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SEP !9i9l7 

Detail of Kogcr W illianis Statue, 
Roger Williams Park, Providence 




Author of "Dutch Days," "Jan 
and Betje," etc. 

The Seal of Roger Williams 



Bt frank M. SHELDON . 



©GI.A473575 "^ v [ 


For much of the data contained in this 
biography of Roger Williams, I am in- 
debted to the following authorities : 

Narragansett Club Publications; 

Memoir of Roger Williams, by James D. 
Knowles ; 

Roger Williams: the Pioneer of Re- 
ligious Liberty, by Oscar S. Straus; 

Roger Wilhams, by Edmund J. Car- 

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island 
and Providence Plantations ; 

History of the State of Rhode Island, by 
Samuel Greene Arnold; 

Rhode Island: Its Making and Its 
Meaning, by Irving Berdine Richman; 

Providence in Colonial Times, by Ger- 
trude Selwyn Kimball; 

Annals of the Town of Providence, by 
William R. Staples; 

Winthrop's Journal. 

My sincere thanks are due Mr. Howard 


M. Chapin, Librarian of the Rhode Island 
Historical Society, for the illustrations of 
the Charter House, statue of Roger Wil- 
liams and the Roger Williams seal, also for 
permission to photograph the Roger Wil- 
liams compass, and for other substantial 
assistance rendered in the preparation of 
this little volume. 

I desire, too, to express my thanks for 
the story of the Roger Williams watch 
given by Mr. Henry Russell Drowne of 
New York City and photograph of the 

The Author. 



Foreword v 

Introduction xi 

I Out of the Shadows 3 

II Westward, Ho! 15 

III New Neighbors 23 

IV The War of Words 38 

V "A Corner for the Persecuted" . 52 

VI The Pequot War 68 

VII The Indian Key 80 

VIII In Quest op the Charter ... 93 

IX Narragansett Days 108 

X The Charter on Trial 120 

XI The Second Mission 128 

XII Roger Williams as Colonial 

President 142 

XIII The Coming of the Quakers . . 156 

XIV Roger Williams as Citizen . . . 169 
XV King Philip's War 185 

XVI Back to the Shadows 200 


Detail of Roger Williams Statue Frontispiece 


Entrance to Charter House, London . 10 

The Roger Williams Tree 46 

The Williams Street Monument ... 56 

The First Baptist Church of Providence 78 

Canonicus Bridge, The Betsey Williams 

Cottage, Roger Williams Park . . 120 

Statue of Roger Williams, Roger Wil- 
liams Park 162 

Roger Williams' Pocket-Compass, Sun- 

DiAL AND Watch 206 


The new Life of Roger Williams is cer- 
tain to receive a cordial welcome and a wide 
reading. It has been eight years since Dr. 
Edmmid J. Carpenter published his "Roger 
Williams, a Study of the Life, Times and 
Character of a Political Pioneer," and 
twenty-three years since the admirable work 
by Oscar S. Straus, entitled "Roger Wil- 
liams, the Pioneer of Religious Liberty," 
appeared. In the meantime Irving B. 
Richman has given to the public his able 
volumes on "Rhode Island, its Making and 
its Meaning," which naturally and inevit- 
ably portrayed the character and service of 
its great founder. Rhode Island was but 
the incarnation of the views and principles 
of Roger Williams. 

In view of these recent biographies, added 
to several which had been written previously 
and the large place which Roger Williams 
fills in all publications on New England his- 
tory, it may be asked, "Is there a demand for 


a new Life?" It may be answered emphat- 
ically, "Yes, if it is written in the attractive 
and popular style in which Mrs. Hall has 
done her work." She has made herself 
familiar with the facts of Roger Williams' 
life so far as known, with the spirit of the 
Puritan age and the causes which led to his 
banishment, with his advanced views of re- 
ligious liberty, his courageous efforts to 
defend them and his heroic self-denials and 
sufferings to incorporate them in human 
government, with the reasons which justify 
the title now universally given to him as "the 
pioneer and apostle of soul liberty," with 
the evidences of his hmnane and forgiving 
spirit toward those who had persecuted 
him and his wonderful success in preserving 
them more than once from slaughter by hos- 
tile Indians, with his deep and abiding in- 
terest in the native tribes and his labors for 
their moral and spiritual elevation, with his 
success in acquiring their barbarous lan- 
guage, winning their confidence and turning 
many of them from their idolatry and super- 
stitions to the knowledge of the true God 
and the acceptance of Christian truth, which 


labors place him side by side with John 
Eliot, the Puritan apostle to the Indians. 
With all these things Mrs. Hall has made 
herself familiar, and also with his noble ser- 
vice, often rendered, as a wise statesman and 
recognized peacemaker among the turbulent 
elements in his little colony as well as be- 
tween the natives and the Puritan settlers, 
with his recognition by the British Parlia- 
ment as a scholar of exceptional ability and 
an eminent philanthropist, when they 
granted his request for a charter for his im- 
periled venture, and also with his intimate 
acquaintance with some of the distinguished 
leaders of the England^ of his day, viz., 
Cromwell, Milton and Sir Henry Vane, Jr., 
and she has told the wonderful story in a 
manner that will chann and instruct readers, 
both old and young. 

The life of Roger Williams was sur- 
rounded with not a little of romance — the 
uncertainty of the date and place of his 
birth, his discovery and patronage by the 
eminent jurist, Sir Edward Coke, his un- 
fortunate first-love experience, his migra- 
tion to the wilderness of the new world, his 


expulsion by his companions from their 
primitive society, who found him a disturb- 
ing element by reason of his advanced po- 
litical opinions, his retention of the esteem 
and friendship of some of the ablest men 
who drove him out because of his "pestilen- 
tial doctrines," as, for instance, the Win- 
throps, father and son, with whom he kept 
up an affectionate correspondence as long 
as he lived (more than one hundred of his 
letters to them have been preserved), and 
the remarkable success of his "lively experi- 
ment," which has given to him an honored 
and conspicuous name with all modern his- 
torians and has exerted kn influence upon 
human government which is rapidly encir- 
cling the globe. Roger Williams was 
charged by his Puritan neighbors with hav- 
ing "a windmill in his head." Not only 
Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but the 
whole nation, from ocean to ocean, is now 
enjoying the priceless grist which that de- 
spised windmill ground out. It looks as if 
Roger Williams was fast coming into his 
own. Prof. Romeo Elton said in his "Life 
of Roger Williams," published sixty-three 


years ago, "His property, his time and his 
talents were devoted to the promotion of 
the temporal and spiritual welfare of man- 
kind, and in conducting to a glorious issue 
the struggle to unloose the bonds of the cap- 
tive daughter of Zion." Charles Francis 
Adams, in his "Massachusetts, its Histo- 
rians and its History," frankly declares, 
"Massachusetts, in the person of her minis- 
ters and magistrates, missed a great destiny 
by rejecting Roger Williams." 

We of to-day undoubtedly look upon the 
Puritans with more charity and a greater 
appreciation of their spirit and excellences 
than did those of a former generation. We 
recognize their great virtues as well as their 
glaring faults. They were men of sterling 
character, of deep religious convictions, of 
willingness to make painful sacrifices for the 
sake of principle, of great reverence for the 
Bible and the institutions of religion, of 
purity of life in the home and in their social 
relations. They believed that religion was 
the supreme thing and that the command- 
ments of God were of binding obligation 
upon all intelligent moral beings. They 


may have been too rigid in their interpreta- 
tions and too severe in their application of 
religion to life and conduct, as, for example, 
in the observance of the Sabbath. But in 
our day of extreme and dangerous neglect 
men are saying, "There are some things that 
are worse than a Puritan Sabbath." It 
might be w^ell for modern life if we, the 
descendants of the Puritans, had inherited 
more of their virtues. 

Of course in the matter of the separation 
of church and state they were still in the 
bonds of ignorance. Though they had 
broken away from the persecuting hand of 
the mother land and "the mother church," 
as they loved to call it, they had not broken 
away from the belief which was the source 
and instigator of the persecuting spirit. As 
Prof. John Winthrop Platner has said re- 
cently in his "King's Chapel Lecture" on 
the Congregationalists, "The connection be- 
tween church and state was also close, in 
spite of their theoretical separation, so close 
in fact that the government of Massachusetts 
Bay has often been described as a theocracy. 
. . . They believed that no human govern- 


ment could be firmly established, unless 
based upon the divine. . . . The mixture of 
law and religion of course gave rise to dif- 
ficulties, and aroused criticism. It was the 
persistent exercise of jurisdiction over of- 
fenses "against the first table of the law" 
(i.e., against the first four commandments 
of the decalogue) that provoked the open 
hostility of Roger Williams against the au- 
thorities, and caused him to protest that the 
things of God and the things of Csesar 
should not be confounded, a protest which 
brought him into trouble." 

The Puritans had hardly reached the 
dawn of the glorious day which was to be 
distinguished by absolute religious liberty. 
Roger Williams was enveloped in its full 
noonday splendor. Hon. James Bryce de- 
nominates him "an orthodox Puritan." 
True, if he means an intense, logically con- 
sistent, fully ripened, radical Puritan, a Pil- 
grim of the Pilgrims. In the memorable 
words of Judge Storey, "In the code of 
laws established by Williams and his com- 
panions we read for the first time, since 
Christianity ascended the throne of the 


Caesars, the declaration that the conscience 
should be free, and that men should not be 
punished for worshiping God in the way 
they were persuaded He requires." In 
similar language Professor Masson declares 
that Roger Williams organized "a commu- 
nity on the unheard-of principles of absolute 
religious liberty combined with perfect civil 
democracy." Such is the unanimous testi- 
mony of historians as to the character and 
service of the founder of Rhode Island. 
Mr. Oscar Straus expresses the hope "that 
the time is not far distant when the civilized 
people in the remotest corners of the earth 
will recognize the truth and power of the 
principles which throw around the name of 
Roger Williams a halo of imperishable glory 
and fame." May this new and popular biog- 
raphy, charming in style, appreciative in 
spirit and in harmony with the generally 
accepted facts of history, hasten the realiza- 
tion of this sublime hope. 

Henry M. King, 

Pastor Emeritus of the First Baptist Church 
{The Roger Williams Church). 

Providence, R. I. 



Caesars, the declaration that the conscience 
should be free, and that men should not be 
punished for worshiping God in the way 
they were persuaded He requires.'* In 
similar language Professor Masson declares 
that Roger Williams organized "a commu- 
nity on the unheard-of principles of absolute 
religious liberty combined with perfect civil 
democracy." Such is the unanimous testi- 
mony of historians as to the character and 
service of the founder of Rhode Island. 
Mr. Oscar Straus expresses the hope "that 
the time is not far distant when the civilized 
people in the remotest corners of the earth 
will recognize the truth and power of the 
principles which throw around the name of 
Roger Williams a halo of imperishable glory 
and fame." May this new and popular biog- 
raphy, charming in style, appreciative in 
spirit and in harmony with the generally 
accepted facts of history, hasten the realiza- 
tion of this sublime hope. 

Henry M. King, 

Pastor Emeritus of the First Baptist Church 
{The Roger Williams Church). 

Providence, R. I. 






Tucked away in the northeastern corner of 
the -United States is the tiny state of Rhode 
Island. "Little Rhody" she is often affec- 
tionately called, although her full name is 
"State of Rhode Island and Providence 
Plantations." Such an overwhelming title 
for such a small body! 'Yet not only in 
length of name, but in the number of her 
capital cities, has Rhode Island led her 
sister states. Up to the year 1900 she 
boasted two capitals, while every other state 
in the Union was contented with one. From 
the beginning, Rhode Island has made up 
in interesting history what she has lacked in 
size. ' 

Much of this history is hinted at in the 
names found within her borders. Take the 
name Providence, for example. It sounds 
as if it had a story back of it — as, indeed, it 


has. Other quaint and suggestive names 
are found in the streets of the capital — 
Benefit, Benevolent and Friendship — and 
in the islands in Narragansett Bay — 
Prudence, Patience, Hope. 

Rhode Island's story is largely that of 
Roger Williams, yet he was too great a man 
to belong to one bit of the country alone. 
He is one of the finest characters in United 
States history, though people were long in 
finding it out. Even to-day we do not 
always remember the noble services he 
rendered our country. Men who do spec- 
tacular things have many biographers, 
while quiet lives often remain unrecorded. 
We are apt to forget that it may take as 
much bravery to stand abuse and loss of 
friends as to face the cannon's mouth, that 
even more courage is required to fight for 
disagreeable truths than to win battles. So 
while Roger Williams never did anything 
to startle the world, he will remain one of 
the great moral soldiers of all time. Lack- 
ing appreciation in the day in which he 
lived, he deserves the honor of our own age. 
It is time he came into his own. 


The lives of most famous men begin with 
a fixed date. Stories of family and boyhood 
follow, with perhaps a clear description of 
the great man himself. In this respect, 
Roger Williams' life is different from the 
others. We have not the faintest idea what 
he looked like — whether he was tall or short, 
stout or thin, dark or light, had blue eyes or 
brown. No true portrait of him has ever 
been discovered. The artists who have 
attempted to give us his hkeness in bronze 
or marble or on canvas have had to idealize 

Out of a shadowy past, largely from our 
own imagination, we must make up for our- 
selves a picture of his early days. Roger 
Williams has left a very scant account of 
his boyhood and he was too unpopular in the 
seventeenth century for others to take the 
trouble to record it. When later writers 
did so, they made many mistakes. This is 
not strange, as there were probably several 
persons by the name of Roger Williams 
living at the same time as our hero. 

To begin with, the very date of Roger 
Williams' birth is unknown. It is given 


by different historians anywhere between 
1599 and 1607. In his own writings, Roger 
Williams referred once or twice to his age, 
but in such an indefinite way that we are 
led to think that he was not exactly sure 
of his birthday. Thus in a letter written to 
John Winthrop in 1632, he said he was 
"nearer upwards of thirty than twenty- 
five." Again, in 1679, he said he was "near 
to fourscore years of age." Even with the 
most careful aritlimetic, we shall have to be 
content with the rather vague information 
that he was bom near the beginning of the 
seventeenth century. 

As to his birthplace, on this point also 
there has been much dispute. For many 
years it was thought to be Wales, but now 
it has been quite clearly proved that Roger 
Williams was born in London. The ancient 
court records that point to this fact show 
that James Williams was the father of 
Roger and a merchant tailor living in the 
parish of "St. Sepulchres, without New- 
gate, London." He was apparently in com- 
fortable circumstances, for his will provided 
not only for his wife and children, but 


directed that gifts of money and bread be 
distributed among the city poor. 

Alice Williams, the mother of Roger, 
who survived her husband, owned or leased 
property in Cow Lane. In her will she 
mentioned four children — ^Sidrach, the old- 
est, Roger, "now beyond the seas," Kath- 
erine, wife of John Davies, and Robert. To 
Roger she bequeathed ten pounds, or about 
fifty dollars, to be paid yearly for a term of 
twenty years. 

The oldest boy of the family, Sidrach, 
after he grew up, became a merchant of 
Turkey and other southern countries of 
Europe. Roger Williams referred to him 
as follows: 

"Myself have seen the Old Testament of 
the Jews, most curious writing, whose price 
(in way of trade) was threescore pound, 
which my brother, a Turkey merchant, had 
and showed me." 

Roger's younger brother Robert became, 
like himself, a Rhode Island colonist. He 
was one of the first settlers of Providence 
and later became a schoolmaster at 


Like many another boy, Roger Williams 
owed his start in life to a great man. Sir 
Edward Coke was a brilliant English law- 
yer when Roger was young. His friend- 
ship for the lad is best described by Sir 
Edward's daughter: 

"This Roger Williams, when he was a 
youth, would, in a short-hand, take sermons 
and speeches in the Star Chamber, and 
present them to my dear father. He, see- 
ing so hopeful a youth, took such liking to 
him that he sent him in to Sutton's Hos- 
pital, and he was the second placed there." 

The Star Chamber was a London Court, 
so called because the room in which it met 
had a ceiling decorated with gilt stars. The 
school mentioned in the letter is better 
known as the Charter House School. On 
its roll of students are such famous names 
as Addison, Steele, John Wesley and 
Grote. That Roger Williams remembered 
his early friend with gratitude is shown by 
these words written in middle life : 

"And I may truly say, that beside my 
natural inclination to study and activity, 
his example, instruction and encouragement 


have spurred me on to a more than ordinary, 
industrious and patient course in my whole 
course hitherto." 

There is, indeed, every reason to think 
that Roger Wilhams proved to be the kind 
of pupil Sir Edward hoped he would be, 
for while at the Charter House he success- 
fully prepared himself for college. Yet of 
his real life as a schoolboy — his chums, his 
sports, his pranks, his holidays — we know 
almost nothing. One tiny bit of informa- 
tion has come down to us, however, which 
would seem to show that Roger Williams 
was not very different from other boys. 
Thackeray, the great novelist, who was 
himself a scholar at the Charter House 
School years later, once said^ in a lecture 
in Providence, that he had found in a beam 
of the old school the letters "R W" which 
Roger Williams cut there as a boy. When- 
ever Thackeray had to educate his boy 
characters, he usually sent them to this ven- 
erable old institution. This is the way he 
pictures it in "The Newcomes": 

"Under the great archway of the hospital 
he could look at the old Gothic building; 


and a black-gowned pensioner or two crawl- 
ing over the quiet square, or passing from 
one dark arch to another. The boarding- 
houses of the school were situated in the 
square, hard by the more ancient buildings 
of the hospital. A great noise of shouting, 
crying, clapping foi-ms and cupboards, 
treble voices, bass voices, poured out of the 
schoolboys' windows: their life, bustle and 
gaiety contrasted strangely with the quiet 
of those old men, creeping along in their 
black gowns under the ancient arches yon- 
der, whose struggle of life was over, whose 
hope and noise and bustle had sunk into 
that gray calm." 

In all probability, Roger Williams con- 
tinued his education at Pembroke College. 
Being the college of the great man who had 
interested himself in the boy, it was the one 
that would most likely be chosen. After 
graduating with a degree, Roger Williams 
studied law for a time. Then, deciding to 
become a minister, he took orders in the 
Church of England and obtained a position 
as chaplain in the household of Sir William 
Masham of Otes, in the county of Essex. 



A delightful and, at the same time, amus- 
ing love story has come to light which re- 
veals one of the last glimpses of Roger 
Williams in the Old World. It seems that 
the wife of his patron, Lady Masham, had 
a cousin, Jane Whalley, with whom the 
young chaplain fell in love. He proceeded 
to write two letters to Miss Whalley's aunt 
and guardian, Lady Barrington, asking for 
the hand of her niece. In the first, he men- 
tions the fact that the affair has caused con- 
siderable talk and he hints that Miss Jane 
returns his affection. Then he sums up his 
worldly possessions — an expected trifling 
legacy from his mother, a little money 
("sevenscore pieces") and a small library 
("a little yet costly study of books") . Piti- 
ful means, indeed, for winning a young lady 
of rank! Yet Roger Williams frankly 
pointed out to the aunt that the advantages 
were not all on one side, for in spite of Miss 
Whalley's high birth, she had a most 
passionate temper. 

Everything considered, it is not strange 
that the struggling minister was flatly re- 
jected. The second letter addressed to 


Lady Barrington is such as only a disap- 
pointed, angry lover could write. He says 
in plain language that the Lord is very 
angry with her ladyship and that if she does 
not repent, all sorts of dreadful things are 
likely to happen to her. The lengthy ser- 
mon-letter is filled with Scriptural quota- 
tions. Still, although he asserts, "We hope 
to live together in the heavens though the 
Lord have denied that union on earth," time 
proved a rapid healer. In less than two 
years he had transferred his affection to a 
Miss Mary Warnard, or Barnard, and made 
her his wife. 

The sequel of the unfortunate love affair 
is rather interesting. Of course Miss Jane 
married another man, but, as it happened, 
he was a clergyman like her former sweet- 
heart. In turn she came to know the 
pioneer life of New England as did Roger 
Williams, being located for some years in 
Massachusetts and Connecticut. She later 
returned to old England, where her husband 
became chaplain to her cousin, Oliver Crom- 
well, who was also a friend of Roger Wil- 
liams. In fact, Cromwell's real family 


name was Williams and some historians 
have even asserted that he was related to 
Roger Williams. 

The correspondence with Lady Barring- 
ton is of importance aside from the dis- 
appointing love passages it records. For 
here is given an early inkling of that mirest 
and dissatisfaction in religious matters that 
was to play so large a part in the futm*e 
life of the youthful chaplain. Already be- 
ginning to protest against the established 
forms of worship, he writes, "A tender con- 
science hath kept me back from honor and 
preferment." Then follows the merest hint 
of having received a call from New 

By this time Roger Williams had formed 
the habit of thinking for himself and of 
holding firmly to what he believed to be 
right, whether others agreed with him or 
not. During his stay in Essex, he used to 
talk over religious subjects with his fellow- 
clergymen and to explain why he differed 
from them on certain points. Among these 
companions were Thomas Hooker and John 
Cotton, whose lives ran parallel to his on 


both sides of the water. The three friends 
rode through the countryside earnestly dis- 
cussing the burning questions uppermost in 
their minds. Little did they dream where 
these same discussions would lead! Had 
Master Hooker and Master Cotton been 
told that the argumentative man who rode 
by their side was to become one of the 
makers of American history and a leader in 
world thought, they would most likely have 
said, "Oh, no. Roger Williams is our 
friend, but he is really a very short-sighted 
and very obstinate fellow." Indeed, he had 
gained the reputation among his Sussex 
neighbors of being "divinely mad." 

These, then, are the few meager facts of 
the beginnings of Roger Williams' exist- 
ence before he set his face toward the New 
World. His life in England will always 
remain more or less of a mystery. Not so, 
fortunately, his life in America. His hard- 
ships, trials, adventures and sufferings have 
become familiar history. And it is this part 
of the story that is most important, for 
Roger Williams is, first and last, a great 



In order to understand why Roger Wil- 
liams should have wanted to make his home 
on this side of the water, we should know 
a little something of tlie England in which 
he lived. It was not then the free, liberal 
country it is to-day. In many matters, es- 
pecially those relating to religion, a man 
could not do as he chose, but as he was told. 
To-day, one can attend any church he 
pleases; then he was forced by law to attend 
the established church. The king was the 
head of both church and state. 

Now it was not siu-prising that all persons 
of that day did not care to support the 
same church. They Vv^ere not able to think 
alike, any more than we who live to-day. 
Curious, indeed, it would be if Vv^e held ex- 
actly the same views as our neighbors and 
worshiped in the same church. Some of 
the men of Roger Williams' day objected 


to the teachings of the national church, 
others wished to do away with its forms and 
ceremonies. And because they could not 
conscientiously worship the way the sov- 
ereign commanded, serious trouble arose. 
Those who were independent enough to defy 
the king were liable to be fined, banished 
or imprisoned. And the prisons of those 
days were anything but pleasant places in 
which to spend one's time ! 

The persons who objected to the estab- 
lished form of worship were of two classes. 
On the one hand were chui'ch members who 
believed in working for certain religious 
reforms without separating from the church. 
Their enemies nicknamed them Puritans. 
The Puritans argued something like this: 

"We do not think our ministers should 
wear vestments. Neither do we believe it 
right to make the sign of the cross in bap- 
tism. Kneeling at sacrament is sinful in our 
eyes, also the use of the organ in church. 
These ceremonies are too much like those 
of the Roman church from which we have 
turned. But the established church is our 
church. She is our own dear mother and 


we will not forsake her. At the same time, 
while still remaining her children, we will 
try to lead her to a hetter, purer life." 

The Separatists went further than this. 
In turn, they argued: 

"The church is cori-upt and we will have 
nothing to do with her. We will form 
congregations of our own and worship 
according to our own consciences." 

It is easy to see that being a Separatist 
was a far more dangerous thing than being 
a Puritan. By remaining in the church, the 
Puritan was shielded to an extent. The 
Separatist, on the other hand, had no 

When James, the first Stuart king, came 
to the throne, he kept in mind the motto, 
"No bishops, no king." For political pur- 
poses, he determined on a course of perse- 
cution. He said of all those who would not 
support the national church, "I will make 
them conform, or I will harry them out of 
the land." 

That is just what he did. A little band 
of Separatists, who were later to become 
world-famous, were glad to flee to Holland 


Lo escape persecution. It was no small 
thing, three hundred or more years ago, for 
any European country to shelter a people 
whose religion differed from that of the state 
church and we therefore like to think of the 
liberality of the Dutch. They and the Eng- 
lish immigrants lived together like brothers 
for a period of years. A thriving settlement 
was founded at Leyden, and here, for about 
twelve years, the fugitives knew the mean- 
ing of peace and happiness. Many of them 
learned to speak and write the Dutch lan- 
guage, which one writer has called "the 
sister language nearest to the English." 
There were certainly marriages between the 
two peoples and the English children were 
doubtless sent to the free Dutch schools for 
their education. 

