February 5, 1631
Roger Williams, Founder of
Rhode Island, Arrived in Boston
is your religion or spiritual belief? In the
U.S., we can take it for granted that people are free
to follow any belief they wish. Elsewhere, this often
isn't the case.
During the 17th century, people left England to
escape religious persecution. Many colonists came to
America to be able to freely practice their religions.
Roger Williams was a defender of religious liberty who
arrived in Boston on February 5, 1631.
Ordained to the ministry in the Church of England,
Williams discovered Puritanism, a reform movement that
developed within the Church of England, during his
first parish duty. He converted. Soon after, he
was asked to be minister in the Massachusetts Bay
Leaving behind the religious intolerance under
England's King Charles I, he and his wife journeyed
across the ocean to join the "American Experiment" in
Boston in 1631. At first, Williams just wanted
to reform the Church of England; soon, he sought
Many of Williamsí parishioners did not agree with
his idea to separate from the Church of England. He
then became minister in Salem. There, his ideas also
proved too radical. He went to Plymouth but
again fell into disfavor. Williams insisted that land
must be purchased from the Indians, rather than taken
from them forcefully, in order to claim title to it.
He again went to Salem and was eventually put on
trial in 1635 for his views. His sentence was
banishment. Williams then purchased land from the
Narragansett Indians and established the settlement of
Providence, Rhode Island.
Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island based
upon principles of complete religious toleration,
separation of church and state, and political
democracy (values that the U.S. would later be founded
It became a refuge for people persecuted for their
religious beliefs. Anabaptists, Quakers, and Jews
settled in Rhode Island. After forming the first
Baptist church in America, Williams left it to seek
spirituality in different ways. He stopped preaching
to his friends, the Indians, when he realized that
their form of worship also fell under his principle of
He declared, "forced worship stinks in God's
nostrils." Williamsí ideas were radical at the time,
but can you imagine living in a place without
religious freedom now?