*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 8th of July 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Back to the colonies today and the smallest of them all, Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations. Which you may remember as the trivia question: which state has the longest name (which is ironically the smallest in the area). Except this changed in November of 2020. I am sorry to report that Rhode Island, not only is it not an island, it has dropped the “Providence Plantations” part. And so the longest name goes to Massachusetts. And it is possibly ironic and a little cruel that the Rhode Islanders would be beat out by their old rivals.
You may remember that Rhode Island began as a colony of exiles from the original Massachusetts Bay colony. The land was led by the likes of Roger Williams Anne Hutchinson and those who took religious freedom seriously or, too seriously according to those who sent them into exile.)
We’ve discussed both Williams and Hutchinson on this show before. The real action was taking place with them in the 1640s.
Put a note here, and let me for the hundredth time on this show remind you about the Stuart Monarchs in England. The first is James. Yes, that King James. The second, after 1625 is called Charles I. He’s the one that is Catholic-friendly and is not too sad to see those troublesome colonists do their business. He grants charters but from a place of power. He lost that power and his head in 1649. After the interregnum, his son becomes King Charles II. He is working from a compromised position and thus we see his charter- the charter to Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations- gives quite a few more freedoms. It is worth noting that this is the last of the Royal Charters given to colonists by the Crown.
And what makes this charter interesting from our perspective is that it was given to a territory that already had a charter. Rhode Island was under the charter for Massachusetts but wanted, once again, to get out from under their thumb.
Thus, Rhode Island petitioned the crown for an independent charter that would reflect the reality of what was happening in that colony. It was on this, the 8th of July in 1663 that the charter for Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations would be granted. And the idea was that it would represent one of the most radical experiments in religious freedom. The text read that “no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be anyway molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and does not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony”.
The charter allowed for the electing of governors and the creation of laws so long as they didn’t contradict general colonial law.
The charter also did something unheard of for the time- it recognized the rights of the natives and the necessity of working treaties out, paying them for land, and a general peace to be held between them. Rhode Island became something like a neutral location for other colonists and native Tribes to hash out agreements. It wasn’t perfect- but ditching the doctrine of discovery was a big deal (that was the old idea that Christians could take any land not inhabited by other Christians).
You probably know versions of the story of what happened to Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations on its way to statehood but we do well to reflect on the land of Roger Williams and religious freedom, and of course this unlikely Charter granting the most radical religious freedoms known yet on either side of the British Atlantic divide. That Charter was announced on this, the 8th of July in 1663.
The last word for today comes from the book of Acts.
Paul and Silas have been imprisoned but an Earthquake shook them free. Their jailer, surprised that they stayed…
Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord[f] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of July 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Rhode Island sports teams include: the Rhode Island Rebels, the Mt. Pleasant Kilties and the Old Money Honeys of the Providence Roller Derby. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a fan of Rhode Island’s own Throwing Muses, I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.