As Roger Williams was familiar with 
Dutch, it may be that he studied the lan- 
guage with the idea of making Holland his 
home. However that may be, such a plan 
was never carried out. At least once he had 
occasion to address King James, though 
what the occasion was, we are unable to 
guess. He merely referred to the monarch 


briefly as "King James, whom I have spoke 

Why did the Enghsh in Holland begin 
to long for still another home? Living so 
contentedly, why were they not satisfied to 
remain so? There seem to have been two 
reasons for their feeling as they did. To 
begin with, there was grave danger of their 
becoming a part of the Dutch nation. They 
were afraid of losing their speech, customs, 
religion — everything that made them EfUg- 
lish Separatists. 

Then, too, when they had attempted to 
spread their doctrines by means of printing, 
King James had interfered and taken pos- 
session of the types. When such tyranny 
as this could exist even in kindly Holland, 
they thought it was high time to seek a home 

" No home for these! — too well they knew 
The mitered kin;? behind the throne; 
The sails were set, the pennons flew, 
And westward, ho! for worlds unknown." 

The rest of the story of the "Pilgrim 
Fathers" we all know — how they crossed 


the water, battled against famine, disease 
and poverty, and succeeded slowly but 
surely in building up a settlement at 


Years passed before they had any neigh- 
bors. At last, in 1628, the little settlement 
of Salem was formed by the Massachusetts 
Bay Company. This was followed two 
years later by a big migration of Puritans 
to New England under John Winthrop 
which led to the founding of Boston and 
several smaller towns. The colony which 
embraced these different settlements was 
called Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

Meanwhile, things had been going from 
bad to worse in England. King Charles 
was now on the throne and his subjects were 
discouraged to find that he was even more 
of a tyrannical master than James, his 
father. How could anybody expect justice 
or fairness from a ruler who believed that 
because he was a king, he could do no 
wrong? It grew more and more uncom- 
fortable for the Puritans every day, even 
in the established chiu-ch. One of Charles' 
chief advisers, Archbishop Laud, was busy 


ridding the country of all "heretics" and 
other offenders against the royal will and 
law. If Roger Williams had now taken 
notes in the Star Chamber as he did when 
a boy, he would have recorded many unde- 
served punishments, such as heavy fines, 
whippings and worse. But he was now a 
man and looking with longing eyes across 
the ocean, as so many of his countrymen 
had before him. 

As to Roger Williams' true place among 
the different sects of his time, he was with- 
out doubt a Separatist. More than one 
passage in his letters points to this as the 
truth. There was no half-way to a man of 
his decided character. Believing as he did, 
there was only one tiling for him to do — 
seek a refuge in the New World. 

"And truly it was as bitter as death to 
me," he wrote in after years, "when Bishop 
Laud pursued me out of this land, and 
my conscience was persuaded against the 
national church, and ceremonies, and 

By the last of the year 1630, our pioneer 
was ready to sail for America and on De- 


cember 1st, he took passage in the ship 
Lyon, commanded by Captain Pierce, at 
Bristol. With him was his young wife 
JMary. Very little is known about her early 
history— far less than what has been dis- 
covered about the fair Jane whom Roger 
Williams failed to win. That she made a 
good wife and mother and shared her hus- 
band's troublous career with loving devotion 
is quite certain. 

For over two months, in the dead of 
winter, the vessel battled with gales and 
storms and ice. One passenger, a young 
man, lost his life and at times probably 
eveiybody aboard felt sure they would 
never see land again. It must have been 
with deep relief and thanksgiving that the 
weary passengers finally landed safely at 
Nantasket, near Boston, February 5, 1631. 

In this stormy fashion, Roger Williams' 
new life began. 



We have seen that by the time Roger Wil- 
liams had made up his mind to emigrate to 
America, the most important colonies in 
New England were Plymouth and the Mas- 
sachusetts Bay Colony. Plymouth was 
Separatist and the Bay Colony Puritan, but 
every day growing farther and farther from 
the English Church. We would expect 
Roger Williams to decide upon the Plym- 
outh settlement as a home, as its people 
held similar views to his own and it was the 
more liberal colony of the two. Why, in- 
stead, he chose to live in Massachusetts 
Bay Colony cannot be easily explained. 
Possibly in far-away England he did not 
rightly understand just how matters stood 
in New England. 

However, there was great rejoicing 
when the young minister and his wife first 
appeared in Boston. The talented stranger 


was hailed as a "godly minister" and a wel- 
come addition to the little colony. Far 
different language was used a few years 
later when he was turned out of that same 
colony, a homeless fugitive, disgraced and 
forbidden ever to return! The friendship 
between Roger Williams and the Bay au- 
thorities lasted only until each had an 
opportunity to get better acquainted with 
the other. 

At first, the future loomed bright and 
promising to Roger Williams. Hundreds 
of miles behind him were tyrannical king, 
heartless bishop, and all that had made life 
on English soil a burden. Ahead were long 
years of peace, freedom and usefulness 
among new neighbors who were his own 

How different was to be the future from 
what he imagined ! He had yet to learn that 
here, in the wilds of New England, was a 
tyranny, in some respects as narrow as that 
of King Charles. Here, too, was unjust 
persecution very much like that from which 
he had fled. The Massachusetts Puritans 
who had left the mother country because 


they could not worship according to their 
consciences now refused to let others wor- 
ship according to their consciences. They 
who had been made to suffer for thinking 
as they pleased now caused their neighbors 
to suffer for the same reason. They held 
that while they had objected to the corrup- 
tions of the established church, now that a 
purer form of worship had taken its place, 
it must and should be supported. They 
had bitterly criticized the English Church, 
but nobody must criticize theirs! 

The accepted law was the Ten Com- 
mandments. These were divided into "two 
tables." The first four, or those which 
summed up man's duty to God, were the 
"first table," while the remaining six, which 
covered the duties of man to man, were the 
"second table." A person guilty of break- 
ing any one of the Commandments was 
liable to be pmiished by the magistrates. 
The government of the colony was based 
upon the old Mosaic Law. Severe and 
heartless were the penalties meted out to 
offenders — often more severe and more 
heartless than those of England. Naturally 


the world had progressed during the hun- 
dreds of years that had elapsed since the 
rigid code of the Hebrew law-giver was in 

Into this narrow body of believers came 
Roger Williams, who was to become the 
"apostle of soul liberty." From the very 
start, he was looked upon as a trouble- 
maker. A Boston clergyman, Cotton 
Mather, writing about this period some 
years later, said that Roger Williams had 
a windmill in his head. 

"In the year 1654, a certain windmill in 
the Low Countries, whirling round with 
extraordinary violence, by reason of a vio- 
lent storm then blowing, the stone at length 
by its rapid motion became so intensely hot 
as to fire the mill, from whence the flames, 
being dispersed by the high winds, did set 
a whole town on fire. But I can tell my 
reader that, about twenty years before this, 
there was a whole country in America like 
to be set on fire by the rapid motion of a 
windmill, in the head of one particular 

Immediately upon his arrival, the earnest 


young minister was given a chance to preach 
in a Boston church, but he refused for two 
reasons. First, the church members were an 
"unseparated people" and would not con- 
fess they were sorry for having had com- 
munion with English churches. Now it 
would seem that, on this first point, Roger 
Williams was quite as narrow as his neigh- 
bors. Yet he was at least consistent. Here 
were his fellow-fugitives who had suffered 
abuse and persecution for protesting against 
the "corruptions" of the estabhshed church. 
For the sake of their convictions they had 
given up home and friends in the Old 
World to face the trials and hardships 
of the New. Yet they still persisted in 
clinging fondly to the old church. 

What Roger Williams practically said to 
them was : 

"You have left the old life behind and 
have started in on the new. You have been 
given a chance to found a church after your 
own heart. Why, then, are you not a 
separated people? I cannot preach to you, 
for I have broken away forever from the 
church that has persecuted me." 


Roger Williams' second objection to 
preaching in the Boston pulpit was that the 
magistrates were allowed to punish sins of 
the "first table." This foreshadowed the 
principle of soul liberty, which denied the 
right of civil power to interfere in spiritual 

The whole trouble arose from the Puri- 
tans confusing church and state. They 
could not comprehend that the two should 
be separate, independeait bodies. In the 
spring of 1631, they passed a law providing 
that only church members should have the 
privilege of citizenship. They believed 
that the magistrates had just as much right 
to punish for spiritual offences as for civil 
offences, or those which disturbed the well- 
being of the community. When Roger 
Williams had carried his views on the sub- 
ject to a logical conclusion years later, he 
made them clear in the form of a parable. 

He said that the State was like an im- 
mense ship carrying all kinds of passengers. 
Among them are Catholics, Protestants, 
Jews and Turks. Their different religions 
are, of course, very unlike and the captain 


should be sensible enough to understand 
this and let each one worship as he pleases, 
according to his own peculiar custom. This 
is only fair, as long as the passengers remain 
peaceful and orderly. If, however, any one 
of them refuses to pay for his passage or 
disturbs the peace, then and then only has 
the captain a right to step in and punish 
the offender. But he does not interfere be- 
cause the culprit is a Jew or a Catholic or 
a Protestant, but because he has not re- 
spected the rights of others. In the same 
way, the State has a right to see that its 
citizens are well-behaved, but should leave 
their religion alone. 

From the very beginning, then, there was 
trouble for Roger Williams. Not many 
months passed before he received an ap- 
pointment as assistant to the Reverend 
Samuel Skelton of Salem. The General 
Court of Massachusetts did not like the 
choice of the Salem people and wrote a 
letter to that effect. Nevertheless, the senti- 
ment in favor of the outspoken minister 
was such that he was allowed to take his 
charge without difficulty. 


At this settlement, matters progressed 
more smoothly. Roger Williams' congre- 
gation was well pleased with him and 
showed their affection for him after he 
ceased being their minister, as we shall see. 
He was not permitted, however, to remain 
here more than a few months, for the au- 
thorities could not leave any man alone who 
was believed to be such a mischief-maker. 
By the close of summer, he was obliged to 
move to Plymouth. 

For two years he led a fairly peaceful life 
in his new home, but it was not an easy 
existence. "At Plymouth," he wrote, "I 
spake on the Lord's days and week days 
and wrought hard at the hoe for my bread." 

During his ministry, Governor Winthrop 
of Massachusetts, in company with others, 
went to Plymouth for a little visit, going 
afoot the latter part of the journey. They 
were met outside the town, escorted to the 
governor's house, and royally entertained 
at different homes in the days that followed. 
On Sunday, they attended church, of course. 
Roger Williams was the preacher, although 
the Plymouth governor, elders and guests 


also took part in the service. The peaceful 
Sabbath afternoon stands out in strange 
contrast to the stormy scenes that came 

During this period, a little daughter was 
bom, to whom was given the name of her 
mother, Mary. 

While Roger Williams was not perse- 
cuted at Plymouth, he was very ready to 
return to Salem and the good friends he had 
left there when the opportunity came. Re- 
ceiving a second call from the Salem church, 
probably in the summer of 1633, he gave 
up his ministry in Plymouth and made 
preparations to go back to his old parish. 
Some of his congregation were loath to have 
him go — in fact, so closely had he endeared 
them to him that several followed him to 

Before taking up Roger Williams' his- 
tory in that town, let us pause for a moment 
to see who some of the men were who had 
already come in contact with the vigorous 
preacher or who were to shape his future 
course. Such a grim portrait gallery of 
unflinching old Puritans they represent! 


As we look at some of the stern, forbidding 
faces, we cannot help being grateful that 
we are living in the twentieth century 
instead of the age of Roger Williams. 

Occupying a central place on the dark 
canvas is a Puritan of the Puritans — intel- 
lectual, proud, superior. There is no mis- 
taking him — John Cotton, of whom we have 
had a glimpse before. His mouth seems 
about to open, so eager is he for a learned 
argument. He is the exact opposite of 
Roger Williams and the two men are to be 
pitted against each other all their lives. 
The title of "unmitered pope of New Eng- 
land" will be given him by future genera- 
tions. Like his opponent, he follows what 
he believes to be the path of right, but} 
whereas with Roger Williams it leads to 
liberty, with John Cotton it leads to perse- 
cution. We pass to the next portrait with 
a sigh of relief. 

Thomas Hooker, also the friend of early 
days, comes next. Milder, less learned, 
perhaps, than John Cotton, he still has a 
reputation for able argument. He is to 


labor long and earnestly to make the 
mischief-maker see the error of his ways. 

Governor Bradford of Mayflower fame, 
dignified and scholarly, comes next in order. 
There is nothing of the tyrant in his 
make-up. While believing Roger Williams 
"unsettled in judgment," he is just enough 
to say that he is "a man godly and zealous, 
having many precious parts." Though he 
does not entirely approve of him, he is 
"thankful to him, even for his sharpest 
admonitions and reproofs so far as they 
agree with truth." 

We linger long upon the next portrait — 
a kindly face, that of a good friend. It is 
another governor of Plymouth, Edward 
Winslow. Fortunate, indeed, is Roger 
Williams to have this "great and pious soul" 
interested in him. Dark days are ahead and 
his friendship — not to mention a welcome 
piece of gold for needed family provisions 
— will not come amiss. 

We hardly believe that Elder Brewster, 
the next in line, could bring himself to do 
so gracious a deed. His conscience is too 
sensitive. Thankful enough is he that the 


call to the Salem church will prevent the 
further spreading of "dangerous" doctrine 
in Plymouth. It is the part of prudence 
to bid Roger Williams Godspeed. 

Who is that eager, restless person who 
occupies the next place — whose flashing 
eyes and open face tell as plainly as words 
that he is the creature of impulse? He is 
always doing hasty things, being sorry for 
them, and then doing the next hasty thing 
that presents itself! Big-hearted, reckless, 
courageous, narrow John Endicott! It is 
no wonder he is often in disgrace. Let us 
not forget that more than once he champions 
the cause of Roger Williams. 

The finest Puritan of them all comes last, 
Governor John Winthrop of the Bay 
Colony. A splendid, noble face is his. He 
is every inch a gentleman. He has brought 
the best of old England into the crude life 
of New England and is helping to build up 
so sturdy a race that the generations which 
follow will be proud of their descent from 
him and Puritans like him. He does not 
agree with Roger Williams, but a life-long 
friendship springs up between the two. 


"Mr. John Winthrop," said the younger 
man, "tenderly loved me to his last breath." 
Many of the quaint, old-fashioned letters 
addressed to the Bay governor have come 
down to us. "I sometimes fear," says the 
writer, "that my lines are as thick and over- 
busy as the mosquitoes." He discusses re- 
ligious questions, talks over Indian troubles 
and asks Winthrop 's advice, because, says 
he, "of the frequent experience of your 
loving ear, ready and open toward me." 

These, then, were a few of Roger Wil- 
liams' neighbors. There were still other 
neighbors, who were friends as well. These 
were the New England Indians. From the 
very beginning of his new life in America, 
Roger Williams had taken a deep interest 
in them. For one thing, he held that as they 
were the first-comers, the land belonged to 
them and could not be rightly owned by 
others, except by purchase. It is true that 
most of the colonists did pay for the terri- 
tory they occupied whatever the natives 
thought it was worth, yet as soon as Roger 
Williams gave his opinion on the subject, 
he was accused of disloyalty. It was one 


thing to bargain with the savages, quite an- 
other to announce boldly that James, who 
granted the first New England charter, was 
not "sovereign lord" of the whole continent, 
and that those who claimed land merely by 
royal grant had no title to it whatever. 

In spite of opposition, Roger Williams 
had the courage of his convictions. He 
wrote a treatise on the subject which he sent 
to the governor and council of Plymouth. 

No portion of Roger Williams' life is 
more interesting than that which deals with 
the red men. The Wampanoags or Pokano- 
kets, whose chief was Massasoit, occupied 
the Plymouth territory, while to the west 
were the powerful Narragansetts, whose 
sachems were Canonicus and Miantonomo. 
To gain the friendship of the Indians, 
Roger Williams endured all kinds of hard 
and unpleasant experiences, for his "soul's 
desire was to do the natives good." He vis- 
ited them, he encouraged their visiting him, 
he patiently studied their language. To 
quote his own words: "God was pleased to 
give me a painful, patient spirit to lodge 
with them in their filthy, smoky holes (even 


while I lived at Plymouth and Salem) to 
gain their tongue." 

It was a fortunate thing for the colonists 
that Roger Williams took this trouble. 
Otherwise he would not have been able to 
act as interpreter and peacemaker in after 
years, when Indian uprisings threatened the 
settlements. It is not an exaggeration to 
say that no one man prevented more blood- 
shed in early New England than Roger 

The Indians, often suspicious and un- 
trustworthy where other men were con- 
cerned, always showed a child-like con- 
fidence in their best friend. This was not 
because he "took sides" with them. Often 
he told them they were in the wrong and 
urged them to do the right thing by their 
white neighbors. It was the absolute justice 
and sincerity of Roger Williams that won 
their admiration. He could tell no lie. Of 
that they felt sure, so they accepted what he 
told them without argument or denial. 



Very little is known about Roger Williams' 
home in Salem, beyond the fact that it was 
the former residence of Francis Higginson, 
a teacher of the Salem church. At his 
death, the house passed to Mrs. Higginson, 
but after occupying it but for a short time, 
she allowed her husband's successor to take 
possession of it. Roger Williams probably 
bought it outright, for later he spoke of 
mortgaging it to raise needed funds. If it 
was like the usual Colonial dwelling of that 
day, it was plain and rather bare, but com- 
fortable and roomy to a degree, after the 
early New England standard. A gabled 
roof, generous open fireplaces, and windows 
made up of many tiny panes of glass were 
its most conspicuous features. 

As to the church in which Roger Wil- 
liams preached, even less information has 
been gleaned than that relating to his home. 


For many years a tradition has persisted 
that it was a diminutive, raftered structure 
with steep-pitched roof and clay floor — the 
whole thing more nearly resembling a back- 
woods cabin than a place of worship. There 
is little reason to think that the Salem con- 
gregations — with whom church-going was 
a sacred duty — could have been housed in 
such a rude chapel, which was no larger 
than a good-sized room. Yet while the 
First Church was an improvement on this, 
it must have presented a striking contrast 
to the beautiful Old World cathedral 
churches, with which some of the parish- 
ioners were familiar. 

Back in Salem, Roger WiUiams soon 
found himself in the midst of a war of words 
far more serious than any that had gone 
before. He was first called to account by 
the governor and his assistants for the 
pamphlet he had written in Plymouth de- 
claring that the right of the Indians to the 
territory they occupied was greater than 
that of the King. Upon being censured for 
his opinions, Roger Williams was, for once, 
very humble. He said he had no intention 


of causing trouble and even went so far as 
to offer to burn a portion, or even the whole, 
of the book if the authorities so desired. 
The charge was dropped for the time being. 
His accusers "found the matters not to be 
so evil as at first they seemed." Yet scarcely 
a year had passed before he was summoned 
to appear before the court for persisting "in 
teaching publicly against the King's patent, 
and our great sin in claiming right thereby 
to this country." 

They were not always big questions that 
occupied the attention of New England 
congregations at this time. Roger Wil- 
liams was guilty, with the others, of enter- 
ing into lengthy discussions about what 
would seem to us to-day very unimportant 
trifles. He was no perfect hero, but had his 
faults and weaknesses, like the best of men. 
Some writers are of the opinion that he 
often argued merely for the sake of differ- 
ing from others. We should be charitable 
to both him and his rigid neighbors, remem- 
bering the narrow age in which they lived. 

Think of the absurdity of a whole com- 
munity getting wildly excited over the ques- 


tion of women wearing veils in churches and 
other public places! Roger Williams at- 
tempted to show that no modest woman 
would appear with face uncovered. John 
Cotton, in an earnest sermon, taught just 
the opposite. John Endicott of course 
had a voice in the dispute — there were those 
who said he was the one who started it — and 
quoted much Scripture to show he was in 
the right. Finally, the governor himself 
had to step in and quiet them all. What a 
puzzling existence it must have been for the 
poor women of Salem! When their bril- 
liant, learned ministers flatly contradicted 
one another, yet all took the Bible for 
authority, what course was open for a mere 
woman of ordinary intelligence? 

The veil controversy was, without ques- 
tion, unimportant and even silly. Another 
matter now came up, which was somewhat 
more serious. John Endicott got into 
trouble because he cut the red cross of St. 
George out of the military colors. To him 
it was an anti-Christian sign that ought not 
to be retained by people who had broken 
away from symbols and ceremonies. The 


General Court punished him by depriving 
him of public office for a year. What had 
Roger Williams to do with it all? Abso- 
lutely nothing, as far as can be found out. 
Yet the blame has long rested on his 
shoulders, because, it was claimed, if he had 
not preached the doctrines he did, John 
Endicott would never have thought of such 
a thing ! 

Roger Williams was not regularly or- 
dained until after the death of Mr. Skelton. 
Then, in defiance of the magistrates, who 
were greatly displeased, the Salem church 
welcomed him as pastor. The people to 
whom he ministered had something of his 
own courageous spirit in holding out for the 

The Indian question was not the only one 
for which the General Court rebuked Roger 
Williams. On one charge or another, he 
was repeatedly in disgrace. One of his 
offences was the stand he took in regard to 
oaths. He held "that a magistrate ought 
not to tender an oath to an unregenerate 
man." To us, this taking of an oath seems 
a simple enough duty and one to which there 


could be no objection. With Roger Wil- 
liams, however, it meant an act of worship 
and, as such, should not be forced upon any- 
body, least of all upon one to whom it had 
no real meaning. Believing as he did that 
the Lord's name should never be taken in 
vain, was it not wrong to require a man who 
did not fear God to take such phrases on his 
lips as, "I therefore do swear by the great 
and dreadful name of the ever living God," 
and "So help me, God in the Lord Jesus 
Christ"? To him this was nothing less than 

The solemn words quoted above are to be 
found in what was known as the Freeman's 
Oath, which was a pledge of loyalty and 
support to the government. The person 
taking the oath agreed to submit to the 
"wholesome laws" established by that gov- 
ernment. Now Roger Williams had found 
some of these laws anything but wholesome. 
Then, too, the Freeman's Oath seemed to 
transfer allegiance from the King to the 
government of Massachusetts and was, 
therefore, contrary to the charter. Thus 
there were reasons why Roger Williams ob- 


jected to oath-taking in general and may 
have objected to this oath in particular. 

Heading the list of "divers dangerous 
opinions" brought against the once "godly 
minister" by the General Com't in July, 
1635, was this: 

"That the magistrates ought not to pun- 
ish the breach of the first table, otherwise 
than in such cases as did disturb the civil 

The words have a familiar sound. Denial 
of the civil power to exert authority over a 
man's conscience — the true Roger Williams 
principle! It was this, as we have seen, 
which caused a breach with the authorities 
almost as soon as the troublesome preacher 
landed in New England. At this court, 
he was plainly told that at the next court 
he must either "give satisfaction or else 
expect the sentence." 

So things went from bad to worse. Roger 
Williams became ill. He had traveled back 
and forth, from Salem to Boston, from Bos- 
ton to Salem, with weary limbs but daunt- 
less courage, to argue questions that he 
honestly believed were matters of conscience 


and not of state. At first his church loyally 
supported him. In return, the magistrates 
treated the church like a naughty child who 
has done wrong and must be deprived of 
something it longs for until it makes up its 
mind to be good again. In this case, the 
withheld treasure was some land in Marble- 
head Neck to which the church laid claim. 
Both minister and congregation wrote sharp 
letters to the Bay churches, protesting 
against the persecution of their magistrate 
members. Alas, the churches were not big 
enough morally to range themselves against 
the authorities and their injustice! 

Feeble, discouraged, with a sense of in- 
jury rankling within, Roger Williams with- 
drew from them and refused to have any- 
thing more to do with his own church unless 
it did the same. It was an extreme measure, 
but there was great provocation. Unfor- 
tunately, the Salem church lost its brief 
bravery and decided to "be good." Its 
minister was left to fight his battle single- 

A crisis rapidly approached. Of course 
Roger Williams refused to change his views. 


He could not conscientiously do so, and he 
was not the coward to proclaim one thing 
while believing another. In the autumn, 
therefore, the following sentence of banish- 
ment was passed, after Thomas Hooker had 
vainly tried to open the eyes of the culprit: 

"Whereas Mr. Roger Williams, one of 
the elders of the church of Salem, hath 
broached and divulged divers new and dan- 
gerous opinions, against the authority of 
magistrates, as also writ letters of defama- 
tion, both of the magistrates and churches 
here, and that before any conviction, and 
yet maintaineth the same without retraction, 
it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. 
Williams shall depart out of this jurisdic- 
tion within six weeks now next ensuing, 
which if he neglect to perform, it shall be 
lawful for the governor and two of the mag- 
istrates to send him to some place out of 
this jurisdiction, not to return any more 
without license from the com-t." 

