The Five Pillars

Rhode Island founder Roger Williams was a remarkable man. He set the standard for separation of church and state that the nation adopted, and his vision and determination built the “lively experiment” that was and is Rhode Island. Many of his values are more relevant today than ever.

Respect for Others' Beliefs

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Having been banished from Massachusetts Bay, Roger Williams turned his new community into a model of respect for other beliefs, accepting those with whom he did not agree, in religious and political matters, as long as they were good citizens and worked for the good of the colony.


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Learning from Others

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The key to his survival was the fact that he was able to adapt to the world of Narragansett Bay, learning from the Narragansett Indians, including how to speak their language, and how to see the world from their perspective. Earlier in his life, he mastered four languages French, Dutch, Hebrew and Latin. He even maintained a lengthy correspondence with the authorities who had banished him from Massachusetts.

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Learning from the Land

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With help from the Narragansetts, Roger Williams became skillful at living in his unfamiliar new environment. He studied the land and water around Narragansett Bay, and used traditional places like waterfalls and large rocks to mark off the boundaries of his settlement. From the Narragansetts, he also learned fishing and farming techniques, and their strategies of wise land use.

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Williams dared to imagine concepts that did not yet exist. When he arrived here, Rhode Island was a brand new idea, resisted by neighboring colonies, and not yet approved by England. With patience and perseverance, he was able to translate his vision into reality. No other American state owes its origin so completely to one person, inventing a new community, from the ground up.

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The Common Good

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Roger Williams knew that it was not enough to create a colony of free-thinking individuals – for Rhode Island to survive, they needed to work together, for the common good. Despite his own resistance to authority, earlier in his life, he was able to articulate a compelling vision of community, and to persuade others to work toward it. With a pragmatic approach, and a willingness to set an example, he converted his imagined ideal into a working reality.

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