Soul Freedoms, The Life of John Clarke, America’s Forgotten Patriot is a true story about one man’s unwavering belief that we are all born free with innate Soul Liberty, and his self-sacrificing steadfast actions during tumultuous times to ensure religious and civil freedoms for others.
John Clarke was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk County England on October 3, 1609 to a well-to-do family.
John Clarke was a well educated Physician, Baptist Minister, Statesman(Law), Patriot and Benefactor who was modest, kind, sympathetic and loved by most. John is hailed as the true Founder of Newport RI and Founder of the First Baptist Church of Newport. He spoke 4 languages. (English, Greek, Latin and Hebrew)
(John founded the 1st free public school in 1640 and set up a trust, The John Clarke Trust, upon his death April 20, 1676 “for the relief of the poor or bringing up of children unto learning from time to time forever.” It is believed to be the oldest educational trust in the world today).
John held non-conformist progressive ideals for the times. He was passionately driven by his heart-felt belief that no man or government entity has the right to harass or otherwise persecute any person for their religious beliefs. He referred to this as Soul-Liberty or Liberty of Conscience.
In November of 1637, at the age of 28, John along with his young wife Elizabeth and some of his siblings set sail for New England (America) with hopes to experience freedoms that were against the law in Old England.
Not long after John was on shore in America he witnessed the same Religious Intolerance & Persecutions as in Old England. He along with others were met with suspicion, disarmed and banished from “Boston”. In the dead of winter they headed out by foot to find a place where all were welcome regardless of religious beliefs to live in peace together. (Today this place is known as Newport, Rhode Island).
On July 20, 1651, John was arrested and imprisoned along with Obadiah Holmes and John Crandell for holding an illegal worship service at an elderly blind man’s (William Witter) home in Lynn, Mass. His sentence was a steep fine or 20 lashes on the public whipping post. While John was being prepared at the whipping post, a stranger passing by could not bear witness to a preacher-man in such a manner. “I cannot bear to see a scholar, a gentleman and reverend divine flogged.” Against John’s dispute, the court accepted payment of his fine from this stranger and John was released back to Rhode Island.
Obadiah Holmes heard that his fine was to be paid, he refused the kind gesture as he “did nothing wrong in practicing his Christian faith”. He was held in a Boston Jail and on September 5, 1651 Obadiah was whipped mercilessly by a 3 cord rope 30 times on his bare back.
John was incensed, as elected Agent for the Colony of Rhode Island, he along with Roger Williams set sail November 1651 back to England to secure a strengthened charter on religious liberties and colony protections.
John and his companions were sailing towards treacherous times in England. King Charles I was decapitated in 1649 and ruling came largely under Parliament and Oliver Cromwell, known as Lord Protector. While Cromwell wrote a letter in 1655 telling Rhode Island her current patent was safe, there were other hands at play in the midst to revoke the terms.
Supporting himself as a Physician and Minister, John spent 12 years in London. Self-sacrificing, John never lost focus on his duties as the Colony’s Agent to guard their current Patent and to secure wide reaching Religious Freedoms under a self governing autonomous Colony.
Up against many obstacles including risk of treason, John stayed on track with civility
towards his adversaries which gained him mutual respect. Following a number of petitions that previously failed, on July 3, 1663 John Clarke presented a new Charter he wrote to King Charles II.
John’s loyalties to the King, mediation capabilities and statesmanship convinced the King of England to pass with Royal Seal the Charter of 1663 which granted unprecedented Religious Freedom and Civil Liberties to the Colony of Rhode Island.
For the first time in world history, democracy was synonymous with freedom. Further the ground was broken for the United States Constitution and the democratic way of life that would not come until over a century later.