Only one voice was raised against this 
decree — an unknown champion whose name 
has never been found out. Yet the town of 

■ 1 f-i 

This photograph was taken on Roger Williams Avenue, 1 hilips- 
dale, East Providence. A glimpse of the Seekonk River is seen 
in the background. The house itself has no historical interest. 

The tree is niarkfd wilh^a tablet bearing ihese words: "This 
r oak tree marks the first dwelling place of Rrger' ^Villianis after 
his banishment from Salem. Mass.. in 1636, which he abandont d 
in the spring of that year by n quest of Governor \Mnslow of 
Plymouth. The spring is 160 feet north. This tree was planted 
April 27. 1901, by the Roger W illiams Association." 


Salem, more merciful than its magistrates, 
was in an uproar at the news. 

It would be too tedious and wearisome to 
wade through all the disputes of those 
troublous days. After a lapse of nearly 
three hundred years, it is not easy to decide 
accurately who was in the right and who in 
the wrong. There is still a great difference 
of opinion on the subject. There was, with- 
out doubt, something of right and wrong on 
both sides. Some of the points Roger Wil- 
liams fought for with vigor were not worth 
the effort, others were big principles that the 
world has long since adopted. 

It will throw some light on the matter to 
know just what the disgraced man himself 
considered the true grounds of his banish- 
ment. He tells us one of the magistrates 
rightly summed up the offences under four 
heads : 

"First, that we have not our land by 
patent from the King, but that the natives 
are the true owners of it, and that we ought 
to repent of such a receiving it by patent. 

"Secondly, that it is not lawful to call a 


wicked person to swear, to praj^ as being 
actions of God's worship. 

"Thirdly, that it is not lawful to hear any 
of the ministers of the parish assemblies in 

"Fourthly, that the civil magistrates' 
power extends only to the bodies and 
goods, and outward state of men." 

How harmless these opinions seem to- 
day! Tinged perhaps with a bit of narrow- 
ness, the}' are at the same time hardly 
"crimes" for which a person should be cut 
off from his fellow men. 

In regard to the Indian question, the 
colonists might have feared trouble with the 
mother country as a result of Roger Wil- 
liams' utterances. Puritanism was not popu- 
lar with the King and he would not be in- 
clined to look more kindly upon the Massa- 
chusetts pioneers when one of their number 
proclaimed boldly that his father had told 
"a solemn public lie, because, in his patent, 
he blessed God that he was the first Chris- 
tian prince that had discovered tlie land." 

As to the principle that the civil power 
should have no authority over the con- 


sciences of men, there can be no difference 
of opinion. In this respect, at least, Roger 
WilHams was far ahead of the men with 
whom he associated. On the other hand, 
they were smcere in their horror of any 
theory that tended to divide chm*ch and 
state. Little did they guess that the time 
would come when the two would be entirely 
separate and that the honor of blazoning the 
way would be given to the banished Roger 
Williams. Little did they dream that there 
would be a United States Constitution with 
the clauses: "No religious test shall ever be 
lequired as a qualification to any office or 
public trust under the United States," and 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an 
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the 
free exercise thereof." 

On account of Roger Williams' poor 
health, the time limit of six weeks was ex- 
tended to spring. He was a menace, and 
yet there was something so lovable about 
him that even his enemies could not hate 
him very hard. 

What a dreary outlook for the disgraced, 
disappointed man at the beginning of the 


new year! He had now been in New Eng- 
land a little less than live years. Instead of 
having gained a position as a wonderful 
preacher with a brilliant future, he had lost 
his church and even a place in the colony. 
That same church, after upholding his cause 
for a brief period, had deserted him. The 
support of his dear ones was harder than 
ever, for a new baby had come into the Wil- 
liams household. With health broken down 
under the strain of his trials, the husband 
and father was yet forced to begin planning 
for a new home in some unknown country 
to the west. 

The day of banishment was hastened when 
it was discovered that Roger Williams was 
holding meetings in his own house. "He 
did use to entertain company," so the an- 
cient records run, "and to preach to them, 
even of such points as he had been censured 
for." The rumor also went around that he 
had decided to found a settlement on the 
shores of Narragansett Bay and to take 
along with him about twenty persons whom 
he had won to his way of thinking. Imme- 
diately the authorities were alarmed. It 


would never do to have such unsettled men 
for neighbors! They might continue to 
spread their dangerous doctrines among the 
other churches. Why not dispose of their 
mischievous leader once and for all by ship- 
ping him back to England? It was the 
easiest way out of the difficulty, for a vessel 
was even then lying at anchor, ready to sail. 

For a last time poor Roger Williams was 
again summoned to the Boston court. He 
answered that he was not able to attend. A 
captain by the name of Underbill was then 
sent to Salem with a small sailing-vessel to 
bring the ringleader back with him. He 
landed in the town and made his way to the 
home of the man he sought. A patient, 
kindly woman appeared. Was her husband 
at home? No. Where was he, then? She 
did not know. How long had he been gone? 
Three whole days. 

Captain Underbill returned to Boston 
without Roger Williams. 


"a corner for the persecuted" 

Roger Williams now faced an unknown, 
untried future. He had left family and 
home comforts behind and there was every 
prospect of suffering, hardship, possible 
hunger ahead. He must either wander 
afoot through the snow-covered, trackless 
forests or undertake an uncertain voyage by 
sea. The latter course was altogether too 
risky. By skirting the coast, he was liable 
to run into the very men who were seeking 

Whither should he turn? Who would 
befriend him? There was not much choice 
in the matter. He must find shelter with 
friendly Indians. There were four persons 
who either shared his adventures from the 
start or else joined him soon after he left 
Salem — William Harris, John Smith, a 
miller of Dorchester who was, like Roger 
Williams, banished from the colony, and 


two youths, Francis Wickes and Thomas 


The record of those winter months is very 
brief, for Roger WiUiams had no idea he 
was making history. But suppose we let 
him tell the story in his own words: 

"When I was unkuidly and un-Chris- 
tianly, as I believe, driven from my house 
and land and wife and children, (m the 
midst of a New England winter, now about 
thirty-five years past,) at Salem, that ever- 
honored Governor, Mr. Winthrop, pri- 
vately wrote to me to steer my .course to 
Narragansett Bay and Indians, for many 
high and heavenly and public ends encour- 
aging me, from the freeness of the place 
from any English claims or patents. I took 
his prudent motion as a hint and voice from 
God, and waiving all other thoughts and 
motions, I steered my com'se from Salem 
(though in winter snow, which I feel yet) 
unto these parts, wherein I may say Peniel, 
that is, I have seen the face of God." 

The first place which the wanderer de- 
cided upon as a good location for a new 
home was a spot on the east bank of the 


Seekonk River. The land, while included 
in Plymouth territory, was obtained from 
Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem, whom 
Roger Williams considered the true owner. 
It seemed a favorable stopping-place. 
Here, during the mild spring days, Roger 
Williams alternately tended his garden and 
worked upon his rude dwelling, all the time 
dreaming of the day when his good wife 
and babies in Salem should join him. 

Alas! his plans for a permanent home 
here were never to be realized. No sooner 
were things well started when he received 
a friendly hint from Governor Winslow that 
if he wished to avoid further trouble, it 
would be well for him to choose another 
home site. 

"I first pitched and began to build at 
Seekonk, now Rehoboth, but I received a 
letter from my ancient friend, Mr. Winslow, 
then Governor of Plymouth, professing his 
own and others' love and respect to me, yet 
lovingly advising me, since I was fallen into 
the edge of their bounds, and they were 
loath to displease the Bay, to remove but 
to the other side of the water, and then, he 


said, I had the country free before me, and 
might be as free as themselves, and we 
should be loving neighbors together." 

Discouraging news, indeed! Was there 
never to be peace or rest for the banished 

"And surelj^ between those, my friends 
of the Bay and Plymouth, I was sorely 
tossed for one fourteen weeks, in a bitter 
winter season, not knowing what bread or 
bed did mean, beside the yearly loss of no 
small matter in my trading with English 
and natives, being debarred from Boston, 
the chief mart and port of New England. 
God knows that many thousand pounds 
cannot repay the losses I have sustained." 

With his face again set toward some 
new, unknown home, Roger Williams began 
reconnoitering. By this time (probably 
June, 1636), he had been joined by a fifth 
refugee from Salem, Joshua Verin — per- 
haps several others. One day, embarking 
in a canoe, Roger Williams sailed down the 
Seekonk River and crossed to the opposite 
shore. The story is told that at a jagged 
pointj later called Slate Rock, the Indians 


came down to the water's edge and greeted 
him with the friendly cry, "What cheer, 
Netop?" or, in other words, "How do you 
do, friend?" Kindly words, even though 
they came from the lips of savages! Best 
of all, the voyager was not asked to "move 
on." Was it not a good omen that in his 
search for a permanent home, he should be 
greeted first of all by the Indians with whom 
he had labored so faithfully and lovingly? 

Whatcheer Field, in the vicinity of the 
rock, became the property of Roger Wil- 
liams and was used by him for planthig. 
The historic rock itself is now hidden under- 
ground back from the shore, but the spot 
has been marked by a monument dedicated 
"to the memory of Roger Williams, the 
Apostle of Soul Liberty." The story of the 
meeting of the red men and theii* white 
friend has been fm-ther preserved in the 
form of the city seal of Providence. 

Roger Williams did not, however, build 
at this point. The Indians probably di- 
rected him to better land at the west where 
there was running water. With his com- 
panions, he investigated the situation. Pad- 

This ,u.„UM.u-nl. vvvvU-d in 1906, .s .UdK'ated • \n ..-, Memory 
of HoK.T Williams, the \p.,stle of boul Liberty. 1 1 is at t lu 
foot of Williams St.. Prox ideiice, m Roger Williams N,uar( , 
Siven to the eilv by the h.^irs of (ioverm.r James iM-nner 
\ bronz.> bas-r.-lief shows the landing of Hoger W ill.ams and 
his friends. 

The m(, b.-ars these words: "Below this spot, then at 
the water's edgv. sto.ul the roek <,n whuh, according to tradi- 
tion, Hoger Williams, ari exile for his devotion to freedom ot 
conscience, landed 16;?6. " 


dliiig to the south, they rounded a point of 
land, and then turned north until they 
reached a river bearing the Indian name 
Moshassuck. At a point near a pure, bub- 
bling spring, the little company landed, 
realizing that at last they had found a good 
abiding-place. Moving day — or, more 
likely, a series of moving days — followed. 

It actually seemed as if the wanderer's 
darkest days were over and, in gratitude to 
God for his goodness, Roger Williams gave 
the quaint name of Providence to the settle - 
ment that was now begun. At first he had 
no intention of founding an English com- 
munit5^ "My soul's desire was to do the 
natives good" are his own words, adding 
that he had no inclination for other com- 
pany. Out of the bigness of his heart, how- 
ever, he let in a few distressed souls, then 
welcomed a few more, until finally Provi- 
dence became "a corner as a shelter for the 
poor and persecuted." 

In regard to Roger Williams' occupation 
of the new land, only after he had purchased 
it from the Indians did he take possession. 
He practiced exactly what he had preached 


about the simple justice of paying the na- 
tives for the land which they rightfully 
claimed. He was on Narragansett territory 
and therefore negotiated with the sachems 
of that tribe, Canonicus and his nephew, 
Miantonomo. Having mortgaged his house 
at Salem, he was able to make such a 

Only the close friendship between Roger 
Williams and the Narragansett chiefs could 
have brought about this transfer of property 
thus easily. Though money and presents 
paid for it, still both parties looked upon it 
as a gift. "I was the procurer of the pur- 
chase," said Roger Williams, "not by monies 
nor payment, the natives being so shy and 
jealous, that monies could not do it; but by 
that language, acquaintance and favor with 
the natives and other advantages which it 
pleased God to give me. . . . Canonicus 
was not to be stirred with money to sell his 
lands to let in foreigners. 'Tis true he re- 
ceived presents and gratuities many of me, 
but it was not thousand nor ten thousands 
of money could have bought of him an Eng- 
lish entrance into the Bay. . , . And, 


therefore, I declare to posterity that were 
it not for the favor God gave me with 
Canonicus, none of these parts, no, not 
Rhode Island, had been purchased or 
obtained, for I never got anything out of 
Canonicus but by gift." 

This steadfast and beautiful friendship 
between Roger Williams and the Narra- 
gansett sachems endured during the lifetime 
of all, although Canonicus was "most shy 
of all English to his last breath." Here 
were neighboi's with whom there was no 
quarrel. They and the founder of Provi- 
dence gave and took, lent and borrowed, in 
true neighborly fashion. Roger Williams 
allowed them the use of his boats, made 
them presents, loaned them his servant, gave 
them freely of his time and services when- 
ever needed, even lodging as many as fifty 
natives at a time in his humble home. Was 
it any wonder that the "barbarous heart" 
of Canonicus loved him "as his son to his 
last gasp"? 

The earliest agreements with the Narra- 
gansetts were probably by word of mouth, 
for the first written deed, dated two years 


later, refers to territory already bought 
on the Moshassiick and Woonasquatucket 
Rivers. It confirms this sale and continues : 
"As also in consideration of the many kind- 
nesses and services he (Roger Williams) 
hath continually done for us, both with our 
friends Massachusetts, as also as Quinicki- 
cutt (Connecticut), and Apaum or Plym- 
outh, we do freely give unto him all that 
land from those rivers, reaching to Paw- 
tuxet River, as also the grass and meadows 
upon the said Pawtuxet River." This old 
document bears the mark of Canonicus, a 
bow, that of Miantonomo, an arrow, and 
also the marks of two Indian witnesses. 
Thus Roger Williams could truthfully say 
that this land was "as truly his as any man's 
coat upon his back." Later, he generously 
divided the territory he had bought among 
his associates, who then numbered twelve, 
so that he and they each received an equal 

In the summer of 1636, Mrs. Williams 
and her two small children succeeded in 
reaching Providence. Once more the future 


looked bright to the patient husband and 

The government of Providence was of the 
simplest kind. A compact was drawn up 
and signed by the settlers, in which they 
agreed to uphold every measure that was 
for "the public good of the body," but "only 
in civil things." What did this mean? That 
at last a colony was founded in which church 
and state were wholly independent of each 
other. It was precisely the sort of agree- 
ment we should expect Roger Williams to 
provide for the new settlement. It pro- 
claimed to the world, "Here is a real democ- 
racy — a government by the people. Here 
is religious liberty without interference from 
the state. Here is a society in which nobody 
need be a church member in order to vote." 

The privilege of worshiping as one 
pleased attracted many persons in the neigh- 
boring settlements and even across the 
water. As soon as they heard of Roger 
Williams' daring venture, they were eager 
to cast their lot with him. 

Now while the new settlement was thus 
broad and reasonable, the Massachusetts 


Bay Colony grew even narrower than be- 
fore. Differences of opinion in church mat- 
ters continued to arise, for never in the 
history of the world has it been possible 
for all men to think alike. Punishments 
for "heresy" were still the order of the day. 
Banishments were frequent. Some of the 
exiles thus disgraced were obliged to seek 
new homes as Roger Williams had done. 

Among these were William Coddington 
and John Clarke, a learned physician, both 
of whom had much to do with the history 
of the new colony afterwards. With the 
help of Roger Williams, the new-comers 
purchased the island of Aquidneck in Nar- 
ragansett Bay from Canonicus and Mian- 
tonomo. It was this island, later called 
Rhode Island, that gave its name to the 
state. The Indians then residing on the 
island agreed to vacate in return for ten 
coats and twenty hoes. 

Another exile from the Bay Colony was 
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, a woman of bril- 
liant and wonderful mind, who had offended 
the magistrates for holding firmly to certain 
religious opinions and teaching the same. 


She joined the little Aquidneck settlement 
and as long as she remained there, enjoyed 
peace and freedom from persecution. 

To return to the colony at Providence. 
It was an experiment in every sense of the 
word. For one thing, mere existence was 
to prove a struggle. Life was hard and 
crude. The early settlers were unfitted, in 
many ways, to meet the difficulties of build- 
ing up a new community. Few were skilled 
laborers, all were poor. Men of profes- 
sional training were unknown. No doctor's 
sign was in evidence and for many years, 
whenever medical advice or medicine was 
needed, Roger Williams had to send outside 
the settlement for it. 

Land was plentiful, it is true, but scarcely 
anything else. Yet one early precaution 
taken by Roger Williams did much to lessen 
the hardships of those first years. He and 
Governor Winthrop purchased the island of 
Prudence in the Bay as a grazing-place for 
goats and swine. Twenty fathom of wam- 
pum and two coats was the price paid. 
Roger Williams' curious description pic- 
tures it as "spectacle-wise and between a 


mile or two in circuit." This transaction 
plainly showed his tact as well as the high 
esteem in which he was held by Canonicus. 
It seems that the sachem wished to reserve 
half of the island, but was anxious to have 
Roger Williams for a neighbor. Two short 
extracts from Roger Williams' correspond- 
ence with Winthrop tell the whole story of 
the proceedings that followed. In the first 
letter, he wrote, "I think if I go over, I shall 
obtain the whole''; the second letter records 
simply, "I have bought and paid for the 

The purchase indicated good judgment 
and foresight, for here the live stock could 
not stray far, it had good pasturage, and 
was conveniently near salt marshes, which 
were necessary to keep it in the best con- 
dition. As one writer has put it, Prudence 
Island was the stock-farm and market- 
garden of Providence, supplies being carried 
back and forth by canoes. 

The early "home lots" of the Providence 
settlers, as they were called, extended from 
the main or Town Street eastward, up a 
steep hill, and over back in the direction of 


the Seekonk. They were generous in size, 
at least five acres in extent, large enough 
for house, garden, orchard and burial plot. 
Roger Williams' house was not far from 
the spring where he landed. In modern 
Providence it is hard to find any trace of 
the early village that was started on the 
banks of the Moshassuck, yet now and then 
a voice out of the past takes one back over 
the centuries to the Providence of Roger 
Williams. The main thoroughfare still runs 
through the heart of the city and on an 
ancient building in the street is a tablet 
bearing the legend, brief but thrilling with 
history: "Under this house still flows the 
Roger Williams spring." 

Hospitality and neighborliness were 
common in early Providence days, for 
everybody was dependent upon everybody 
else. Roger Williams and his good wife 
kept open house for all. Now they took 
in a sick soldier and nursed him back to 
health and strength, once they sheltered an 
Indian with a hurt foot, and even went so 
far as to allow Miantonomo to hold his 
"barbarous court" under their roof! 


The Indians, in fact, early found a way 
to the Williams door. They frequently 
came with messages from the other colonies 
or carried letters from Roger Williams to 
his neighboring friends. These were often 
accompanied by simple gifts, such as some 
chestnuts from Mrs. Williams for Mrs. 
Winthrop or a Narragansett-woven basket 
for the same lady from the Indian wife of 
Miantonomo. The carriers themselves were 
always rewarded, of course. Roger Wil- 
liams must have kept on hand an extra 
supply of coats, trousers, tools and trinkets 
to satisfy their eager, childish desires. 

Besides the struggle for a livinsr, there 
were other matters which gave the founder 
of Providence great concern. We should 
like to record that his followers lived in 
peace and harmony, that there was nf^ver 
any discord, that they showed the Bay 
Colony they were well-behaved, ideal neigh- 
bors. This would not be true history, how- 
ever. The colonists were only human. 
Besides, not all were able to understand the 
real meaning of the advanced principles for 
which their leader stood. They mistook lib- 


erty for license. Quarrels arose from time 
to time and disturbances were sometimes 
caused by troublesome persons who would 
be called "cranks" to-day. Still the colony 
was bound to outgrow these petty differ- 
ences. No settlement in the New World 
had a better right to a successful future, 
for none was built upon a truer, surer 



Shortly after the founding of Providence, 
Roger Williams had an opportunity to 
show the people of the Massachusetts Bay 
Colony what he thought of them. It was in 
his power to seriously injure them; to "pay 
them back," as it were, for all he had suf- 
fered at their hands. Instead, with his 
usual sweetness of disposition, he returned 
good for evil, "good measure, pressed down, 
and running over." For injustice, he had 
nothing but forgiveness, for ill-treatment, 
only love and service. It required true 
nobility of character to act as he did. 

Grave danger threatened all New Eng- 
land at this time — the possibility of a wide- 
spread Indian outbreak. In reality, it was 
more than a possibility — it was almost a 
certainty. Already there had been several 
indications that the savages meant to make 
trouble. Of all the neighboring tribes, 


the colonists had most to fear from the 
Pequots. These were a powerful and 
dreaded people who occupied territory at 
the west of the Narragansetts in what is now 
the eastern part of Connecticut. Some time 
before this, they had been suspected of hav- 
ing a hand in the murder of a number of 
white traders on the Connecticut River. 
Now, the same year that Roger Williams' 
new settlement was begun, another English 
trader, John Oldham by name, was killed 
off Block Island under circimistances 
similar to those of the first outrage. 

At this point Roger Williams comes into 
the story. He sent news of the tragedy to 
Governor Vane of Massachusetts Bay and 
thus hastened the preparations of that 
colony to protect itself. A force under the 
command of the doughty John Endicott was 
sent into the Pequot country to bring the 
natives to terms. The Massachusetts men 
inflicted losses by burning wigwams and 
destroying crops, but failed to punish with 
any degree of thoroughness. The expedi- 
tion had but one effect — to madden the 
Pequots to further activity. 


A feeling of alarm and insecurity spread 
throughout all the settlements. The In- 
dians had signed treaties, it is true, but it 
was no longer safe to trust their word. 
There was reason to think that the enmity 
of the Pequots was only the first step 
toward a general massacre. To better carry 
out their purposes, the Indians tried to form 
an alliance with their near neighbors and 
former enemies, the Narragansetts. 

What could be done ? Who had influence 
enough to break up this proposed league — 
to turn the friendship of the Narragansetts 
from their red neighbors to their white 
neighbors? One man, and one only, pos- 
sessed that power. He was the "dangerous" 
founder of Providence, who had been turned 
out of Massachusetts in disgrace. 

In spite of this fact, the magistrates of 
the Bay Colony lost no time in appealing 
to Roger Williams to save them. He re- 
sponded promptly, willingly. The story of 
his perilous mission among the Narragan- 
setts reads more like a chapter from some 
exciting book of imaginary adventure than 
sober history: 


"The Lord helped me immediately to put 
my life into my hand, and, scarce acquaint- 
ing my wife, to ship myself, all alone in a 
poor canoe, and to cut through a stormy 
wind, with great seas, every minute in 
hazard of life, to the sachem's house. Three 
days and nights my business forced me to 
lodge and mix with the bloody Pequot am- 
bassadors, whose hands and arms, me- 
thought, reeked with the blood of my 
countrymen, murdered and massacred by 
them on Connecticut River, and from whom 
I could not but nightly look for their bloody 
knives at my own throat also. God won- 
drously preserved me, and helped me to' 
break to pieces the Pequots' negotiation and 
design, and to make, promote and finish, by 
many travels and charges, the English 
league with the Narragansetts and Mohe- 
gans against the Pequots." 

So successfully indeed did Roger Wil- 
liams risk his life that in the autumn of that 
same year a party of Narragan setts, includ- 
ing Miantonomo, journeyed to Boston to 
form a treaty with the English. Among 
other things, it provided for a peace between 


the Narragansetts and the colonists and 
contained a promise that neither party 
should make peace with the Pequots without 
the other's consent, or that, in case of war, 
due notice should be given. The old records 
say that after the treaty was concluded, the 
visiting Indians were given a dinner, then 
"conveyed out of town by some musketeers 
and dismissed with a volley of shot." 

Still the matter was not entirely closed, 
for the colonists, lacking a thorough knowl- 
edge of the Indian tongue, could not make 
the Narragansetts understand certain parts 
of the compact, which was written in Eng- 
lish. An interpreter was needed, so a copy 
of the treaty was sent to Roger Williams 
that he might clearly and simply explain it 
to the Narragansetts. He might be a dan- 
gerous neighbor, but he was certainly a most 
convenient one! 

The Pequot War took place, after all, but 
without the alliance of the Narragansetts. 
Instead of resulting in the wholesale de- 
struction of the whites, it marked the doom 
of the tribe which was foolhardy enough to 
attempt it. The three colonies, Massachu- 


setts, Plymouth and Connecticut, united to 
crush the Indian menace. 

