If you want to look for an amazing person in early American colonial history look no further than Roger Williams. Williams responded negatively to those who demanded Rhode Island quit providing refuge for Quakers, despite despising the Quakers himself and despite the economic benefit offered by other colonies if Rhode Island kicked the Quakers to the curb. (Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty, John M. Barry)
Hard to believe anybody could despise Quakers. Modern Quakers are so – so nice and Christian.
Roger Williams didn’t care much for the confident certainty of Quakers who mocked all established Christian theologies, but especially that of the Puritans. Puritans were mocked by Quakers for their doubt. (Barry)
Williams rejected Quaker assertions that “their emotionalism, their responses to the movement of a spirit within, their extreme and disruptive behavior all emanated from God. Such an assertion, he argued, was not proof. Proof could come only from intellectual rigor, from, as Williams said, his ‘Reason, or some Testimony of unquestionable Witnesses satisfying my Reason, or some heavenly inspired Scripture or Writing which my Reason tells me came from God.'” (Barry)
Massachusetts considered Quakers to be an “infection” and deported them to England.
Any ship commander who knowingly landed a Quaker would be fined 100 pounds. Anyone who imported any Quaker writings would be fined 5 pounds. Any Quaker discovered in the colony would receive twenty stripes with a corded whip and then be imprisoned, and while a prisoner their windows would be boarded up to prevent their communicating with anyone. Any Massachusetts resident who voiced a Quaker opinion would be fined 40 shillings; if upon correction he or she defended the opinion the fine rose to 4.3 pounds. (Barry)
Let me repeat. Roger Williams despised Quakers too, but he knew that freedom of religion meant freedom of religion for all, including those he despised.
The seeds Williams planted in Rhode Island on the importance of religious freedom took deep root. Rhode Island believed in freedom as a principle. “It outlawed slavery-an extraordinary action, likely the first in the world. . .” (Barry)
A big thank you to Roger Williams!