Historical Biography: The Life Of Roger Williams

Roger Williams was the champion of Religous Freedom who founded the colony of Rhode Island. Information on his state, career, history, ideology.

The annunciation of new theories, whether in science, government, religion, or ethics, which clash with prevailing dogmas, is always met

with scoffs and frowns, if not with actual persecution. The stand-point of reformers is always in advance of current ideas, and the true

value of such men can only be appreciated when their labors have ceased, and they are sleeping with the dead. To such a character we turn when we contemplate Roger Williams, the great champion of toleration and of private judgment in religious matters.

Roger Willilams was born in Wales in 1599 and was educated at Oxford. He was a minister in the Church of England for a short time, but his

independent principles soon led him to non-conformity, and he came to America to indulge in the free exercise of his opinions. He arrived in February, 1631 and in the following April he was chosen assistant minister at Salem. His extreme views concerning entire separation form the Church of England were not palatable to many of his congregation and his asserted

independence of the magistracy in religious matters drew upon him the condemnation of that entire class and their friends.

He left Salem and went to Plymouth in 1632, but on the death of the minister at the former place, he returned there, and took sole charge of the congregation in 1634. There he proclaimed his peculiar views with more vehemence than ever; and in his excessive zeal for toleration and

individual liberty of thought and action, he became as intolerant as his opposers without their excuse of care for the stability of the church and civil government. He asserted that an oath ought no to be administered to an unregenerate man; that a Christian shouldn't pray with an unbeliever; and that "grace" at the table ought to be omitted. Having formed a separate congregation, he even refused to commune with members of his own church who did not separate entirely from all connection with the other New England Churches that he considered polluted.

He finally declared the Massachusetts charter void, because the land had not been purchased from the Indians and he reprimand the magistrates. The general court passed a sentence of banishment against him in 1635 and

in early January, 1636 he left the colony for the wilderness toward Narragansett Bay to avoid being seized and sent to England. After severe

trials and hardships, he purchased lands from the Indians at the head of Narragansett Bay to and there founded a town and named it Providence. He offered a free asylum to all persecuted people and many joined him there.

Time mellowed his extreme opinions and he became a pattern of toleration. He also became a Baptist and when he formed a civil government, it was purely democratic. He, as the head, had no privileges but those which were

common to all. He labored zealously for the spiritual and temporal good of the Indians and in 1643 he went to England to obtain a royal charter. In the spring of 1644 a royal charter was granted and Williams' settlement along with other settlements formed by his friends in the area incorporated into under the title of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation.

Roger Williams died at Providence in April 1683 at the age of eighty-four.

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