On this day in 1663 Charles II of England granted John Clarke a Royal charter to Rhode Island.
In November 1651, Clarke traveled to London with Roger Williams to cancel William Coddington’s special patent that made Coddington “Governor for Life” over Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands and to secure a new charter for the colony of Rhode Island.
Having succeeded in getting Coddington’s charter revoked, Williams returned to Rhode Island in 1654, but Clarke stayed in England as the colony’s agent.
When the monarchy was restored in 1660 and Rhode Island’s charter of 1644 was voided, Clarke worked against great odds to obtain a new charter.
On July 8, 1663, Charles II of England granted a Royal Charter to Rhode Island.
Clarke wrote the charter, and it contained an explicit guarantee of religious freedom: “that no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested [harassed], punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually disturb the civil peace of our said colony; but that all and every person and persons may, from time to time, and at all times hereafter, freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments, throughout the tract of land hereafter mentioned, they behaving themselves peaceable and quietly…”
The royal charter’s words are carved on the frieze of the Rhode Island State House: “…to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained…with a full liberty in religious concernments.”
That charter remained the foundation of government in Rhode Island until 1842.