Roger Williams

was an American Puritan Intellectual and Founder of Rhode Island. As a youth, Williams was employed by the jurist. Sir Edward Coke, who arranged for his entrance in 1621 to the Charterhouse. In 1623, Williams was admitted to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took his Bachelor of Arts Degree in July 1627. In late 1628, he became Chaplain to Sir William Masham in Otes County Essex where he married Mary Bernard, daughter of Rev Richard Bernard. In the summer of 1629, he attended the conference at Semperingham called by the Puritans, among them John Cotton and Thomas Hooker, to consider the possibility of emigration to America. On Dec 10 1630, he sailed from Bristol on the ship 'Lyon' and landed at Nantasket Feb. 5 1631. Chosen teacher of the Salem Church, he declined that appointment, charging that the congregation was not separated from the Church of England, he moved to Plymouth, where he preached for a year, but even in that separatist colony his 'strange opinions' caused 'some controversie betweene the church and him'. In 1633, he accepted a call to the Salem pulpit and immediately demanded that all New England Churches 'separate'. He also challenged that the Mass government, claiming that its Charter was invalid because the King had no power to grant land, which, could be rightly acquired only as the colonists 'compounded with the natives'. When Williams added that King Charles I was an alley of Anti Christ and then conveyed these sentiments in a letter to the King, he was called before the Mass General Court. He apologized, but on April 30 1635, be was again summoned, charged this time with holding that the government had no right to punish violations of the first four commandments and that 'a magistrate ought not to tend an oath to a unregenerate man'. The Mass leaders wondered why Williams, whom John Winthrop considered 'a godly minister' should deny them powers that seemed so clearly warranted by the scripture. Cotton, privately, then Hooker before the Court before the Court, examine Williams, but they 'could not reducehim from any of his errors. On Oct 9 1635, Williams was convicted of 'venting, newe and dangerous opinions against the authorite of magistrate's' and was sentenced to banishment from the Colony. In April 1636, Williams and a few companions reached a spot he was to call Providence, out of his 'sence of Gods merciful providence unto me in my destress'. He purchased land from the natives and parceled it out for use. He befriended the Indians and learned their language; during the Pequot War (1637), he served all New England as a negotiator. Yet orthodox Massachusetts remained hostile to Rhode Island, where it was ordered 'that no man should be molested for his conscience'.

In 1642, Williams sailed for England to procure a charter, While at sea, he composed " A Key to the Language of America" London 1643, a work testifying to his thoughtful appreciation of Indian Culture. Williams received his Charter on M14 1644, and returned to Rhode Island its 'chiefe

officer' of its 'demorcractall' government. The stay in London provided Williams an opportunity to publish to publish his maturedm views in Church-State relationships. On Feb. 5 1644, appeared his 'Mr. Cottons Letter, lately Printed, Examined and Answered'. In a letter sent to Williams, but 'providentially' first printed while Williams was in London. Cotton contended that separatism unnecessarily weakened the church. Williams ignored this argument and asked instead if any government had the right to persecute him for his religious opinions. The question he pursued in the "Querries of the Highest Consideration" (Feb. 9 1644) a rejoiner to " The Apologeticall Narration" issued by five independent ministers attending the Westminster Assembly. The Assembly had been convened by Parliament to decide what ecclesiastical policy should replace the church deposed by the Puritan Revolution. Williams denied Parliaments right to call the assembly and questioned the very idea of 'a national church'.

In his last years, he was plagued by land and boundary disputes. He was reduced to poverty and when his trade was disrupted by King Phillips War, during which Williams, though well over 70 bore arms in New Englands defense. He defended the Quakers right to religious freedom, but nonetheless, he sought to expose their errors. Williams briefly joined the Baptists but considered himself a 'seeker'. Trader and Statesman, friend of New England Governors, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Henry Vane and John Milton. Roger Williams, who even as a shaker of nations had never been wholly of this world was perhaps the purest of the Puritans.

