Roger Williams Institute

Roger Williams

Roger Williams (ca. 1603-83), religious leader and one of the founders of Rhode
Island, was the son of a well-to-do London businessman. Educated at Cambridge
(A.B., 1627) he became a clergyman and in 1630 sailed for Massachusetts. He
refused a call to the church of Boston because it had not formally broken with
the Church of England, but after two invitations he became the assistant pastor,
later pastor, of the church at Salem. He questioned the right of the colonists
to take the Indians' land from them merely on the legal basis of the royal
charter and in other ways ran afoul of the oligarchy then ruling Massachusetts.
In 1635 he was found guilty of spreading "new authority of magistrates" and was
ordered to be banished from the colony. He lived briefly with friendly Indians
and then, in 1636, founded Providence in what was to be the colony of Rhode
Island and Providence Plantations. His religious views led him to become briefly
a Baptist, later a Seeker. In 1644, while he was in England getting a charter
for his colony from Parliament, he wrote the work from which this dialogue is
taken. During much of his later life he was engaged in polemics on political and
religious questions. He was an important figure in the intellectual life of his
time, though the direct influence of his writings is considered by Professor
Brockunier to have been slight: "Earliest of the fathers of American democracy,
he owes his enduring fame to his humanity and breadth of view, his untiring
devotion to the cause of democracy and free opportunity, and his long record of
opposition to the privileged and self-seeking"


Promoting the Principles of Religious Liberty