« PreviousContinue »
sand, &c. 12. No government is maintained without tribute, custom, rates, taxes, &c. 13. Our charter excels all in New-England, or in the world, as to the souls of men. 14. It pleased God, Rom. 13, to command tribute, custom, and consequently rates, not only for fear, but for conscience sake. 15. Our rates are the least, by far, of any colony in New-England. 16. There is no man that hath a vote in town or colony, but he hath a hand in making the rates by himself or his deputies. 17. In our colony the General Assembly, Governor, magistrates, deputies, towns, town-clerks, raters, constables, &c. have done their duties, the failing lies upon particular persons. 18. It is but folly to resist, (one or more, and if one, why not more ?) God hath stirred up the spirit of the Governor, magistrates and officers, driven to it by necessity, to be unanimously resolved to see the matter finished; and it is the duty of every man to maintain, encourage, and strengthen the hand of authority. 19. Black clouds (some years) have hung over Old and New-England heads. God hath been wonderfully patient and long-suffering to us; but who sees not changes and calamities hanging over us? 20. All men fear, that this blazing herald from heaven* denounceth from the Most High, wars, pestilence, famines; is it not then our wisdom to make and keep peace with God and man? “ Your old unworthy servant,
" ROGER WILLIAMS. Providence, 15th Jan. 1680–1, (so called.)" The following letter to Governor Bradstreet,t of Massachusetts, contains a notice of Mr. Williams' health, and other interesting topics:
“ To my much honored, kind friend, the Gov. Bradstreet, at Boston, present.
“ Providence, 6 May, 1682, (ut vulgo.) Sir, “ Your person and place are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward; yet I am grieved to disturb your thoughts or
Referring to the great comet of 1680, which was supposed to have approached so near to the sun, as to be heated two thousand times hotter than red hot iron.
+ 2 His. Col. viii. p. 196.
hands with any thing from me, and yet am refreshed with the thought, that sometimes you subscribe [your willing servant:) and that your love and willingness will turn to your account also.
“Sir, by John Whipple of Providence, I wrote lately (though the letter lay long by him) touching the widow Messinger's daughter, Sarah Weld, of Boston, whom I believe Joseph Homan, of Boston, hath miserably deluded, slandered, oppressed (her and his child) by barbarous inhumanity, so that I humbly hope your mercy and justice will gloriously in public kiss each other.
Sir, this enclosed tells you that being old and weak and bruised (with rupture and colic) and lameness on both my feet, I am directed, by the Father of our spirits, to desire to attend his infinite Majesty with a poor mite, (which makes but two farthings.) By my fire-side I have recollected the discourses which (by many tedious journeys) I have had with the scattered English at Narraganset, before the war and since. I have reduced them unto those twenty two heads, (enclosed) which is near thirty sheets of my writing : I would send them to the Narragansets and others; there is no controversy in them, only an endeavor of a particular match of each poor sinner to his Maker. For printing, I am forced to write to my friends at Massachusetts, Connecticut, Plymouth, and our own colony, that he that hath a shilling and a heart to countenance and promote such a soul work, may trust the great Paymaster (who is beforehand with us already) for an hundreth for one in this life. Sir, I have many friends at Boston, but pray you to call in my kind friends Capt. Brattle and Mr. Seth Perry, who may, by your wise discretions, ease yourself of any burthen. I write to my honored acquaintance at Roxbury, Mr. Dudley and Mr. Eliot, and Mr. Stoughton, at Dorchester, and to Capt. Gookins, at Cambridge, and pray yourself and him to consult about a little help from Charlestown, where death has stript me of all my acquaintance. Sir, if you can return that chapter of my reply to G-ton, concerning New-England, I am advised to let it sleep, and forbear public contests with Protestants, since it is the design of hell and Rome to cut the throats of all the protestors in the world. Yet I am occasioned, in this book, to say much for the honor and peace of New England.
