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space of time not exceeding twenty-four hours. 2

enforced idleness resulting from the general laws forbidding labor,

business, and trade on that day, but to guard " the time of divine

worship." No supplying of drinks on Sunday, except for " necessary

refreshment," was allowed ; but to do so " in the tin:; of divine wor-

ship " was especially forbidden.

1 " Laws of Delaware, 1797," volume ii, page 1209.



2 The Delaware law of colonial times against blasphemy provided

that if " wilfully or premeditately " done, the offender " be set in the

pillory for the space of two hours, and be branded in his or her

forehead with the letter B, and be publicly whipt, on his or her bare

back, with thirty-nine lashes well laid on." " Laws of Delaware,

T 797." volume i, pages 173, 174.
The religious and intolerant character of all such laws is now

recognized by all. But the Sunday laws of to-day are but relics

of the theocratical system of religious laws which prevailed in colonial

times, and have simply been handed down to us as an inheritance

from those times.




Be it enacted by the General Assembly, and by the

authority of the same, That no person or persons May aw 6i °

within this Colony shall do or exercise any labor or

business or work of their ordinary calling, nor use any

game, sport, play or recreation on the first day of

the week, nor suffer the same to be done by their

children, servants or apprentices, (works of necessity

and charity only excepted), on the penalty of five

shillings for every such offense . . . together

with the reasonable charges accruing thereon ; and in

the case such offender shall not have sufficient to Three

satisfy the same, then to be set in the stocks by the stocks. 1 "

space of three hours. 2
i " Acts and Laws of His Majesty's Colony of Rhode-Island and

Providence Plantations in America, 1730," page 27.

2 " Most sacredly," says Thomas Armitage, D. D., in his " His-

tory of the Baptists," page 649, " has Rhode Island guarded the hal-

lowed trust [of soul liberty] committed to her charge, for no man has

ever been persecuted in that sovereignty for his religious opinions

and practices from its first settlement in 1636." Worthy as its his-

tory has been, and grand as were the principles of its founder on the

subject of religious freedom, sad to relate, four years before his

death its statute books were stained with this church-and-state Sun- statute-

day law. There is no evidence, however, that Roger Williams himself books stained
.... 1 e j by Sunday
had anything to do with its enactment, or that it was ever enforced i aw
to any greait extent. The pride which the people of Rhode Island
have manifested in fostering the principle of religious liberty is well
indicated by the motto upon the large bell (weighing 2.515 pounds)
in the Baptist church built at Providence, in 1774, and dedicated May j^nd^ 6
28, 1775, a little over a year before that grand old "sister bell" at "Liberty
Philadelphia rang out our national independence. The motto reads :
" For freedom of conscience the town was first planted ;

Persuasion, not force, was used by the people ;

This church is the eldest, and has not recanted,

Enjoying and granting bell, temple, and steeple."

For Roger Williams to sanction a Sunday law would have been





opposed to



The Rhode

Island law


the support

of ministers.

To prevent

any church



through use

of the civil



support only.

a violation of his own expressed principles. On April 12, 1631, a

letter was written to Mr. Endicott, by order of the General Court

of Massachusetts, in which the court charged Williams with having

" declared his opinion that the magistrate might not punish a breach

of the Sabbath, nor any other [religious] offense, as it was a breach

of the first table." Knowles's " Memoirs of Williams," page 45.

In his " History of the Baptists," page 628, Thomas Armitage says :

" He saw at a glance, that corruption and persecution must work

out in America the same results that they had wrought in England.

At once, therefore, he protested, as a sound-minded man, that the

magistrate might not punish a breach of the first table of the law.

