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
AMERICAN STATE PAPERS.
of the civil
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."
THE RHODE ISLAND LAW REGULATING THE SUPPORT OF MINISTERS.
As a sample of the religious liberty established in Rhode Island
by Roger Williams, the law " regulating the maintainance of min-
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.
FIRST OPPONENT TO SUNDAY LAWS. 61
ish the breach of the first table, otherwise than in TheGov-
i i'fi- 11 â€¢ -i / \ i i ernor *;t\s
such cases as did disturb the civil peace ; (2) that he wniiamsis
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
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
FIRST OPPONENT TO SUNDAY LAWS. 63
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-
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 â€¢ 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 â€” 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."
64 AMERICAN STATE PAPERS.
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
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
FIRST OPPONENT TO SUNDAY LAWS. 65
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
State, but who has forever stamped the millions that
populate the other commonwealths of his race, with