Monday, December 14, 2009

Providence Plantation

Roger Williams, Prospect Terrace Park, Providence, Rhode Island

Within a few months of Williams' arrival in Boston during 1631, he was learning the Algonquian language. He would master the dialects of the Showatuck, Nipmuck, Narragansett, and others. Williams' oratorical flourish and compassion won him esteem with congregations at Plymouth and Salem, as well as among native peoples of the area, all of whom sought his "love and counsel."

Williams' quick mastery of native languages did not alarm the soul-soldiers of Puritania. What landed him in hot ecclesiastical water was what he learned from the native peoples as he picked up their languages. Asked by William Bradford to compose a paper on the compact which established the Puritan colony in America, Williams declared it invalid. How, he asked, could the Puritans claim the land by "right of discovery," when it was already inhabited? Futhermore, Williams argued that the Puritans had no right to deny the Indians their own religions, divine or secular. Soon, the authorities were transferring Williams from pulpit to pulpit, fretting over how easily he won friends not only among colonists, but the native peoples of the area.--Grinde & Johansen



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