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No Surprise That 17th Century Book That Respected Native Americans Also Respected Women—Roger Williams Of Rhode Island

I’ve been reading A New Literary History of the United States.

Here is some information about this very good book.

I read an essay in A New Literary History today about a book written  in 1643 by Roger Williams.

(Above–A 1681 painting by an unkown artist of a Narragansett Indian Chief named Ninigret. It is the only reliable image of a Southern New England Indian of the time. This painting is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design.)

Roger Williams was the founder of my native state of Rhode Island. Here is a blog post I wrote about Williams. I’ve been told I’m related in some way to Williams. I hope this is the case. 

The name of the book Williams wrote was A Key To The Language Of America

Here is a picture of the cover of this book from 1643.

Key was about the langauge and customs of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indians.

Here is information about the Narragansett Indians.

A New Literary History says that Williams saw these Rhode Island natives as equal to the New England Puritan colonists.

This angered the leaders of Massachusetts because it set a precedent of treating the natives in a way that might encourage them to be more assertive in their dealings with the colonists.

In A Key To The Language Of America Williams also acknowledged the role of Narragansett Indian women. This was unusual for the times.

Williams wrote that Narragansett women worked at least as hard as did the men and that they never complained no matter how difficult life became.

It is no surprise that a book that was ahead of its time in regard to Native Americans was also respectful of women in a time that women were not treated so well ( Just like today.)

Respect for all people is connected. Regard for one only has meaning when it is regard for all. Roger Williams of Rhode Island had this insight in the 17th century. It is that many people lack in the 21st century.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Roger Williams—Colonial Champion Of Tolerance & Equality


The great religious dissenter Roger Williams is the founder of Rhode Island. He was exiled from Massachusetts because he differed with the rulers of Massachusetts Bay Colony about the best way to communicate with God.


The view that Williams held, that God could reached by any person, led naturally to his embracing ideas of the equality of all persons and religious liberty long before their time. (If that time has arrived even today.)


Williams lived between 1603 and 1683. He was a Christian who followed no specific creed. He organized Rhode Island on the basis of religious liberty and the equal rights of its citizens.


Rhode Island was established at Providence in 1636. In a fashion similar to my earlier post about John Cotton, here are observations about Williams done with the assistance of Vernon L. Parrington’s The Colonial Mind 16201800. This book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928. 


Parrington writes— As a transcendental mystic he was a forerunner of Emerson….discovering an indwelling God in a world of material things, as a speculative seeker…. ( he discovered) the hope of a more liberal society in the practice of an open mind… 


Seeing a more open society by having an open mind—This offers a clue to what an individual can do without the aid of institutions or even without the support of others. You can imagine a better world and then help make it a reality.


Roger Williams was the most provocative thinker thrown upon the Massachusetts shores…the one original thinker amongst a number of capable social architects…he was the “first rebel against the divine church-order established in the wilderness”…but he was very much more than that; he was a rebel against all the stupidities that interposed a barrier betwixt men and their dreams.


The “social architects” may have had in mind a process by which the new colony would be organized and structured, but Williams had a real vision of how things should be. From that vision came clear understanding of what people really wanted in their lives.


He lived in the realm of ideas, of inquiry and of discussion; and his actions were creatively determined by principles the bases of which he examined with critical insight…..he was the incarnation of Protestant individualism, seeking new social ties to take the place of those that were loosening.


He was a product of ideas and discussion, and he turned those ideas and discussion into a working colony that still exists over 350 years later in the form of the State of Rhode Island. Relevant to the changes we are facing today with globalization, Williams had the ability to imagine the relationships and the type of society would replace the failing old order.


It was the spirit of love that served as a teacher to him; love that exalted the meanest to equality with the highest in the divine republic of Jesus….He regarded his fellow men literally as the children of God….and from this primary conception he deduced his political philosophy.


It’s the bottom line of any humane and just organization of a society—Everybody is an equal.


Much of his life was devoted to the problem of discovering a new basis for social reorganization, and his intellectual progress was marked by an abundant wreckage of obsolete theory and hoary wreckage that strewed his path.


It takes a lot of mental effort to get past the prevailing views of the day. I’m sure that along the way Williams had to discard many things he once held as true.


