About Roger Williams

July 19th, 2012

Martin E. Marty’s review of Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. Barry ’68 in the January/February 2012 issue raises issues about Williams that are not supported by the book (“Liberty’s Apostle,” Arts & Culture). Marty writes that Williams did not stay long in Providence and that he would have been too restless to pose for a Mt. Rushmore-like monument to religious liberty.

Marty misses the opportunity to mention the International Monument to the Reformation built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Calvin’s birth in Geneva, which Barry describes in his book. This monument includes ten statues, with Calvin in the center and Williams to the right. Barry describes how the inclusion of Williams was the direct result of his extraordinary book, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, Discussed, in a Conference Betweene Truth and Peace. Written in 1644, this work called for true freedom of religion and absolute separation of church and state. This monument recognizes Williams as more than founder of Rhode Island and catalyst for the American tradition of separation of church and state. Also, while the review makes three references to the philosopher Santayana, who is not addressed in Barry’s book, there is no mention of Williams’s fascinating tutelage under his mentor, Edward Coke. The review did not serve as an enticing introduction to Barry’s marvelous book.

Incidentally, in addition to my Brown degree, my grandfather received two degrees from Brown in 1913 and 1916. Through him, I am an eleventh generation direct descendant of Roger Williams. I wonder how many Brown graduates are also descendants of this remarkable man.

Susan P. Colwell ’73
Shrewsbury, Mass.

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Related Issue
July/August 2012