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  • Roger was born in London to middle class parents in the early 1600s
     
  • He had superior shorthand skills, which led to his position under celebrated jurist Sir Edward Coke
     
  • Under Coke's tutelage, Roger observed his mentor argue for citizens’ rights from a domineering government – which briefly landed Coke in the Tower of London
     
  • After witnessing religious persecution, Roger attempted to limit royal and religious power
     
  • Roger didn't let Mother Nature interfere with his escape attempts: he fled England in 1630 during an Atlantic winter storm, and escaped Massachusetts authorities during the worst winter on colonial record
     
  • Though his faith in God meant more to him than almost anything else, Roger believed that each person must choose to have a relationship with God, or it would stink of hypocrisy. He despised forced worship and advanced the principle that government has no right to compel religious beliefs upon people – which led him to champion the separation of church and state – a concept he pontificated as “soul liberty”
     
  • Roger and John Clarke’s 1663 Rhode Island Colonial Charter marked the first time in history that a monarch consigned to guarantees of religious freedom and to allow the citizens to establish their choice of government
     
  • Providence was purchased in deed and goods from the Native Americans in what historians believe may have been the first legal deed entered upon in the New World
     
  • Unlike his contemporaries who created new societies in New England but retained ownership over all the land, Roger equally parceled out properties in Providence to his compatriots
     
  • While other colonial settlements were built around a state-sanctioned church in the center of town and scripture became the basis for laws, Roger’s Providence did not establish a state church at all, and was the only New World society that divested citizenship from religion
     
  • A prolific writer and linguist, Roger was fluent in Dutch, Hebrew, Latin, Greek and French
     
  • Roger had six children, and his descendants now number in the thousands. Some of them even work and study at RWU! The University Library is also home to the Roger Williams Family Association archive