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Full text of "Notes concerning Roger Williams"

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NOTES 



CONCERNING 



ROGER WILLIAMS. 



By ALMON D. HODGES, Jr. 



Reprinted from the 

New-England Historical and Genealogical Register 

FOR January, 1899.— Vol. 53, ]'i'. 60-64. 



BOSTON : 

PRIVATELY PRINTED 

1899. 



.0 Nut,s concerning Roger Williams. [J-"' 



.VJ77Y 



':.6'86' 



NOTES CONCERNING SOGER WILLIAMS. 

By Almon D. Hodoes, Jr- 
A._DATE OF HIS BIRTH. ^ym;^,,,, has 

NO record giving .he exact «late °^,^-*„f i^"^! to 1607. The 

- :--f :S tHX J^^^-— -^^: 

-rii^^^::|^^^|£S» -^rd ..porta. . tatc- 

:ra- ^e 'aL:tr rrL'^in^ co„eW.o„, a. to the year of 

his birth. , Richard Smith's title to 

I„ the testimcy ot R°g-,,^^;|;;r!.'N ^ o iW^ f/.lu.y 1679 (,« vul- 

the Wickfa-a lands 1. the Mom g^^^ ^„,„ „„„ ueere .0 Foure 

Score years ot age. L» j u^^er 80 

It Is evident that WiUiams here f^f «> ^ ,j,^t he was " over 

years of age; and the ^T^Xf ^0"^^?"'' ^S^ ''y T™^', !" 
three score and ten, and t^eie oie co . ^^j^emely plausible, 

would naturally use the ^P^ » ""Jl^j^^.j Roger Williams was 
According to f-.r'^^yVnd in-bkble that he was born before 
born after July 24, 13JJ, 1 

July 24, 1609. wi„tl„ou ■ " Plymo""'- t^" 

Letter of Roger ^^^^^^ ^^7 ^^o:^^on, oL pleas .f^ra 
date 1 Only let me craue a woid o^ e^P ^^^^^ ^.^^^, . t,s a ndle 

tfung couJuiour . • • ^-* «^^*"-{' ^j^aS i these New English cluir^^^^ 
^svet to me whether you meane ^i .V h-^*^^' ' 50 . . • or my selfe but a 
^ ^!\ or the Levites wl- -yv-^^f -- 2o;; <^' p.rs.«..rf --« - ^ ««^ «/ 
child in euery thing, {though m ^^' ^^^ ^^Klder i« any church ... & 
tv fathers hawse these ^^/^"'"^ / "/^^The dayes of my vanitie ne.r.r .;>- 
yft if I at present were, I shoidd be n ^^^^^^^ ^^ ^^, eares when 

lards of 30 then 35* • • • ^^^^.tefoved Mr. Nowell to surrender vp 
we heard you P^'-^^f ^.;, ' Soc. Coll. vi : 184-] 

cue sword." [^ ^^ass. Hist, o , , ^^ ^t j,,ly to Octo- 

This letter is undated, but ^s da^ ^^-J^/^^^ relates, accord- 
ber, 1632, from its reference to Mr. i>ow 

♦ All italics are mine.-A. D. H., Jr. 



e 



1899.] Notes concerning Jloger Williams. 61 

iiig to all authorities, to the resignation by Increase Nowell of his 
office of Elder, as a result of the vote of the churches that a per- 
son ought not to be a civil magistrate and a ruling elder at the 
same time. Gov. Winthi'op, in his History of New England, i : 81, 
under date of July [1 to 4] 1G32, records this vote, and in the 
same History, 1:91, under date of Oct. 25, 1632, describes his 
visit to Plymouth. The letter was written, evidently, between these 
two dates. 

The expression " nearer upwards of 30 than 25 " is somewhat 
obscure and has been variously interpreted. The earlier commen- 
tators, probably influenced by the traditional date of birth, 1598, 
supposed it might mean simply over 30, but this is a strained in- 
terpretation. Mr. Straus, on the other hand, considers it " another 
way of saying he was over 25 and under 30, or nearer to 30 than 
25 is to 30, that is to say, he was between 25 and 26," which last, 
in common parlance, means 25 years old. This also is a strained 
interpretation. Surely the whole argument is to the effect that he 
was considerably past this age. To my mind, the fair interpreta- 
tion of the expression, taken with its context, is that he was nearer to 
30 years of age than he was to 25, or that he was over 27^ years 
old, and hence born not later than April, 1605. 

The following evidence seems to prove that Roger Williams was 
elected a Pensioner of the Charter House School June 25, 1621. 

