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victed; but if he be unable, then upon the goods of any other of the separatists or Quakers then present. And for the third offense, the offender, being convicted as aforesaid, shall be banished the colony." (Plant. Laws of Va. p. 52.) About the time this law was enacted in Virginia, and before any of the laws of the other colonies which we have cited were abolished, the people of the little colony of Rhode Island, perfectly consistent with their professions from the first settlement of their colony by Roger Williams, caused to be inserted in their charter, obtained from Charles II. in 1665, the grand original idea of religious liberty, which seems since to have been adopted to a considerable extent by nearly every State in the Union, and by some of them entire.
SEC. 8. RHODE ISLAND.-The language of the charter above referred to is as follows: “No person within the said colony, at any time hereafter, shall be any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any difference in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceably and quietly, and not using their liberty to licentiousness and profaneness, or to the civil injury or outward disturbance of others.” The charter fur
ther says that this remarkable liberty of conscience is given to the people of Rhode Island, in order “that there may, in time, by the blessing of God upon their endeavors, be laid a sure foundation of happiness to all America." To show the remarkable strength of the faith of these men in their new theory of religious liberty, which was to be “a sure foundation of happiness to all America,” we transcribe the following law in full from one of their ancient records: “Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the IIoly Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in IIis almighty power to do; that the presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he possesses or renounces this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion which it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though, indeed, those are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he, being of course judge of that tendency, will make his own opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time
enough, for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into open acts against peace and good order; and, finally, that truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless, by human interposition, disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate-errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted to contradict them. And whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors in their migration to this country and settlement of this State was, as they expressed it, 'to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand, and best be maintained with a full liberty in religious concernments:' Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, and by the authority thereof it is enacted, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or minister whatever; nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods; nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to possess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion; and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” (Laws of R. I. 1798, p. 81.) "
. The same principles, in almost the same words, are enunciated in the present Constitution of Rhode Island. (Art. 1, sec. 3.) After being “fourteen weeks sorely tossed in a bitter season, not knowing what bread or bed did mean," at last, in June, 1636, the exiled Roger Williams, with five companions, embarked in a frail Indian canoe to find and found a home for religious liberty. Tradition has marked the spring near which they landed: it is the parent spot, the first inhabited nook of Rhode Island. This place Williams called Providence. “I desired," said he, “it might be for a shelter for persons distressed for conscience,” (1 Bancft. 379 ;) and such a shelter it very soon became. At a time when Germany was a battle-field for all Europe in the implacable wars of religion; when even Holland was bleeding with the anger of vengeful factions; when France was still to go through the fearful struggle with bigotry; when England was gasping under the despotism of intolerance; almost half a century before William Penn became an American proprietary; two years before Descartes founded modern philosophy on the method of free reflection, (1 Bancft. 375;) and nearly a whole century before any of the older American colonies stopped branding, cutting off the ears, boring the tongue with a red-hot iron, banishing, and putting to death for conscience sake-Roger Williams asserted the great doctine of religious liberty, and suffered sorely for it; but afterward had the satisfaction of laying the foundation of an independent state, based on the broad principles of civil and religious liberty, such as the world till then had never seen.