m. BEF. 11 Jan 1629/30
Facts and Events
Samuel Gorton (1593–1677), was an early settler and civic leader of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and President of the towns of Providence and Warwick. He was also theologically active, and the leader of a small sect of converts known as Gortonists or Gortonites. He had strong religious beliefs that were contrary to the established Puritan dogma and was very outspoken, and as a result he was frequently in trouble with the civil and church authorities in the New England colonies.
Baptized in 1593 in Manchester, Lancashire, England, Gorton received an education in languages and English law from tutors. In 1637 he emigrated from England, settling first in Plymouth Colony where he was soon ousted for his religious opinions and his demeanor towards the magistrates and ministers. Settling next in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, he met with a similar fate, being whipped for his insubordination towards the magistrates. He next went to Providence, where he once again encountered adverse circumstances until he and a group of others purchased land of the Narragansett people. They settled south of the Pawtuxet River in an area they called Shawomet, later named Warwick. Refusing to answer a summons following the complaints of two Indian sachems about being unfairly treated in a land transaction, Gorton and several of his followers were forcefully taken away to Massachusetts. He was tried for his beliefs and writings, rather than the original supposed infraction, and sentenced to prison in Charlestown, though all but three of the presiding magistrates voted to give him a death sentence.
After being released, Gorton and two of his associates sailed to England where they obtained an official order of protection for his colony from the Earl of Warwick. During his stay in England, he was also very active in the Puritan underground, preaching in churches and conventicles known for their extreme religious positions. Once back in New England, with his settlement of Warwick secure, Gorton became a part of the civil authority that he had previously rejected, serving as an assistant, commissioner, deputy, and president of the two towns of Providence and Warwick. He wrote a number of books, two of them while in England, and several others following his return. A man of great learning and great intellectual breadth, he believed passionately in God, the King, and the individual man, and was harshly critical of the magistrates and ministers who filled positions that were meaningless in his eyes. His beliefs and demeanor brought him admiration from his followers, but great condemnation from those in positions of authority, and he was reviled for more than a century after his death. In more recent times historians and writers have looked upon him much more favorably, and he is now considered one of the great colonial leaders of Rhode Island.
Samuel Gorton was a controversial figure at the beginning of a european America, having been described by his contemporaries as "arch-heretic," "proud and pestilent seducer," a "most prodigous minter of exorbitant novelties," and by Edward Rawson, a secretary to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, - "a man whose spirit was stark drunk with blasphemies and insolences, a corrupter of truth, a disturber of the peace wherever he comes." Another contemporary, Nathan Morton, with whom Gorton had numerous correspondence, says of Gorton "was deeply leavened with blasphemous and familistical opinions."S5
Despite the opinions of his detractors, and having been banished from 4 New England Colonies within 5 years of arrival, Samuel Gorton would serve his town (Warwick RI) and later a united Rhode Island Colony in every major post, including that of President of Rhode Island. It was under his hand that the government of Warwick was specifically declared to be under the rule of English Law, unlike other New England colonies which were a mixture of English and biblical law. He firmly asserted that Englishmen in the Colonies were subject to and enjoyed the protection of the Laws, Rights, and Liberties of Englishmen (an argument which his detractors would later use when their charters were revoked under James II). It would be under his hand that slavery would be abolished in Rhode Island, (Roger William being in England at the time). He identified with many of the ideas of the Quaker, including lay clergy and women in the pulpit.
Samuel lived under the rule of four monarchs, a commonwealth, which was brought about by two ivil wars, and a Lord Protector. He would remember Queen Bess (1503-1603), lived his youth under James I of England, VI of Scotland (1566-1625). His adult life began with Charles I (1600-1649).