Mrs. Sadleir, the daughter of Sir Edward Coke, the great lawyer and 
legal writer, in a note appended to a letter of Roger Williams addressed to 
her, wrote : '' This Roger Williams, when he was a youth, would, in a short 
liand, take sermons and speeches in the Star Chamber, and present them 
to my dear father. He, seeing so hopeful a youth, took such liking to him 
that he sent him in to Sutton's Hospital, and he was the second that was 
placed there." Ms. letters of Roger Williams to Mrs. Sadleir, in the library 
of Trinity College, Cambridge. [Narragaiiseit Glub Pub. vi : 252.'] 

The records of Sutton's Hospital, now the Charter House, furnish no 
other particulars [concerning Roger Williams] than the following — that 
Roger Williams was elected a scholar of that institution June 25, 1621, 
and that he obtained an ''exhibition" July 9, 1624. ^Elton's Life of 
Roger Williams, p. ll.] 

I have had the records of the Charter House searched anew. In addi- 
tion to the entry that Roger Williams was elected a scholar June 25, 1621 
(being " the second scholar placed there " by Si?' Edivard Coke, not the 
second scholar who was admitted) is the following under date of 1629 : 
" Roger Williams who hath exhibition and so far about five years past, has 
forsaken the university and is become discontiimer of his studies there. Ex- 
hibition suspended until order to the contrary." By the rules of Sutton's 
Hospital School no scholars could be admitted under 10 or over 14 years. 
[Roger Williams. By Oscar S. Straus. 1894. Pp- S, 9.] 

From the rules and from his interpretation of the words " nearer 
upwards of 30 than 25," Mr. Straus concludes that Roger Williams 
was born in 1607. 

If the rules as to age of admission were carried out strictly in the 



62 Notes concerning Roger Williams. [Jan. 

case of Roger Williams, even under the assumption tliat one was 
not considered "over 14" until he was 15, then Roger Williams 
could not have been born earlier than June 26, 1606. And this 
disagrees with my deduction from Williams's own statement in the 
letter to Gov. Winthrop, that he was born not later than April, 
1605. 

It seems to me therefore necessary to assume, either that Roger 
Williams described his age inaccurately, or that the rule was liber- 
ally construed in his case. Either assumption is possible, but to 
my mind the latter is more probable. Sir Edward Coke not only 
was a Governor of the Charter House, but also by his legal ability 
had saved the foundation when it was assailed by Sutton's heirs ; 
and it appears to me very probable that a protege of his would be 
admitted, even if above the customary age. 

In view of the foregoing I incline strongly to the opinion that 
Roger Williams was born in, or very near to, the year 1604. If 
this was the case, then he was 74 or 75 years old when he called 
himself " neere to Foure Score years " ; about 28 years old when 
"nearer upwards of 30 than 25 " ; 16 or 17 years old when elected 
a scholar of Charter House School ; 22 or 23 years old when he 
took his degree at Pembroke College ; and 78 or possibly 79 years 
old when he died. Moreover he would have been 16 years old 
when he " in a short hand took sermons and speeches in the Star 
Chamber," if (as the note of Mrs. Sadleir implies) he did this be- 
fore entering Charter House, — a much more probable age than that 
of 13 which follows from the computation of Mr. Straus. 

B. DATE OF HIS DEATH. 

Whereas there hath of long time been a difference betweene the Towne 
of Providence & the 13 Proprietors of Pautuxet, who Originally were Ro- 
qer Williams, William Arnold, Thomas James, John Greene, John Throck- 
morton. William Harris, Thomas Olney, Richard Waterman, ffrancis Wes- 
ton, Ezechiell Holliman, Robert Coles, Stukley Westcott «& William Car- 
penter, as Concerning y® deviding oi the lands of Pautuxet belonging to the 
said 13 Proprietors from the Gennerall Comon of tlie afoiesd Towne of 
Providence : And whereas severall of the said Proprietors are deceased & 
the sd difference yet Remaneth [a settlement is agreed upon. Signed by] 
Roger Williams Benjamin Carpenter Susanna Harris 

Nathaniell Waterman Howlong Harris Jeremanh Rhoades 

Silas Carpenter William Carpenter Peleg Rhoades 

Thomas ffield with ray Consent my two sons have subscribed : 

[and also by five Trustees on the part of the town of Providence.] 
Dated 16 January 1682 : 83.— Recorded May 24: 1705 in the Third 
Book Town of Providence, pp. 167, 168. [Early Providence Records, iv: 
73-76.] 

January y** 27'^: 168f. Voated y* y* Bond Given by m^ Roger Wil- 
liams m"". Thomas ffield & John Thornton Concerning Sarah Neals beinsf 
chargeable to y® towne by herselfe or child be delivered up to y^ said per- 
sons. — Town Meeting Records, p. 70. — [Early Providence Records, viii: 
122, 123.] 



