Document E/MS II-4: "We Sentence You to Depart": Comments on Roger Williams’s Views
In October 1635, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony tried to convince Roger Williams that his beliefs were wrong. When he refused to change his opinions, the court ordered him to leave the colony.
From the records of the General Court:
Whereas, Mr. Roger Williams, one of the elders of the Church of Salem, hath broached and divulged divers new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates and . . . it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now ensuing.
Roger Williams’s “dangerous opinions” included the belief
“That we have not our land by patent from the King, but that the natives are the true owners of it, and that we ought to repent of such a receiving of it by patent [and] that the civil magistrate's power extends only to the bodies and goods, and outward state of men. . . “
Because winter was approaching when the General Court banished Roger Williams, he was allowed to stay in Salem until the spring. Despite instructions that he not preach, Williams held meetings in his home. The governor and his assistants notified Williams that he should come to Boston so they could ship him back to England. He said he would not, so the authorities went “to apprehend him and carry him aboard the ship, but when they came at his house they found he had been gone three days before, but whither they could not learn.”
In his 1644 work, The Bloudy tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Roger Williams wrote:
God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state, which uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war…and of hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls….true civility and Christianity may both flourish in a state or kingdom…either of Jew or Gentile.
He also wrote:
Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.
- Why was Roger Williams called before the magistrates?
- What did the authorities try to do first?
- After they banished Williams, what happened?
- What were some of Roger Williams’s beliefs?
- Why did the Massachusetts authorities consider Williams so dangerous that he should be banished from the colony?