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American history
New England

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

John M. Barry.
Publisher Viking  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.35 x 1.5 inches
ISBN 9780670023059
Pages/Publication Date 464/2012
Daedalus Item Code 36304
This item is not available.
For hundreds of years, Americans have wrestled with the relationship between church and state, and between a free individual and the state. These debates began with the extraordinary thought and political struggles of Roger Williams, the Puritan theologian who advocated a "wall of separation" between church and state and the freedom to worship as one's conscience dictates—ideas so radical in the 1630s that Williams was ejected from Massachusetts and founded his own colony in Rhode Island. John Barry's vibrant, fast-moving history explores how Williams's pioneering theories of government found their way into the Constitution to become an essential—and still contentious—aspect of our national heritage.

"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."—Seattle Times

"Barry traces American separation of church and state back to earliest colonial days, when John Winthrop (1588–1649), first governor of Massachusetts Bay, and Roger Williams (1603–83), founder of Rhode Island, argued over whether government should enforce religious conformity.... Barry likes to get to the roots of his subjects, so he delves farther back about Williams, in particular, to the inspiration he took from his patron Edward Coke, England's greatest jurist, and Coke's bitter rival in government, Sir Francis Bacon. From Coke, Williams garnered faith in the law and due process as well as, through Coke's battles with James I and Charles I, the importance of maintaining the rights of Englishmen (Coke's concept) against divine-right regimes, whether under king or, as in Massachusetts Bay, council. From Bacon, Williams imbibed a penchant for real-world (scientific) testing of beliefs (hypotheses) that led him to launch Rhode Island. Winthrop and Williams were on cordial terms almost to the former's death, which is just one fascinating strand in the swath of history Barry brings to urgent life with the same focused intelligence that distinguished his The Great Influenza."—Booklist (starred review)

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