1899.] Koles concerning Roger Williams. 63 

On April 25, 1683, William Carpenter executed a deed wherein he called 
himself the last survivor of the 13 proprietors of Pavvtuxet lauds; and as 
Roger Williams was one of these proprietors, he must have been dead at 
this date. [Providence Deeds, i: 260.] 

From the above it is clear that Roger Williams died in February, 
March or April, 1683. Rev. Isaac Backus so asserted in the first 
edition of his History of New England, i : 515, published in 1777. 
In his Abridgement of the Church History of New England, p. 130, 
published in 1804, Mr. Backus stated that Roger Williams died in 
April, 1683. 

C. MAIDEN NAME OF HIS WIFE. 

The record of the births of the children " of Roger Williams and 
Mary his wife," on page 5 of the "First Book of Providence,"* 
proves that Mary was the mother of all the children. 

That jNIary's maiden name was probably Warnerd or Wai'nard, 
is shown by the following extract from a letter written by William 
Harris to one Capt. Dean under date of Providence, 14th of No- 
vember, 1666, copied by Moses Brown, f and printed about 1896 
in a leaflet entitled "Some William Harris Memoranda." The let- 
ter relates almost entirely to Roger Williams. 

" I have sent you a first and second Bill of £23, 10/ stg in Two Several 
letters, I left the letters with one Mr. Warnerd, who knows your Self, he is 
Brother [Qi(e7-i/, own brother?] to INIr. Williams's Wife, the said Mr. War- 

nard Yours Always [signed] William Harris." Appended to the 

letter is the following: "Note. I copied this from an original in William 
Harris's hand writing, now in my possession, 3'' mo. 18'**. and compared it 
carefully and made it as exact a copy as I could with the assistance of a 
younger person. [Signed] Moses Brown." 

The following letter contains valuable information concerning the 
" Memoranda " and other documents. 

PoMFRET, [Conn.] Oct. 30, 1898. 

Dear Sir: '' Some AVilliam Harris Memoranda " were printed two or 
three years ago to preserve the contents of some old and dilapidated docu- 
ments then in my possession. 

The original letter to Capt. Dean is lost. — probably destroyed when the 
Jenkins residence I)urned, fort}' or fifty years ago. Mrs. Jenkins was Moses 
Brown's sole heir. 

William J. Harris, nephew of Mr. Brown's fourth wife, lived with his 
uncle and was one of his executors; likewise was the "younger person" 
who assisted Moses in making his copy of the Dean letter. He made the 
copy which I have in my possession and from which that in the leaflet was 
printed. I then h;id the Moses Brown copy also, but it was ver}' dilapidated. 

I am not able to fix the date of the Moses lirown copy. He died in 1836 
nearly 98 years old. 

All the -'Memoranda" papers (except the W. J. H. copy of the Dean 
letter) are owned by Mrs. M. E. Harris Cushman, daughter of William J. 

• Early Kecords of Providence, It. I. By the llecord Commissioners, i : 7. 
tMosesfi Brown (James*, James', John^, Chad'), b. 1738, Sept. 23; d. 1836, Sept. 6. 



64 Notes concerning Roger Williams. [Jan. 

Harris. She has also many interesting documents, — original letters of Wil- 
liam Harris, and Andrew Harris's copies of the " captivity letters," the 
originals of which were probably sent to England and lost on the way. 
Yours very truly, Robert Harris. 

D, — ADDITION TO A LETTER OF ROGER WILLIAMS. 

Rev. Isaac Backus, when writing his History of the Baptists in 
New England, collected and copied a number of documents former- 
ly belonging to Rev. Samuel Hubbard of Newport, R. I. The 
manuscript of Mr. Backus was loaned by Rev. C. E. Barrows of New- 
port, in July, 1880, to Ray Greene Huling, Esq. (now master of 
the English High School of Cambridge, Mass.), who copied the 
manuscript before returning it. 

In vol. i. pp. 510, 511, of Mr. Backus's History, first edition, 
is a letter written by Roger Williams to Mr. Hubbard, which has 
been reprinted in vol. vi. pp. 361, 362, of the Narragansett Club 
Publications, where the editor assigns to the letter the date of 1672. 
This letter, as printed, is incomplete, as shown by the following 
note of Mr. Backus, copied by Mr. Huling : 

In my history, vol. i. p. 511, near the bottom, add [to the letter of Roger 
Williams] " at present (to repay your kindness & because you are stude- 
ous) I pray you to request my brother Williams, or my son Providence, or 
my daughf^ Hart, to spare you the sight of a memorial in verse which I 
lately writ, in humble thanksgiving unto God, for his great & wonderful de- 
liverance to my son Providence. I pray salute." His meaning [adds Mr. 
Backus, but without due thought] in repaying was, Mr. Hubbard had 
wrote something upon his son's death, which he lent Mr. Williams, which 
he now returned. 



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