A Colonial Thanksgiving

Pertinacious Tom

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I'm thankful for a religious nutjob who was too religious and too nutty for the religious nutjobs who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Sick of the Pilgrims? Celebrate Roger Williams Instead

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In contrast to the theocratic magistrates of the 1630s Massachusetts Bay Colony, Williams was not just a religious rebel—but a political one too. While others argued that theological unorthodoxies should result in state-sanctioned punishment, Williams disagreed. Instead, while he believed along with his fellow Calvinists that religious dissenters and most of the faithful might be hell-bound, he asserted that it's not the job of the government to set them on the righteous path.

This apparently outrageous concept, along with a series of other idiosyncratic theological disputes (let's just say there was a lot of pamphleteering involved) resulted in Williams—and by extension, his 12 children—getting booted out of Massachusetts Bay in 1636. It was wintertime, so the magistrates kindly offered to delay William's banishment for a few months, on the condition that he lay low and pipe down with those crazy ideas of his. But never one to be careful with fire when a bridge was around, Williams completely ignored this directive. More preaching got him expelled from the colony in the middle of January.

Williams thankfully managed to escape certain death in the frozen New England wilderness due to the kindness of the local Wampanoag tribe. However, come springtime, Williams decided to form a new settlement, one where his, as fellow Puritan John Winthrop put it, "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions" could thrive.

This new settlement, called "Providence Plantations," was built on land that, according to Vowell, Williams received as a gift—not conquered—from leaders of the local Narragansett tribe. "It was not price or money that could have purchased Rhode Island," Williams later wrote. "Rhode Island was purchased by love."

The colony was governed by an altogether different set of rules than the other Puritan-run settlements that dotted New England. Rather than exercising religious authority over citizens, the government of Providence pertained exclusively to "civil things," making it possibly the first place in modern history with a separation of church and state.

The settlement would eventually grow to welcome a whole host of theological misfits, from Quakers, to Jews, to my other favorite Puritan crank, Anne Hutchinson. Hutchinson had also found herself (and, like Williams, her double-digit litter of children) kicked out of Massachusetts Bay in 1638 after preaching too much for a woman (especially of the "God-talks-directly-to-me" variety). In fairness, Williams thought all these people—except maybe Hutchinson—were doomed for eternal hellfire. But as he saw it, punishing for theological wrongheadedness was a job fit only for God himself.
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His view that almost everyone is going to hell and the rest are no fun at all is kind of weird but I'm glad he didn't want to use government to rescue us from our sins.
 

Pertinacious Tom

Importunate Member
62,855
2,003
Punta Gorda FL
I remain confused about a bigger question: Why does one’s innocent birth in the USA require one to financially participate in real estate? One must be either a homeowner or renter. All other possibilities are either illegal or unavailable.

Because we tried the collective ownership thing. Read the Governor's account of how it went and do what others here won't by telling me what you think he said.
 

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