Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644)

The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution

The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution: burned by Parliamentary order in Britain.

Roger Williams was a minister who was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635. He went on to found the colony of Providence Plantation in Rhode Island, which became known for its progressive laws and religious tolerance. While in London to secure a charter for the new colony, Williams published The Bloudy Tenent in 1644. This work was a discussion of religious tolerance that advocated for separation of church and state. The first part contained a point-by-point rebuttal of an argument made in correspondence by John Cotton, a Boston minister. Williams' attack on Cotton sparked a heated exchange in print between the two men. Cotton replied to him with The Bloudy Tenent Washed and Made White in the Bloud of the Lamb (1647). In 1652, Williams responded with The Bloudy Tenent yet More Bloudy: by Mr. Cotton's Endeavour to Wash it White in the Bloud of the Lamb.

Williams' views on religious tolerance were extremely controversial in England and in the colonies. Many of the original copies of The Bloudy Tenent were burned by Parliamentary order in England immediately after publication, although Williams could not be arrested because he had just sailed back to Rhode Island.

Clements Library copy of The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution