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Roger Williams

It was an unthinkable idea: a complete separation of church and state. Break the tie between church and state and where would the government get its authority? The answer threatened the Puritan way of life. And that's why in the winter of 1636 the Massachusetts Bay Colony banished a certain preacher with radical opinions named Roger Williams. He fled south into the wilderness with the goal of establishing a new colony of religious tolerance and arranged to buy land from the Narragansett Sachems Cononicus and Miantonomo at the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers. Word spread that this new settlement Williams named Providence was a place where civil power rested in the hands of the people. Those persecuted for their beliefs flocked to Providence, which grew into a prosperous Colonial shipping port. What started out as a radical experiment became the basis of American democracy.

Updated: 08-2013

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