First experiment in liberty
1638 – Roger Williams, as the forerunner of religious liberty in America, procured a deed for Aquidnet Island, as the agent for Dr. John Clarke and his company from the Narraganset sachems. On the same day Williams also was able to secure a deed for Providence for himself. Dr. Clarke and a company of nineteen had become disenchanted with both the Puritans and Pilgrims in the winter of 1637 and went first to New Hampshire and then turned south toward Long Island and Delaware. Stopping at Providence, they stayed with Williams who persuaded them to go to Aquidnet where Dr. Clarke founded what many believe to be the First Baptist church in America. Prior to this, Williams among a few others of the Puritans had a sincere desire to take the gospel to the Indians. He went out among the Massoits, made friends, learned their language, and taught them the gospel of Christ. The Indians were most happy that a white man met on their level. Williams even drafted a treaty of friendship between them which paved the way for future colonies. Later, when the Boston authorities planned to seize Williams and put him on a ship to send him back to London because of the issue of infant baptism, he, only in his coat and what food he could carry, in a blinding snow storm, left his wife and baby, and walked to the Narragansett Indians. Greeting him as a friend, they insisted that he remain with them in hiding. While there he was able to mediate a conflict that developed between two chieftains. War was averted, and as a reward Chief Massasoit gave him a tract of land. Also during exile Williams decided to establish his own independent colony which would be open to all who desired to enjoy religious freedom. This eventually became the State of Rhode Island.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson /, pp. 119.
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