Roger Williams: Contribution as American Author

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      Roger Williams, a fellow clergyman was more than Anne Hutchinson to the Puritans. At the end of 16th century, the religious dogmatism in colonies. Roger Williams was English-born son of a rich tailor. He was exiled from Massachusetts in the middle of New England’s bad winter in 1635. Secretly warned by Governor John Winthrop, he invited only by living with the native Indians. Much ahead of his times. He was an early critic of imperialism, insisting that European kings had no right to grant land charters because American land belonged to the native Indians. Williams believed in the separation between the Church and the State. He held that the law courts should not have the power to punish people for religious reasons - a stand that undermined the strict New England theocracies. He was a firm believer in the principles of equality and democracy. He remained a life-long friend of the Indians.

      Williams's numerous books include one of the first phase books of Indian languages, A Key into the Languages of America (1643). The book is also an embryonic ethnography, giving bold descriptions of the Indian life based on the time he had lived among the tribes. Each chapter is devoted to one topic - for example, eating and mealtime. Indian words and phrases pertaining to this topic are mixed with comments, anecdotes, and a concluding poem. The end of the first chapter reads: “If nature’s sons, both wild and tame,/ Humane and courteous be,/ How ill becomes it sons of God/ To want humanity.” In the section one words about entertainment; he comments “it is a strange truth that a man shall generally find more free entertainment and refreshing among these barbarians, than amongst thousands that call themselves Christians.” To narrate an episode from his inspiring private life, once on a visit to New England during the bloody Civil War, he drew upon his survival in rigid New England to organize firewood deliveries to the poor of London during the winter, after their supply of coal it had been cut off. He wrote lively defenses of religious toleration not only for different Christian sects but also for non Christians - “It is the will and command of God, that... a permission of the most Paganism, Jewish, Turkish, or Anti-Christian consciences and worships, be granted to all men, in all nations...,” he wrote in The Bloody Tenant of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644).

      The intercultural experience of living among gracious and humane Indians certainly accounts for much of his natural wisdom. The influence was two-way in the colonies. For example, John Eliot translated the Bible into Narragansett. Some Indians converted to the Christianity and Indian traditional beliefs. The spirit of toleration and religious freedom that gradually grew in the American colonies was first established in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, the home of the Quakers. The humane and tolerant Quakers, or “Friends,” as they were known, believed m the sacredness of the individual conscience as the fountain head of social order and morality. The fundamental Quaker belief in universal love and brotherhood made them deeply democratic and opposed to dogmatic religious authority. Driven out of strict Massachusetts which feared their influence, they established a very successful colony Pennsylvania, under William Penn in 1681.

      There arose some colonial poetry that was much inspired by the Holy Bible. It was a vehicle of understanding religious truths. Some poets adopted classical methods of imitating popular English poets like, Ben Jonson and John Donne. There came some minor poets like, John Saffii (1626-1710), George Alsop (1636-1673), Saral Goodhue (1641-1681) and the most important of these writers was Michael Wigglesworth.

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