This talk will examine the life and ideas of Roger Williams, described by Cotton Mather, a preacher in the late 17th century, as: “the first rebel against the divine church [of England] established in the wilderness.” The Second Amendment of our Constitution enshrines this rebel’s idea of religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibit the free exercise thereof.” Roger Williams was the first defender of this idea in the New World, what he called “soul liberty.” He used the metaphor, “a wall of separation” between church and state, a phrase which Thomas Jefferson eventually used in correspondence over a century later after Williams died. This idea has become embedded in American thinking. He also wrote the first book on Native American culture and language and championed the idea that in God’s eyes the Native Americans were equal to the Europeans.
Fred Zilian, Ph.D., (zilianblog.com) teaches history and politics at Salve Regina University. He is also an opinion contributor to The Hill, a contributing editor to The History News Network, and a columnist for the Newport Daily News.
This program was funded by the Portsmouth Historical Society and is free and open to the public. Please sign up on the library's website or by calling the library at 683-9457.
Thursday, April 04
6:30pm - 7:30pm
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Portsmouth Free Public Library
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