There was not too much room for religious disagreement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritans defended their dogma with uncommon fury. Their devotion to principle was God's work; to ignore God's work was unfathomable. When free-thinkers speak their minds in such a society, conflict inevitably results.
Such was the case in Massachusetts Bay when Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams spoke their minds.
Anne Hutchinson was a deeply religious woman. In her understanding of Biblical law, the ministers of Massachusetts had lost their way. She thought the enforcement of proper behavior from church members conflicted with the doctrine of predestination. She asked simply: "If God has predetermined for me salvation or damnation, how could any behavior of mine change my fate?"
Mary Dyer was the first woman executed for her religious beliefs in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
This sort of thinking was seen as extremely dangerous. If the public ignored church authority, surely there would be anarchy. The power of the ministers would decrease. Soon over eighty community members were gathering in her parlor to hear her comments on the weekly sermon. Her leadership position as a woman made her seem all the more dangerous to the Puritan order.
The clergy felt that Anne Hutchinson was a threat to the entire Puritan experiment. They decided to arrest her for heresy. In her trial she argued intelligently with John Winthrop, but the court found her guilty and banished her from Massachusetts Bay in 1637.
Roger Williams was a similar threat.
The ideas of religious freedom and fair dealings with the Native Americans resulted in Roger Williams' exile from the Massachusetts colony.
Two ideas got him into big trouble in Massachusetts Bay. First, he preached separation of church and state. He believed in complete religious freedom, so no single church should be supported by tax dollars. Massachusetts Puritans believed they had the one true faith; therefore such talk was intolerable. Second, Williams claimed taking land from the Native Americans without proper payment was unfair.
Massachusetts wasted no time in banishing the minister.
In 1636, he purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and founded the colony of Rhode Island. Here there would be complete religious freedom. Dissenters from the English New World came here seeking refuge. Anne Hutchinson herself moved to Rhode Island before her fatal relocation to New York.
America has long been a land where people have reserved the right to say, "I disagree." Many early settlers left England in the first place because they disagreed with English practice. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were two brave souls who reminded everyone at their own great peril of that most sacred right.
The Rhode Island Colony The Rhode Island Colony was one of the original 13 colonies located on the Atlantic coast of North America. The original 13 colonies were divided into three geographic areas consisting of the New England, Middle and Southern colonies. The Rhode Island Colony was classified as one of the New England Colonies. The Province of Rhode Island was an English colony in North America that existed from 1636 until 1776, when it joined the other 12 of the 13 colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S. state of Rhode Island.
Founding of the Rhode Island Colony When was the colony of Rhode Island founded? The Rhode Island Colony was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams and other colonists, such as Anne Hutchinson at Providence.
The Naming of the Rhode Island Colony Named "Roodt Eylandt" by Adrian Block, the Dutch explorer. The meaning of the name is "red island" referring to the red clay that lined the shore. The name was later changed when the area came under British rule.
Rhode Island Colony Facts
Fact 1 - Year Founded: 1636 by Roger Williams and others, at Providence
Fact 2 - Major Towns / Cities: Providence
Fact 3 - Major Industries: Agriculture (livestock, dairy, fishing). Fish included cod, mackerel, herring, halibut, hake, bass and sturgeon and whales. Manufacturing (lumbering). Breweries and distilleries producing rum
Fact 4 - Geography: Flat rolling hills and lowlands. The basic geography of New England consisted of mountains thick with trees, rivers and poor rocky soil that was difficult to farm and unsuitable for crops
Fact 5 - Climate: New England was the coldest of the three regions, mild and short summers leading to long, cold winters but less disease than in the warmer colonies
Fact 6 - Religion: There was no religious freedom in the areas inhabited by the Puritans as they did not tolerate any other form of religion. Refer to Religion in the Colonies
Fact 7 - Natural Resources: Fish, whales, forests. Imported agricultural products from other colonies. Farming was difficult for crops like wheat because of the poor soil but corn, pumpkins, rye, squash and beans were raised
Fact 8 - Economics and Trade: Concentrated in manufacture and focussed on town life and industries such as ship building and the manufacture and export of rum. Industries and trade in the New England colonies included fish, whale products, shipping, shipbuilding, timber products, furs, maple syrup, copper, livestock products, horses, rum, whiskey and beer
Fact 9 - Government: In 1775 Rhode Island was governed as a Charter Colony.
Fact 10 - The first Colonists arrived from England aboard the Ark and the Dove
Fact 11 - Original Name: The original name of the colony was the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, later Rhode Island
Fact 12 - In towns along the coast, the colonists made their living fishing, whaling, and shipbuilding. Whale oil was a valuable resource as it could be used in lamps.
Fact 13 - Farming was difficult for crops like wheat because of the poor soil but corn, pumpkins, rye, squash and beans were planted.
Fact 15 - In 1638 the Portsmouth compact was signed
Fact 16 - In 1663 King Charles II granted the royal Charter of Rhode Island
Fact 17 - Trade / Exports were Fish, timber, furs, ships and livestock
Fact 18 - By 1761, Rhode Island, had 22 distilleries and three sugar refineries
Fact 19 - The Colony became a state on May 29, 1790. For additional facts and info refer to the Change from Colonies to States