years, he was joined by others, who fled to his asylum.
The land which was now occupied by Williams
, was within the territory of the Narragansett Indians
; it was not long before an Indian deed from Canonicus
made him the undisputed possessor of an extensive domain.
Nothing displays more clearly the character of Roger Williams
than the use which he made of his acquisition, of territory.
The soil he could claim as his ‘own, as truly as any man's coat upon his back;’2
and he ‘reserved to himself not one foot of land, not one title of political power, more than he granted to servants and strangers.’
‘He gave away his lands and other estate to them that he thought were most in want, until he gave away all.’3
He chose to found a commonwealth in the unmixed forms of a pure democracy; where the will of the majority should govern the state; yet ‘only in civil things;’ God alone was respected as the Ruler of conscience.
To their more aristocratic neighbors, it seemed as if these fugitives ‘would have no magistrates’4
for every thing was as yet decided in convention of the people.
This first system has had its influence on the whole political history of Rhode Island
; in no state in the world, not even in the agricultural state of Vermont
, has the magistracy so little power, or the representatives of the freemen so much.
The annals of Rhode Island
, if written in the spirit of philosophy, would exhibit the forms of society under a peculiar aspect: had the territory of the state corresponded to the importance and singularity of the principles of its early existence, the world would have