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189 – July, 08 – This Day in Baptist History Past


 

Baptists planted the seeds for the First Amendment

 

The principles of “Religious Liberty” as embodied in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution began in the colony of Rhode Island. Roger Williams obtained the first charter in 1643 or 44’, and the first body of laws was drawn under it in 1647. Under this charter the following words were added: “And otherwise than this what is herein forbidden, all men may walk as their consciences persuade them, everyone in the name of his God. And let the lambs of the Most High walk in this colony without molestation in the name of Jehovah their God forever.” The second charter was gained by Dr. John Clarke on July 8, 1663. A few years earlier, in 1656, the Rhode Island founders’ conviction of religious freedom was severely tested by their neighbors in the Congregational Colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Connecticut. They pressed them hard to give up the principle of religious liberty and to join their confederacy to crush the Quakers and prevent any more of them from coming to New England. This Rhode Island refused to do and sent the following answer: “We shall strictly adhere to the foundation principle on which this colony was first settled, to wit, that every man who submits to the civil authority may peaceably worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience without molestation.” The answer made these neighbors hate them more and seek their ruin by violent actions and slanderous words that reached England. In fact Williams spent five years in England, “…to keep off the rage against us.” They also encouraged the Punham Indians to harass the R.I. people to the great loss of property, and the Indian leader Myantonomo was put to death for his attachment to Providence.  Baptists laid the foundation for religious liberty in America.

 

Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 279-80.

 

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