Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father

By Essick, John Inscore | Baptist History and Heritage, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father


Essick, John Inscore, Baptist History and Heritage


Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father. By Linford D. Fisher, J. Stanley Lemons, and Lucas Mason-Brown. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014. 212 pp.

For centuries a "Mystery Book" at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University refused to reveal all its secrets. The work's subtitle is "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians," but the title, author, and publication date of the book itself are unknown. Even more intriguing is the fact that the margins of many of the pages are filled with cryptic shorthand writing, again without a named author.

Many scholars presumed through the years that the famed Roger Williams (ca. 1603-1683) was the author behind the shorthand-written manuscript, but in 2012 all doubts were put to rest when an interdisciplinary collaborative effort decoded the cryptic shorthand and confirmed Williams' authorship.

Decoding Roger Williams explains the process by which Williams' shorthand code was deciphered, introduces the reader to the polemical context and content of the essay, and provides a critical edition of the short essay itself ("A Brief Reply to a Small Book Written by John Eliot").

The context for Williams' essay was the ongoing trans-Atlantic debate about baptism. John Norcott, an English Baptist minister, wrote what proved to be a popular defense of believer's baptism in 1672. A few years later John Eliot, the well-known minister and missionary to the New England natives, responded to Norcott with a defense of infant baptism titled A Brief Answer to a Small Book Written by John Norcot Against Infant-Baptisme (1679).

Williams, ever the controversialist, even at his advanced age, penned "A Brief Reply" around 1680 as a point-by-point rebuttal to Eliot's case for infant baptism and its role in Eliot's evangelization of Native Americans.

Beyond the obvious significance of discovering a new manuscript and the fascinating historical cryptanalysis that brought it to light, "A Brief Reply" supplements and sharpens what we know of Roger Williams' final years. His refutation of infant baptism employs arguments typical of those convinced of its invalidity, and the entire essay reveals a fundamental continuity between his Baptist period and his later years where believer's baptism is concerned. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.