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Having in the preceding notes given some account of the principal events which marked the life of Williams up to the time he settled at Mooshausick, it may be agreeable sto such of my readers, as have not his biography at hand, to find here some notice of the actions which distinguished the remainder of his days. The following summary is drawn chiefly from Mr. Benedict's History of the Baprists, and the Sketch of the Life of Williams annexed to the first volume of the Rhode Island Historical Collections.
Williams was soon joined at Providence by a number of his friends from Salem. In a short time their number amounted to forty persons. They then adopted a form of government, by which they admitted none to become their associates, but such as held to the principle of Religious Freedom.
The year following his settlement, a formidable conspiracy of the Indians was planned against the English colonists. He gave his persecutors information of the fact. He addressed a letter to the Commissioners of the United Colonies, " assuring them that the country would suddenly be all on fire, meaning by war—that by strong reasons and arguments he could convince any man thereof that was of another mind-that the Narragansets had been with the plantations combined with Providence, and had solemnly settled a reutrality with them, which fully shewed their counsels and resolutions for war."* Had this plot been carried into effect, it would probably have eventuated in the ruin of the colonies from which he had been banished. Instead of indulging resentment by remaining inactive, he immediately exerted himself to bring about a dissolution of the Indian confederacy. He accomplished what no other man in New England at that time would have attempted. By his influence with the Narragansets, he broke up the combination, and formed treaties between them and the United Colonics, by which the latter had their aid in the war which followed with the Pequots.
The four first years that succeeded Williams' settlement at Providence, were necessarily occupied by him there about the affairs of the plantations. He travelled amongst the Indians, and secured the friendship of their chiefs and warriors. He promoted the settlement of Rhode Island and Warwick. Much of his time must also have been required in making provisions for the support of his fainily, cast out, as they were, into the depths of a savage wilderness. Soon after his settlement, he had embraced the leading tenets of the Baptists, and had been baptized. He then sormed a society of this order, and preached to it; but resigned his pastoral office on his going to England to solicit the first Charter.
Not being permitted to pass through Massachusetts in order to embark on this voyage, he went by land to Manhattan, (New York,] then under the Dutch. A war between the Dutch and Indians was at that time raging with great violence. In this war, Mrs. Ann Hutchinson and family, who had been banished from Massachusetts, had fallen victims to Indian barbarities}; and, as if every step of this remarkable man was to bear the impress of his benevolence, he was here instrumental in pacifying the savages, and stopping the effusion of blood. After this, he took ship for England. Whilst on this voyage, that no time might be lost in laying posterity under obligations to him, he composed his Key to the Indian Languages. This, together with his Bloody Tenent, was published on his arrival in England. Here, as agent for the colonies of Providence, Rhode Island, and Warwick, he obtained a charter of incorporation, signed by the Earl of Warwick, then Governor and Admiral of the English Plantations, and by his council.
* Hutchinson's State Papers.
On the 17th September, 1644, he landed at Boston, bringing a letter of recommendation to the Governor and Assistants of Massachusetts Bay, from some of the most influential members of the Long Parliament. He thus avoided the penalty incurred by entering their bounds. At the first General Assembly formed under this Charter, a law was passed establishing the most unlimited toleration in matters of conscience. Unconfined to those who professed Christianity, its provisions extended to the whole human family. I mention this, because it has been said that Maryland furnishes the first example of a legislative act of this kind. The Maryland act was passed in 1649, and its privileges extended only to those who professed to believe in Jesus Christ.
Mr. Coddington afterwards procured a Charter, which gave him almost unlimited authority over the islands of Narraganset bay. This caused great discontent. It was called Coddington's Obstruction. Williams and Clark were sent to England, in 1651, to procure its revocation. They effected the object of their mission in October, 1652. Whilst in England, Williams resided with Sir Henry Vane, at his seat in Lincolnshire. He returned in 1652, and brought a letter from Sir Henry, inviting the planters to a close union. The colony, during his absence, had been distracted by many divisions. This letter, together with the earnest solicitations of Williams, restored harmony. He was several times after, as well as before this time, elected to the office of President or Governor of the colony.
Williams died in 1683, at Providence, and was buried under arms, in his family burying ground, with every testimony of respect which the colony could manifest.
The religious sentiments of Williams seem to have become more and more liberal as he advanced in life. Whatever rigid forms those sentiments may have assumed, in the early part of his career, they gradually melted down, and blended themselves in that warm and deep feeling of universal benevolence, which had given birth to his great principle of Soul-Liberty. The dominion of that feeling, over every other in his breast, is sufficiently indicated by the firmness with which he adhered to this principle in circumstances the most trying. This feeling naturally sought for a congenial nature in other breasts, and Williams soon learned that there were good men in all societies. He freely joined in worship with all, and imparted his instructions to all who were disposed to hear him. This liberality, however, was not inconsistent with theological discussions, in which he occasionally participated. His dispute with the Friends gave umbrage to some of that order. It occupied two or three days, and eventuated by a publication by Williams, entitled "George Fox digged out of his burroughs.” Although some of this order seem, for a time, to have remembered this dispute to his disadvantage, yet there were others who cherished for him the kindest and most respectful feelings. Among these was Governor Jenks, who though a Quaker, bestows the highest praise on Williams, both as a man and a Christian.
When not engaged abroad on business of the colony, he statedly preached to the Indians in Narraganset ; and those amongst them, who would hear no one else, were attentive to him. That branch of the Narragansets, called the Nianticks, seem
to have been an object of his peculiar care. They were so far Christianized by his labors that they took no part in Philip's war, and their present existence, as the only remnant of a once powerful people, may be traced to the effects of his ministry.
Williams retained his influence with the Indians nearly to the last of his and their existence. While Philip was making preparation for war, in 1671, commissioners were sent to Taunton to inquire into the cause. Philip, suspicious of their design, remained in his camp; and when summoned by the commissioners to meet them, he required that they should meet him. Matters remained in this posture until Williams, then seventy years old, with a Mr. Brown, offered to become a hostage in his camp. Philip then met the commissioners, delivered up seventy guns and promised fidelity. This event gave the colony four years to prepare for the final struggle.
Whilst, in 1676, this cruel and exterminating war was raging, the Indians approached the town of Providence. Williams, it is said, on seeing their advance, still feeling his wonted confidence in his influence over them, took his staff and left the garrison. But some of the old warriors on seeing him approach, advanced from the main body, and told him, that as for themselves they would do him no harm, nor would any amongst them who had long known him, but their young men could not be restrained. Upon which he returned to the garrison.