54 RI Bar J., No. 2, Pg. 11 (September/October 2005). Roger Williams and Rhode Island's Inferiority Complex.

AuthorHon. Joseph R. Weisberger

Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 54.

54 RI Bar J., No. 2, Pg. 11 (September/October 2005).

Roger Williams and Rhode Island's Inferiority Complex

September/October 2005 pg. 11Roger Williams and Rhode Island's Inferiority ComplexHon. Joseph R. WeisbergerJoseph R. Weisberger is a retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

In the affairs of men and nations, strange twists of fate affect the perspectives with which these human beings, nations, and States are perceived. Nowhere are these strange twists of fate more apparent than in the history of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and its founding Father, Roger Williams.

Roger Williams was born in or about 1603. He lived through most of the 17th century and was probably one of the greatest men of his time. However, during his lifetime and even today his greatness was, and is, not fully appreciated.

Roger Williams in his early life came to the attention of the great lawyer and later Judge, Sir Edward Coke. His friendship with Sir Edward gained him admission to an outstanding preparatory school that helped him gain admission to Cambridge University. There he received an excellent classical education that prepared him for ordination as an Anglican Minister. He was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Dutch. In fact, he aided the famous John Milton in learning to speak the Dutch language.

Soon after Roger Williams' ordination, he found he was not satisfied with the ceremony and liturgy of the Anglican Church. He tended to agree with the Puritans who desired to simplify and as they would describe it "purify" their form of worship. His inclination toward Puritanism led to his emigration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. There he served as minister to parishes in Salem and also in Plymouth, a separate colony. Although he was popular with his congregations, he soon came into strong disagreement with the authorities of both the Massachusetts Bay and the Plymouth Colonies. While his ideas would have been admired in the 21st century, they appeared both radical and heretical in the 17th century.

He argued strongly that the magistrates should not enforce attendance at church. He also preached the doctrine of complete freedom of conscience; that all persons should be allowed to worship as they chose. In addition, he enraged the Puritans of Massachusetts...

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