Encyclopedia Americana Vol. 28

Roger, the great assertor of religious freedom, born in Wales 1599, as uncertain tradition says, and it would make him, partly, at least, educated at Oxford, where another Roger or Roderic was admitted 30 April 1624, whose was the son of William, and by Felt in Eccles. History I page 147, received as our New England reformer, what to me seems nearly impossible. But a strong possibility is that he was not born earlier than 1605, and the fact is, he was bred up at the Charter House as in modern days the school is called, but when Williams was there, Suttons Hospital. On that foundation, he was chosen scholar 25 June 1621 and on 9 July 1624, gained an exhibition under a powerful patronage. This we learn from Mrs. Anne Sadler, daughter of the great lawyer. Sir Edward Coke, in a collection of letters, at the library of Trinity College Cambridge, by Williams, written at 1652 to her; she wrote on the back of one of them ( who had shocked her devotion to church and King ) that her father " took such aliking to him, that he put him in Suttons Hospital and he was the second placed there, " meant perhaps by his great patron. From this favor of Coke arose, probably the tradition that our benign. Founder of Providence had enjoyed the protection of the Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, had been supported at the University of Oxford, and studied law for a profession under the great oracle of jurisprudence. But from Winthrops History, we know that he had been a minister. The exhibition obtained in the London Institute 9 July 1624, seems to disprove his identity with the student entered at Jesus College Oxford in April preceding and my ignorance of the rules and customs of the Charter House forbids me to speak with confidence. To write his life and illustrate his character has long been felt as a duty by the scholars of the beautiful city he founded and after several more attempts it may be said. Professor Elton, who several years since published his biography has had the means of discovering how he had been deceived by the birth and education of the amiable hero; and we hope for another edition of his volume. If ateither of the English Universities he was educated which seems very uncertain to me. Cambridge is entitled to the honor rather than Oxford. He came from Bristol I Dec 1630, in the Lion and reached Boston  9 Feb. following with bis wife Mary; and in a few weeks during which he was desired to settle in the Church of Boston by their unanimous choice, in the spring of 1631 as he tells in a letter ( most characteristic of the writer, equal in value to any one of our New England epistles ) to Rev John Cotton of Plymouth, printed in the Mass. Historical Transactions of the Society 1855 - 8 pages - 313-6, but his tender conscience did not dare to officiate to " an unseparated people ". This statement of Williams accept without hesitation, though on a note on page 406 of Volume I of the History of New England byProfessor Palfrey whose eye had been blessed with the original manuscript, a doubt might have passed through his mind to exort the remark: " it is very extraodinary that the fact is not mentioned in any record of the time." But no contemporary record except that of the colony would possibly contain it, for no other is in existence. Our earliest record of Boston civil affairs begins abruptly in the middle of a sentence, September 1634, previous pages being lost, yet that is four or five years before we have an original ecclesiastical record of anything except baptism. Even the name of Williams, our great reformer is first read in Colonial Records Sept. 1635, being that of his banishment. Volume 1, 160 as each of the several prior read. of Roger Williams manifest, refers to the Dorchester man. But quite concurrent with the sense and even the phrase of that letter to Cotton, is the language of Wintbrops History Vol. I page 53, in the order of the Court, recited that he " had refused to join with the congregation [ i.e. church ] at Boston, because they would not make a public declaration of their repentance with the churches of England " and etc. That order was in April 1631, less than a fortnight after the Boston church was left without a minister after Wilsons departure for home, and two and one half years before the commencement of Cotton's father. Assuredly, he was not likely to refuse before he was asked. He next went to be associated with Skelton at Salem in teaching that congregation but was more wanted at Plymouth, in the autumn of that year, and continued for a good part of two years to minister there; hardly had he got back to Salem where the people wished him as successor to Skelton, before his overscrupulous conscience made him and others trouble; and in two years the affections of his people could not prevent the General Court from banishment of their teacher. He had been excommunicated at Salem for refusal to bring his children to be baptized there. In the winter of 1635-6, he meekly obeyed the cruel sentence, and next spring or more probably in June, laid the of the prosperous city founded by him, with pious emotion called Providence. See the opening chapter of Amolds History of Rhode Island. There he was usually held in much honor, though occasionally overborne by antagonism against which his revenge was exhausted in showing kindness. He always had the friendship of Gov. Winthrop through circumstances consistent with the honor of both, enforced their long and sad separation. As a Colonial Agent in London, or Chief Magistrate here, he was equally discreet and disinterested to his death in April 1683. Of his wife Mary the family name or date of marriage is unknown, but she came with her husband and may have had children in England, for only six can be precisely known to be born on this side of the water.

Savage IV pages 567-69

Williams - Roger was born in Wales in 1599, was educated at Oxford, came to New England and arrived at Nantasket 5 Feb 1631, settled at Salem as a teaching elder with Rev Samuel Skelton, 12 April 12 April 1631; went that same year to Plymouth where he preached two years and returned to Salem in 1633 and was the sole pastor after Mr. Skelton's death. He was banished from the Mass. Colony in Nov 1635, went to Rhode Island in 1636, laid the foundation for that Colony, for which he went to England in 1643 for a charter, which he obtained and landed with it in Boston Sept. 1644, was in England from 1651-4 and on his return was chosen President of the Colony and remained in office until 1657. The earliest and boldest champion of rights of all men, " fully to have and enjoy their own judgements and consciences in matters of religious concernment". He died At Providence in April 1683, age 84

Farmer - Gen. Register of First Settlers of New England Boston 1829


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