6. Roger Williams was banished by his best friend for disagreeing with Puritan ministers and magistrates
Religious persecution terrorized England during the 1620s and 1630s. Those that could flee did so and between 1630 and 1640 roughly 20,000 people migrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Half were identified as Puritans. Upon arrival, families settled the land that had been violently taken from native tribes. Soon small farms dotted the landscape. Boston became the seat of government and Puritan-Congregationalism became the state-sponsored religion.
At one time, Roger Williams and John Winthrop had been close confidents. The men and their families dined together and enjoyed common interests. But as the colonial authorities made state and church law one and the same, settlers that spoke out against the church were fined by the state and even jailed for several weeks with no food or water. The state encouraged Puritan settlers to take lands from indigenous people so that the “holy commonwealth” could grow.
Roger Williams spoke out against the authority of Puritan magistrates and how they imposed fines and imprisoned those that thought differently than them. Williams believed that the church and the state must be two separate entities. His outspokenness was in direct opposition to colonial authority. Deemed a threat to the “holy commonwealth” idea imposed by John Endecott and John Winthrop, magistrates charged Williams as a heretic. After his quick trial, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1644.
Banishment meant that a person had a set number of days or months to leave the colony. Until they left they could not buy goods, sell their crops or livestocks, or even speak to anyone else in the colony. Roger Williams was not alone in his belief of church and state separation. He and his followers marched roughly 50 miles south of Boston and purchased land from the Narragansett Indians. England’s Parliament granted Williams a colonial charter in 1644 creating the colony of Rhode Island. Rhode Island became a haven for the hundreds of people banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Fittingly, the seat of government was named Providence.