In accord with a long line of liberal thinkers…he accepted the major deductions of the compact theory of the state: that government is a man-made institution, that it rests on consent, and that it is founded upon the assumed equality of the subjects…..he had only to translate those abstractions into concrete terms and apply them realistically to create a new and vital theory….he located sovereignty in the total body of citizens.


Again—The ability to take an idea and make it something solid. This is the test of a visionary leader.  Realistic application of these ideas is, of course, also part of the plan.


...Roger Williams was a confirmed individualist…


And from that basis of individualism, Williams concerned himself with the lives of others. That is one of the most difficult things to explain—That to care for others you must often start from a position that might at first appear isolated or abstract.


It’s difficult for some not to allow a notion of themselves as individualists to take over their personality at the expense of the connections that can result from free thought and inquiry.


The reluctant judgment of Cotton Mather that Roger Williams “had the root of the matter in him” 


What more can you say about somebody than that they understood the core of the matter. It’s one of the highest compliments you can pay anybody. 

(Previous posts on John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson have generated a great deal of traffic to the blog. It’s great to know others share my interest in these subjects. I’d love to have your comments. Click here please for all my posts to date on the subject of Colonial America.)  



September 28, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Books, Colonial America, History | 3 Comments

Occupy Wall Street Type Protests Being Held Across The Nation—Dissent A Part Of Our Nation Since Earliest Colonial Times.

(Update– 10/06/11–Here is my post on the Occupy Houston event today.) 

Above is the art for the Occupy Providence event that will be held later today.

This art includes the great religious dissenter and the founder of Rhode Island—Roger Williams.

I’m glad to say I’m a descendant of Roger Williams and that I lived in Rhode Island for 12 years.

Here is the Occupy Providence page on Facebook. 

I’m also very glad for my 13 years so far in Houston.

Here is the Occupy Houston page on Facebook.

Here are details about the Occupy Houston event to be held this upcoming Thursday, October 6. 

This event and march begins at Market Square Park in Downtown Houston at 8:30 AM. I will be there. I hope you will be there as well.

The concern that many Americans have about the corporate takeover of our nation, and about the fact that hard work often does not pay off in our nation anymore, is shared by people all over America.

People just want a fair deal for an honest day’s work.

Here is the Occupy Wall Street website. 

Here is an Associated Press story where the Occupy Wall Street folks say they are in it for the long haul.

Here is the link to the Roger Williams National Memorial Park. 

A book I own but have not yet read is Liberty of Conscience—Roger Williams in America by Edwin Gaustand.

Below is a photo I took of the Roger Williams Memorial Park earlier this year. People lived in crude shacks.

Rhode Island was founded in the 1630’s by people seeking religious liberty.

The spirit of dissent and of liberty is part of the American fabric from the earliest colonial days right up to the present day.

Let’s follow the Occupy protests and let’s be a part of this movement.

The Occupy protests may or may not lead to something bigger.

We can be hopeful. We can be informed. We can be involved.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

October 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Type Of Exile Should We Choose?

What type of exile should we choose? What types of exile are chosen for us? 

In Colonial America, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson chose banishment from Massachusetts rather than renounce their views on how best to communicate with God. They went to the wilderness of Rhode Island.

When I was young, I hung out often at a punk rock club called The Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky. This was a kind of “soft exile.” I wanted to be with people more like myself if just for a few hours. 

In the 19th Century, the black American actor Ira Aldridge went to Europe because he could not find roles in the United States.

In Ancient Rome, exile from Rome was a punishment one could receive.

Many of us withdraw to an extent just to get through the day.

Can exile serve as a creative force beyond simply serving as a device for sanity?

I’d say yes.

Artists often have what are termed as “retreats.” 

Martin Luther King wrote his Letter From A Birmingham Jail while in a type of forced exile.

I don’t think I could fully trust anyone who, for whatever reasons, does not seek some level of exile from this world.

Ideally, exile serves ultimately as a path to finding a way to be more strongly engaged with the world.  

September 14, 2007 Posted by | Art, Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Colonial America, History, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anne Hutchinson Of Rhode Island—Brave As Hell


I noticed that since I started running pictures on the blog nearly two months ago, I’ve not posted a picture of a woman.

