Roger Williams

Roger Williams
1603 - 1683
• 1631
immigrated to Massachusetts Bay
• 1635
banished from the Bay Colony
• 1636
founded Providence Plantation
(Rhode Island)
• 1643
• 1643 – 52
published A Key into the Language of
pamphlet controversy with John
• 1644
secured the first charter for Providence
• 1654 – 57
elected president of Rhode Island
• Son of a London tailor
• Graduated from Cambridge and was ordained into the
• Was asked to serve as teacher for the Boston church.
He refused because of his belief in Separatism. Would
not pastor a church which still had ties with England.
• First of a series of clashes with the religious and political
leaders of the colony
Turbulent years
• Preached for 4 years
“seditious doctrine”
• Authorities ordered his arrest
and deportation to England
• Fled in 1636 to what is now
Rhode Island
Life with the indians
• Negotiated with the Indians for a tract of land
• True owners because they lived there
• King of England not the owner
• Served as president of the colony for 3 years
• Last 4 decades of his life, he preached among the
• Very sympathetic toward the Indians
• Died in poverty at age of 81
Some of his writings
• Letter to the Town of Providence, January 1655, on
the Limits of Freedom
• Highlights his views on freedom of religion
• A Key into the Language of America
Contrast between the Englishman and the pagan Indian
Indians often emerge as superior to the Englishmen
Biblical allusions in the poems
The book was the first major study of a Native American
language and was intended for English usage in
communicating with Native Americans.
His key contribution
• Helped lay the groundwork for the religious freedom
we enjoy today
• The first to suggest separation of church and state
Separation of
church & state
• Church should not be subject to the authority of the
• Church should have authority only over church
members, not the whole community.
• Church limited to spiritual matters
• Based on the principle of liberty of conscience
• Letter to the Town of Providence
• Threatened the very core of theocracy
Separation would ensure…
• Protection for the church’s religious conviction and
operations from governmental interference
• Restrains the government from establishing a state
religion or favoring a particular form of relgion over
Baptist … for awhile
• Founded the first Baptist church in the New World
• Resigned after four months, saying his beliefs had
• Became a Seeker
• All organized churches were corrupt
• Wait for God’s revelation