John Clarke Letters

John Clarke (1609-1676) was a Baptist minister at Newport, Rhode Island, one of the first Baptist churches in America. With Roger Williams, he was a co-founder of the state of Rhode Island. An important early advocate for religious freedom, Clarke wrote the influential Ill Newes from New England, or a Narrative of New England’s Persecution. He served in the Rhode Island General Assembly from 1664 to 1669 and three terms as deputy governor from 1669 to 1672. Clarke also practiced medicine in order to support himself and his family.

Clarke wrote these two letters in 1655 and 1658, while he was in England with Roger Williams, attempting to secure a charter for Rhode Island from Charles II. In 1663, Clarke successfully secured the charter, which not only confirmed their right to their land, but also their religious liberty. The library purchased the letters from Theodore Hofmann of England, who obtained them through a London auction.

Location: Archives (original: “vault,” file cabinet, inner Archives, 2nd floor; photocopy: manuscript in Rare Book Room, 2nd floor; digital: