HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Lone Journey: The Life of Roger Williams
Author: Jeanette Eaton
Illustrator: Woodi Ishmael
Publisher: Harcourt Brace and Company, republished in 1968
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Eaton, Jeanette. Lone Journey: The Life of Roger Williams (published in 1944 by Harcourt Brace and World Inc., 757 Third Ave., New York City, NY 10017). Roger Williams (1603-1683) was a Puritan minister, theologian, and author. Born in 1603 at London, England, to merchant tailor James Williams and his wife Alice, Williams was educated at Charterhouse School under the famous jurist Sir Edward Coke’s patronage, and also at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He took holy orders in the Church of England, but he became a Puritan at Cambridge. In 1629, he married Mary Bernard, the daughter of a notable Puritan preacher, and they emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. After moving to Salem then to Plymouth Colony, he was expelled by the Puritan leaders from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for sedition and heresy and established the Providence Plantations in 1636, which later became the Colony of Rhode Island, as a refuge offering what he called “liberty of conscience.” Williams died in 1683 sometime between January and March and was buried on his own property in Providence.
I do not know how much is taught about Roger Williams in the usually dumbed down “social studies” curricula of today’s public schools, but he is an important figure in the history of our nation. This biography of Williams written for children, was a Newbery Honor Book in 1945 and shows that three hundred years ago Roger Williams was fighting for many of the principles of democracy which are held dear by most Americans but threatened in our time. He was the one of the first Americans to demand that a government should be the instrument of the people, working for the greatest good of the greatest number. Also, he was a staunch advocate for religious freedom, welcoming early settlers of all religious faiths including Quakers and Jews, freedom of speech, fair dealings with American Indians, abolition of slavery, and the separation of church and state, being convinced that there was no scriptural basis for a state church. Of course, he did not mean what modern “freedom from religion” advocates mean by that phrase. He still believed that the moral principles of the Scriptures ought to inform the civil magistrates, but he simply felt that none of them had a warrant to promote or repress any religion.
Author Jeanette Eaton also won Newbery Honors for three other books, A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland (1930), Leader By Destiny: George Washington, Man and Patriot (1939), and Gandhi, Fighter Without a Sword (1951). Lone Journey does a great job of describing pertinent events in the childhood and youth of Roger Williams which led him to his eventual place of influence in the colonies as a champion of religious freedom. Part of the reason for his success and that of his colony was that he was an honest and genuine man, who dealt fairly with his peers and with the native tribes that surrounded him. Time and again he risked his own life in his crusade against religious and racial intolerance, as he battled successfully for fairness and lack of prejudice in relations between people. One need not agree with all aspects of Williams’s theology to understand and appreciate his place in America’s heritage.