Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Freedom for all. . .

Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and thorn in the side of the Plymouth Colony leadership, captured my imagination even as a young, junior high school student of American history. 

Arriving in Boston in 1631, Williams quickly found himself at cross purposes with peers from Plymouth (Massachusetts) as he defended a radical vision of freedom of religion and separation of church and state over a century before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence and later the colonial leaders adopted the Constitution. 

Williams, a Baptist, embraced a radical vision of the proper relationship between faith and the state.  His life's work promoted their complete separation in an era when, even in the colonies, religion remained "established" or officially supported by the state, as in England.  Williams resisted the idea of the establishment of religion and formed his settlement that later became Rhode Island on this fundamental premise. 

In addition, Williams established good relations with Native Americans who assisted him in finding a settlement that afforded protection for his mission.  Not surprisingly, Williams opposed slavery and worked to block its entrance into Rhode Island. 

One of my favorite school book images is that of Williams making a 100+ mile trek through a blizzard in the wilderness on his way out of Plymouth toward the land that would become his colony as he escaped persecution for his ideas. 

Roger Williams' quotes on freedom and faith:

"Enforced uniformity confounds civil and religious liberty and denies the principle of Christianity and civility.  No man shall be required to worship or maintain a worship against his will."

"That cannot be a true religion which needs carnal weapons to uphold it." 

"By concord little things grow great, by discord the greatest come to nothing."

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