Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Statue of Historic Figure: Roger Williams - Providence, RI

Roger Williams 
Providence, RI

N 41° 47.111 W 071° 24.998

Quick Description: 

A statue of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, is located in Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island.

Long Description:

A monument to the founder of the state of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations is located in Roger Williams Park. A 7.5' high bronze statue of Roger Williams, created by Franklin Simmons and cast at Royal Foundry, stands on a 16' high base. Roger Williams is wearing colonial clothing and has shoulder length hair. In his left hand he is holding a book. Inscribed on the book are the words "Soul  Liberty". His right hand is extended outward.

At the front of the base is the female figure of Clio, the muse of History. Clio is wearing a draped robe and sandals. Her right arm is extended, and appears to be in the act of completing the inscription: Roger Williams 1636

Roger Williams was born in London, England, probably in 1603. Originally a member of the Church of England, he became a Puritan and thereby gave up any chance for a position in the Anglican Church. He graduated from Cambridge University, married Mary Barnard in 1629, and, together, they emigrated to Boston in 1631.

He soon found himself in disagreement with the prevailing Puritan philosophy regarding religious freedom and the relationship between church and state. He believed that the Church of England was corrupt beyond redemption, espoused freedom of choice in the practice of religion, and espoused complete separation of church and state. In 1635 he was ordered to appear before the General Court of Massachusetts to explain his erroneous and dangerous opinions. As a result, the Court declared that he should be removed from his church position. Later that same year he was tried and convicted of sedition and heresy.

In 1636, Roger Williams and a number of his followers attempted to leave Massachusetts by settling near Plymouth; but they were told that they were still in Massachusetts and that they must move west beyond the Seekonk River, which was beyond the Massachusetts Bay charter. They went to Narragansett territory where they purchased land from the native Narragansetts. Roger Williams named the settlement "Providence" because he felt that God's Providence had brought him there. He declared it to be a haven for those distressed of conscience and soon many other like-minded dissenters took up settlement.

In 1647, the four towns around Narragansett Bay - Newport and Portsmouth located on the island of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations of Providence and Warwick on the mainland, united to form a single government under the principle of liberty of conscience. The colony became a safe haven for people persecuted for their beliefs including: Baptists, Quakers, and Jews. In 1654, Roger Williams was elected the President of the colony.

Roger Williams died on April 1, 1683. What was believed to be his remains were located in 1860 and placed in a mausoleum in the North Burial Ground. Before the 300th anniversary of the founding of Providence in 1936, the remains were retrieved from the mausoleum and placed in an urn kept by the Rhode Island Historical Society. They were placed in a monument erected in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration at Prospect Terrace Park in Providence.

This statue is the subject of the United States stamp issued in 1936 to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations.

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