By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

Roger Williams Through the Eyes of Governor John Winthrop, Pt. 2

By Michael Alan Prestwood

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John Winthrop Journal 1636-1644; Analysis of Roger Williams

  • Part 1: 1630-Jan 1636 — with quotes and clips from journal published in 1790.
  • Part 2: 1636-1644 — with quotes and clips from journal published in 1790.
  • Part 3: 1645-1649 — with quotes from journal published in 1908.


John Adam’s Copy of Journal, Published 1790

In part 2, I pick up from part 1 of this article, I will use the rest of the clips from this edition through 1644.

April 12, 1636: R.W. mentioned, his old members still dissenting

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Tuesday April 12, 1636 Julian (mo. 2) = Tuesday April 22, 1636 modern Gregorian (mo. 4).

Governor: Sir Henry Vane the Younger; Deputy Governor: John Winthrop (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

After R.W. was banished, his members that stayed behind still dissented.

“The church of Salem was still infected with Mr. Williams…opinions…most of them held it unlawful to hear…assemblies in England, because their foundation was antichristian…; and some went so far as they were ready to separate from the church…the church sent two brethren and a letter to the elders of the other churches for their advice in three points.
1. …promise to hear in any false church–this was not thought safe…
2. …grant them…to be a church by themselves. This was also opposed…
3. Whether they ought then to excommunicate them if they did withdraw. This was granted, yet…if they did not withdraw or run into contempt, they ought in these matters of difference of opinion…bear each…other.”

Pages 99 and 100 clips:

July 26, 28, and 30, 1636: Death of Oldham Starts Pequot War

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Tuesday July 26, Thursday 28, and Saturday 30, 1636 Julian = same days of the week August 5, 7, and 9th of 1636 modern Gregorian.

Governor: Sir Henry Vane the Younger; Deputy Governor: John Winthrop (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

The death of Mr. Oldham was the beginning of eh Pequot War. Notice Williams is in the middle trying to negotiate. It’s been less than six months and he is already working with those that banished him. The colonies were vulnerable. Had the Pequots succeeded in forming a union with the Narragansetts, the English colonies would have fallen. Roger Williams deserves the credit for keeping the Narragansett tribe on the side of the colonists which no doubt saved the colonies.

Pages 103-104 clip:

August 24, 1636: R.W. Holds an Escaped Indian Warrior

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Wednesday August 24, 1636 Julian = Wednesday September 3, 1636 modern Gregorian.

Governor: Sir Henry Vane the Younger; Deputy Governor: John Winthrop (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

Notice this clip comes after the following clip. It’s clear John Winthrop wanted to go back and record the beginning of the war.

Correction Note: In this passage, R.W. says they are at war, in the 1908 edition, it says they were at truce.

Page 108 clip:

August 26, 1636: R.W. Holds an Escaped Indian Warrior

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Friday August 26, 1636 Julian = Friday September 5, 1636 modern Gregorian.

Governor: Sir Henry Vane the Younger; Deputy Governor: John Winthrop (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

Page 105 clip:

October 21, 1636: RW Enlisted as Peace Maker and Interpreter

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Friday October 21, 1636 Julian = Friday October 31, 1636 modern Gregorian.

Governor: Sir Henry Vane the Younger; Deputy Governor: John Winthrop (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

Now, safely out of their jurisdiction, you can tell by this entry that Roger Williams has re-earned the trust and respect of those that banished him and forced him into the freezing winter just 10 months prior.

“In the morning we met again, and concluded the peace upon the articles underwritten, which the Governor subscribed, and they also subscribed with their marks, and Cutshamakin also. But because we could not well make them understand the articles perfectly, we agreed to send a copy of them to Mr. Williams who could best interpret them to them. So after dinner they took leave, and were conveyed out of town by some musketeers and dismissed with a volley of shot.”

Page 109 clip:


Note: This is 7 years before Williams publishes his 1643 Book, “A Key Into the Language of America”. The first book to help the English communicate better with Native Americans. In the book, he documents the Narragansett culture and language. This 17th century book describes the Native American languages in the New England area (largely Narragansett, an Algonquian language).

May 24, 1637: R.W. Letters Document Battles of the War

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Wednesday May 24, 1637 Julian = Wednesday June 3, 1637 modern Gregorian.

