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A Matter of Necessity

God, War, and Providence approaches the story of Roger Williams by exploring the relationship between Puritan Massachusetts and Williams’s Rhode Island, and the relations both colonies had with the Indian tribes inhabiting these regions.

Plymouth Plantation was founded in 1620 by English Separatists.  The plantation system had first been employed in Ireland to subjugate the “Irish savage.”  In New England, the Pilgrim colonists enjoyed many years of peaceful relations with the American savages.  Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoags, could have destroyed the settlement had he wished.  Instead, he sought an alliance with the English for his own interests, “because he hath a potent adversary the Narragansetts, that are at war with him, against whom he thinks we may be some strength to him for our [firearms] are terrible unto them.”  This was a pattern of behavior practiced by the natives to their ruin.

Separatists were distinct from Puritans, declaring complete independence from the Anglican Church.  Puritans who arrived a decade later in huge numbers sought to purify and set an example for the church back home.  They were more educated and upper bourgeois than were the Plymouth brethren.  William Bradford, Plymouth’s governor, described his people as “not acquainted with trades nor traffic, but...

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