Friday, March 5, 2010

Roger Williams

In the M.A. program in History I am currently taking, we are studying early America, specifically the Puritans. As part of my research I have discovered not just how intolerant the Puritans were (they hanged three men and and a woman for being Quakers), but also about a man that I feel represents much that we as masons can identify with.

Roger Williams was a Puritan who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts Colony,in 1631. His sermons, particularly those that advocated fair treatment of the Native Americans, won him the animosity of the ruling establishment. Williams was also opposed to the government punishing people on religious grounds, advocating instead freedom of conscience.

Williams was exiled from the colony in 1635 and founded what eventually became Rhode Island. In 1652 Rhode Island became the first colony to outlaw slavery, more than 200 years before it was outlawed in the U.S. Jews, Baptists, Quakers, all were welcome to practice their faiths according to their own consciences.

Roger Williams was a pioneer in advocating the separation of Church and State, something that did not exist in Europe at the time, or in the other colonies. Roger Williams, not the Puritans, was a forerunner of what our founding fathers established in the United States. While not a mason, we can admire the man for his tolerance of others, and his respect for individual liberty. In Rhode Island today there is even a lodge named Roger Williams Lodge, No.32, in his memory.

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