The first picture of a woman on Texas Liberal is of Anne Hutchinson. Mrs. Hutchinson, who lived from 1591 until 1643, was a founder of Rhode Island.

The core of the story is that Mrs. Hutchinson held that neither church nor state was needed to connect a believer to his or her God.

As you might imagine, this assertion was a threat to the rulers of Massachusetts Bay Colony. In Massachusetts, church and state were intertwined and the average colonist was expected to adhere to established orthodoxies.

Mrs. Hutchinson was termed a “leper” and banished to Rhode Island in 1638. There she worked with Roger Williams who had also been exiled from Massachusetts.

Given the difficulty in taking a hard stand that exists to this day, it’s nearly impossible the imagine the type of personality and the extent of courage it took for a woman to risk banishment in a wilderness nearly 400 years ago. 

Mrs. Hutchinson gave birth to 14 children. Her husband, a cloth merchant, was said to have been supportive. To what extent he was supportive, I do not know.

The above picture is of Mrs. Hutchinson facing trial for her views in Massachusetts. The painting was done by Edwin Austin Abbey.        

Here is a post I wrote on John Cotton Of Massachusetts Bay Colony.  

(New —Please check out my Roger Williams post On Texas Liberal.)    

September 1, 2007 Posted by | Art, Colonial America, History | , | 9 Comments

Regulate Houston Strip Joints—Sex Belongs In The Home


A recent federal court ruling strongly boosts efforts by the City of Houston to force strip clubs and other sex related business places to relocate if they are proximate to a school, church, day-care center or park.This ruling is expected to force the closure of at least some of these operations. 

I wish the nearest sexually orientated business were orbiting Jupiter. Sex belongs in the home. Or at least in a car between consenting persons.

I’m an ideologue and ideologues are often puritanical. Instead of being at the strip joint, what people need to be doing is liberating themselves and fighting for their rights.

Or at least reading a book.  

(What rights am I fighting for with the time I spend following baseball? None of your damn business—That’s the rights I’m fighting for.)

Also, the official line on my mother’s side is that my family is off the Mayflower. (How I miss most stores being closed on Sundays as they were when I was a kid in Rhode Island.)  So these impulses are in my blood.

But the story does not end there. The family tree is also said to include that great religious dissenter Roger Williams—The Founder of Rhode Island.

Williams (image above) wanted nothing to do with the ruling clergy of Massachusetts.

I can have puritan leanings and be a free thinker at one time. Politics is both circumstance and imagination.

I see the world as it is, consider the past, imagine the future, and self-create my political identity within those parameters. I have plenty of leeway within those parameters.

This self-creation is how I can be an ideologue and mentally flexible at the same time. If you don’t go with the flow you’ll have fewer friends. If you have strong views and can go with the flow your friends will think all the more of you.

So yeah….I have a right-leaning view on strip joints and at the same time I’m a Paul Wellstone Democrat.

It’s all in the mind.       

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

John Cotton Of Massachusetts Bay Colony—Still Worth Study After 400 Years


I’ve begun reading The Colonial Mind 1620-1800 by Vernon Parrington.

Professor Parrington taught English at the University of Washington. He died in 1929. The Colonial Mind was published in 1927. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928. 

I have some observations and reactions to Parrington’s chapter on John Cotton of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

John Cotton lived from 1584 until 1652. A deeply religious man, Cotton moved in his lifetime from religious liberalism to orthodoxy. He arrived in Boston from England in 1633. He wanted to practice his vision of faith in a new world. Though here, I’m not as interested in Cotton’s religion as in other aspects of his life.

Parrington writes that according to Cotton’s grandson, “Twelve hours in a day he commonly studied, and would call that a scholar’s day.”

What a wonderful life.

Writes Parrington—“But however much he loved cloistered scholarship, the immediate source of his great influence was the spoken word rather than the written word” 

Consider that Socrates did not leave behind one written word. Nor did Jesus. And, of course, in our day-to-day lives we have the ability to carefully choose our words and have influence with others.

And how about that despite his love for books, Cotton was also out with the people. He had that right on both counts. You’ve got to get out there and make your views known.

Writes Parrington— He seems to have been an altogether lovable person….gentle-voiced, courteous, tactful, by nature “a tolerant man”… (who) gladly discovered a friend in an antagonist.