comprised in the first four of the ten commandments."
As a sample of the religious liberty established in Rhode Island

by Roger Williams, the law " regulating the maintainance of min-

isters within the colony," passed by the General Assembly in 1716,

may be cited. The preamble recites : " There was a charter granted

to this colony which contained many gracious privileges for the

encouragement and comfort of the inhabitants thereof; amongst

others, that of free Liberty of Conscience in religious concernment

being of the most principal, it being a moral privilege due to every

Christian as by His said Majesty is observed, that true piety rightly

grounded upon gospel principles will give the best and greatest

security to sovereignty, and will lay in the hearts of men the

strongest obligations to true loyalty ; and this present Assembly being

sensible by long experience that the aforesaid privilege by the good

providence of God having been continued to us has been an out-

ward means of continuing a good and amicable agreement amongst

the inhabitants of this colony ; and for the better continuance and

support thereof, as well as for the timely preventing of any and

every church, congregation, or society of people, now inhabiting or

which shall hereafter inhabit within any part of this jurisdiction

of the same, from endeavoring for prehminence, or superiority one

over the other, by making use of the Civil Power for the enforcing

of a maintenance for their respective ministers." Thereupon fol-

lows this law :
" That what maintainance or sallery may be thought needful

or necessary by any of the churches, congregations or society of peo-

ple now inhabiting or that hereafter shall and may inhabit within the

same for the support of their respective minister or ministers, shall

be raised by free contribution, and no other ways." " Digest of

Rhode Island Laws, 1730," page 84.

Contrast this with the laws enacted in Virginia, Massachusetts,

and other colonies for the compulsory support of the church and

the clergy, and the Rhode Island principles at once appear.







With the dawning of American political history character

came an interesting character before the American Williams,

people. Aggressive, fearless, liberal, — he was a type

of the ideal American statesman. Talented, edu-

cated, logical, — he was well fitted for the field to

which he chose to devote his life. That field was to

impress correct ideas of liberty upon the early Ameri-

can mind. 1 His ideas were far in advance of his times,

and had he not been gifted with a lovely disposition,

a large heart, and a noble soul, his work could hardly

have accomplished what it did. He was admired by

all and loved even by his persecutors.
Ten years had scarcely passed after the landing
1 John Fiske, in speaking of the first decade of our nation, in "The

Critical Period of American History, 1783-1789," pages 76, 77, writes

the following in reference to Sunday prosecutions a century ago:
" By the revolutionary legislation of the States some progress was

also effected in the direction of a more complete religious freedom.

. . . The tithing-man still arrested Sabbath-breakers, and shut them

up in the town-cage in the market-place; he stopped all unnecessary

riding or driving on Sunday, and haled people off to the meeting-house

whether they would or not. Such restraints upon liberty were still en-

dured by people who had dared and suffered so much for liberty's sake.

The men of Boston strove hard to secure the repeal of these barbarous

laws, and the disestablishment of the Congregational Church; but they

were outvoted by the delegates from the rural towns."

The following extract from the diary of John Adams, himself from

Massachusetts, also shows how tenaciously the New-Englanders clung

to their religious laws :
" I knew they [those endeavoring to unite the colonies] might as well

turn the heavenly bodies out of their annual and diurnal courses, as the

people of Massachusetts at the present day [1774] from their meet-

ing-house and Sunday laws."

It is these " barbarous laws " from which our early statesmen strove

so earnestly to free themselves, that religio-political '•reformers" are

again endeavoring to fasten upon the American people.



Efforts to-

w.u d 1 epcal.


in 1774.




tion of the


law move-


A pupil

of Coke.


istic prin-



his anti-Sun-

day-law wink.



Sunday des-

ecration not

punishable by

civil magis-





of the pilgrim fathers, when opposition to the un-

American Sunday laws began. They were unadapted

to American soil. The free spirit engendered by the

American wilds could ill brook the despotic religious

restrictions of another country and another age. A

pupil of England's greatest lawyer championed the

cause of liberty and led in opposition to govern-

mental interference in religious affairs. That man

was Roger Williams.

Early in life, Coke had taught him the principles

of Anglo-Saxon freedom. He had inspired in his

pupil a love for truth and an admiration for abstract

justice. Freedom, independence, manhood, — meant

more to them than it did to the ordinary mind.

Hence it was a common source from which the great

defender of English liberty and the prime advocate

of American freedom received their inspiration.

