The Real Reason Rhode Island Was Founded

A few centuries ago, "cancel culture" wasn't the phony way to weasel out of being a butthole that it is today, it was just the status quo. The Salem Witch Trials are a pretty good example of how doing or thinking something out of line with the church's views could get one canceled from society at large in a pretty serious way. The founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, was also canceled from Massachusetts society, but he wasn't he wasn't hanged for his heresy. He was just kicked out of the colony. 

According to History, Williams believed in a radical idea that went on to become a pillar of American democracy: the separation of church and state. But Williams was no atheist or Satan worshipper or — heaven forbid — non-white person demanding equal rights. He was a Puritan minister. He actually founded the first Baptist church in the United States. But he was also a pretty hardcore social justice warrior. Let's take a look into William's life and legacy, and appreciate the radical idea he had that helped make America the country it is today.

Roger Williams founded Rhode Island on ideals of true equality

It wasn't just Williams' outrageous idea that the government shouldn't dictate the spiritual lives of its citizens that irked his neighbors in Massachusetts so much. According to the National Park Service, he was a staunch and outspoken opponent of white Americans' tendency to take whatever they wanted from Native Americans because they believed their god had given them a celestial go-ahead to steal.

Williams had a brilliant linguistic mind, and through learning the language of the Narragansett people he came to a deep understanding of their humanity and defended them against other colonizers. He vehemently opposed English charters that appropriated land from Native Americans, and didn't back down when the other settlers told him to shut his trap. "Boast not proud English of thy birth & blood," he wrote, "Thy brother Indian is by birth as good."

Such advocacy earned him the ire of his fellow Puritans and other hardline religious zealots. They gave him the boot in 1636, so he went to the coast with some likeminded followers and settled on land they bought from the Narragansett people. There they founded Rhode Island, a colony based on principles of religious liberty and a firm wall between the church and the government.