Form and Content
In Lone Journey: The Life of Roger Williams, Jeanette Eaton has written a sympathetic account of Williams’ life and times that emphasizes his firm belief in freedom of conscience and religious toleration. The story begins when Williams was sixteen years old and employed as a shorthand clerk in official proceedings by the amiable Sir Edward Coke, a lawyer who shared his Puritan beliefs. Determined to help Williams acquire a suitable education, Coke granted him a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, which was then a center of Puritanism. After he was graduated from Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1627, Williams was ordained and appointed chaplain to Sir William Masham at Otes, Essex. It was at Otes that he made the acquaintance of such well-known Puritans as Oliver Cromwell, John Winthrop, John Cotton, and Thomas Hooker, and Williams also adopted Separatist beliefs. Because of the nature of the sermons that he preached, in which he advocated liberty of conscience and challenged the practice of religious persecution, Williams earned the reputation of being “divinely mad.”
In late 1630, Williams and Mary, his bride of less than a year, set sail for Boston, Massachusetts, where Williams had been asked to pastor a Puritan church. Upon discovering that the church was still attached to the Church of England, however, he declared that he could not accept the charge. In April, 1631, Williams gratefully accepted a position as teacher of the church in Salem, but here he disagreed with the interference of the civil authorities in church affairs. As a result, he and his wife moved to Plymouth colony, where the church was more tolerant and democratic.
Determined to befriend Native Americans, Williams had, upon his arrival in the New World, begun to study some tribal languages in earnest. He soon began trading with Native Americans and became a friend to many of them, the Narraganset tribe in particular....
(The entire section is 789 words.)