Governor: John Winthrop; Deputy Governor: Thomas Dudley (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

Note: Winthrop and Dudley are back as the Massachusetts Bay Colony governor and deputy governor for 7 days as of this entry.

This is in the middle of the Pequot War. The English and the Narragansett tribe were fighting against the mighty warring Pequot tribe.

“By letters from Mr. Williams we were certified…that Capt. Mason …[went] to Saybrook with eighty English and one hundred Indians; and that the Indians had…met with seven Pequots; five they killed; one they took alive, whom the English put to torture; and set [the rest of] all their heads upon the fort. The reason was, because they had tortured such of our men as they took alive.”

May 25, 1637:

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Thursday May 25, 1637 Julian = Thursday June 4, 1637 modern Gregorian.

Governor: John Winthrop; Deputy Governor: Thomas Dudley (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony. )

Roger Williams kept the Narragansetts allied with the English. In this entry, you can see the Pequot Indians had the upper hand and Williams was sent out to both discover what was going on as well as calm the Narragansett and keep them on the English side.

“…the English, and two hundred of the [Narragansett] Indians, were cut off in their retreat, for want of powder…Three days after, this was confirmed…But, three days after, Mr. Williams, having gone to the Narragansetts to discover the truth, found them mourning…”

June 3, 1637: R.W. War News

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Saturday June 3, 1637 Julian = Saturday June 13, 1637 modern Gregorian.

Governor: John Winthrop; Deputy Governor: Thomas Dudley (Titles for Massachusetts Bay Colony.  )

The governor in the following clip is William Bradford. It was through Roger Williams that the Narragansetts were held firm to the English

Upon the news from Mr. Williams, that the Pequots were dispersed, and some come in and submitted to the Narragansetts, (who would not receive them before he had sent to know our mind,) the governor and council thought it needless to send so many men, and therefore sent out warrants only for one half of the two hundred ; but some of the people hked not of it, and came to the governor to have all sent. He took it ill; and though three of the ministers came with them to debate the matter, he told them, that if any one, discerning an error in the proceedings of the council, had come, in a private manner, to acquaint him therewith, etc., it had been well done; but to come, so many of them, in a public and popular way, was not well, and would bring authority into contempt. This they took well at his hands, and excused their intentions.

March 15, 1637/8: John Greene Retracts His Submission

English Double Date: 15 Mar 1637/8 is 15 Mar 1638 (month 3); and 15 Mar 1637 (month 1).

Julian to Gregorian: John’s Thursday March 15, 1637/8 Julian (month 1) = Thursday March 25, 1638 modern Gregorian (month 3).

Governor: John Winthrop; Deputy Governor: Thomas Dudley

The John Greene mentioned below is likely Dr. John Greene the first medical professional at Providence Plantations, and the direct-line ancestor of General Nathaniel Greene of the Revolutionary War.

When Roger Williams was banished, John Greene was one of those that came forward and accused the colony of persecuting Williams and usurping the power of Christ. As was most common, when brought before the magistrates, he retracted his accusation. Later, when safely settled in Providence, he set a letter retracting his retraction. The Massachusetts colony then put out a general order to arrest anybody from Providence in their jurisdiction and bring them to any magistrate. If they agree with Mr. Greene’s accusation that they should not have banished Roger Williams, they are to be warned and sent out of the jurisdiction. If they return, they will be arrested and imprisoned.

“…there came a letter, directed to the court, from John Greene of Providence, who, not long before, had been imprisoned and fined, for saying that the magistrates had usurped upon the power of Christ in his church, and had persecuted Mr. WilHams and another, whom they had banished for disturbing the peace by divulging their opinions against the authority of the magistrates, etc.; but upon his submission, etc., his fine was remitted; and now, by his letter, he retracted his former submission, and charged the court as he had done before. Now, because the court knew, that divers others of Providence were of the same ill affection to the court, and were probably suspected to be confederate in the same letter, the court ordered, that, if any of that plantation were found within our jurisdiction, he should be brought before one of the magistrates, and if he would not disclaim the charge in the said letter, he should be sent home, and charged to come no more into this jurisdiction, upon pain of imprisonment and further censure.”

August 3, 1638: Great Hurricane, and Trial of 3 English for the Murder of an Indian

Highlighted in yellow is a documented hurricane. Not much to do with R.W., but likely hit Providence hard and interesting.