A detachment from the Bay Colony in 
charge of General Stoughton marched to 
Connecticut by way of Providence. Roger 
Williams hospitably entertained them, giv- 
ing the visitors of his best. Poor Mrs. Wil- 
liams must have been put to her utmost 
resources to act as hostess to one hundred 
and twenty soldiers! As they continued on 
their way, Roger Williams accompanied 
them some distance in order to bring about 
a meeting with their allies, the Narragan- 
setts, and so establish good feeling. 

Under Captain John Mason, the Con- 
necticut settlers, aided by both English and 
Indian allies, surprised the Pequots at Fort 
Mystic, May, 1637, and with fire and sword, 
practically wiped them out in an hour's 
time. A swamp battle soon afterwards 
completed the extermination of this once 
brave and valiant tribe. The few who es- 
caped were distributed as captives. The 
very name Pequot disaj^peai'ed from thet 
map of the Connecticut country. The Pe- 
quot River became the Thames and the 


town of that name was changed to New 

During the Pequot War and the period 
just preceding it, Roger Williams was kept 
busy. No one could give better advice than 
he at this time, aided as he was by his friend- 
liness with the Narragansetts. He became, 
in fact, a news agency, continually sending 
the latest bits of information to Massachu- 
setts and in other ways serving as a valuable 
go-between. He kept the English informed 
of the Pequots' designs as far as he knew 
them and once submitted a rude map 
showing the positions of the Indians. 

He occupied himself, too, with another 
matter — keeping the Narragansett sachem, 
Canonicus, in good humor. In one of the 
interesting old letters of Roger Williams 
written to his friends at the Bay, he tells 
how he "sweetened the spirit" of the aged 
chieftain in a very literal way. The super- 
stitious Canonicus, it seems, had blamed the 
English for sending the plague among his 
people, but Roger Williams convinced him 
of his mistake and then requested some 
sugar for the sachem. "I find," said he. 


"that Canonicus would gladly accept of a 
box of eight or ten pounds of sugar, and in- 
deed he told me he would thank Mr. 
Governor for a box full." 

There was great rejoicing throughout 
New England when the Pequots were 
finally disposed of. A day of solemn 
thanksgiving and rejoicing was appointed 
in Massachusetts, the successful warriors 
were feasted, and services held in all the 
churches. And what reward was given the 
man who, more than anybody else, had 
saved his countrymen from a dreadful mas- 
sacre by winning over the Narragansetts ? 
Winthrop and others debated whether it 
would not be well to recall him from banish- 
ment or show some other mark of favor. 
Nothing came of the discussion. The de- 
cree of banishment remained in force and 
not so much as a vote of thanks was given 
Roger Williams. 

Still the main thought in his tender heart 
at this time seems to have been that too 
much severity had been used in dealing with 
the Pequots. "I fear that some innocent 
blood cries at Connecticut," he wrote his 


friend Winthrop. Again, when hands of 
the vanquished Indians were sent to Boston 
and few, if any, of the Bay people protested 
against this horrible custom, Roger Wil- 
liams once more raised his voice. He feared 
"those dead hands were no pleasing sight" 
and regretted that he could not have pre- 
vented such a display of barbarism without 
offending the Indians. "I have always shown 
dislike," he added, "to such dismembering 
the dead." 

After the war, Roger Williams repeat- 
edly acted as peace-maker in lesser differ- 
ences between the English and the natives. 
To all he meted out the same measure of 
fairness and justice. If the Indians in- 
flicted injuries, he demanded that they 
"make good" with the whites; if it was the 
whites who ill-treated the Indians, he was 
no less insistent that they do the right thing 
in turn. No grievance of the red men was 
too trivial for him to investigate. Thus he 
straightened out a matter of some missing 
kettles and a disputed canoe, concerning 
which Miantonomo's feelings had been hurt. 


with all the seriousness he would have given 
a matter of state. 

One interesting event of the year 1638 
that meant much to Roger Williams was 
the birth of his oldest son. He was the first 
male child born within the limits of the new 
colony and was therefore named Providence 
after the settlement his father had founded. 
An appropriate name, surely, but what a 
curious one for a poor child to carry around ! 

There is no record that any church build- 
ing existed in the earliest days of Provi- 
dence. Poverty may have been one reason 
for this lack. Meetings were held in differ- 
ent homes, however, and as Roger Williams 
was the only ordained minister, he con- 
ducted the services. There was no persecu- 
tion for non-attendance — of that we may be 
sure. Among the people who came to 
Providence because they could not enjoy 
their religion unmolested elsewhere, were 
the Anabaptists or Baptists, as their name 
was shortened in later years. Their views 
were much more liberal and attractive than 
strict Puritanism and therefore interested 
Roger Williams. He allowed one of their 


number, Ezekiel Holliman, to baptize him 
in the new faith and he then baptized Holh- 
man and several others. For this public 
profession, Roger Williams and his wife 
were excommunicated from the Salem 
church. He is generally regarded as the 
first pastor of the Baptist Church, but he 
was not actively connected with it for more 
than a few months. No doctrine of the day 
could quite satisfy a man of his open mind 
and earnest determination to search for the 
truth. He became what was then known as 
a "seeker." 

The Baptists, however, continued to pros- 
per and increase in numbers. They still 
claim Roger Williams as the founder of the 
First Baptist Church of America. The an- 
cient meeting-house bearing that name 
(though it is not the original edifice of the 
society) has a bell with a quaint inscription 
which proclaims to the world the principles 
upon which both the city and the Baptist 
congregation were founded: 

" For freedom of conscience the town was first 
Persuasion, not force, was used by the people ; 

The First Baptist Church of JVovidence is a digiiifiod 
and venerahhj white structure on North Main Street, the 
"Town Street" of Roger WilHanis' day. It is niodehnl 
after St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London. Its hell still 
rings the curfew at nine o'clock each evening. 

The First Baptist Society, the first in America, was 
founded in 163{}, and met eilhei in the open air or at the 
homes of its members during the iirst si\l\-two years 
of its existence. l\oger \\ illiams is generally considered 
the first pastor of the church. 


This church is the eldest and has not recanted, 
Enjoying and granting bell, temple, and steeple." 

To rightly understand the last line, we 
must know that in England in the seven- 
teenth century those worshippers who had 
separated from the established church had 
neither bell, temple nor steeple. This is 
only another instance of the liberal spirit of 
the early inhabitants of Providence. 



As we have seen, the Indians had much to 
do with Roger Wilhams' history from the 
very beginning of his hfe in the New World. 
He had lodged with them, befriended them, 
studied their language, traded with them, 
and had been their interpreter. All this was 
of benefit to both natives and colonists. 

In 1643, another opportunity came for 
Roger Williams to be of still further service 
to his countrymen and their red neighbors. 
An important mission (about which we will 
speak later) took him to England that year 
and he made the most of the leisure afforded 
by the long sea voyage to put into book 
form what he had learned about the Indian 
language and customs. "I drew the mate- 
rials," he explained, "in a rude lump at sea, 
that I might not lightly lose what I had so 
dearly bought in some few years' hardship." 

Roger Williams' purpose was to bring 
about a closer relation between the whites 


and the natives. He believed they could be 
mutually helpful if the book were used as 
a guide. 

"A little key may open a box where lies 
a bunch of keys. . . . One candle will light 
ten thousand, and it may please God to 
bless a little leaven to season the mighty 
lump of those peoples and territories." 

The work was published in London be- 
fore the close of the year under an odd and 
lengthy title which indicated that the labor 
put into it was at least thorough. It was 
called "A Key into the Language of Amer- 
ica; or, An help to the Language of the 
Natives in that part of America, called 
New-England. Together, with brief Ob- 
servations of the Customs, Manners and 
Worships, etc. of the aforesaid Natives, in 
Peace and War, in Life and Death. On aU 
which are added Spiritual Observations, 
General and Particular by the Author, of 
chief and special use (upon all occasions,) to 
all the English Inhabiting those parts; yet 
pleasant and profitable to the view of all 
men." Let us hope that the persons who 
asked for the volume in the London book- 


shops did not attempt to give the title word 
for word! 

No man of that day was better fitted to 
midertake such a task as the writing of the 
Indian Key than Roger WiUiams, for no 
man had lived so intimatelj'- with the New 
England Indians. The quaint book is to-day 
considered very valuable and very precious 
among book-lovers. Of course most of the 
history concerns the Narragansetts particu- 
larly, but Roger Williams also made use of 
the knowledge he had gained from other 

Suppose we take a few peeps into this 
fascinating old volume, for nowhere can we 
find a better picture of the author's "bar- 
barians." We notice, first, that it is made 
up something like a dictionary. On the left 
side of each page are the Indian words and 
phrases and, on the right, their meaning 
in English. But what a difficult diction- 
ary! Think of mastering such mouth-fill- 
ing words as "Muckquachuckquemese" or 
"Maumashinnaunamaiita." Only the pa- 
tience of a Roger Williams could ever have 
discovered that such enigmas meant "a little 


boy" and "Let us make a good fire." It is 
interesting to know that the very first phrase 
in the book is the famihar "What cheer, 
Netop?" or the first greeting that reached 
Roger WilHams' ears in the land of 
the Narragansetts. Besides explaining the 
commoner expressions of the Indians, the 
author includes notes about their life and 
habits. At the close of each chapter are a 
few lines of simple, crude verse that sounds 
for all the world like the pointed sermons 
with which good old-fashioned stories used 
to end. 

As to the religion of the Indians, Roger 
Williams tells his readers that he has been 
given the names of thirty-seven different 
gods which they solemnly worship. Among 
these, Cautantouwit, the great god of the 
southwest, was a general favorite. From 
his field came their corn and beans and it is 
to his abode theii* souls will go at death, pro- 
vided they have lived good lives. All mur- 
derers, thieves and liars, on the other hand, 
must wander restlessly abroad. Besides 
Cautantouwit, many other gods are men- 
tioned, such as the Eastern, Western, 


Northern and Southern Gods, the House 
God, the Woman's God, the Children's 
God, the Sun and the Moon Gods, and the 
Fire God. 

" The Indians find the sun so sweet, 
He is a god, they say; 
Giving them Hght and heat and fruit. 
And guidance all the day. 

" They have no help of clock or watch, 
And sun they overprize. 
Having those artificial helps, the sun 
We unthankfully despise." 

The superstitions of the Indians were 
many and curious, as is seen by the follov/- 
ing: Though crows frequently stole their 
corn, yet scarcely one native in a hundred 
would put them to death. Why? Because 
they firmly believed that the crow first 
brought them a grain of Indian corn in one 
ear and an Indian bean in the other from 
Cautantouwit's field. Another superstition 
was theii' childlike faith in the power of 
their priests and conjurers to work cures. 
To Roger Williams' way of thinking, these 
"wise men" did nothing but "howl and roar" 
over them. 


Still, Roger Williams, always just, took 
care to record the good points of the natives 
as well as their failings. This was unlike 
many Englishmen of his time, who looked 
down upon the savages as little better than 
animals. For one thing, hospitality was a 
common virtue among them. Had it not 
been so, Roger Williams could never have 
found for his book such a list of friendly 
expressions as "Warm you," "Sit by the 
fire," "Come hither, friend," "Come in," "I 
thank you," "I thank you for your kind 
remembrance," and "I thank you for your 

" The courteous pagan shall condemn 
Uncourteous Englishmen, 
Who live Hke foxes, bears and wolves, 
Or lion in his den. 

" Let none sing blessings to their souls, 
For that they courteous are : 
The wild barbarians with no more 
Than nature, go so far. 

" If Nature's sons both wild and tame, 
Humane and courteous be. 
How ill becomes it sons of God 
To want humanity! " 


Again, Roger Williams tells us, "If any 
stranger come in, they presently give him 
to eat of what they have ; many a time, and 
at all times of the night (as I have fallen 
in travel upon their houses) when nothing 
hath been ready, have themselves and their 
wives risen to prepare me some refreshing. 
In summer time I have known them lie 
abroad often themselves, to make room for 
strangers, English or others." 

" I have known them leave their house and mat 
To lodge a friend or stranger, 
When Jews and Christians off have sent 
Christ Jesus to the manger." 

Family affection and loyalty were strong 
in the Indian, while drunkenness was an al- 
most unknown vice. As for such crimes as 
robbery and murder, Roger Williams says 
that the red men have as good, if not a bet- 
ter, record than their white neighbors. In 
war, too, the example set by the English 
was hardly what we would expect from a 
superior race : 

" The Indians count of men as dogs, 
It is no wonder then : 


They tear out one another's throats I 
But now that Englishmen, 

" That boast themselves God's children and 
Members of Christ to be, 
That they should thus break out in flames, 
Sure 'tis a mystery! " 

Roger Williams gave the natives credit, 
too, for being punctual. "They are punc- 
tual in their promises of keeping time; and 
sometimes have charged me with a lie for 
not punctually keeping time, though 

The Indians were exceedingly fond of 
news. So eager were they to learn what was 
going on around them that if any stranger 
was able to satisfy their curiosity in their 
own language, they called him a god. 
Forming a circle about the news-brinjger 
and silently puffing at their pipes, they 
would listen with deep attention to what he 
had to say. 

Being children of nature and living 
mostly in the open, they were far better ac- 
quainted with the outdoor world than were 
their white neighbors. Their five senses 
were trained to a wonderful degree 0,nd 


they were intimately familiar with the sun 
and moon, the winds and weather. 

" The very Indian boys can give 
To many stars their name, 
And know their course and therein do 
Excel the Enghsh tame." 

A good description of the Indian home is 
furnished by Roger Williams. It consisted 
of long poles covered and lined with mats. 
Those on the inside were embroidered by 
the women and took the place of hangings. 
Mats often formed doors, too, though birch 
and chestnut bark and even English boards 
and nails were sometimes used for this pur- 
pose. A large opening in the middle of the 
house served as a chimney. "Two families 
will live comfortably and lovingly in a little 
round house of some fovu'teen or sixteen foot 

The principal occupations of the Indian 
braves were hunting, fishing, trading, and 
the manufacture of canoes, bows and ar- 
rows. They raised some tobacco, but left 
the planting and tending of other crops 
wholly to their women folk. Tobacco was 


highly valued as a preventative against 
toothache. While the Indians generally 
bore torture uncomplainingly, a jumping 
tooth would make a coward of the bravest. 
Says Roger Williams, "The toothache is the 
only pain which will force their stout hearts 
to cry." 

Canoes were fashioned from pine, oak and 
chestnut trees. After being felled, the trees 
were burned and hewed into shape. A 
single Indian working by himself in the 
forest could finish and launch his boat within 
ten or twelve days. Some of the larger 
canoes were big enough to hold thirty or 
forty men. That they were not always the 
safest craft for white men is shown by Roger 
Williams' story: 

"It is wonderful to see how they will ven- 
ture in those canoes, and how (being oft 
overset as I have myself been with them) 
they will swim a mile, yea, two or more, safe 
to land. I having been necessitated to pass 
waters divers times with them, it hath 
pleased God to make them many times the 
instruments of my preservation: and when 
sometimes in great danger I have questioned 


safety, they have said to me, 'Fear not, if 
we be overset, I will carry you safe to 
land.' " 

As to food, parched meal seems to have 
been their main article of diet, mixed with 
either hot or cold water. A little basket of 
meal was commonly carried on the back or 
in a hollow leather girdle. This would last 
for three or four days. 

There was also natural food at hand, of 
which the Indians made good use. The 
strawberry was greatly prized. To quote 
from the "Key": 

"This berry is the wonder of all the fruits 
growing naturally in those parts. In some 
parts where the natives have planted, I have 
many times seen as many as would fill a 
good ship within few miles' compass. The 
Indians bruise them in a mortar and mix 
them with meal and make strawberry 
bread." The natives were also very fond of 
a dish made of meal and dried currants 
ground to a powder which was "as sweet to 
them as plum or spice cake to the English." 

Another natural source of food was the 
clam-beds, for which New England, and 


Rhode Island especially, has always been 
famous. Listen to Roger Williams' de- 
scription of the clam: 

"This is a sweet kind of shell-fish, which 
all Indians generally over the country, 
winter and sunmier, delight in, and at low 
water the women dig for them. This fish 
and the natural liquor of it they boil and it 
makes theii- broth and their bread seasonable 
and savory, instead of salt." 

The Indian wampum, made from shells 
found along the shores of New England, 
took the place of money. Six small white 
beads, or three black ones, were equal to one 
English penny. 

These glimpses into the Indian "Key" 
give us a little idea of Roger Williams' 
friends among the Narragansetts and other 
tribes. Here and there in the book are 
hints of his kindly dealings with these 
savages. One story tells how he gladly 
went two miles out of his way to visit 
a Connecticut Indian on his death- 
bed. The dying brave told Roger Wil- 
liams he had never forgotten the words 
in which he had preached the religion of the 


white men, then added pitifully, "Me so big 
naughty heart, me heart all one stone!" 

In another place, Roger Williams re- 
ferred to Canonicus, sachem of the Nar- 
ragansetts and his steadfast friend, as 
"a wise and peaceable prince." He tells 
us how he had hard work to overcome 
Canonicus' suspicions of the English. To 
show he had cause to doubt the word of 
the whites, the Indian chief picked up a 
stick and broke it in ten pieces — one piece 
for each time the English had been un- 
trustworthy. It is not necessary to add 
that Roger Williams did his best to so im- 
prove conditions that the Indians could put 
greater trust in the colonists. 

The printer who published the "Key into 
the Language of America" was Gregory 
Dexter. He early emigrated to Providence 
and became a leading citizen of the little 
colony and also remained a "dear and faith- 
ful friend" of Roger Williams. 



There was no doubt about it. The little 
settlement of Providence was in disgrace — 
deep disgrace. Massachusetts could forgive 
neither Roger Williams for his unheard-of 
opinions nor his companions who helped him 
found the colony based upon such dangerous 

She showed her displeasure in several 
ways. First, she frowned upon all residents 
of Providence who came within her borders. 
If they still held that the magistrates were 
unjust and that Roger Williams had been 
persecuted, they were politely invited to 
turn back home and threatened with im- 
prisonment should they repeat the offence. 
Another effect of the Bay Colony's severity- 
was loss of trade, resulting in actual hard- 
ship for the Providence settlers. As sup- 
plies from England were received at Boston, 
little Providence was badly handicapped in 


securing the necessities of life. She must 
either depend upon the more distant port 
of New Amsterdam or go without. 

As for Roger Williams himself, Massa- 
chusetts obstinately refused to let him touch 
her territory under any conditions. It is 
hard to understand such a spirit of narrow- 
ness and ingratitude after the noble part he 
had played in the Pequot War. Still he 
continued to help Massachusetts on any and 
every occasion when his knowledge of the 
Indians and their language could be of 
service. They, as rej)eatedly, kept on ac- 
cepting his kindnesses without, however, 
annulling his decree of banishment. The 
following incident shows this in striking 
fashion : 

At one time the Massachusetts people be- 
came suspicious of Miantonomo, thinking 
that he had entered into a league with the 
Mohawks against them. Thereupon, they 
summoned him to Boston to give an account 
of himself. The Narragansett sachem was 
perfectly willing to go — on one condition. 
This was that Roger Williams might be his 
companion. Well did the shrewd savage 


know that if his trusted 'friend had a part in 
the proceedmgs, right and justice would 
prevail. Such would have been the case, but 
Roger Williams was not given a chance to 
say a word for either side. He was under 
sentence of banishment. How, then, could 
he be allowed to accompany Miantonomo? 
The proposed meeting failed to take place. 

Whenever a disturbance arose in Roger 
Williams' colony, Massachusetts was only 
too ready to cry out triumphantly, "I told 
you so! This absurd theory of the separa- 
tion of church and state is not working out 
any better than we thought it would!" John 
Winthrop solemnly recorded in his Journal, 
"At Providence, also, the devil was not 
idle." What Roger Williams' critics were 
too short-sighted to see was that the trouble 
lay, not with his principles, which were sane 
and sound, but with his companions' misun- 
derstanding of them. The Apostle of Soul 
Liberty was far ahead of the age in which he 

The time came when this attitude of 
Massachusetts threatened Providence with 
very real dangers. We are sorry to say that 


not all the trouble in the infant colony came 
from without, however. A few settlers at 
Pawtuxet, near Providence, though occuj)y- 
ing land over which Massachusetts had no 
claim, placed themselves mider her protec- 
tion. It was the very opportunity the Bay 
Colony had been seeking to extend her 
sway. Providence, having no government, 
had no right to exist, she argued. Frankly 
she acknowledged that Pawtuxet was worth 
taking over. Was it wise to neglect any 
chance that would serve as a wedge to 
further extension of territory? 

John Winthrop himself had the honesty 
to reveal Massachusetts' real motives back 
of her protection of the Pawtuxet malcon- 
tents : 

"This we did partly to draw in the rest in 
those parts, either under ourselves or Plym- 
outh, who now lived under no government, 
but grew very offensive, and the place was 
likely to be of use to us, especially if we 
should have occasion of sending out against 
any Indians of Narragansett and likewise 
for an outlet into the Narragansett Bay, 
and seeing it came without our seeking, and 


would be no charge to us, we thought it not 
wisdom to let it slip." 

For a while, the outlook was most discour- 
aging for the struggling settlement at the 
head of Narragansett Bay. Things went 
from bad to worse. The climax was reached 
when, in the spring of 1643, Massachusetts, 
Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven 
joined to form "The United Colonies of 
New England." Providence and Aquidneck 
were left out. The chief purpose of the 
federation was mutual protection against 
the natives. The Pequot War, while it had 
broken the power of one dreaded tribe, had 
not settled all the Indian troubles of New 
England. Every now and then rumors of 
new dangers spread from settlement to set- 
tlement. As in former years, a general mas- 
sacre of white settlers was feared. There 
was now a likelihood that such an attempt 
might be more successful than before, for 
the Indians had been receiving firearms 
from English traders. 

The league was based, then, upon the 
principle that in union there is strength. 
Two commissioners from eacli colony (both 


of whom must be church members) were 
elected to meet once a year to discuss the 
questions of war and peace that affected 
the general welfare of New England. The 
Narragansett Bay settlements would have 
been glad to send their representatives, too, 
but were not allowed to do so. At first the 
New England federation claimed it was be- 
cause Providence had no charter. This 
could not have been the real reason, for 
when this obstacle ceased to exist, the colony 
was still refused admission. 

It is easy to see that it was thus placed 
in an extremely dangerous position. It was 
isolated, could hope for no co-operation 
from its neighbor colonies and was in con- 
stant dread of Indian outbreaks. What 
were the little frozen-out settlements to do? 
In some way they must make a place for 
themselves in this unfriendly New England, 
and that speedily. They must, in some way, 
make their neighbors respect them — yes, 
and keep their hands off of them. Their 
very existence was imperiled. 

There was only one course open. Acting 
on the same principle as their more for- 


tunate neighbors, they decided to unite and 
to make that union firm and lasting by 
appeahng to England for a charter. The 
man best suited to undertake this delicate 
mission was, of course, Roger Williams, and 
he was appointed to visit the mother-country 
for this purpose. 

At the time he sailed (June, 1643), the 
principal Narragansett Bay settlements 
were Providence, those on the island of 
Aquidneck — Portsmouth and Newport — 
and the infant settlement of Warwick. 
During the seven years of its existence. 
Providence had continued to stand boldly 
for religious freedom. Aquidneck, too, 
while entirelj^ separate from her sister 
colony, had been liberal from the beginning, 
as is shown by her court record of 1641, 
"that liberty of conscience in point of 
doctrine is perpetuated." 

Roger Williams would have preferred to 
engage passage from Boston, but once more 
the Massachusetts authorities refused to let 
him enter their territory. He therefore de- 
cided to embark from New Amsterdam. 
Many persons in that Dutch settlement had 


reason to be thankful for the happy provi- 
dence that sent him their way. A fierce In- 
dian uprising was in progress, due largely 
to the ill-treatment of the savages by the 
whites. Roger Williams' fame must have 
gone before him, for the settlers pleaded 
with him to save them. With his usual gra- 
cious willingness, he became peace-maker 
and with his customary success. Unhap- 
pily, many frightful tragedies had already 
occurred. Among these was the murder of 
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson and members of her 
family who had moved from Aquidneck to 
the Dutch colony. 

The long, uncertain voyage that lay 
ahead of Roger Williams was most unlike 
the rapid crossings made in our modern 
luxurious ocean steamers that can calculate 
almost to an hour the length of the journey. 
Heavy seas, storms, contrary winds all had 
to be taken into accovmt. Realizing the 
delay that might thus be caused, our traveler 
used his leisure to put together the Indian 
"Key," as we have seen. 

