Letter of Roger Williams

In this letter, Roger Williams, founder of the Rhode Island Colony, appeals to Christian concerns and points out the contradiction between the efforts at the conversion of the Indians and the wars that aimed to destroy them.


To the General Court of Massachusetts Bay
October 5, 1654

I humbly pray your consideration, whether it be not only possible, but very easy, to live and die in peace with all the natives of this country.

For, are not all the English of this land, generally, a persecuted people from their native soil? and hath not the GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. of peace and Father of mercies made these natives more friendly in this, than our native countrymen in our own land to us? Have they not entered leagues of love, and to this day continued peaceable commerce with us? Are not our families grown up in peace amongst them? Upon which I humbly ask, how it can suit with Christian ingenuity to take hold of some seeming occasions for their destructions, which, though the heads be only aimed at, yet, all experience tells us, falls on the body and the innocent.

I pray it may be remembered how greatly the name of GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities. is concerned in this affair, for it cannot be hid, how all England and other nations ring with the glorious conversion of the Indians of New England.

Whether I have been and am a friend to the natives’ turning to civility and ChristianityChristianity is the religious tradition of Christians: those who confesses faith in Jesus Christ, follow the path Christ taught, and gather together in the community of the church. and whether I have been instrumental, and desire so to be, according to my light, I will not trouble you with; only I beseech you consider, how the name of the most holy and jealous God may be preserved between the clashings of these two, viz.: the glorious conversion of the Indians in New England, and the unnecessary wars and cruel destructions of the Indians in New England.

[From Letters of Roger Williams, 1632-1682, vol. 6, ed. John Russell Bartlett (Providence: Publications of the Narragansett Club, 1874), 271-2.]