In the days prior, Arthur Peach and 2 other English wounded an Indian in the belly who escaped and died in front of Roger Williams (see Winthrop journal). Roger Williams testified that the Indian was dead. Mr James too. Then two Indians who were in fear of their lives also testified. They believed the English wanted to kill all Indians.

Immediately upon the end of he trial, all 3 were executed and 2 of them died “penitently”.

“In the night was a very great…hurricane at S. W. which drove a ship on ground…[knocked] down the windmill…and did much other harm. It flowed twice in six hours, and about Narragansett it raised the tide 14 or 15 [feet]…

… The sachem complained to our friends of Connecticut, who wrote us about it, and sent Capt. Mason, with seven men, to require satisfaction. The governor of the Massachusetts wrote also to Mr. Williams to treat with Miantonomoh about satisfaction, or otherwise to bid them look for war.”

Note: I included the entire entry here because it reads like a story.

December 1638: R.W. Orders Conscience Liberty, and Women’s Rights

By December 1638, word has been received by his old colony that R.W. indeed did follow through with his promise to create a jurisdiction that condemned persecution for conscience. He promoted freedom of and from religion, as well as any thought that did not harm others. This mindset directly supports freedom of speech. You can tell that John Winthrop

“At Providence…the devil was not idle. …Mr. Williams…did make an order, that no man should be molested for his conscience,”

R.W. also ordered that everybody had religious liberty. For example, husbands cannot control wives and forbid them from going to the church of their choosing.

“now men’s wives, and children, and servants, claimed liberty…to go to all religious meetings…because one Verin refused to let his wife go to Mr. Williams so oft as she was called for, they required to have him censured.”

The issue also spilled over to women’s liberation. R.W. supported the wives equal rights. Many even in Providence wanted their wives to submit to their will no matter what.

“But there stood up one Arnold…telling them that, when he consented to that order, he never intended it should extend to the …submission of wives to their husbands”

March 16, 1639:


Seal of Ezekiel Holiman. Created by MP from a pencil drawing in the “Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, vol 15”.

Katherine Marbury Scott who is the younger sister of Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan spiritual leader, moved to Providence in 1638 likely for religious freedom. She was a Baptist like Roger Williams. Many fleeing other colonies because of religious persecution ended up in Providence and if they were in line with the Baptist faith, Roger Williams would rebaptize them.

“At Providence things grew still worse; for a sister of Mrs. Hutchinson, the wife of one Scott, being infected with Anabaptistry, and going last year to live at Providence, Mr. Williams…emboldened…her to… [get] rebaptized by… [Ezekiel] Holiman… Then Mr. Williams rebaptized him and some ten more.”

In support of true liberty of conscience, Roger Williams believed that one had to have the ability to fully understand what it means to join one religion or another. The following note from John Winthrop documents this sentiment.

“They also denied the baptizing of infants, and would have no magistrates.”

July 1639: R.W. Questions Faith. Switch to Baptism?

Roger Williams questioned his Protestant faith at least once. I believe Roger Williams switched from Protestant to the Baptist faith between March and July 1639. This July Winthrop entry documents this time period.

“At Providence… Mr. Williams…came to question his second baptism [second faith], not being able to derive the authority of it…he conceived God would raise up some apostolic power…expecting…to become an apostle; and…a little before, refused communion with all, save his own wife, now he would preach to and pray with all…”

September 1640: When Summoned, Indians Request R.W.

This passage demonstrates the strain between the English and natives. When confronted, the Indians were respectful but when asked to return with them, the Indians said only if Williams escorts them. The English refused, and two stayed behind.

“There was some rumor of the Indians plotting mischief against the English; …that the Narragansett sachem, Miantonomoh, had sent a great present of wampum to the Mohawks, to aid him against the English… The…council gave no great credit to these suspicions, yet they thought fit to…strengthening the watches in all towns, and…sent Capt. Jenyson…to the Narragansett sachems, to know the truth of their intentions…They denied all confederations with the Mohawks…and professed their purpose to continue friendship with us…and promised to come to Boston…if Mr. Williams might come with him, (but that we had denied). Only Janemoh, the Niantick sachem refused to come…”

April 13, 1641:

Interesting story about Mr. Larkham and Mr. Knowles. Both ministers. Knowles was the established minister, but Larkham was rich, and new. He persuaded the members to make him their minister and kicked out Knowles. Knowles still had some followers and continued holding service elsewhere. After a short time, the people grew tired of Larkham and no longer wanted him. Knowles and the people then excommunicated Larkham. Larkham got very upset and attacked Knowles violently.

