October 8. 1609.  John Clarke was born in Suffolk England.   He was a physician, Baptist minister, co-founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, author of its influential charter, and a leading advocate of religious freedom in the Americas.  He arrived in Boston where Baptists were considered heretics and were banned, in 1637 and decided to go to Rhode Island.  but Clarke wanted to make inroads there and spent time in the Boston jail after making a mission trip to the town of Lynn. The fledgling Rhode Island colony needed an agent in England, so Clarke handled the colony’s interests.  All of the other New England colonies were hostile to Rhode Island.  After the restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660, it was imperative that Rhode Island receive a royal charter to protect its territorial integrity. It was Clarke’s role to obtain such a document, and he saw this as an opportunity to include religious freedoms never seen before in any constitutional charter. He negotiated for months with Connecticut over territorial boundaries. Finally, he drafted the Rhode Island Royal Charter and presented it to the king, and it was approved with the king’s seal on 8 July 1663. This charter granted unprecedented freedom and religious liberty to Rhode Islanders and remained in effect for 180 years, making it the longest-lasting constitutional charter in history.

 

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