Friday, January 28, 2011

Is Anyone from Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, or Yemen Reading This?

If they are, I think I have something to say

A Contemporary Military Map of the battle of RI. Library of Congress ID g3772n.ar300400. Public Domain.

There's always a tendency to speak only of current examples, but the great democracies of the Western world had centuries of, often very bloody, legal and political history leading to their current status, a history that the Islamic world does not have. They also have a culture that held certain things as sacred, certain non-biblical things in fact, that the Islamic world did not hold to.

Instead, we see in the Islamic world a great desire to keep Islam in the government, even as separation of church and state is necessary, and a great desire for a morality and justice that Feudalism long ago hardened Europes heart against. We see in the Islamic world a desire at once for freedom and order, at once for individual and group dignity, and we see fights within society that must be resolved.

As such, I wanted to share the story of a former democracy, one that was absorbed in to America in 1776, its traditions and system destroyed in favor of the federal constitution. A democracy created by a pastor, a Puritan pastor, with freedom of conscience for all and a work ethic that made its small, rocky-soiled state an early center of industry and commerce in America. That democracy is Providence Plantations.

The pastors name was Roger Williams. He grew up the son of a wise and just merchant and trader, who gave to the poor in life and in his will. His home parish in London was the sight of great religious tumult, including the burning at stake of many puritan martyrs who died for nothing more then their belief in God. Graduating from Cambridge with a degree in theology and great life experience, Roger Williams headed across the seas.

He may well have been driven out, as he was already at that time quite controversial, and in 1630 he began his mission to the puritans of New England, only to find just as much controversy in America. Among the places he preached the longest and loudest was the town of Salem, which if it had fully received him, might have averted its horrendous infamy for burning withces at stake 60 years later. Salem denied him, and thus Salem carried its shame, and still does to this day.

Salem denied him so thoroughly that he was about to be deported back to England, at which time he fled southwest, to the lands of the Narragansett Indians. There he befriended many, and was given the gift of land. He named it Providence, in honor and thanks towards God. In later years, the colony would repay the kindness of the Narragansett by housing Quakers and Jews fleeing form their own persecution, thus demonstrating the true refuge, forgiveness, justice and charity of Christ.

In 1643 he headed back to England to acquire a charter for his colony. The toes he stepped on long ago forgotten, the English granted it to him, and he incorporated three towns, Providence the capital, Newport, and Portsmouth. He also, on the way there, wrote a book on the Indians he knew, titled "Key into the Languages of America," granting him respect on his authority for perhaps the first time in his life.

He was not unknown to commerce, starting afterwards a Indian trading post at Cocumscussoc, but when the needs of his colony called him, he gave it up, selling it likely at a loss in 1651 in order to head back to England to have his bastion of freedoms charter confirmed. Thus he showed, at once, a skill with Mammon, and a willingness to disregard it for what was more important. He actually failed, but his fellow John Clarke succeeded, gaining a full and correct charter by 1663, while he handled important family business that held him back until 1654.

Unfortunately King Phillips War (1675) did see his colony burned to the ground, but he also lived to see it rebuilt. He stayed a preacher always, and kept his colony a free refuge always, open to all religious beliefs, and all religious debate. The example he set and the sheep he led would become the tolerant, but comparatively pious, religious traditions of modern America, even though his democracy was later swallowed up.

Samuel Slater, in 1790, built the first successful cotton textile mill in America at Blackstone River. Manufacturing would grow more rapidly in Rhode Island then almost any other American colony. The people of Rhode Island kept that free spirit alive, striking against unfair merchants in 1783 and refusing to participate in the war of 1812, and did away with all slavery in its limits voluntarily under the State Emancipation Act of 1784. Thus they let their religion, true religion (Isaiah 51), guide them as their hearts and law were free!



FishHawk said...

Very well done!

Jeremy Janson said...

Great to see you here FishHawk!

FishHawk said...

Hey, I am starting a new site, and I am looking for members/contributors. Please email me at, and I will tell you all about it.

Jeremy Janson said...

Thank you for your very kind offer FishHawk, but I'm already thinking about contribution to the Examiner, which will actually pay you, expanding the posting schedule for this blog, and if not, I probably will keep the status quo because of time constraints.

Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont said...

Great piece, Jeremy.