I wonder what self-discipline went into constructing that personality. Or is it natural in some?

Writes Parrington—He was not a man to persecute and harry, nor was he one to stand in isolated opposition to associates he respected, and he allowed himself to be coerced by narrower minded men…”

I guess choose your friends wisely has always been true. Peer pressure is not just about teenagers.

Writes Parrington— “….His frequent tacking in the face of adverse winds is characteristic of the intellectual who sees all sides of a question.” 

I get that. This is a reason why I think it’s important to sometimes embrace silly and even irrational impulses at times. Not everything is about thinking stuff out. Hence the saying. “analysis is paralysis” 

Writes Parrington—“If John Cotton…was a confirmed aristocrat….he was at the same time a social revolutionary who would….refashion society upon ethical rather than economic lines.” 

Somewhat like Martin Luther King in these aspects.

Writes Parrington—How easy it is for good men, in the presence of the new and strange, to draw back in timid reaction; and failing to understand, or fearing for their prestige, to charge upon the new and strange a host of evils that exists only in their panic imaginations!

I don’t think any of us can say we are immune to this kind of reaction no matter how open-minded we picture ourselves. 

9/28/07—Please Check out Roger Williams post on Texas Liberal.  

August 15, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Books, Colonial America, History, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Here is  the weekly posting of the  Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. TPA members are citizen-bloggers working for a better Texas.

Every Texan and every American has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and to run for public office.

The work of freedom is up to each of us.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is concerned that the frivolous issues the Tea Party Republicans scream about — and boo and cheer about at their debates — are a complete distraction from the serious problems facing America. Character slaughter in the battle for a Republican presidential candidate does not demonstrate who the best candidate may be, so Divided and Apathetic We Fall. 

In addition to all of the redistricting litigation, the state of Texas has also filed a lawsuit to get the odious voter ID law precleared. Off the Kuff has a look.

Texas always ranks high on the list of “business friendly” states. WCNews at Eye On Williamson says It’s time for Texas to become a top 10 state for the rest of us. Continue reading

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up W/16th Century Cattle Rustling Painting

Here is the weekly posting of the most recent Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. The round-up is at the bottom of this post.

With the round-up this week is a 16th-century painting of cattle rustling.

You think of cattle rustling and cattle raids as something that took place in Texas and in the old west back in cowboy days.

But people have been raiding cattle for a long time.  I guess stealing cattle is good way to get some steak.

The painting above depicts a scene from the Swabian War. This is a war that took place in Germany and Austria in 1499. I had never heard of this war until this evening.

The artist is Luzerner Schilling. Artist Schilling completed this painting in 1513.

The excellent Handbook of Texas Online has facts on cattle rusting in Texas.

From the Handbook—

“Most rustlers of the open-range era were cowboys who had drifted into dubious practices. They knew the cattle country and were adept at roping, branding, and trailing. One needed only to buy a few cows, register a brand, and begin branding strays. Many cowboys’ herds increased so rapidly that some ranchmen refused to hire any hand who had stock of his own. The altering of brands was a frequent practice among rustlers. Instead of the stamp iron used by most cattlemen, the rustler used a running iron-a straight rod with a curve at the heated end. When this was outlawed, he sometimes used a piece of heavy wire that he could bend into any shape and carry in his pocket.”

Here is a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle story about cattle rustling in modern day California.

Here is the round-up. None of these posts have been rustled. The bloggers wrote them on their own.

Last week TXsharon at BLUEDAZE made a video statement at the EPA public hearing on the proposed ozone standards.

Who needs a proctologist when you have former state representative Rick Green running for the Texas Supreme Court? John Coby at Bay Area Houston has a bigger-than-usual pain in his ass.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy looks at the voter turnout in the Bryan and College Station municipal elections and has to ask the question: does minority rule? Teddy also unpacks the misleading poll on health care reform that the Chamber of Commerce commissioned to attack Democrats in conservative congressional districts. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know why monuments to racism and fear are so important to Republicans. Why not spend taxpayer dollars on something constructive like education or health care?

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the continuation of skyrocketing homeowners insurance rates in Texas: Homeowners insurance corporations – increasing our pain while Perry, GOP sit idly by. Continue reading

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments