On October 9, 1635, Roger Williams, a Puritan minister and supporter of religious freedom, was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The decision to expel Williams was made by the colony’s General Court, which accused him of holding “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions” that were seen as a threat to the established order.
Williams had been a prominent figure in the colony since his arrival in 1631, serving as a minister in the town of Salem. However, his views on religious freedom and the relationship between church and state put him at odds with the colony’s leaders, who believed in a more restrictive interpretation of Puritanism.
One of Williams’ most controversial views was his belief that the colony had no right to claim ownership of Native American lands without first negotiating with the tribes who lived there. This was a radical departure from the prevailing view among the colonists, who believed that they had a divine right to the land and that the Native Americans were heathens who needed to be converted to Christianity.
Williams also believed that the government had no business interfering in matters of religion and that individuals should be free to worship as they saw fit without fear of persecution. This put him at odds with the Puritan leadership, who believed that the government had a duty to enforce religious conformity and punish those who strayed from the established order.
Despite his controversial views, Williams was well-respected in the colony and had many supporters among the people. However, his outspokenness and refusal to back down in the face of opposition eventually led to his banishment.
After being banished, Williams fled south and eventually settled in what is now Rhode Island, where he founded the town of Providence and established a colony based on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state. However, he continued to be a thorn in the side of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was seen as a dangerous radical by many of its leaders.
Roger Williams’ banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony on October 9, 1635, was a significant event in the history of religious freedom in America. Williams’ belief in the separation of church and state and his refusal to back down in the face of opposition laid the groundwork for the establishment of Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, and his legacy continues to be felt to this day.