It was a very different England which 
Roger Williams found in 1643 from that 


which lie had left thirteen years before. 
Then royalty and bishops had been tri- 
umphant; now the king was a fugitive and 
the Star Chamber a thing of the past. The 
country was passing through a dreadful 
civil war. Parliament was fighting for its 
rights, long trampled upon, and it was a 
question whether that body or the king 
would win out in the end. The struggle was 
for both civil and religious freedom. Dis- 
turbed though the kingdom was, it was the 
very best occasion for Roger Williams to 
present his request. Parliament needed all 
the friends it could get on both sides of the 
water. It therefore listened with attention 
to what he had to say. 

Without question Roger Williams num- 
bered among his friends the most powerful 
men of England at this time — Oliver Crom- 
well, Sir Henry Vane, the former governor 
of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and per- 
haps Milton. They greeted the pioneer 
from over-seas with hearty welcome. Their 
warm friendship must have meant much to 
the outcast from Massachusetts. But his 
patient heart must have been filled with a 


still greater joy when a commission ap- 
pointed by Parliament granted his colony 
the much-desired charter. Massachusetts' 
cold disapproval might continue, but the 
Narragansett settlements were on their feet 
at last! They had a future. Their star, 
slow in rising, was now above the horizon. 

During his stay in London, Roger Wil- 
liams attended to other matters besides the 
procuring of the charter. Often his own 
personal concerns were pushed aside for the 
sake of others. The poor of the city were 
enduring great suffering due to a lack of 
coal, for the war had interfered with mining. 
Wood was very expensive. Roger Wil- 
liams made it his business to do what he 
could to obtain fuel and so lessen the 
distress around him. 

In addition, he made use of every spare 
moment to write a great work on toleration 
bearing the rather startling title of "The 
Bloody Tenent of Persecution," which was 
put together "in variety of strange houses, 
sometimes in the fields, in the midst of 
travel." It was in answer to a letter of his 
old antagonist, John Cotton. Going back a 


step further, this letter had been called forth 
by a pamphlet on persecution composed by 
a prisoner of Newgate. Being denied 
writing materials, he had substituted milk 
for ink, and for paper, had used the wrap- 
pings of the milk bottles brought him. Such 
writings, he knew, would, upon the applica- 
tion of heat, become legible. To "the argu- 
ments against persecution in milk," Roger 
Williams now wrote "the answer in blood." 
He was on familiar ground, and with clear 
logic, good sense and strong English, he 
shaped his ideas on religious liberty. Such 
a book had never before been published. 
Truth and Peace are represented as dis- 
cussing this all-important subject. 

"In what dark corner of the world, sweet 
Peace," begins Truth, "are we two met? 
How hath the present evil world banished 
me from all the coasts and quarters of it? 
And how hath the righteous God in judg- 
ment taken thee from the earth?" 

" 'Tis lamentably true, blessed Truth," 
answers Peace, "the foundations of the 
world have long been out of course. . . . 
With what a wearied, tired wing have I 


flown over nations, kingdoms, cities, towns, 
to find out precious Truth." 

"The like inquiries," says Truth, "in my 
flights and travels have I made for Peace, 
and still am told she hath left the earth and 
fled to Heaven." 

"Dear Truth," then exclaims Peace, 
"what is the earth but a dungeon of 
darkness where Truth is not?" 

In less fanciful language, arguments are 
given to show that neither laws nor civil 
magistrates should have authority over a 
man's soul. Roger Williams did not mean 
any disrespect to his old friend, John Cot- 
ton, by thus openly taking opposite sides 
with him. This he explained years after- 
wards in a courteous letter to Cotton's son. 
He was too tender-hearted to offend even his 
enemies. Besides, public controversies were 
very popular in Roger Williams' day. 

The book was dedicated to Parliament, 
but, unfortunately, the House of Commons 
was so far from comprehending and appre- 
ciating its worth, that it rather childishly 
ordered that it be burnt. As if in such sim- 


pie fashion truth could be wiped from the 
earth ! 

The charter obtained by Roger Williams 
provided that "Providence Plantations in 
the N^arragansett Bay in New England" 
should be given "full power and authority 
to rule themselves and such others as shall 
hereafter inhabit within any part of the said 
tract of land, by such a form of civil gov- 
ernment as by voluntary consent of all, or 
the greater part of them, they shall find 
most suitable to their estate and condition, 
provided that the said laws, constitutions 
and punishments for the civil government 
of the said plantations be conformable to 
the laws of England, as far as the nature 
and constitution of the place will admit." 
It was a most liberal document, without 
a single word about restricting liberty in 
religious matters. 

The obtaining of this charter meant an 
outlay in actual money of one hundred 
pounds, or five hundred dollars. Roger 
Williams had generously disposed of some 
of his land in order to raise ready money to 
carry through the project. This debt was 


not collected without considerable trouble 
and delay. The colonists, having secured 
their object, did not seem over- anxious to 
pay the bill. 

The question suggests itself: How had 
Roger Williams been able to make such a 
complete success of his mission in England? 
There were several reasons — among them, 
the desire of Parliament to make and keep 
friends in New England, as has been men- 
tioned. But listen. In a letter sent by 
Roger Williams from leading noblemen and 
members of Parliament to Massachusetts, 
we find these words: "As also of his great 
industry and travels in his printed Indian 
labors in your parts (the like whereof we 
have not seen extant from any part of 
America) and in which respect it hath 
pleased both Houses of Parliament to grant 
unto him, and friends with him, a free and 
absolute charter of civil government for 
those parts of his abode." The writers of 
the letter did not hesitate to use very plain 
language in expressing their disapproval of 
the lack of harmony and neighborliness that 
had marked the dealings between Massa- 


chusetts and Roger Williams. The missive 
gained him the privilege of landing in Bos- 
ton on his return to America in the autumn 
of the year 1644. There is nothing to show, 
however, that the colony softened her heart 
toward him. 

The people of Providence, on the other 
hand, heard of the coming of their leader 
and prepared for him a truly royal welcome. 
When he landed on the banks of the See- 
konk, where, not many years before, nobody 
had taken any interest in his doings except 
possibly friendly Indians, now he was met 
by a body of his townsmen who had turned 
out in fourteen canoes to greet him. 
Happy in the safe return of their friend and 
neighbor, and rejoiced to think he had come 
back with the precious charter, they escorted 
him, with hearty expressions of joy, across 
the river to the settlement he had founded. 



While Roger Williams was absent in Eng- 
land, an event occurred at home which must 
have sorely grieved his kindly heart when 
he heard of it. This was the death of his 
faithful friend and ally, the sachem Mian- 
tonomo. Their friendship, as well as that 
between Roger Williams and Miantonomo's 
uncle, Canonicus, forms one of the most in- 
teresting chapters in the life of our hero. 
Brave, dignified, upright, true, Miantonomo 
could give many a church elder of his time 
a lesson in honor and sincerity. He 
deserved a far better fate at their hands 
than he received. 

Ever since the Pequot War, there had 
been trouble between the Mohegans and 
the Narragansetts. Uncas, the powerful 
sachem of the former tribe, was Mianto- 
nomo's deadly rival. When, therefore, war 
broke out between him and an ally of Mian- 


tonomo, the Narragansett sachem took part 
in the struggle. With a force of about a 
thousand men, which greatly outnumbered 
the Connecticut Indians, he took Uncas 
completely by surprise. Unhappily, Mian- 
tonomo was hindered by a heavy armor that 
had been loaned him and this, together with 
the sudden fury of Uncas' assault, cost him 
the day. He was taken captive to Hart- 
ford, after proudly refusing to plead for his 

When the commissioners of the United 
Colonies next met, his case was put in their 
hands. What should be done with the 
silent, haughty prisoner? Should he be 
condemned to death or receive a lighter 
punishment' or — best of all — be set free? 
Whatever Miantonomo's faults, he had al- 
ways kept faith with his white allies and, 
remembering his treaty at the time of the 
Pequot War, had even asked permission of 
Massachusetts before attacking Uncas. 
The United Colonies hesitated. At length 
they shifted the responsibility to certain 
prominent mmisters of the gospel. Surely 
they would be lenient. Without question 


they would grant him hfe and freedom. 
Death! With one voice they pronounced 
the awful sentence. 

It is not difficult to imagine the savage 
joy with which Uncas received his hated foe 
back again. As Miantonomo was led forth 
from Hartford, one of Uncas' men stole up 
behind him and felled him to the ground 
with a single blow of a hatchet. This heart- 
less murder — for it can be called nothing 
less — will always remain a dark blot on the 
history of early New England. If only 
Roger Williams had been at home! No 
doubt the gloomy sachem said it to himself 
more than once with childlike yearning. 
To-day, nearly three hundred years after 
the tragedy, we echo sadly, "If only Roger 
Williams had been at home!" 

The Narragansetts did not soon overlook 
the cruel death of their favorite chief. They 
meditated revenge — deep, thorough re- 
venge. They would have the head of Uncas, 
no matter what Massachusetts and the otlier 
colonies might say. Such was the state of 
affairs when Roger Williams returned from 
England. The Narragansetts actually 


commenced hostilities against the Mohegans 
and threatened to cany the war against the 
white colonists as well, except those of 
Providence and Rhode Island, as the island 
of Aquidneck was now called. 

Roger Williams lost no time in doing his 
utmost to quench "the flames of war raging 
next door" to him. He sent word of the 
plans of the Indians to a meeting of the 
commissioners of the United Colonies held 
at Boston. In consequence of this, Massa- 
chusetts decided to take up arms against 
the revengeful Narragansetts. Their 
sachem, Pessicus, Miantonomo's brother, 
then lost some of his former bravery. He, 
like Massachusetts, depended upon Roger 
Williams to get him out of his difficulties. 
He had the same unquestioning confidence 
in the friend of his tribe as had Miantonomo 
before him. The result of the whole busi- 
ness was that peace was arranged and the 
Narragansetts pledged Massachusetts two 
thousand fathom of wampum. A treaty 
was concluded which patched up the differ- 
ences between the two Indian tribes and 
perhaps prevented, for a second time, a 


widespread massacre of the whites. The 
credit was entirely due to Roger Williams. 

But to return to the personal alfairs of 
the great peace-maker. We must not sup- 
pose that all this time he was on the road 
to riches. At no time in his career does he 
seem to have had an abundance of worldly 
goods. He was obliged to work in the open, 
at hard manual labor, to earn a living for 
himself and those dependent on him. Now, 
upon his- return from England, he found 
himself poorer than ever. His family num- 
bered six children and it was a big problem 
to clothe and feed them properl5\ Their 
needs probably determined his next step — 
his removal from Providence to Cawcawm- 
quissick or Narragansett, some twenty miles 
down the Bay, where he established a 

The location had its advantages. It was 
convenient for hunters and accessible to 
Newport, at which port furs could be 
shipped to England and needed supplies be 
received in return. Here, in the heart of the 
Narragansett country, Roger Williams 
passed six busy years of his life, his busi- 


ness yielding hiiii one luindred pounds 
annually. He planted and harvested his 
crops, continued to serve as mediator be- 
tween the natives and the colonists, and to 
take an active part in the affairs of the 

He found at Narragansett a most con- 
genial neighbor in the person of Richard 
Smith, a prosperous trader and the owner 
of a large estate. A fugitive from English 
persecution, he had resided for a time in 
Plymouth territory, and then, for the sake 
of a still more liberal atmosphere, moved to 
the Narragansett Bay region. His was the 
first English house in that section, built a 
few years after the settlement of Provi- 
dence. Mrs. Smith was the soul of courtesy 
and hospitality and the Williams family 
was fortunate in having her and her good 
husband within neighborly distance. 

That Roger Williams, too, was the best 
of neighbors, we have abundant proof. No 
kindly service was too small for him to 
undertake if he could thereby help those 
about him, whether English or Indian. 
Now he busied himself trying to find the 


stray cattle of a friend, again he gave his 
house over to Massachusetts soldiers who 
had come to collect the v^ampum debt from 
the Narragansetts. The savages were con- 
tinually making excuses to Roger Williams 
for their delay in settling the heavy account. 
Many of these were genuine enough, no 
doubt. He listened to the grievances of 
both sides and, as usual, poured oil on the 
troubled waters. 

To the Narragansetts, he was friend, 
peace-maker, adviser, physician. They 
served in his household, for the early records 
of the province show that he was granted 
"leave to suffer a native, his hired household 
servant, to kill fowl for him in his piece at 
Narragansett about his house." Their bod- 
ily ailments were ever a source of care 
and anxiety to him. Though Providence 
Plantations was a temperate colony, yet 
Roger Williams was allowed to administer 
"a little wine or strong water" "to the red 
men in their illnesses. "I might have gained 
thousands by that trade," he once said, "but 
God hath graciously given me rather to 
choose a drj^ morsel." When in need of 


greater medical skill than his own, he wrote 
his friend, John Winthrop the younger, of 
Connecticut, for medicine and a "drawing 
plaster," adding generously, "if the charge 
rise to one or two crowns, I shall thankfully 
send it." 

The lack of good physicians was still 
sorely felt in the colony. When the second 
daughter of Roger Williams became ill, he 
again asked Mr. Winthrop's advice — this 
time, as to the best doctor in Massachusetts. 
As late as 1660, however, Roger Williams 
resorted to simple remedies — of necessity, 
very likely — instead of consulting a doctor. 
When his son Joseph "was troubled with a 
spice of an epilepsy," he wrote, "We used 
some remedies, but it hath pleased God, by 
his taking of tobacco, perfectly, as we hope, 
to cure him." 

Correspondence and neighborly inter- 
change of courtesies were kept up for years 
between the Williams family and that of 
John Winthrop, Jr. The affection and 
kindliness of the former governor of Mas- 
sachusetts for his banished friend descended 
to his son, "Your loving lines in this cold, 


dead season" — thus began one of Roger 
Williams' letters to him — "were as a cup of 
your Connecticut cider." Once Mrs. Wil- 
liams sent Mrs. Winthrop a couple of 
papers of pins, as this simple necessity ap- 
peared to be scarce in Connecticut. Her 
husband added the suggestion that if Mrs. 
Winthrop herself did not need them, they 
might "pleasure a neighbor." Writing 
paper seemed to be as scarce in Providence 
as pins were in Connecticut. One letter of 
Roger Williams was written on the blank 
side of an envelope addressed to himself by 
Winthrop. He crossed out his own name 
and wrote that of his correspondent in 
blacker ink. 

The monotony and hard work of the Nar- 
ragansett existence were enlivened now and 
then by the loan of a book. In this way, 
Roger Williams kept in touch with the lat- 
est thought in England. He eagerly read 
all volumes that came his way bearing 
upon religious subjects, but at one time he 
expressed an earnest desire for a geography. 
In turn, he supplied his friends with books 
from his own limited library. We are sorry 


to say they were not always returned 
promptly. Thus he sent urgent word to 
Connecticut for Winthrop to recover one of 
these books which an Englishman of Long 
Island had borrowed. 

During Roger Williams' residence at 
Narragansett, the aged chieftain Canonicus 
died. Honorable and just in his dealings 
with the colonists, always more inclined 
toward peace than war, he stands out in 
history as one of the wisest and best of New 
England Indians. He picked out Roger 
Williams as the object of his special favor. 
Despite extreme age, he had laid out the 
grounds of his neighbor's trading-house with 
his own hands. The two men had the deep- 
est respect and love for each other. Near- 
ing his end, the Narragansett chieftain sent 
for Roger Williams. He had a dying re- 
quest to make — that he might be buried in 
the "cloth of free gift" that was one of many 
tokens of friendship from his great white 
friend. "So he was," recorded Roger Wil- 
liams simply. Thus the "prudent and 
peaceable prince" was laid to rest with his 


One other event marked Roger Williams' 
sojourn at Narragansett. A day came 
when exciting news spread like wildfire 
throughout the colony. Gold had been 
found — rich, precious gold — yes, and silver, 
too — on the island of Rhode Island. So the 
word went round. What a future for the 
poor, struggling little colony! Roger Wil- 
liams, with the others, believed that a mine 
of wealth was in their midst and wrote in 
one of his letters that the ore had been tested 
and found genuine. The arms of England 
and of the Lord High Admiral were posted 
over the mine and nobody allowed to 
take possession. Unfortunately, the golden 
dream soon changed to drab reality. A 
more careful test showed that what was be- 
lieved to be gold was not gold at all. The 
disappointed dreamers, sadder but wiser, re- 
turned to their plows to earn a living out of 
the soil in the old humdrum but dependable 

What about Roger Williams' charter 
money all this time? The colony had voted 
him the hundred pounds to pay the expenses 
of his trip across the water, but he had not 


yet collected it all. After patiently waiting 
several years, he gently hinted that Prov- 
idence pay her share in goats! 

"I have here (through God's providence) 
convenience of miproving some goats; my 
request is, therefore, that if it may be with- 
out much trouble, you would be pleased to 
order the payment of it in cattle of that 

Let us hope that the "cattle" duly reached 



Meanwhile, what of the charter itself 
which Roger Wilhams had gained at the 
expense of so much time and trouble ? Had 
it succeeded in uniting the struggling set- 
tlements? Were they now a harmonious, 
happy family ? Alas ! No such miracle had 
occurred. In fact, two years and a half 
passed before any kind of union was 
brought about. 

Finallj^ in May, 1647, representatives 
from the different towns met at Portsmouth. 
The larger part of the colony, however, was 
present at this first General Assembly. 
Those persons from the mainland who at- 
tended paddled to their destination in 
canoes. In those days the water trip from 
Providence to Portsmouth was looked upon 
as quite an undertaking, though to-day a 
steamer could easily make the same journey 
in Jess than two hours. The delegates from 



'• ' 

CariDniciis Beid.;*'. llo^^cr Williams Park, I'lox idence, appro- 
priately naiiicd after the Narragansett sachem who was the 
steadfast friend of Roger \\illiams. 

The Betsy Williams ('.otiage. Roger Williams I'^nk, Providence. 
It is an old-fashioned red dwelling, well covered with vines in 
summer, not far from the statue of Roger Williams. The 
cottage is appropriately furnished with (.olonial relics. 


Providence, including Roger Williams and 
his brother Robert, were bidden Godspeed 
by the town in words as gravely serious as 
might be used had the intended voyage been 
across the ocean : 

"We commit you unto the protection and 
direction of the Almighty, wishing you a 
comfortable voyage, a happy success, and a 
safe return unto us again." 

At this first representative meeting of the 
colony, a simple form of government was 
decided upon. It was agreed that the af- 
fairs of the province should be managed by 
a president, four assistants and six commis- 
sioners from each town, or tweny-four in all. 
Roger Williams was not chosen first presi- 
dent, as we might suppose, but this may 
have been because he declined the honor. 
Surely the good and faithful man deserved 
a rest. He did, however, serve twice as 
an assistant and once as deputy-president 
under the first charter. 

The colonial body declared itself in favor 
of "a democratical form of government" — 
a truly startling novelty for the seventeenth 
century. Then a clear, simple code of law§ 


was drawn up, far milder and more just 
than any then in existence. They provided 
that while burglary and theft were punish- 
able crimes, still the penalty should not be 
too extreme for poor persons who stole be- 
cause of hunger. Debtors having no goods 
or lands with which to settle their bills 
were not to be sent to prison "to lie lan- 
guishing to no man's advantage." The 
destitute and infirm were to be provided 
for in all the towns. No person was 
to be required to take an out-and-out 
oath, his solemn word or testimony be- 
ing considered just as binding. The laws 
concluded thus quaintly: "And otherwise 
than thus what is herein forbidden, all men 
may walk as their consciences persuade 
them, every one in the name of his God. 
And let the saints of the Most High walk in 
this colony without molestation in the name 
of Jehovah, their God, forever and ever." 

Just how primitive was the life of these 
early settlers is shown in that section of the 
laws touching upon archery. It also gives 
a glimpse of the constant danger which 


surrounded the pioneers of Providence 

"Forasmuch, as we are cast among the 
archers, and know not how soon we may be 
deprived of powder and shot, without which 
our guns will advantage us nothing; to the 
end also that we may come to outshoot these 
natives in their own bow; Be it enacted by 
the authority of this present Assembly, that 
that statute touching archery shall be re- 
vived and propagated throughout the whole 
colony; and that every person from the age 
of seventeen years to the age of seventy, 
that is not lame, debilitated in his body, or 
otherwise exempted by the colony, shall 
have a bow and four arrows, and shall use 
and exercise shooting; and every father 
having children shall provide for every man- 
child from the age of seven years, till he 
come to seventeen years, a bow and two 
arrows or shafts to induce them and to bring 
them up to shooting; and every son, servant, 
or master, thus appointed and ordered to 
have a bow and arrows, that shall be remiss 
and negligent in the observance hereof and 
shall be found to lack a bow and so many 


arrows for the space of a month together 
after the last of the fourth month, commonly 
called June, shall forfeit three shillings and 
four pence ; the father shall pay for the son, 
the master for the servant, and deduct it out 
of his wages." 

At this first assembly, an anchor (to 
which later was added the motto "Hope") 
was chosen as the seal of the province. Ap- 
propriate emblem, indeed! Many a storm 
would the infant colony be called upon to 
battle with before being grounded firmly in 
good government. Never before had a 
group of people greater need of hope and 
courage than those who were trying out 
their "lively experiment." 

A law was passed, too, forbidding the sale 
of firearms to the Indians under penalty of 
a heavy fine. 

Several years passed and still Providence 
Plantations failed to become the settled, 
united colony of Roger Williams' hopes and 
dreams. It was a union in name only. As for 
the position of the founder himself, it was 
as if he were the head of an unruly school. 
The four disturbing classes, instead of act- 


ing together for the good of the school, were 
more intent on their own httle concerns and 
differences. The people of Providence 
quarreled among themselves, while Prov- 
idence, Newport, Portsmouth and Warwick 
quarreled with one another. 

It is true that certain inhabitants of Prov- 
idence made an agreement that for the com- 
mon good they would forget their jealousies 
and bickerings, but, unhappily, the very 
persons who signed the paper were the ones 
who had no need of such a pledge to begin 
with. The liberal, brotherly spirit of Roger 
Williams was plainly evident in their deter- 
mination to let "love cover their differences 
in the grave of oblivion." 

At last matters reached a crisis. William 
Coddington planned to detach the island of 
Rhode Island and the neighboring island of 
Conanicut from the rest of the colony and 
sailed for England early in 1649 to obtain 
a separate charter. And this even though 
he had been honored by being elected presi- 
dent of the province and owed his position in 
the colony largely to Roger Williams' 
kindness and helpfulness. 


It looked very much as if Roger Wil- 
liams' work would have to be done all over 
again, especially as Coddington returned in 
two years with the new charter which made 
him governor of the two islands in the Bay 
for life. Besides, the neighboring colonies 
still had a covetous eye on their sister colony 
of whom they had always disapproved. 
Massachusetts still claimed Pawtuxet, 
Plymouth declared she owned the Island of 
Rhode Island, while poor Warwick had 
been tossed back and forth between the two 
very much like a baseball. 

Finally, Providence and Warwick had 
the good sense to unite and ask Roger Wil- 
liams to go to England a second time to 
have the original charter confirmed. Ports- 
mouth and Newport, with equally good 
sense, urged John Clarke, the good minister- 
physician of the latter town, likewise to 
appeal to the mother country to have the 
Coddington charter annulled. 

Roger Williams had to be urged twice to 
undertake the task. The care of his sizable 
family and lack of money probably had 
much to do with his first refusal. At length. 


however, he came to the conclusion that his 
duty to his fellow-colonists was of more 
importance than his own private affairs. 
The two towns promised to defray the ex- 
penses of the trip and to make up whatever 
was still owing for the former voyage. 

Even so, Roger Williams sold his trad- 
ing-post at Narragansett in order to finance 
the venture. He found a purchaser in his 
neighbor, Richard Smith, who paid him 
fifty pounds in ready money for it. There 
is no indication that, on the part of 
the seller, this was an attempt to drive a 
sharp bargain — far from it. The business 
must have been worth far more than Roger 
Williams realized on it, even though it was 
a cash transaction. 

There was one thing more to be done — 
to "humbly pray Massachusetts that he 
might inoffensively and without molestation 
pass through her jurisdiction as a stranger 
for a night." The request was grudgingly 
granted and, in company with the Reverend 
John Clarke, Roger Williams for tiie sec- 
ond time set his face toward England, in 
November, 1651. 



After Roger Williams left for London, the 
towns of Portsmouth and Newport sub- 
mitted to the rule of Coddington, while 
Providence and Warwick united and con- 
tinued under the old charter. They held 
their regular assemblies as usual, passed 
laws, and acted, in general, as if there were 
no split at all. 

