Genuine Historical Figures Become More Realistic Thanks To Works Of Fiction
The separation of church and state is a topic as passionately discussed today as it was nearly 400 years ago. Every American has their own view on how much influence a specific religion should have on the legal system, in the workplace, and in schools. This topic cannot be discussed without mentioning Roger Williams. He was the founder of Rhode Island and one of the earliest and most insistent advocates for separating the church from government.
Williams was not anti-religion. In fact, he was extremely devout and worked as a preacher and minister during his lifetime. He was also a supporter of Native American rights. This did not always please political leaders in Massachusetts, where he was living at the time. It was this and his religious views that led to Williams being banished from the state and seeking refuge in the territory that later becomes Rhode Island. Williams was a Pietist and wrote in defense of his own beliefs as a Reformed Baptist. It was his concise writings and staunch support of the separation of church and state that influenced many of the men crafting the U.S. Constitution.
The story of Williams and his years in New England has been told in many non-fiction history books. What may surprise some is how he has also become a prominent figure in fiction novels as well. His birth in London and his initial career as a clerk to jurist Sir Edward Coke are factual events that feature in these tales. Some base the story on his years in his new home and others focus on his early, formative years. All include genuine historical fact blended with era-appropriate assumptions of events and the feelings of the interesting lead character.
Roger Williams witnessed the worst of what can happen when the government enforces rules according to religion. He saw heretics tortured and burned at the stake in his native England prior to his journey to the Colonies and his defiance of traditional church teachings forced him to leave England for his new home. The images of the torture and death remained with him and helped to solidify his beliefs. Despite the treatment he received in the New World he still hoped for something better from the young, growing nation. He never relinquished his beliefs or his efforts to convince others of the importance of keeping government separate from the church. He was also a man of his word, choosing to purchase the land that becomes Rhode Island from two Indian Chiefs as opposed to taking it by force as many others had before him. Historical fiction novels of his life help to educate readers of what life was like in America during the 1600s and helps to keep the topic lively, imaginative, and entertaining.