Knowles gathered himself and his friends and marched toward Larkham’s home. Knowles was armed with a pistol. One of his foot soldiers made a flag of a bible for the march. Others joined with Larkham and they sent for the notorious and combative Captain Underhill. They were ready to fight. But, when Knowles and his gang approached, Larkham sent for Roger Williams. Williams sat as judge and found Captain Underhill and his gang guilty of a riot.

“There fell out much trouble about this time…Mr. Knowles had gathered a church…

Afterwards there came…Mr. Larkham, who had been a minister at Northam…in England…being a man of good parts and wealthy, the people…cast off Mr. Knowles their pastor…to choose him…he [Mr. Larkham] …fell into contention with the people…there soon grew sharp contention between him [Mr. Larkham] and Mr. Knowles, to whom the more religious still adhered, whereupon they were divided into two churches.

Mr. Knowles and his company excommunicated Mr. Larkham, and he again laid violent hands upon Mr. Knowles.

In this heat it began to grow to a tumult, some…joined with Mr. Larkham and…fetch[ed] Capt. Underhill…and he [Knowles] also gathered some of the neighbors to defend himself, and to see the peace kept…they marched forth towards Mr. Larkham’s, one carrying a Bible upon a staff for an ensign, and Mr. Knowles with them armed with a pistol.

When Mr. Larkham and his company saw them…they…sent to Mr. Williams, …who came up with a company of armed men and beset Mr. Knowles’ house, where Capt. Underhill then was, and there they kept a guard upon them night and day, and…called a court, and Mr. Williams sitting as judge, …found Capt. Underhill and his company guilty of a riot…”

January 1641: Samuel Gorton and his Gortonites

Samuel Gorton started a following around this time that became the Gortonites, or Gortonists. Massachusetts Bay threatened him with the death penalty, but settled on whipping Gorton followed by banishment. He ended up in the tolerant Providence with his Gortonites. The Gortonites were too rowdy even for the folks in Providence. Samuel Gorton’s intolerance of others tolerance caused him to be banned even from Providence!

“Those of Providence, being all anabaptists, were divided in judgment; some were only against baptizing of infants ; others denied all…churches…of which Gorton…was their instructor…

…they came armed into the field, each against other, but Mr. Williams pacified them…

This occasioned the weaker party [the Gortonites] to write a letter…to our governor…complaining of the wrongs they suffered, and desiring aid, or, …counsel…

We answered…that we could not levy any war…without a general court. For counsel we told them…[to] submit…to some jurisdiction, either Plymouth or ours [Massachusetts Bay]…”

June 20, 1643: R.W. and Kieft’s War

In about late January of 1643, a skirmish between the Dutch and the Mohawk tribe broke out. A drunk Indian killed an old Dutchman. The Dutch wanted to put the Indian on trial, but he could not be found. Rather than proceeding with an investigation, as usual, the Europeans decided to massacre some Indians. The Dutch attacked and killed about 30 Mohawk Indians. A Dutch Captain William Kieft heard about the skirmish and got a commission from the Virginia governor to kill as many Mohawks as he can. He massacred about 80 men, women, and children bringing the total dead on the Mohawk side to about 110. To say the least, the investigation into a homicide was not going well.

The Mohawks retaliated by burning several farms, killing cattle, and killing about 20 men, women, and children. They successfully pushed the Dutch back to their fort who were forced to call in the English for aid.

Captain Underhill was sent to meet with the Dutch and was so upset and disgusted at the Dutch and Governor for their actions. Captain Underhill felt the Governor made a mistake in hiring Captain William Kieft to kill as many Indians as he can including women and children. Both captains, Underhill and Kieft, met with the Governor. The meeting did not go well. A subordinate of the governor killed a subordinate of Captain Underhill when he pulled out a gun and tried to shoot the governor. The shot barely missed only because someone jumped at the shooter as he shot. Captain Underhill survived the encounter, but was put in prison. The head of Captain Underhill’s subordinate was then displayed on the gallows.