Williams had no sooner landed in America than

he began his opposition to Sunday laws. In 163 1

Governor Winthrop writes as follows in the first

volume of his journal :

" At a court holden at Boston (upon information

to the Governor . . . ) [an official letter was written

from the court to this effect, saying :] that Mr. Will-

iams . . . had declared his opinion that the magis-

trate might not punish a breach of the Sabbath, nor

any other offense [that was religious], as it was a

breach of the first table." '
In 1635, four years afterward, Governor Winthrop

wrote in his journal as follows :

"Month 5, 8] At the general court Mr. Williams,

of Salem was summoned, and did appear. It was laid

to his charge that being under question before the

magistracy and churches for divers dangerous opin-

ions, viz : (1) That the magistrate ought not to pun-

1 Pages 52, 53.


ish the breach of the first table, otherwise than in TheGov-
i i'fi- 11 • -i / \ i i ernor *;t\s
such cases as did disturb the civil peace ; (2) that he wniiamsis
opposed to
ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man ; Sunday laws.

(3) that a man ought not to pray with such, though

wife, child, etc. ; (4) that a man ought not to give

thanks after the sacrament nor after meat.

Much debate was about these things. The said opin-

ions were adjudged by all, magistrates and ministers

(who were desired to be present), to be erroneous

and very dangerous." 1

Force's tracts, published by authority of the United

States government, contain Samuel Gorton's "Sim- Samuel

plicities Defense," etc., in which Mr. Gorton says that testimony.

on landing at Boston (within a short time after Will-

iams had been banished) he understood "that they

had formerly banished one Master Roger Williams,

a man of good report both for life and doctrine (even

amongst themselves), for dissenting from them in

some points about their church government, and that

in the extremity of winter, forcing him to betake him- Banished

in midwinter.
self into the vast wilderness, to sit down amongst the

Indians in place, by their own confessions, out of all

their jurisdictions."
But the blow that was intended to crush out for-

ever the influence of his "very dangerous " opinions,

and still forever the voice that pleaded for soul-

liberty and individual freedom of action, fell power-

less, and the banished statesman went forth from

their midst in that long-to-be-remembered winter and Founding

b _ of Rhode
founded a new State in which his liberal ideas might island.

have a practical application.

" Roger Williams," says Professor Gervinus, in his

recent " Introduction to the History of the Nineteenth

Century," 2 " founded, in 1636, a small new society
1 Volume i, page 162.
2 Translated from the German. H. G. Bohn, London, 1853,

page 65.


wfihamsV' m Rh°de Island, upon principles of entire liberty of

ideas. conscience and the uncontrolled power of the ma-

jority in secular concerns. . . . The theories of

freedom in church and state taught in the schools

of philosophy in Europe, were here brought into

practice in the government of a small community. It

was prophesied that the democratic attempts to ob-

tain universal suffrage, a general elective franchise,

annual parliaments, entire religious freedom, and the

Miltonian right of schism, would be of short dura-

tion. But these institutions have not only main-

tained themselves here, but have spread over the

whole Union. They have superseded the aristocratic

commencements of Carolina and New York, the high-

church party in Virginia, the theocracy in Massachu-

setts, and the monarchy throughout America ; they

have given laws to one quarter of the globe ; and,

dreaded for their moral influence, they stand in the

background of every democratic struggle in Europe'

intensity " Roger Williams's whole being," says Mr. Scott,

nf Williams's . . . â„¢. -r>v 1 r y-
feelings. m his admirable work on 1 he Development of Con-
stitutional Liberty in the English Colonies of Amer-