Many of their proceedings are of little 
interest to-day, but one stands out from the 
rest and deserves more than passing notice. 
The law restricting slavery, under date of 
May 18, 1652, was one of the very first of 
its kind, not alone in New England, but in 
the whole world. The purchase of negroes 
was "a common course practiced among 
Englishmen to that end they may have them 
for service or slaves forever" and white men 
were also held in similar bondage. Now 
while the idea of universal freedom was far 


from the thoughts of mankind in Roger 
Williams' day, the step taken by his little 
colony was a big stride in the right direction. 
It provided that no "black mankind or 
white" should be made to serve for a longer 
period than ten years. "And that man that 
will not let them go free," the decree went 
on, "or shall sell them away elsewhere, to 
that end that they may be enslaved to others 
for a long time, he or they shall forfeit to 
the colony forty pounds." 

Though Roger Williams was hundreds 
of miles from home at the time this slavery 
act was passed, it clearly shows his influence. 
He was always the friend of the oppressed 
and downtrodden. It is not likely that 
many offenders were found after the law 
became a fact. Two hundred dollars meant 
too heavy a fine for the poor colonist of that 
day to pay. 

The England of Roger Williams' second 
visit was as disturbed as the England of his 
first trip. King Charles had paid a heavy 
price for his tyrannical injustice — the loss of 
his head — and the real ruler of the country 
was Oliver Cromwell. Backed by his well- 


disciplined, well-trained, invincible army, he 
had swept everything before him. During 
Roger Williams' stay, he usurped even more 
power and was made the Lord Protector of 
the Commonwealth of England. It was 
well for Providence Plantations that it had 
so influential a friend at court. Cromwell 
was very gracious to the colony's representa- 
tive, frequently having long talks with 
Roger Williams and asking many questions 
about the Narragansett province across the 
sea. The Indians of that section interested 
him especially. Roger Williams needed no 
urging to impart all the information he 
could on this topic so near his heart. Yet 
not even Cromwell's friendship secured a 
speedy settlement of the charter trouble. 

The question was referred to the Council 
of State. Meanwhile, Roger Williams kept 
his colony informed from time to time as to 
the results of his labors. First, he wrote 
that the Council had given Jiim encourage- 
ment and had decided that the charter was 
binding until further orders were issued. 
Next, he was able to send the welcome news 
that the Coddington charter was annulled 


and that the towns were to unite as form- 
erly. As we shall see, this was more easily 
said than done. 

Though much had been gained, the final 
settlement was not yet reached. While 
waiting, Roger WiUiams had his hands full 
seeing to it that his strugghng province 
across the water was not cheated out of its 
rights. For one thing, war broke out be- 
tween the Dutch and English. Naturally, 
this national struggle caused less important 
affairs to be pushed aside for the time being. 
Then the friends of the charter had to fight 
opposition among persons of high position 
and influence. So the matter dragged on. 

In one of his letters describing these 
drawbacks, Roger Williams did not forget 
to send his love to his Indian friends. The 
correspondence was not all one-sided. The 
people of Providence, in turn, kept Roger 
Williams in touch with affairs at home. 
Though they did not always appreciate the 
great, whole-souled man while he lived 
quietly among them, whenever they were 
left to their own devices, they awoke to some 
realization of his worth. They passed their 


troubles on to him and asked his advice, as 
if the poor man had not already enough 
burdens of his own to carry! They did not 
stop here. They wrote an earnest letter 
asking him to accept the governorship of the 
colony for a year in case the charter should 
be confirmed. 

A more ambitious man would eagerly 
have grasped the opportunity thus offered. 
He would have seen in it the possibility of 
power, influence, perhaps riches. Not so 
Roger Williams. In his own humble, 
modest way, he was content to go on as be- 
fore, sacrificing his own interests for those 
of the colony, whether repaid for his efforts 
or not. 

Cromwell was not the only prominent 
man in England with whom Roger Wil- 
liams was on intimate terms. He renewed 
his friendship with Sir Henry Vane and 
was a frequent visitor at his house — either 
in his lodgings at Whitehall or at his beau- 
tiful country estate Belleau in Lincolnshire. 
This tried and true friend, having lived in 
both old and New England, could under- 
stand and sympathize with Roger Williams 


as perhaps nobody else could. He was not 
only his personal friend, but a friend of the 
Providence colony as well. "The sheet 
anchor of our ship," wrote Roger Williams, 
"is Sir Henry, who will do as the eye of 
God leads him." 

John Milton was another brilliant man 
with whom Roger Williams associated dur- 
ing this period. He was the secretary of 
the Council of State and later became 
world-famous as the author of "Paradise 
Lost." The condition of the great man at 
this time was pitiable. He was fast grow- 
ing blind. He said of his affliction in after 
years : 

"...., My light is spent 
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide, 
And that one talent v/hich is death to hide, 
Lodged with me useless " 

He and Roger Williams exchanged lan- 
guages, Roger Williams reading to him in 
Dutch and receiving in return instruction 
in other languages. Roger Williams' 
familiarity with other tongues than his own 
was truly remarkable. We have seen how 
he had studied and conquered the Indian 


dialects. Now during his stay in the mother 
country, he practiced Hebrew, Greek, 
Latin, French and Dutch. 

The study of languages, however, was not 
all that occujiied Roger Williams during 
the two years and a half that he awaited 
the triumph of his charter. He wrote sev- 
eral books and pamphlets that represent 
some of the best literary work of his life. 
It will be remembered that when in Eng- 
land before, he had published a book called 
"The Bloody Tenent of Persecution," in 
which he voiced his views on toleration. 
This was later answered by John Cotton, 
who, borrowing a portion of Roger Wil- 
liams' title, added to it and called his work 
"The Bloody Tenent Washed and Made 
White in the Blood of the Lamb." Roger 
Williams could not let the matter rest here 
— he was too ardent an apostle of liberty of 

So now he took the opportunity to get 
ready for publication a reply to his antag- 
onist, this time under the overwhelming 
heading of "The Bloody Tenent Yet More 
Bloody by Mr. Cotton's Endeavor to Wash 


it White in the Blood of the Lamb." If the 
controversy had been carried any further, 
who knows what cumbersome and unwieldy 
titles might not have been inflicted upon the 
reading public! Roger Williams, in refer- 
ring to the above book in its relation to Mr. 
Cotton's arguments, said it had "unwashed 
his washings." 

England at this period was divided on the 
question of toleration. There were those 
who favored only partial religious liberty, 
others who took the stand that Roger Wil- 
liams had supported all these years — abso- 
lute soul liberty without interference from 
the civil power. These broad-minded men 
argued that the Jews, who had been perse- 
cuted time and again by the rulers of Eng- 
land and had been excluded from the land 
for several hundred years, should be allowed 
to live freely and peaceably in the forbidden 

Here was a chance for Roger Williams 
to strike another blow at oppression. The 
despised race could have had no better 
champion. Writing in their behalf, he said: 

"I humbly conceive it to be the duty of 


the civil magistrate to break down that 
superstitious wall of separation (as to civil 
things) between us Gentiles and the Jews, 
and freely (without their asking) to make 
way for their free and peaceable habitation 
amongst us. 

"As other nations, so this especially, and 
the kings thereof, have had just cause to 
fear that the un-Christian oppressions, in- 
civilities and inhumanities of this nation 
against the Jews have cried to Heaven 
against this nation and the kings and princes 
of it. 

"For the removing of which guilt, and the 
pacifying of the wrath of the Most High 
against this nation, and for the furthering 
of that great end of propagating the Gospel 
of Christ Jesus; It is humbly conceived to 
be a great and weighty duty which is upon 
this state, to provide (on the Jews' account) 
some gracious expedients for such holy and 
truly Christian ends." 

It may be that this stand taken by Roger 
Williams influenced Cromwell in his later 
treatment of the oppressed people. With- 
out openly welcoming them back into Eng- 


land, he did, as one writer has put it, allow 
them to enter by the back door. 

Poverty was still a heavy handicap to 
Roger Williams. To raise needed fmids, 
he was not ashamed to turn to any kind of 
employment so long as it was honorable. 
Thus we read of his giving language lessons 
to the sons of a member of Parliament. As 
to his methods, they were both reasonable 
and interesting. There was no forcing of 
dry old set formulas upon his pupils to be 
learned by heart. Instead, he substituted 
what would be called to-day the "natural 
method" — that is, he taught those words and 
phrases in most common use by means of 
easy conversations. Happy students, to 
have a teacher who thought grammar rules 
a "tyranny" ! So well did these lessons suc- 
ceed that after Roger Williams returned to 
America, he taught his own three boys in 
the same way. 

Once more the poor of London were his 
debtors. His own wants were never of so 
much importance as those of his neighbors. 
As on the previous visit, he helped supply 
the needy with fuel. 


One episode of Roger Williams' stay in 
London was amusing, yet pathetic as well. 
All the years he had spent in New England 
he had not forgotten the kind friend of his 
youth, Sir Edward Coke. It therefore oc- 
curred to him, now that he was in his native 
land once more, to make inquiries after the 
daughter of the famous judge, Mrs. Anne 
Sadlier. He did so in a courteous letter, 
at the same time sending her one of his dis- 
courses that had recently been printed. 
The good lady had the rudeness to return it, 
saying that she read little beyond a few 
standard religious works. That she looked 
upon her father's former protege as a dan- 
gerous advanced thinker is shown by her 
saying bluntly that she believed his "new 
lights would prove but dark lanterns." In 
reply, Roger Williams referred her to the 
volumes covering his late controversy with 
John Cotton. Shocked beyond measure at 
the mere title "Bloody Tenent," Mrs. 
Sadlier did not attempt to read further and 
tartly told her correspondent not to trouble 
her again. With more persistence than 
wisdom, Roger Williams did write still once 


more. Mrs. Sadlier was thoroughly roused 
by the sermon-like epistle he sent and in 
anything but lady-like language, told the 
writer he had a "face of brass." Poor 
Roger Williams was silenced at last. 

With this spirited correspondence Mrs. 
Sadlier left the following memorandum: 
"Full little did he (Sir Edward Coke) 
think that he ( Roger Williams ) would have 
proved such a rebel to God, the king and his 
country. I leave his letters, that, if ever he 
has the face to return into his native 
country, Tyburn may give him welcome." 

In spite of his busy days and the im- 
portance of the errand which was keeping 
him in England, Roger Williams was very 
homesick at times. He yearned to see the 
faces of his sons and daughters. He longed, 
too, for his gentle wife — his "dear yoke- 
fellow" — and even proposed her joining 
him over-seas in several of his letters. One 
of the pamphlets he published while abroad 
(the one that Mrs. Sadlier rejected) was 
in the form of a letter addressed to Mrs. 
Williams. It had been written some time 


before on the occasion of her recovery from 
a dangerous illness while he was absent from 
home working among the Indians. Though 
there is more of the sermon than love-letter 
about it, still we find these exquisite lines: 

"My dear love, since it pleaseth the Lord 
so to dispose of me, and of my affairs at 
present, that I cannot often see thee, I de- 
sire often to send to thee. ... I send thee 
(though in winter) an handful of flowers 
made up in a little posy, for thy dear self 
and our dear children, to look and smell on." 

Rather flowery language, perhaps, to 
apply to a religious tract, yet it affords a 
satisfying glimpse of deep husbandly and 
fatherly affection. 

Roger Williams finally made up his mind 
to return to New England, though the 
charter matter was not yet closed. It was 
not alone thoughts of his own immediate 
family that induced him to make this deci- 
sion. His larger family — his unruly, quar- 
relsome colonial family — needed him quite 
as badly. He therefore left the interests of 
Providence Plantations in the hands of Mr. 


Clarke and turned homeward. The English 
goveniment granted him a safe passage 
through Massachusetts and, early in the 
summer of 1654, he landed in Boston. 



What the people of Providence Planta- 
tions needed and deserved was a good round 
scolding. They received it in the form of 
a sharp letter addressed to the colony by 
Sir Henry Vane and entrusted to Roger 
Williams. He wrote: 

"How is it that there are such divisions 
amongst you? Such headiness, tumults, 
disorders, injustice? The noise echoes into 
the ears of all, as well friends as enemies, 
by every return of ships from those parts. 
. . . Are there no wise men amongst you? 
No public self-denying spirits, that at least, 
upon the grounds of public safety, equity 
and prudence, can find out some way or 
means of union and reconciliation for you 
amongst yourselves, before you become a 
prey to common enemies, especially since 
this state, by the last letter from the Council 
of State, give you your freedom, as sup- 


posing a better use would have been made 
of it than there hath been? Surely, when 
kind and simple remedies are applied and 
are ineffectual, it speaks loud and broadly 
the high and dangerous distempers of such 
a body, as if the wounds were incurable." 

Then, calling upon their higher natm-e, 
he concluded by saying kindly, "But I hope 
better things from you." 

Roger Williams, too, penned a strong let- 
ter on the subject. He was weary at heart 
because of the constant dissensions around 
him. Now he gently reminded his friends 
and neighbors of Providence that "Only by 
pride cometh contention," and "Love cover- 
eth a multitude of sins," but at the same 
time he did not hesitate to rehearse the trials 
he had been through for their good. In 
plain, direct language, he said that for being 
their "stepping-stone," he had received 
nothing but grief, sorrow and bitterness. 
Only a hard-hearted people could have 
withstood such pathetic words as these : 

"It hath been told me that I labored for a 
licentious and contentious people; that I 
have foolishly parted with town and colony 


advantages, by which I might have pre- 
served both town and colony in as good 
order as any in the country about us. . . . 
I was unfortunately fetched and drawn 
from my employment, and sent to so vast 
distance from my family, to do your work 
of a high and costly nature, for so many 
days and weeks and months together, and 
there left to starve, or steal, or beg or bor- 
row. But blessed be God, who gave me 
favor to borrow one while, and to work an- 
other, and thereby to pay your debts there, 
and to come over with your credit and honor, 
as an agent from you, who had, in your 
name, grappled with the agents and friends 
of all your enemies round about you." 

For once, Providence Plantations had the 
grace to be ashamed of itself. For a while, 
at least, it was on its good behavior. The 
citizens of Providence appointed Roger 
Williams to send a reply to Sir Henry 
Vane, their friendly critic across the water. 
In this letter, they freely acknowledged 
their shortcomings, but with this excuse : 

"Possibly a sweet cup hath rendered 
many of us wanton and too active, for we 


have long drunk of the cup of as great 
hberties as any people that we can hear of 
under the whole heaven." 

Forgetting their jealousies and differ- 
ences, the four towns united and established 
the government on the old basis. There was 
peace for the time being, due largely to the 
fact that on September 12, 1654, Roger 
Williams was elected president of the colony 
and continued to serve in that capacity for 
two and a half vears. He would far rather 
have preferred to remain a private citizen, 
but was overcome by the wishes of others. 
Once again he was guided by the watch- 
word "Service." 

The first problem with which Roger 
Williams had to grapple concerned the In- 
dians. The Narragansetts and the natives 
of Long Island were at war, and the Com- 
missioners of the United Colonies had tried 
in vara to subdue the former. They sent 
an armed force against the Narragansetts, 
which, however, was unsuccessful. They 
might have pushed the matter further had 
it not been for Roger Williams' action at 
this crisis. He sent a letter to ISIassachu- 


setts calling the attention of that colony to 
the following facts: that their families had 
been allowed to grow up in peace among 
the Indians; that the conversion of the sav- 
ages was not possible so long as unnecessary 
and cruel wars were waged against them; 
that even so-called successful wars usually 
resulted in fearful losses as well as gains. 

He did not neglect to put in a good word 
for his friends, the Narragansetts, who, he 
said, had never stained their hands with 
English blood. Through all their territory, 
he added. Englishmen had frequently 
traveled alone in perfect safety. 

Whether or not Massachusetts was moved 
by this appeal, she certainly acted as Roger 
Williams hoped she would. She passed 
the word round that hostilities would be 
dropped. Thus again the prevention of 
an Indian massacre was probably due to the 
efforts of the gi-eat peace-maker. 

One of the laws passed during Roger 
Williams' term of office concerned the sale 
of strong drink to the Indians. Though 
laws had been passed before covering this 
point, they had not been enforced. Now 


the new statute provided that two "ordinary 
keepers" in each town should be the only 
persons authorized to sell liquor or wine to 
the natives and that the amount should be 
limited to a quarter of a pint a day. In 
case the inn-keeper allowed any Indian cus- 
tomers to become intoxicated, he was liable 
to be fined twenty shillings for each person 
found in such a condition. This regulation, 
while not all that could be desired, doubtless 
reduced the drink evil greatly and so 
increased the safety of the colonists. 

In spite of the good intentions of Provi- 
dence Plantations, Roger Williams' path 
continued to be a thorny one. Stubborn 
and quarrelsome individuals caused him no 
end of trouble by refusing to obey the exist- 
ing form of government. The principles 
for which their leader had worked and sac- 
rificed were altogether too big for them to 
comprehend. His parable of the ship meant 
nothing to them. They misunderstood lib- 
erty of conscience to mean license to do 
whatever they pleased. 

Now it is ti*ue that Roger Williams had 
maintained from the first that religious lib- 


erty should be enjoyed without interference 
from the government. He had never 
preached, however, that the government had 
no business to put a stop to disturbances if 
they threatened the general welfare of the 
colony. In short, any community must 
protect the rights of its members if it would 
continue to exist. 

Rumors of the above difficulties reached 
the ears of Oliver Cromwell. Too occupied 
with important affairs in old England to 
trouble himself with the bickerings of a 
small group of people in New England, he 
yet took time to write a brief note to the 
colony. He charged the inhabitants to pre- 
serve peace and safety and to avoid dis- 
honor to the Commonwealth and themselves 
through differences at home or invasions 
from outside. 

This order from the Lord Protector was 
the very weapon needed by Roger Williams 
and others who were working for good gov- 
ernment. It placed a wholesome restraint 
upon several turbulent spirits and allowed 
those in authority to enforce theii* just de- 
mands. The most troublesome rebel, how- 


ever, could not be kept in subjection very 
long. He was William Harris, to whom 
a legal dispute was as the very air he 
breathed. For many years he was Roger 
Williams' thorn in the flesh until that usu- 
ally mild and forgiving individual had him 
arrested on a charge of treason for his 
persistent opposition to the government. 

William Coddington, who, perhaps more 
than any other person, had been to blame 
for the discord that distressed Roger Wil- 
liams, now came forward and promised 
obedience. Much as we disapprove of his 
disloyalty, we cannot help admiring his 
simple and dignified behavior as he publicly 
professed his allegiance: 

"I, William Coddington, do freely submit 
to the authority of his Highness in this 
colony as it is now united, and that with all 
my heart." 

During Roger Williams' presidency, 
Warwick and Pawtuxet continued to be a 
source of vexation. Certain inhabitants of 
those settlements still rebelled against their 
proper authorities, claiming that they owed 
allegiance to Massachusetts alone. Everi 


the Indians used the name of the Bay 
Colony to cover acts of lawlessness. Roger 
Williams protested in writing to Massa- 
chusetts against her encouragement of such 
a state of affairs. Not receiving a satis- 
factory answer to his first letter, he wrote a 
second time. 

One matter which he discussed in this 
correspondence — the question of defence 
against possible Indian outbreaks — was as 
vital as land disputes. It was necessary 
that his colony secure a supply of ammuni- 
tion. Twice he asked Massachusetts for the 
privilege of purchasing it from her, but she 
flatly refused to sell it. Her action was both 
unneighborly and unjust. 

The condition of Providence Plantations 
at this time was extremely dangerous. As 
an exposed frontier colony, mishielded from 
the Indians about her, her risk of attacks by 
them was always greater than that of her 
more protected sister colonies. Though the 
natives, as a general thing, had a wholesome 
respect for Roger Williams, yet it was not 
safe to trust the best of them. Canonicus 
and Miantonomo were both dead. There 


was no knowing to what lengths their tribe 
might go when equipped with firearms and 
strong drink. There was no doubt that they 
had been so supplied by unscrupulous 
Dutclimen and the very same Englishmen 
who had refused to sell to the colonists. 
Roger Williams' indignant words showed 
clearly what he thought of such practices: 

"For myself ... I have refused the gain 
of thousands by such a murderous trade, 
and think no law yet extant . . . secure 
enough against such villainy." 

In addition to the possibility of Indian 
attacks, there was also a chance that the 
colony might go to war with the neighbor- 
ing Dutch province. Such an outbreak 
would indeed be a calamity, as many sup- 
plies came by way of New Amsterdam; 
still, as England and Holland were at war, 
hostilities might easily extend to America. 

Now Roger Williams and his colony were 
firm believers in preparedness. Not being 
able to keep ammunition and liquor entirely 
out of reach of the natives, they resolved 
upon the next best thing — to meet the 
danger by having the colony ready to de- 


fend itself should occasion arise. In such a 
course alone lay safety. Instead of waiting 
until actual attacks were begun, it was wise 
to take tune by the forelock and prepare 

A beginning had already been made along 
this line years before. "Train bands" were 
organized early in the history of the colony 
for military drill, and in 1650 the towns 
were required by law to have their guns in 
good condition and to keep a magazine of 
arms and ammunition. Newport's appor- 
tionment was the greatest of all, as she was 
the largest and most flourishing of the 
settlements. Yet even her means of defence 
was pitifully small — three barrels of pow- 
der, one thousand pounds of lead, twelve 
pikes and twenty-four muskets. 

Another measure of defence was now 
proposed — the erection of a fort at 
Stampers' Hill, in Providence. The story 
of the naming of this spot is too curious to 
be passed by. One of the Rhode Island 
historians tells the story thus: 

"Soon after the settlement of Providence, 
a body of Indians approached the town in a 


hostile manner. Some of the townsmen, by 
rmining and stamping on this hill, induced 
them to believe that there was a large num- 
ber of men stationed there to oppose them, 
upon which they relinquished their design 
and retired. From this circumstance the hill 
was always called Stampers' Hill, or more 
generally, the Stampers." 

A street of this name is still to be found 
on the map of Providence. 

The same year that the fort was discussed, 
a consignment of powder and shot was re- 
ceived by the colony from John Clarke in 
England. It was placed in the hands of 
Roger Williams and distributed by him so 
that each town received one barrel of pow- 
der and two barrels of shot each. It was 
ordered by the General Assembly that 
money be raised to pay for it to the sum 
of "ten pound in good and well-sorted 
strung peage (wampum), after the rate of 
eight white per penny, and four black per 
penny, from each town." Clarke's assign- 
ment was inadequate enough for the needy 
colony, still it was something. 

Happily, the worst of the threatened 


troubles did not materialize. As a result of 
Roger Williams' second letter to Massachu- 
setts, John Endicott, then governor, invited 
his old friend to Boston. Roger Williams 
accepted the invitation and his trip did much 
to lessen friction between the two colonies. 
A curious record shows that stormy little 
Warwick did her part to make the presi- 
dent's mission a success. She voted forty 
shillings out of her treasmy, provided a 
horse for the journey, and also a pair of 
"Indian breeches" for Roger Williams' 

The Dutch war cloud failed to burst. 
Peace was declared between the warring 
nations across the water before New Nether- 
land and Providence Plantations came to 

The fear of the Indians, too, gradually 
lessened. The matter of fortifications was 
apparently dropped and neither during 
Roger Williams' term of office nor for many 
years afterwards did the Narragansetts 
spoil their record by shedding the blood of 
their white neighbors. We like to think 


that tlie colony's best safeguard at this time 
was its president — a better defence than 
firearms and forts, one that stood for justice 
and harmony. 



In the year 1656, Boston was in a fever of 
excitement. Some Quakers had come to 

The sect had first put in an appearance in 
England under the teachings of one George 
Fox, an earnest, conscientious preacher who, 
at the early age of nineteen, had felt called 
upon to give up everything for religion. 
How his disciples came to receive their curi- 
ous name is not positively known. One 
theory is that they were so-called because 
they were given to excitable, nervous trem- 
blings, but the Quakers themselves have 
claimed a different origin. According to 
them, at one time when Mr. Fox was ar- 
rested and sent to prison in England, he 
called upon those around him to tremble at 
the word of the Lord. Thereupon the mag- 
istrate who pronounced the sentence be- 
stowed the term "Quakers" upon his 


followers. In any case, it was a nickname, 
a term of contempt in the seventeenth cen- 
tury, and did not then, as later, carry with 
it respect and honor. 

But why should Massachusetts be 
alarmed at the coming of this people? Did 
she object to their habit of using "thee" and 
"thou" in ordinary speech? Did she ^con- 
sider that, by keeping their heads covered 
even in the presence of the authorities, they 
were lacking m proper respect? Or was it 
that their refusal to take up arms even in 
a just war was a dangerous doctrine? The 
Bay Colony doubtless disapproved of all 
these things. But there were other reasons 
— and stronger ones — why she frowned 
upon the newcomers. 

