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Roger Williams

1603?-1683. Founder of Rhode Island. Born in London, he so impressed the famed jurist Edward Coke with his ability at shorthand that Coke sent him to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he graduated and went on until episcopally ordained in 1629. He became chaplain to William Masham's family, married, then in 1631 because of Separatist views migrated to Boston. There he refused a position as teacher because the church was not separated from the Church of England. He then traded with the Indians and was assistant pastor to Ralph Smith for house and land in Plymouth (1631-33). He became teacher in the Salem Church in 1633 until in 1635 his views brought his banishment. He fled to Providence in 1636, bought land from the Indians to found Rhode Island, and founded also a Baptist church. He went to England in 1642 and secured a charter for the colony. He engaged in a pamphlet war with John Cotton* and wrote The Bloody Tenet of Persecution (1644) and The Bloody Tenet Yet More Bloody (1652). During a second stay in England (1651-54) he was able to safeguard the colony's charter, and on his return became president of Rhode Island until 1657. His views that the church and state must be separate and that the state must not coerce the conscience of the individual are a treasured part of the Baptist heritage in America.