VI. Roger Williams Secures the 1644 Rhode Island Charter; Dissemination of Knowledge: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Conscious Sake

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Jerald Finney
Copyright © February 27, 2018

Mr. Williams set sail for England in June 1643 to attempt to secure a charter for Rhode Island. With help from his friend, Sir Henry Vane, he quickly obtained a charter, dated March 14, 1644, which empowered the Providence Plantations “to rule themselves, and such as should inhabit within their bounds, by such a form of civil government as by the voluntary agreement of all, or the greater part, shall be found most serviceable, in their estate and condition; and to make suitable laws, agreeable to the laws of England, so far as the nature and constitution of the place shall admit, &c.”[1]

The knowledge which was being disseminated through the power of the press was affecting the religious leaders as well as the general population in America. People were now able to read the Bible and other works and thereby make decisions as to the accuracy of what others were asserting. “Many books [were] coming out of England in the year 1645, some in defence of anabaptism and other errors, and for liberty of conscience, as a shelter for a general toleration of all opinions, &c….”[2]

Roge rWilliams Wrote Bloudy Tenent Of Persecution And Other Works

Mr. Williams wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience which was published in London in 1644. “In this work he maintains the absolute right of every man, to a ‘full liberty in religious concernments,’ supported by the most luminous and powerful reasoning … [w]hich have excited admiration in the writings of Jeremy Taylor, Milton, Locke and Furneau.”[3] The book also exposed the Puritan persecutions going on in New England. John Cotton’s reply, The Bloudy Tenent washed, and made white in the Blood of the Lamb, was printed in London in 1649. Mr. Williams’ reply entitled The Bloudy Tenent yet more Bloody,[4] was published in 1652.[5] “The same clear, enlarged and consistent views of religious freedom are maintained in this last work, as in his preceding, with additional arguments, evincing an acute, vigorous, and fearless mind, imbued with various erudition and undissembled piety.”[6]


[1] John Callender, The Civil and Religious Affairs of the Colony of Rhode-Island (Providence: Knowles, Vose & Company, 1838), p. 98.

[2] Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), p. 145, quoting Hubbard, [413-415.].

[3] Callender, Appendix IV, p. 191.

[4] Roger Williams The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy published in The Complete Writings of Roger Williams, Volume 4 (Paris, AR, The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc.).

[5] For an excellent summary of some of the more important arguments presented by both sides see Backus, Volume 1, pp. 134-145.

[6] Callender, pp. 191-192.

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