuine democracy, as well as the first church- divorced and conscience-free community in modern history. Williams felt that government is the natural way provided by God to cope with the corrupt nature of man. But since government could not be trusted to know which religion is true, he considered the best hope for true religion the protection of the freedom of all religion, along with nonreligion, from the state. [3]

[1] Murdock, Myrtle Cheney. National Statuary Hall in the Nation's Capitol. Washington DC: Monumental Press Inc. 1955, p 71.

[2] Gaustad, Edwin S. Liberty of Conscience, Roger Williams in America. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1991, p 29.

[3] Covey, Cyclone. The Gentle Radical: Roger Williams. New York: The MaCmillian Co., 1966, cover leaf.

© 1997 Ian Williams Goddard -- free to copy nonprofit with attribute
Life member of The Roger Williams Family Association


Watch the video: C-SPAN Cities Tour - Providence: Roger Williams u0026 the First Baptist Church