The persecuted Quakers were naturally drawn to the boasted freedom of the New World, but when Anne Austin and Mary Fisher, representatives of this fellowship, landed at Boston from Barbados in 1656, they were promptly locked in jail lest they might proclaim their heresies to the curious crowd that gath ered around them. A council pronounced their doctrines blasphemous; their books were burned and they themselves confined under hard cir cumstances for five months, until the ship they had come in was ready to return them to Bar bados. Later these Quaker missionaries found a more cordial welcome at the hands of the Mohammedans in Turkey than they did at the - hands of the Christian Puritans in setts. However, the contention of John Fiske, that the Puritans had more at stake than the Mohammedans, deserves to be considered in this connection. Following these two women came eight Quakers from London, who were promptly arrested and special laws were passed that they might be disposed of. The penalties afixed in these anti-Quaker laws were tive, passing on up from flogging, through imprisonment at hard labor, cutting off one or both ears, boring the tongue with a hot iron, until finally capital punishment was reached in 1659, when two were hanged on Boston mons. This was going farther than Quaker persecution had ever reached in old England; and next year a Quaker woman was hanged at the same place. The last victim suffered in 1661 for the sole crime of holding to and practising the precepts of George Fox, as resented by the fellowship of the Friends. There is no finer test of a man's sincerity than that which demands that he take his own medicine. Roger Williams was called upon to apply his own doctrines in the case of the Quakers, From their teachings he dissented most heartily; he never came so near the erant spirit as in the book entitled 'George Fox Digg'd out of his Burrowes,' and George Fox never came so near dealing in venom as in his reply, entitled 'A New England Fire-Brand Quenched.' And still the communities of Rhode Island not only refused to join with the New England confederacy in a movement to keep out the Quakers, but welcomed them in spite of their views. When George Fox visited this country he did not dare go farther north than Newport, R. I., where he was sheltered in spite of his teaching. Hither Williams went, 30 miles in an open boat, he himself working the oars, not to suppress, but to hold high bate with the great disciple of soul-libertyho RogerR had stood the test in England even as Williams had in America, and who, in his doc trine of the "inner light" and the non-combatant requirement of religion had found a more ample foundation for religious liberty than the probably less heterodox opinions of Williams.
As with the followers of Anne Hutchinson and George Fox, so with the Jews. Williams pleaded their cause with the powers of Eng land, and the hunted children of Israel found shelter and welcome at . Newport, where the lonely graves of the exiled community moved Longfellow two centuries later to sing the pathetic song of toleration entitled "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport." Twice, at least, Roger Williams returned to England in the interest of the new community, each time for the sake of strengthening the safeguards of religious liberty in his charter rights. The first time he was obliged to sail from Manhattan, for he was an exile from Boston. Once his stay was prolonged for three years, during which time he was deep in the politics of the Protectorate, an active helper of Cromwell, and an intimate associate of Cromwell's Foreign Secretary, "Mister Milton," to whom he taught Dutch. Scant justice has as
yet been done to the benignant and ameliorating clement introduced into the history of the United States, particularly of the New England States, by Roger Williams. He came to reform the reformers, of whom Hawthorne facetiously said: Let us thank God for having given us such ancestors. and let each successive generation thank Him not lees fervently for being one step further from them in the march of ages.
Williams necessarily had much fighting to do. The titles of his books suggest contro versy. 'The Bloudy Tenantt of Persecution for Cause of Conscience; A Dialogue Between Truth and Peace,' is his most noted work. This a Puritan House of Commons caused to be burned in England. To this John Cotton wrote the reply entitled 'Bloudy Tenantt Washed and Made White in the Bloud of the Lamb.' In due time came the rejoinder from Williams, 'The Bloudy Tenantt Yet More Bloudy by Mn Cotton's Attempt to Wash it White in Bloud of the Lamb.' But notwithstanding this bellig erency, Williams vindicated the liberty he es poused and demonstrated in his own life that liberty and the love of liberty breed tenderness and not violence. "We have taxed your pa tience often, but never exhausted it," wrote Governor Winthrop. And his latest biographer, Oscar S. Straus, says: "In no act of his life is a spirit of selfishness disclosed"; and again, His patriotism was never dimmed by a shadow of suspicion of self-interest"; and again, He held his colony with a firm hand and a wise head." He never preferred to be the power behind the throne rather than to be the power on the throne. When the Indians were at last nagged into the violence that led to the invasion of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, unarmed save with his staff, went out to meet them. He failed to turn them back, but they said, "We will not hurt you, Brother Williams." This ac complished linguist, the master of seven lan guages, spent his 70 years and more in unceas ing toil, much of the time earning his bread by manual labor. He alludes to a sacrifice of his own interests by refusing to kiss the Bible when taking an oath in England, hut furnishes no particulars. Everywhere and always he kindled the spirit of liberty, and was never known to light the fires of persecution.
The first compact of the little band of exiles on the hill he named "Providence" carried the signatures of 13 men, five of whom made their mark. It was of such humble material that he laid the foundations of the first state ever un equivocally committed to religious liberty. His first-born son is supposed to have been the first white child in Rhode Island. The last charter he obtained from Charles II was so wisely drawn, and liberty in it was so securely vouchsafed, that it served the commonwealth of Rhode Island for 180 years; it was not changed until 1843, and it would still serve as a model for a new State.
Thus the movement for religious liberty in America unfolded naturally into a passion for democracy, a demand for civil liberty, and our study lands us at the feet of Thomas Jefferson, who was the father of civil liberty in America, so far as movements whose beginnings are al ways hid in the obscurity of still more primitive beginnings can he said to have a father.