Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty

by John M. Barry


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Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry

A revelatory look at how Roger Williams shaped the nature of religion, political power, and individual rights in America.

For four hundred years, Americans have wrestled with and fought over two concepts that define the nature of the nation: the proper relation between church and state and between a free individual and the state. These debates began with the extraordinary thought and struggles of Roger Williams, who had an unparalleled understanding of the conflict between a government that justified itself by "reason of state"-i.e. national security-and its perceived "will of God" and the "ancient rights and liberties" of individuals.

This is a story of power, set against Puritan America and the English Civil War. Williams's interactions with King James, Francis Bacon, Oliver Cromwell, and his mentor Edward Coke set his course, but his fundamental ideas came to fruition in America, as Williams, though a Puritan, collided with John Winthrop's vision of his "City upon a Hill."

Acclaimed historian John M. Barry explores the development of these fundamental ideas through the story of the man who was the first to link religious freedom to individual liberty, and who created in America the first government and society on earth informed by those beliefs. The story is essential to the continuing debate over how we define the role of religion and political power in modern American life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670023059
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 01/05/2012
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 9.76(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John M. Barry is the prizewinning and New York Times bestselling author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History and Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, among numerous other books. He lives in New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part I The Law 7

Part II The Covenant 79

Part III The New World 145

Part IV The Wilderness 211

Part V The Mission 255

Part VI Soul Liberty 297

Part VII The Test 347

Afterword 388

Acknowledgments 397

Notes 399

Bibliography 427

Index 439

What People are Saying About This

Joe Nocera

"To call it a biography sells it short. What it is, really, is the history of an ideaabout the critical importance of separating church from state. So revolutionary was this idea that it caused Williams to be banished from Massachusetts. . . . Williams created the first place in the Western world where people could believe in any God they wishedor no God at allwithout fear of retribution."

From the Publisher

“Roger Williams is one of those figures, famous but forbidding, who hover at the periphery, imposing, important, indispensable to our history and culture and yet still distant, unknown to most Americans … and yet Williams may be … the one whose breath gives life to modern American culture and whose fingerprints are most evident on the American Constitution. The task of reviving Williams has fallen happily to John M. Barry, chronicler of the great influenza of 1918 and the great Mississippi flood of 1927.”

The Seattle Times

 “Roger Williams deserves our thanks for his courage to fight for religious freedom and individual liberty with his very life at a time when few thought it anything but the rankest heresy. And John Barry deserves our thanks for illuminating this critical and timely chapter of American history … Barry tells the story with passion and an eye for fine detail.”

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Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State and the Path to Liberty 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first discovered information about this book in an article in the 2012 SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE. I was pleased to discover the book is currently available. Today I read a NOOK sample. Currently I am preparing to purchase the book. Roger Williams settled in the Massachusetts colony in 1631. Soon he was questioning the understanding of religious issues stated by John Winthrop. A few years later during a blizzard John Winthrop sent troops to arrest Williams in order to send him back to England. Williams left his home that night. Helped by the Indians he was able to survive. He later became the founder of Rhode Island where liberty was allowed without fear of arrest. He provides an undeerstanding of what religious freedom means: freedom to disagree without fear of imprisonment. I look forward to reading in more detail a further discussion of his conclusions: government involvement with religion corrupst religion and mixing religion with politics results in politics. Considering current political discourse it is a very timely subject. I suggest one read this book to become more knowledgable about the meaning of the first amendment clause regarding freedom of religion. The issue is a very current one and deserves our best understanding of the issue. I know I will.
kturner4 More than 1 year ago
A very informative read about Roger Williams helping to establish democracy in America and trying to get away from some of the conflicting church and state policies having taken place in England, and in being banned from Massachusetts helped set up a new camp in Providence. Thank you for having this in a giveaway program also (advance uncorrected proof) and giving me the chance to win and review this copy:)
TX-LA-MS-CG_Family More than 1 year ago
There aren't many books that I wish would go on and on for 1000 pages but this was one! A great and important book. I recommend it very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Modern news media headlines daily present issues that trace their origins to the thought of Roger Williams. Here was a man whose early llfe experiences and formal education prepared him to fill a unique role in the eventual formulation of doctrines we view today as the underpinning ideals of our American society. Williams developed the concept of separation of church and state, freedom of conscience, and the belief that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. He dwas not the first to express these ideas, but Williams paid dearly for his devotion to his philosophy which he based on Scripture and on his understanding of English common law. The controversy between the intolerance of Puritanism and Williams's willingness to accept the possibility of freedom's resulting in error is reflected in today's political rhetoric contrasting conservative values with more progressive, liberal ideas. Rather than dwelling on presenting a narrative of Williams's banishment from Massachusetts, the author concentrated on the development of Williams's thought and its impact on the development of American society. I recommend this book to those who are still wrestling with the rights of others to hold opposing viewpoints, Tolerance demands that we not only permit free speech, but we show our dedicatiion to liberty by respecting the rights of others to self-expression, particularly when wwe are convinced they are wrong. .. .
JurgenSchulze More than 1 year ago
Barry has created more than a simple biography of Roger Williams. Placing Williams into the context of his time, discussing in some detail the religious nuances, and not shying away from describing in detail the bigotry of the Puritans in Massachusetts shows both skill and a fundamental understanding of the relevant issues. Despite the complex material handled at time, easy to follow and to read. A "must" for any religiously minded household or those who find it difficult to separate religion/church from state.
DFY More than 1 year ago
Roger Williams was a man way ahead of his time. John Barry tells a fascinating tale that weaves together English history, and Roger Williams thought by providing a rich context. Writing style turns what could be a dry history book into a real "page turner".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John Barry’s book provides a good overview of the continuing battle between those that truly believe that Government should be a nursemaid to religion and those that believe these two institutions should be entirely separate. It is a truism that those that write about themselves will be remembered longer. Historically there are some events that are glossed over and other individual contributions are totally omitted. In the end, this is a book about what others have said, but the book is true to it’s basic intent; this is a book that investigates the continuing battle between those that wish the state to have a religious bent and those that believe religion and politics do not mix.