First, the Quakers professed to be guided 
by an "inner light." Whatever it directed 
them to do, or they thought it directed them 
to do, that they did, regardless of conse- 
quences. It was their sole authority, higher 
even than the commands of the Massachu- 
setts magistrates and elders. The colony 
decided to put an end to such unheard-of 
thinking at once. They were all the more 


resolved to do this because of the peculiar 
actions of the Quakers. A few misguided 
ones, professing to be led by this same "inner 
light," did the most extravagant things in 
their zeal to spread their faith. They used 
rude, harsh language, they went about half- 
naked, were disorderly in the streets, and in 
other ways tried to attract attention. One 
Quaker even created a disturbance in a 
meeting-house in Boston. Entering with 
two bottles in his hands, he crashed them 
before the assembled congregation, crying, 
"Thus will the Lord break you in pieces!" 
In these frenzied disciples of Fox there was 
almost no resemblance to the quiet, respect- 
able, inoffensive Friends of to-day. 

If such outbreaks had occurred in other 
parts of New England, the offenders would 
have been punished — yes, even in the liberal 
colony planted by Roger Williams. For 
being annoyed, Massachusetts cannot be 
blamed. For resorting to the extreme 
measures she did in dealing with the fol- 
lowers of Fox, the Bay Colony had no ex- 
cuse. It is one of the dark blots on her 


The very year the Quakers appeared, a 
severe law was put into effect against them. 
It provided that all ship -masters bringing 
Quakers into the colony should be fined one 
hundred pounds and should give security to 
carry them back whence they came, that all 
persons of this belief should be committed 
to the House of Correction, first whipped 
and then kept hard at work until trans- 
ported. In addition, a fine of five pounds 
was imposed for every Quaker book or writ- 
ing found in the colony. The penalty for 
defending Quaker opinions was forty shil- 
lings for the first offence, four pounds for 
the second, and banishment for the third. 

Calmly, unresistingly, the persecuted ones 
paid their fines, served their prison terms, 
allowed themselves to be banished, and — 
kept on doing the same things over and over 
again I Massachusetts did not realize in the 
least that she was using the very best means 
of encouraging the faith that she wished to 
stamp out. The Quakers wanted to be 
martyrs. They gloried in suffering and 
abuse. The more they were down-trodden, 
the more they increased and prospered. 


Now we come to the part played by the 
httle colony of Providence Plantations in 
the controversy. Roger Williams was still 
president when the severities of Massachu- 
setts began. When banished from that col- 
ony, the Quakers had to seek a new home, of 
course. What more convenient or attractive 
refuge than that of Narragansett Bay, 
where liberty of worship was not considered 
a crime? So they flocked thither in increas- 
ing numbers. 

Roger Williams' great principle, upon 
which the colony was founded, was now put 
to a severe test, the most severe it had ever 
known. Hitherto, all pilgrims of whatever 
creed, or no creed at all, had been made 
heartily welcome. But would a like invita- 
tion be extended this strange, peculiar peo- 
ple, who were in disgrace everywhere else? 
The answer came boldly, courageously — 

The United Colonies decided it was their 
duty to show their liberal sister colony the 
error of her ways. The commissioners, 
therefore, informed her that as they con- 
sidered they could not be too careful in pre- 


serving themselves from such a pest as 
"Quakers, ranters, and such notorious here- 
tics," they would ask that all persons of the 
despised sect be removed from the Colony 
of Providence Plantations and in the future 
be prohibited from entering it. 

The reply to this command was exactly 
what might be expected. Roger Williams' 
term of office had expired, but his spirit was 
still in the air. In two letters the brave lit- 
tle colony placed herself on record as to the 
stand she took in regard to the unpopular 

"As concerning these Quakers which are 
now among us," the first letter went on, "we 
have no law among us whereby to punish 
for only declaring by words, etc., their minds 
and understandings concerning the things 
and ways of God, as to salvation and an 
eternal condition." 

One shrewd bit of advice was also given, 
which the other colony might well have 
heeded. Providence Plantations pointed 
out that if no attention was paid the Quak- 
ers, they would quickly cease to be trouble- 


"And we moreover find," the writers ex- 
plained, "that in those places where these 
people aforesaid in this colony are most of 
all suffered to declare themselves freely and 
are only opposed by arguments in discourse, 
there they least of all desire to come, and we 
are informed that they begin to loathe this 
place, for that they are not opposed by the 
civil authority, but with all patience and 
meekness are suffered to say over their pre- 
tended revelations and admonitions, nor are 
they like or able to gain many here to their 
way; surely we find that they delight to be 
persecuted by civil powers, and when they 
are so, they are like to gain more adherents 
by the conceit of their patient sufferings 
than by consent to their pernicious sayings." 

In the second letter penned by Providence 
Plantations, the colony reminded the com- 
missioners that she still prized "freedom of 
different consciences as the greatest happi- 
ness that men can possess in this world." If 
the Quakers disturbed the civil peace, then, 
and then only, would interference be justi- 
fied. In that case, the matter would be re- 

Statue of Roger Williams, 
Roger W iiliaius I'ark, Providence 


ferred to England and the offenders be sent 

The United Colonies then replied, hinting 
that Providence Plantations would be cut 
off from all trade if disobedience was per- 
sisted in. After this threatened boycott, 
the colonists concluded it was wise to take 
some steps for protecting themselves, but 
recede from their position they would not. 
They therefore sent a letter to their good 
friend and agent in England, John Clarke, 
asking that he use his influence in their 

"They seem secretly to threaten us," the 
letter ran, "by cutting us off from all com- 
merce and trade with them. . . . They make 
the prices, both of our commodities and their 
own also, because we have not English coin, 
but only that which passeth among these bar- 
barians and such commodities as are raised 
by the labor of our hands, as com, cattle, 
tobacco, and the like, to make payment in, 
which they will have at their own rate, or 
else not deal with us. 

"So may it please you to have an eye and 
care open in case our adversaries should seek 


to undermine us in our privileges granted 
unto us and to plead our case in such sort 
as we may not he compelled to exercise any 
civil power over men's consciences, so long 
as humane orders in point of civility are not 
corrupted and violated." 

Brave, ringing words, that deserve to be 
written in letters of gold! 

'Massachusetts, meanwhile, continued in 
her unfortunate course, which, happily, the 
other colonies did not follow so severely. 
Imprisonment, fines, and banishment were 
followed by physical mutilation. As a final 
step, profession of the Quaker faith was 
made a capital offence. This law was not 
popular with the people at large, who were 
far more tender-hearted than their magis- 
trates. Very few received this extreme sen- 
tence. The only woman to pay the death 
penalty was Mary Dyre, wife of one of the 
leading citizens of Providence Plantations, 
who refused to keep out of the forbidden 

In 1661, Charles II, then the reigning 
monarch of England, issued a decree put- 
ting a stop to further persecution. Thus 


closed the five dreadful years of Quaker 
punishment in New England. 

The Quakers, let alone, became useful and 
respected citizens and contributed a large 
share toward the well-being of the commu- 
nities in which they lived. In the colony 
of Providence Plantations, they steadily 
gained followers and for over one hundred 
j^'cars took an active part in public affairs. 
They occupied positions of prominence and 
influence, especially in Newport. For five 
years, beginning 1672, Rhode Island had a 
succession of Quaker governors. 

The noble part played b}'^ the colony in 
the dark days of Quaker history was due, 
in large part, to the teachings of Roger Wil- 
liams. The stand taken by him and his fel- 
low colonists deserves all the more credit 
because, personally, they disliked and dis- 
approved of the Quakers. How easy, then, 
it would have been to inflict punishment 
upon them and to have found a perfectly 
good excuse for so doing! 

Roger Williams wrote John Winthrop, 
Jr., his Connecticut correspondent, that he 
rejoiced the latter's name was not blurred but 


rather honored, for his prudent and moder- 
ate hand in the Quaker trials. 

For a moment we must skip a few years 
to the date 1672, which brings us to the last 
chapter of Quaker history which has to do 
with Roger Williams. In view of that part 
of the story that has gone before, the ad- 
mirers of the great man are a bit sorry that 
this chapter ever had to be written. It hap- 
pened when George Fox, the noted leader 
of the Quakers, visited the colony. Roger 
Williams promptly challenged him to a de- 
bate, religious discussions of this kind being 
very common in that day. Failing to make 
arrangements to carry out this plan, he de- 
bated with three of Fox's most capable dis- 
ciples instead. They argued three days in 
Newport and one day in Providence. In 
order to reach the first debating-place, 
Roger Williams rowed all the way from 
Providence to Newport, a distance of thirty 
miles. It was an all day's work — no small 
task for a man about seventy years of age. 

The meeting was a heated one. Nearly 
every one lost his temper and even Roger 


Williams was unlike his usual kindly, char- 
itable self. Nobody's opinion was changed 
and both sides claimed the victory. Each 
published a book presenting long, dry, un- 
interesting arguments. That of Roger Wil- 
liams was entitled "George Fox digged out 
of his Burrows," while the Quaker volume 
was called "A New England Firebrand 

Whatever may be thought about Roger 
Williams' part in these proceedings, he him- 
self thought he was doing the colony a serv- 
ice by arguing the matter in public. It 
was probably his purpose to show that the 
conmiunity did not approve of disorder 
and disrespect of the authorities. He main- 
tained that it was not persecution to pun- 
ish moderately for such disrespect and 
grotesque offences as had marked the advent 
of the Friends in Massachusetts. 

In spite of his views concerning the early 
Quakers, Roger Williams numbered among 
his friends many of this faith. He never 
allowed his prejudices to govern him in his 
dealings with them. Best of all — and to his 


lasting glory be it said — he never lifted a 
finger against them, and no page of the his- 
tory of the colony he founded is stained with 
Quaker blood. 



Through all the ups and downs of her 
troubled history, Providence Plantations 
had remained loyal to England. The little 
colony had allowed unusual liberty in many 
ways — liberty unknown in other parts of 
New England — but had never faltered in 
her obedience to the mother country. Thus 
when Oliver Cromwell was at the head of 
affairs, she considered him her rightful ruler. 
A like loyalty was paid his son Richard. 
Again, when the country once more became 
a monarchy, in 1660, she hastened to assure 
Charles II that the inliabitants of the Nar- 
ragansett Bay province were his true and 
faithful subjects. 

The news of his accession to the throne 
was received with great enthusiasm. The 
General Court appointed an hour for pro- 
claiming "His Royal Majesty, King Charles 
the Second, King of England, with all the 


dominions and territories thereunto belong- 
ing" and military officers were ordered to 
rally the "train band" for the occasion. Be- 
sides this, another special day was set apart 
for solemnizing the event, which was also 
carried out in true military fashion. All 
children and servants were given a holiday. 
The flowery and submissive language with 
which Charles was acknowledged monarch 
must sound curious enough to the demo- 
cratic descendants of these same colonists. 

In the midst of all the joyful festivities, 
one concern filled the minds of everybody. 
Their right to continued existence must be 
confirmed. It was clear that Cromwell's 
approval was out of date. It would have 
no weight with the restored Stuart sover- 
eign. A second charter must be obtained, 
one that would bear the undeniable stamp 
of royal authority. Thereupon Providence 
Plantations sent word to her faithful agent, 
John Clarke, asking him to secure the de- 
sired charter. By this time the patient man 
must have been prepared for any kind of 
request from over the sea. 

His success was announced in the year 


1663. It would seem that charters were go- 
ing up in price. According to Roger Wil- 
liams' testimony, this second one meant an 
outlay of about a thousand pounds. It was 
cheap at that, considering the great privi- 
leges it carried with it. Under this precious 
new document, the colony continued to live 
for one hundred and eighty years, long after 
the close of Roger Williams' life. When 
finally abandoned, it was the oldest consti- 
tutional chai-ter in the world. 

A "very great meeting of the freemen" 
of the colony was held to receive the royal 
paper with due respect and honor. With 
appropriate ceremony. Captain George 
Baxter, the bearer, opened the box in which 
it was kept and read the gracious words of 
Charles to the assembly, after which the 
charter was "held up on high and presented 
to the perfect view of the people," then 
safely locked up in the box again. 

By virtue of this latest document, the 
colony received a new name — or, rather, a 
bulky addition to its old one. In this char- 
ter it was called "The English Colony of 
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 


in New England, in America." From now 
on, the name "Rhode Island" became more 
prominent and "Providence Plantations" 
less so until, in common usage, it was 
dropped altogether. In 1776, the word 
"State" was substituted for "English 

Besides a change of name, the charter 
also provided that henceforth governors 
should take the place of presidents and the 
first governor and his assistants were 
named. Roger Williams was one of the lat- 
ter and he repeatedly held this office in the 
years following. 

The most wonderful part of the whole 
charter was that section granting perfect 
liberty of conscience to the colony. It was 
all the more remarkable and surprising, as 
King Charles was not noted for either tol- 
erance or liberality. 

"Our royal will and pleasure is that no 
person within the said colony any time here- 
after, shall be any wise molested, punished, 
disquieted, or called in question, for any dif- 
ferences in opinion in matters of religion, 
and do not actually disturb the civil peace of 


our said colony; but that all and every per- 
son and persons may, from time to time, 
and at all times hereafter, freely and fully 
have and enjoy his and their own judgments 
and consciences, in matters of religious con- 
cernments, throughout the tract of land 
hereafter mentioned." 

The words might have been penned by 
Roger Williams himself. Very likely they 
never would have been written had it not 
been for his persistent struggle for that same 
liberty of conscience, about which he said, 
"We must part with lands and lives before 
we part with such a jewel." 

The founder of Rhode Island and Prov- 
idence Plantations was now approaching 
the evening of life. He had carefully 
watched and tended the infant colony so that 
it could stand alone. He had raised it to a 
position of respect and importance. For 
his unselfish and loving labors, he surely de- 
served a brief period of rest. Yet, contrary 
to his wishes, he was drawn into public life 
again. He wrote his friend Winthrop these 
reluctant words: "I have since been occa- 
sioned and drawn (being nominated in the 


charter to appear again upon the deck) 
from my beloved privacy; my humble de- 
sires are to contribute my poor mite (as I 
have ever, and I hope ever shall) to preserve 
plantation and public interest of the whole 
New England and not interest of this or 
that town, colony, opinion, etc." 

From this time on, both in and out of 
office, Roger Williams showed what an im- 
mense amount of good can be accomplished 
by a public-spirited citizen if he is willing 
to sacrifice selfish aims for the benefit of all. 
Time and again there was occasion for him 
to act as peace-maker, as in the years gone 
by. Gentleness, tact, and forbearance were 
the means he used. In a word, he was a 
great diplomat. Because his victories were 
bloodless ones, his fellow-citizens did not 
appreciate his greatness. 

For one thing, Roger Williams was 
chosen to copy the charter into the records of 
the colony. For di'awing up colonial docu- 
ments of various kinds, his skill was con- 
stantly in demand. In 1664, when a revision 
of the laws was thought necessary, he was 
appointed member of a committee to attend 


to this business. In the same year he was 
named one of the agents to determine an 
eastern boundary line between the colony 
and Plymouth. 

Indian troubles were never settled with- 
out his intervention. Here he knew his 
ground perfectly and could be trusted by 
all parties concerned to give just decisions. 
The Indians of Warwick, as we have seen, 
caused endless trouble for the colonists, 
claiming that as they had pledged allegiance 
to Massachusetts, Providence Plantations 
had no right to punish them for lawless acts. 
Now the sachem Pumham, who occupied 
Warwick Neck, had no legal right to the 
land, as his superior sachem had sold it 
years before. Again and again he stub- 
bornly refused to budge an inch, though the 
town of Warwick had paid him twenty 
pounds to seek a home elsewhere. 

About this time, four commissioners were 
sent over to New England by King Charles 
for the purpose of hearing complaints, set- 
tling boundary disputes and like claims, and 
establishing the peace and security of tlie 
country. They now applied themselves to 


the task of ousting the mulish Indian chief. 

Before long Roger Williams took a hand 
in the matter. He got in touch with Sir 
Robert Carr, one of the royal agents, and 
calmly and clearly reviewed for him the en- 
tire history of the quarrel. Then, instead 
of urging force and harshness, he explained 
that very different means must be employed 
with the natives. He likened them to oxen, 
who, if treated with cruelty, will die rather 
than yield, but with patience and gentleness, 
can be made to give good and willing serv- 
ice. "Lay all the blame on me," he con- 
cluded, "and on my intercession and media- 
tion, for a little further breathing to the 
barbarians until harvest, in which time a 
peaceable and loving agreement may be 
wrought, to mutual consent and satisfac- 

Roger Williams was a wise prophet. The 
sensible commissioner took advantage of his 
co-operation and finally the matter was 
closed to everybody'^ satisfaction. And 
this without a drop of blood being shed, 
thanks to the man who believed that even 
erring natives should be treated as human 


beings. "I respect not one party more than 
the other," he once said in a similar quarrel, 
"but I desire to witness truth; and as I de- 
sire to witness against oppression, so, also, 
against the slighting of civil, yea, of bar- 
barous order and govermnent." 

We are glad to know that the commis- 
sioners of King Charles handed theii* royal 
master a very favorable report of the Rhode 
Island colony. They even had a good word 
for the Narragansett Indians. The natives 
had pledged their allegiance to the king and, 
in token of their subjection, promised to 
pay His Majesty two wolfskins a year. 
They also sent Charles some truly barbarous 
tokens of affection, including two wampum 
caps, two clubs inlaid with wampum, and a 
feather mantle, besides a porcupine bag for 
the queen. It is a pity these gifts fell into 
the hands of the Dutch and never reached 
theii' destination. What a sensation they 
would have made at court among the nobles 
and ladies-in-waiting! But the giving was 
not all on one side. Two coats were pre- 
sented the sachems in the king's name, with 
which they were greatly pleased. It would 


not be surprising if Roger Williams had 
made the suggestion, knowing the Indian 
weakness in matters of dress. 

An opportimity came for Roger Williams 
to use his influence in behalf of John Clarke, 
the good friend of the colony who had la- 
bored in her interests in the mother country 
for twelve long years. It had been voted to 
pay him for his trouble, but due either to 
poverty or unwillingness (probably both), 
the required amount had not been forthcom- 
ing. So the matter dragged on, long after 
the charter affair was settled and the agent 
had returned to America. Even back in 
London days, Mr. Clarke was so short of 
funds that he had been obliged to mortgage 
his Newport home. Stung to the quick by 
what he considered rank ingratitude, Roger 
Williams wrote a sharp letter to Warwick, 
the most backward town. 

"It is no more honest," he wrote, "for us 
to withdraw in this case than for men to 
come to an ordinary [tavern] and to call 
for the best wine and liquors, the best meats, 
roast and baked, the best attendance, etc., 
and to be able to pay for all and yet most 


unworthily steal away and not discharge the 
reckoning." Then changing his figure of 
speech, he continued: 

"Shall we say we are Christians ... to 
ride securely in a troublous sea and time by a 
new cable and anchor of Mr. Clarke's pro- 
curing, and be so far from satisfying his en- 
gagement about them, that we turn him 
adrift to languish and sink, with his back 
broke for putting under his shoulder to ease 

The letter quickened the colony to further 
action. The mortgaged home, was saved, 
but, unfortunately, the debt was never paid 
in full. 

There were boundary disputes during 
these years, both among the colonists them- 
selves and with outsiders. In Providence, 
troubles arose from the Indian grants made 
so many years before. Mr. Harris, Roger 
Williams' old enemy, and others interpreted 
the language of the Indian deed to mean 
that Canonicus and INIiantonomo had really 
given away several hundred thousand acres 
of land that had never been taken possession 
of by the colonists. To-day, if a pretended 


claim of a similar nature should come up, 
we would very likely call it a case of clear 
"graft." Roger Williams, ever on the de- 
fensive when the Indians were concerned, 
declared stoutly that the chiefs had meant 
nothing of the kind. And, indeed, what 
man was better informed on this subject 
than Roger Williams himself? Had he not 
dealt directly with the Narragansett sa- 
chems? Had he not talked with them in 
their own tongue? He so persistently 
blocked and delayed every measure to ap- 
propriate the territory in question that the 
matter was never carried to a successful fin- 
ish. Still the short-sighted grumblers called 
his whole-hearted interest "meddling." With 
saddened heart, he recorded their taunts: 

"But some cried out, when Roger Wil- 
liams had laid himself down as a stone in 
the dust, for after-comers to step on in town 
and colony, 'What is Roger Williams? 
We know the Indians and the sachems as 
well as he. We will trust Roger Williams 
no longer. We will have our bounds con- 
firmed us under the sachems' bands before 
us; " 


The details of the other boundary quar- 
rels make dry, difficult reading m these days. 
They are interesting only as they bring out 
the character of Roger Williams and the 
part he played in tiying to adjust them. 
The disputed land was principally the Nar- 
ragansett country, or the southern half of 
the present state of Rhode Island. Massa- 
chusetts claimed territory here, so did Plym- 
outh, and, added to their encroachments, 
were those of Connecticut. If the land had 
been divided up as they all wished, little 
enough would have been left of tiny Rhode 
Island to form a respectable state after- 
wards ! 

Roger Williams saw in this desire to an- 
nex territory a prevailing greed for land, 
which he looked upon as one of the greatest 
failings of New England. He could not 
understand how his countrymen of the other 
colonies "should not be content with those 
vast and large tracts (like platters and 
tables full of dainties ) , but pull and snatch 
away their poor neighbors' bit or crust"; 
adding, "and a crust it is, and a dry, hard 


one, too, because of the natives' continual 
troubles, trials and vexations." 

To Major Mason of Connecticut he 
wrote a letter (which has since become fa- 
mous) upholding the rights of Rhode Is- 
land. That prominent man afterwards ad- 
vised his colony that he hardly thought it 
wise to attempt to acquire the land in ques- 
tion. Thus we infer that Roger Williams' 
diplomacy did much to avert further ag- 
gression on the Connecticut side at least. 

Not all Roger Williams' tasks were big 
ones. He was not the man to say that be- 
cause he was capable of great things, he 
would let the little things slip by. He per- 
formed numberless neighborly services of 
a legal character, either as witness or execu- 
tor. It fell upon him to take charge of the 
house and lot of a certain John Clawson, a 
Dutchman, whom he had befriended when 
needy and employed as a household servant. 
He had taught him to read and given him 
a Dutch Testament. It is amusing to think 
that this Providence real estate was valued 
at eleven pounds. More amusing still were 
the terms of its disposal. Roger Williams 


sold it for "current country pay" in three 
yearly instalments of cloth, stockings, corn 
and apples. Even on these easy terms, the 
buyer took about double the time for pay- 
ment that the agreement allowed. 

Public spirit was sometimes at a low ebb 
in early Providence. Thus there was no 
end of trouble trying to erect a suitable 
bridge near the center of the town and keep- 
ing it in proper repair. The townspeople 
argued, deliberated, debated, but nobody 
seemed aggressive enough to push the work. 
Finally Roger Williams stepped into the 
breach. "I will, with God's help, take this 
bridge unto my care." What a relief it 
must have been to realize that somebody had 
taken the initiative at last ! He made Provi- 
dence a business-like proposition, whereby 
the citizens were to donate their labor, the 
amount being apportioned to the use they 
would make of the bridge and whether they 
had a team or not. This sharing of work 
was only fair, for the inhabitants of the town 
were to be exempt from toll, a moderate 
sum being asked of strangers onlj^ 

There was nothing striking, nothing im- 


pressive, about these public services of 
Roger Williams and they did not win the 
applause of the crowd. Sometimes they 
gained for him nothing but unpopularity. 
Yet at no other period in his long career do 
we get a finer idea of the real nobility of the 
man than in these latter years when old age 
was coming on and his word was perhaps 
not listened to with the respect of former 
days. He cheerfully took up and faithfully 
performed the local duties that came his 
way, though he had been recognized by Par- 
liament, had been on an intimate footing 
with the greatest statesmen of England, and 
was himself one of the wisest, most far- 
sighted men of his age. This was citizenship 
at its best. 


KING Philip's war 

It is not easy to tell the true cause of King 
Philip's War. There were probably many 
causes, some of them dating years back. 
Such a struggle was bound to come, sooner 
or later, to determine who should remain 
masters of New England — the first comers 
or the white men from over the sea. More 
than once Roger Williams had postponed 
the evil day, but even his influence was not 
great enough to prevent the smouldering 
fires of jealousy, distrust and revenge from 
finally bursting into a destructive con- 

Back in 1620, when the Pilgrims landed 
in Plymouth, they had formed a treaty of 
peace with Massasoit, chief of the Wam- 
panoags. This faithful Indian sachem kept 
his word during the remaining years of his 

The colonists were pot so fortunate in 


their dealings with his son and successor, 
Wamsutta or Alexander. Word was sent 
to the governior that he plotted mischief 
against the English and had asked the Nar- 
ragansetts to aid him in his rebellion. De- 
termining to put an end to such disloyalty 
at once, the governor, after Alexander's re- 
fusal to attend court, had him arrested and 
taken to Plymouth. It was a most unfor- 
tunate business, thus to humiliate a proud 
chief on his own territory. Suddenly Alex- 
ander became violently ill and died almost 
immediately. The exact cause of his death 
is not known, but probably extreme heat 
and anger hastened the end. Bad feeling 
between the Indians and their white neigh- 
bors was the immediate result of this mis- 
fortune. Some of Alexander's followers, 
including his wife, even spread the report 
that the sachem had been poisoned. This 
was untrue, but it furnished one of the 
causes of the hostilities that followed. 