The governor then had to have protection during the rest of the war, the governor had to have as many as 50 soldiers around him anywhere he went because of surprise attacks.

Roger Williams played an early role in the Kieft’s War. Luckily for all, the famed Roger Williams was in New Netherland, now New York, to catch a ship back to England when he heard of the skirmish and massacre–likely in early February 1643. He skillfully negotiated a peace treaty between the Dutch and the Native Americans. If this was the end of the story, then Williams would be a hero. Unfortunately the peace did not hold. Williams left on a ship for England as planned, and right on queue, entitled racist Europeans broke the peace and attacked the Indians again on 23 Feb 1643. This lead to a two year war with many casualties on both sides.

The native attacks caused many Dutch settlers to return to Europe. The Dutch West India Company’s confidence in its ability to control its territory in the New World was shaken. In 1647, Captain Kieft was called back to the Netherlands to answer for his crimes, but he died at sea when the ship he was on sank.

In the following first Kieft War entry in the journal, Winthrop writes about how Williams saved the day…little did he know, by the time he was writing this enty, the Dutch in New York had already slaughtered about 110 Mohawk men, women, and children.

“The Indians…of Long Island took part with [the Mohawk Tribe], …as the Dutch took away their corn, …so [the Indians] fell to burning the Dutch houses. But these, by the mediation of Mr. Williams, who was then there to go in a Dutch ship for England, were pacified, and peace re-established between the Dutch and them. At length they came to an accord of peace with the rest of the Indians also.”

September 17, 1644: R.W. Returns from England with the First R.I. Charter

Lady La Tour and Roger Williams arrived this day. Were they on the same ship? Did Roger Williams and Lady La Tour spend six months at sea?

“The Lady La Tour arrived here from London in a ship commanded by Captain Bayley. They had been six months from London, having spent their time in trading about Canada…

Here arrived also Mr. Roger Williams of Providence, and with him two or three families. He brought with him a letter from divers lords and others of the parliament, the copy whereof ensueth.”

Upon this return, Roger Williams had just published his first book, “A Key Into the Language of America”, as well as his most famous book, “The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution”. He wrote Key on the voyage to England, and Bloudy after arriving in London in midsummer 1643. It was on sale by July 15, 1644.

Personal Note: I wonder if Roger Williams presented a copy of both books to John Winthrop?

The ensuing letter demonstrates the respect in which Roger Williams was held.

“Our much honored Friends:

Taking notice, some of us of long time, of Mr. Roger Williams his good affections and conscience, and of his sufferings by our common enemies and oppressors of God’s people, the prelates, as also of his great industry and travail in his printed Indian labors in your parts, the like whereof we have not seen extant from any part of America, and in which respect it hath pleased both houses of Parliament freely to grant unto him and friends with him a free and absolute charter of civil government for those parts of his abode and withal sorrowfully resenting, that amongst good men (our friends) driven to the ends of the world, exercised with the trials of a wilderness, and who mutually give good testimony each of other, as we observe you do of him and he abundantly of you, there should be such a distance; we thought it fit, upon divers considerations, to profess our great desires of both your utmost endeavors of nearer closing, and of ready expressing of those good affections, which we perceive you bear each to other, in the actual performance of all friendly offices; the rather because of those bad neighbors you are like to find too near unto you in Virginia, and the unfriendly visits from the West of England and from Ireland : that howsoever it may please the Most High to shake our foundations, yet the report of your peaceable and prosperous plantations may be some refreshing to

Your true and faithful friends,”


Continue or Go Back…

  • Part 1: 1630-Jan 1636 — with quotes and clips from journal published in 1790.
  • Part 2: 1636-1644 — with quotes and clips from journal published in 1790.
  • Part 3: 1645-1649 — with quotes from journal published in 1908.

By Mike Prestwood
Natural Philosopher

Mike’s throwback title simply means he writes about philosophy, science, critical thinking, and history with a focus on exploring boundaries and intersections. While his focus is on our rational ideas about empirical observations, he does enjoy dabbling in the irrational. His exploration of the empirical led him to develop his Idea of Ideas which allows him to understand what is empirical, rational, and irrational as well as to easily understand what is empirically true, rational true, and irrationally false.

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