“Sir, I shall humbly wait for your advice where it may be best printed, at Boston or Cambridge, and for how much, the printer finding paper. We have tidings here of Shaftsbury's and Howard's beheading, and contrarily, their release, London manifestations of joy, and the King's calling a Parliament. But all these are but sublunaries, temporaries and trivials. Eternity (O eternity!) is our business, to which end I am most unworthy to be “Your willing and faithful servant,
“ ROGER WILLIAMS. “My humble respects to Mrs. Bradstreet, and other honored friends."
The foregoing letter furnishes proof, that Mr. Williams, even after Philip's war, and consequently after he had passed his 77th year, went to Narraganset, and delivered discourses. His zeal for the salvation of men was not extinguished by his age, nor was he prevented from efforts to save them, by his theory respecting the ministry. That zeal is displayed in his desire to print these discourses, after disease confined him to his home. The letter, too, leads us to infer his poverty. He would not, probably, have solicited aid to print so small a work, if he had possessed the means. His son's letter, quoted in a preceding page,* intimates, that Mr. Williams was dependent on his children, to some extent, at least, during the last years of his life. Poverty was honorable in a man, who had spent his best days in the public service, and who had been more intent on making others happy, than on the promotion of his own private interests.
Of the immediate cause and exact time of Mr. Williams' death, we are not informed. It is certain, however, that he died, at some time between January 16, 1682–3, and May 10, 1683. On the former day, he signed a document which was intended as a settlement of the controversy respecting the Pawtuxet lands. On the 10th of May, Mr. John Thornton wrote to the Rev. Samuel Hubbard, from Providence: “The Lord hath arrested by death our ancient and approved friend, Mr. Roger Williams, with divers others here.”+ He was in the 84th year of his age.
# Backus, vol. i. p. 515.
would be gratifying to have some account of his last hours, but we have every reason to believe, that his end was peace.
was buried,” says Mr. Callender (p. 93,)“ with all the solemnity the colony was able to show." His remains were deposited, in his own family burying-ground, on his townlot, a short distance only from the place where he landed, and from the spot where his dwelling-house stood. His wife probably survived him,* and all his children, it is believed, were living at his death.†
Thus terminated the long and active life of the founder of Rhode Island, fifty-two years of which elapsed, after his arrival in America. It now remains, to present a summary view of his writings, and some comments on his character.
* She was certainly alive in November, 1679.-Backus, vol. i. p. 478.
+ See Appendix H. for some acco of his grave, and of his family.
Mr. Williams' writings-Key-Bloody Tenet-liberty of conscience
-Mr. Cotton's Reply-Mr. Williams' Rejoinder.
Our examination of the writings of Mr. Williams must be brief. Sufficient specimens of his style have been given in the preceding pages.
We shall, therefore, present no extracts from his books, except such as may be necessary to explain their character, or to illustrate his principles.
His first printed book was his Key. The title page is in these words : “A key into the Language of America, or a Help to the Language of the Natives, in that part of America called New-England; together with brief Observations of the Customs, Manners and Worships, &c. of the aforesaid Natives, in Peace and War, in Life and Death. On all which are added, Spiritual Observations, general and particular, by the Author, of chief and special use (upon all occasions) to all the English inhabiting those Parts; yet pleasant and profitable to the View of all Men. By Roger Williams, of Providence, in New-England. London. Printed by Gregory Dexter, 1643."
It was dedicated “to my dear and well-beloved friends and countrymen in Old and New-England." In this dedication, he says, “ This Key respects the native language of it, and happily may unlock some rarities concerning the natives themselves, not yet discovered.
A little key may open a box, where lies a bunch of keys." He professes his hope, that his book may contribute to the spread of Christianity among the natives, “ being comfortably persuaded, that that Father of spirits, who was graciously pleased to persuade Japhet (the Gentile) to dwell in the tents of Shem (the Jews) will, in his holy season, (I hope approaching) persuade these Gentiles of America to partake of the mercies of Europe; and then shall be fulfilled what is written by the prophet Malachi, from the rising of the sun (in Europe) to the going down of the same (in America) my name shall be great among the Gentiles.”
The book is divided into thirty-two chapters, the titlex