ica," " was possessed by the one great principle that the

soul should be free, and he was wont to express his

heart's aspiration by the term ' soul-liberty.' He boldly

threw down the gauntlet to the world, by announc-

ing that soul-liberty was of God, that conscience was

by nature free, and that it was the duty of human

society to preserve intact that freedom, whereof the

least violation was invariably but the first step to

Man cannot soul-bondage. The conscience, the soul of man,

buy the soul.
being free, no limits bounded that freedom but those

set by the Creator. Of a consequence, any limita-

tion imposed on the conscience of one man by an-

other, was an interference between the Creator and

the created ; it was intolerance, a thing altogether

abhorred by God and unjust to man. Religion being


a relation that existed solely between the Creator di ^on h

and the created, God was the only judge of the ,lle e it,mate -

latter. No religious organization, then, had a shadow

of right to dictate what one should think or what one

should do in matters religious. As a necessary de-

duction from this conclusion, no such right existing,

there were no need of agents to enforce the observ-

ance of faith, nor any right to use them. Conse-

quently, the use of the civil jurisdiction by the ec-

clesiastical, and the subordination of the former to

the latter, had no justification, and was, in fact, a

monstrous perversion of truth, which called for im-

mediate reformation."
Thus at one blow, Williams would have cloven would

the church and state asunder, and sponged from the church and

. state forever
statute-roll the very mention of conformity or non-

conformity. Heresy, with him, had no existence in

civil law, and, carrying his doctrine to its conclusion,

he fearlessly asserted that compulsory worship of God

was an abomination ; that, where the spirit was not

a willing one, worship compelled was an offense to the

Deity ; that if one would not worship, he should not

be made to do so ; and that no man should be com- Nocom-

- pulsory re-
pelled to support any religion whatever, least of all Hgion.'
one in which he had no faith. '
This doctrine overturned the intolerance whereby Error can
.... . r t i • be overcome
the civil power is made the agent of the ecclesias- b y truth.
. . . . 176-
tical in the prescription of faith and the extirpa-

tion of heresy, and left error at the mercy of the

only power that can combat it — truth. It was the

sentence of divorce between church and state, and

1 Bancroft, I, chap, ix : "No one should be bound to worship, or

to maintain a worship against his consent." "Queries of highest con-

sideration." "We query where you now find one footstep, print, or

pattern, in this doctrine of the Son of God, for a national church."

Again: "A tenet that fights against the common principles of all

:ivility and the very civil being and combinations of men ... by

;ommixing ... a spiritual and civil state together."


Separation it ordained that neither should have anything to
of church and
state. do vvith the other, further than extending the pro-
tection under which the latter is hound to shelter

every element of society ; yet this protection was

to be given, not so much to the institution, as to

the worshiper, in whom lay the natural right to

freedom of conscience, and, consequently, the in-

wiiiiams's herent right to freedom of worship. No man has

clear views.
ever had a clearer view of the true relations exist-

ing between the civil and ecclesiastical powers.

The civil magistrate, he says, may not intermeddle

even to stop a church from apostasy and heresy ;

. . . his power extends only to the bodies and goods

and outward estate of men. 1

But if the power to impose a style of worship on

the individual was denied, nothing could be more

positive, nor more catholic, than the emphasis with

which he asserted the duty of society to protect the

consciences of its members, be who and what they

may. Jew or Gentile, Christian, Turk, or Pagan, all

were, as the children of God, alike to this apostle of

liberty, 2 who would have men learn that one poor

lesson of setting absolutely the consciences of all

men free, 3 and who would have lifted his fellows to

that sublime height, where charity forbids persecu-

tion, and where common-sense disdains it as a confes-

sion by error of the truth it cannot overcome. 4 . . .
1 Quoted from a rare tract in Bancroft, volume i, chapter 19.
2 "It is the will and command of God, that ... a permission of

the most paganish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships

be granted to all men, in all nations and countries ; and they are only

to be fought against with that sword which is, in soul-matters, able to

conquer, to wit, the sword of God's Spirit, the word of God." Quoted

in Tyler, 1, 254.

3 "The Bloudy Tenet yet more Bloudy, by Mr. Cotton's Endeavor,"

4 " For me, I must profess, while heaven and earth last, that no one

tenet that either London, England, or the world doth harbor, i- so

heretical, blasphemous, seditious, and dangerous to the corporal, to the


Roger Williams was the man for the times and for Genius of
the place. A genius, with an intellect as clear as it

was fervid ; with convictions so intense as to make

him dare all to enforce them ; with those convictions

broadened by great know ledge and experience, tem-

pered by never-failing benevolence, and adapted,

as the growth of surrounding circumstances, to the

needs of the community ; with a courage that laughed

at wounds, a resolution that never faltered, an en-

thusiasm which never failed, a good-nature that soft-

ened the hearts of savages, and a sincerity which

retained for him the respect of such men, with untir-

ing energy and a robust constitution, he was, of all

men, the man best fitted for breaking down a despot-

ism, establishing a principle, or founding a state. He

would have been great anywhere. He would have

made a name for himself equally in London as in

Providence, but such a fame as he deserves, is due

only to one who, like him, has not only planted a Extentof

his influence
State, but who has forever stamped the millions that

populate the other commonwealths of his race, with

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