Metacomet or Philip, Alexander's 
brother and the next chief of the Wam- 
panoags, was not one to submit to wrongs 
tamely. Plymouth and Massachusetts soon 


had occasion to suspect him of secretly plan- 
ning war. In their uneasiness, they ap- 
pealed to Roger Williams and he succeeded, 
for the time being, in breaking up Philip's 
designs. Largely through his influence, the 
war was put off for four years. Outwardly 
obedient, the Wampanoag chief gave up 
about seventy guns to the English as proof 
of his fidelity. There is no reason to think, 
however, that he abandoned the idea of a 
war when the time should be ripe. For sev- 
eral years he merely "marked time" until 
everything should be in readiness. 

The struggle was finally begun in the 
summer of 1675, sooner than Philip had 
meant. One of his nearest advisers, a con- 
verted Indian, betrayed his chief's plot to 
the English. It was therefore necessary to 
strike at once. To be just to King Philip, 
he doubtless thought he had good and suf- 
ficient reason for his action. He summed 
up the causes of the conflict thus : 

"By various means they [the English] 
got possession of a great part of his [Mas- 
sasoit's] territory. But he still remained 
their friend till he died. My elder brother 


became sachem. They pretended to suspect 
him of evil designs against them. He was 
seized and iconfined^ thereby thrown into 
sickness and died. Soon after I became 
sachem, they disarmed all my people. They 
tried my people by their own laws ; assessed 
damages against them, which they could not 
j)ay. Their land was taken. At length a 
line of division was agreed upon between 
the English and my people, and I myself 
was to be answerable. Sometimes the cattle 
of the English would come into the corn- 
fields of my people, as they did not make 
fences like the English. I must then be 
seized and confined, till I sold another tract 
of my country for satisfaction of all dam- 
ages and costs. Thus, tract after tract is 
gone. But a small part of the dominions 
of my ancestors remains. I am determined 
not to live till I have no country." 

There was grave danger of a Narragan- 
sett alliance. Philip had been working for 
it for a long time. The chief sachems of 
the Rhode Island Indians at this time 
were Pessicus, Miantonomo's brother, and 
Canonchet, Miantonomo's son, and there- 


fore nephew of Pessicus. They were joint 
rulers, much like Canonicus and Mian- 
tonomo in the earlier days. But, whereas 
Canonicus and Miantonomo had been in 
favor of peace at ahnost any price, their 
descendants were not so submissive. A far 
different spirit fired them. Pessicus, it is 
true, gave Roger Williams to understand 
that he was peaceable enough, but had dif- 
ficulty restraining the younger men of his 
tribe. Canonchet, on the other hand (the 
"hopeful spark" of Miantonomo, as Roger 
Williams called him), was openly declared 
the war sachem of the Narragansetts. The 
cruel death of his father still rankled and he 
would have been less than human had he 
not longed to make the most of the oppor- 
tunity for revenge that now came to him 
without his seeking. 

The colony of Rhode Island strongly op- 
posed the war. The inhabitants had no just 
quarrel with the Indians. Besides, they 
were under Quaker influence and people 
of this faith did not believe in taking up 

Five Rhode Island citizens, probably 


Friends, bent on a peaceful settlement of 
the dispute, arranged for a meeting with 
Philip. The story of their conference is 
quaintly told by Mr. John Easton, the 
deputy governor of the colony and the head 
of the party: 

"We sat very friendly together. We told 
him [Philip] our business was to endeavor 
that they might not ... do wrong. They 
said that was well ; they had done no wrong, 
the English wronged them. We said we 
knew the English said the Indians wronged 
them, and the Indians said the English 
wronged them, but our desire was the quar- 
rel might rightly be decided, in the best way, 
and not as dogs decided their quarrels. The 
Indians owned that fighting was the worst 
way : then they propounded how right might 
take place." 

It was unfortunate for the warring colo- 
nists, and the Indians as well, that nothing 
came of this attempt at arbitration. There 
was one hope left — Roger Williams. The 
Boston authorities sent three men to Rhode 
Island with the earnest request that he try 
to bring the Narragansetts to terms. He 


answered the call with his usual prompt 
willingness. Within half an hour, he had 
left Providence and was on his way, with 
the three messengers, to the Narragansett 
country. He had no trouble in securing an 
audience with Canonchet, Pessicus and 
other leading Narragansetts. They greeted 
him with fair, smooth words — altogether too 
fair and smooth to be sincere. They agreed 
to hand over any of Philip's men who fell 
into their hands, to remain hostile to the 
Wampanoag sachem, to deliver up all stolen 
goods to the English, to refrain from 
further theft, and to serve as a guard about 
the Narragansett country for the protection 
of the English. 

Poor Roger Williams! Devotedly, un- 
ceasingly he worked until, as he said, his old 
bones and eyes were weary with travel and 
writing. So constantly was his pen in use 
that his stock of letter paper completely 
gave out. Writing to the governor of Mas- 
sachusetts, he said, "Since I am oft occa- 
sioned to write upon the public business, I 
shall be thankful for a little paper upon the 
public account, being now near destitute." 


And all the time he could not help but 
"suspect that all the fine words from the 
Indian sachems to us were but words of pol- 
icy, falsehood and treachery." His fears 
were well grounded. No sooner had the 
Massachusetts men started on their home- 
ward journey than one hundred armed Nar- 
ragansetts appeared in Warwick and terri- 
fied the town. Warning was received, too, 
from Pessicus that the English in the Nar- 
ragansett comitry would do well to be on 
their guard and to keep strict watch. If 
they could strongly fortify one or two 
houses, so much the better; if not, then flight 
was their only course. 

It was plain that the Narrangansetts 
could be held in leash no longer. The call 
of their Indian allies — blood of their blood 
— completely drowned out the gentle voice 
of Roger Williams. The prayer of Canon- 
icus — yes, and of Massasoit, too — that their 
children after them might live in love and 
peace with the English forever was not to 
be realized. Sadly the best friend the Nar- 
ragansetts ever had was forced to confess 


that the tribe must be subdued as wolves 
who have attacked sheep. 

Meanwhile, the settlement of Swansea, 
near the boundary line between Rhode Is- 
land and Plymouth, had been ravaged by 
Philip's men and several persons killed and 
wounded. The war then spread with light- 
ning rapidity through the different towns 
of Massachusetts. Connecticut, too, was in- 
vaded, for the Indians of the Connecticut 
River had thrown themselves into the strug- 
gle. Rhode Island as a colony kept out of 
the war, but she was not allowed to remain 
untouched. The Narragansett country be- 
came, in turn, a battle-ground in the winter 
of 1675. 

The Narragansetts were accused by the 
English of having sheltered Philip's peo- 
ple, and, as some of the young braves now 
and then returned to their homes wounded, 
it was considered proof that they had, too, 
been on the war-path. Massachusetts, 
Plymouth and Connecticut decided to break 
the power of the Narragansetts before 
they could join Philip in the spring. They 
therefore raised a strong force of over a 


thousand men and, strengthened by Rhode 
Island volunteers, marched to a point in 
the neighborhood of what is now South 

The Indians had stoutly intrenched them- 
selves in a foil; in the midst of a treacherous 
swamp. Here, on a bleak, freezing Decem- 
ber day, a desperate battle, commonly known 
as the "Great Swamp Fight," was fought 
to a bitter end. It was the dreadful mas- 
sacre of Fort Mystic all over again. As in 
the Pequot War of forty years before, the 
attacking party forced an entrance into the 
fort and completed their work of destruc- 
tion by fire. Exposure and cold, added to 
the flames, reduced the Indians quickly. 
They sacrificed several hundred — either 
slain outright or taken prisoners — but the 
English also suffered severe losses. 

Though the spirit of the Narragansetts 
was broken, the people of the mainland 
towns were greatly alarmed. The General 
Assembly, meeting at Newport in the 
spring of 1676, urged them to give up their 
homes and take refuge on the Island of 
Rhode Island. Newport and Portsmouth 


generously offered land for planting and 
even proclaimed that the new-comers, "so 
wanting a liberty, shall have a cow kept 
upon the commons." Many families ac- 
cepted the invitation with haste and thank- 
fulness. The protected stretch of land in 
Narragansett Bay became a perfect isle of 
refuge. The entire town of Warwick moved 
thither and remained until the war was over. 
It was the safest thing that could be done, 
for shortly afterwards, the settlement was 
practically burned to the ground. Only one 
dwelling remained standing. 

Many Providence people emigrated also, 
including Mrs. Williams. Of the five hun- 
dred inhabitants, less than thirty remained 
behind. Prominent in the list of those "who 
stayed and went not away," is the name of 
Roger Williams. He did not know the 
meaning of fear and preferred to defend 
his city rather than join the fugitives on the 
island. He had not been able to turn aside 
the savage tide of fury and hate, but at 
least he could stem it as far as possible. 
Though over seventy years old, he accepted 
a commission as captain and faithfully 


drilled the few defenders under his com- 
mand. In addition, he started a subscrip- 
tion list to pay for fortifying a house and 
building a second defence and himself 
pledged the largest sum of all — ten pounds. 
And he was far from being a rich man, too. 

On March 29, 1676, the city was attacked 
by the Indians and twenty-nine dwellings 
burned. The following tradition shows that 
even at this late hour Roger Williams at- 
tempted to change the will of the savages. 

Leaning on his staff, he went to the 
heights at the north of the town to meet 
them and reason with them as he had done 
so many times in the past. 

"Massachusetts," said he, "can raise 
thousands of men at this moment, and if you 
kill them, the King of England will supply 
their places as fast as they fall." 

"Well," answered one of the chieftains, 
"let them come. We are ready for them. 
But as for you. Brother Williams, you are 
a good man. You have been kind to us 
many years. Not a hair of your head shall 
be touched." 

Quaker Rhode Island at last woke up 


and paid some attention to the question of 
defence. It was all very well to hold theo- 
ries about the wickedness of war, but these 
ideas did not insure safety for one's family 
or keep the natives at bay. The colony rec- 
ords show that closely following the attack 
upon Providence, a boat patrol was organ- 
ized, a garrison provided, and ammunition 
ordered. Care was taken that the duties of 
the commander in charge should not inter- 
fere with "Captain Williams' power in the 
exercise of the train band." 

Canonchet was captured in April. He 
was surprised by some Connecticut men 
and friendly Indian allies, and, in attempt- 
ing to escape by wading a river, slipped and 
fell an easy prey to a waiting Pequot on the 
opposite bank. He was taken captive to 
Connecticut. As his father Miantonomo 
had lost his life at the hands of Uncas, so 
now the son owed his death to Uncas' son. 
In many ways the earlier tragedy was 
enacted over again. Canonchet showed the 
same disdainful pride that Miantonomo had 
displayed. In answer to an Englishman 
who questioned him, he replied scornfully, 


"You much child! No understand matters 
of war! Let your brother or chief come. 
Him I will answer!" Being told that he 
must die, he said calmly, "I like it well; I 
shall die before my heart is soft, or I have 
said anything unworthy of myself." 

The tide had turned. It needed now but a 
final struggle to convince the natives they 
were fighting against hopeless odds. Phil- 
ip's wife and son were taken captive in the 
summer. Soon afterwards, a decisive bat- 
tle took place near Mount Hope on August 
12th. Philip, betrayed by one of his men, 
was killed. This ended the war. 

The citizens of Providence came back to 
their partly burned town and took up their 
daily duties once more, but with a greater 
sense of security. Providence, son of Roger 
Williams, took his mother home from New- 
port in a sloop that belonged to him. 

The Wampanoags were nearly extermi- 
nated, while scarcely a hundred Narragan- 
setts survived. Captives were sold into slav- 
ery, either at home or abroad. With this 
fate in store, Philip's young son of nine 
years was shipped to BeiTnuda. 


The buying and selling of Indians was al- 
lowed even within the borders of Hberal 
Rhode Island. The people of that day were 
not so enlightened as their descendants of a 
later age and saw no wrong . in such a pro- 
ceeding. Then, too, they doubtless looked 
upon the subjection of the red men as a 
means of safety. Yet this colony was far 
more humane than her neighbors. The in- 
habitants passed a law prohibiting Indian 
slavery for life and those unfortunate war- 
riors who were held as bondmen served a 
limited term of years only. 



After King Philip's War, Roger Wil- 
liams, now an old man, gradually disap- 
peared from public view. Only now and 
then do we obtain fleeting glimpses of these 
last years. We know that at one time he 
was elected assistant, but declined to serve. 
This by no means meant that his interest in 
the colony had ceased, but rather that the 
burden of years and physical ills had re- 
duced his strength and endurance. He still 
followed closely the course of events and 
whenever a word from him could further 
the cause of right, his voice was heard with 
all its old-time vigor. 

One of the last acts of his life was to 
write an earnest letter to the town of Provi- 
dence upholding the just levying of taxes. 
Clearly, logically, he explained to the in- 
habitants the necessity of supporting gov- 
ernment and order, as they tended to the 
peace and good of mankind. He also re- 


minded them how fortunate they were to 
live under such a charter as they possessed, 
for, said he, "Our charter excels all in New 
England, or in the world, as to the souls of 

Again, when the people of Providence 
proposed to divide certain common lands 
among themselves, he pleaded that they be 
left untouched for the use of future new- 
comers who might have to flee from persecu- 
tion. To the very last, soul liberty was dear 
to his heart. 

"I have only 'one motion and petition," 
were his stirring words, "which I earnestly 
pray the town to lay to heart, as ever they 
look for a blessing from God on the town, 
on your families, your corn and cattle, and 
your children after you, it is this, that after 
you have got over the black brook of soul 
bondage yourselves, you tear not down the 
bridge after you, by leaving no small pit- 
tance for distressed souls that may come 
after you." 

Both before and after the war, he spent 
considerable time preaching to the Enghsh 
dwellers in the Narragansett country and 


it is very probable that he had Indian con- 
gregations also. Once a month, for many 
years, he jom'neyed back and forth, between 
his own home at Providence and Mr. Smith's 
at Narragansett, for this purpose. It is re- 
markable that a man of his advanced age, 
handicapped by lameness and illness, could 
have carried on such a work as long as he 

When he was finally forced to give up ac- 
tive life, he then turned to profitable occu- 
pation indoors. He valued time and made 
the most of it. "One grain of its inestimable 
sand," he once said, "is worth a golden 
mountain." After such a long life of faith- 
ful service, he could have been excused had 
he chosen to sit still in the twilight of his 
life with folded hands. Instead, by the 
home fireside he put together the sermons he 
had preached with an idea of having them 
published. He never saw them in print. 
The fact that he had to apply to those of his 
friends in his own colony, Massachusetts, 
Connecticut and Plymouth "who hath a 
shilling and a heart to countenance such a 
work" to meet the expenses of publication, 


shows that he must have been poor at this 
time. The written pages nmiibered but 
thirty and the cost of their printing could 
not have been an exorbitant sum. 

There is every reason to think, in fact, 
that Roger Williams and his wife were 
partly dependent upon their son Daniel to- 
ward the close of their lives. And he cared 
for them with true filial devotion, too. "I 
judge," he said in the quaint language of 
that age, "they wanted nothing that was 
convenient for ancient people." Instead of 
saving for the proverbial rainy day, the 
open-hearted founder of Rhode Island had 
generously disposed of the best of his 
worldly possessions for the good of others. 
Give, give, give! It had been the motto of 
his life. Said this same son, "He gave away 
his lands and other estate to them that he 
thought were most in want, until he gave 
away all, so that he had nothing to help him- 
self. ... If a covetous man had that op- 
portunity as he had, most of this town would 
have been his tenants, I believe." 

The humble home in which Roger Wil- 
liams spent his Providence days was very 


likely much like that of his neighbors. They 
were truly primitive dwellings — those early 
houses — usually consisting of a single large 
room down stairs, one end of which was 
taken up by a generous stone chimney, and 
a half-story loft above, reached by a steep, 
ladder-like flight of stairs. As family needs 
increased, a "lean-to" was added to the main 
structure. Even so, there must have been 
scarcity of elbow room in those days of 
sizable families and free hospitality. 

TsTeither the exact day nor month of 
Roger Williams' death is known. Like the 
date of his birth, it remains a mystery. The 
nearest we can come to it is that it must have 
been some time between January 16th and 
May 10th, 1683. No reliable record has 
ever been found, and the only facts tliat 
have come down to us regarding the close 
of this noble, self-sacrificing life consist of 
two mere fragments of information. The 
one, a brief extract from a letter written 
by one John Thornton from Providence to 
his friend, Samuel Hubbard, at Newport, 
the other, a line from a Colonial historian, 
are as follows: 


"The Lord hath arrested by death our an- 
cient and approved friend, Mr. Roger Wil- 

"He was buried with all the solemnity 
the colony was able to show." 

Out of the shadows he came, back to the 
shadows he returned. The death of the 
Apostle of Soul Liberty was nothing more 
than the slightest ripple on the surface of 
the life of the community. The people with 
whom Roger Williams lived had no concep- 
tion of his real greatness. It remained for 
a later age to appreciate him and his work. 

Yet there is an interesting tradition which 
would seem to show that nature at least did 
her best to save him from oblivion. He was 
buried in the family plot at the rear of his 
dwelling on the slope of the hill which led 
up from the bubbling spring where he first 
landed. When, in the rapid growth of the 
city, it became necessary to remove the 
graves of the early settlers, there was found 
in Roger Williams' last resting-place only 
the spreading root of an apple tree which, 
in the passing years, had taken on a curious 
resemblance to the human form. 


The personal belongings of Roger Wil- 
liams at the close of his life must have been 
few and, for the most part, of no great 
value. Still at least two priceless relics may 
be seen to-day which have survived the wear 
and tear of time. One of these — a pocket- 
compass — he used to "steer his course" on 
that momentous journey from unfriendly 
Massachusetts Bay to the shores of Narra- 
gansett. At the base of the instrument are 
the usual pivoted needle and points of the 
compass. There is a sun-dial above, the 
shadows being thrown upon hours cut in 
the brass rim around the edge of the case. 
The compass was mentioned in an inventory 
made by Providence Williams in 1686. It 
became a treasured family heirloom in the 
years that followed until it found a perma- 
nent home in the rooms of the Rhode Island 
Historical Society. 

What thrilling stories the little compass 
might tell if it could only speak — of New 
England woods bowed down with their 
mantle of snow through which the weary 
traveler plodded his way, of days and days 
when the wintry sun made no record upon 

Hoger W illianis' pocket-compass and sun-dial with cover. This 
photograph was taken at the rooms of the Rhode Island His- 
torical Society. 

Hoger \\ iUiariis' watch. It is now kept at Fraunces 
Tavern. New York City, but is thef)ersona! i)roperty 
of Mr. Henry Hussell Drowne, whose family received 
it from a lineal descendant of Hoger \\ illiams. 


the sun-dial face, of lurking savages whose 
suspicion was changed to glad greeting once 
they recognized the fugitive, of welcome 
wigwams where the fare was crude but hos- 
pitably offered. 

The other Roger Williams relic is an odd, 
old-fashioned silver watch, with works of 
Dutch, and case of French, manufacture. 
It is heavy and cumbrous, measuring an inch 
and a half in thickness, with rock crystal in 
place of glass. The carved silver face has 
hands of gold and the day of the month, 
which changes every twenty- four hours. 
The exterior case (for it is a double-case 
watch) represents the familiar scene from 
the "Iliad," where Hector takes an affec- 
tionate farewell of Andromache and their 
small son Astyanax: 

" Thus having spoke, the illustrious chief of Troy 
Stretched his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy. 
The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast, 
Scared at the dazzling helm and nodding crest. 
With secret pleasure each fond parent smiled, 
And Hector hasted to relieve his child. 
The glittering terrors from his brows unbound. 
And placed the beaming helmet on the ground." 


It is believed that Roger Williams' wife 
and childi'en survived him, but incidents 
of Mrs. Williams' life are tantalizingly 
meagre. There were six children — the old- 
est daughter Mary, born in Plymouth, Free- 
born, born in Salem, Providence, the first 
male child in the new colony, a third daugh- 
ter Mercy, and two other sons, Daniel and 

Of the oldest child Mary — the little maid 
of Plymouth and the first who came to glad- 
den her mother's and father's heart — almost 
nothing is known. 

Fortunately, Freeborn's history is less 
mysterious. She married a young shipmas- 
ter by the name of Hart and made her home 
in Newport with her four children. After 
her husband's death, she had the courage to 
marry Walter Clarke, who had been twice 
a widower and was the father of seven 

Providence, a shop-keeper and shipmas- 
ter of Newport, never married. 

Mercy Williams became the wife of Re- 
solved Waterman and the mother of five 
children. She was married a second time 


to Samuel Winsor. Their son Samuel be- 
came minister of the Baptist Church in 
Providence. In one point he agreed heart- 
ily with his grandfather Roger — that minis- 
ters should receive no pay for their services. 
With something of his kinsman's spirit, he 
refused invitations to Sunday dinners "for 
fear they should be considerations for Sun- 
day sermons." 

Daniel Williams married Rebecca Power, 
a widow whose husband had been killed in 
the "Great Swamp Fight." It fell to Roger 
Williams' lot to record the marriage, for he 
was then town clerk. He described it as 
"the first marriage since God mercifully 
restored the town of Providence." Daniel's 
children numbered five sons. 

Joseph Williams, the youngest child, 
married Lydia Olney, who survived him 
only three weeks. They had three sons. In 
Roger Williams Park, Providence, may be 
seen the old family burial plot of Joseph 
Williams and his descendants, containing 
weather-beaten stones bearing old-fashioned 
inscriptions. That of the head of the family 
is quaint enough to be given a place here: 


" In King Philip's War he courageously went 

And the native Indians he bravely did subdue; 
And now he's gone down to the grave and he 

will be no more, 
Until it please Almighty God his body to restore 
Into some proper shape as he thinks fit to be, 
Perhaps like a grain of wheat, as Paul sets forth, 

you see." 

In all probability Joseph Williams did 
his duty during the terrible Indian scourge, 
yet we prefer to dwell upon those earlier, 
pleasanter days when the friendship of the 
red man had not turned to distrust and 

Roger Williams Park recalls that period, 
for it was formerly the woodland and fields 
given by Canonicus and Miantonomo to the 
white neighbor and friend they always loved 
and respected. In time it became the pos- 
session of Miss Betsy Williams, who be- 
queathed it to the city in memory of her fa- 
mous and well-beloved ancestor. The hun- 
dred acres have since been beautified and 
added to until to-day the picturesque stretch 
of park-land is one of the most attractive 
in the United States — a fitting and beautiful 


memorial to the great man whose name it 

Miss Williams attached one condition to 
l>er gift — that a statue of Roger Williams 
should be erected by Providence. The con- 
dition was met and to Mr. Franklin Sim- 
mons of Rome was entrusted the important 
but difficult task of trying to express in 
granite and bronze something of the nobil- 
ity of one of the greatest of Americans. 

Roger Williams has also been awarded a 
niche in the "Hall of Fame for Great Amer- 
icans" at New York University. He is one 
of an illustrious company of wonderful 
characters who have made America — and 
the world — better for their having lived. 

But, after all, it is in the hearts of all true 
Americans that Roger Williams should be 
given the most cherished place. The prin- 
ciples for which he stood have so long been 
recognized and accepted by the world that 
we are apt to forget there ever was a time 
when they were new and startling. All the 
more honor, then, is due him for having had 
the courage of his convictions when it meant 


unpopularity, misunderstanding and suf- 

" Aye, let the Muse of History write 
On a white stone his honored name, 
Loyal to liberty and light. 

First on Rhode Island's roll of fame. 

" While Church and State would ' hold the fort ' 
With sword and scourge and penal fires, 
His faith a broader haven sought. 
The faith that welcomes and aspires. 

" While credal watchwords rise and fall. 
His banner to the winds unfurled. 
Proclaimed on Freedom's outer wall. 
Peace and Good-will to all the world. 

" Well may the Muse of History place 
Foremost among the just and free. 
His honored name, wherein we trace 
The soul of Law and Liberty." 

H 11 78 

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