An Exile and a Compact of Freedom
When the court-appointed Mr. Hooker failed to turn Roger Williams from what were considered religious errors in October of 1635, the court ordered Williams exiled within six weeks. The Boston court postponed the deadline of his departure until the spring of 1636, on condition that he would not further disseminate his views. When they heard that he held private meetings, continued to preach his radical views, and drew away as many as twenty followers with whom he planned to set up a rival colony, they moved at once to arrest him and to put him on a ship ready to sail for England. Williams would not have survived if he had not already befriended the Indians. He later said of his winter experience: “I was unmercifully driven from my chamber to a winter’s flight, exposed to the miseries, poverties, necessities, wants, debts, hardships of sea and land in a banished condition…I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weeks in bitter winter season, not knowing what bread and bed did mean…exposed to a winter’s miseries in a howling wilderness of frost and snow.”
In June 1636, Williams and several friends from Salem established the nucleus of Providence Plantations just outside the Massachusetts Bay jurisdiction. He named the settlement to commemorate God’s providence to him in his distress. Until they could apply for a proper charter from England, they drew up a compact on June 16, 1636, promising to abide by “such orders and agreements as shall be made by the greater number of the present householders…only in civil things.” The charter of 1663 provided that “no person within said colony, at any time hereafter shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any differences of opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of said colony; but that all and any persons may from time to time, and at all times hereafter freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernment.”
Dr. Dale R. Hart: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) p. 247.
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