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Roger Williams

Essay by   •  November 29, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,746 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,737 Views

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Most people go through life not worrying about others thoughts, just throwing stereotypes around without any justification or knowledge of the person being alienated. Some are ungrateful for the religious freedom that most of us are able to carry. Some do not realize the fight that people went through over 300 years ago to gain religious freedom and work through and around the profiling given by the hierarchy of society. No one worked harder for the freedoms to be provided and stereotypes to be dissolved than Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. Williams, born in London in 1603, was a seasoned young man early on, after witnessing many burnings at the stake of puritans for being "heretics" and not following the religion of the Church of England. Several years after graduating from Cambridge University, Williams decided to take his wife, and come to the Massachusetts colony in 1630. In the colonies, Williams felt it was best for a man who continually spoke out against the Church of England for being too involved in the Government actions, to be rather than face the fire of being a heretic. After reading "Roger Williams", a biography written by Edwin Gaustad, the feelings, thoughts, and actions of Williams are shown through literature by Williams, letters between Williams and John Cotton, and Williams's actions with the Native Americans.

Gaustad wastes no time and goes directly into Williams's direction of worship and religion. Gaustad shows the ugly behind the church being tightly involved in government actions in the Massachusetts colony, and how, while being a preacher first in Salem, Williams speaks out against the acts. Threats and whispers are passed around as everyone is encouraged to leave Williams behind in their beliefs or be forced out with him and his actions. The more he spoke out against the church, the more threats came into him, but Gaustad shows Williams's stubbornness with his unwilling to compromise his thoughts to be safe. Despite the requests of close friends like John Cotton, Roger defies the authority and governing body and stands true to his value that everyone should be able to claim whichever religion they choose, and not the be prosecuted, expelled, or murdered for making that choice. Williams felt this was exactly how England was, where if you didn't follow the government's church, you did not deserve to live or be there, the exact reason why the Puritans had first came over to the colonies. Gaustad lists the perservence of Williams many times, as he does not back down from the threats to hide his emotions. Despite being booted from Salem as a preacher, Williams felt he could still go on and preach his spite for the Boston community, as trying in Plymouth before going back to Salem, only to have the Boston government use its influence inside the church to get him pushed back out. The weakness of Roger had to be the stubbornness not to back down when the political pressure was put on him and his family's safety came into question. All that had to be done was stop trying to prosecute the church for its role in government and vice versa and not be the guy standing on the top of the soap box yelling, and he could of lived a free life being the merchant trader that he originally was when he arrived in the colonies. But through what he saw as a teenager with the burnings, and his true belief, that freedom of religion was the purpose of crossing the seas, his values stayed strong, and Williams had to preach what was right.

But Williams thought for more than just the right to religious freedom, he broadened his values on that belief with the thought of equality for all people, not just colonists. While being a merchant in Massachusetts, Williams watched as citizens unfairly bartered with, took land from, and discriminated against the "savages", or what we now call Native Americans. Williams thought of it as unjust, unfair, and similar to the situation in England with religion, further reasoning his beliefs on the governing body of the colony. The colonists would move in on any land they saw, often crossing the territories already owned and lived upon by the Indians, without any regard, just pushing them to the side. Not many colonists had an idea of what the Indians thought, how they worked, or what their beliefs were. They had stereotypes given to them by the powers above, that they were savages, unable of comprehending anything thrown at them from colonists, and that they needed to be reformed to the religion of the colonies to be better off in life. This ignorance had no place in Roger Williams's heart. Shortly after being exiled, he went on to live in new land, later what he founded as Rhode Island. But when meeting with the Indians, Williams did not try to push them over, or think of them as men without the equal values he carried. While trading with them, he lived in the Narragansett tribe and learned their language, customs, and beliefs. Williams did not feel that they had to conform to his beliefs to be able to bond and coexist together. The values Williams carried with him to the Narragansett was unlike most or any colonists. No one tried to learn their ways, accept the fact that they were in "America" first, or had their own beliefs of god. Williams wanted these thoughts spread across the lands to everyone, but since he was exiled from the Massachusetts colony, he had to go back to London to get his book published. In the book that Williams wrote, he diarized his time spent with the Indians, how they traveled lands by foot 30 miles a day sometimes, how they had customs similar to the colonists and people in England. Williams got his book published and through mass demand, it spread like a non-venom plague over Europe to the many readers who wished to learn about the Indians. Despite his wishes, the book was banished from the Massachusetts colony for

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